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Outlying or rural parishes shall in every province remain subject to the bishops who now have jurisdiction over them, particularly if the bishops have peaceably and continuously governed them for the space of thirty years. But if within thirty years there has been, or is, any dispute concerning them, it is lawful for those who hold themselves aggrieved to bring their cause before the synod of the province. And if any one be wronged by his metropolitan, let the matter be decided by the exarch of the diocese or by the throne of Constantinople, as aforesaid. And if any city has been, or shall hereafter be newly erected by imperial authority, let the order of the ecclesiastical parishes follow the political and municipal example.
Ancient Epitome of Canon XVII.
Village and rural parishes if they have been possessed for thirty years, they shall so continue. But if within that time, the matter shall be subject to adjudication. But if by the command of the Emperor a city be renewed, the order of ecclesiastical parishes shall follow the civil and public forms.
The adjective ἐγχωρίους is probably synonymous with ἀγροικικάς (“rusticas,” Prisca), although Dionysius and Isidorian take in as “situated on estates,” cf. Routh, Scr. Opusc., ii., 109. It was conceivable that some such outlying districts might form, ecclesiastically, a border-land, it might not be easy to assign them definitively to this or that bishopric. In such a case, says the Council, if the bishop who is now in possession of these rural churches can show a prescription of thirty years in favour of his see, let them remain undisturbed in his obedience. (Here ἀβιάστως may be illustrated from βιασάμενος in Eph. viij. and for the use of οἰκονομεῖν see I. Const., ij.) But the border-land might be the “debate-able” land: the two neighbour bishops might dispute as to the right to tend these “sheep in the wilderness;” as we read in Cod. Afric., 117, “multæ controversiæ postea inter episcopos de diœcesibus ortæ sunt, et oriuntur” (see on I. Const., ij.); as archbishop Thomas of York, and Remigius of Dorchester, were at issue for years “with reference to Lindsey” (Raine, Fasti Eborac., i. 150). Accordingly, the canon provides that if such a contest had arisen within the thirty years, or should thereafter arise, the prelate who considered himself wronged might appeal to the provincial synod. If he should be aggrieved at the decision of his metropolitan in synod, he might apply for redress to the eparch (or prefect, a substitute for exarch) of the “diocese,” or to the see of Constantinople (in the manner provided by canon ix.). It is curious “that in Russia all the sees are divided into eparchies of the first, second, and third class” (Neale, Essays on Liturgiology, p. 302).
This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian’s Decretum, Pars II., Causa XVI., Quæst. iii., can. j., in Isidore Mercator’s version.290290 Hefele does not give this reference, and Van Espen gives it incorrectly as causa xix. instead of xvi.
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