Letter on Behalf of St. Athanasius by Pope St. Julius

The following letter comes from Pope St. Julius. St. Athanasius, and the opening of the letter as well, indicates that Pope Julius wrote it in a council with other leaders of the Roman Church. The letter is preserved in St. Athanasius' Apology Against the Arians Part 1 Chapter 2. I've sequentially numbered the paragraphs to make this letter easier to cite.

Letter to the Bishops of Antioch on Behalf of St. Athanasius

1. Julius to his dearly beloved brethren, Danius, Flacillus, Narcissus, Eusebius, Maris, Macedonius, Theodorus, and their friends, who have written to me from Antioch, sends health in the Lord.

2. I have read your letter which was brought to me by my Presbyters Elpidius and Philoxenus, and I am surprised to find that, whereas I wrote to you in charity and with conscious sincerity, you have replied to me in an unbecoming and contentious temper; for the pride and arrogance of the writers is plainly exhibited in that letter. Yet such feelings are inconsistent with the Christian faith; for what was written in a charitable spirit ought likewise to be answered in a spirit of charity and not of contention. And was it not a token of charity to send Presbyters to sympathize with them that are in suffering, and to desire those who had written to me to come there, that the questions at issue might obtain a speedy settlement, and all things be duly ordered, so that our brethren might no longer be exposed to suffering, and that you might escape further calumny? But something seems to show that your temper is such, as to force us to conclude that even in the terms in which you appeared to pay honour to us, you have expressed yourselves under the disguise of irony. The Presbyters also whom we sent to you, and who ought to have returned rejoicing, did on the contrary return sorrowful on account of the proceedings they had witnessed among you. And I, when I had read your letter, after much consideration, kept it to myself, thinking that after all some of you would come, and there would be no need to bring it forward, lest if it should be openly exhibited, it should grieve many of our brethren here. But when no one arrived, and it became necessary that the letter should be produced, I declare to you, they were all astonished, and were hardly able to believe that such a letter had been written by you at all; for it is expressed in terms of contention rather than of charity.

3. Now if the author of it wrote with an ambition of exhibiting his power of language, such a practice surely is more suitable for other subjects: in ecclesiastical matters, it is not a display of eloquence that is needed, but the observance of Apostolic Canons, and an earnest care not to offend one of the little ones of the Church. For it were better for a man, according to the word of the Church, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the sea, than that he should offend even one of the little ones. Matthew 18:6 But if such a letter was written, because certain persons have been aggrieved on account of their meanness of spirit towards one another (for I will not impute it to all); it were better not to entertain any such feeling of offense at all, at least not to let the sun go down upon their vexation; and certainly not to give it room to exhibit itself in writing.

4. Yet what has been done that is a just cause of vexation? Or in what respect was my letter to you such? Was it, that I invited you to be present at a council? You ought rather to have received the proposal with joy. Those who have confidence in their proceedings, or as they choose to term them, in their decisions, are not wont to be angry, if such decision is inquired into by others; they rather show all boldness, seeing that if they have given a just decision, it can never prove to be the reverse. The Bishops who assembled in the great Council of Nicæa agreed, not without the will of God, that the decisions of one council should be examined in another , to the end that the judges, having before their eyes that other trial which was to follow, might be led to investigate matters with the utmost caution, and that the parties concerned in their sentence might have assurance that the judgment they received was just, and not dictated by the enmity of their former judges. Now if you are unwilling that such a practice should be adopted in your own case, though it is of ancient standing, and has been noticed and recommended by the great Council, your refusal is not becoming; for it is unreasonable that a custom which had once obtained in the Church, and been established by councils, should be set aside by a few individuals.

