« Petrus, St., archbp. of Alexandria Petrus II., archbp. of Alexandria Petrus, surnamed Mongus »

Petrus II., archbp. of Alexandria

Petrus (5) II., archbp. of Alexandria, succeeded Athanasius in May 373. To promote the peaceful succession of an orthodox bishop, Athanasius, being requested to recommend one who could be elected by anticipation, named Peter, whom Gregory Nazianzen describes as honoured for his wisdom and grey hairs (Orat. 25. 12), "who had been a companion of his labours" (Theod. iv. 20), and, in Basil's phrase, his spiritual "nursling" (Ep. 133); and who, in conjunction with another presbyter, when they were passing through Italy to Egypt in 347, had accepted from the notorious Arian intriguers Valens and Ursacius a written attestation of their desire to be at peace with Athanasius, when his cause was for the time triumphant (Athan. Hist. Ar. 26). The clergy and magistrates assented to the nomination; the people in general applauded; the neighbouring bishops came together to attend the consecration, in which, according to a "fragment" of Alexandrian history, the dying archbp. took the principal part (cf. Theod. l.c.; and Hist. Aceph. ap. Athan.). Five days afterwards (May 2) Athanasius died, and Peter took possession of "the evangelical throne." But the Arians seized the opportunity for which they had been waiting, and employed, as in 340, the agency of a pagan prefect. Palladius, by means of bribes, assembled a "crowd of pagans and Jews" and beset that same church of Theonas within which Syrianus had all but seized Athanasius in 356. Peter was commanded to withdraw; he refused; the church doors were forced, and the brutal orgies described in Athanasius's Encyclical were repeated: a youth in female dress danced upon the altar; another sat naked on the throne, and delivered a mock sermon in praise of vice (cf. Peter ap. Theod. iv. 22 with Greg. Naz. Orat. l.c.). At this point Peter quitted the church; Socrates says that he was seized and imprisoned (iv. 21), but his own narrative points the other way. It proceeds to describe the intrusion of the Arian Lucius. Peter tells us that the pagans esteemed Lucius as the favourite of Serapis, because he denied the divinity of the Son; and dwells on the brave confessorship (1) of 19 priests and deacons whom Magnus, after vain attempts to make them Arianize, transported to the pagan city of Heliopolis in Phoenicia, sending also into penal servitude 23 monks and others who expressed their sympathy; (2) of 7 Egyptian bishops exiled to Diocaesarea, a city inhabited by Jews, while some other prelates were "handed over to the curia," their official immunity from onerous curial obligations being annulled in requital of their steadfastness in the faith. Damasus of Rome, hearing of this new persecution, sent a deacon with a letter of communion and consolation for Peter; the messenger was arrested, treated as a criminal, savagely beaten, and sent to the mines of Phenne. Peter adds that children were tortured, and intimates that some persons were actually put to death or died of cruel usage, and that, after the old usage in pagan persecutions, their remains were denied burial. The narrative illustrates at once the theology, ritual, and electoral customs of the Egyptian church. Peter puts into the mouth of the 19 confessors an argument, quite Athanasian in tone, from the eternity of the Divine Fatherhood (cf. Athan. de Decr. Nic. 12): like Athanasius, he there insists that God could never have existed without His "Wisdom" (cf. Orat. c. Ar. i. 14; disowns a materialistic conception of the γέννησις (cf. de Decr. Nic. 11; Orat. c. Ar. i. 21); quotes the Arian formula ἦν ὅτε οὐκ ἦν ("once the Son was not," cf. Orat. c. Ar. i. 5, etc.); and represents the Homoousion as summarizing the purport of many texts (cf. de Decr. Nic. 20).

