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The Organization of the Church of Africa on the Eve of the Vandal Invasion

  • R. Pierce Beaver (a1)
Extract

In Saint Augustine's time two theories concerning the origin of the church of Africa were current in Africa and Italy: either the Carthaginian church had been founded by missionaries from the church of Rome or the Gospel had been brought from various eastern lands. Carthage was undoubtedly the center from which Christianity spread throughout the whole of North Africa. As the number of converts increased and the churches multiplied, the same problems of organization arose and were solved as in other parts of the Empire, and ecclesiastical administration followed the lines of demarcation used by the civil power. Under Diocletian a reorganization of the imperial administrative scheme had taken place, and the Diocese of Africa, extending from Cyrenaica on the East to the Malva and Mount Atlas on the West, was comprised of the provinces of Tripolitana, Byzacenum, Proconsular Africa, Numidia, Mauretania Sitifiensis, and Mauretania Caesariensis. The district to the West, Mauretania Tingitana, was attached to the Diocese of Spain. By the end of the fourth century the church had created six provinces following the same lines, with the exception that Tingitana, although not a part of Africa politically formed a part of the ecclesiastical province of Mauretania Caesariensis. The last province to be created was Mauretania Sitifiensis, which was granted a primate by the Council of Hippo in 393.

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1 Innocent I, Ep. 25.2 (PL, v. 20, p. 551).

2 Augustine, Ep. 43.7 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 90).

3 Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, v. I (1), p. 583.

4 Between this point and Tingitana stretched several hundred miles of roadless desert, forming a natural boundary.

5 Under Diocletian, this province had been divided into Proconsular Numidia with its capital at Cirta, and Military Numidia with Lambesis as its capital. Under Constantine, the two were again united with the capital at Cirta, which was now renamed Constantine.

6 For the exact boundaries, see Ferrére, , La situation religieuse de l'Afrique romaine despuis la fin au IVe siècle jusqu'à l'invasion des Vandales, pp. 78; Dict, d'arch. chrét., v. I (1), pp. 582583; v. IX (1), pp. 1251–1258, 1302–1306, 1335–1336.

7 Dict, d'arch. chrét., v. I (1), p. 583; v. IX (1), p. 1342; Schwartze, , Untersuchungen über die Entwickelung der afrikanischen Kirche, p. 20; Ferrére, , op. cit., p. 6.

8 Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. I, can. 3 (Mansi, v. III, p. 919); Hefele, , Counciliengeschichte, v. II, p. 52.

9 Dict, d'arch, chrét., v. I (1), p. 583584; Ferrére, , op. cit., p. 15; Baxter, , Select Letters of Saint Augustine, pp. xxxixxxii.

10 Gesta Collat. Carthag., die I, cap. 181 (Mansi, , v. IV, pp. 24, 136); Ferrére, , op. cit., pp. 1416.

11 Augustine, Ep. 34.5 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 26).

12 Augustine, Ep. 209.2 (CSEL, v. 57, p. 348).

13 Council of Carthage of 397, can. 5; Codex Canonum Ecclesiae Africae, can. 53 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 928; pp. 742–743); Hefele, , Counciliengeschichte, v. II, pp. 63, 116.

14 Third Council of Carthage, can. 5 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 928).

15 Augustine, Ep. 43.17 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 99), altare contra altare levatum est.

16 Dict, d'arch. chrét., v. I (1), p. 586; Baxter, , Sel. Letters of St. Aug., p. xxxi.

17 Dupin counted 690; Morcelli gives 720; Leclercq enumerates about 726 sees. See Leclercq, 's article in Dict, d'arch. chrét., v. IX (1), pp. 12511342; and Ferrare, , op. cit., p. 14.

18 Dict, d'arch, chrét., v. I (1), pp. 584 ff. The chief of these is the Notitia Provinciarum et Civitatum Africae (CSEL, v. 7, pp. 117134).

19 Ferrére, , op. cit., pp. 359376.

20 Possidius, , Vita Aug., 7, 11, and 31.

21 This disputation was the last attempt of the Catholic episcopate to win the Donatists by an appeal to reason. After it they were wholeheartedly in favor of the suppression of Donatism by the secular power. The conference was ordered by Emperor Honorius, who appointed the Tribune Marcellinus imperial agent and high commissioner. He was a zealous Catholic and friend of Augustine. The conference lasted from June 1 to 8, when Marcellinus declared in favor of the Catholics. He immediately began to enforce the laws against the Donatists, and, excepting for the short time that Marinus was in power, the state officials were henceforth zealous in their work of “reunion.”

22 Augustine, Breviarium Coll., 1.14 (PL, v. 43, p. 620).

23 Gesta Coll. Carth., die I, cap. 213–217 (Mansi, , v. IV, pp. 163165); Augustine, Brev. Coll. 1.14 and Ad. Don. Post Coll., 24.41 (PL, v. 43, p. 620; p. 676); Monceaux, , Histoire littéraire de l'Afrique chrétienne, v. IV, p. 84.