5. For a further reason they cannot justly take offense in this point. When the persons whom you, Eusebius and his fellows, dispatched with your letters, I mean Macarius the Presbyter, and Martyrius and Hesychius the Deacons, arrived here, and found that they were unable to withstand the arguments of the Presbyters who came from Athanasius, but were confuted and exposed on all sides, they then requested me to call a Council together, and to write to Alexandria to the Bishop Athanasius, and also to Eusebius and his fellows, in order that a just judgment might be given in presence of all parties. And they undertook in that case to prove all the charges which had been brought against Athanasius. For Martyrius and Hesychius had been publicly refuted by us, and the Presbyters of the Bishop Athanasius had withstood them with great confidence: indeed, if one must tell the truth, Martyrius and his fellows had been utterly overthrown; and this it was that led them to desire that a Council might be held. Now supposing that they had not desired a Council, but that I had been the person to propose it, in discouragement of those who had written to me, and for the sake of our brethren who complain that they have suffered injustice; even in that case the proposal would have been reasonable and just, for it is agreeable to ecclesiastical practice, and well pleasing to God. But when those persons, whom you, Eusebius and his fellows, considered to be trustworthy, when even they wished me to call the brethren together, it was inconsistent in the parties invited to take offense, when they ought rather to have shown all readiness to be present. These considerations show that the display of anger in the offended persons is petulant, and the refusal of those who decline to meet the Council is unbecoming, and has a suspicious appearance. Does any one find fault, if he sees that done by another, which he would allow if done by himself? If, as you write, each council has an irreversible force, and he who has given judgment on a matter is dishonoured, if his sentence is examined by others; consider, dearly beloved, who are they that dishonour councils? Who are setting aside the decisions of former judges? Not to inquire at present into every individual case, lest I should appear to press too heavily on certain parties, the last instance that has occurred, and which every one who hears it must shudder at, will be sufficient in proof of the others which I omit.

6. The Arians who were excommunicated for their impiety by Alexander, the late Bishop of Alexandria, of blessed memory, were not only proscribed by the brethren in the several cities, but were also anathematised by the whole body assembled together in the great Council of Nicæa. For theirs was no ordinary offense, neither had they sinned against man, but against our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of the living God. And yet these persons who were proscribed by the whole world, and branded in every Church, are said now to have been admitted to communion again; which I think even you ought to hear with indignation. Who then are the parties who dishonour a council? Are not they who have set at nought the votes of the Three hundred , and have preferred impiety to godliness? The heresy of the Arian madmen was condemned and proscribed by the whole body of Bishops everywhere; but the Bishops Athanasius and Marcellus have many supporters who speak and write in their behalf. We have received testimony in favour of Marcellus , that he resisted the advocates of the Arian doctrines in the Council of Nicæa; and in favour of Athanasius , that at Tyre nothing was brought home to him, and that in the Mareotis, where the Reports against him are said to have been drawn up, he was not present. Now you know, dearly beloved, that ex parte proceedings are of no weight, but bear a suspicious appearance. Nevertheless, these things being so, we, in order to be accurate, and neither showing any prepossession in favour of yourselves, nor of those who wrote in behalf of the other party, invited those who had written to us to come hither; that, since there were many who wrote in their behalf, all things might be enquired into in a council, and neither the guiltless might be condemned, nor the person on his trial be accounted innocent. We then are not the parties who dishonour a council, but they who at once and recklessly have received the Arians whom all had condemned, and contrary to the decision of the judges. The greater part of those judges have now departed, and are with Christ; but some of them are still in this life of trial, and are indignant at learning that certain persons have set aside their judgment.

7. We have also been informed of the following circumstance by those who were at Alexandria. A certain Carpones, who had been excommunicated by Alexander for Arianism, was sent hither by one Gregory with certain others, also excommunicated for the same heresy. However, I had learned the matter also from the Presbyter Macarius, and the Deacons Martyrius and Hesychius. For before the Presbyters of Athanasius arrived they urged me to send letters to one Pistus at Alexandria, though at the same time the Bishop Athanasius was there. And when the Presbyters of the Bishop Athanasius came, they informed me that this Pistus was an Arian, and that he had been excommunicated by the Bishop Alexander and the Council of Nicæa, and then ordained by one Secundus, whom also the great Council excommunicated as an Arian. This statement Martyrius and his fellows did not gainsay, nor did they deny that Pistus had received his ordination from Secundus. Now consider, after this who are most justly liable to blame? I, who could not be prevailed upon to write to the Arian Pistus; or those, who advised me to do dishonour to the great Council, and to address the irreligious as if they were religious persons? Moreover, when the Presbyter Macarius, who had been sent hither by Eusebius with Martyrius and the rest, heard of the opposition which had been made by the Presbyters of Athanasius, while we were expecting his appearance with Martyrius and Hesychius, he departed in the night, in spite of a bodily ailment; which leads us to conjecture that his departure arose from shame on account of the exposure which had been made concerning Pistus. For it is impossible that the ordination of the Arian Secundus should be considered valid in the Catholic Church. This would indeed be dishonour to the Council, and to the Bishops who composed it, if the decrees they framed, as in the presence of God, with such extreme earnestness and care, should be set aside as worthless.

