Our inquiries concerning the Synod of Sardica must begin with a chronological examination of the date of this assembly. Socrates and Sozomen place it expressly in the year A.D. 347, with the more precise statement that it was held under the Consuls Rufinus and Eusebius in the eleventh year after the death of Constantine the Great, therefore after the 22d of May, 347, according to our way of reckoning.
This was the most general view until, rather more than a hundred years ago, the learned Scipio Maffei discovered at Verona, the fragment of a Latin translation of an old Alexandrian chronicle (the Historia Acephala), and edited it in the third volume of the Osservazioni Litterarii in 1738. This fragment contains the information that on the 24th Phaophi (October 21), under the Consuls Constantius IV. and Constans II., in the year 346, Athanasius had returned to Alexandria from his second exile. As it is universally allowed, however, as we shall presently show more clearly, that this return certainly only took place about two years after the Synod of Sardica, Mansi hence saw the necessity of dating this synod as early as the year 344. In this he is confirmed by St. Jerome, in the continuation of the Eusebian chronicle, who, in accordance with the Historia Acephala, has assigned the return of St. Athanasius to the tenth year of the reign of the Emperor Constantius, in 346.
Many learned men now followed Mansi, the greater number blindly; others, again, sought to contradict him, at first the learned Dominican, Mamachi; then Dr. Wetzer (Professor at Freiburg); and latterly, we ourselves in a treatise,
Controversen über die Synode von Sardika, in the Tübinger Theol. Quartalschrift, 1852. Soon after there was a fresh discovery. Some of the Paschal Letters of St. Athanasius, which until then were supposed to be lost, were discovered in an Egyptian monastery, with a very ancient preface translated into Syriac, and were published in that language by Cureton in London, and in the year 1852 in German by Professor Larsow, at the Grey Friars Convent, in Berlin.
Among these Festal Letters, the nineteenth, intended for Easter 347, and therefore composed in the beginning of that year, had been rewritten in Alexandria, as the introduction expressly states. This confirms the statement of the Historia Acephala, that Athanasius was already returned to Alexandria in October, 346, and confirms the chief points of Mansi's hypothesis; while, on the other hand, it unanswerably refutes, by Athanasius' own testimony, the statements of Socrates and Sozomen (which, from their dependence on each other, only count as one), with reference to the date 347.
As we said, Mansi placed this Synod in the year 344; but the old preface to the Festal Letters of St. Athanasius dates it in the year 343, and in fact we can now only hesitate between the dates 343 and 344. If the preface were as ancient and as powerfully convincing as the Festal Letters themselves, then the question concerning the date of the Council of Sardica would be most accurately decided. As, however, this preface contains mistakes in several places, especially chronological errors— for instance, regarding the death of Constantine the Great— we cannot unconditionally accept its statement as to the date 344, but can only do so when it corresponds with other dates concerning that time.
Let us, at all events, assume that Athanasius came to Rome about Easter, 340. As is known, he was there for three whole years, and in the beginning of the fourth year was summoned to the Emperor Constans at Milan. This points to the summer of 343. From thence he went through Gaul to Sardica, and thus it is quite possible that that Synod might have begun in the autumn of 343. It probably lasted, however, until the spring; for when the two envoys, Euphrates of Cologne, and Vincent of Capua, who were sent by the Synod to the Emperor Constans, arrived in Antioch, it was already Easter 344. Stephen, the bishop of the latter city, treated them in a truly diabolical manner; but his wickedness soon became notorious, and a synod was established, which deposed him after Easter 344. Its members were Eusebians, who therefore appointed Leontius Castratus as Stephen's successor, and it is indeed no other than this assembly which Athanasius has in mind, when he says it took place three years after the Synod in Encæniis, and drew up a very explicit Eusebian confession of faith, the μακρόστιχος .
The disgraceful behaviour of Bishop Stephen of Antioch for some time inclined the Emperor to place less confidence in the Arian party, and to allow Athanasius's exiled clergy to return home in the summer of 344. Ten months later, the pseudo-bishop, Gregory of Alexandria, died (in June, 345), and Constantius did not permit any fresh appointment to the see of Alexandria, but recalled St. Athanasius by three letters, and waited for him more than a year. Thus the see of Alexandria remained unoccupied for more than a year, until the last six months of 346. At length, in October, 346, Athanasius returned to his bishopric.
