Chapter XXIII.—Of Flavianus bishop of Antioch and of the sedition which arose in the western Church on account of Paulinus.
At Antioch the great Meletius had been succeeded by Flavianus who, together with Diodorus, had undergone great struggles for the salvation of the sheep. Paulinus had indeed desired to receive the bishopric, but he was withstood by the clergy on the ground that it was not right that Meletius at his death should be succeeded by one who did not share his opinions, and that to the care of the flock ought to be advanced he who was conspicuous for many toils, and had run the risk of many perils for the sheeps sake. Thus a lasting hostility arose among the Romans and the Egyptians against the East, and the ill feeling was not even destroyed on the death of Paulinus. After him when Evagrius had occupied his see, hostility was still shewn to the great Flavianus, notwithstanding the fact that the promotion of Evagrius was a violation of the law of the Church, for he had been promoted by Paulinus alone in disregard of many canons. For a dying bishop is not permitted to ordain another to take his place, and all the bishops of a province are ordered to be convened; again no ordination of a bishop is permitted to take place without three bishops. Nevertheless they refused to take cognizance of any of these laws, embraced the communion of Evagrius, and filled the ears of the emperor with complaints against Flavianus, so that, being frequently importuned, he summoned him to Constantinople, and ordered him to repair to Rome.
Flavianus, however, urged in reply that it was now winter, and promised to obey the command in spring. He then returned home. But when the bishops of Rome, not only the admirable Damasus, but also Siricius his successor and Anastasius the successor of Siricius, importuned the emperor more vehemently and represented that, while he put down the rivals against his own authority, he suffered bold rebels against the laws of Christ to maintain their usurped authority, then he sent for him again and tried to force him to undertake the journey to Rome. On this Flavianus p. 149 in his great wisdom spoke very boldly, and said, “If, sir, there are some who accuse me of being unsound in the faith, or of life and conversation unworthy of the priesthood, I will accept my accusers themselves for judges, and will submit to whatever sentence they may give. But if they are contending about see and primacy I will not contest the point; I will not oppose those who wish to take them; I will give way and resign my bishopric. So, sir, give the episcopal throne of Antioch to whom you will.”
The emperor admired his manliness and wisdom, and bade him go home again, and tend the church committed to his care.
After a considerable time had elapsed the emperor arrived at Rome, and once more encountered the charges advanced by the bishops on the ground that he was making no attempt to put down the tyranny of Flavianus. The emperor ordered them to set forth the nature of the tyranny, saying that he himself was Flavianus and had become his protector. The bishops rejoined that it was impossible for them to dispute with the emperor. He then exhorted them in future to join the churches in concord, put an end to the quarrel, and quench the fires of an useless controversy. Paulinus, he pointed out, had long since departed this life; Evagrius had been irregularly promoted; the eastern churches accepted Flavianus as their bishop. Not only the east but all Asia, Pontus, and Thrace were united in communion with him, and all Illyricum recognised his authority over the oriental bishops. In submission to these counsels the western bishops promised to bring their hostility to a close and to receive the envoys who should be sent them.
When Flavianus had been informed of this decision he despatched to Rome certain worthy bishops with presbyters and deacons of Antioch, giving the chief authority among them to Acacius bishop of Berœa, who was famous throughout the world. On the arrival of Acacius and his party at Rome they put an end to the protracted quarrel, and after a war of seventeen years 899 gave peace to the churches. When the Egyptians were informed of the reconciliation they too gave up their opposition, and gladly accepted the agreement which was made.
At that time Anastasius had been succeeded in the primacy of the Roman Church by Innocent, a man of prudence and ready wit. Theophilus, whom I have previously mentioned, held the see of Alexandria. 900
i.e. from 381, when Flavianus was appointed to the see of Antioch, to 398, the date of the mission of Acacius.149:900
vide Chap. xxii. He succeeded in July, 385.