8. If, as you write , the decrees of all Councils ought to be of force, according to the precedent in the case of Novatus and Paul of Samosata, all the more ought not the sentence of the Three hundred to be reversed, certainly a general Council ought not to be set at nought by a few individuals. For the Arians are heretics as they, and the like sentence has been passed both against one and the other. And, after such bold proceedings as these, who are they that have lighted up the flame of discord? For in your letter you blame us for having done this. Is it we, who have sympathised with the sufferings of the brethren, and have acted in all respects according to the Canon; or they who contentiously and contrary to the Canon have set aside the sentence of the Three hundred, and dishonoured the Council in every way? For not only have the Arians been received into communion, but Bishops also have made a practice of removing from one place to another. Now if you really believe that all Bishops have the same and equal authority , and you do not, as you assert, account of them according to the magnitude of their cities; he that is entrusted with a small city ought to abide in the place committed to him, and not from disdain of his trust to remove to one that has never been put under him; despising that which God has given him, and making much of the vain applause of men. You ought then, dearly beloved, to have come and not declined, that the matter may be brought to a conclusion; for this is what reason demands.

9. But perhaps you were prevented by the time fixed upon for the Council, for you complain in your letter that the interval before the day we appointed was too short. But this, beloved, is a mere excuse. Had the day forestalled any when on the journey, the interval allowed would then have been proved to be too short. But when persons do not wish to come, and detain even my Presbyters up to the month of January , it is the mere excuse of those who have no confidence in their cause; otherwise, as I said before, they would have come, not regarding the length of the journey, not considering the shortness of the time, but trusting to the justice and reasonableness of their cause. But perhaps they did not come on account of the aspect of the times , for again you declare in your letter, that we ought to have considered the present circumstances of the East, and not to have urged you to come. Now if as you say you did not come because the times were such, you ought to have considered such times beforehand, and not to have become the authors of schism, and of mourning and lamentation in the Churches. But as the matter stands, men, who have been the cause of these things, show that it is not the times that are to blame, but the determination of those who will not meet a Council.

10. But I wonder also how you could ever have written that part of your letter, in which you say, that I alone wrote, and not to all of you, but to Eusebius and his fellows only. In this complaint one may discover more of readiness to find fault than of regard for truth. I received the letters against Athanasius from none other than Martyrius, Hesychius and their fellows, and I necessarily wrote to them who had written against him. Either then Eusebius and his fellows ought not alone to have written, apart from you all, or else you, to whom I did not write, ought not to be offended that I wrote to them who had written to me. If it was right that I should address my letter to you all, you also ought to have written with them: but now considering what was reasonable, I wrote to them, who had addressed themselves to me, and had given me information. But if you were displeased because I alone wrote to them, it is but consistent that you should also be angry, because they wrote to me alone. But for this also, beloved, there was a fair and not unreasonable cause. Nevertheless it is necessary that I should acquaint you that, although I wrote, yet the sentiments I expressed were not those of myself alone, but of all the Bishops throughout Italy and in these parts. I indeed was unwilling to cause them all to write, lest the others should be overpowered by their number. The Bishops however assembled on the appointed day, and agreed in these opinions, which I again write to signify to you; so that, dearly beloved, although I alone address you, yet you may be assured that these are the sentiments of all. Thus much for the excuses, not reasonable, but unjust and suspicious, which some of you have alleged for your conduct.

