Saint of the Day – 26 December – St Pope Dionysius (Died 268) Bishop of Rome from 22 July 259 to his death on 26 December 268. According to early Church records, Dionysius was the first pope not martyred for his beliefs.
Historians know very little about the early life of Dionysius except that he was Greek and Italian. Though his family came from Greece, he was born in Italy sometime around 200. Some believe that he was born in the small town of Terra Nova but others think that he was born in Magna Graecia. During his early years, he used the name Dionusius, which he changed to Dionysius upon becoming Pope.
Dionysius was not the first man chosen for the next Pope after the death of Sixtus II. Pope Sixtus II was Martyred as were many other Christians at the time. It took nearly a year before Dionysius became the Pope and the Bishop of Rome.
Pope Dionysius had an easier time than Sixtus II did, mainly because of the murder of Emperor Valerian. Valerian was known for the persecution of Christians but the King of Persia issued orders in 260 that led to his capture and murde. Gallienus then became Emperor and issued orders that called for the tolerance of Christians. The new Emperor helped rebuild churches and allowed Christians to practice again. This period became known as the Little Peace of the Church, which lasted for nearly four decades.
Though his predecessor ruled for less than one year, Pope Dionysius reigned for more than nine years and a total of 3,445 days. He was likely in his late 50s when he assumed the throne and in his late 60s when he died. Due to his age, many historians believe that he died of old ages or natural causes. As with previous popes, the Church had his body interred in the Cemetery of Callistus. Many recognise him as a calm and peaceful man who worked hard to reorganise the Church after the many years of persecution and to care for the Christians under his care, in his role as the Holy Vicar of Christ.