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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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8.

 Our fellow Bishop Reginus, most beloved by God, and with him the most God-beloved Bishops of the province of the Cypriotes Zeno and Evagrius, has announced an innovation, a thing which is contrary to the ecclesiastical laws and the Canons of the Holy Apostles, and one which touches the freedom of all. Hence, since common ailments require more drastic treatment, on the ground that they do greater damage, and especially in view of the fact that the Bishop of Antioch, far from following the ancient custom, has been performing the ordinations in Cyprus, according to information given in libelli and by oral statements made by most pious gentlemen who have approached the Holy Council; therefore those who preside over the churches in Cyprus shall retain their privilege unaffected and inviolate, according to the Canons of the Holy Fathers and ancient custom, whereby they shall themselves perform the ordinations of the most reverent Bishops. The same rule shall hold good also with regard to the other diocese and churches everywhere, so that none of the Bishops most beloved by God shall take hold of any other province that was not formerly and from the beginning in his jurisdiction, or was not, that is to say, held by his predecessors. But if anyone has taken possession of any and has forcibly subjected it to his authority, he shall regive it back to its rightful possessor, in order that the Canons of the Fathers be not transgressed, nor the secular fastus be introduced, under the pretext of divine services; lest imperceptibly and little by little we lose the freedom which our Lord Jesus Christ, the Liberator of all men, has given us as a free gift by His own blood.[77] It has therefore seemed best to the holy and Ecumenical Council that the rights of every province, formerly and from the beginning belonging to it, be preserved clear and inviolable, in accordance with the custom which prevailed of yore; each Metropolitan having permission to take copies of the proceedings for his own security. If, on the other hand, anyone introduce any form conflicting with the decrees which have now been sanctioned, it has seemed best to the entire holy and Ecumenical Council that it be invalid and of no effect.79

78(Ap. c. XXXV; c. II of the 2nd; c. XX of the 6th; cc. XIII, XXII of Antioch; cc. III, IX, XII of Sardica).

79(Ap. c. XXXIV; cc. VI, VII of the 1st; c. XX of the 2nd; cc. XXXVI, XXXIX of the 6th; c. IX of Antioch.)

 

Interpretation.

Inasmuch as Cyprus, so far as concerned secular administration, was subject to the Duke of Antioch, and was wont to send it an army commander (or general), it came to pass that the Bishop of Antioch, in imitation of this secular and civil form and law, undertook to show authority over that same Cyprus, with regard to both the religious and the ecclesiastical administration, by ordaining the bishops in Cyprus extra-territorially and not as a matter of ancient custom. This, however, was a thing that was contrary to Ap. cc. XXXIV and XXXV. After receiving Archbishop Reginus of Constantia, which used to be called Salamis but is now known as Amochostos, and the bishops accompanying, namely, Zeno of Cyrene, and Evagrius of Solon, who in writing as well as viva voce reported these facts, the Council decrees by the present Canon that, in accordance with the Canons and in accordance with ancient custom,78 the Metropolitans of Cyprus are themselves to ordain the bishops in Cyprus, and to be left unmolested and unconstrained by anyone else. But, making the Canon general and catholic, the Fathers of this Council add that this same rule shall hold also in regard to diocese (or administrations) and provinces everywhere else, to the end that no bishop be permitted to usurp and appropriate any other province that has not formerly and from the beginning been subject either to his authority or to that of his predecessors. If, nevertheless, anyone should appropriate it forcibly, he must return it, in order that the Canons of the Fathers be not transgressed, and in order that prelates, under the pretext of sacerdotalism, may not cloak a secret ambition and vainglorious yearning for secular or worldly authority, and hence becoming slaves to injustice lose little by little the freedom which the liberator of all men Jesus Christ has graciously given us with His own blood; it has appeared reasonable to this holy Ecumenical Council that the righteous and just privileges be kept clear and inviolable which formerly and from the beginning as a matter of ancient custom each province has been entitled to. Accordingly, each Metropolitan shall have permission to receive a transcript of the present Canon for security and confirmation of the privileges of his metropolis. If, on the other hand, anyone should come out with a form, i.e., a civil law or royal decree, contrary to the present Canon, it has appeared reasonable to all this holy Council for that civil law to remain invalid and ineffective.[78] Read also the Interpretations of Ap. cc. XXXIV and XXXV.

