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Eusebius, Saint (Bishop of Samosata)

Bishop of Samosata in Syria; date of birth unknown; d. in 379 or 380

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Eusebius, Saint, Bishop of Samosata (now Samsat), in Syria; date of birth unknown; d. in 379 or 380. History makes no mention of him before the year 361, when, as Bishop of Samosata, he took part in the consecration of St. Meletius, the newly elected Patriarch of Antioch. Just then the Eastern Church was rent by Arianism and its affiliated heresies. Most of the episcopal sees were occupied by Arian bishops, and Meletius himself was elected Patriarch of Antioch only because the Arians believed him to be a supporter of their heresy. Tillemont and a few other historians even maintain that Eusebius was at that time leaning towards Arianism. Whatever may have been the faith of Eusebius previously, it is certain that at a synod held in Antioch in 363 the Nicene formula, with express mention of the term homoousios, was accepted, and the document was signed by Eusebius and twenty-four other bishops.

When the Arians discovered that Meletius upheld the doctrine of the Nicene Council, they declared his election invalid and attempted to obtain from Eusebius, to whom they had been entrusted, the synodal acts proving the lawfulness of the election. The Emperor Constantius, who supported the Arians, ordered Eusebius to surrender the document, but without success. Thereupon Constantius threatened Eusebius with the loss of his right hand, but the bishop calmly presented both his hands to the bearer of the imperial message, saying: “Strike them both off. I will not surrender the document by which the injustice of the Arians can be proved.” The emperor was struck by the constancy of Eusebius and left the document in his possession.

It was chiefly due to the concerted efforts of St. Eusebius and St. Gregory Nazianzen that, in 370, St. Basil was elected Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. From this time also dates the tender friendship between St. Eusebius and the last-named Father, which is attested by some still extant letters written by St. Basil to the Bishop of Samosata. Eusebius displayed his greatest activity during the persecution of the Catholics by the Arian Emperor Valens. Disguised as a military officer, he visited the persecuted Churches of Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine, exhorting the afflicted Catholics to remain loyal to their faith, ordaining orthodox priests where they were needed, and in many other ways assisting the Catholic bishops in the difficult exercise of their duties during those troublous times. It is on account of this untiring zeal of Eusebius that St. Gregory Nazianzen calls him “a pillar of the Church“, “a gift of God“, “a rule of faith”, etc. (Migne, P.G., XXI, 57). Incensed at the great success of Eusebius, the Arians prevailed upon the Emperor Valens to banish him into Thrace. After the death of Valens, in 378, he was allowed to return to his see. On his journey from Thrace to Samosata he was instrumental in the appointment of numerous orthodox bishops, among whom were Acacius at Bercea, Theodotus at Hierapolis, Isidore at Cyrrhus, and Eulogius at Edessa. Having returned to his see, he resumed his former activity against the Arians, both in his own diocese and in the neighboring churches. While he was taking part in the consecration of Bishop Marls, at the little town of Dolicha, near Samosata, an Arian woman struck him on the head with a tile thrown from the roof of her house. He died of this wound a few days later. The Greeks honor him as a martyr on the 21st of June, the Latins on the 22d.



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