24 Notitia Provinciarum et Civitatum Africae (CSEL, v. 7, pp. 117134).

25 Ferrére, , op. cit., pp. 359376. Leclereq gives for the whole ancient period: Algeria and Tunis (i.e., Proconsularis, Byzacenum, Tripolitana) 373; Algeria (Numidia and Mauretania Sitifiensis) 265; Mauretania Caesariensis 91; Morocco (Tingitana) none. Dict, d'arch, chrét., v. IX (1), pp. 12511342).

26 Council, of Hippo of 393, Ser. I, can. 4 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 919); Augustine, , Ep. 129, end. (CSEL, v. 44, p. 39) Augustine usually refers to the primate as primas, primatus, or senex. See Epp. 22.9; 43.8, 9, 14; 59.1, 2; 88.3; 128, end; 141, salutation; 191.1; 196.1; 209.3, 6 (CSEL, v. 34 (1), p. 62; v. 34 (2), pp. 90, 92, 96; 219; 220; 409; v. 44, pp. 34; 235;?. 57, pp. 163; 216).

27 Ferrére, , op. cit., pp. 89; Baxter, , Sel. Letters of St. Aug., p. 38, n. 6; Dict, d'arch. chrét., v. I (1), p. 583.

28 Augustine, , Ep. 59 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 219220); Leo I, Ep. 12 (PL, v. 54, pp. 645 f); Gregory I, Ep. 74 (PL, v. 77, p. 528).

29 Augustine, Ep. 22.9; 65, salutation; 128, end; 191.1; 196.1; 209.2, 3 (CSEL, v. 34 (1), p. 62; v. 34 (2), p. 232; v. 44, pp. 34; 163; 216; 348); Baxter, , Sel. Letters of St. Aug., p. 38, n.b.

30 Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. I, can. 4, renewed by Council of Carthage of 525 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 919; v. VIII, pp. 646–647); Hefele, , Conciliengeschichte, v. II, p. 56).

31 Ibid., Ser. II, can. 25 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 923).

32 Augustine, , Ep. 59 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 219220).

33 Ferrére, , op. cit., p. 13; Cf. Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. II. can. 5).

34 Cod. Can. Ecc. Afr., can. 125 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 822); Hefele, , Conciliengeschicte, v. Il, p. 106.

35 Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. II, can. 6 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 920); Ferrére, , op. cit., p. 13.

36 Ibid., Ser. II, can. 27. (p. 923).

37 Augustine, , Ep. 209 (CSEL, v. 57, pp. 347353); Possidius, , Vita Aug., 4.

38 Possidius, , Vita Aug., 4.

39 Augustine, Ep. 38.2 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 65).

40 Augustine, , Ep. 59 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 219220).

42 Augustine, , Ep. 65 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 232234).

43 Council of Hippo of 393, canon reenacted by the Council of Carthage of 525 (Mansi, , v. VIII, pp. 646647; briefer form in Brev. Hippo, Ser. I, can, 4 in v. III, p. 939); Hefele, , Conciliengeschichte, v. II, p. 56); Dennis, , Hippo Regius, p. 44.

44 Cyprian, Ep. 45.3 or Cornelius, Ep. 3.3 (PL, v. 3, p. 733; v. 4, p. 350).

45 Augustine, Ep. 43.7 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 90).

46 Augustine, Ep. 22.4 (CSEL, v. 34 (1), p. 58.)

47 Augustine, Ep. 43.7 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 90) Tanto magis enim timere debuit (i.e., Secundus), ne pax unitatis violaretur, quanto erat Carthago civitas ampla et inlustris, unde se per totum Africae corpus malum, quod ibi esset exortum, tamquam a vertice effunderet. Erat etiam transmarinis vicina regionibus et fama celeberrima nobilis. Unde non mediocris utique auctoritatis habebat episcopum, qui posset non curare conspirantem multitudinem inimicorum, cum se videret et Romanae ecclesiae, in qua semper apostolicae cathedrae vinguit principatus, et ceteris terris, unde evangelium ad ipsam Africain venit, per communicatorias litteras esse coniunctum …

48 Ferrére, 's statement, op. cit., p. 11.

49 Leclereq, 's phrase, Dict. d'arch. chrét., v. I (1), p. 584.

50 . Cod. Can. Ecc. Afr., can. 55 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 746)

51 Ibid., can. 52, 53, 73, 94 (pp. 742, 743, 755, 799); Dict, d'arch. chrét., v. I (1), p. 584; Hefele, , Conciliengeschichte, v. II, p. 57; Ferrére, , op. cit., p. 12. He must of necessity have visited several small dioceses, mere congregations in villages and on estates, in a single day. Even with such saving of time, a yearly visit of all the dioceses appears physically impossible when one remembers the other duties of the archbishop, including the administration of his own diocese of Carthage.

52 Third Council of Carthage, 397, can. 7 (Mansi, , v. III, pp. 928929); Hefele, , Conciliengesch., v. II, p. 63.

53 Council of Hippo of 393, canon reenacted by Council of Carthage of 525 (Mansi, , v. VIII, pp. 646647; briefer form v. III, p. 919).

