Alexandria, Councils of (2)

Alexandria, Councils Of (Concilium Alexandrinum). In addition to the information already given under this head, a fuller account of some of these councils may be found below.

I. Held in 306, under Peter, bishop of Alexandria. Meletius, bishop of Lycopolis, was deposed, having been convicted of sacrificing to idols and many other crimes.

II. This council was held in the year 319 by the celebrated Hosius, bishop of Cordova, sent by Constantine to appease the troubles to which the heresies of Arius and the schism of Meletius had given rise, and to restore the peace of the Church. Hosius conducted himself in the business with fidelity and care worthy of his piety and of the confidence placed in him. In this council everything relating to the doctrine of the Trinity and to the condemnation of the heresy of Sabellius, who denied the distinction of persons in the sacred Trinity, was thoroughly discussed. Very little, however, is known of what passed here. See Labbe, Concil. 1, 1493.

III. Held in 321, by Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, attended by all his clergy, on account of the heresy of Arius, which was there condemned.

Arius was the curate of a Church in Alexandria; he was a man of very considerable talent, with all the external appearance of inward excellence. Jealousy at seeing Alexander promoted to the throne of Alexandria betrayed him into heresy. The unimpeachable life of his bishop affording him no handle for attacking his character, he determined to accuse him on the score of doctrine; and as Alexander taught, according to the faith of the Church, that our Saviour Jesus Christ is truly God, Arius dared — first in private conversation, and afterwards publicly — to assert that the bishop was in error and had fallen into the heresy of Sabellius; that our Lord was but a creature, however exalted. Alexander, having sent for Arius, endeavored to win him back by mildness, advising and exhorting him to open his eyes to the enormity of his error; but the latter persisted in his opinions. At last this council was convoked, in which Arius and nine others of the clergy of Alexandria were condemned and deprived; also a synodical letter was addressed by Alexander to his brother bishop, Alexander of Byzantium., See Cave, Apostolici, p. 349.

Another council was held later in the same year by Alexander, composed of one hundred Egyptian bishops, exclusive of the priests who were present. After hearing Arius, it proceeded to anathematize him and twelve of his followers, both priests and deacons; also two bishops, Secundus and Theona; and to pass censure upon Eusebius of Nicomedia.

IV. Held in 340, in support of Athanasius, and after the death of Constantine. There were present at it eighty or one hundred bishops, from Egypt, the Thebald, Libya, and Pentapolis. All the calumnies advanced against Athanasius by the Eusebians were refuted. Everything at this council was done according to rule, and altogether in a manner very different from what had been done two or three years before at the Council of Tyre. Athanasius was fully justified. These same bishops also wrote a synodical letter to all the orthodox prelates in order that, by union among themselves, they might be strengthened against the heresy. Complaint was made that the Eusebians continued to persecute Athanasius; that they had caused him to be exiled; and that they had sent to the three emperors a letter filled with fresh calumnies against him. This council justified his conduct; it went back to the origin of the persecutions which Athanasius had suffered, and showed that the Arians had hated him, even when he was only in deacon's orders; it proved that his ordination was strictly according to rule; it observed that Eusebius of Nicomedia had changed his see several times, forgetting that he who is once bound to a Church by the episcopate may not seek to change, lest he be found guilty of adultery according to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. It showed, further, that the proceedings of the Council of Tyre were invalid, both because the party of Eusebius was dominant there, and the secular power prevented all freedom of action; again, it exonerated Athanasius of the murder of Arsenius, alluded afresh to the irregularity of the proceedings in the Mareotis, accused the Eusebians of dividing the Church by menaces and terror, and finally exhorted the bishops to give no credit to anything written against Athanasius. See Labbe, Concil. 2, 532.

V. Held in 362, by Athanasius, in concert with Eusebius of Vercelli, to deliberate with him and the other bishops upon the affairs of the Church, and particularly upon the means to be adopted for restoring peace and union to the Church of Antioch. The "orthodox" Christians could not induce the Eustathians (q.v.) to unite with them. The council settled that leaders and defenders of heresy should be admitted to penance, but not to retain their clerical office; while those who had been led away should be allowed to retain their rank, provided they subscribed the acts of the Council of Nicaea. See Athanasius, De Ant. p. 575; Baronius, Annal. p. 362, § 235; Cave, Apostolici, p. 444.

VI. In the council held in 401, the writings of Origen were condemned. Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, who there presided, condemned also the promoters of the Arian heresy. See Labbe, Concil, 2, 1219.

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