We see then that by accepting the distinct statements of the Paschal Letters of St. Athanasius and the preface, we obtain a satisfactory chronological system in which the separate details cohere well together, and which thus recommends itself. One great objection which we formerly raised ourselves against the date 344 can now be solved. It is certainly true that in 353 or 354 Pope Liberius wrote thus:
Eight years ago the Eusebian deputies, Eudoxius and Martyrius (who came to the West with the formula μακρόστικος), refused to anathematize the Arian doctrine at Milan. But the Synod of Milan here alluded to, and placed about the year 345, was not, as we before erroneously supposed, held before the Synod of Sardica, but after it. We are somewhat less fortunate as regards another difficulty. The Eusebians assembled at Philippopolis (the pseudo-synod of Sardica) say, in their synodal letter:
Bishop Asclepas of Gaza was deposed from his bishopric seventeen years ago. This deposition occurred at an Antiochian synod. If we identified this synod with the well-known one of 330, by which Eustathius of Antioch also was overthrown, we should, reckoning the seventeen years, have the year 346 or 347, in which to place the writing of the Synodal Letter of Philippopolis, and therefore the Synod of Sardica. There are, however, two ways of avoiding this conclusion, either we must suppose that Asclepas has been already deposed a year or so before the Antiochian Synod of 330; or that the statement as to the number seventeen in the Latin translation of the Synodal Letter of Philippopolis (for we no longer possess the original text) is an error or slip of the pen. But in no case can this Synodal Letter alter the fact that Athanasius was again in Alexandria when he composed his Paschal Letter for the year 347, and that the Synod of Sardica must therefore have been held several years before.
The Canons of Sardica have come down to us both in Greek and Latin, and some writers such as Richer (Histoire Conc. Générale, Tom. i., p. 98), have been of opinion that the Latin text alone was the original, while others, such as Walch (Gesch. der Kirchenvers., p. 179), have arrived at a directly opposite conclusion. Now, however, chiefly owing to the investigations of the Ballerini and of Spittler, the unanimous opinion of scholars— so says Hefele— is that the canons were originally drawn up in both languages, intended as they were for both Latins and Greeks. I may perhaps remind the reader that in many Western collections of canons the canons of Sardica immediately follow those of Nice without any break, or note that they were not enacted at that council. It will also be well to bear in mind that they were received by the Greeks as of Ecumenical authority by the Council in Trullo, and as such are contained in the body of the Greek Canon Law.
I have provided the reader with a very accurate translation of each text.
The holy synod assembled in Sardica from various provinces decreed as follows.
(Found in Greek in John of Constantinople's collection of the sixth century and several other mss. Found also in the works of the Greek scholiasts. Found in Latin in the Prisca, in Dionysius Exiguus, and in Isidore, genuine and false.)
Hosius, bishop of the city of Corduba, said: A prevalent evil, or rather most mischievous corruption must be done away with from its very foundations. Let no bishop be allowed to remove from a small city to a different one: as there is an obvious reason for this fault, accounting for such attempts; since no bishop could ever yet be found who endeavoured to be translated from a larger city to a smaller one. It is therefore evident that such persons are inflamed with excessive covetousness and are only serving ambition in order to have the repute of possessing greater authority. Is it then the pleasure of all that so grave an abuse be punished with great severity? For I think that men of this sort should not be admitted even to lay communion. All the bishops said: It is the pleasure of all.
Bishop Hosius said: A prevalent evil and mischievous corruption must be done away with from its foundation. Let no bishop be allowed to remove from his own city to another. For the reason of such attempts is manifest, since in this matter no bishop has been found who would remove from a larger city to a smaller one. It is therefore evident that these men are inflamed with excess of covetousness, and are serving ambition and aiming at the possession of power. If it be the pleasure of all, let so great an evil be punished right harshly and sternly, so that he who is such shall not even be admitted to lay communion. All with one accord answered: Such is our pleasure.
Bishop Hosius said: But if any such person should be found so mad or audacious as to think to advance by way of excuse an affirmation that he had brought letters from the people [laity], it is plain that some few persons, corrupted by bribes and rewards, could have got up an uproar in the church, demanding, forsooth, the said man for bishop. I think then that practices and devices of such sort absolutely must be punished, so that a man of this kind be deemed unworthy even of lay communion in extremis. Therefore make answer whether this sentence is approved by you. They [the bishops] answered: What has been said is approved of.
Bishop Hosius said: Even if any such person should show himself so rash as perhaps to allege as an excuse and affirm that he has received letters from the people, inasmuch as it is evident that a few persons could have been corrupted by rewards and bribes— [namely] persons who do not hold the pure faith— to raise an uproar in the church, and seem to ask for the said man as bishop; I judge that these frauds must be condemned, so that such an one should not receive even lay communion at the last. If you all approve, decree it. The synod answered: We approve.
The addition in the Latin text, qui sinceram fidem non habent, is found both in Dionysius Exiguus and in Isidore and the Prisca, and its meaning is as follows:
In a town, some few, especially those who have not the true faith, can be easily bribed to demand this or that person as bishop. The Fathers of Sardica plainly had here in view the Arians and their adherents, who, through such like machinations, when they had gained over, if only a small party in a town, sought to press into the bishoprics. The Synod of Antioch moreover, in 341, although the Eusebians, properly speaking, were dominant there, had laid down in the twenty-first canon a similar, only less severe, rule.
Bishop Hosius said: This also it is necessary to add—that no bishop pass from his own province to another province in which there are bishops, unless indeed he be called by his brethren, that we seem not to close the gates of charity.
