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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XIV:
The Canons of the Synods of Sardica, Carthage, Constantinople, and Carthage Under St. Cyprian, Which Canons Were Received by the Council in Trullo and Ratified by II. Nice.: Canon LV

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Canon LV.  (Greek lix.)

That it be lawful for the bishop of Carthage to ordain a cleric whenever he wishes.

Aurelius, the bishop, said:  My brethren, pray allow me to speak.  It often happens that ecclesiastics who are in need seek deacons [præpositis in the Latin], or presbyters or bishops from me:  and I, bearing in mind what things have been ordained these I observe, to wit, I summon the bishop of the cleric who is sought for, and I shew him the state of affairs, how that they of a certain church ask for a certain one of his clergy.  Perchance then they make no objection, but lest it happen that afterwards they might object when in this case they shall have been demanded (postulati) by me, who (as you know) have the care of many churches and of the ordinands.  It is right therefore that I should summon a fellow bishop with two or three witnesses from our number.  But if p. 469 he be found indevotus [ἀκαθοσίωτος], what does your charity think should be done?  For I, as ye know, brethren, by the condescension of God have the care of all the churches.

Numidius, the bishop, said: 455   This see always had the power of ordaining a bishop according to the desire of each Church as he wills and on whose name there was agreement (fuisset conventus).  Epigonius, the bishop, said:  Your good nature makes small use of your powers, for you make much less use of them than you might, since, my brother, you are good and gentle to all; for you have the power, but it is far from your practice to satisfy the person of each bishop in prima tantummodo conventione.  But if it should be thought that the rights of this see ought to be vindicated, you have the duty of supporting all the churches, wherefore we do not give thee power, but we confirm that power thou hast, viz.:  that thou hast the right at thy will always to choose whom thou wilt, to constitute 456 prelates over peoples and churches who shall have asked thee to do so, and when thou so desirest.  Posthumianus, the bishop, said:  Would it be right that he who had only one presbyter should have that one taken away from him?  Aurelius, the bishop, said:  But there may be one bishop by whom many presbyters can be made through the divine goodness, but one fit to be made bishop is found with difficulty.  Wherefore if any bishop has a presbyter necessary for the episcopate and has one only, my brother, as you have said, even that one he ought to give up for promotion.  Posthumianus, the bishop, said:  If some other bishop has plenty of clergy, should that other diocese come to my help?  Aurelius, the bishop, said:  Of course, when you have come to the help of another Church, he who has many clerics should be persuaded to make one over to you for ordination.


Ancient Epitome of Canon LV.

It is lawful for the bishop of Carthage, whenever he wills, to choose those who are to be set over the churches:  even if there were only one presbyter worth of rule.  For one bishop can ordain many presbyters, but one fit for the episcopate is hard to find.

This canon is the first half of Canon vij. of the Council of Carthage held August 28th a.d. 397.


It is evident, that this privilege of the Bishop of Carthage extended to the whole African diocese or the six provinces of Africa, which contained near five hundred bishoprics.  This was what caused such frequent ordinations of bishops in the Church of Carthage (See Can. Afr. 49, and the Note).  And it is further apparent, that the Bishop of Carthage had some power over the whole African church, and was probably their visitor (See Can. 52).  But that he had the sole power of ordaining bishops for every church, with the assistance of any two bishops, does not appear, though Justellus is of this opinion; nay, the 49th canon proves that he had it not.



The meaning of this whole canon is very obscure, the text is almost certainly corrupt; and the Greek in many places in no way corresponds to the Latin.


Migne’s text reads this negatively “ut non constituas,” but I have followed Labbe and Cossart and have omitted the “non.”

Next: Canon LVI

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