Fourth Ecumenical Council, Canon 11.previous | next
As for all those who are indigent and in need of assistance, upon proof, we have made it a rule that they are to travel only with pacific ecclesiastical letters, and not with recommendatory letters; for recommendatory letters are to be granted only to persons who are under suspicion.
(Ap. cc. XII, XXXIII; c. XIII of the 4th; c. XVII of the 6th; cc. VII, VIII, and XI of Antioch; cc. XLI, XLII of Laodicea; cc. VII, VIII of Sardica; cc. XXXI, XCVII, and CXVI of Carthage.)
All those who are indigent and in need of help, the present Canon decrees, are first to be investigated as to whether they are truly in need of aid, and, this being ascertained, after examination, to be a fact, they are to receive from the bishops little letters called “pacific” letters on account of the fact that they used to afford peace to those who were suffering from wrath and the unjust decision of civil magistrates and dynasts (such letters were also called letters dimissory); but they are not to receive also letters recommendatory. For letters recommendatory are to be given for the most part to those persons whose reputation, or repute, had previously been besmirched, and who are recommended and declared innocent in the recommendatory letters. Read the Interpretation of and the Footnote to Ap. c. XIV.
 I happened to discover in one place that the letters given to the indigent were of such a character and superscribed in such words as follows: The earth is full of the Lord’s mercy. As for how these letters are worded at present, see at the end of this Handbook Sozomen (Book 5, ch. 16) calls these letters “passwords” of episcopal letters. The Theologian, on the other hand, in writing against Julian, calls them “epistolary passwords,” saying: “With epistolary passwords with which we are wont to equip those needing them in going from one nation to another.”
previous | next