The church in persecution

Daily Reading for January 20 • Fabian, Bishop and Martyr of Rome, 250

Rome, early 250

The Church resists strong in the faith. It is true that some have yielded, being alarmed at the possibility that their high social position might attract attention, or from simple human frailty. Nevertheless, though they are now separated from us, we have not abandoned them in their defection, but have helped them and keep still close to them, so that by penance they may be rehabilitated and pardoned by Him who can forgive. Indeed if we were to leave them to their own resources, their fall would become irreparable.

Try and do the same, dearest brothers, extending your hand to those who have fallen, that they may rise again. Thus, if they should be arrested, they may this time feel strong enough to confess the faith and redress their former error.

Allow me also to remind you of what course to take on another problem. Those who surrendered in the time of trial, and are now ill and have repented and want communion with the Church, should be helped. Widows and other persons unable to present themselves spontaneously, as also those in prison or far from home, ought to have people ready to look after them. Nor should catechumens who have fallen ill remain disappointed in their expectation of help.

The brethren who are in prison, the clergy and the entire Church, that watches so carefully over those who call on the Lord’s name, salute you. In return we also ask you to remember us.

From a letter from the Church of Rome to the Church of Carthage, written during the persecution of emperor Decius and offering to the Church of Carthage a testimonial of its faithfulness to Christ.

Carthage, early 250

My dear brothers,

News of the death of my saintly fellow-bishop was still uncertain and information doubtful, when I received your letter brought by subdeacon Crementius, telling me fully of his glorious death. Then I rejoiced, as his admirable governing of the Church had been followed by a noble end.

For this I share your gladness, as you honour the memory of so solemn and splendid a witness, communicating to us also the glorious recollection you have of your bishop, and offering us such an example of faith and fortitude.

Indeed, harmful as the fall of a leader is to his subjects, no less valuable and salutary for his brethren is the example of a bishop firm in his faith. . . .My wish, dearest brothers, is for your continued welfare.

A letter from Cyprian of Carthage, when he was informed of pope Fabian’s death, to the priests and deacons in Rome.

Both letters may be found at

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