(1.) A name sometimes given to the bema, or inner portion of an ancient church, because it was the place in which the presbyters sat and discharged their functions. SEE CHANCEL.
(2.) The name also of the senate formed by the presbyters and deacons of the episcopal residence, with whom the bishop deliberated about the most important affairs of his diocese. Although the government of the Church was claimed by the episcopate, as inherited from the apostolate, yet the spirit of community, κοινωνία, which prevailed in the Church required that the bishop, when important business was to be transacted, should take the advice of the presbyters and deacons. The limits of the respective attributes, however distinctly they might be traced, were neglected where the common care of the interests of the Church made it desirable, and the superiority of the episcopal dignity stood the less in the way, as even the apostles, in their humility, had called themselves presbyters (1Pe 5:1, ὁ συμπρεσβύτερος; 2Jo 1:1; 3Jo 1:1, ὁ πρεσβύτερος). Irenaeus gives the name of presbyters not only to the disciples of the apostles (Papias, in Eusebius, Hist. Ecclesiastes 3, 39, even the apostles), but also to the bishops of his time (Iren. Ep. ad Florin. ap. Euseb. 5, 20): ταῦτα τὰ δόγματα οί πρὸ ἡμῶν πρεσβύτεροι, οἱ καὶ Α᾿ποστόλοις συμφοιτήσαντες, οὑ πρέδωκάν σοι (Πολυκάοπος) ὁ μακάριος καὶ ἀποστόλικος πρεσβύτερος. Id. Ep. ad Victor. ep. Rom. (ap. Euseb. 5, 24): Οἱ πρὸ Σωτῆρος πρεσβύτεροι, οἱ προστάντες τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἡς νῦν ἀφήγη Α᾿νίκητον λέγομεν καὶ Πίον, ῞Υγινόν τε καὶ Τελέσφορον καὶ Ξύστον. According to the literal meaning of presbyter, it applies to men rather advanced in years. The languages of all nations show us that the members of such assemblies were chosen from among persons of a certain age. (Xenophon [Cyropned. 1, c. 2] speaks of οἱ γεραίτεροι ὄντες τε καὶ καλούμενοι. Livy [34, 49] says of the Carthaginians, "Seniores ita senatum vocabant." The Greeks had γερουσία, συνέδριον ἐν Σμύρνα, γερόντων; the Romans had their senatus; the Germans their aldermen. We find this counsellorship of the elders in the Greek translation of the Old Testament: [De 11:16] Sept. πρεσβύτεροι τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ γραμματεῖς; [Jer 19:1] ἀρὸ πρεσβυτέρων τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ ἀπὸ πρεσβυτέρων τῶν ἱερέων; [Eze 8:11] ἑβδομήκοντα ἐκ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων οικου Ι᾿σραήλ; [1Ki 12:6,8] τὴν βουλὴν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων; [20, 8] οἱ πρεσβύτεροι καὶ πᾶς ὁ λαός.) The Jewish synedrium was also taken as a model (συνέδριον, i.e. college of judges, Sanhedrin); and it is expressly stated that the presbyterium is a copy of the "synedrium" of the apostles (εἰς τόπον συνεδρίου τῶν ἀποστόλων). St. Ignatius (110), who, more than any other writer, insists upon the distinction between the episcopate and presbyterate, and the superiority of the former, points out most decidedly the connection of the presbyterium, as an episcopal council, with the episcopate. We read in the Ep. ad Smmyrn. c. 8: Πάντες τῷ ἐπισκόπῳ ἀκολουθεῖτε ὡς Ι᾿ησοῦ Χριστὸς τῷ πατρὶ καὶ τῷ πρεσβυτερίῳ ὡς τοῖς ἀποστόλοις τοὺς δὲ διακόνους ἐντρέπεσθε ὡς θεοῦ ἐντολήν. Ad Magnes. c. 2: ὑποτάσσεται (ὁ διάκονος) τῷ ἐπισκόπῳ ὡς Χάριτι θεοῦ καὶ τῷ πρεσβυτερίῳ ὡς νόμῳ Ι᾿ησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Ad Philad. c. 4: μία γὰρ σὰρξ τοῦ κυρίου-καὶ ἑν ποτήριον εἰς ἕνωσιν τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ, ἑν θυσιαστήριον, ὡς εἱς ἐπίσκοπος ἃμα τῷ πρεσβυτερίῳ καὶ διακόνοις. Ibid. c. 8: Πᾶσιν μετανοούσιν ἄφιει ὁ κύριος, ἐὰν μετανοησώσιν εἰς ἑνοτήτα θεοῦ καὶ συνέδριον τοῦ ἐπισκόπου. In all these passages we find the name πρεσβυτέριον; in other passages the father uses πρεσβύτεροι, although he means the presbyters united in a college, and not the same as individuals (Ep. ad Polycarp. c. 6): τῶν ὑποτασσομένων τῷ ἐπισκόπῳ, πρεσβυτέριος, διακόνοις. Ad Philad. p-roomn: ἐὰν ἐν ἑνὶ ὠσὶν σὺν τῷ ἐπισκόπῳ καὶ τοῖς σὺν αὺτῷ πρεσβυτέροις καὶ διακόνοις ἀποδειγμένους ἐν γνώμῃ Ι᾿ησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Ad Magnes. c. 6: ἑνωθήτε τῷ ἐπισκόπω καὶ τοῖς προκαθημένοις . Ad Triall. c. 3: Πάντες ἐντρεπεσθῷσαν τοὺς διακόνους ὡς ἐντολὴν Ι᾿ησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ὡς Ι᾿ησοῦν Χριστὸν τοὺς δὲ πρεσβυτέρους ὡς συνέδριον θεοῦ καὶ ὡς συνδεσμὸν ἀποστόλων. Ad Magnes. c. 6: Σπουδάζετε πάντα πράσειν προκαθημένου τοῦ ἐπισκόπου εἱς τόπον θεοῦ καὶ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων εἰς τόπον συνεδρίου τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τῶν διακόνων—πεπιστευμένων διακονίαν Ι᾿ησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Thus a natural want led to the foundation of the presbyterium, as a college of presbyters and deacons of the episcopal city, to advise the bishop in the most important ecclesiastical affairs of the diocese.
The form of this college had a positive model in the "synledrium" of the Old Testament, the judiciary competenlcy of which was, in the presbyterium, increased by the addition of the most important questions of administration. Chrysostom (De Sacerdot. lib. 3, c. 15) calls the presbyterium τὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων συνέδριον. The purpose of the institution was to secure efficiency in the workings of the Church, as is proved by the phrase βουλὴ ἐκκλησίας θεοῦ, by which Origen (In Joann.) designates the presbyterium. In this simple constitution the presbyters and deacons of the archiepiscopal city formed in the first five centuries the higher clergy, which, with its bishops, was considered as one body, as Thomassin says, Vetus et Nova Ecclesice Disciplina (Mogunt. 1787), 3, 32: "Ergo presbyteri diaconique civitatum episcopalium, qui clerus erat superior dioeceseos in unum corpus, in unum senatum consiliumque cum episcopo coibat, cum eoque principe et capite suo, clericis populisque dioeceseos omnibus moderabatur." As this presbyterium forms the council of the bishop, it is said to be at the head of the Church, along with the bishop. Thus, in the Council of Antiochia, can. 1: "Si quis eorum, qui praesunt ecclesiae, aut episcopus, aut presbyter, aut diaconus, εἴ τις τῶν προεστώτων." The Council of Sardica, can. 13, prohibits the elevation of neophytes to the highest dignities: to the episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate; consequently to the governing clergy. In the ecumenical Council of Ephesus, pt. 1, c. 31, 34, and act 1, we find several letters of the bishop Cyril of Alexandria, addressed to the presbyters and deacons, and to the people of Alexandria. When pope Siricius prepared to condemn the heresy of Jovinian, he took the advice of his priests and deacons: "Facto ergo presbyterio constitit Christianas legi esse contraria. Omnium nostrum, tam presbyteroruum quam diaconorum, quam etiam totius cleri una suscitata fuit sententia." Pope Felix proclaimed his sentence against Petrus Enopheus, the unlawful bishop of Antioch, under the formula: "Firma sit hec tua depositio a me et ab his, qui mecuom apostolicum thronum regunt." The presbyters and deacons of Rome deliberated in the Roman synods with the bishops who happened to be at Rome on all matters which were of interest to the Roman see. In a Roman council under pope Hilary, the transmutation of a Spanish bishop being in question, the account says: "Residentibus etiam universis presbyteris, adstantibus quoque diaconibus;" and at the end of the council: "Ab universis episcopis et presbyteris acclamattm est, ut disciplina servetur, ut canones custodiantur, rogamus." The college of the cardinals is by the Romanists claimed to be a true picture of these presbyteries of the apostolic Church. If in the transaction of affairs concerning the Church in general the advice of the presbyteries was requested, this was still more natural where the special business