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Nicene and Ante-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 LXXXVI

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Canon LXXXVI.  (Greek lxxxix.)

Of the order of bishops, that those ordained more recently do not dare to take precedence of those ordained before them.

Valentine, the bishop, said:  If your good patience will permit, I follow the things which were done in time past in the Church of Carthage, and which were illustrious having been confirmed by the subscriptions of the brethren, and I profess that we p. 484 intend to preserve this.  For this we know, that ecclesiastical discipline has always remained inviolate:  therefore let none of the brethren dare to place himself before those ordained earlier than himself; but by the offices of charity this has always been shewn to those ordained earlier, which always should be accepted joyfully by those ordained more recently.  Let your holiness give command that this order be strengthened by your interlocutions.  Aurelius, the bishop, said:  It would not be fitting that we should repeat these things, were it not for the existence of certain inconsiderate minds, which would induce us to making such statutes; but this is a common cause about which our brother and fellow bishop has spoken, that each one of us should recognize the order decreed to him by God, and that the more recent should defer to the earlier ordained, and they should presume to do nothing when these have not been consulted.  Wherefore I say, now that I think of it, that they who think they may presume to take precedence over those ordained before them, should be coerced suitably by the great council.  Xantippus, bishop of the first see of Numidia, said:  All the brethren present have heard what our brother and fellow bishop Aurelius has said, what answer do we make?  Datian, the bishop, said:  The decrees made by our ancestors should be strengthened by our assent, so that the action taken by the Church of Carthage in past synods should hold fast, being confirmed by the full assent of all of us.  And all the bishops said:  This order has been preserved by our fathers and by our ancestors, and shall be preserved by us through the help of God, the rights of the primacy of Numidia and of Mauritania being kept intact.

Of the archives and matricula of Numidia.

Moreover it seemed good to all the bishops who subscribed in this council that the matricula and the archives of Numidia should be at the first see and in the Metropolis, that is Constantina.


Ancient Epitome of Canon LXXXVI.

Thou shalt not prefer thyself to thine elders, but shalt follow them.  For he that spurns those who were before him should be frowned down upon.

The introduction belongs to the Synod of Milevis, of August 27, a.d. 402.

This canon (lxxxvj.) is Canon j., of the above named Synod.


From this canon it appears that the primacy in Africa was ambulatory, and belonged to the senior bishop of the province.  If the primacy had been fixed to the bishop of any certain city, as in other countries, there would have been a salvo or exception for that bishop, as there is in the 24th canon of the Synod of Bracara [Braga] in Spain, which orders that all bishops take place according to their seniority, with a reserve to the bishop of the metropolis.  The bishop of Carthage was not included in this canon; for it is evident that he had a precedence annexed to his see, and that he was in reality a sort of patriarch.  The reason why Numidia and Mauritania are particularly mentioned is, that some disputes had been started there on that subject.

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