The African synods dealt for the most part, as was natural, with matters of local discipline, and today are chiefly of interest to students of Church History and Canon Law. Nevertheless, at times, their decrees transcended their immediate and local scope and helped, in concert with Rome, to fix the discipline and to define the doctrine of the Church Universal. The penitential decrees drawn up after the Decian persecution and the decrees against Pelagianism are instances in point.
Brief Analysis of Synodal Acts.—The synodal decrees show how restless and factional the national temper was, and how ready to break out into violent schism. Those who lapsed under Decius formed a party strong enough to withstand the hierarchy, and the synods of the fourth and fifth centuries are constantly engaged with the bitter and persistent Donatist Schism, which upset all Africa and perplexed both Church and State. Civil intervention was invoked in the Synod of 404. The persecution of Decius left in Africa, as elsewhere, many who had denied or compromised their faith under fear of death. The Church was now called upon to determine whether she might forgive so grave a sin. In the Synod of May, 251, under the presidency of St. Cyprian, it was decided that the lapsed should be admitted to penance, and should be reconciled at least at the moment of death. The next year (Synod of 252) further grace was shown them in view of the persecution of Gallus, and all who had entered seriously upon a course of penance were to be restored to fellowship at once. The Church of Africa was not equally fortunate in finding the solution for the difficult problem of the worth of Baptism as administered outside the Church. The earliest synod (about 220) took the matter up and declared such Baptism invalid, and this decision was reaffirmed in synods held in 255–256 under St. Cyprian. All converts should be re-baptized. St. Cyprian strove to press the African views on Rome, but Pope Stephen (q.v.) menaced excommunication. At the celebrated September Synod of 256 the eighty-seven bishops assembled from the three provinces still maintained their attitude against Baptism by heretics. This error was finally retracted in the Synod (345–348) under Gratus.
These records show how the close relations between Africa and Rome were several times troubled during the course of five centuries. The baptismal controversy put the Church into a state of passive resistance to Rome. In the Synod of September, 256, St. Cyprian was placed in a painful dilemma. While maintaining the right of bishops to think for themselves, he still clung to the necessity of unity in the Church, and would not break the revered bond with Rome. Again, early in the fifth century, the appeal to Rome of Apiarius (q.v.), a deposed priest, stirred up strong feeling among the African bishops, and appeals of priests and laics "over sea" (to Rome) were forbidden in the Synod of 418. Legates came from Rome to adjust the difference. In the Synods of 419 an enquiry was made into the canonical warrant for such appeals. The Roman legates cited by mistake, as canons passed at Nicea (325), the canons of Sardica (343) regulating the appeals of bishops. This led to a tedious delay, and the whole matter was dropped for the moment. It was reopened a few years later, when Apiarius, who had been deposed a second time, on new charges, again appealed to Rome for reinstatement. Faustinus, the Roman legate, reappeared at the Synod of 424 and demanded the annulment of the sentence passed on the priest. Apiarius, however, broke down under examination, and admitted his guilt. So nothing further could be done for him. A synodal letter to Rome emphasized how needful it was that Rome should not lightly credit all complainants from Africa, nor receive into fellowship such as had been excommunicated. At the Synod of Hippo (393), and again at the Synod of 397 at Carthage, a list of the books of Holy Scripture was drawn up. It is the Catholic canon (i.e. including the books classed by Protestants as "Apocrypha"). The latter synod, at the end of the enumeration, added, "But let Church beyond sea (Rome) be consulted about confirming this canon". St. Augustine was one among the forty-four bishops who signed the proceedings. Celestius, the friend of Pelagius, came to Carthage to be ordained a priest; Paulinus, the deacon of Milan, warned the Bishop of Carthage against him; and thus, in 411, began the series of synods against Pelagianism. They had a most important influence in checking its spread. The earlier ones seem to have been provincial. The important Synod of 416, under Sylvanus, at Milevum urged Innocent I to stop the heresy, and in the synod of all Africa held at Carthage in 420 the bishops, intensely convinced that vital issues were involved, passed a series of doctrinal utterances with annexed anathemas against the Pelagians. St. Augustine was present. It was, in respect of doctrine, the most important of all the synods of Africa. It is no longer possible from the meagre remains to attempt a complete list of the general synods of Africa; nor is it any longer possible to determine, with exactness in every instance, what synods were general. The following approximate enumeration is made therefore with all due reserve:—
Under St. Cyprian. Synods about a.d. 220 under Agrippinus; 236–248 (condemned Privatus of Lambesa). Carthage, 251, 252, 254, 255; Autumn of 255, or Spring of 256; September 256.
Under Gratus, at Carthage, 345–348.
Under Aurelius, at Carthage, Hippo-Regius, 393, 394, 397 (two sessions), June and September; 401; at Milevum, 402; at Carthage, 403–410, end of 417 or beginning of 418; May, 418; May and November, 419; 420, 424.
Under Boniface, Synod of Carthage, 525, 534.
The texts of the Synods are found in the collections of Mansi or of Hardouin. Cf. Hefele, History of the Christian Councils (Edinburgh, 1871) I; Routh, Reliqiæ Sacræ, III, 93–217; Leclerq, L'Afrique chrêtienne (2 vols., Paris, 1904); Duchesne, Histoire ancienne de l'Eglise (Paris, 1905), I 388–432.
Agabus, mentioned in Acts, xi, 28, and xxi, 10, as a prophet of the New Testament. Most probably both passages refer to the same person, who appears to have been a resident of Jerusalem. Tradition makes him one of the seventy-two disciples (Luke, x, 1), and one of the martyrs who suffered at Antioch. The Roman Martyrology mentions his name on 13 February, while the Greek Church commemorates him on 8 March. According to Acts, xi, 27–30, Agabus predicted the famine which apparently must be identified with that happening in the fourth year of Claudius, a.d. 45. In the year 58 the prophet predicted to St. Paul his coming captivity, though he could not induce the Apostle to stay away from Jerusalem (Acts, xxi, 10, 11).
Hagen. Lexicon Biblicum (Paris, 1905); Jacquier in Vig., Dict. de la bible (Paris, 1895); Schegg in Kirchenlex.
Aganduru, Roderigo M., O.S.A. See Philippines.
Agape.—The celebration of funeral feasts in honour of the dead dates back almost to the beginnings of the worship of the departed—that is, to the very earliest times. The dead, in the region beyond the tomb, were thought to derive both pleasure and advantage from these offerings. The same conviction explains the existence of funeral furniture for the use of the dead. Arms, vessels, and clothes, as things not subject to decay, did not need to be re-