Document: Letter 13
Date: 381/382
Addressee: Theodosius
English Translation: FC 26.219-222
Summary of Contents: Relates the results of the Council of Aquileia

We are aware that your saintly mind has been dedicated to the service of almighty God with unblemished and pure faith. But through your latest good offices you have perfected your dedication by bringing back to the churches the Catholics, O Emperor Augustus. Would that you had brought back the Catholics to their old sense of reverence, so that they would make no changes contrary to the regulations of their predecessors, neither rashly doing away with customs that should be preserved, nor preserving what should be abolished. More grievously, perhaps, than ill-advisedly have we lamented, revered Emperor, the fact that it has been easier to drive out the heretics than to establish concord among the Catholics. It is impossible to explain how great confusion has recently prevailed.

Some time ago we wrote to you regarding the city of Antioch, which had two bishops, Paulinus and Melitius, who we knew were in agreement on faith. Therefore, we thought that peace and concord between them would protect the interests of Church discipline, or, at least, that if either of them died and the other survived, there would be no substitution of another person in the place of the deceased. Now, however, upon the death of Melitius, while Paulinus is still living a man who has remained in communion with us by the peaceful rule of his congregation under our predecessors contrary to what is right, and contrary to Church discipline, someone is being planted in Melitius’ place, one is being imposed rather than installed.

This is being carried out, moreover, with the consent and agreement of Nectarius, whose ordination does not appear to us to be regular. In the council recently held, Bishop Maximus revealed by letters from Peter, of holy memory, that the members of the Church of Alexandria were in communion with him, and he proved that he had retired for the ceremony of his ordination to his own home because the Arians still had possession of the basilicas of the church. We had no occasion, best of princes, to question his episcopacy, since he proved that he resisted violence brought to bear on him by several of the laity and the clergy.

Nevertheless, we thought that your Clemency should be informed so that we would not seem to have presumed to pronounce finally upon an affair when the parties concerned were not present. Consultation should be held for the sake of public peace and concord. Actually, we have observed that Gregory [when he abdicated his see], in accord with the tradition of the Fathers, laid no claim to the office of priest of the Church at Constantinople. In the synod, therefore, whose attendance seemed binding upon the bishops of the whole world, we agreed to decide nothing with haste. Yet, those who refused to attend the general council are said to have met at the same time at Constantinople. When this assembly learned that Maximus had come to their synod to plead his case (although the council had not been lawfully proclaimed in the manner of our predecessors, like Athanasius, of holy memory, and like Peter, earlier both bishops of the Church at Alexandria and as several of the Eastern bishops had done before, appearing to have recourse to the judgment of Rome, of Italy, and of all the West), when they, as we said, found Maximus wanting to make trial against those who had refused him a bishopric, they surely should have waited for our opinion. We do not challenge the right of an examination into such a matter, but there should have been a meeting for a united decision.

Finally, there should have been an agreement as to whether it seemed necessary to recall him before transferring the office of priest to another. The procedure was important especially to those by whom Maximus claimed he had been deserted or harmfully attacked. Since our assembly had received Bishop Maximus into communion, agreeing that he had been ordained by Catholic bishops, we did not think that he should be removed from his claim to the bishopric of Constantinople. We thought that his claim should be weighed by the parties present. However, since our people recently learned that Nectarius was ordained at Constantinople, we do not see how we can unite our communion with the Eastern countries, especially since it is said that Nectarius left there, deprived of the fellowship of communion by the same persons by whom he had been ordained.

This is no mean difficulty. The trouble causes us anguish not out of any personal interest and ambition, but we are disturbed over the tearing and rending asunder of the union of the faithful. We do not see how agreement can be reached unless either he is returned to Constantinople who was first ordained, or there is at least a joint council in Rome of the East and West regarding the ordination of the two persons in question.

It does not seem unfitting, O Augustus, that a treatise be drawn up by the head of the Roman Church and the neighboring and Italian bishops, who thought that the judgment of the one bishop, Acholius, was so worth waiting for that they presumed to summon him to Constantinople from the West. If protection was provided for this one man alone, how much more is it to be provided for many persons?

Yet, having been advised to write to the power of your Clemency by our most excellent Prince, the brother of your Piety, we ask that where there is one communion you may wish a judgment in common and agreement in perfect accord.

Translation from FC 26.219-222, adapted by SMT

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