Second Ecumenical Council, Canon 2.previous | next
Bishops must not leave their own diocese and go over to churches beyond its boundaries; but, on the contrary, in accordance with the Canons, let the Bishop of Alexandria administer the affairs of Egypt only, let the Bishops of the East govern the Eastern Church only, the priorities granted to the church of the Antiochians in the Nicene Canons being kept inviolate, and let the Bishops of the Asian diocese (or administrative domain) administer only the affairs of the Asian church, and let those of the Pontic diocese look after the affairs of the diocese of Pontus only, and let those of the Thracian diocese manage the affairs of the Thracian diocese only. Let Bishops not go beyond their own province to carry out an ordination or any other ecclesiastical services unless (officially) summoned thither. When the Canon prescribed in regard to dioceses (or administrative provinces) is duly kept, it is evident that the synod of each province will confine itself to the affairs of that particular province, in accordance with the regulations decreed in Nicaea. But the churches of God that are situated in territories belonging to barbarian nations must be administered in accordance with the customary practice of the Fathers.
(Ap. cc. XXXIV, XXXV; cc. VI, VII of the 1st; c. VIII of the 3rd; c. XXVIII of the 4th; cc. XX, XXX, XXXIX of the 6th; c. IX of Antioch; cc. III, XI, and XII of Sardica.)
Since, as is attested by Socrates (Book 5, ch. 8), officiation beyond the boundaries of one’s own diocese was formerly a matter of indifference on account of persecutions, and, as Theodoret says, blessed Eusebius of Samosata did it as a matter of extraordinary zeal. On this account, when peace reappeared in the Church as a whole, the present Canon was adopted and promulgated. It relates neither to autocephalous Metropolitans alone, as Balsamon interpreted it, nor to Patriarchs alone, but to both these classes of dignitaries alike, according to Dositheus (p. 233 of “Those who have served as Patriarchs”), in order that each of them may serve his own province and diocese, and not interfere in one that is alien, and not confound the rights of the churches; but, on the contrary, in accordance with the Canons (cc. VI and VII, that is to say of the First, and much more in accordance with Ap. cc. XXXIV and XXXV), that the bishop of Alexandria may manage only the parishes in Egypt (the Council expressly mentioned the bishop of Alexandria because the Bishop of Alexandria with his party cooperated to have Maximus the Cynic ordained in Constantinople, while, on the other hand, great St. Gregory was ousted from office in spite of its being his diocese and parish). The metropolitans of the East are to attend to the affairs of the East, with the proviso that the prerogatives of the bishop of Antioch be duly respected, in accordance with the Canon (sc. VI) of the Nicene Council; and the metropolitans of the Asian, Pontic and Thracian domains are to manage only the provinces belonging to them (these dignitaries, according to c. XXVIII of the 4th, have to be ordained after the bishop of Constantinople). It commands, in addition, that both patriarchs and metropolitans alike refrain from interloping beyond their own dioceses and provinces with the object of ordaining others or performing other ecclesiastical services in the parishes of others, without being invited to do so; and that the synod of each particular province shall manage the ecclesiastical matters of each province of the metropolitans, whether they be elections, or ordinations, or penances, or absolutions, or any other such matters; likewise, as regarding the affairs of each diocese of the patriarchs, the diocesan synod shall govern such matters of the diocese in question, as the Nicene Council has decreed (c. VI). For the same thing is involved in the decree of the Nicene Council that no bishop shall be ordained without the consent of the metropolitan, and in which the present Council says to the effect that the synod of each province (of the metropolitan, that is to say) shall govern the affairs of each province, respectively. As for the churches of God that are situated in the midst of barbarian nations, where there either were not enough bishops to make up a synod, or it was necessary for some scholarly bishop to go there in order to bolster up the Christians in their faith. These churches, I say, ought to be managed in accordance with the prevailing custom of the Fathers. To be more explicit, neighboring and abler bishops ought to go to them, in order to supply what is missing for a local synod. Which, though contrary to Canons, yet as a matter of necessity was allowed by the Council. Read Ap. cc. XXXIV and XXXV, and c. I of the Sixth.
 Note that although Socrates (in his book 5, ch. 8) says that the Second Council distributed the churches among the Patriarchs by the present Canon, yet Sozomen, as those interpreting Socrates, says, in regard to those whom the latter called patriarchs, that it appeared reasonable to the Council for the faith of the Nicene Fathers to be delivered to all the churches through the agency of the bishops in communion and of like mind with Nectarius of Constantinople and Timothy of Alexandria. So, then, the ones whom Socrates called patriarchs are referred to by Sozomen as those in communion, so that he said that they were improperly called patriarchs, instead of exarchs.
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