11. Now although what has already been said were sufficient to show that we have not admitted to our communion our brothers Athanasius and Marcellus either too readily, or unjustly, yet it is but fair briefly to set the matter before you. Eusebius and his fellows wrote formerly against Athanasius and his fellows, as you also have written now; but a great number of Bishops out of Egypt and other provinces wrote in his favour. Now in the first place, your letters against him are inconsistent with one another, and the second have no sort of agreement with the first, but in many instances the former are answered by the latter, and the latter are impeached by the former. Now where there is this contradiction in letters, no credit whatever is due to the statements they contain. In the next place if you require us to believe what you have written, it is but consistent that we should not refuse credit to those who have written in his favour; especially, considering that you write from a distance, while they are on the spot, are acquainted with the man, and the events which are occurring there, and testify in writing to his manner of life, and positively affirm that he has been the victim of a conspiracy throughout.

12. Again, a certain Bishop Arsenius was said at one time to have been made away with by Athanasius, but we have learned that he is alive, nay, that he is on terms of friendship with him. He has positively asserted that the Reports drawn up in the Mareotis were ex parte ones; for that neither the Presbyter Macarius, the accused party, was present, nor yet his Bishop, Athanasius himself. This we have learned, not only from his own mouth, but also from the Reports which Martyrius, Hesychius and their fellows, brought to us ; for we found on reading them, that the accuser Ischyras was present there, but neither Macarius, nor the Bishop Athanasius; and that the Presbyters of Athanasius desired to attend, but were not permitted. Now, beloved, if the trial was to be conducted honestly, not only the accuser, but the accused also ought to have been present. As the accused party Macarius attended at Tyre, as well as the accuser Ischyras, when nothing was proved, so not only ought the accuser to have gone to the Mareotis, but also the accused, so that in person he might either be convicted, or by not being convicted might show the falseness of the accusation. But now, as this was not the case, but the accuser only went out there, with those to whom Athanasius objected, the proceedings wear a suspicious appearance.

13. And he complained also that the persons who went to the Mareotis went against his wish, for that Theognius, Maris, Theodorus, Ursacius, Valens, and Macedonius, who were the persons they sent out, were of suspected character. This he showed not by his own assertions merely, but from the letter of Alexander who was Bishop of Thessalonica; for he produced a letter written by him to Dionysius , the Count who presided in the Council, in which he shows most clearly that there was a conspiracy on foot against Athanasius. He has also brought forward a genuine document, all in the handwriting of the accuser Ischyras himself , in which he calls God Almighty to witness that no cup was broken, nor table overthrown, but that he had been suborned by certain persons to invent these accusations. Moreover, when the Presbyters of the Mareotis arrived , they positively affirmed that Ischyras was not a Presbyter of the Catholic Church and that Macarius had not committed any such offense as the other had laid to his charge. The Presbyters and Deacons also who came to us testified in the fullest manner in favour of the Bishop Athanasius, strenuously asserting that none of those things which were alleged against him were true, but that he was the victim of a conspiracy.

14. And all the Bishops of Egypt and Libya wrote and protested that his ordination was lawful and strictly ecclesiastical, and that all that you had advanced against him was false, for that no murder had been committed, nor any persons dispatched on his account, nor any cup broken, but that all was false. Nay, the Bishop Athanasius also showed from the ex parte reports drawn up in the Mareotis, that a catechumen was examined and said , that he was within with Ischyras, at the time when they say Macarius the Presbyter of Athanasius burst into the place; and that others who were examined said—one, that Ischyras was in a small cell,— and another, that he was lying down behind the door, being sick at that very time, when they say Macarius came there. Now from these representations of his, we are naturally led to ask the question, How was it possible that a man who was lying behind the door sick could get up, conduct the service, and offer? And how could it be that Oblations were offered when catechumens were within ? For if there were catechumens present, it was not yet the time for presenting the Oblations. These representations, as I said, were made by the Bishop Athanasius, and he showed from the reports, what was also positively affirmed by those who were with him, that Ischyras has never been a presbyter at all in the Catholic Church, nor has ever appeared as a presbyter in the assemblies of the Church; for not even when Alexander admitted those of the Meletian schism, by the indulgence of the great Council, was he named by Meletius among his presbyters, as they deposed ; which is the strongest argument possible that he was not even a presbyter of Meletius; for otherwise, he would certainly have been numbered with the rest. Besides, it was shown also by Athanasius from the reports, that Ischyras had spoken falsely in other instances: for he set up a charge respecting the burning of certain books, when, as they pretend, Macarius burst in upon them, but was convicted of falsehood by the witnesses he himself brought to prove it.

