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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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Are we condemned to repeat history in our dealing with Islamic extremists?

Are we condemned to repeat history in our dealing with Islamic extremists?

The British Philosopher Edmund Burke (1729-97) once said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

The American Philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) said it a little stronger, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Listen to the history of Pope Sixtus II and St. Cyprian and join in the national debate about whether the U.S. Government is repeating the past.

In the early Church, St. Sixtus II was the most highly venerated Pope after St. Peter. Sixtus converted to Christianity as an adult. He served as a deacon in Rome before he was consecrated Bishop of Rome on August 30, 257. Sixtus was the Pope for less than a year, before he was martyred. During his short reign he dealt with the controversy of Baptisms performed by heretics. His conclusion was that if a person had a sincere desire to be baptized, he was validly baptized despite the errors of the person doing the sacrament.

In the first three centuries of the Church, Rome martyred most of the Popes. Before Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which granted religious tolerance to Christians, the Roman Empire conducted 10 major persecutions of Christians. In 257, the Emperor Valerian directed a major persecution against Bishops, priests and deacons.

During this persecution, Christians held their sacred assemblies in subterranean caverns called catacombs. Valerian expressly forbid these assemblies. Christians chose to obey the law of God, rather than human law. Sixtus was seized while celebrating the Eucharist in the catacombs of Praetextatus along the Appian Way. They probably beheaded Sixtus immediately after his arrest on August 6, 258.

St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage and a martyr himself, had sent representatives to Rome to get some news about the decree of Emperor Valerian. They returned with the painful news of the death of Pope Sixtus II. The following are excerpts from his letter written from Carthage in August 258:

“I was unable to send you a letter earlier because none of the clergy of this Church could move, being all under persecution, which however, thank God, found them inwardly most ready to pass at once to heaven. I now send you what news I have.

“The Emperor Valerian has sent the Senate his rescript by which he has decided that they will immediately put bishops, priests and deacons to death. (Christian) Senators, notables and those who have the title of Roman knighthood will be deprived of all dignities and their possessions. If they are obstinate in profess Christianity, even after the confiscation, they will be condemned to capital punishment.

“Valerian also adds to the rescript a copy of a letter he has sent to the provincial governors concerning myself. I expect this letter any day and hope to receive it quickly, keeping myself firm and strong in faith. My decision in the face of martyrdom is quite clear. I am waiting for it, full of confidence that I will receive the crown of eternal life from the goodness and generosity of God.

“I have to report that Sixtus suffered martyrdom with four deacons on 6th of August while in the cemetery area. The soldiers of God and of Christ know very well that their immolation is not so much a death but a crown of glory.”

The 2nd century Church Father Tertullian wrote that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church,” implying that the martyrs’ willingness to sacrifice their lives leads to the conversion of others. Valerian’s killing the leaders of the Church only increased its followers.

If the Islamic extremists PERCEIVE and foster the idea that the United States is persecuting Muslims by its drone strikes on its leaders, will that only increase their followers?

Are we condemned to repeat history?