Chapter VIII.—Arrival of the Eastern High Priests at Rome; Letter of Julius, Bishop of Rome, concerning them; by means of the Letters of Julius, Paul and Athanasius receive their own Sees; Contents of the Letter from the Archpriests of the East to Julius.
Athanasius, on leaving Alexandria, had fled to Rome. 1239 Paul, bishop of Constantinople, Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra, and Asclepas, bishop of Gaza, repaired thither at the same time. Asclepas, who was opposed to the Arians and had therefore been deposed, after having been accused by some of the heterodox of having thrown down an altar; Quintianus had been appointed in his stead over the Church of Gaza. Lucius also, bishop of Adrianople, who had been deposed from the church under his care on another charge, was dwelling at this period in Rome. The Roman bishop, on learning the accusation against each individual, and on finding that they held the same sentiments about the Nicæan dogmas, admitted them to communion as of like orthodoxy; and as the care for all was fitting to the dignity of his see, he restored them all to their own churches. He wrote to the bishops of the East, and rebuked them for having judged these bishops unjustly, and for harassing the Churches by abandoning the Nicæan doctrines. He summoned a few among them to appear before him on an appointed day, in order to account to him for the sentence they had passed, and threatened to bear with them no longer, unless they would cease to make innovations. This was the tenor of his letters. Athanasius and Paul were reinstated in their respective sees, and forwarded the letter of Julius to the bishops of the East. The bishops could scarcely brook such documents, and they assembled together at Antioch, 1240 and framed a reply to Julius, beautifully expressed and composed with great legal skill, yet filled with considerable irony and indulging in the strongest threats. They confessed in this epistle, that the Church of Rome was entitled to universal honor, because it was the school of the apostles, and had become the metropolis of p. 288 piety from the outset, although the introducers of the doctrine had settled there from the East. They added that the second place in point of honor ought not to be assigned to them, because they did not have the advantage of size or number in their churches; for they excelled the Romans in virtue and determination. They called Julius to account for having admitted the followers of Athanasius into communion, and expressed their indignation against him for having insulted their Synod and abrogated their decrees, and they assailed his transactions as unjust and discordant with ecclesiastical right. After these censures and protestations against such grievances, they proceeded to state, that if Julius would acknowledge the deposition of the bishops whom they had expelled, and the substitution of those whom they had ordained in their stead, they would promise peace and fellowship; but that, unless he would accede to these terms, they would openly declare their opposition. They added that the priests who had preceded them in the government of the Eastern churches had offered no opposition to the deposition of Novatian, by the Church of Rome. They made no allusion in their letter to any deviations they had manifested from the doctrines of the council of Nice, but merely stated they had various reasons to allege in justification of the course they had pursued, and that they considered it unnecessary to enter at that time upon any defense of their conduct, as they were suspected of having violated justice in every respect.
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