Carthage

The ecclesiastical metropolis of Roman Africa, in the West second only to Rome. Councils held here, both provincial-for Proconsular Africa alone-and all-African, fall into five periods:

(1) Cyprian* and the Donatists regularly appealed to the decision of seventy African and Numidian bishops under Agrippinus about 220 to rebaptize heretics. The ninety bishops who condemned their heretical colleague, Privatus of Lambaesis, between 236 and 248 in the episcopate of Donatus, possibly convened in Carthage.

(2) Cyprian initiated the holding of annual synods to channel the power of the corporate episcopate. Those in 251 and 252 dealt with the lapsi and the related schismatic disorders at Carthage and Rome. One in 253 reaffirmed baptism for newborn babies, and like that in 254 considered appeals from clerical lapsi against disciplinary sanctions. In 255 and twice in 256 the rebaptism controversy was dominant.

(3) In 312, seventy bishops, mostly Numidian, deposed Caecilian* and elected a counter bishop of Carthage, whence issued Donatism.* A protracted assembly of 270 Donatist bishops under Donatus about 330-35 decided that rebaptism of catholics was not invariably obligatory. Tyconius was condemned at a Donatist council about 380, possibly in Carthage, and in 392/3 Maximian's supporters met in synod against Primian, the “regular” Donatist bishop of Carthage. In 348/9 the catholic bishop Gratus presided at the first African council whose canons survive. Like those of Genethlius's council of 389 and 390 they mostly regulate clerical discipline. In 386 a council under Genethlius received Pope Siricius's letter concerning Donatism at Rome.

(4) Bishop Aurelius presided over at least ten provincial and fourteen general councils at Carthage from 394 (or 397) to 424. Donatism, the Pelagians, and Roman jurisdiction in Africa constituted the major extraordinary business. The council of 419 (resumed in 421-22) is credited with the Code of Canons of the African Church, mainly canons from earlier councils, which was accepted into the universal code of canons (text, Mansi 3, 699-843; translation, NPNF II. 14, 437-510).

(5) As Vandal control of Africa ended, councils met to restore church life, under bishops Boniface in 525 and Reparatus about 534, when the reception of Arian converts was discussed. In the Byzantine era general synods in 549 and 550 adhered to the Three Chapters* and excommunicated Pope Vigilius for complying with Justinian's condemnation, and in 594 and 646 councils ruled against Donatism and Monothelitism respectively.

See E.S. Foulkes in DCA 1, pp. 36-39; the DHGE surveys of A. Audollent (1, pp. 747-50, 811-22) and Ferron and Lapeyre (11, pp. 1220-26) give references to the volumes of Hefele-Leclercq and the conciliar collections of Hardouin and Mansi.