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Peter of Alexandria, St.


Bishop (300311), martyr; d. Alexandria, Egypt, Nov. 25, 311. After serving as head of the catechetical school at Alexandria, Peter succeeded Theonas as bishop c. 300, and was "beheaded in the ninth year of the persecution" (eusebius, Hist. eccl. 7.32.31). This intrepid churchman reflected the milder school in his attitude toward the lapsi. While Peter was in hiding during the persecution of diocletian (303), Meletius, bishop of Lycopolis, assumed his episcopal rights. Meletius, whose view of the lapsi was more rigid, was declared excommunicate by a synod in 306, deposed, and banished to Palestine until 311; but the meletian schism of which he was the cause continued for several centuries after his death.

Peter's most important writing is the Paschal epistle; it contains 15 canons for the reconciliation of the lapsed (c. 306). Those who denied the faith under torture are assigned a 40-day fast for three years; those who lapsed without torture are assigned an additional year; those who obtained certificates of sacrifice are given a six-month penance; those who fell but later confessed are forgiven, but the clergy are not to be reinstated; those who sacrificed wealth and fled into exile are forgiven (Patrologia Graeca 18:468508).

Peter's works exist mostly in Greek and Coptic fragments, and include treatises against origen and origenism, On the Godhead (quoted at ephesus in 431), and a Letter on the Meletian schism. He was a courageous and enlightened churchman, and despite the tragic effects of the Meletian schism, his canons were a milestone in primitive Church discipline. The Acts of the Martyrdom of St. Peter of Alexandria (Latin, Greek, Syriac, and Coptic) is not authentic.

Feast: Nov. 26.

Bibliography: peter of alexandria, Patrologia Graeca 18:449522. j. quasten, Patrology 2:113118. b. altaner, Patrology 239240. g. fritz, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 12.2:180204. f. kettler, Paulys Readenzyklopädie der klassichen Altertumswissenschaft 12.2 (1938) 128188. t. y. malaty, Pope Peter of Alexandria: The Deans of the School of Alexandria (Jersey City, N.J. 1994). w. telfer, "St. Peter of Alexandria and Arius," Analecta Bollandiana 67 (1949) 117130; Harvard Theological Review 48 (1955) 227237, and Meletius. m. richard, Mélanges de science religeuse 3 (1946) 357358, Christology. h. i. bell and w. e. crum, eds., Jews and Christians in Egypt (London 1924). É. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 10.1:531536.

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