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NPNF2-14. The Seven Ecumenical Councils
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Canon XII.

It has come to our knowledge that certain persons, contrary to the laws of the Church, having had recourse to secular powers, have by means of imperial rescripts divided one Province into two, so that there are consequently two metropolitans in one province; therefore the holy Synod has decreed that for the future no such thing shall be attempted by a bishop, since he who shall undertake it shall be degraded from his rank.  But the cities which have already been honoured by means of imperial letters with the name of metropolis, and the bishops in charge of them, shall take the bare title, all metropolitan rights being preserved to the true Metropolis.

Notes.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XII.

One province shall not be cut into two.  Whoever shall do this shall be cast out of the episcopate.  Such cities as are cut off by imperial rescript shall enjoy only the honour of having a bishop settled in them:  but all the rights pertaining to the true metropolis shall be preserved.

Bright.

We learn from this canon, there were cases in which an ambitious prelate, “by making application to the government” (“secular powers”) had obtained what are called “pragmatic letters,” and employed them for the purpose of “dividing one province into two,” and exalting himself as a metropolitan.  The name of a “pragmatic sanction” is more familiar in regard to medieval and modern history; it recalls the name of St. Louis, and, still more, that of the Emperor Charles VI. the father of Maria Theresa.  Properly a “pragmatic” was a deliberate order promulgated by the Emperor after full hearing of advice, on some public affair.  We find “pragmatici nostri statuta” in a law of a.d. 431.  (Cod. Theod., xi. 1, 36); and “pragmatici prioris,” “sub hac pragmatica jussione,” in ordinances in Append. to Cod. Theod., pp. 95, 162; and the empress Pulcheria, about a year before the Council, had informed Leo that her husband Marcian had recalled some exiled orthodox bishops “robore pragmatici sui” (Leon., Epist. lxxvij.).  Justinian speaks of “pragmaticas nostras formas” and “pragmaticum typum” (Novel., 7, 9, etc.).  The phrase was adopted from his legislation by Louis the Pious and his colleague-son Lothar (compare Novel. 7, 2 with Pertz, Mon. Germ, Hist. Leg., i., 254), and hence it came to be used both by later German emperors (see, e.g., Bryce’s Holy Roman Empire, p. 212), and by the French kings (Kitchin, Hist. France, i. 343, 544).  Augustine explains it by “præceptum imperatoris” (Brev. Collat. cum Donatist. iii., 2), and Balsamon in his comment uses an equivalent phrase; and so in the record of the fourth session of Chalcedon we have θεῖα γράμματα (“divine” being practically equivalent to “imperial”) explained by πραγματικοὺς τύπους (Mansi, vii., 89).  We must observe that the imperial order, in the cases contemplated by the canon, had only conferred the title of “metropolis” on the city, and had not professed to divide the province for civil, much less for ecclesiastical, purposes. Valens, indeed, had divided the province of Cappadocia, when in 371 he made Tyana a metropolis:  and therefore Anthimus, bishop of Tyana, when he claimed the position of a metropolitan, with authority over suffragans, was making a not unnatural inference in regard to ecclesiastical limits from political rearrangements of territory, as Gregory of Nazianzus says (Orat. xliii., 58), whereas Basil “held to the old custom,” i.e., to the traditional unity of his provincial church, although after a while he submitted to what he could not hinder (see Tillemont, ix., 175, 182, 670).  But in the case of Eustathius of Berytus, which was clearly in the Council’s mind, the Phœnician province had not been divided; it was in reliance on a mere title bestowed upon his city, and also on an alleged synodical ordinance which issued in fact from the so-called “Home Synod” that he declared himself independent of his metropolitan, Photius of Tyre, and brought six bishoprics under his assumed jurisdiction.  Thus while the province remained politically one, he had de facto divided it ecclesiastically into two.  Photius petitioned Marcian, who referred the case to the Council of Chalcedon, and it was taken up in the fourth session.  The imperial commissioners announced that it was to be settled not according to “pragmatic forms,” but according to those which had been enacted by the Fathers (Mansi, vii., 89).  This encouraged the Council to say, “A pragmatic can have no force against the canons.”  The commissioners asked whether it was lawful for bishops, on the ground of a pragmatic, to steal away the rights of other churches?  The answer was explicit:  “No, it is against the canon.”  The Council proceeded to cancel the resolution of the Home Synod in favour of the elevation of Berytus, ordered the 4th Nicene canon to be read, and upheld the metropolitical rights of Tyre.  The commissioners also pronounced against Eustathius.  Cecropius, bishop of Sebastopolis, requested them to put an end to the issue of pragmatics made to the detriment of the canons; the Council echoed this request; and the commissioners granted it by declaring that the canons should everywhere stand good (Mansi, vii., 89–97).  We may connect with this incident a law of Marcian dated in 454, by which “all pragmatic sanctions, obtained by means of favour or ambition in opposition to the canon of the Church, are declared to be deprived of effect” (Cod. Justin, i., 2, 12).

To this decision the present canon looks back, when it forbids any bishop, on pain of deposition, to presume to do as Eustathius had done, since it decrees that “he who attempts to do so shall fall from his own rank (βαθμοῦ) in the Church.  And cities which have already obtained the honorary title of a metropolis from the emperor are to enjoy the honour only, and their bishops to be but honorary metropolitans, so that all the rights of the real metropolis are to be reserved to it.”  So, at the end of the 6th session the emperor had announced that Chalcedon was to be a titular metropolis, saving all the rights of Nicomedia; and the Council had expressed its assent (Mansi, xii., 177; cf. Le Quien, i., 602).  Another case was discussed in the 13th session of the Council.  Anastasius of Nicæa had claimed to be independent of his metropolitan Eunomius of Nicomedia, on the ground of an ordinance of Valens, recognising the city of Nicæa as by old custom a “metropolis.”  Eunomius, who complained of Anastasius’s encroachments, appealed to a later ordinance, guaranteeing to the capital of Bithynia its rights as unaffected by the honour conferred on Nicæa:  the Council expressed its mind in favour of Eunomius, and the dispute was settled by a decision “that the bishop of Nicomedia should have metropolitical authority over the Bithynian churches, while the bishop of Nicæa should have merely the honour of a metropolitan, being subjected, like the other comprovincials, to the bishop of Nicomedia (Mansi, vii., 313).  Zonaras says that this canon was in his time no longer observed; and Balsamon says that when the primates of Heraclea and Ancyra cited it as upholding their claim to perform the consecration of two “honorary metropolitans,” they were overruled by a decree of Alexius Comnenus, “in presence and with consent” of a synod (on Trullan, canon xxxviij.).

The first part of this canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian’s Decretum, Pars I., Dist. ci., canon j.

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