A (non Christian) friend of mine asked me a question to which I can’t find an answer to. She talked about the persecution and killing of pagans during the early centuries of the Church, and understands that there was a lot of killing done on both sides, and that not all Christians behave as they ought etc.
But then she named a few saints, St Cyril of Alexandria, St Ambrose, St Theophilus, St Constantine the Great, and asked why they are revered and honoured as saints even today in the Church even though they were involved in the persecution and killing of pagans.
I’ve got to be honest - I’ve never even heard of this before, and I couldn’t find anything on Catholic Answers about it, which puzzles me - usually I can find lots about Church history if I’m looking for information on something. I want to answer something like, being recognised as a saint doesn’t mean you’ve lived a perfect life, just that you died in friendship with God and contributed something valuable to the Church.
But I think I need more of an answer for her, and I’m kind of stumped. I don’t know whether the allegations made about these saints are true, and what the ramifications are if they are true. If they’re true, then I don’t know why I’ve never heard them before, and why the Church wouldn’t do more to distance herself from the saints (e.g. more openly recognising “Ambrose made great contributions to the Church, but remember that all saints have sinned and some have sinned greatly” and so on).
Thank you in advance. I know there are some more historically-knowledgeable people on the forums than me, so I’d be grateful for any light you can shed on this all.