And this case likewise is to be provided for, that if in any province a bishop has some matter against his brother and fellow bishop, neither of the two should call in as arbiters bishops from another province.
But if perchance sentence be given against a bishop in any matter and he supposes his case to be not unsound but good, in order that the question may be reopened, let us, if it seem good to your charity, honour the memory of Peter the Apostle, and let those who gave judgment write to Julius, the bishop of Rome, so that, if necessary, the case may be retried by the bishops of the neighbouring provinces and let him appoint arbiters; but if it cannot be shown that his case is of such a sort as to need a new trial, let the judgment once given not be annulled, but stand good as before.
Bishop Hosius said: This also it is necessary to add—that bishops shall not pass from their own province to another province in which there are bishops, unless perchance upon invitation from their brethren, that we seem not to close the door of charity.
But if judgment have gone against a bishop in any cause, and he think that he has a good case, in order that the question may be reopened, let us, if it be your pleasure, honour the memory of St. Peter the Apostle, and let those who tried the case write to Julius, the bishop of Rome, and if he shall judge that the case should be retried, let that be done, and let him appoint judges; but if he shall find that the case is of such a sort that the former decision need not be disturbed, what he has decreed shall be confirmed. Is this the pleasure of all? The synod answered, It is our pleasure.
Bishop Gaudentius said: If it seems good to you, it is necessary to add to this decision full of sincere charity which you have pronounced, that if any bishop be deposed by the sentence of these neighbouring bishops, and assert that he has fresh matter in defence, a new bishop be not settled in his see, unless the bishop of Rome judge and render a decision as to this.
Bishop Gaudentius said: It ought to be added, if it be your pleasure, to this sentence full of sanctity which you have pronounced, that— when any bishop has been deposed by the judgment of those bishops who have sees in neighbouring places, and he [the bishop deposed] shall announce that his case is to be examined in the city of Rome— that no other bishop shall in any wise be ordained to his see, after the appeal of him who is apparently deposed, unless the case shall have been determined in the judgment of the Roman bishop.
Bishop Hosius said: Decreed, that if any bishop is accused, and the bishops of the same region assemble and depose him from his office, and he appealing, so to speak, takes refuge with the most blessed bishop of the Roman church, and he be willing to give him a hearing, and think it right to renew the examination of his case, let him be pleased to write to those fellow bishops who are nearest the province that they may examine the particulars with care and accuracy and give their votes on the matter in accordance with the word of truth. And if any one require that his case be heard yet again, and at his request it seem good to move the bishop of Rome to send presbyters a latere, let it be in the power of that bishop, according as he judges it to be good and decides it to be right— that some be sent to be judges with the bishops and invested with his authority by whom they were sent. And be this also ordained. But if he think that the bishops are sufficient for the examination and decision of the matter let him do what shall seem good in his most prudent judgment.
The bishops answered: What has been said is approved.
Bishop Hosius said: Further decreed, that if a bishop is accused, and the bishops of that region assemble and depose him from his office, if he who has been deposed shall appeal and take refuge with the bishop of the Roman church and wishes to be given a hearing, if he think it right that the trial or examination of his case be renewed, let him be pleased to write to those bishops who are in an adjacent and neighbouring province, that they may diligently inquire into all the particulars and decide according to the word of truth. But if he who asks to have his case reheard, shall by his entreaty move the Bishop of Rome to send a presbyter a latere it shall be in the power of that bishop to do what he shall resolve and determine upon; and if he shall decide that some be sent, who shall be present and be judges with the bishops invested with his authority by whom they were appointed, it shall be as he shall choose. But if he believe that the bishops suffice to give a final decision, he shall do what he shall determine upon in his most wise judgment.
Bishop Hosius said: If it happen that in a province in which there are very many bishops one bishop should stay away and by some negligence should not come to the council and assent to the appointment made by the bishops, but the people assemble and pray that the ordination of the bishop desired by them take place— it is necessary that the bishop who stayed away should first be reminded by letters from the exarch of the province (I mean, of course, the bishop of the metropolis), that the people demand a pastor to be given them. I think that it is well to await his [the absent bishop's] arrival also. But if after summons by letter he does not come, nor even write in reply, the wish of the people ought to be complied with.
It is positively not permitted to ordain a bishop in a village or petty town, for which even one single presbyter is sufficient (for there is no necessity to ordain a bishop there) lest the name and authority of bishop should be made of small account, but the bishops of the province ought, as before said, to ordain bishops in those cities in which there were bishops previously; and if a city should be found with a population so large as to be thought worthy of an episcopal see, let it receive one.
Is this the pleasure of all? All answered: It is our pleasure.
Bishop Hosius said: If it shall have happened, that in a province in which there have been very many bishops, one [i.e., but one] bishop remains, but that he by negligence has not chosen [to ordain] a bishop, and the people have made application, the bishops of the neighbouring province ought first to address [by letter] the bishop who resides in that province, and show that the people seek a ruler [i.e., pastor] for themselves and that this is right, so that they also may come and with him ordain a bishop. But if he refuses to acknowledge their written communication, and leaves it unnoticed, and writes no reply, the people's request should be satisfied, so that bishops should come from the neighbouring province and ordain a bishop.
But permission is not to be given to ordain a bishop either in any village, or in an unimportant city, for which one presbyter suffices, lest the name and authority of bishop grow cheap. Those [bishops] who are invited from another province ought not to ordain a bishop unless in the cities which have [previously] had bishops, or in a city which is so important or so populous as to be entitled to have a bishop.
Is this the pleasure of all? The synod replied: It is our pleasure.
The second portion of this canon is entirely lacking in the Latin. The Greek scholiasts, Zonaras, Balsamon, and Aristenus, understand this to mean
that ‘at the appointment of a metropolitan the bishops of the neighbouring provinces shall also be invited,' probably to give greater solemnity to the act, so says Hefele. And to this agree Van Espen, Tillemont, and Herbst.
The first part in the Greek and Latin have different meanings; the Greek text contemplating the case of one bishop stopping away from a meeting of bishops for an election to fill a vacancy; the Latin text the case of there being only one bishop left in a province (after war, pestilence, or the like). This second meaning is accepted by Van Espen, Christian Lupus and others. Moreover, it would seem from Flodoard's History of the Church of Rheims (Geschichte der Rheimser Kirche, Lib. III., c. 20 [a book I have never seen]) that the Gallican Church acted upon this understanding of this canon. It is that also of Gratian.
Between the Latin and the Greek text stands the interpretation of Zonaras, which is that if a province once having many bishops has by any contingency only one left besides the Metropolitan, and he neglects to be present at the consecration of the new bishops, he is to be summoned by letter of the Metropolitan, and if he does not then come, the consecrations are to go on without him. With this explanation Harmenopulus also agrees, adding further that the Metropolitan might alone consecrate the bishops, resting his argument on the words τὸ ἱκαυὸν κ .τ λ .
Some scholars have supposed that neither the present Greek nor the present Latin text represent the original, but that the Greek text is nearest to it, but must be corrected by an ancient Latin version found by Maffei in a codex at Verona. The Ballerini have devoted careful attention to this point in their notes to the Works of St. Leo the Great (Tom. iii., p. xxxij. 4). It would seem that this might be the canon quoted by the fathers of Constantinople in 382, and if so, it would seem that they had a Greek text like that from which the Verona version was made.
Bishop Hosius said: Our importunity and great pertinacity and unjust petitions have brought it about that we do not have as much favour and confidence as we ought to enjoy. For many of the bishops do not intermit resorting to the imperial Court, especially the Africans, who, as we have learned from our beloved brother and fellow bishop, Gratus, do not accept salutary counsels, but so despise them that one man carries to the Court petitions many and diverse and of no possible benefit to the Church, and does not (as ought to be done and as is fitting) assist and help the poor and the laity or the widows, but is intriguing to obtain worldly dignities and offices for certain persons. This evil then causes enfeeblement [better, murmuring (read τονθρυσμόν or τονθορυσμόν)], not without some scandal and blame to us. But I account it quite proper for a bishop to give assistance to one oppressed by some one, or to a widow suffering injustice, or, again, an orphan robbed of his estate, always provided that these persons have a just cause of petition.
If, then, beloved brethren, this seems good to all, decree that no bishop shall go to the imperial Court except those whom our most pious emperor may summon by his own letters. Yet since it often happens that persons condemned for their offenses to deportation or banishment to an island, or who have received some sentence or other, beg for mercy and seek refuge with the Church [i.e., take sanctuary], such persons are not to be refused assistance, but pardon should be asked for them without delay and without hesitation. If this, then, is also your pleasure, all vote assent.
All gave answer: Be this also decreed.
Bishop Hosius said: Importunities and excessive pertinacity and unjust petitions have caused us to have too little favour or confidence, while certain bishops cease not to go to the Court, especially the Africans, who (as we have learned) spurn and contemn the salutary counsels of our most holy brother and fellow bishop, Gratus, so that they not only bring to the Court many and diverse petitions (not for the good of the Church nor, as is usual and right, to succour the poor or widows or orphans), but even seek to obtain worldly dignities and offices for certain persons. This evil therefore stirs up at times not only murmurings, but even scandals. But it is proper that bishops should intercede for persons suffering from violence and oppression, afflicted widows and defrauded orphans, provided, nevertheless, that these persons have a just cause or petition.
If, then, brethren dearly beloved, such be your pleasure, do we decree that no bishops go to the Court except those who may have been invited or summoned by letters of the God-fearing emperor. But since it often happens that those who are suffering from injustice or who are condemned for their offenses to deportation or banishment to an island, or, in short, have received some sentence or other, seek refuge with the mercy of the Church, such persons should be succoured and pardon be begged for them without hesitation. Decree this, therefore, if it be your pleasure.
All said: It is our pleasure and be it decreed.
