Apparition to Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria

Commemorated on November 15
Apparition to Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria Many of the details of the journey of the Holy Family in Egypt are chronicled in a Mimar (manuscript) by Theophilus, 23rd Patriarch of Alexandria (384-412 A.D.), who received these details during an apparition of the Holy Virgin Mary.

History

He was a Coptic Pope at a time of conflict between the newly dominant Christians and the pagan establishment in Alexandria, each supported by a segment of the Alexandrian populace. Edward Gibbon described him as "...the perpetual enemy of peace and virtue, a bold, bad man, whose hands were alternately polluted with gold and with blood."

In 391, Theophilus (according to Rufinus and Sozomen) discovered a hidden pagan temple. He and his followers mockingly displayed the pagan artifacts to the public which offended the pagans enough to provoke an attack on the Christians. The Christian faction counter-attacked, forcing the pagans to retreat to the Serapeum. A letter was sent by the emperor that Theophilus should grant the offending pagans pardon, but destroy the temple; according to Socrates Scholasticus, a contemporary of his, the latter aspect (the destruction of the temple) was added as a result of heavy solicitation for it by Theophilus.
Scholasticus goes on to state that:
 
“Seizing this opportunity, Theophilus exerted himself to the utmost ... he caused the Mithraeum to be cleaned out... Then he destroyed the Serapeum... and he had the phalli of Priapus carried through the midst of the forum. ... the heathen temples... were therefore razed to the ground, and the images of their gods molten into pots and other convenient utensils for the use of the Alexandrian church”
—Socrates Scholasticus, The Ecclesiastical History
The destruction of the Serapeum was seen by many ancient and modern authors as representative of the triumph of Christianity over other religions. According to John of Nikiu in the 7th century, when the philosopher Hypatia was lynched and flayed by a mob of Alexandrian Coptic monks, they acclaimed Theophilus's nephew and successor Cyril as "the new Theophilus, for he had destroyed the last remains of idolatry in the city".
 
Theophilus turned on the followers of Origen after having supported them for a time. He switched his view of God from the incorporeal view of God held by Origen to the anthropomorphic view held by many local monks who were hostile to his pastoral letter of 399.
 
He was accompanied by his nephew Cyril to Constantinople in 403 and there presided at the "Synod of the Oak" that deposed John Chrysostom.
 
On July 10th in the Eastern (Greek) Orthodox Synaxarion, there is a commemoration for the 10,000 monks slain on the orders of Pope Theophilus in his paranoid campaign against perceived Origenism and the Four Tall Brethren. His nephew and successor Cyril is recognized as a saint throughout all of Christendom. 

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