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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Urbanus, Bishop of Sicca Veneria


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Urbanus (6) , bp. of Sicca Veneria, a town of proconsular Africa (Kaff) 22 miles from Musti (Ant. Itin. xli. 4; Shaw, Trav. p. 95; Aug. Ep. 229). Apparently a member of Augustine's monastic society at Hippo (Aug. Ep. 139. 34), he had occasion to remove from his office for grave misconduct a presbyter named Apiarius. Apiarius appealed to Zosimus, bp. of Rome, who ordered his restoration. In a council which met May 1, 418, the African bishops decreed that no priest, deacon, or inferior clerk should prosecute any appeal beyond sea. Zosimus then sent a commission to Africa, headed by Faustinus, bp. of Potenza, with instructions as to four points they were to impress on the African bishops: (1) That appeals from bishops of other churches should be made to Rome. (2) That bishops should not cross the sea unnecessarily ( importune ) to visit the seat of government (comitatum ). (3) About settling through neighbouring bishops matters relating to priests and deacons excommunicated by their own bishops. Zosimus quotes a decree purporting to be one of the council of Nicaea, enjoining appeal to the bp. of Rome in case of bishops degraded by the bishops of their own province. (4) About excommunicating Urbanus, or at least summoning him to Rome unless he revoked his decision against Apiarius. This was in the latter part of 418. The African bishops were willing to accept provisionally the first and third propositions, until the canons of Nicaea, on which they were said to be founded, should be examined, for they were not aware of the existence among them of such rules. But at the end of 418 Zosimus was succeeded by Boniface, and no further action was taken until May 419, when 217 bishops met in council at Carthage (Hardouin, Conc. vol. i. p. 934; Bruns, Conc. i. 156, 157 D). Faustinus and his colleagues attended, and stated the conditions proposed by Zosimus. The bishops insisted on seeing them in writing, and the documents were accordingly then produced and read. On this Alypius, bp. of Tagaste, remarked that the decree referred to as one of Nicaea and quoted by Zosimus did not appear in the Greek copies with which the African bishops were acquainted. He proposed that reference should be made by themselves and by Boniface to the bishops of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch, to obtain information as to its genuineness. Pending these consultations, the council determined that Apiarius should be allowed, under a circular letter, to exercise his office in any place except Sicca. No mention is made of any action taken in this matter by Boniface, who died a.d. 422, and was succeeded by Celestine I.; but in 426 the question was revived by further misconduct on the part of Apiarius at Tahraca, and, when removed from his office by the African bishops, he again appealed to Rome. At a council summoned for the purpose Faustinus appealed again and behaved with great insolence, demanding on the part of the Roman pontiff that Apiarius should be restored. The bishops refused. A strenuous dispute lasted 3 days, and was ended by Apiarius confessing his guilt. The assembled bishops took the opportunity of requesting the bp. of Rome to be less easy in receiving appeals, and not to admit to communion persons excommunicated by them; all appeals ought to be terminated in the province in which they begin, or in a general council. Rohrbacher says some good theologians thought the whole history of Apiarius a forgery ( Hist. de l’Eglise , vol. iv. pp. 348–371).

[H.W.P.]


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Urbanus, Bishop of Sicca Veneria'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hwd/u/urbanus-bishop-of-sicca-veneria.html. 1911.

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