Neophyte (from νέος, new, and φυτόν, a plant), i.e., newly planted, was a word used in the Eleusinian and other mysteries to designate a person recently initiated. In the early Church it was the name given to converts to Christianity who had just received baptism. After that solemn ceremony they wore white garments for eight days, from Easter eve until the Sunday after Easter, which was hence called Dominzica in albis, i.e., the Sunday in white. (These garments were usually made of white linen, but sometimes of more costly materials.) They were also subject to a strict discipline or probation for a much longer period. At first they were considered unfit for the priestly office, on the grounds of 1Ti 3:6, where the word is rendered "novice," and explained by Gregory the Great to have been used in allusion to "their being newly planted in the faith" (Epp. 6, 5; Ep. 51). Neophytes differed from catechumens (q.v.), inasmuch as the persons were supposed to have not only embraced the doctrines of the Church, but also to have received baptism. Paul, in the passage referred to, directs Timothy not to promote a neophyte to the episcopate; and this prohibition was generally maintained. The duration of this exclusion was left for a time to the discretion of bishops, but several of the ancient synods legislated regarding it. The third council of Aries (524) and the third of Orange (538)
fix a year as the least limit of probation. Ecclesiastical history offers, however, a few instances in which this rule was departed from, as in the appointment of Ambrosius as bishop; but these exceptions were not frequent. In the modern Roman Catholic Church the same discipline is observed, and extends to persons converted not alone from heathenism, but from any sect of Christians separated from the communion of Rome. The time, however, is left to be determined by circumstances. The Roman Catholic missionaries still give the name of neophytes to the Jews, Mussulmans, or pagans who are converted to Christianity, and the Church grants them numerous privileges in order to induce others to follow their example (see Ferrari, Biblioth. canonica, s.v. Neophytus, No. 3). Gregory XIII established at Rome a special college for young neophytes, where they are instructed to become afterwards missionaries in their native countries; it is called the College of the Propaganda, and is one of the most richly endowed and privileged seminaries of the Roman Church. The name neophyte is also applied in Roman usage to newly ordained priests, and sometimes, though more rarely, to the novices of a religious order. See Bergier, Dict. de Theologie, s.v.; Martigny, Dict. des Antiquits, pages 433- 435; Siegel, Christliche Alterthumer, 3:17 sq.; Riddle, Christian Antiquities, pages 313, 522; Walcott, Sacred Archaeology, s.v.