Irenaeus of Sirmium

(d. 304)

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(d. 304),

bishop and martyr. A comparatively young man, whose youth and good looks are referred to in his Acts, Irenaeus suffered under the emperors Diocletian and Maximian at Sirmium, a town now in ruins near Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia. When called on by the prefect Probus to sacrifice to the gods, he answered (as in Exod. 22: 20) ‘Whoever sacrifices to the gods and not to God, will be utterly destroyed.’ ‘My duty’, he continued later, ‘is to undergo torture rather than deny my God and sacrifice to demons.’ In spite of the weeping and mourning of his relatives, servants, and friends, he persisted; so he was imprisoned and tortured. When recalled for a final interrogation he again refused and was sentenced to be beheaded, and then thrown in the river Sava. Irenaeus' final words were: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, who deigned to suffer for the world's salvation, let your heavens open that your angels may take up the soul of your servant Irenaeus, who suffers all this for your name and for the people formed of your catholic church of Sirmium. I ask and implore your mercy to receive me and to strengthen them in your faith.’ He was then beheaded and his body was thrown in the river. Feast: 6 April.

A.C.M., xliii–iv. 294–301; AA.SS. Mart. III (1668), 555–7.

Subjects: Christianity.

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