Cyril was born in Alexandria, Egypt, around the year 370. His uncle, Theophilus, was the patriarch or archbishop. His uncle meant well, but he had a bad temper and could be stubborn at times. Archbishop Theophilus was responsible for sending Bishop John Chrysostom (who became a saint) into exile in 403. But the emperor brought the famous bishop back to his archdiocese of Constantinople. It seems that Cyril was influenced by his uncle’s prejudice of John, and agreed when Bishop John was sent into exile. (We celebrate the feast of St. John Chrysostom on September 13.)
When Theophilus died in 412, Cyril became the archbishop. He was very clear about his love for the Church and for Jesus. He was a brave man in confusing times, and he preached what the Church taught. Cyril was honest and straightforward. He was not looking for praise or positions. However, Cyril could be impulsive and stubborn at times. He wanted to express the truths of the Church with his preaching and writing, and he did. But when he became upset, he was not concerned about saying things in a gentle way, so he blurted out angrily at times.
This must have caused him sorrow. Yet Christians were grateful for his many wonderful qualities, such as courage in defending the Church and her teachings.
Cyril was the representative of Pope St. Celestine I at the Council of Ephesus in 431. This was an official Church meeting of over 200 bishops. They had to study the teachings of a priest named Nestorius. The Council explained clearly that Nestorius was wrong about some important truths we believe. For example, he was teaching that Jesus Christ was God, but not man. Of course, Jesus is truly God and truly man. The pope gave Nestorius ten days to promise that he would not keep preaching his errors. But Nestorius would not give in. The Council explained to the people of God that such errors about Jesus could not be accepted. The bishops were so clear in their explanation that these false teachings would never again be a major threat.
The people were very grateful to Cyril of Alexandria who led the Council meetings. Cyril went back to his archdiocese and worked hard for the Church, writing and explaining the truths of the faith until he died in 444. Pope Leo XIII proclaimed St. Cyril a Doctor of the Church in 1882.