Bishop Hosius said: This also let your sagacity determine, that — inasmuch as this was decreed in order that a bishop might not fall under censure by going to the Court— that if any have such petitions as we mentioned above, they should send these by one of their deacons. For the person of a subordinate does not excite jealousy, and what shall be granted [by the Emperor] can thus be reported more quickly.
All answered: Be this also decreed.
Bishop Hosius said: This also your forethought should provide for— inasmuch as you have made this decree in order that the audacity of bishops might not labour [or, be observed] to go to Court. Whosoever therefore shall have or receive petitions such as we have mentioned above, let them send these [each] by a deacon of his, because the person of a minister is not an object of jealousy, and he will be able to report more quickly what he has obtained.
This decree is threefold. First, that the bishop in going to Court should not fall under suspicion either at Court or of his own people that he was approaching the Prince to obtain some cause of his own. Second, according to the interpretation of Zonaras,
that no one should be angry with the Minister or Deacon who tarried in camp, as the bishop had departed thence. And third, that the Minister could carry away what he had asked for, that is (according to Zonaras), the letters of the Emperor pardoning the fault, or such like other matters.
Bishop Hosius said: This also, I think, follows, that, if in any province whatever, bishops send petitions to one of their brothers and fellow bishops, he that is in the largest city, that is, the metropolis, should himself send his deacon and the petitions, providing him also with letters commendatory, writing also of course in succession to our brethren and fellow bishops, if any of them should be staying at that time in the places or cities in which the most pious Emperor is administering public affairs.
But if any of the bishops should have friends at the Court and should wish to make requests of them as to some proper object, let him not be forbidden to make such requests through his deacon and move these [friends] to give their kind assistance as his desire.
But those who come to Rome ought, as I said before, to deliver to our beloved brother and fellow bishop, Julius, the petitions which they have to give, in order that he may first examine them, lest some of them should be improper, and so, giving them his own advocacy and care, shall send them to the Court.
All the Bishops made answer that such was their pleasure and that the regulation was most proper.
This also seems to follow, that from whatever province bishops shall send petitions to that brother and fellow bishop of ours who has his see in the metropolis, he [the metropolitan] should dispatch his deacon with the petitions, providing him with commendatory letters of like tenour to our brethren and fellow bishops at that time resident in those regions and cities in which the fortunate and blessed Emperor is ruling the State.
If however a bishop who seeks to obtain some petition (a worthy one, that is) has friends in the palace, he is not forbidden to make his request through his deacon and to advise those who, he knows, can kindly intercede for him in his absence.
X. But let those who come to Rome, deliver, as before said, to our most holy brother and fellow bishop, the bishop of the Roman church, the petitions which they bear, that he also may examine whether they are worthy and just, and let him give diligence and care that they be forwarded to the Court.
All said that such was their pleasure and that the regulation was proper.
Bishop Alypius said: If they have incurred the discomforts of travel for the sake of orphans and widows or any in distress and having cases that are not unjust, they will have some good reason [for their journey]; but now since they chiefly make requests which cannot be granted without envy and reproach, it is not necessary for them to go to Court.
Here the Latin is not only a translation but an interpretation of the Greek text, for it distinctly says that every bishop shall send the petition he intends to present at court first to his Metropolitan, who shall send it in. This is not clearly in the Greek, and yet the Greek Commentators find it there.
Hefele: "Zonaras, Balsamon, and Aristenus explained this canon somewhat differently, thus:
If a bishop desires to send his petitions addressed to the Emperor to the bishop of the town where the Emperor is staying, he shall first send them to the Metropolitan of that province (according to Aristenus, his own Metropolitan) and the latter shall send his own deacon with letters of recommendation to the bishop or bishops who may be at court. This difference rests upon the various meanings of
to the brother and fellow bishop in the beginning of the canon. We understand by this his own Metropolitan, and treat the words: ὁ ἐν τῇ μείζονι κ .τ.λ ., as a more exact definition of
fellow-bishop, and the participle τυγχάνων as equivalent to τυγχάνει, and make the principal clause begin at αὐτὸς καὶ τὸν διάκονον . Beveridge translated the canon in the same way. Zonaras and others, on the contrary, understood by
fellow-bishop, the bishop of the Emperor's residence for the time being, and regarded the words ὁ ἐν τῇ μείζοη κ .τ λ . not as a clearer definition of what had gone before, but as the principal clause, in the sense of
then the Metropolitan shall, etc. According to this interpretation, the words conveying the idea that the bishop must have recourse to the Metropolitan are entirely wanting in the canon."
The first part of this Canon is the last part of Canon IX. of the Latin. The last part is Canon X. of the Latin, but the personal part about Alypius is omitted from the Greek.
