Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 255
Pope Zosimus cites the canons of Sardica to justify the right of appeal of every cleric to Rome. The canon shows the possibility of sending presbyters as papal legates, as Philip and Asellus are at this occasion. The general rules of clerics` appeals against bishops` decisions are also recalled. Account in the acts of the Council of Carthage (AD 419); edited also as Letter 15 of Zosimus.
Fratri Faustino episcopo et filiis Philippo et Asello presbyteris Zosimus episcopus.
Quod si is [episcopus] qui rogat causam suam iterum audiri deprecatione sua mouerit episcopum Romanum ut a latere suo presbyteros mittat, erit in potestate episcopi quid uelit et quid aestimet: et si decreuerit mittendos esse qui praesentes cum episcopis iudicent, habentes auctoritatem eius a quo destinati sunt, erit in suo arbitrio; si uero crediderit sufficere episcopos ut negotio terminum imponant, faciet quod sapientissimo suo consilio iudicauerit.
Si episcopus quis iracundus (quod esse non debet) cito aut aspere commoueatur aduersus presbyterum siue diaconum suum et exterminare eum de ecclesia uoluerit, prouidendum est ne innocens damnetur aut perdat communionem: habeat potestatem eiectus ut finitimos interpellet et causa eius audiatur et diligentius tractetur, quia non oportet ei negari audientia roganti; et ille episcopus qui aut iuste aut iniuste reiecit, patienter accipiat, ut negotium discutiatur, ut aut probetur eius aut emendetur sententia.
(ed. Munier 1974: 91-92)
Bishop Zosimus to his brother Faustinus and sons Philip and Asellus, presbyters.
If a bishop wants his case to be heard again and asks the Roman bishop to send presbyters from his side (a latere), the bishop can do what he wants and what he holds just. He can invest with his authority those whom he sends so that they can be judges together with bishops. And if he believes that bishops are needed to put an end to the case, let him do what he considers good in his most wise judgement.
And about presbyters and deacons: If a bishop gets angry (though this should not happen), and acts rashly or harshly against his presbyter or deacon, and wants to expel him from the church, something should be done lest the innocent be condemned and lose communion. Let him have the possibility to appeal to neighbouring bishops and let his case be heard and examined more diligently. For a hearing ought not to be denied to one who asks for it. And let the bishop who condemned him, justly or unjustly, accept patiently that the case be discussed again, so that his sentence can be either approved, or amended.
(trans. S. Adamiak)


The role of the presbyters of the Roman church is emphasised in the first of the canons cited here – they can be sent as papal legates to sit in ecclesiastical juries alongside the bishops of the place.
Philip and Asellus are such legates, but only bishop Faustinus speaks on the occasion.
The canons are cited again in the letters of the Council of Carthage to the successor of Zosimus, Pope Boniface I ([254], ed. Munier 1974: 158-159. Several other remarks about Philip and Asellus are made there, but they simply confirm their role as legates and do not give us any other information, so we have omitted them.
The letter of Zosimus to his legate has also been published as Letter 15 of Zosimus (Patrologia Latina 20, 681-682).

Place of event:

  • Latin North Africa
  • Rome
  • Danubian provinces and Illyricum
  • Carthage
  • Sicca Veneria
  • Rome
  • Sardica

About the source:

Author: Zosimus
Title: Letters, Epistulae
Origin: Rome (Rome), Carthage (Latin North Africa)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Apiarius, a presbyter of Sicca Veneria in North Africa, was excommunicated for some unspecified crimes by his bishop, Urbanus. In 418 he appealed directly to Pope Zosimus, who sent legates (bishop Faustinus and two presbyters, Philip and Asellus) to Africa to assess the charges. A council of African bishops gathered in Carthage in May 419 to address the question. At the session of 25 May 419 the commonitorium of Zosimus was read. He reminded the Africans about his right to send his legates to sit on the jury in the cases of clerics who appealed to Rome. He based his claim on what he believed was a canon of the council of Nicaea. The Africans, rightly, doubted it: the canons cited there are in fact canons 5 and 17 of the Latin version of the canons of the council of Sardica (AD 344).
C. Munier ed., Concilia Africae a. 345-a. 525, Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina 149, Turnhoult 1974, 89-94


Functions within the Church - Cathedral presbyter
    Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
    Ecclesiastical administration - Participation in councils and ecclesiastical courts
    Ecclesiastical administration - Ecclesiastical envoy
    Public law - Ecclesiastical
        Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
          Administration of justice - Ecclesiastical
            Administration of justice - Excommunication/Anathema
              Equal prerogatives of presbyters and deacons
                Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER255,