Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 1015
Geminius Victor, bishop of Furnos (North Africa), made the presbyter Geminius Faustinus executor of his testament. Since it has been recently constituted that the clerics should not take such charges, Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, forbids saying Mass and praying for Victor. Cyprian, Letter 1, AD 249.
Epistula 1
Cyprianus presbyteris et diaconibus et plebi Furnis consistentibus s[alutem].
I,1. Grauiter commoti sumus ego et collegae mei qui praesentes aderant et conpresbyteri nostri qui nobis adsidebant, fratres carissimi, cum cognouissemus quod Geminius Victor frater noster de saeculu excedens Geminium Faustinum presbyterum tutorem testamento suo nominauerit, cum iam pridem in concilio episcoporum statutum sit, ne quis de clericis et Dei ministris tutorem uel curatorem testamento suo constituat, quando singuli diuino sacerdotio honorati et in clerico ministerio constituti non nisi altari et sacrificiis deseruire et precibus atque orationibus uacare debeant: “Nemo militans Deo obligat se molestiis saecularibus, ut possit placere ei qui se probauit” [2 Tim 2: 4].
2. Quod cum de omnibus dictum sit, quanto magis molestiis et laqueis saecularibus obligari non debent qui diuinis rebus et spiritalibus occupati ab ecclesia recedere et ad terrenos et saeculares actus uacare non possunt? Cuius ordinationis et religionis formam leuitae prius in lege tenuerunt, ut, cum terram diuiderent et possessiones partirentur undecim tribus, leuitica de illa diuisionis portione perciperet, sed aliis terram colentibus illa tantum Deum coleret et ad uictum atque alimentum suum ab undecim tribus de fructibus qui nascebantur decimas perciperet. Quod totum fiebat de auctoritate et dispositione diuina, ut qui operationibus diuinis insistebant in nulla re auocarentur nec cogitare aut agere saecularia cogerentur. Quae nunc ratio et forma in clero tenetur, ut qui ecclesia Domini ad ordinationem clericam promouentur in nullo ab administratione diuina auocentur, ne molestiis et negotiis saecularibus alligentur, sed in honore sportulantium fratrum tamquam decimas ex fructibus accipientes ab altari et sacrificiis non recedant et die ac nocte caelestibus rebus et spiritalibus seruiant.
II,1. Quod episcopi antecessores nostri religiose considerantes et salubriter prouidentes censuerunt, ne quis frater excedens ad tutelam uel curam clericum nominaret, ac, quis hoc fecisset, non offeretur pro eo nec sacrificium pro dormitione eius celebraretur. Neque enim apud altare Dei meretur nominari in sacerdotum prece qui ab altari sacerdotes et ministros uoluit auocare.
2. Et ideo Victor cum contra formam nuper in concilio a sacerdotibus datam Geminium Faustinum presbyterum ausus sit tutorem constituere, non est quod pro dormitione eius apud uos fiat oblatio aut deprecatio aliqua nomine eius in ecclesia frequentetur, ut sacerdotum decretum religiose et necessarie factum seruetur a nobis, simul et ceteris fratribus detur exemplum, ne quis sacerdotes et ministros Dei altari eius et ecclesiae uacantes ad saeculares molestias deuocet. Obseruari enim de cetero poterit ne ultra hoc fiat circa personam clericorum, si quod nunc factum est fuerit uindicatum. Opto uos, fratres carissimi, semper bene ualere.
(ed. Diercks 1994: 1-5)
Letter 1
Cyprian to the presbyters, and deacons, and people abiding at Furnos, greeting.
I,1. I and my colleagues who were present with me were greatly disturbed, dearest brethren, as were also our fellow-presbyters who sate with us, when we were made aware that Geminius Victor, our brother, when departing this life, had named Geminius Faustinus the presbyter executor (tutor) to his will, although long since it was decreed, in a council of the bishops, that no one should appoint any of the clergy and the ministers of God executor (tutor)  or guardian (curator) by his will, since every one honoured by the divine priesthood, and ordained in the clerical service, ought to serve only the altar and sacrifices, and to have leisure for prayers and supplications. For it is written: “No man that warreth for God entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please Him to whom he has pledged himself.” [2 Tim 2:4]
2. As this is said of all men, how much rather ought those not to be bound by worldly anxieties and involvements, who, being busied with divine and spiritual things, are not able to withdraw from the Church, and to have leisure for earthly and secular doings! The form of which ordination and engagement the Levites formerly observed under the law, so that when the eleven tribes divided the land and shared the possessions, the Levitical tribe, which was left free for the temple and the altar, and for the divine ministries, received nothing from that portion of the division; but while others cultivated the soil, that portion only cultivated the favour of God, and received the tithes from the eleven tribes, for their food and maintenance, from the fruits which grew. All which was done by divine authority and arrangement, so that they who waited on divine services might in no respect be called away, nor be compelled to consider or to transact secular business. Which plan and rule is now maintained in respect of the clergy, that they who are promoted by clerical ordination in the Church of the Lord may be called off in no respect from the divine administration, nor be tied down by worldly anxieties and matters; but in the honour of the brethren who contribute, receiving as it were tenths of the fruits, they may not withdraw from the altars and sacrifices, but may serve day and night in heavenly and spiritual things.
II,1. The bishops our predecessors religiously considering this, and wholesomely providing for it, decided that no brother departing should name a cleric for executor or guardian; and if any one should do this, no offering should be made for him, nor any sacrifice be celebrated for his repose. For he does not deserve to be named at the altar of God in the prayer of the priests, who has wished to call away the priests and ministers from the altar.
2. And therefore, since Victor, contrary to the rule lately made in council by the priests, has dared to appoint Geminius Faustinus, a presbyter, his executor, it is not allowed that any offering be made by you for his repose, nor any prayer be made in the church in his name, that so the decree of the priests, religiously and needfully made, may be kept by us; and, at the same time, an example be given to the rest of the brethren, that no one should call away to secular anxieties the priests and ministers of God who are occupied with the service of His altar and Church. For care will probably be taken in time to come that this happen not with respect to the person of clerics any more, if what has now been done has been punished. I bid you, dearest brethren, ever heartily farewell.


