The first council of Arles took place a year after the Edict of Milan, in which Christianity became a legal religion. This council was the first called by Constantine and is the forerunner of the First Council of Nicaea. Augustine of Hippo called it an Ecumenical Council. It had the following outcomes:
Called in support of Arianism. It was attended, among others, by two papal legates, Bishop Vincentius of Capua and Bishop Marcellus of Campania. The legates were tempted into rejecting communion with Athanasius, while the synod refused to condemn Arius, despite an agreement to do so entered into before the synod began, an act which filled Pope Liberius with grief. Their consent was ultimately forced out of them by the Emperor Constantius, an Arian himself.
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.
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. Bishop Leontius of Arles presided; twenty bishops attended.
In 475 (though some scholars say it was 480) another council was called, attended by thirty bishops, in which the pre-destinationist teachings of the priest Lucidus were condemned. It should also be noted that post-Augustine, Augustine's doctrines that were in agreement with orthodoxy such as the inherent sinfulness of man and the necessity of prevening grace were held but a development from Augustine's teaching termed Double Predestination was rejected as early as the Third Ecumenical Council held at Ephesus in 431 AD and then reaffirmed and expanded at the Council of Arles in 475 AD that rejected five heresies against grace. The rejections are: (1) Those opinions that serve to oversimplify and argue that the work of human obedience need not be united with divine grace; (2) that after the fall Adam the free choice of will was completely destroyed (a freed will sustained by grace is the orthodox view); (3) that Christ, Lord and Savior did not incur death for the salvation of all; (4) that the foreknowledge of man impels man to death (they rejected fatalism); (5) that those who perish, perish by the will of God.
A regional council was held in 524, with 14 bishops and 4 presbyters present. This 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.
Possibly a provincial council, at which Theudorius of Arles was to be judged.
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.
The 1234 Council opposed the Albigensian heresy. In 1236 a further council was held under the presidency of Jean Baussan, Archbishop of Arles, which 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 for 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 Fiore, a 12th-century monk and mystic. He was further condemned at a Council held in 1263
In 1275, twenty-two earlier observances were promulgated anew at a Council of Arles.
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