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Home > Fathers of the Church > Epistles (Cyprian of Carthage) > Epistle 40

Epistle 40

To Cornelius, on His Refusal to Receive Novatian's Ordination.

Argument.— The Messengers Sent by Novatian to Intimate His Ordination to the Church of Carthage are Rejected by Cyprian.

1. Cyprian to Cornelius, his brother, greeting. There have come to us, beloved brother, sent by Novatian, Maximus the presbyter, and Augendus the deacon, and a certain Machaeus and Longinus. But, as we discovered, as well from the letters which they brought with them, as from their discourse and declaration, that Novatian had been made bishop; disturbed by the wickedness of an unlawful ordination made in opposition to the Catholic Church, we considered at once that they must be restrained from communion with us; and having, in the meanwhile, refuted and repelled the things which they pertinaciously and obstinately endeavoured to assert, I and several of my colleagues, who had come together to me, were awaiting the arrival of our colleagues Caldonius and Fortunatus, whom we had lately sent to you as ambassadors, and to our fellow bishops, who were present at your ordination, in order that, when they came and reported the truth of the matter, the wickedness of the adverse party might be quelled through them, by greater authority and manifest proof. But there came, in addition, Pompeius and Stephanus, our colleagues, who themselves also, by way of instructing us thereon, put forward manifest proofs and testimonies in conformity with their gravity and faithfulness, so that it was not even necessary that those who had come, as sent by Novatian, should be heard any further. And when in our solemn assembly they burst in with invidious abuse and turbulent clamour, demanding that the accusations, which they said that they brought and would prove, should be publicly investigated by us and by the people, we said that it was not consistent with our gravity to suffer the honour of our colleague, who had already been chosen and ordained and approved by the laudable sentence of many, to be called into question any further by the abusive voice of rivals. And because it would be a long business to collect into a letter the matters in which they have been refuted and repressed, and in which they have been manifested as having caused heresy by their unlawful attempts, you shall hear everything most fully from Primitivus our co-presbyter, when he shall come to you.

2. And lest their raging boldness should ever cease, they are striving here also to distract the members of Christ into schismatical parties, and to cut and tear the one body of the Catholic Church, so that, running about from door to door, through the houses of many, or from city to city, through certain districts, they seek for companions in their obstinacy and error to join to themselves in their schism. To whom we have once given this reply, nor shall we cease to command them to lay aside their pernicious dissensions and disputes, and to be aware that it is an impiety to forsake their Mother; and to acknowledge and understand that when a bishop is once made and approved by the testimony and judgment of his colleagues and the people, another can by no means be appointed. Thus, if they consult their own interest peaceably and faithfully, if they confess themselves to be maintainers of the Gospel of Christ, they must return to the Church. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.

About this page

Source. Translated by Robert Ernest Wallis. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/050640.htm>.

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