Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 1522
Pope Agapitus I replies to the letter of the Emperor Justinian brought to him by the Presbyter Heraclius. The Pope forbids the reconciliated Arian clerics to remain in the clergy and be promoted, AD 535. Letter 88 in the Collectio Avellana compiled in the second half of the 6th c.
Epistula 88
1. Licet de sacerdotii mei primitiis pietatis diuinae muneribus ad referendas essem gratias multipliciter obligatus, susceptis tamen, uenerabilis imperator, per Heraclium uenerabilem presbyterum filium nostrum uestrae serenitatis affatibus, quos aeterni fructus ubertate plenissimos destinastis, uotorum meorum sunt in domino gaudia geminata, quod adunatis felicitatis uestrae prouectibus tali mentis gloriosae proposito terrena uobis regna subicitis, ut simul caelestia conquiratis.
Further Agapetus thanks the Emperor for the gratulations he sent him after elevation to the Apostolic See and praises his orthodox faith.
6. Cuius studii beniuolentiae uehementius insistentes etiam nos in adquirendis eis, quos Arrianam significatis uitare uelle perfidiam, paternae traditionis aestimatis declinare posse censuram, scilicet ut et in his honoribus, in quibus fuerunt apud haereticos, perseuerent et promoueantur ad alios. Quapropter bonum hoc equidem et summa laude praecipuum, quod omnes ouili dominico per ueram fidem cupitis adgregare; sed non oportet nobis eos, qui non recte ingredi moliuntur, excipere beato Paulo apostolo commonente: nemini dantes ullam offensionem, ut non uituperetur ministerium nostrum. 7. Quanta autem paternarum constitutionum, si sic recipiantur, quod absit, incurratur offensio, ne quid pietatem uestram latere contingeret, ipsas quoque regulas credidi subnectendas, quae specialiter censuerant, ne quis talium reconciliatus aut ecclesiastici ordinis prouectibus augeatur aut desideret honores ulterius possidere, quos se dubitare iam non debet culpabiliter adquisisse; ex quibus pietas uestra melius poterit aestimare, si quo modo tam aperta et synodalia sedis apostolicae liceat infringere constituta, cum sententia clamet apostoli: si tamen quae destruxi, eadem iterum aedifico, praeuaricatorem me ipse constituo. Et ideo securus cum ipsius apostoli uoce profiteor, quia confido in uobis et in domino quod nihil aliud sentiatis; etenim, sicut idem doctor asseruit, certus sum et ego de uobis, quod pleni estis bonitate, repleti omnis scientiae, ut possitis inuicem monere. 8. Si igitur hi, de quibus indicastis, ad fidem rectam uenire festinant, nostrae fidei regulas sequi non abnuant dicente domino: si quis uult post me uenire, abneget se ipsum et sequatur me. Quod si adhuc uituperandis honoris ambitionibus excitantur et pro lucro sanctae fidei humanae gloriae pati damna formidant, ipsi pronuntiant necdum se a uitiis et errore discedere et nos magis uelle suis excessibus implicare. De talibus ergo dicit apostolus: aemulantur autem uos non bene sed excludere uos uolunt, ut eos aemulemini. 9. Quae cum ita sint, sancto studio uestro, quo ecclesiam catholicam cupitis ampliari, nihil ex hoc, si tales in clero non recipiantur, credatis inminui apostolo praemonente: quid enim? si quidam eorum non crediderunt, numquid incredulitas eorum fidem dei euacuauit? absit! nam licet simili studio caritatis pro multiplicatione fidelium ille beatus Petrus caelestis regni ianitor traheretur, qui ut Iudaeorum plures adquireret, a doctrina et tramite regulari in non respuendo omni iudaismo descenderat, huic tamen ille iunior uinctus in domino Paulus se retulit obuiasse dicens: sed cum uidissem, quod non recte ingrediuntur ad ueritatem euangelii, dixi Petro coram omnibus "si tu, cum sis Iudaeus, gentiliter uiuis, quomodo gentes cogis iudaizare?" [...]
(ed. Guenther 1895: 333-338).
Letter 88
1. Although from the firstlings of my priesthood I am obliged by the gifts of the divine love to give thanks over and over again, having received, o venerable emperor, by our son, the venerable presbyter Heraclius, the words of Your Serenity which you have sent to us full of the fruits of aeternal richness, the joy of my prayers in the Lord has doubled because having united the advancements of Your Felicity, you have subjected the earthly kingdoms with such intent of the glorious mind that you simalarly conquer the celestial ones.
Then Agapitus thanks the Emperor for the gratulations he sent him after elevation to the Apostolic See and praises his orthodox faith.
6. You also urged us with the same benevolent zeal on the case of regaining those whose Arian perfidy you indicated that you wanted to avoid. You think that the severity of the paternal tradition may decline, that is, that they can remain in the same honours they had had among the heretics, and even be promoted to other ones. It is good and most praiseworthy that you desire to gather all the people in the sheepfold of the Lord through true faith. But it is not allowed to us to make exceptions for those who try to enter unrighteously because we are admonished by the blessed Paul to "give no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed" [2 Cor 6:3]. 7. Lest it escape the notice of your Piety how great an offense to the constitutions of the fathers it is when such people, God forbid, are admitted [to the holy orders], we found it necessary to add also those rules which in particular provide that such reconciled person should never be promoted to the ecclesiastical order or desire further honours next to those which he has already, no doubt unjustly, acquired. From this, your Piety can decide more easily whether it is allowed in any circumstances to break such an open and synodal decision of the Apostolic See, [especially] that the Apostle's words shout: "But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor." [Gal 2:18]. And therefore with support of the words of the Apostle himself, I profess that I trust in you and the Lord that you are of the same opinion. And indeed, as the same teacher asserted, I am certain that you are so full of goodness and all knowledge that you could, in turn, instruct others. 8. If those whom you mentioned hasten to come to the right faith, they should not decline to obey the rules of our faith because the Lord said: "if someone wants to come after me, he should deny himself and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Because, if they are stirred by the reprehensible ambition of honour and they are afraid to suffer the loss of human glory for the gain of the holy faith, they do not show themselves to renounce faults and errors but rather to wish to implicate us in their excesses. The Apostle said about such people: "They make much of you, but for no good purpose; they want to exclude you, so that you may make much of them" (Gal 4:17). 9. Although this is the case, you believe in your holy zeal to strengthen the Catholic church that there is nothing dangerous in admitting such people to the clergy because the Apostle advises: "What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means!" But although in the similar charitable zeal to multiply the faithful the very blessed Peter, the doorkeeper of the heavenly kingdom, because he wanted to acquire many Jews, deviated from the doctrine and departed from the regular course in not rejecting all Judaism. But his junior, Paul, bound by the Lord, opposed him saying: "But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (Gal 2:14)
(trans. M. Szada)


