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Meletian Schism


A schism of Antioch (360418), which took its name from Meletius, a native of Melitene, bishop of Sebaste and then of Antioch (360381), who died (May 381; feast, Feb. 12) while he was president of the Council of constantinople i. In the anti-Nicene reaction after 330, the Catholic Bishop of Antioch, Eustathius, had been deposed and the see was occupied by Arian-minded bishops during the next two decades. The faithful were divided between a Eustathian minority following Paulinus and a majority who supported the doctrine of homoousios. When in 360 the homoean party took advantage of the political situation and occupied sees vacated in the persecution under julian the apostate, acacius of caesa rea had Meletius elected bishop of Antioch even though he was already bishop of Sebaste and in exile at Beroea in Syria. Meletius almost immediately rallied all the faithful, but under pressure the emperor exiled him and had him replaced by the Arian Euzoius.

Despite appearances, the Eustathians and Meletians were at variance, for the Eustathians recognized one God, one ousia, or hypostasis, in three persons; for this they were accused of sabellianism by the Meletians, who believed in the Nicene doctrine of ousia, or substance, and three hypostases.

Before a synod of Alexandria could take a conciliatory position between the two expressions, lucifer of cagliari consecrated the Eustathian Paulinus as bishop of Antioch, and on his return from exile Meletius made the mistake of refusing communion with athanasius of alexandria, who in turn took the part of Paulinus (363). In spite of the synod that Meletius convened at Antioch to affirm the unity of substance (ousia ) and the three hypostases, a schism ensued. Rome's attitude remained ambiguous despite the efforts of basil of caesarea, who took the part of Meletius (see Epist. 92) and tried to win over the West. In 378 Rome communicated with both the bishops but delayed approval, awaiting the death of one of them. In synod at Antioch in 379, the Meletians manifested a conciliatory attitude. Nevertheless, upon the death of Meletius in 381, gregory of nazianzus, who preached the eulogy for Meletius, was not able to prevent the Meletian party from electing Flavian, who with Diodore of Tarsus had supported them during the exile of Meletius. ambrose of milan expressed the discontent of the West, and Paulinus went to Rome in company with epiphanius of salamis and jerome to protest the election of Flavian. Paulinus died in 388 but he had consecrated Evagrius before his death. Flavian succeeded in preventing the election of a successor to Evagrius and entered into communion with Alexandria. It was only in 398, when john chrysostom was patriarch of Constantinople, that Pope siricius finally recognized Flavian. The Eustathians ended the schism in 418, but the relics of Bishop Eustathius were returned to Antioch only in 482.

Bibliography: f. cavallera, Le Schisme d'Antioche (Paris 1905). e. schwartz, "Zur Kirchengeschichte des vierten Jahrhunderts," Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche 34 (1935) 129213. r. devreesse, Le Patriarcat d'Antioch (Paris 1945). g. l. prestige, St. Basil the Great and Apollinaris of Laodicea, ed. h. chadwick (SPCK 1956). w. a. jurgens, "A Letter of Meletius of Antioch," Harvard Theological Review 53 (1960) 251260. m. richard, "Saint Basile et la Mission du Diacre Sabinus," Analecta Bollandiana 67 (1949) 187202.

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