 

 

Letter of Third Council addressed to the sacred Synod in Pamphylia in favor of Eustathius.

    Seeing that the God-inspired Bible says, “Do everything heedfully (Prov. 25:29 Seirach), those who have had the fortune to be admitted to holy orders ought indeed to give especial consideration to what is to be done in every case with all exactitude. For thus will they live through life with their affairs hopefully arranged and will be carried onward as though by a favorable wind to the goal which is the most desirable; and it seems that this argument is reasonable enough. Yet in the course of time a bitter and unendurable sorrow overwhelmed the mind and terribly muddled it, and failing to reap its expectations, it found little of benefit to comfort it in regard to the unjust circumstances of its plight. We have seen some such misfortune overtake most reverent and most godly Eustathius. For though he was indeed ordained canonically, as has been attested, yet, having been embarrassed, as he says, by some persons, and having met with unseemly circumstances, and owing to his being too much accustomed to idleness he got tired of the cares heaped upon him, and being unable to put up with the fear of incurring defamation as a result of developments, we know not how, he turned in an account. For, once having accepted the responsibility of sacerdotal cares, he ought to have kept on with spiritual staunchness and to have made every effort to discharge his duties even at the expense of much pain and perspiration voluntarily as one receiving remuneration. But since, once having failed to cope with the situation, he proved incapable, though rather as a result of idleness than of laziness and indolence, your godliness necessarily ordained our most reverent and most godly brother and fellow Bishop Theodore to take care of the church. For the position could not be left open and remain without anyone to look after the flocks of the Savior. But inasmuch as he came back weeping, not about losing the city or by way of quarreling over the fact that the church was turned over to the said most godly Bishop Theodore, but begging for the honor and title of bishop he had been enjoying up till then, we all felt sorry for him because of his being an old man, and deeming his tears a common ground of sympathy, we hastened to learn whether the man had suffered any legal deposition or had been charged by other persons with improprieties while muttering things to the detriment of his reputation, and, indeed, we learned that nothing of the sort had occurred, but that instead of any indictment being brought against him the man himself had submitted his resignation. Hence we could not blame your godliness for dutifully replacing him by the said most reverent Bishop Theodore. But since there is no strong reason to quarrel with his incapacity, we ought rather to have mercy on the old man, who had been away from his city and far from home for a long time, we have deemed just and have decreed without any argument that he should retain both the name of bishop and the honor and communion of the episcopate; but in such manner as not to permit him to perform ordinations nor to officiate in divine services in church on his own account, unless by any chance taken along or allowed to do so by a brother and fellow bishop, in pursuance of affection and love in Christ. But if you care to give him a better position of any kind, either now or hereafter, this will please the holy Council.

 

Interpretation.

This Eustathius, of whom the present letter speaks, was bishop of Pamphylia, a province in Attaleia. But after becoming engrossed in the cares and matters of the episcopate, and getting tired on account of his faintheartedness and inexperience in regard to the affairs and temptations of the episcopate, he tendered a written resignation. Hence the Synod there ordained another bishop in place of him. However, he afterwards came to this holy Ecumenical Council with tears in his eyes and begging, not for the episcopate which he had resigned, but to have the honor and name of a bishop. Feeling sorry for him and sympathizing with him on account of his advanced age and tears and the fact that he was far from home and hearth, and particularly because of the fact that his resignation had not been submitted after a threat of deposition for viciousness, not on account of his carelessness and indolence (for if such had been the case, of course the Council would not have been warranted in showing him mercy, nor would it have bestowed upon him the mere name of bishop), but because of his faintheartedness and incapacity for affairs, the Council decreed that he should have the title of bishop, or, in other words, the right to call himself a bishop, and the honor, or, in other words, the right to sit down with bishops, and the communion, or, in other words, the right to partake of communion along with them, and to officiate with them, and to assist in ordinations the other bishops, though not to perform any himself of his own accord, but only with the permission of the local bishop. In addition the Council says to the bishops of Pamphylia, that in case they should think of something better and higher to give to Eustathius, either now or hereafter, this will please the Council too. This means nothing else, according to the exegete Anonymus, than the possibility of their appointing him bishop in some vacant province.[79]

 

 

 




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