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NPNF2-14. The Seven Ecumenical Councils
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Canon XLIX.  (Greek liii.)

How many bishops there should be to ordain a bishop.

Honoratus and Urban, the bishops, said:  We have issued this command, that (because lately two of our brethren, bishops of Numidia, presumed to ordain a pontiff,) only by the concurrence of twelve bishops the ordination of bishops be celebrated.  Aurelius, the bishop, said:  The ancient form shall be preserved, that not less than three suffice who shall have been designated for ordaining the bishop.  Moreover, because in Tripoli, and in Arzug the barbarians are so near, for it is asserted that in Tripoli there are but five bishops, and out of that number two may be occupied by some necessity; but it is difficult that all of the number should come together at any place whatever; ought this circumstance to be an impediment to the doing of what is of utility to the Church?  For in this Church, to which your holiness has deigned to assemble451451    Notice the African use of the phrase, convenire ad. we frequently have ordinations and nearly every Lord’s day; could I frequently summon twelve, or ten, or about that number of bishops?  But it is an easy thing for me to join a couple of neighbours to my littleness.  Wherefore your charity will agree with me that this cannot be observed.

Notes.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XLIX.

Fewer than three bishops do not suffice for the ordination of a bishop.

This is Canon ij., of the Synod of Carthage, August 28th, 397.

Johnson.

See Can. 13.

The occasion of this canon was a complaint that two bishops in Numidia had presumed to ordain a third; upon which it was proposed that not less than twelve should perform this office:  But Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, desires that the old form might be observed, and three bishops be sufficient; especially, because in Tripoli, where there were but five bishops in all, it would be hard to get more than three together.  And he adds, that though it were no hard matter for him to get two bishops to assist him in his ordinations at Carthage, yet it would not be practicable for him to get twelve:  “For,” says he, “we have frequently, and almost every Sunday, men to be ordained.”  He must mean bishops for otherwise it had been nothing to his purpose, because he could ordain priests or deacons by himself, without the assistance of other bishops:  and yet it is very strange, that ordinations of bishops should be so frequent as to bear that expression of “almost every Sunday.”  There were indeed above one hundred bishoprics in his Province; but these could not occasion above six or eight ordinations in a year; but it is probable that the privilege belonging to him, Can. 55, brought very many ordinations to the church of Carthage; for it is evident, there was a great scarcity of men fit for the Episcopal office in Africa.  It is further evident from this canon, that bishops were not ordained in the church of their own see, but in that of the Primate.  See Can. Ant., 19.


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