of the several bishoprics was concerned. The fourth Council of Carthage prescribes, can. 22: "Ut episcopus sine consensu clericorum suorum clericos non ordinet;" and in can. 23: "Ut episcopus nullius causam audiat absque pr esentia clericorum suorum. Alioqui irrita erit sententia episcopi, nisi clericorum suorum majorumn sententia cofirmetur." St. Jerome says (In Jesa, 1, 3): "Et nos habeamus senatum nostrum, ccetum presbyterorum;" and Basil, Ep. 310, calls this senate τὸ συνέδριον τοῦ πρεσβυτερίου τοῦ κατὰ τὴν πόλιν . St. Cyprian transacted no business of any consequence without consulting his presbytery. In the matter of the fallen ones, he says: "Deinde sic collatiole consiliormum cum episcopis, presbyteris. diaconis, confessoribus pariter astantibus laicis facta, lapsorum tractare rationem." In lib. 3, ep. 10: "Ad id vero, quod scripserunt compresbyteri nostri, solus rescribere nihil potui, cum a primordio episcopats mei statuerim, nihil sine consilio vestro et sine consensu plebis, me privatim sententia gerere. St. Ignatius (Ep. cad Trallianos) calls the presbyters the counselors of the bishop: σύμβουλοι καὶ συνεδρεύται τοῦ ἐπισκόπου εἰς τόπον συνεδρίου τῶν ἀποστόλων. The difference between the presbyteries and the cathedral chapters, which were of later institution, is thus defined by Thomassin (c. I, p. 36, nr. 8 sq.):
"1. Non constabat clerus ille nisi presbyteris et diaconis.
2. Presbyteri et diaconi hi, parochi ipsi erant et pastores omnium civitatis ecclesiarum, aut si necdum essent divulsae a cathedrali parochiae, in eo ipsi parochorum munia omnia implebant.
3. Ipsa sua ordinatione hlunc gradum et hunc dignitatem consequebantur. Nam presbyteratus et diaconatus peraeque ac episcopatus beneficia erant, non ordines tantum; et id genus erant beneficia, quibus incumberet salutis animarum cura, pro suo certe modo.
4. Clerus etiam nunc Romanae ecclesiae formam proe se fert splendidissimam expressissimamque ejus cleri, qui olim singulis in cathedralibus ecclesiis episcopo copulabatur. Constat enim Romani pontificis clerus presbyteris, diaconisque cardinalibus, seu titularibus ecclesiarum omnium Romoe parochialium parochis, cum pontifice, et sub pontifice conspirantlbus et collaborantibus Romano in consistorio, de negotiis omnibus, quae ex pontifioia spirituali ditione, ex universo, inquam, christiano orbe referuntur." A consequence of the participation of the presbyters in the administration during the lifetime of the bishop was that they governed alone during the vacancy of the see. After the death of pope Fabian, the clergy of Rome wrote to the clergy of Carthage (Ep. 29 ap. Cypr.): "Omnes nos decet, pro corpore totius ecclesiae, cujus per varias quasque provincias membra digesta sunt, excubare." Oilly the decisions about the most momentous concerns were postponed till after the new occupancy of the see. Thus the clergy of Rome say (Ep. 31): "Quanquam nobis differendoe hujus rei major necessitas incumbat, quibus post excessum Fabiani nullus est episcopus propter rerum et temporum difficultates constitutus;" and in another passage: "Ante constitutionem episcopi nihil innovandum putavimus, ut interim, dum episcopus dari a Deo nobis sustinetur, in suspensu eorum causa teneatur, qui moras possunt dilatione sustinere." It was the same when the bishop was for a longer period of time absent from his residence. Thus St. Ignatilus says: "Pascite presbyterieum, qui in vobis est, gregem, usquequo Dominus ostendat eum qui vobis principabitur." And St. Cyprian (Ep. 10) says to his presbyters and deacons: "Hortor et mando, ut vos vice mea, quem abesse oportet, fungamini circa ea gerenda quse administratio religiosa deposcit;" and lib. 4 ep. 6: "Officium meum diligigentia vestra praesentet, et faciat omnia, quae fieri oportet circa eos," etc. Thus St. Hilarius, in his petition to the emperor Constanitus, states that he has administered his diocese through his presbyters: "Licet in exilio permanens et ecclesiae adhuc communioner