The first Council of Arles was held in 314, for the purpose of putting an end to the Donatist controversy. Bishops from the western part of the empire including three from Britain attended. It confirmed the findings of the Council of Rome (313), i.e. it recognized the validity of the election of Caecilian of Carthage and confirmed the excommunication of Donatus of Casae Nigrae. Its twenty-two canons dealing with various abuses that had crept into ecclesiastical life since the persecution of Diocletian (284-305) are among the most important documents of early ecclesiastical legislation.
A council held in 353, and attended, among others, by two papal legates, was decidedly Arian in attitude. The legates were tempted into rejecting communion with Athanasius and refused to condemn Arius, an act which filled Pope Liberius with grief.
A council was held on New Year's Day of 435, to settle the differences that had arisen between the Abbot of Lérins and the Bishop of Fréjus.
In the synod of 443 (452), attended also by bishops of neighbouring provinces, fifty-six canons were formulated, mostly repetitions of earlier disciplinary decrees. Neophytes were excluded from major orders; married men aspiring to the priesthood were required to promise a life of continency, and it was forbidden to consecrate a bishop without the assistance of three other bishops and the consent of the Metropolitan.
A council of 451 held after the close of the Council of Chalcedon in that year, sent its adhesion to the "Epistola dogmatica" of Pope Leo I, written by Flavian of Constantinople (see Eutyches)
Apropos of the conflict between the archiepiscopal See of Vienne and Arles a council was held in the latter city in 463, which called forth a famous letter from St. Leo I.
Between 475 and 480 another council was called, attended by thirty bishops, in which the pre-destinationist teachings of the priest Lucidus were condemned.
In 524 a council was held under the presidency of St. Caesarius of Arles; its canons deal chiefly with the conferring of orders. A number of Caesarius of Arles' works have been published in Sources Chrétiennes.
Little is known of the councils of 554 and 682.
The liturgical uses of Arles were recommended by pope Gregory the Great as a model for Augustine of Canterbury.
An important council was held in 813, at the instigation of Charlemagne, for the correction of abuses and the reestablishment of ecclesiastical discipline. Its decrees insist on a sufficient ecclesiastical education of bishops and priests, on the duty of both to preach frequently to the people and to instruct them in the Catholic Faith, on the obligation of parents to instruct their children, etc.
In 1034 a council was held at Arles for the re-establishment of peace, the restoration of Christian Faith, the awakening in the popular heart of a sense of divine goodness and of salutary fear by the consideration of past evils.
From 1080 to 1098, Aicard continued to act as bishop even though he had been deposed. He was followed on the episcopal throne by Ghibbelin of Sabran, who was later Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
In 1236 a council held under the presidency of Jean Baussan, Archbishop of Arles, issued twenty-four canons, mostly against the prevalent Albigensian heresy, and for the observance of the decrees of the Lateran Council of 1215 and that of Toulouse in 1229. Close inspection of their dioceses is urged on the bishops, as a remedy against the spread of heresy; testaments are declared invalid unless made in the presence of the parish priest. This measure, met with in other councils, was meant to prevent testamentary dispositions in favour of known heretics.
In 1251, Jean, Archbishop of Arles, held a council near Avignon (Concilium Insculanum), among whose thirteen canons is one providing that the sponsor at baptism is bound to give only the white robe in which the infant is baptized.
In 1260 a council held by Florentin, Archbishop of Arles, decreed that confirmation must be received fasting, and that on Sundays and feast days the religious should not open their churches to the faithful, nor preach at the hour of the parish Mass. The laity should be instructed by their parish priests. The religious should also frequent the parochial service, for the sake of good example. This council also condemned the doctrines spread abroad under the name of Joachim of Flora.
In 1275, twenty-two earlier observances were promulgated anew at a Council of Arles.
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“Dont you see what my power does for me? I could sit in on the councils of kings and dictators. It makes me king. It makes meNemesis.”
—Lester Cole (19041985)
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