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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils
IntraText CT - Text
As touching rural parishes, or country parishes, in any province, they shall remain in the undisputed possession of the bishops now holding them, and especially if they have held them in their possession and have managed them without coercion for thirty years or more. But if during a period of thirty years there has arisen or should arise some dispute concerning them, those claiming to have been unjustly treated shall be permitted to complain to the Synod of the province. But if anyone has been unjustly treated by his own Metropolitan, let him complain to the Exarch of the diocese, or let him have his case tried before the throne of Constantinople, according as he may choose. If, on the other hand, any city has been rebuilt by imperial authority, or has been built anew again, pursuant to civil and public formalities, let the order of the ecclesiastical parishes be followed.
(Ap. c. LXXIV; c. VI of the 1st; cc. IX, XXI of the 4th; cc. XIV, XV of Antioch; cc. VIII, XII, XIV, XV, XVI, XXVII, XXVIII, XXXVI, LXXXVII, XCVI, CV, CXV, CXVIII, CXXVIII, CXXIX, CXXX, CXXXVII, CXXXVIII, and CXXXIX; cc. XXV and XXXVIII of the 6th.)
Rural parishes are small parishes which are situated in outlying and distant parts of the country, and being inhabited by few human beings they used to be called monoecia (which word meant, in Greek, “lone habitations”). Country parishes, on the other hand, are parishes which were near cultivated fields and villages, and had a greater number of inhabitants. So it is these parishes in every province that the present Canon commands to remain inalienable and indetachable from the bishops to whom they belong, and especially if they have belonged to them and been under their authority for as many as thirty years in good faith and without coercion, that is to say, without their being forced to submit to it and without their being grabbed up on an unjust or unfair pretext. But if during the course of the thirty years there had arisen any dispute concerning them, or if after the enactment of the present Canon there should arise any dispute concerning them, those who claim to have been unjustly treated in regard thereto are given permission to have their dispute considered by the Synod of the province. If, again, anyone should claim to have been unjustly treated in regard thereto by his Metropolitan, let him refer his case to the Exarch and chief head of the diocese (whose function, however, was abolished or fell into desuetude after this Fourth Ec. C. was held, as we said in Footnote to c. IX of the present C.), or to the Bishop of Constantinople, as previously stated. If, on the other hand, there has heretofore been built any city by imperial authority, or if any be so built hereafter, then the neighboring bishop shall not try to subject it to his own authority and claim it as a parish of his own, since the order of the parishes of that church have to follow the civil laws and ordinances which may be decreed by the emperor in regard to the newly-built city, not vice versa.
Note that, after dividing this Canon into two sections, the Sixth Ec. C. incorporated in its own c. XXV that part of this present canon which ends with the words “complain to the Synod of the province,” while it incorporates the words following these to the end in its own c. XXXVIII. Note also that c.CXXIX of Carthage prescribes that if any bishop succeeds in converting any region of heretics to Orthodoxy and holding it for three years straight, without its being reclaimed by the one who ought to have reclaimed it, it shall no longer be subject to being reclaimed by him. The same Council’s c. CXXVIII declares that heretics converted to the catholic unity shall be subject to that throne to which the catholic union of Orthodox Christians situated therein had been subject of old. In addition, c. CXXX says that in case anyone deems any laity belonging to another to be wrongly held by him and appropriates it as his own, not by virtue of letters of the bishop possessing it, or at the request of the Council or Synod, but by despotism and assault, he shall lose that laity, even though it really were his, and even though he assert that he had letters from the chief head. Read also the Interpretations of Ap. c. LXXIV, of c. VI of the First Ec. C., and c. IX of the present Fourth Ec. C.