Pope Agapitus wrote this letter, dated to 10 October 535 to the emperor Justinian in the aftermath of the East Roman victory over the Homoian Vandals in Africa. Earlier, in September, he sent a letter on the same topic to Reparatus of Carthage and other African bishops in which he upheld the same positions as here - the former Homoian clerics should not be admitted to the clergy. It seems that after his response to the bishops, the emperor was still exploring the possibility that the Homoian clergy might be integrated to the Nicene church. See Kaegi 1965: 40; Amory 1997: 223–25; Decousu 2015: 354–60.

Place of event:

  • Rome
  • Rome

About the source:

Author: Agapetus I
Title: Collectio Avellana
Origin: Rome
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Collectio Avellana is a collection containing 244 letters issued by emperors, imperial magistrates and popes. The earliest item is dated to AD 367, the latest to AD 553. Hence, the compilator worked most probably in the second half of the 6th century. Two hundred documents of the Collectio are not known from any other collection. The editor of the Collectio, Günther noticed that it can be divided into five thematic parts (Gunther 1896: 3-96; Steinacker 1902: 14-15; Blaudeau 2013: 4) :
1) no. 1-40 is an independent collection making use of the records of the prefecture of the city of Rome concerning two episcopal elections;
2) no. 41-50 that are derived from the records of the bishopric in Carthage, and consist of the letters of Innocentius I and Zosimus;
3) no. 51-55, the late letters of Leo I not known from any other source, regarding the exile of Bishop Timothy II of Alexandria;
4) no. 56-104 the group of letters from the pontificates of Simplicius, Gelasius, Symmachus, John, Agapet, and Vigilius;
5) no. 105-243 the letters from the records of Hormisdas.
The modern name of the collection derives from the codex Vaticanus Latinus 4961 copied in the monastery Sancti Crucis in fonte Avellana that was considered the oldest by the brothers Ballerini who edited the Collectio in 1787.
O. Guenther ed., Epistolae Imperatorum Pontificum Aliorum Inde ab a. CCCLXVII usque DLIII datae Avellana Quae Dicitur Collectio, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 35/1, 35/2, Prague, Vienna, and Leipzig 1895
S. Adamiak, Carthage, Constantinople and Rome: Imperial and Papal Interventions in the Life of the Church in Byzantine Africa (533-698), Rome 2016
P. Amory, People and Identity in Ostrogothic Italy, 489–554, Cambridge 1997.
L. Decousu, La perte de l’Esprit Saint et son recouvrement dans l’Eglise ancienne: la reconciliation des heretiques et des penitents en occident du IIIe siecle jusqu’a Gregoire le Grand, Leiden 2015.
W.E. Kaegi, "Arianism and the Byzantine Army in Africa 533-546", Traditio 21 (1965), 23–53.


Travel and change of residence
Religious grouping (other than Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian) - Arian
    Change of denomination
      Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
      Impediments or requisits for the office - Heresy/Schism
        Ecclesiastical administration - Ecclesiastical envoy
        Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
        Relation with - Monarch and royal/imperial family
        Further ecclesiastical career - None
          Further ecclesiastical career - Lay status
            Administration of justice - Demotion
              Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: M. Szada, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER1522,