1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Carthage, Synods of

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CARTHAGE, SYNODS OF. During the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries the town of Carthage (q.v.) in Africa served as the meeting-place of a large number of church synods, of which, however, only the most important can be treated here.

1. In May 251 a synod, assembled under the presidency of Cyprian to consider the treatment of the lapsi (those who had fallen away from the faith during persecution), excommunicated Felicissimus and five other Novatian bishops (Rigorists), and declared that the lapsi should be dealt with, not with indiscriminate severity, but according to the degree of individual guilt. These decisions were confirmed by a synod of Rome in the autumn of the same year. Other Carthaginian synods concerning the lapsi were held in 252 and 254.

See Hefele, 2nd ed., i. pp. 111 sqq. (English translation, i. pp. 93 sqq.); Mansi, i. pp. 863 sqq., 905 sqq.; Hardouin, i. pp. 133 sqq., 147 sqq.; Cyprian, Epp. 52, 54, 55, 68.

2. Two synods, in 255 and 256, held under Cyprian, pronounced against the validity of heretical baptism, thus taking direct issue with Stephen, bishop of Rome, who promptly repudiated them, and separated himself from the African Church. A third synod, September 256, unanimously reaffirmed the position of the other two. Stephen’s pretensions to authority as “bishop of bishops” were sharply resented, and for some time the relations of the Roman and African Churches were severely strained.

See Hefele, 2nd ed., i. pp. 117-119 (English translation, i. pp. 99 sqq.); Mansi, i. pp. 921 sqq., 951 sqq.; Hardouin, i. pp. 153 sqq.; Cyprian, Epp. 69-75.

3. The Donatist schism (see Donatists) occasioned a number of important synods. About 348 a synod of Catholic bishops, who had met to record their gratitude for the effective official repression of the “Circumcelliones” (Donatist terrorists), declared against the rebaptism of any one who had been baptized in the name of the Trinity, and adopted twelve canons of clerical discipline.

See Hefele, 2nd. ed., i. pp. 632-633 (English translation, ii. pp. 184-186); Mansi, iii. pp. 143 sqq.; Hardouin, i. pp. 683 sqq.

4. The “Conference of Carthage” (see Donatists), held by imperial command in 411 with a view to terminating the Donatist schism, while not strictly a synod, was nevertheless one of the most important assemblies in the history of the African church, and, indeed of the whole Christian church.

See Hefele, 2nd ed., ii. pp. 103-104 (English translation, ii. pp. 445-446); Mansi, iv. pp. 7-283; Hardouin, i. pp. 1043-1190.

5. On the 1st of May 418 a great synod (“A Council of Africa,” St Augustine calls it), which assembled under the presidency of Aurelius, bishop of Carthage, to take action concerning the errors of Caelestius, a disciple of Pelagius (q.v.), denounced the Pelagian doctrines of human nature, original sin, grace and perfectibility, and fully approved the contrary views of Augustine. Prompted by the reinstatement by the bishop of Rome of a deposed African priest, the synod enacted that “whoever appeals to a court on the other side of the sea (meaning Rome) may not again be received into communion by any one in Africa” (canon 17).

See Hefele, 2nd ed., ii. pp. 116 sqq. (English translation, ii. pp. 458 sqq.); Mansi, iii. pp. 810 sqq., iv. pp. 377 sqq., 451 sqq.; Hardouin, i. pp. 926 sqq.

6. The question of appeals to Rome occasioned two synods, one in 419, the other in 424. The latter addressed a letter to the bishop of Rome, Celestine, protesting against his claim to appellate jurisdiction, and urgently requesting the immediate recall of his legate, and advising him to send no more judges to Africa.

See Hefele, 2nd ed., ii. pp. 120 sqq., 137 sqq. (English translation, ii. pp. 462 sqq., 480 sqq.); Mansi, iii. pp. 835 sqq., iv. pp. 401 sqq., 477 sqq.; Hardouin, i. pp. 943 sqq., 1241 sqq.  (T. F. C.) 

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