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Lapsi

Latin word for the “lapsed” who abandoned the faith in persecution. Some early Christians escaped by bribery, others by flight, but apostates were few until Decius's persecution (250-51), when especially in Africa many offered sacrifice or incense (sacrificati, thurificati), procured false certificates of conformity, or volunteered professions of compliance, apostasy, or paganism (libellatici). Their reconciliation was complicated by letters of recommendation (libelli pacis) issued by prestigious confessors. Cyprian* wrote numerous letters and a treatise on The Lapsed, and steered the Council of Carthage* (251) into decreeing that penance be proportioned to the gravity of the offense, a policy followed also at Rome, where it occasioned Novatian's rigorist protest. The African traditores were among the lapsed dealt with in councils following the Great Persecution. Lapsed clergy were normally readmitted only as laity or merely titular clergy.