Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 158
The Council of Carthage (North Africa, AD 390) allows presbyters to perform reconciliation with the consent of their bishops.
Canon 4
Vt praesbyter paenitentes iussus ab episcopo svo reconciliet.
Geneclius episcopus dixit: si quisquam in periculo fuerit constitutus et se reconciliari diuinis altaribus petierit, si episcopus absens fuerit, debet utique presbyter consulere episcopum et sic pereclitantem eius praecepto reconciliare.
Quam rem debemus salubri consilio roborare.
Ab uniuersis episcopis dictum est: placet omnibus quod sanctitas uestra necessario nos instruere dignata est.
(ed. Munier 1974: 14)
Canon 4
A presbyter acting on the orders of his bishop can reconcile penitents.
Bishop Geneclius said: if someone found himself in danger and wanted to be reconciled to the divine altars, and the bishop was absent, a presbyter should certainly consult the bishop and on his orders reconcile the person in danger.
We must assure this thing by our salutary counsel.
All the bishops said: we all agree with what your sanctity deigned to instruct us.
(trans. S. Adamiak)


The canon shows that the prohibition of reconciliation performed by presbyters, as mentioned in canon 3 of the same council [135] had a disciplinary character, and there was no important theological reasons for it. As this canon shows, presbyters could validly reconcile penitents, the only condition being obtaining the absent bishop's permission, which of course raises questions about how, technically, such a permission could be obtained. It also shows incidentally that it might quite often have been the case that bishops' stays outside their dioceses were long enough to justify such provisions.

Place of event:

  • Latin North Africa
  • Carthage

About the source:

Title: Council of Carthage 390, Concilium Carthaginense a. 390, Concilium Carthaginis Africae secundum
Origin: Carthage (Latin North Africa)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
The plenary council of Catholic bishops of Africa gathered in Carthage in AD 390. It was chaired by the bishop of Carthage, Geneclius, but his archdeacon and successor, Aurelius, was also present. It was the first of a long series of African councils of the late 4th and early 5th centuries.
Ch. Munier ed., Concilia Africae a. 345-a. 525, Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina 149, Turnhoult 1974.


Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
    Ritual activity - Reconciliation/Administering penance
      Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
        Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER158,