15. Now when these things were thus represented to us, and so many witnesses appeared in his favour, and so much was advanced by him in his own justification, what did it become us to do? What did the rule of the Church require of us, but that we should not condemn him, but rather receive him and treat him like a Bishop, as we have done? Moreover, besides all this he continued here a year and six months , expecting the arrival of yourselves and of whoever chose to come, and by his presence he put everyone to shame, for he would not have been here, had he not felt confident in his cause; and he came not of his own accord, but on an invitation by letter from us, in the manner in which we wrote to you. But still you complain after all of our transgressing the Canons. Now consider; who are they that have so acted? We who received this man with such ample proof of his innocence, or they who, being at Antioch at the distance of six and thirty posts , nominated a stranger to be Bishop, and sent him to Alexandria with a military force; a thing which was not done even when Athanasius was banished into Gaul, though it would have been done then, had he been really proved guilty of the offense. But when he returned, of course he found his Church unoccupied and waiting for him.

16. But now I am ignorant under what colour these proceedings have been carried on. In the first place, if the truth must be spoken, it was not right, when we had written to summon a council, that any persons should anticipate its decisions: and in the next place, it was not fitting that such novel proceedings should be adopted against the Church. For what canon of the Church, or what Apostolical tradition warrants this, that when a Church was at peace, and so many Bishops were in unanimity with Athanasius the Bishop of Alexandria, Gregory should be sent there, a stranger to the city, not having been baptized there, nor known to the general body, and desired neither by Presbyters, nor Bishops, nor Laity— that he should be appointed at Antioch, and sent to Alexandria, accompanied not by presbyters, nor by deacons of the city, nor by bishops of Egypt, but by soldiers? For they who came hither complained that this was the case.

17. Even supposing that Athanasius was in the position of a criminal after the Council, this appointment ought not to have been made thus illegally and contrary to the rule of the Church, but the Bishops of the province ought to have ordained one in that very Church, of that very Priesthood, of that very Clergy ; and the Canons received from the Apostles ought not thus to be set aside. Had this offense been committed against any one of you, would you not have exclaimed against it, and demanded justice as for the transgression of the Canons? Dearly beloved, we speak honestly, as in the presence of God, and declare, that this proceeding was neither pious, nor lawful, nor ecclesiastical. Moreover, the account which is given of the conduct of Gregory on his entry into the city, plainly shows the character of his appointment. In such peaceful times, as those who came from Alexandria declared them to have been, and as the Bishops also represented in their letters, the Church was set on fire; Virgins were stripped; Monks were trodden under foot; Presbyters and many of the people were scourged and suffered violence; Bishops were cast into prison; multitudes were dragged about from place to place; the holy Mysteries , about which they accused the Presbyter Macarius, were seized upon by heathens and cast upon the ground; and all to constrain certain persons to admit the appointment of Gregory. Such conduct plainly shows who they are that transgress the Canons. Had the appointment been lawful, he would not have had recourse to illegal proceedings to compel the obedience of those who in a legal way resisted him. And notwithstanding all this, you write that perfect peace prevailed in Alexandria and Egypt. Surely not, unless the work of peace is entirely changed, and you call such doings as these peace.

18. I have also thought it necessary to point out to you this circumstance, viz. that Athanasius positively asserted that Macarius was kept at Tyre under a guard of soldiers, while only his accuser accompanied those who went to the Mareotis; and that the Presbyters who desired to attend the inquiry were not permitted to do so, while the said inquiry respecting the cup and the Table was carried on before the Prefect and his band, and in the presence of Heathens and Jews. This at first seemed incredible, but it was proved to have been so from the Reports; which caused great astonishment to us, as I suppose, dearly beloved, it does to you also. Presbyters, who are the ministers of the Mysteries, are not permitted to attend, but an enquiry concerning Christ's Blood and Christ's Body is carried on before an external judge, in the presence of Catechumens, nay, worse than that, before Heathens and Jews, who are in ill repute in regard to Christianity. Even supposing that an offense had been committed, it should have been investigated legally in the Church and by the Clergy, not by heathens who abhor the Word and know not the Truth. I am persuaded that both you and all men must perceive the nature and magnitude of this sin. Thus much concerning Athanasius.

