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St Eusebius of Vercelli

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Saint Eusebius, Bishop of Vercelle (modern Vercelli, Piemonte) (Sardinia c. 283 - Vercelli, Piemonte, August 1, 371) was a champion of St. Athanasius and Catholic orthodoxy in the 4th century controversy over Arianism.

He was a lector in Rome before he went to Vercelle, the present Vercelli, and when the bishop died in 340 Eusebius was acclaimed bishop of that city by the clergy and the people and received episcopal consecration at the hands of Pope Julius I on 15 December. According to a letter to him from Ambrose (Epistola lxiii, Ad Vercellenses) he was the first monk in the West who was appointed bishop. He led with the clergy of his city a monastic common life modelled upon that of the Eastern cenobites (Ambrose, Ep. lxxxi and Serm. lxxxix). For this reason the Canons Regular of St. Augustine honor him along with Augustine as their founder (Proprium Canon. Reg., 16 December).

In 354(?), Pope Liberius sent Eusebius and Bishop Lucifer of Cagliari to the Emperor Constantius II at Arles in Gaul, for the purpose of inducing him to convoke a council expected to end the dissentions between the Arian and the Trinitarian Christians. The synod was held in Milan in 355. At first Eusebius refused to attend it because he foresaw that the Arian bishops, with the Emperor's support, would not accept the decrees of the Council of Nicaea and would vote to condemn St. Athanasius. Pressed to attend, he was refused admittance for ten days, until the document condemning St. Athanasius had been drawn up for the signature of the bishops. Eusebius refused to sign and was exiled, first to Scythopolis in Syria, under the watchful eye of the Arian bishop Patrophilus, whom Eusebius calls his jailer (Baronius, Annales, year 356. n. 97), then to Cappodocia, and lastly to Thebaid.

On the accession of the last of the pagan Emperors, Julian, the exiled bishops were free to return to their sees, in 362. Eusebius, however, and his brother-exile Lucifer remained in the Orient for some time, helping to restore peace in the Church by enforcing orthodoxy. Eusebius went to Alexandria organize with Athanasius the synod of 362 under their joint presidency. Though declaring the Divinity of the Holy Ghost and the orthodox doctrine concerning the Incarnation, the synod agreed to deal mildly with the repentant apostate bishops, but to impose severe penalties upon the leaders of several of Arianizing factions.

Eusebius then went to Antioch to reconcile the Eustathians and the Meletians. The Eustathians were adherents of the bishop Eustatius, who had been deposed and exiled by the Arians in 331. Since Meletius' election in 361 was brought about chiefly by the Arians, the Eustathian adherents would not recognize him, although he solemnly proclaimed his orthodox faith after his episcopal consecration. The Alexandrian synod had desired that Eusebius should reconcile the Eustathians with Bishop Meletius, by purging his election of whatever might have been irregular in it, but Eusebius, upon arriving at Antioch found that his brother-legate Lucifer had consecrated Paulinus, the leader of the Eustathians, as Bishop of Antioch.

Unable to reconcile the factions at Antioch, he visited other Churches of the Orient in the interest of the orthodox faith, and finally returned to Italy through Illyricum. Having arrived at Vercelli in 363, he assisted the zealous St. Hilary of Poitiers in the suppression of Arianism in the Western Church, and was one of the chief opponents of the Arian Bishop Auxientius of Milan.

The Roman Catholic Church honours him as a martyr and celebrates his feast on 16 December.

Writings of Eusebius of Vercelli

Three short letters of Eusebius are printed in Migne, P.L., XII, 947-54 and X, 713-14. St. Jerome (De vir. ill., c. lvi, and Ep. li, n. 2) ascribes to him a Latin translation of a commentary on the Psalms, written originally in Greek by Eusebius of Cćsarea; but this work has been lost. There is preserved in the cathedral at Vercelli the Codex Vercellensis, the earliest manuscript of the old Latin Gospels ("Codex a"), which is generally believed to have been written by Eusebius. It was published by Irico (Milan 1748) and Bianchini (Rome, 1749), and is reprinted in Migne, P.L. XII, 9-948; a new edition was brought out by Belsheim (Christiania, 1894). Krüger (Lucifer, Bischof von Calaris", Leipzig, 1886, 118-30) ascribes to Eusebius a baptismal oration by Caspari (Quellen sur Gesch, Des Taufsymbols, Christiania, 1869, II, 132-40). The confession of faith "Des. Trinitate confessio", P.L., XII, 959-968, sometimes ascribed to Eusebius is spurious.

Text based on the Catholic Encyclopedia requires modernizing and balance.

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