CAECILIAN

Central figure in the outbreak of the Donatist schism at Carthage, ca. 311. He was first archdeacon, then bishop of Carthage. As archdeacon he showed himself a disciplinarian. In ca. 300, he rebuked Lucilla, a wealthy Spanish member of his congregation, for kissing the bone of an unauthorized martyr necdum vindicatus before receiving Communion Opt., De schismate I, 16. During the great persecution of 304, he was accused of using brutal methods to keep food from reaching the confessors of Abitina in their prison at Carthage Acta Saturnini 17. On Bishop Mensurius’s death in 311, Caecelian was elected bishop of Carthage Opt., De schismate I, 19, but his election aroused immediate opposition. Discontent coalesced around the Numidian bishops who had arrived in Carthage to take part in his consecration but found him already consecrated by three bishops, two from near Carthage, but one, Felix of Aptunga, from the neighboring province of Byzacena see Opt., De schismate I, 19 and Aug., Psalmus contra partem Donati, vv. 42-49. Lucilla’s chaplain, Maiorinus, was consecrated bishop in opposition to Caecelian ca. 312, and a rumor was spread that Felix of Aptunga was a traditor i.e., had handed over the Scriptures to the authorities during the great persecution and so could not validly officiate at a consecration. In winter 312313 after his victory over Maxentius, Constantine supported Caecelian’s cause but allowed his opponents to state their case against him before a tribunal presided over by Bishop Miltiades of Rome, himself an African. Caecelian was vindicated there 2 October 313, again at the larger Council of Arles of 1 August 314 and, finally, by the emperor himself 10 November 316. But he never won over his fellow countrymen, and on Maiorinus’s departure from the scene summer 313, he was faced with the much more formidable Donatus. Caecelian took part in the Council of Nicaea in 325 but thereafter disappears from the scene. Date of death unknown.

 

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