Irenaeus was in all probability born in Smyrna (today, Izmir in Turkey) in about 135-140. In his youth, he attended the school of Bishop Polycarp, a disciple in his turn of the Apostle John. We do not know when he moved from Asia Minor to Gaul, but his move must have coincided with the first development of the Christian community in Lyons: here, in 177, we find Irenaeus listed in the college of presbyters.
In that very year, he was sent to Rome bearing a letter from the community in Lyons to Pope Eleutherius. His mission to Rome saved Irenaeus from the persecution of Marcus Aurelius which took a toll of at least 48 martyrs, including the 90-year old Bishop Pontinus of Lyons, who died from ill-treatment in prison. Thus, on his return Irenaeus was appointed Bishop of the city. The new Pastor devoted himself without reserve to his episcopal ministry which ended in about 202-203, perhaps with martyrdom.
Irenaeus was first and foremost a man of faith and a Pastor. Like a good Pastor, he was a very balanced person, with a lot of wisdom and deep zeal for the salvation of his flock. As a writer, he pursued a twofold aim: to defend true doctrine from the attacks of heretics, and to explain the truth of the faith clearly. His two works, Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching and the five book series On the Detection and Overthrow of the False Gnosis, exactly correspond with these aims. In short, Irenaeus can be defined as the champion in the fight against heresies.
With fraternal affection,
Fr. Homero C.