Document: Letter 10
Date: 381
Addressee: Emperors Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius
English Translation: FC 26.208-213
Summary of Contents: Announcement of the results of the Council of Aquileia

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave you the Roman Empire, and blessed be our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, who guards your rule with His love, in whom we give thanks to you, most gracious Princes. You have proven the zeal of your faith, being zealous to assemble a council of bishops for the removal of discord, and by your favor you granted honor to the bishops so that no one who wished to attend was absent, and no one was forced to attend against his will.

Therefore, in accord with the order of your Mildness we met without unpleasantness of crowds and with the intention of debating the issues. No heretical bishops were found in attendance except Palladius and Secundianus, names of long-standing disloyalty, on whose account men from the farthest reaches of the Roman world asked that a council be summoned. No one burdened with the years of old age and with grey hairs, which in themselves are venerable, was forced to come from distant shores of the ocean. Nevertheless, the council lacked nothing. No one dragging a weak body burdened with the rigors of fasting was forced by the difficulty of the journey to lament the hardships laid upon his ruined strength. Finally, no one groaned if destitute of the means of coming because of poverty so laudable in bishops. That which holy Scripture has praised was fulfilled in you, most clement of princes, Gratian: “Blessed is he that takes thought for the needy and poor.”

How truly serious it would have been if, because of only two priests withering away with disloyalty, the churches over the whole world were deprived of their greatest bishops? Although some from the western provinces were unable to come in person because of the length of the journey, almost all from the western provinces were present in the delegates they sent, and gave evident proofs that they held what we assert and that they were in harmony with the proceeding of the Council of Nicaea as their documents declared. Everywhere now the prayers of nations are raised in concert for the welfare of your empire, and the defenders of the faith have not failed your wishes. Although our predecessors’ decrees, from which it is unholy and sacrilegious to deviate, were plain, we made it possible to discuss even these.

First we examined the root of the matter under investigation and decided to read the letter of Arius, who is found to be the author of the Arian heresy, and from whom the heresy gets its name. Then, those who had always maintained that they were not Arians could, by censuring the contents of the letter, condemn the blasphemies of Arius, or defend them by additional arguments, or, at least, not refuse the name of him whose irreligion and disloyalty they followed. Inasmuch as they could not condemn and were unwilling to give approval to their own founder, and three days previously had challenged us to a discussion at a fixed place and time, not waiting for the assembly to begin, those who had said they would readily prove that they were Christians (which we heard with joy and hoped they would prove) suddenly began to leave the meeting and to refuse to debate further.

Nevertheless, we had already had a great deal of discussion with them; the holy Scriptures were brought into our midst; the opportunity for patient discussion was offered from dawn until the seventh hour. Would that they had spoken on only a few matters or that we were able to forget all we heard! Since Arius says in sacrilegious phrases that only the Father is eternal, only He is good, only He is true God, only He has immortality, only He is wise, only He is powerful, and by impious inference wishes the Son to be thought of as not partaking of these attributes, these men preferred to follow Arius rather than admit that the Son of God was the eternal God, the true God, the good God, wise, powerful, and possessing immortality. We spent many hours in vain. Their impiety mounted and could in no way be checked.

Finally, when they realized that they were hard pressed by the sacrileges contained in Arius’ letter (which we have appended so that your Clemency may also realize the pain it caused) they jumped up in the midst of the reading of the letter and demanded that we answer their proposals. Although it was not consonant with the order of the day or with reason that we interrupt the agenda, and we had said that in reply they should condemn Arius’ heresies, and in due order and in a set place we would reply to their charges, notwithstanding, we agreed to their preposterous wish. Then, falsely interpreting the reading of the Gospel, they proposed to us that the Lord had said: “He who sent me is greater than I,” although the context of Scripture teaches otherwise.

They were made to admit the falsehood, although they still were not corrected by reason. For, when we said that the Son was said to be less than the Father in His taking of a body, but that in His divinity He is proved by the testimony of Scripture to be like and equal to the Father, and that there could be no difference in degree of rank or greatness, where there was unity of power, they not only refused to correct their error, but even began to be more enraged and to say that the Son was subject in His divinity, as if there could be any subjection of God in His divinity and majesty. Finally, they attributed His death not to the mystery of our salvation but to some weakness of His divinity.

We shudder to think, most clement Princes, of these dreadful sacrileges, these corrupt teachers. And that they may not further deceive the people whom they govern, we have decided that they should be deprived of their priestly power, since they agreed to the impiety in the document presented to them. It is not fitting that they claim for themselves the priesthood of one whom they deny. We beg your faith and glory to manifest the reverence of your authority to Him who is its source, and determine that these proclaimers of impiety and corrupters of the truth, by a rescript of your Clemency to competent authority, be barred from the doors of the Church, and that, in place of the guilty ones, holy priests be delegated through the legates of our Littleness.

The same opinion was held by Attalus, a priest who admitted his collusion with and adherence to the sacrilegious teachings of Palladius. Why should we speak of his master Julian Valens? Although he lived close by, he refused to attend the council of bishops, fearing he would be compelled to explain before the bishops the ruin of his country and the betrayal of his citizens. He, desecrated by the impiety of the Goths, is said to have even dared like a heathen, wearing necklace and bracelets, to make his appearance before the Roman army. Such conduct is obviously sacrilegious, not only in a bishop but in any Christian whatsoever. It is also alien to Roman custom, although the idolatrous worshipers of the Goths are accustomed to appear thus.

May the name of bishop move your Holiness, a name which that unholy person disgraces. He is convicted of unspeakable wickedness by the statements of his people who still survive. Let him at least return to his own home, let him not befoul the cities of a very flourishing Italy. At present, by illegal ordinations he associates with himself men like himself and through certain reprobate persons seeks to leave the seeds of his impiety and treachery. He has not even begun to be a bishop. First of all, he replaced the saintly Mark at Pettau, a priest of holy memory. Being unable to stay at Pettau, he is now at Milan after the overthrow, or, let us say, ‘betrayal’ of his country.

May your Piety, therefore, deign to counsel us on all these matters, so we will not appear to have met in vain when we complied with the ordinances of your Tranquility. Care must be taken not only that our decrees but also yours be not held in dishonor. Therefore, we beg your Clemency to hear with all indulgence the delegates of the council, holy men, and bid them return as soon as possible with those things accomplished which we ask. Thus may you receive a reward from the Lord God, Christ, whose Church you have rid of all stain of sacrilege.

You have also removed the Photinians, who by a former law you had decreed should hold no assemblies, revoking, too, that law which was passed regarding the meeting of a council of bishops. We ask your Clemency, knowing that their assemblies are still being held in Sirmium, though these assemblies have been put under interdict, that you give orders to have reverence shown first to the Catholic Church and then to your laws, so that, with God as your patron, you may triumph, while you provide for the peace and tranquility of the churches.

Translation from FC 26.208-213, adapted by SMT

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