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Councils of Orleans

Six national councils were held at Orleans in the Merovingian period

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Orleans, COUNCILS of. Six national councils were held at Orleans in the Merovingian period. I. At the first, convoked by Clovis (July, 511), thirty-three bishops assisted and passed thirty-one decrees on the duties and obligations of individuals, the right of sanctuary, and ecclesiastical discipline. These decrees, equally applicable to Franks and Romans, first established equality between conquerors and conquered. The council claimed the right of sanctuary in favor of churches and episcopal residences; it stipulated that ecclesiastics need not produce the culprit, if the pursuer would not swear on the Gospels to do him no injury. It settled the conditions of freedom for a slave upon whom Holy orders had been conferred; ruled that freemen should not be ordained without the king’s consent, or authorization of the judge; determined the immunities of ecclesiastics and church property and committed to the bishops the welfare of the sick and the poor; settled the relations of monks with their abbots and of abbots with the bishops. The practice of divination was forbidden. Clovis approved the decrees of the council, which thus appears as the first treaty between the Frankish State and the Church. II. The second national council held under Childebert (June, 533), attended by twenty-five bishops, decreed that, conformably to the earnest desire of Pope Hormisdas, annual provincial councils should be held; further, that marriage could not be dissolved by will of the contracting parties for infirmities consequent on the contract; forbade the marriage of Christians and Jews; and excommunicated those who partook of flesh offered in sacrifice to idols. III. The third national council (May, 538), attended by thirteen bishops, determined impediments of marriage; pronounced excommunication against ecclesiastics in the higher orders who lived incontinently; decreed that the archbishops should be elected by the bishops of the province, with the consent of the clergy and the citizens; the bishops by the archbishop, the clergy, and the people of the city.

IV. The fourth national council (541) assembled thirty-eight bishops and maintained the date fixed by Pope Victor for Easter, contrary to Justinian’s ordinances, and ordered those who had or wished to have a parish church on their lands to take the necessary measures for the dignity of Divine worship. Finally it perfected the measures taken by the Council of 511 relative to the emancipation of slaves: slaves emancipated by bishops were to retain their freedom after the death of their emancipators, even though other acts of their administration were recalled; it authorized the official ransom of Christians who had fallen into the power of the Jews but had invoked the right of sanctuary to recover their freedom; it declared that Jews who exhorted Christian slaves to become Jews in order to be set free should be forbidden to own such slaves. V. The fifth national council (October, 549) assembled nine archbishops and forty-one bishops. After defending Mark, Bishop of Orleans, from attacks made on him, it pronounced an anathema against the errors of Nestorius and Eutyches, it prohibited simony, prescribed that elections of bishops take place in all freedom, with consent of the clergy, the people, and the king, and that no bishop be consecrated until he had been one year in the clergy. It censured all who attempted to subject to any servitude whatsoever slaves emancipated within the Church, and those who dared take, retain, or dispose of church property. It threatened with excommunication all who embezzled or appropriated funds given by King Childebert for the foundation of the hospital of Lyons, and it placed lepers under the special charge of each bishop. VI. The sixth national council, held under Clovis II about 638 or 639 at the request of Sts. Eloi and Ouen, condemned and expelled from the kingdom a Greek partisan of Monothelitism, at the request of Salvius, Bishop of Valence. VII. The seventh national council, held in 1022 under Bishop Odolric, proceeded against the Manichaans and their few adherents in the city. In September, 1478, Louis XI held at Orleans a fruitless assembly of the clergy and the nobility to discuss the Crusade, the necessity for a general council, and the reestablishment of the “pragmatic sanction”.

GEORGES GOYAU


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