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Archdiocese of Carthage

  (Redirected from Bishop of Carthage)

The episcopal see of Carthage, the city restored to importance by Julius Caesar and Augustus, in which Christianity was firmly established by the 2nd century,[1] was the most important in the whole of Roman Africa and continued as a residential see even after it had fallen to the Muslim conquest, until the start of the second millennium.


Earliest bishopsEdit

In Christian traditions, some accounts give as the first bishop of Carthage Crescens, ordained by Saint Peter, or Speratus, one of the Scillitan Martyrs.[2] Epenetus of Carthage is found in Pseudo-Dorotheus and Pseudo-Hippolytus lists of seventy disciples.[3] The account of the martyrdom of Saint Perpetua and her companions in 203 mentions an Optatus who is generally taken to have been bishop of Carthage, but who may instead have been bishop of Thuburbo Minus. The first certain historically documented bishop of Carthage is Agrippinus around the 230s.[4] Also historically certain is Donatus, the immediate predecessor of Cyprian (249–258).[2][5][6][7][8]


In the 3rd century, at the time of Cyprian, the bishops of Carthage exercised a real though not formalized primacy in the Early African Church.[9] not only in the Roman province of Proconsular Africa in the broadest sense (even when it was divided into three provinces through the establishment of Byzacena and Tripolitania), but also, in some supra-metropolitan form, over the Church in Numidia and Mauretania. The provincial primacy was associated with the senior bishop in the province rather than with a particular see and was of little importance in comparison to the authority of the bishop of Carthage, who could be appealed to directly by the clergy of any province.[9]


Cyprian faced opposition within his own diocese over the question of the proper treatment of the lapsi who had fallen away from the Christian faith under persecution.[10] Donatism became a serious problem in the 4th century and was not got rid of even through the Council of Carthage (411), which decided in favour of the Catholic side.[2]

Successors of Cyprian until before the Vandal invasionEdit

The immediate successors of Cyprian were Lucianus and Carpophorus, but there is disagreement about which of the two was earlier. A bishop Cyrus, mentioned in a lost work by Augustine, is placed by some before, by others after, the time of Cyprian. There is greater certainty about the 4th-century bishops: Mensurius, bishop by 303, succeeded in 311 by Caecilianus, who was at the First Council of Nicaea and who was opposed by the Donatist bishop Majorinus (311–315). Rufus participated in an anti-Arian council held in Rome in 337 or 340 under Pope Julius I. He was opposed by Donatus Magnus, the true founder of Donatism. Gratus (344– ) was at the Council of Sardica and presided over the Council of Carthage (349). He was opposed by Donatus Magnus and, after his exile and death, by Parmenianus, whom the Donatists chose as his successor. Restitutus accepted the Arian formula at the Council of Rimini in 359 but later repented. Genethlius presided over two councils at Carthage, the second of which was held in 390. The next bishop was Saint Aurelius, who in 421 presided over another council at Carthage and was still alive in 426. His Donatist opponent was Primianus, who had succeeded Parmenianus in about 391.[2] A dispute between Primian and Maximian, a relative of Donatus, resulted in the largest Maximian schism within the Donatist movement.

Bishops under the VandalsEdit

Capreolus was bishop of Carthage when the Vandals conquered the province. Unable for that reason to attend the Council of Ephesus in 431 as chief bishop of Africa, he sent his deacon Basula or Bessula to represent him. In about 437, he was succeeded by Quodvultdeus, whom Gaiseric exiled and who died in Naples. A 15-year vacancy followed, and it was only in 454 that Saint Deogratias was ordained bishop of Carthage. He died at the end of 457 or the beginning of 458, and Carthage remained without a bishop for another 24 years. Saint Eugenius was consecrated in around 481, exiled, along with other Catholic bishops, by Huneric in 484, recalled in 487, but in 491 forced to flee to Albi in Gaul, where he died. When the Vandal persecution ended in 523, Bonifacius became bishop of Carthage and held a Council in 525.[2]

Praetorian prefecture of AfricaEdit

The Eastern Roman Empire established its praetorian prefecture of Africa after the reconquest of northwestern Africa during the Vandalic War 533–534. Bonifacius was succeeded by Reparatus, who held firm in the Three Chapters Controversy and in 551 was exiled to Pontus, where he died. He was replaced by Primosus, who accepted the emperor's wishes on the controversy. He was represented at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 by the bishop of Tunis. Publianus was bishop of Carthage from before 566 to after 581. Dominicus is mentioned in letters of Pope Gregory the Great between 592 and 601. Fortunius lived at the time of Pope Theodore I (c. 640) and went to Constantinople in the time of Patriarch Paul II of Constantinople (641 to 653). Victor became bishop of Carthage in 646.

