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St. Polycarp of Smyrna

Polycarp was one of the most important leaders of the Church during the second century. We know little of his early life. He was born around 69 A.D. He is thought to have been converted to Christianity by St. John the Evangelist around 80 A.D. He became bishop of Smyrna in approximately 96 A.D. Polycarp was a staunch defender of orthodox Christian doctrine, as was his friend St. Ignatius of Antioch. He wrote a letter to the Philippians which modern scholars find valuable for he quotes Matthew, Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, and the first letters of Peter and John; this proves that these texts were already in existence at this time. In his old age, Polycarp was arrested at Smyrna shortly after returning from a trip to Rome in which he discussed the date of Easter with the pope. When asked to sacrifice to the gods and acknowledge the Emperor as divine, he refused to give up the Faith, and told the captain of the troops sent to arrest him that for eighty-six years he had served Christ. He was burned to death by the Romans about the year 155 or 156 although Eusebius of Caesarea says that Polycarp’s martyrdom occurred in either 167 or 168. St. Polycarp is a Father of the Church. His feast is February 23.

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