Fourth Ecumenical Council, Canon 29.previous | next
For a Bishop to bear the rank of Presbyter is sacrilege. If, however, any just reason determines their removal from practice as Bishops, then neither ought they to occupy the position of Presbyter. But if for any cause than some crime they have been deprived of the dignity and office, they shall be restored to the dignity and office of the Episcopate.
In Act 4 of the present Fourth Council it is written (on p. 150 of the second volume of the Collection of the Councils) that Photius, the Bishop of Tyre, called the attention of Emperor Marcianus to the fact that Eustathius, the Bishop of Beyrut (or, as others say, Eusebius of Tyre, though the preceding indentification is more likely to be the true one) detached from Tyre various bishoprics, to wit, Biblus, Botrys, Tripolis, Orthosias, Areas, and Antarandus, and, deposing the bishops whom he had ordained, degraded them to the rank of presbyter. The Senate of the rulers accordingly brought this matter to the attention of the Council; by way of reply, on the part of the legates of the Pope as well as the Bishop of Constantinople and the entire Council, the present Canon was issued, wherein they declare that it is sacrilege for anyone to degrade a bishop to the rank and position of a presbyter; for if he is deposed on account of any crimes and is excluded from the functions and offices of the prelacy, such a person cannot be even a priest. If, on the other hand, without having any impediment in the way of crime he has been expelled from the prelacy, he is to be allowed to regain his office and dignity on the ground that he has lost it unjustly, and it is but his just due that he should be restored to his rightful position and be a bishop again. Zonaras, in fact, declares that it is worse than sacrilege for a bishop to be unjustly reduced to the rank of presbyter; for, says he, it is not something sacred that is being treated sacrilegiously and stolen, but something more than sacred, because, says he, through the invocation of the prelate churches and temples and other sacred objects are consecrated and hallowed and sanctified by virtue of the visitation of the Holy Spirit, and it must be admitted at all events that that which sanctifies is greater than that which is sanctified. As for why this Canon prohibits this, whereas c. XX of the 6th reduces to the position of presbyter any bishop that goes teaching beyond his boundaries without the consent and approval of the bishop holding sway over the region in question, see the solution of this puzzling question in Ap. c. XXXV.
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