Last resident bishopsEdit

At the beginning of the 8th century and at the end of the 9th, Carthage still appears in lists of dioceses over which the Patriarch of Alexandria claimed jurisdiction.

Two letters of Pope Leo IX on 27 December 1053 show that the diocese of Carthage was still a residential see. The texts are given in the Patrologia Latina of Migne.[11] They were written in reply to consultations regarding a conflict between the bishops of Carthage and Gummi about who was to be considered the metropolitan, with the right to convoke a synod. In each of the two letters, the pope laments that, while in the past Carthage had had a church council of 205 bishops, the number of bishops in the whole territory of Africa was now reduced to five, and that, even among those five, there was jealousy and contention. However, he congratulated the bishops to whom he wrote for submitting the question to the Bishop of Rome, whose consent was required for a definitive decision. The first of the two letters (Letter 83 of the collection) is addressed to Thomas, Bishop of Africa, whom Mesnages deduces to have been the bishop of Carthage.[2](p. 8) The other letter (Letter 84 of the collection) is addressed to Bishops Petrus and Ioannes, whose sees are not mentioned, and whom the pope congratulates for having supported the rights of the see of Carthage.

In each of the two letters, Pope Leo declares that, after the Bishop of Rome, the first archbishop and chief metropolitan of the whole of Africa is the bishop of Carthage,[12] while the bishop of Gummi, whatever his dignity or power, will act, except for what concerns his own diocese, like the other African bishops, by consultation with the archbishop of Carthage. In the letter addressed to Petrus and Ioannes, Pope Leo adds to his declaration of the position of the bishop of Carthage the eloquent[13] declaration: "... nor can he, for the benefit of any bishop in the whole of Africa lose the privilege received once for all from the holy Roman and apostolic see, but he will hold it until the end of the world as long as the name of our Lord Jesus Christ is invoked there, whether Carthage lie desolate or whether it some day rise glorious again".[14] When in the 19th century the residential see of Carthage was for a while restored, Cardinal Charles-Martial-Allemand Lavigerie had these words inscribed in letters of gold beneath the dome of his great cathedral.[15] The building now belongs the Tunisian state and is used for concerts.

Later, an archbishop of Carthage named Cyriacus was imprisoned by the Arab rulers because of an accusation by some Christians. Pope Gregory VII wrote him a letter of consolation, repeating the hopeful assurances of the primacy of the Church of Carthage, "whether the Church of Carthage should still lie desolate or rise again in glory". By 1076, Cyriacus was set free, but there was only one other bishop in the province. These are the last of whom there is mention in that period of the history of the see.[16][17]

Modern TunisiaEdit

In July 1964, pressure from President Habib Bourguiba's government of the Republic of Tunisia, which was in a position to close down all the Catholic churches in the country, forced the Holy See to abide by a modus vivendi bilateral agreement which regulated its legal status according to the 1959 Constitution of Tunisia.[18] The modus vivendi gave the Catholic Church in Tunisia legal personality and stated that it was legally represented by the prelate nullius of Tunis.[18](p917) The Holy See chose the prelate nullius but the government could object against the candidate before an appointment.[18](p920) The modus vivendi banned the Catholic Church from any political activity in Tunisia.[18](p918) This particular agreement was unofficially described as instead a modus non moriendi ("a way of not dying"). By it, all but five of the country's more than seventy churches were handed over to the state, including what had been the cathedral of the archdiocese, while the state, for its part, promised that the buildings would be put only to use of public interest consonant with their previous function.[19][20][21]

Pope Paul VI suppressed the Archdiocese of Carthage and erected the Prelature nullius of Tunis, in his 1964 apostolic constitution Prudens Ecclesiae, to conform to the bilateral agreement.[22] The Archdiocese of Carthage reverted to the status of a titular see. The first archbishop of the titular see, Agostino Casaroli, was appointed on 4 July 1967. The Annuario Pontificio of that period described the titular archiepiscopal see of Carthage as "founded in the 3rd century, metropolitan see of Proconsularis or Zeugitana, restored as an archiepiscopal see on 10 November 1884, titular archbishopric 9 July 1964".[23] The history of the territorial prelature was given as "founded 9 July 1964, previously an archbishopric under the name of Carthage founded 10 November 1884".[24]