19. With respect to Marcellus , forasmuch as you have charged him also of impiety towards Christ, I am anxious to inform you, that when he was here, he positively declared that what you had written concerning him was not true; but being nevertheless requested by us to give an account of his faith, he answered in his own person with the utmost boldness, so that we recognised that he maintains nothing outside the truth. He made a confession of the same godly doctrines concerning our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as the Catholic Church confesses; and he affirmed that he had held these opinions for a very long time, and had not recently adopted them: as indeed our Presbyters , who were at a former date present at the Council of Nicæa, testified to his orthodoxy; for he maintained then, as he has done now, his opposition to Arianism (on which points it is right to admonish you, lest any of you admit such heresy, instead of abominating it as alien from sound doctrine 1 Timothy 1:10). Seeing then that he professed orthodox opinions, and had testimony to his orthodoxy, what, I ask again in his case, ought we to have done, except to receive him as a Bishop, as we did, and not reject him from our communion? These things I have written, not so much for the purpose of defending their cause, as in order to convince you, that we acted justly and canonically in receiving these persons, and that you are contentious without a cause. But it is your duty to use your anxious endeavours and to labour by every means to correct the irregularities which have been committed contrary to the Canon, and to secure the peace of the Churches; so that the peace of our Lord which has been given to us John 14:27 may remain, and the Churches may not be divided, nor you incur the charge of being authors of schism. For I confess, your past conduct is an occasion of schism rather than of peace.

20. For not only the Bishops Athanasius and Marcellus and their fellows came hither and complained of the injustice that had been done them, but many other Bishops also , from Thrace, from Cœle-Syria, from Phœnicia and Palestine, and Presbyters, not a few, and others from Alexandria and from other parts, were present at the Council here, and in addition to their other statements, lamented before all the assembled Bishops the violence and injustice which the Churches had suffered, and affirmed that similar outrages to those which had been committed in Alexandria had occurred in their own Churches, and in others also. Again there lately came Presbyters with letters from Egypt and Alexandria, who complained that many Bishops and Presbyters who wished to come to the Council were prevented; for they said that, since the departure of Athanasius even up to this time, Bishops who are confessors have been beaten with stripes, that others have been cast into prison, and that but lately aged men, who have been an exceedingly long period in the Episcopate, have been given up to be employed in the public works, and nearly all the Clergy of the Catholic Church with the people are the objects of plots and persecutions. Moreover they said that certain Bishops and other brethren had been banished for no other reason than to compel them against their will to communicate with Gregory and his Arian associates. We have heard also from others, what is confirmed by the testimony of the Bishop Marcellus, that a number of outrages, similar to those which were committed at Alexandria, have occurred also at Ancyra in Galatia. And in addition to all this, those who came to the Council reported against some of you (for I will not mention names) certain charges of so dreadful a nature that I have declined setting them down in writing: perhaps you also have heard them from others. It was for this cause especially that I wrote to desire you to come, that you might be present to hear them, and that all irregularities might be corrected and differences healed. And those who were called for these purposes ought not to have refused, but to have come the more readily, lest by failing to do so they should be suspected of what was alleged against them, and be thought unable to prove what they had written.

21. Now according to these representations, since the Churches are thus afflicted and treacherously assaulted, as our informants positively affirmed, who are they that have lighted up a flame of discord ? We, who grieve for such a state of things and sympathize with the sufferings of the brethren, or they who have brought these things about? While then such extreme confusion existed in every Church, which was the cause why those who visited us came hither, I wonder how you could write that unanimity prevailed in the Churches. These things tend not to the edification of the Church, but to her destruction; and those who rejoice in them are not sons of peace, but of confusion: but our God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. 1 Corinthians 14:33 Wherefore, as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ knows, it was from a regard for your good name, and with prayers that the Churches might not fall into confusion, but might continue as they were regulated by the Apostles, that I thought it necessary to write thus unto you, to the end that you might at length put to shame those who through the effects of their mutual enmity have brought the Churches to this condition. For I have heard, that it is only a certain few who are the authors of all these things.