per presbyteros meos distribuens." But at an early period the bishops commenced to appoint vicars for the dispatch of all their business at the time of their absence. The institution of the old presbyteries melted organically into the cathedral chapters. St. Eusebius of Vercelli and St. Augustine, to promote Christian life in their presbyteries. had already given them monastical constitutions. Other cathedral churches imitated this arrangement; and in the empire of the Franks the institution of common life, after the model of the institutions founded by bishop Chrodegang of Metz, spread rapidly. In consequence of the confirmation of the rule proposed by the deacon Amalarius at the Council of Aix-la- Chapelle (816), the innovation was accepted in all episcopal churches. The bishops of those times, in imitation of those of the first centuries, did nothing of importance without their canons. We have an example of it in the business transacted concerning the lease of some real estate between Hincmar of Rheims and a Thuringian abbot. But if the cathedral chapter was the privileged part of the clergy in this respect, yet the bishop was free to take the advice of the other members both of the secular and regular clergy. Thus bishop Jonas of Autun, who wished to raise the income of his canons, insured the "consensum presbyterorum, diaconorurn, ac totius sequentis ordinis ejusdem ecclesie." When, in the 10th century, the canonic common life was given up, the canons continued to form the senate of the bishop. According to the decretals, the canons are the born counselors of the bishops. Calixtus II forbids archpriests and archdeacons to interdict clerks: "'Preter episcopi et totius capituli commune consilium." Alexander III blames the patriarch of Jerusalem for appointing and deposing abbots and other prebendaries without consulting his chapter, and upon the mere advice of foreigners. Yet, as a rule, the bishop is not bound by the vote of the chapter, although there are questions which cannot be decided without its consent. The Council of Trent also, in sess. 24, c. 13, calls the cathedral chapter the senate of the bishop. He has to take its advice for the appointment of a lector oh the Holy Scriptures (Cone. Trid. sess. 5, c. 1); for the fixing of the holy orders, to be requested in those who are to be promoted to the dignities and canonries of the cathedrals (sess. 24:c. 12); for the establishment of seminaries (sess. 23:c. 18); for any addition to the number of the canonries (sess. 24:c. 15), etc. But the presumption is always in favor of the episcopal independence. Thus, when the chapters of the ecclesiastical province of Milan endeavored to increase to an unlawful extent the number of the causse majores, in which the bishop has to obtain the consent or take tie advice of the canons, St. Borromaeus declared, in the fourth Council of Milan, that the bishop was bound to have the approbation or to take the advice of his chapter only in such cases as are stated by law. The litigations about these cases had become of quite frequent occurrence since the dissolution of the community of goods I n the chapters, and the latter had often conducted themselves in regard to the bishop as independent corporations. In many places the bishop had become a simple member of the chapter. Up to the year 1803 the chapters of Germany held at the same time two sharply defined positions: they constituted, first, as of old the senate of the bishop, and subordinate to him; and, secondly, they were independent corporations. The secularization of 1803 destroyed this latter position. The reorganization of the Church in Germany makes the chapter simply an episcopal council. The papal see has resolutely set its face against all pretensions of binding the bishops to the consent of the chapters. Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lex. s.v. See Buss, Gesch. des National u. Territorial-Kirchenthums in der Katholischen Kirche (Schaff. 1851).