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Volume 51, Issue 1, June 2011

Geoffrey D. Dunn
Pages 161-190

The Development of Rome as Metropolitan of Suburbicarian Italy. Innocent I’s Letter to the Bruttians

Innocent I (402-417) addressed Epistula 38 to two Bruttian bishops, Maximus and Severus, in response to a complaint from Maximilianus, an agens in rebus, that these southern Italian bishops had failed to take action against presbyters who fathered children contrary to the requirements of celibacy after ordination and claimed to be ignorant of any policy on this matter. Innocent reminded the two bishops that they needed to attend to their duties. This letter is among the earliest evidence for how the Roman bishop operated in practice as metropolitan of Suburbicarian (and possibly Annonarian) Italy and so this article examines the growth of Rome’s metropolitan authority and concludes from an examination of both context and content of the letter that Innocent did not refer to any formal authority, which grew over time but seems to have been limited to presiding over synods, approving the election and ordination of new bishops, and hearing appeals from deposed bishops outside his province, but was exercising a practical authority as the leading bishop of the area, which he expressed in surprised tones, to direct them to do their duty.

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