In Roman law the tutor or curator represented minors in legal transactions. It was not possible to decline this office, so understandably the wrath of Cyprian is directed not against the presbyter, but against the bishop who appointed him to this duty. The letter provides us with some incidental information: the bishop left children,  and during the sede vacante the presbyters and deacons administered the diocese and celebrated Masses.
 Geminius Victor is not explicitly called bishop in any place in the letter. He is identified as such mainly because of Cyprian's expression: “our brother”. This interpretation was accepted by Saxer 1977, and rejected by Duval 2005:165-172 and Deléani 2007:30. Geminius Faustinus may be identical with the bishop who gives his opinion as the 59th at the Council of Carthage in September 256 (see [1125]).

Place of event:

  • Latin North Africa
  • Furnos

About the source:

Author: Cyprian
Title: Letters, Epistulae, Epistolae
Origin: Carthage (Latin North Africa)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Cyprian was born probably about AD 200. He converted to Christianity in about 245 and in 248 was elected Bishop of Carthage. Soon after, the Decian persecution began (in 249/250) and Cyprian went into hiding. In 251 he returned to the city. Under Valerian, he was exiled in 257 and executed in 258. The epistolary of Cyprian consists of 81 letters (16 of them by his correspondents, and 6 synodal or collective), the majority of them are from the period of 250-251, when they were the means of Cyprian`s communication with his clergy. They offer us a wide view on the organization of the Church in Carthage in the middle of the third century, her relation with the Church of Rome, on the development of the persecutions, and on the conflicts that they caused inside the Church.
Different numerations of Cyprian's letters exist, I follow the edition of Diercks in Corpus Christianorum.
G.F. Diercks ed., Sancti Cypriani Episcopi Epistularium. Epistulae 1-57, Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina 3B, Turnhout 1994.
Saint Cyprien, Lettres 1-20, Introduction, texte, traduction et commentaire par S. Deléani, Paris 2007.
Y. Duval, Le chrétientés d’Occident et leur évêque au  IIIe siècle. Plebs in ecclesia constituta (Cyprian, Ep. 63), Paris 2005.
V. Saxer, Vie liturgique et quotidienne en Afrique vers le milieu du IIIe siècle: le témoignage de saint Cyprien et de ses contemporains d’Afrique, ed. 2., Città del Vaticano 1984.


Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Described by a title - Sacerdos/ἱερεύς
    Impediments or requisits for the office - Social/Economic/Legal status
      Ritual activity - Eucharist
        Public law - Ecclesiastical
          Private law - Secular
            Economic status and activity - Inheritance
            Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
            Ritual activity - Praying for the dead
              Ecclesiastical administration
                Theoretical considerations - On priesthood
                  Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER1015,