54 Ibid.; Ferrére, , op. cit., p. 12.

55 Ibid.; Dict, d'arch, chrét., v. I (1), p. 584; Ferrére, , p. 12.

56 Cf. Ep. 201 among the letters of Augustine, from the Emperors Honorius and Theodosins to Bishop Aurelius (CSEL, v. 57, pp. 296299).

57 Fifth Council of Carthage, can. 19; Hefele, , Conciliengesch., v. II, p. 72.

58 Augustine, , Ep. 174, salutation (CSEL, v. 44, p. 650); Baxter, , Sel. Letters of Saint Aug., p. 302, n.

59 Augustine, , Ep. 22 (CSEL, v. 34 (1), pp. 5462).

60 Augustine, Ep. 64.2 (CSEL, 34 (2), p. 230).

61 Epp. 22; 41; 60; 174 (CSEL, v. 34 (1), pp. 5462; v. 34 (2), pp. 81–84; 221–222; v. 44, pp. 650–651).

62 Ep. 41.

63 Epp. 60; 64.3 (v. 34 (2), p. 221–222; 231).

64 Augustine, Ep. 60.2 end (v. 34 (2), p. 224).

65 Augustine, , Ep. 174 (CSEL, v. 44, p. 650).

66 Even the emperor thought it proper that letters to the church of Africa be sent both to Aurelius and Augustine. Cf. Augustine, , Ep. 201, end (CSEL, v. 57, p. 299).

67 Augustine, , Ep. 64 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 229232).

68 Ibid., 4 (p. 231).

69 Occasionally the provincial synods took action of more than local importance, such as the resolutions of the Councils of Proconsularis and Numidia in the Pelagian questions.

70 Clearly demonstrated in the controversy with Pope Zosimus and the attitude which the Africans then showed towards the decrees of Nicaea.

71 Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. II, can. 5 (Mansi, , v. III, pp. 919920).

72 Council of Carthage of 407, can. 1 and Cod. Can. Ecc. Afr., can. 95 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 799); Hefele, , Conciliengesch., v. II, p. 87.

73 The Council convened twice in 408, and once each year in 409, 410, and 411. Since the Donatist question was at last settled, so far as ecclesiastical action was necessary, the Council did not meet again until 416; then twice in 418; once in 419, 421, 422, 423, etc.

74 The period following Easter was a favorite time for litigation. Augustine, Serm. 259.6 (PL, v. 38, p. 1201).

75 Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. II, can. 9 (Mansi, , v. III, pp. 920921); Constitutiones Sirmondi, vi.

76 Cf. Article by Ledercq in Dict, d'arch, chrét., v. IX (1), pp. 159178.

77 Mansi, , Sanctorum conciliorum amplissima collectio, v. III, pp. 699 ff.

78 Cod. Can. Ecc. Afr., can. 129 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 826).

79 Augustine, , Ep. 65 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 232234). At first it was necessary that the bishop call in five neighboring bishops to assist him in the trial of a priest, and two for the trial of a deacon (Council of Hippo, Ser. II, can. 8), but by 402 the bishop alone apparently tried the accused, and the first appeal was to the neighboring bishops. (Augustine, , Ep. 65; Sixteenth Council of Carthage, can. 17; Cod. Can. Ecc. Afr., can. 125; Hefele, , Conciliengeschichte, v. II, p. 106).

81 Ibid., 2 (p. 233).

82 Sixteenth Council of Carthage, can. 17, or Cod. Can. Ecc. Afr., can. 125 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 822); Hefele, , Conciliengeschichte, v. II, p. 106.

83 Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. II, can. 6 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 920).

84 Ibid., can. 7 (p. 920).

85 Ibid., can. 9 (pp. 920–921).

86 Boyd, , Ecclesiastical Edicts of the Theodosian Code, pp. 92 ff.

87 Augustine, Ep. 64.4 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 232).

88 Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. I, can. 2 (Maasi, , v. III, p. 919); Augustine, Ep. 34.5 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 26).

89 Ibid.; Augustine, Epp. 64.3; 62 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 231; 224–226).

90 Augustine, Ep. 34.5 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 26).

91 Augustine, , Epp. 91; 104 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 427 ff; 582 ff).

92 Augustine, , Epp. 64; 219; 250 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 229 ff; v. 57, pp. 428 ff; 593 ff).

93 Augustine, , Epp. 250; 250 A (CSEL, v. 57, pp. 593598; 598).

95 Augustine, , Ep. 250 A (p. 598).

96 This letter and Paul's reply are not extant.

97 Ep. 85 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 394395).

98 Epp. 62; 63 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 224226; 226229).

99 Ibid. (pp. 224–226).

100 Augustine, Ep. 110.1 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 638).

101 Ep. 64.3 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 231).

102 Ibid.; Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. II, can. 19 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 920).

103 Probably the Council of Carthage of September 13, 401.

104 Augustine, Ep. 64.3 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 231).

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