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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

FLAVIAN, who had sustained with Diodorus so many conflicts in defence of the Saviour’s flock, was appointed to succeed the great Melitius in the bishopric of Antioch. Paulinus endeavoured to prove that he had himself a prior right to this bishopric. But the priests rejected his pretensions, saying, that as he would not receive the counsels of Melitius, he ought not to obtain his episcopal chair after his death, but that the pastoral office ought to be bestowed upon one who had distinguished himself by so many arduous labours, and who had so often defended the flock. This contention greatly irritated the Romans and the Egyptians against the Eastern bishops; and the consequent feelings of animosity did not subside even after the death of Paulinus.

When they had raised Evagrius to the episcopal chair, they still retained their resentment against Flavian, although Evagrius had been ordained against the canons of the church; for Paulinus alone had elected him; thus transgressing many of the ecclesiastical laws. The canons of the church do not permit a bishop, when on his death-bed, to ordain his successor, but declare that the consent of all the bishops of the province is requisite, and that the ceremony of ordination is to be performed by three bishops. Although none of these regulations had been observed in the ordination of Evagrius, the Romans and Egyptians entered into fellowship with him, and endeavoured to prejudice the emperor against Flavian. Wearied by their importunity, the emperor at length sent to Constantinople to summon Flavian to Rome. Flavian excused himself on account of its being winter, and promised to obey the emperor’s command the ensuing spring. He then returned to his native country. The bishops of Rome, among whom was not only the admirable Damasis, but also Siricius, who afterwards succeeded him, as well as Anastasius, the successor of Siricius, rebuked the pious emperor, and told him, that while he repressed the attempts of those who rose up against his own authority, he suffered those who insulted the laws of Christ to exercise the authority which they had usurped. The emperor therefore again sent to compel Flavian to repair to Rome. To this mandate the wise bishop replied with great boldness of speech, saying, “If any individuals, O emperor, should accuse me of heterodoxy, or should say that my life is derogatory to the episcopal dignity, I would permit my accusers to be my judges, and would submit to whatever sentence they might pronounce. But if it be only my right to my episcopal chair and office that they are contesting, I shall not contend for my claims, but shall relinquish my seat to whoever may be appointed to take it. Give, then, O emperor, the bishopric of Antioch to whomsoever you please.”

The emperor admired his courage and wisdom, and sent to command him to resume the government of his church. Some time after the emperor returned to Rome, and the bishops again reproached him for not having suppressed the tyranny of Flavian. The emperor replied, by asking what species of tyranny had been exercised by Flavian, and declared his readiness to prohibit it. The bishops replying, that they could not litigate any point against an emperor, he exhorted them to be reconciled with each other, and to terminate the foolish contention. For Paulinus had died long previously, and Evagrius had been illegally ordained. Besides, the Eastern churches acknowledged the supremacy of Flavian; all the churches of Asia, of Pontus, and of Thrace, were united with him in communion: and all the churches of Illyria looked upon him as the primate of the East. The bishops of the West were convinced by these representations, and promised to lay aside their hostility, and to receive an embassy from Flavian. On hearing this, the holy Flavian sent some exemplary bishops to Rome, with some presbyters and deacons of Antioch. The principal man among them was Acacius, bishop of Berœa, a city of Syria, whose fame was spread throughout the world. On his arrival with the others in Rome, he terminated the long-continued hostility which had lasted seventeen years, and restored peace to the churches. When the Egyptians became acquainted with this proceeding, they laid down their animosity, and established concord. The church of Rome was at this period governed by Innocent, a man of great sagacity and prudence; he was the successor of Anastasius. Theophilus, of whom mention has been already made, was then the bishop of Alexandria.








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