Bishop Hosius said: This also I think necessary. You should consider with all thoroughness and care, that if some rich man or professional advocate be desired for bishop, he be not ordained until he have fulfilled the ministry of reader, deacon, and presbyter, in order that, passing by promotion through the several grades, he may advance (if, that is, he be found worthy) to the height of the episcopate. And he shall remain in each order assuredly for no brief time, that so his faith, his reputable life, his steadfastness of character and considerateness of demeanour may be well-known, and that he, being deemed worthy of the divine sacerdotal office [sacerdotium, i.e., the episcopate] may enjoy the highest honour. For it is not fitting, nor does discipline or good conversation allow to proceed to this act rashly or lightly, so as to ordain a bishop or presbyter or deacon hastily; as thus he would rightly be accounted a novice, especially since also the most blessed Apostle, he who was the teacher of the Gentiles, is seen to have forbidden hasty ordinations; for the test of [even] the longest period will not unreasonably be required to exemplify the conversation and character of each [candidate].
All said that this was their pleasure and that it must be absolutely irreversible.
Bishop Hosius said: This also I think it necessary for you to consider most carefully, that if perchance some rich man or professional advocate or ex-official be desired for bishop, he be not ordained until he have fulfilled the ministry of a reader and the office of deacon and presbyter, and so ascend, if he have shown himself worthy, through the several grades to the height of the episcopate. For by these promotions which in any case take a considerable length of time can be tested his faith, his discretion, his gravity and modesty. And if he be found worthy, let him be honoured with the divine sacerdotal office [i.e. the episcopate]. For it is not fitting, nor does order or discipline allow, that one be rashly or lightly ordained bishop, presbyter or deacon, who is a novice, especially since also the blessed Apostle, the teacher of the Gentiles, is seen to have expressly forbidden it. But those [should be ordained] whose life has been tested and their merit approved by length of time.
All said that this was their pleasure.
Bishop Hosius said: This also we ought to decree, that when a bishop comes from one city to another city, or from one province to another province, to indulge boastfulness, ministering to his own praises rather than serving religious devotion, and wishes to prolong his stay [in a city], and the bishop of that city is not skilled in teaching, let him [the visiting bishop] not do despite to the bishop of the place and attempt by frequent discourses to disparage him and lessen his repute (for this device is wont to cause tumults), and strive by such arts to solicit and wrest to himself another's throne, not scrupling to abandon the church committed to him and to procure translation to another. A definite limit of time should therefore be set in such a case, especially since not to receive a bishop is accounted the part of rude and discourteous persons. You remember that in former times our fathers decreed that if a layman were staying in a city and should not come to divine worship for three [successive] Sundays [that is], for three [full] weeks, he should be repelled from communion. If then this has been decreed in the case of laymen, it is neither needful, nor fitting, nor yet even expedient that a bishop, unless he has some grave necessity or difficult business, should be very long absent from his own church and distress the people committed to him.
All the bishops said: We decide that this decree also is most proper.
Bishop Hosius said: This also you ought to determine. If a bishop comes from one city to another city, or from his own province to another province, and serving ambition rather than devotion, wishes to remain resident for a long time in a strange city, and then (as it perchance happens that the bishop of the place is not so practised or so learned as himself) he, the stranger, should begin to do him despite and deliver frequent discourses to disparage him and lessen his repute, not hesitating by this device to leave the church assigned him and remove to that which is another's— do you then [in such a case] set a limit of time [for his stay in the city], because on the one hand to refuse to receive a bishop is discourteous, and on the other his too long stay is mischievous. Provision must be made against this. I remember that in a former council our brethren decreed that if any layman did not attend divine service in a city in which he was staying three Sundays, that is, for three weeks, he should be deprived of communion. If then this has been decreed in the case of laymen, it is far less lawful and fitting that a bishop, if there be no grave necessity detaining him, should be absent from his church longer than the time above written.
All said that such was their pleasure.
Bishop Hosius said: Since no case should be left unprovided for, let this also be decreed. Some of our brethren and fellow bishops are known to possess very little private property in the cities in which they are placed as bishops, but have great possessions in other places, with which they are, moreover, able to help the poor. I think then permission should be given them, if they are to visit their estates and attend to the gathering of the harvest, to pass three Sundays, that is, to stay for three weeks, on their estates, and to assist at divine worship and celebrate the liturgy in the nearest church in which a presbyter holds service, in order that they may not be seen to be absent from worship, and in order that they may not come too frequently to the city in which there is a bishop. In this way their private affairs will suffer no loss from their absence and they will be seen to be clear from the charge of ambition and arrogance.
All the bishops said: This decree also is approved by us.
Bishop Hosius said: Since no case should be left unprovided for [let this also be decreed]. There are some of our brother-bishops, who do not reside in the city in which they are appointed bishops, either because they have but little property there, while they are known to have considerable estates elsewhere, or, it may be, through affection for kith and kin and in complaisance to these. Let this much be permitted them, to go to their estates to superintend and dispose of their harvest, and [for this purpose] to remain over three Sundays, that is, for three weeks, if it be necessary, on their estates; or else, if there is a neighbouring city in which there is a presbyter, in order that they may not be seen to pass Sunday without church, let them go there, so that [in this way] neither will their private affairs suffer loss from their absence, nor will they, by frequent going to the city in which a bishop is resident, incur the suspicion of ambition and place-seeking. All said that this was approved by them.
