Feast day: February 12
Born at Melitene, Lower Armenia
Death: 381 Constantinople
Patriarch of Antioch and presider of the Great Council of Constantinople, in 381. He was bom in Melitene in Armenia and became the bishop of Sebaste in 358. In 360 he was named patriarch of Antioch and was a friend of St. Basil. Meletius suffered banishment for a time by the Arian emperors. He convened the Council in 381 and died during the session.
Born at Melitene, Lower Armenia; died in Constantinople in 381. Meletius was born into a distinguished family and was appointed bishop of Sebastea about 358 but fled to the desert and then to Beroea, Syria, when the appointment caused great dissension. In 361, a group of Arians and Catholics elected him archbishop of Antioch, a church that had been oppressed by the Arians since the banishment of Saint Eustathius in 331. He was a compromise candidate between the two groups, and though confirmed by Emperor Constantius II, he was opposed by some Catholics because Arians had participated in his election.
The Arian hope that he would join them was dashed when he expounded the Catholic position before the pro-Arian emperor. He and several other bishops were ordered to expound upon the text of the Book of Proverbs: "The Lord has created me in the beginning of His ways." First, George of Alexandria explained it in an Arian sense. Then Acacius of Caesarea gave it a meaning bordering on the heretical, but Meletius expounded it in the Catholic sense and connected it with the Incarnation. This public testimony so angered the Arians that the Arian Bishop Eudoxus of Constantinople was able to convince the emperor to exile Meletius to Lower Armenia (only a month after he took possession of his see) and to appoint Arian Euzoius, who had previously been excommunicated by Patriarch Saint Alexander of Alexandria, to his episcopal chair. Thus began the famous Meletian schism of Antioch, although it really started with the banishment of Saint Eustathius.
On the death of the emperor in 361, his successor, Julian, recalled Meletius, who found that in his absence, a faction of the Catholic bishops, led by Lucifer Cagliari, had elected Paulinus archbishop.
The Council of Alexandria in 362 was unsuccessful in healing the breach, and an unfortunate rift between Saint Athanasius and Meletius in 363 exacerbated the matter. During the next 15 years, Meletius was exiled 356-66 and 371-78 by Emperor Valens while the conflict between the Arian and Catholic factions raged.
Gradually, Meletius's influence in the East grew as more bishops supported him. By 379, the bishops backing him numbered 150, in contrast to his 26 supporters in 363. The rift between the contending Catholic factions, however, continued despite the untiring efforts of Saint Basil, who was unswerving in his support of Meletius, to resolve the matter.
In 374, the situation was further complicated when Pope Damasus recognized Paulinus as archbishop, appointed him papal legate in the East, and Saint Jerome allowed himself to be ordained a priest by Paulinus. In 378, the death of the avidly pro-Arian Valens led to the restoration of the banished bishops by Emperor Gratian, and Meletius was reinstated. He was unable to reach an agreement with Paulinus before his death in Constantinople in May while presiding at the third General Council of Constantinople. His funeral was attended by all the fathers of the council and the faithful of the city. Saint Gregory of Nyssa delivered his funeral panegyric.