The prelature was elevated to an exempt diocese, directly subject to the Holy See, in 1995.[25][a] In 2010, it was promoted to an exempt archdiocese.[27] The summary of the history of the residential archdiocese of Tunis now given in the Annuario Pontificio is: "archbishopric under the name of Carthage 10 November 1884; Prelature of Tunis 9 July 1964; diocese 31 May 1995; archbishopric 22 May 2010."[28] The ancient see of Carthage, on the other hand, being no longer a residential bishopric, is listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see in the same publication as distinct from the modern see of Tunis. As a summary history of the titular see of Carthage it states: "founded in the 3rd century, metropolitan see of Proconsularis or Zeugitana, restored as an archiepiscopal see on 10 November 1884, titular metropolitan see 9 July 1964".[29]

The Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul is the cathedral of the archdiocese of Tunis. What was the cathedral of the archdiocese of Carthage, the Saint Louis Cathedral, is owned by the Tunisian state and is used for concerts.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Although 1983 CIC canon 431 § 2 states that "[a]s a rule, exempt dioceses are no longer to exist", this case, according to 1983 CIC canon 3, is an exception that must conform to agreements such as the 1964 modus vivendi.[26]


  1. ^ Bunson, Matthew (2002). "Carthage". Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. Facts on File library of world history (Rev. ed.). New York: Facts On File. pp. 97–98. ISBN 9781438110271.
  2. ^ a b c d e f   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a work now in the public domain: Mesnage, Joseph; Toulotte, Anatole (1912). L'Afrique chrétienne : évêchés et ruines antiques. Description de l'Afrique du Nord. Musées et collections archéologiques de l'Algérie et de la Tunisie (in French). 17. Paris: E. Leroux. pp. 1–19. OCLC 609155089.
  3. ^   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a work now in the public domain: Cheyne, Thomas K.; Black, J. Sutherland, eds. (1903). "Epaenetus". Encyclopaedia Biblica. 2. New York: Macmillan. col. 1300. OCLC 1084084.
  4. ^ Handl, András; Dupont, Anthony. "Who was Agrippinus? Identifying the First Known Bishop of Carthage". Church History and Religious Culture. 98: 344–366. doi:10.1163/18712428-09803001.
  5. ^ "Cartagine". Enciclopedia Italiana di scienze, lettere ed arti (in Italian). 1931 – via
  6. ^ Toulotte, Anatole (1892). Géographie de l'Afrique chrétienne (in French). 1. Rennes: impr. de Oberthur. pp. 73–100. OCLC 613240276.
  7. ^ Morcelli, Stefano Antonio (1816). Africa christiana. 1. Brescia: ex officina Bettoniana. pp. 48–58. OCLC 680468850.
  8. ^ Gams, Pius Bonifacius (1957) [1873]. "Carthago". Series episcoporum ecclesiae catholicae : quotquot innotuerunt a beato Petro Apostolo (in Latin). Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt. p. 463. OCLC 895344169.
    Gams "ignored a number of scattered dissertations which would have rectified, on a multitude of points, his uncertain chronology" and Leclercq suggests that "larger information must be sought in extensive documentary works." (Leclercq, Henri (1909). "Pius Bonifacius Gams" . Catholic Encyclopedia. 6.)
  9. ^ a b   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHassett, Maurice (1908). "Carthage" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 3. New York: Robert Appleton.
  10. ^ "First synods at Carthage and Rome on account of Novatianism and the Lapsi (251)". Transcribed from   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a work now in the public domain: Hefele, Karl J. von, ed. (1894). A history of the Christian councils from the original documents, to the close of the council of Nicaea, A.D. 325. 1. Translated by William R. Clark (2nd ed.). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. pp. 93–98. OCLC 680510498.
  11. ^ "''Patrologia Latina'', vol. 143, coll. 727–731". 2008-08-20. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
  12. ^ Primus archiepiscopus et totius Africae maximus metropolitanus est Carthaginiensis episcopus
