Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V/Cyprian/The Epistles of Cyprian/Part 44
To Cornelius, Concerning Polycarp the Adrumetine.
Argument.—He Excuses Himself in This Letter for What Had Occurred, in That, During the Time that He Was at Adrumetum, Letters Had Been Sent Thence by the Clergy of Polycarp, Not to Cornelius, But to the Roman Clergy, Notwithstanding that Previously Polycarp Himself Had Written Rather to Cornelius. It Appears Tolerably Plain from the Context Itself that This Was Written After the Preceding Ones.
1. Cyprian to Cornelius his brother, greeting. I have read your letters, dearest brother, which you sent by Primitivus our co-presbyter, in which I perceived that you were annoyed that, whereas letters from the Adrumetine colony in the name of Polycarp were directed to you, yet after Liberalis and I came to that place, letters began to be directed thence to the presbyters and to the deacons.
2. In respect of which I wish you to know, and certainly to believe, that it was done from no levity or contempt. But when several of our colleagues who had assembled into one place had determined that, while our co-bishops Caldonius and Fortunatus were sent as ambassadors to you, all things should be in the meantime suspended as they were, until the same colleagues of ours, having reduced matters there to peace, or, having discovered their truth, should return to us; the presbyters and deacons abiding in the Adrumetine colony; in the absence of our co-bishop Polycarp, were ignorant of what had been decided in common by us. But when we came before them, and our purpose was understood, they themselves also began to observe what the others did, so that the agreement of the churches abiding there was in no respect broken.
3. Some persons, however, sometimes disturb men’s minds and spirits by their words, in that they relate things otherwise than is the truth. For we, who furnish every person who sails hence with a plan that they may sail without any offence, know that we have exhorted them to acknowledge and hold the root and matrix of the Catholic Church. But since our province is wide-spread, and has Numidia and Mauritania attached to it; lest a schism made in the city should confuse the minds of the absent with uncertain opinions, we decided—having obtained by means of the bishops the truth of the matter, and having got a greater authority for the proof of your ordination, and so at length every scruple being got rid of from the breast of every one—that letters should be sent you by all who were placed anywhere in the province; as in fact is done, that so the whole of our colleagues might decidedly approve of and maintain both you and your communion, that is as well to the unity of the Catholic Church as to its charity. That all which has by God’s direction come to pass, and that our design has under Providence been forwarded, we rejoice.
4. For thus as well the truth as the dignity of your episcopate has been established in the most open light, and with the most manifest and substantial approval; so that from the replies of our colleagues, who have thence written to us, and from the account and from the testimonies of our co-bishops Pompeius, and Stephanus, and Caldonius, and Fortunatus, both the needful cause and the right order, and moreover the glorious innocence, of your ordination might be known by all. That we, with the rest of our colleagues, may steadily and firmly administer this office, and keep it in the concordant unanimity of the Catholic Church, the divine condescension will accomplish; so that the Lord who condescends to elect and appoint for Himself priests in His Church, may protect them also when elected and appointed by His good-will and help, inspiring them to govern, and supplying both vigour for restraining the contumacy of the wicked, and gentleness for cherishing the penitence of the lapsed. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
- Oxford ed.: Ep. xlviii. a.d. 251.
- [This refers to the episcopate. They had taken letters only to “presbyters and deacons.” Or to Christ the root, and the Church the womb or matrix. See infra, Letter xlviii. p. 325.