Bishop Hosius said: Be this also the pleasure of all. If any deacon or presbyter or any of the clergy be excommunicated and take refuge with another bishop who knows him and who is aware that he has been removed from communion by his own bishop, [that other bishop] must not offend against his brother bishop by admitting him to communion. And if any dare to do this, let him know that he must present himself before an assembly of bishops and give account.
All the bishops said: This decision will assure peace at all times and preserve the concord of all.
Bishop Hosius said: Be this also the pleasure of all. If a deacon or presbyter or any of the clergy be refused communion by his own bishop and go to another bishop, and he with whom he has taken refuge shall know that he has been repelled by his own bishop, then must he not grant him communion. But if he shall do so, let him know that he must give account before an assembly of bishops.
All said: This decision will preserve peace and maintain concord.
Bishop Hosius said: I must not fail to speak of a matter which constantly urges me. If a bishop be found quick to anger (which ought not to sway such a man), and he, suddenly moved against a presbyter or deacon, be minded to cast him out of the Church, provision must be made that such a one be not condemned too hastily [or read ἀθῶον, if innocent] and deprived of communion.
All said: Let him that is cast out be authorized to take refuge with the bishop of the metropolis of the same province. And if the bishop of the metropolis is absent, let him hasten to the bishop that is nearest, and ask to have his case carefully examined. For a hearing ought not to be denied those who ask it.
And that bishop who cast out such a one, justly or unjustly, ought not to take it ill that examination of the case be made, and his decision confirmed or revised. But, until all the particulars have been examined with care and fidelity, he who is excluded from communion ought not to demand communion in advance of the decision of his case. And if any of the clergy who have met [to hear the case] clearly discern arrogance and pretentiousness in him, inasmuch as it is not fitting to suffer insolence or unjust censure, they ought to correct such an one with somewhat harsh and grievous language, that men may submit to and obey commands that are proper and right. For as the bishop ought to manifest sincere love and regard to his subordinates, so those who are subject to him ought in like manner to perform the duties of their ministry in sincerity towards their bishops.
Bishop Hosius said: I must not fail to speak of a matter which further moves me. If some bishop is perchance quick to anger (which ought not to be the case) and, moved hastily and violently against one of his presbyters or deacons, be minded to cast him out of the Church, provision must be made that an innocent man be not condemned or deprived of communion.
Therefore let him that is cast out be authorized to appeal to the neighbouring bishops and let his case be heard and examined into more diligently. For a hearing ought not to be denied one who asks it.
And let that bishop who cast him out, justly or unjustly, take it patiently that the matter is discussed, so that his sentence may either be approved by a number [of judges] or else revised. Nevertheless, until all the particulars shall be examined with care and fidelity, no one else ought to presume to admit to communion him who was excluded therefrom in advance of the decision of his case. If, however, those who meet to hear it observe arrogance and pride in [such] clergy, inasmuch as it surely is not fitting for a bishop to suffer wrong or insult, let them correct them with some severity of language, that they may obey a bishop whose commands are proper and right. For as he [the bishop] ought to manifest sincere love and charity to his clergy, so his ministers ought for their part to render unfeigned obedience to their bishop.
This is Canon 17 of the Latin version.
Bishop Januarius said: Let your holiness also decree this, that no bishop be allowed to try to gain for himself a minister in the church of a bishop of another city and ordain him to one of his own parishes.
All said: Such is our pleasure, inasmuch as discord is apt to spring from contentions in this matter, and therefore the sentence of us all forbids anyone to presume to do
Bishop Hosius said: And let us all decree this also, that if any bishop should ordain to any order the minister of another from another diocese without the consent of his own bishop, such an ordination should be accounted invalid and not confirmed. And if any take upon themselves to do this they ought to be admonished and corrected by our brethren and fellow bishops.
All said: Let this decree also stand unalterable.
Bishop Hosius said: This also we all decree, that if any [bishop] should ordain the minister of another from another diocese without the consent and will of his own bishop, his ordination be not ratified. And whoever shall have taken upon himself to do this ought to be admonished and corrected by our brethren and fellow bishops.
This is Canon XIX. in the Latin.
Bishop Aëtius said: You are not ignorant how important and how large is the metropolitan city of Thessalonica. Accordingly presbyters and deacons often come to it from other provinces and, not content with staying a short time, remain and make it their permanent place of residence, or are compelled with difficulty and after a very long delay to return to their own churches. A decree should be made bearing on this matter.
Bishop Aëtius said: You are not ignorant how large and important is the city of Thessalonica. Presbyters and deacons often come to it from other regions, and are not content to remain a short time, but either make their residence there or at least are with difficulty compelled to return after a long interval to their own place.