  13. ^ Mas-Latrie, Louis de (1883). "L'episcopus Gummitanus et la primauté de l'évêque de Carthage". Bibliothèque de l'école des chartes. 44 (44): 77. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  14. ^ nec pro aliquo episcopo in tota Africa potest perdere privilegium semel susceptum a sancta Romana et apostolica sede: sed obtinebit illud usque in finem saeculi, et donec in ea invocabitur nomen Domini nostri Iesu Christi, sive deserta iaceat Carthago, sive gloriosa resurgat aliquando
  15. ^ Joseph Sollier, "Africa" in Catholic Encyclopedia (New York 1910)
  16. ^ Bouchier, E.S. (1913). Life and Letters in Roman Africa. Oxford: Blackwells. p. 117. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  17. ^ François Decret, Early Christianity in North Africa (James Clarke & Co, 2011) p200.
  18. ^ a b c d Cicognani, Amleto G.; Slim, Mongi (1964-06-27). "Conventio (Modus Vivendi) inter Apostolicam Sedem et Tunetanam Rempublicam" (PDF). Acta Apostolicae Sedis. Vatican City: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis (published 1964-11-30). 56 (15): 917–924. ISSN 0001-5199.
  19. ^ "Closing down the churches". The Tablet. 218 (6481). London. 1964-08-08. pp. 6–7. ISSN 0039-8837. Retrieved 2014-11-16.
  20. ^ Twal, Fouad (2005-03-19). "Tunisie : réouverture de l'église de Jerba, un 'signe de la coexistence des croyants' ". (in French). New York: Innovative Media (published 2005-03-21). Zenit News Agency. Archived from the original on 2015-01-11.
  21. ^ Diez, Martino (2013-04-15). "The life of the Catholics from the time of Bourguiba to now". Milan: Fondazione Internazionale Oasis. Archived from the original on 2014-12-25.
  22. ^ "Carthaginensis (Tunetanae)" (in Latin). From Pope Paul VI (1964-07-09). "Prudens Ecclesiae" (PDF). Acta Apostolicae Sedis (in Latin). Vatican City: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis (published 1965-03-30). 57 (3): 217–218. ISSN 0001-5199. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-06-15. summa Nostra potestate cathedralem archiepiscopalem Sedem Carthaginensem e numero cathedralium Ecclesiarum tollimus atque exstinguimus, eandem in ordinem titulo tantum exstantium redigentes, eiusque loco praelaturam «nullius» Tunetanam erigimus, quae iisdem finibus cingetur ac prior Ecclesia, atque Apostolicae Sedi directo subicietur.
  23. ^ Annuario pontificio (in Italian) (1969 ed.). Vatican Polyglot Press. 1969. p. 578. ISSN 0390-7252.
  24. ^ Annuario pontificio (in Italian) (1969 ed.). Vatican Polyglot Press. 1969. p. 767. ISSN 0390-7252.
  25. ^ "Tunetana" (in Latin). From Pope John Paul II (1995-05-31). "Antiquorum istius" (PDF). Acta Apostolicae Sedis (in Latin). Vatican City: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis (published 1995-09-11). 87 (9): 775. ISSN 0001-5199. Tunetanam territorialem Praelaturam, Apostolicae Sedi immediate subiectam, ad gradum dioecesis evehimus, iisdem superioribus retentis finibus atque omnibus iuribus officiisque congruentibus concessis secundum iuris canonici praescripta.
  26. ^ Beal, John P.; Coriden, James A.; Green, Thomas J., eds. (2000). "Canon 3". New commentary on the Code of Canon Law (Study ed.). New York [u.a.]: Paulist Press. pp. 50–51.
  27. ^ "Tunetana" (in Latin). From Pope Benedict XVI (2010-02-22). "Cum in Tunetana" (PDF). Acta Apostolicae Sedis (in Latin). Vatican City: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis (published 2010-03-05). 102 (3): 141–142. ISSN 0001-5199. Summa igitur Nostra potestate dioecesim Tunetanam, Apostolicae Sedi immediate subiectam, ad gradum ac dignitatem archidioecesis attollimus iisdem servatis finibus.
  28. ^ Annuario pontificio (in Italian) (2013 ed.). Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2013. p. 759. ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1. ISSN 0390-7252.
  29. ^ Annuario pontificio (in Italian) (2013 ed.). Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2013. p. 860. ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1. ISSN 0390-7252.

Coordinates: 36°48′01″N 10°10′44″E / 36.80028°N 10.17889°E / 36.80028; 10.17889

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "article name needed". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.