p. 441 The Canons of the 217 Blessed Fathers who assembled at Carthage.
Aurelius the Bishop said: 420 You, most blessed brethren, remember that after the day fixed for the synod we discussed many things while we were waiting for our brethren who now have been sent as delegates and have arrived at the present synod, which must be placed in the acts. Wherefore let us render thanks to our Lord for the gathering together of so great an assembly. It remains that the acts of the Nicene Synod which we now have, and have been determined by the fathers, as well as those things enacted by our predecessors here, who confirmed that same Synod, or which according to the same form have been usefully enacted by all grades of the clergy, from the highest even to the lowest, should be brought forward. The whole Council said: Let them be brought forward.
And while he was speaking, Faustinus, a bishop of the people of Potentia, of the Italian province of Picenum, a legate of the Roman Church said: There have been entrusted to us by the Apostolic See certain things in writings, and certain other things as in ordinances to be treated of with your blessedness as we have called to memory in the acts above, that is to say, concerning the canons made at Nice, that their decrees and customs be observed; for some things are observed out of decree and canon, but some from custom. Concerning these things therefore in the first place let us make enquiry, if it please your blessedness; and afterwards let the other ordinances which have been adopted or proposed be confirmed; so that you may be able to show by your rescripts to the Apostolic See, and that you may declare to the same venerable Pope, that we have diligently remembered these things; although the headings of action taken had been already inserted in the acts. 421 In this matter we should act, as I have said above, as shall please your beloved blessedness. Let, therefore the commonitorium come into the midst, that ye may be able to recognize what is contained in it, so that an answer can be given to each point.
Daniel the Notary read the Commonitorium. To our brother Faustinus and to our sons, the presbyters Philip and Asellus, Zosimus, the bishop. You well remember that we committed to you certain businesses, and now [we bid you] carry out all things as if we ourselves were there (for), indeed, our presence is there with you; especially since ye have this our commandment, and the words of the canons which for greater certainty we have inserted in this our commonitory. For thus said our brethren in the Council of Nice when they made these decrees concerning the appeals of bishops:
And when this had been read, Alypius, bishop of the Tagastine Church, and legate of the province of Numidia, said: On this matter there has been some legislation in p. 442 former sessions of our council, and we profess that we shall ever observe what was decreed by the Nicene Council; yet I remember that when we examined the Greek copies of this Nicene Synod, we did not find these the words quoted—Why this was the case, I am sure I do not know. For this reason we beg your reverence, holy Pope Aurelius, that, as the authentic record of the decrees of the Council of Nice are said to be preserved in the city of Constantinople, you would deign to send messengers with letters from your Holiness, and not only to our most holy brother the bishop of Constantinople, but also to the venerable bishops of Alexandria and Antioch, who shall send to us the decrees of that council with the authentification of their signatures, so that hereafter all ambiguity should be taken away, for we failed to find the words cited by our brother Faustinus; notwithstanding this however we promise to be ruled by them for a short time, as I have already said, until reliable copies come to hand. Moreover the venerable bishop of the Roman Church, Boniface, should be asked likewise to be good enough to send messengers to the aforementioned churches, who should have the same copies according to his rescript, but the copies of the aforementioned Nicene Council which we have, we place in these Acts.
Faustinus the bishop, legate of the Roman Church, said: Let not your holiness do dishonour to the Roman Church, either in this matter or in any other, by saying the canons are doubtful, as our brother and fellow-bishop Alypius has vouchsafed to say: but do you deign to write these things to our holy and most blessed pope, so that he seeking out the genuine canons, can treat with your holiness on all matters decreed. But it suffices that the most blessed bishop of the city of Rome should make enquiry just as your holiness proposes doing on your part, that there may not seem to have arisen any contention between the Churches, but that ye may the rather be enabled to deliberate with fraternal charity, when he has been heard from, what is best should be observed.
Aurelius the bishop said: In addition to what is set down in the acts, we, by the letters from our insignificance, must more fully inform our holy brother and fellow-bishop Boniface of everything which we have considered. Therefore if our plan pleases all, let us be informed of this by the mouth of all. And the whole council said: It seems good to us.
