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Community Outreach, Community Transformation

Beginning in the year 251 A.D., a devastating plague pounced upon and swept through the Roman Empire, wreaking incredible misery and destruction. What became known as the Plague of Cyprian, after St. Cyprian, the bishop who chronicled the events, killed 5,000 people per day during its zenith. Understandably, many, if not most all people who could, fled the plague-stricken regions for the sake of their lives.

What was much more difficult to understand was the Christian response to the Plague. Christians, many of whom had been scapegoated as the reason for the Plague, stayed behind in Rome, in Alexandria, in Carthage, and in other places around the Empire, to minister to the sick and dying and to bury the dead. In the midst of their own loss of family and friends, while they were sick and suffering themselves, at the risk of death by disease or by persecution, without regard for whether those they helped were Christians or non-believers, “followers of the way” (as they were called) remained to care for the sick, to wash the unclean, to feed the hungry, to console the dying, to comfort the grieving, and to bury the dead.

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