Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Liberius: Athanasius is Separated from our Communion

From Liberius in exile to Ursacius, Valens and Germinius: 1. Because I know you to be sons of peace, lovers of concord and harmony in the Catholic Church, I address you, very dear lords and brothers, by this letter. I have not been forced by any necessity, as God is my witness, but to do it for the good of the peace and concord which has prior place to martyrdom. Your wise selves are to know that Athanasius, who was the bishop of Alexandria, was condemned by me, before I wrote to the court of the holy Emperor, in accordance with the letter of the Eastern bishops, that he separated from communion with the church of Rome; as the whole body of presbyters of the church of Rome is witness. The sole reason for my appearing slower in writing letters about his reputation to our Eastern brothers and fellow-bishops, was in order that my legates, whom I had sent from Rome to the Court, or the bishops who had been deported, might both together, if possible, be recalled from exile. 2. But I want you to know this also: I asked my brother Fortunatianus to take to the most clement Emperor my letter to the Eastern bishops, in order that they too might know that I was separated from communion with Athanasius along with them. I believe his Piety will receive that letter with pleasure for the good of peace, and a copy of it I have also sent to the Emperor’s trusty eunuch Hilary. Your Charities will perceive that I have done these things in a spirit of friendship and integrity. Which is why I address you in this letter and adjure you by God almighty and his son Jesus Christ our Lord and God, to see fit to travel to the most clement Emperor Constantius Augustus and ask him to order my return to the church divinely entrusted to me, for the sake of the peace and concord in which his Piety ever rejoices, in order that the church of Rome may undergo no distress in his days. But you ought by this letter of mine to know, very dear brothers, that I am at peace with you in a spirit of calm and honesty. Great will be the comfort you secure on the day of retribution, if through you has been restored the peace of the Roman church. I want our brothers and fellow bishops Epictetus and Auxentius also, to learn through you that I am at peace, and have ecclesastical communion, with them. I think they will be pleased to receive this news. But anyone who dissents from our peace and concord which, God willing, has been established throughout the world, is to know that he is separated from our communion. See Lionel R. Wickham, Hilary of Poitiers: Conflicts of Conscience and Law in the Fourth-century Church, Liber II Ad Constantium, section 8 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1997), pp. 78-79. Cf. also Migne, PL 10:686ff.