Peter refers to the invocation of the Holy Spirit at the Eucharistic consecration, and intimates that monks used to precede a newly arrived bishop, chanting the Psalms. When describing the uncanonical intrusion of Lucius, he refers to the three elements of a proper episcopal election, as fixed by "the institutions of the church"—(1) the joint action of the assembled bishops of the province, (2) the vote (ψήφω) of "genuine" clergy, (3) the request of the people (αἰτήσει, the Latin suffragium, as Cyprian uses it, Ep. 55. 7, speaking of the same threefold process, "de clericorum testimonio, de plebis . . . suffragio, et de sacerdotum . . . collegio"; and for the "requests" of the people, sometimes urgently enforced, see Athan. Apol. c. Ar. 6). Peter remained for some time in concealment, whence he wrote his encyclical (Tillem. vi. 582); he afterwards went to Rome, and was received by Damasus, as Julius welcomed Athanasius in 340. He remained at Rome five years, gave information as to Egyptian monasticism (Hieron. Ep. cxxvii. 5), and was present, as bp. of Alexandria, at a council held by Damasus, probably in 377, for the condemnation of the Apollinarians. Timotheus, whom Apollinaris had sent to Rome, and Vitalis, bishop of the sect in Antioch, were included in the sentence pronounced against their master (cf. Soz. vi. 25 with Theod. v. 10); and Facundus of Hermiane, in his Defence of the Three Articles, quotes part of a letter addressed by Peter to the exiled Egyptian confessors at Diocaesarea. "I ask your advice," he writes, "under the trouble that has befallen me: what ought I to do, when Timotheus gives himself out for a bishop, that in this character he may with more boldness injure others and infringe the laws of the Fathers? For he chose to anathematize me, with the bps. Basil of Caesarea, Paulinus, Epiphanius, and Diodorus, and to communicate with Vitalis alone" (Pro Defens. Trium. Capit. iv. 2). Here Peter treats Paulinus, not Meletius, as the true bp. of Antioch, this being the Alexandrian view. His relations with Basil were very kindly; their common love and reverence for Athanasius drew them into a correspondence (Basil, Ep. 133, written in 373); and a letter of Basil's in 377 has an interest for the church-history of the time (Ep. 266). It appears that the Egyptian "confessors" had hastily received into their communion the gravely-suspected disciples of Marcellus of Ancyra. This had troubled Basil. Peter had heard of it, but not from Basil; and had remonstrated with his exiled 834subordinates. Moreover, Basil's enemy Dorotheus, visiting Rome to enlist Western sympathies in favour of MeIetius as against Paulinus, met Peter in company with Damasus. Peter fired up at the name of Meletius and exclaimed, "He is no better than a Arian." Dorotheus, angered in his turn, said something which offended Peter's dignity and Peter wrote to Basil, complaining of this and of his silence in regard to the exile's conduct. Basil answers in effect: "As to the first point, I did not care to trouble you, and I trust it will come right by our winning over the Marcellians; as to the second, I am sorry that Dorotheus annoyed you, but you who have suffered under Arians ought to feel for Meletius as a fellow-sufferer, and I can assure you that he is quite orthodox."

Peter's exile ended in the spring of 378. The troubles of Valens with the Goths encouraged the prelates he had banished to act for themselves. Fortified by a letter of commendation from Damasus, Peter returned to Alexandria; the people forthwith expelled Lucius, who went to Constantinople; and Peter was thenceforth undisturbed in his see. Jerome taxes him with being too easy in receiving heretics into communion (Chron.); and in one celebrated affair of another kind, his facility brought him no small discredit. Early in 379 he had not only approved of the mission of Gregory of Nazianzus to act as a Catholic bishop in Constantinople, but had formally authorized it, had "honoured" Gregory "with the symbols of establishment" (Carm. de Vita Sua, 861), and thereby apparently claimed some supremacy over Constantinople (Neale, Hist. Alex. i. 206). Yet ere long he allowed himself to become the tool of the ambitious Maximus, who pretended to have been a confessor for orthodoxy, and thus perhaps reached Peter's weak side. He aimed at "securing the see of Constantinople; and Peter, contradicting himself in writing," as Gregory words it (de Vita Sua, 1015), commissioned some Egyptian prelates to go to Constantinople and consecrate Maximus. The scheme failed disgracefully: Maximus had to leave Constantinople, and after attempting in vain to propitiate Theodosius, went back to Alexandria and tried to intimidate Peter, "putting the old man into a difficulty" (ib. 1018), but was expelled by secular force. Peter reconciled himself to Gregory, who panegyrized him as "a Peter in virtue not less than in name, who was very near heaven, but remained in the flesh so far as to render his final assistance to the truth," etc. (Orat. 34. 3). Peter died Feb. 14, 380. In ignorance of this event, Theodosius, a fortnight after wards, named him with Damasus as a standard of Catholic belief in the famous edict of Thessalonica (Cod. Theod. xvi. 1, 2; see Gibbon, iii. 363). He was succeeded by his brother Timotheus.

[W.B.]

« Petrus, St., archbp. of Alexandria Petrus II., archbp. of Alexandria Petrus, surnamed Mongus »
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