22. Now, as having bowels of mercy, take care to correct, as I said before, the irregularities which have been committed contrary to the Canon, so that if any mischief has already befallen, it may be healed through your zeal. And write not that I have preferred the communion of Marcellus and Athanasius to yours, for such like complaints are no indications of peace, but of contentiousness and hatred of the brethren. For this cause I have written the foregoing, that you may understand that we acted not unjustly in admitting them to our communion, and so may cease this strife. If you had come hither, and they had been condemned, and had appeared unable to produce reasonable evidence in support of their cause, you would have done well in writing thus. But seeing that, as I said before, we acted agreeably to the Canon, and not unjustly, in holding communion with them, I beseech you for the sake of Christ, suffer not the members of Christ to be torn asunder, neither trust to prejudices, but seek rather the peace of the Lord. It is neither holy nor just, in order to gratify the petty feeling of a few persons, to reject those who have never been condemned and thereby to grieve the Spirit. Ephesians 4:30 But if you think that you are able to prove anything against them, and to confute them face to face let those of you who please come hither: for they also promised that they would be ready to establish completely the truth of those things which they have reported to us.

23. Give us notice therefore of this, dearly beloved, that we may write both to them, and to the Bishops who will have again to assemble, so that the accused may be condemned in the presence of all, and confusion no longer prevail in the Churches. What has already taken place is enough: it is enough surely that Bishops have been sentenced to banishment in the presence of Bishops; of which it behooves me not to speak at length, lest I appear to press too heavily on those who were present on those occasions. But if one must speak the truth, matters ought not to have proceeded so far; their petty feeling ought not to have been suffered to reach the present pitch. Let us grant the removal, as you write, of Athanasius and Marcellus, from their own places, yet what must one say of the case of the other Bishops and Presbyters who, as I said before, came hither from various parts, and who complained that they also had been forced away, and had suffered the like injuries? O beloved, the decisions of the Church are no longer according to the Gospel, but tend only to banishment and death. Supposing, as you assert, that some offense rested upon those persons, the case ought to have been conducted against them, not after this manner, but according to the Canon of the Church. Word should have been written of it to us all , that so a just sentence might proceed from all. For the sufferers were Bishops, and Churches of no ordinary note, but those which the Apostles themselves had governed in their own persons.

24. And why was nothing said to us concerning the Church of the Alexandrians in particular? Are you ignorant that the custom has been for word to be written first to us, and then for a just decision to be passed from this place ? If then any such suspicion rested upon the Bishop there, notice thereof ought to have been sent to the Church of this place; whereas, after neglecting to inform us, and proceeding on their own authority as they pleased, now they desire to obtain our concurrence in their decisions, though we never condemned him. Not so have the constitutions of Paul, not so have the traditions of the Fathers directed; this is another form of procedure, a novel practice. I beseech you, readily bear with me: what I write is for the common good. For what we have received from the blessed Apostle Peter , that I signify to you; and I should not have written this, as deeming that these things were manifest unto all men, had not these proceedings so disturbed us. Bishops are forced away from their sees and driven into banishment, while others from different quarters are appointed in their place; others are treacherously assailed, so that the people have to grieve for those who are forcibly taken from them, while, as to those who are sent in their room, they are obliged to give over seeking the man whom they desire, and to receive those they do not.

25. I ask of you, that such things may no longer be, but that you will denounce in writing those persons who attempt them; so that the Churches may no longer be afflicted thus, nor any Bishop or Presbyter be treated with insult, nor any one be compelled to act contrary to his judgment, as they have represented to us, lest we become a laughing-stock among the heathen, and above all, lest we excite the wrath of God against us. For every one of us shall give account in the Day of judgment Matthew 12:36 of the things which he has done in this life. May we all be possessed with the mind of God! so that the Churches may recover their own Bishops, and rejoice evermore in Jesus Christ our Lord; through Whom to the Father be glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

26. I pray for your health in the Lord, brethren dearly beloved and greatly longed for.

Source: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/28081.htm