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September 21, 2014

Saint Eusebius of Vercelli

Saint Eusebius of Vercelli

St. Eusebius of Vercelli was a native of Sardinia, Italy. His father was said to have died a martyr. After that his mother moved to Rome where Eusebius spent his childhood and became a lector. Later, he went to Vercelli, in the Piedmont, where he served the church so well that he was chosen to be the first Bishop of the city. He took part in a council in Milan in 355, convened by Emperor Constantius, who was at Arles in Gaul. Supported by the Emperor, the Arian bishops planned to condemn St. Athanasius as a heretic at this synod.

St. Eusebius, along with St. Dionysius, strongly opposed this unjust condemnation. The Emperor tried to oblige St. Eusebius to sign it, but he vehemently refused. As a result, he was sent into exile, first to Scythopolis in Palestine. There he was persecuted by the Arian bishop Patrophilus, who ordered St. Eusebius to be imprisoned and denied him food for some time. The Arians also dragged him half-naked through the streets, mocking and insulting him.

Later, he was exiled to Cappadocia and then, finally, to Thebaid in Upper Egypt. During all these trials he remained militant in defense of the true Faith, corresponding with other Bishops and exhorting them to be faithful.

When Constantius died in the year 361, the new Emperor Julian allowed all the exiled Prelates to return to their sees. St. Eusebius went to Alexandria to consult with St. Athanasius about convoking a synod, which in 362 was held there under their joint leadership.

At its close, he went to Antioch and Illyricum, confirming in the Faith those who were wavering and bringing back those who had gone astray. In 363 he returned to Italy, where he assisted the zealous champion of the fight against Arianism in the Western Church, St. Hilary of Poitiers. Finally he returned to Vercelli after a long absence, where he died on August 1, 371.

Because of the sufferings for the Faith he endured during his life, the Church honors him with the title of martyr.

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