Choose your language EoF

Saint of the Day for 23 February: St. Polycarp

St. Polycarp: Bishop, Martyr and Master of Apostolic Tradition in the Second Century


St. Polycarp


Bishop and martyr


1st century , Smyrna (present-day Turkey)


2nd century, Smyrna (present-day Turkey)


23 February


2004 edition



O God, who in the glorious martyrdom of St. Polycarp the bishop gave us a sign of your loving presence in the Church, grant that we, who trust in his intercession, may imitate him in firmness of faith. Through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Roman Martyrology

At Smyrna the birthplace of St. Polycarp, a disciple of the blessed John the Apostle and ordained by him Bishop of that city: he was the most illustrious personage in all Asia. Under Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, in the presence of the Proconsul, while all the people in the amphitheater were loudly shouting against him, he was given to the fire, and not remaining so much as offended by the flames, pierced by the sword, he received the crown of martyrdom. Also martyred with him in the same city of Smyrna were twelve others who had come from Philadelphia. The feast of Polycarp is celebrated on the twenty-sixth of January.

The Saint and Mission

Formazione Roma Luglio 2024 720×90 Aside Logo

Saint Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna and 2nd century martyr, exemplifies the Christian mission in an era of challenges and persecution. His life, deeply rooted in the apostolic tradition, represents a bridge between the era of the apostles and subsequent generations of Christians, offering a living testimony to the importance of keeping the faith alive through the faithful transmission of evangelical teaching. Saint Polycarp’s mission was characterized by a deep commitment to the affirmation and defense of Christian doctrine against emerging heresies, demonstrating a firm adherence to revealed truth and an unconditional love for Christ. His episcopal ministry in Smyrna was marked by wise and compassionate pastoral leadership, exemplifying the bishop’s role as guardian of the faith and shepherd of souls. Polycarp’s correspondence with other Christian communities of the time reveals his concern for unity and peace among the faithful, underlining the importance of ecclesial communion as a visible expression of the universal Church. His ability to navigate tensions within the Christian community, while maintaining a steadfast adherence to the truth, reflects a deep understanding of the Christian mission as a work of reconciliation and bearing witness to the truth in love. The pinnacle of Saint Polycarp’s mission is manifested in his martyrdom. Faced with his death, his firm confession of faith and refusal to deny Christ are the final seal of his life of dedication to the Gospel. His martyrdom not only strengthens the faith of his contemporaries, but continues to inspire Christians of every era to live their vocation with courage and fidelity, reminding us that the greatest testimony we can offer is that of remaining faithful to Christ, even faced with the most extreme tests. Saint Polycarp remains a key figure in the history of the Church, whose example of life and martyrdom constantly reminds us of the call to be witnesses of the Gospel in every circumstance of life. His legacy highlights the importance of fidelity to apostolic tradition, loving pastoral leadership, and a willingness to sacrifice all for the love of Christ, thus offering a compass for Christian mission through the ages.

The Saint and Mercy

Saint Polycarp, venerated as a bishop and martyr, offers a unique perspective on the manifestation of divine mercy through his life and martyrdom. His existence, steeped in challenges in the context of early Christian communities, reflects the deep compassion and merciful love that are fundamental to the message of the Gospel. Mercy in Saint Polycarp was manifested through his pastoral dedication. Leading the community of Smyrna, he stood out for his attention and care towards his faithful, showing particular sensitivity to their spiritual and material needs. His leadership was not imposed with rigid authority, but offered with the gentleness and patience that arise from mercy, seeking to emulate Christ’s love for his Church. Furthermore, the mercy of Saint Polycarp was evident in his unwavering defense of the faith against heresies, not out of mere doctrinal zeal, but out of a profound desire to protect his faithful from error and guide them towards salvation. His fight against false doctrines was not an act of condemnation, but an expression of his pastoral care, wanting to preserve the purity of the faith entrusted to the apostles and, consequently, the intimate communion with God that this faith promises. The martyrdom of Saint Polycarp represents the pinnacle of his testimony of mercy. Faced with death, he showed a serenity and steadfastness that derived from his trust in God and his love for Christ, which surpassed all fear. His willingness to suffer martyrdom rather than deny his faith was rooted in a profound mercy: he offered his life not only as a supreme act of faithfulness, but also as a sign of hope for his persecutors and for those who witnessed his end, so that they could be touched by the grace of God. The life of Saint Polycarp teaches us that mercy is not simply a feeling of compassion or pity, but a transformative force that motivates concrete actions of love, forgiveness and sacrifice. His spiritual legacy reminds us that being disciples of Christ means living according to the mercy that God has shown to us, extending it to all, friends and enemies, in pastoral guidance, in defense of the truth, and even in martyrdom. Saint Polycarp invites us to reflect on mercy as the beating heart of the Christian mission, a virtue that must permeate every aspect of our lives, inspiring us to follow his example of faithfulness, courage and generous love, thus testifying to the infinite goodness of God in world.


Little is known about the life of St. Polycarp. It is known that in his youth he converted to Christianity: he was fortunate enough to be taught by the Apostles and especially by St. John the Evangelist, who ordained him bishop of the Church of Smyrna around the year 96, and…


Source and Images

You might also like