In the fourth and fifth centuries, North Africa stood second only to Rome as a center of power for the Christian church in the western Roman Empire. Historical tradition holds that this vibrant ecclesiastical community, under the leadership of such forceful personalities as St. Augustine of Hippo and Aurelius of Carthage, maintained a spirited independence from papal control. Recently discovered letters of Augustine and a closer reading of the African canons show, however, that the African fathers willingly sought advice from the pope and often approached Rome for a final verdict in cases of canon law. In this groundbreaking book, J. E. Merdinger contends that the African church of late antiquity gradually became dependent on the papacy for the enforcement of church discipline.
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