At the suggestion moreover of our brother Olympius, we are pleased to decree this also: That if a bishop suffer violence and is unjustly cast out either on account of his discipline or for his confession of [the faith of] the Catholic Church or for his defence of the truth, and, fleeing from danger, although innocent and devout [or, innocent and being under charge of high treason], comes to another city, let him not be forbidden to stay there until he is restored or until deliverance can be found from the violence and injustice that have been done him. For it would be harsh indeed and most oppressive that one who has suffered unjust expulsion should not be harboured by us; as such a man ought to be received with the greatest consideration and cordiality.*
All said: This also is our pleasure.
At the suggestion of our brother Olympius, we are pleased to decree this also: That if any suffer violence and is unjustly cast out on account of his discipline and his Catholic confession or for his defence of the truth, and, fleeing from dangers, although innocent and devout, comes to another city, let him not be forbidden to stay there until he can return or his wrong has been redressed. For it is harsh and unfeeling that he who is suffering persecution should not be received; indeed, great cordiality and abundant consideration should be shown him.
And all the bishops of the various provinces who had assembled subscribed thus:
This is Canon XXI. of the Latin and the last.
Bishop Gaudentius said: You know, brother Aëtius, that since you were made bishop, peace has continued to rule [in your diocese]. In order that no remnants of discord concerning ecclesiastics remain, it seems good that those who were ordained by Musæus and by Eutychianus, provided no fault be found in them, should all be received.
Bishop Hosius said: This is the sentence of my mediocrity [i.e., unworthiness]— that, since we ought to be gentle and patient and to be constant in compassion towards all, those who were once advanced to clerical office in the Church by certain of our brethren, if they are not willing to return to the churches to which they were nominated [or, espoused], should for the future not be received, and that neither Eutychianus should continue to vindicate to himself the name of bishop, nor yet that Musæus be accounted a bishop; but that if they should seek for lay communion, it should not be denied them.
All said: Such is our pleasure.
It is clear that the reason why these two canons do not exist in the Latin text is that they did not apply to the Latin Church and only contained a special rule for Thessalonica.
Bishop Gaudentius said: These things wholesomely, duly, and fitly decreed, in the estimation of us the bishops [τῶν ἱερέων] such as are pleasing both to God and to man will not be able to obtain due force and validity, unless fear [of a penalty] be added to the decrees proclaimed. For we ourselves know that through the shamelessness of a few, the divine and right reverend title of bishop [of the τῆς ἱερωσύνης] has often come into condemnation. If therefore any one, moved by arrogance and ambition rather than seeking to please God, should have the hardihood to pursue a different course of action, contrary to the decree of all, let him know beforehand that he must give account and defend himself on this charge, and lose the honour and dignity of the episcopate.
All answered: This sentence is proper and right, and such is our pleasure.
And this decree will be most widely known and best carried into effect, if each of those bishops among us who have sees on the thoroughfares or highway, on seeing a bishop [pass by] shall inquire into the cause of his passage and his place of destination. And if at his departure he shall find that he is going to the Court, he will direct his inquiries with reference to the objects [of a resort to the Court] above mentioned. And if he come by invitation let no obstacle be put in the way of his departure. But if he is trying to go to the Court out of ostentation, as has afore been said by your charity, or to urge the petitions of certain persons, let neither his letters be signed nor let such an one be received to communion.
All said: Be this also decreed.
Bishop Gaudentius said: These things which you have wholesomely and suitably provided [in your decrees] pleasing in [or, to] the estimation of all both [or, and] to God and to men, can obtain force and validity only in case fear [of a penalty] be added to this your action. For we ourselves know that through the shamelessness of a few the sacred and venerable sacerdotal [— episcopal] name has been many times and oft brought to blame. If therefore anyone attempts to oppose the judgment of all and seeks to serve ambition rather than please God, he must be given to know that he will have to render an account and lose office and rank.
This can be carried into effect only provided each of us whose see is on the highway shall, if he sees a bishop pass, inquire into the cause of his journey, ascertain his destination, and if he finds that he is on his way to the Court, satisfy himself as to what is contained above [i.e., as to his objects at Court], lest perhaps he has come by invitation, that permission may be given him to proceed. If, however, as your holiness mentioned above, he is going to Court to urge petitions and applications for office, let neither his letters be signed nor let him be received to communion.
All said that this was proper and right and that this regulation was approved by them.
This is Canon XI. of the Latin.
Bishop Hosius said: But some discretion is here requisite, brethren dearly beloved, in case some should come to those cities which are on the highway still ignorant of what has been decreed in the council. The bishop of such a city ought therefore to admonish him [a bishop so arriving], and instruct him to send his deacon from that place. Upon this admonition he must, however, himself return to his diocese.
This proposition of Hosius in the Roman Codex is joined as an appendix to the preceding canon. The Greeks omit it altogether, very likely either because it seemed to be a proposition of Hosius's rather than a synodal canon, for no adoption by the synod is recorded: or else because, even if it were a decree, it was only of temporary character, that is to say, until the canons had been sufficiently promulgated, and therefore some on the ground of ignorance might be exempt from the threatened penalties.
Source. Translated by Henry Percival. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3815.htm>.