Novatus the bishop, legate of Mauritania Sitifensis, said: We now call to mind that there is contained in this commonitory something about presbyters and deacons, how they should be tried by their own bishops or by those adjoining, a provision which we find nothing of in the Nicene Council. For this cause let your holiness order this part to be read.
Aurelius the bishop said: Let the place asked for be read. Daniel the notary read as follows: Concerning the appeals of clergymen, that is of those of inferior rank, there is a sure answer of this very synod, concerning which thing what ye should do, we think should be inserted, as follows:
“Hosius the bishop said: I should not conceal what has come into my mind up to this time. If any bishop perchance has been quickly angered (a thing what should not happen) and has acted quickly or sharply against a presbyter or a deacon of his, and has wished to drive him out of the Church, provision should be made that the innocent be not condemned, or be deprived of communion: he that has been ejected should have the right of appeal to the bishops of the bordering dioceses, that his case should be heard, and it should be carried on all the more diligently because to him who asks a hearing it should not be denied. And the bishop who either justly or unjustly rejected him, should patiently allow the affair to be discussed, so that his sentence be either approved or else emended, etc.”
p. 443 And when this had been read, Augustine, the bishop of the Church of Hippo of the province of Numidia, said: We promise that this shall be observed by us, provided that upon more careful examination it be found to be of the Council of Nice. Aurelius the bishop said. If this also is pleasing to the charity of you all, give it the confirmation of your vote. The whole Council said: Everything that has been ordained by the Nicene Council pleases us all. Jocundus, the bishop of the Church of Suffitula, legate of the province of Byzacena, said: What was decreed by the Nicene Council cannot in any particular be violated.
Faustinus the bishop, legate of the Roman Church, said: So far as has developed by the confession of your holiness as well as of the holy Alypius, and of our brother Jocundus, I believe that some of the points have been made weak and others confirmed, which should not be the case, since even the very canons themselves have been brought into question. Therefore, that there may be harmony between us and your blessedness, let your holiness deign to refer the matter to the holy and venerable bishop of the Roman Church, that he may be able to consider whether what St. Augustine vouchsafed to enact, should be conceded or not, I mean in the matter of appeals of the inferior grade. If therefore there still is doubt, on this head it is right that the bishop of the most blessed see be informed, if this can be found in the canons which have been approved.
Since the written decrees of the Nicene Council have not been found, let the Roman bishop deign to write to the bishop of Constantinople and to him of Alexandria, and let us know what he receives from them.
Aurelius the bishop said: As we have suggested to your charity, pray allow the copies of the statutes of the Nicene Council to be read and inserted in the acts, as well as those things what have been most healthfully defined in this city by our predecessors, according to the rule of that council, and those which now have been ordained by us. And the whole council said: The copies of the Creed, and the statutes of the Nicene Synod which formerly were brought to our council through Cæcilean of blessed memory, the predecessor of your holiness (who was present at it), as well as the copies of the decrees made by the Fathers in this city following them, or which now we have decreed by our common consultation, shall remain inserted in these ecclesiastical acts, so that (as has been already said) your blessedness may vouchsafe to write to those most venerable men of the Church of Antioch, and of that of Alexandria, and also of that of Constantinople, that they would send most accurate copies of the decrees of the Council of Nice under the authentification of their signatures, by which, the truth of the matter having become evident, those chapters which in the commonitory our brother who is present, and fellow-bishop Faustinus, as well as our fellow-presbyters Philip and Asellus brought with them, if they be found therein, may be confirmed by us; or if they be not found, we will hold a synod and consider the matter further. Daniel the notary read the profession of faith of the Council of Nice and its statutes to the African Council.
The reader must not complain if he finds the meaning of the translation often obscure. So great a scholar as Hefele says of one of these speeches, “This, I believe, must be the meaning of the somewhat unintelligible text, etc.,” and again of another passage he says that it “is even more obscure,” and that “the text is undoubtedly corrupt. The sense is probably, etc.”441:421
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