First Council of Nicaea
325 A.D. under Pope Saint Sylvester I
The 1st of 21 Ecumenical Councils


We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of the visible and the invisible;

and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of the Father, that is, from the substance of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father (which the Greeks call "one in being") through whom all things were made, both those in heaven and those on earth; who, for us men and for our salvation, descended, became incarnate, was made man, suffered, and rose again on the third day; he ascended to heaven; he will come again to judge the living and the dead;

and in the Holy Spirit.

And those who say "there was a time when he was not" and "before he was begotten he was not" and that he was made from things that do not exist, (which the Greeks call "exuconton"), or from another substance, claiming that the Son of God is mutable and changeable, these the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes.



If anyone in sickness has been dismembered by physicians, or if he has been castrated by barbarians, let him remain among the clergy. But if anyone who is healthy has dismembered himself, it is fitting that such an one, if enrolled among the clergy, be suspended, and that henceforth no such person should be promoted. But, as it is evident that this is said of those who willfully do the thing and presume to castrate themselves, so if any have been made eunuchs by barbarians, or by their masters, and should otherwise be found worthy, such men the Canon admits to the clergy.


In as much as, either from necessity, or through the urgency of individuals, many things have been done contrary to ecclesiastical canon, so that men just converted from heathenism to the faith, and who have been instructed for only a little while, are immediately brought to the spiritual washing, and as soon as they have been baptized, are advanced to the episcopate or the priesthood, it has seemed right to us that, from now on, no such thing shall be done. For the catechumen himself has need of time and of a longer trial after baptism. For the Apostolic saying is clear, "He must not be a new convert, lest, being elated by pride, he may fall under the sentence of the devil." (1 Tim 3:6). But if, as time goes on, any sensual sin should be discovered about the person, and he should be convicted by two or three witnesses, let him cease from the clerical office. And whosoever shall transgress these canons will endanger his own clerical position, as a person who presumes to disobey the great Synod.


The great Synod has stringently forbidden any bishop, priest, deacon, or any one of the clergy whatever, to have a woman brought to dwell with him [licere subintroductam habere mulierem], except only a mother, or sister, or aunt, or such persons only as are beyond all suspicion.


It is by all means proper that a bishop should, be appointed by all the bishops of the province. But should this be difficult, either because of urgent necessity or because of distance, three at least should meet together, and the votes of the absent [bishops] also should be given and communicated in writing. Then the ordination should take place. But in every province, the ratification of what is done should be left to the Metropolitan [bishop].


Concerning those, whether of the clergy or of the laity, who have been excommunicated in the several provinces, let the provision of the canon be observed by the bishops which provides that persons cast out by some, not be readmitted by others. Nevertheless, inquiry should be made whether they have been excommunicated through cautiousness, or contentiousness, or any similar ungracious disposition in the bishop.

And so that this matter may have due investigation, it is decreed that in every province synods shall be held twice a year, in order that when all the bishops of the province are assembled together, such questions may be thoroughly examined by them, that so those who have admittedly offended against their bishop may be seen by all to have been excommunicated for a just reason, until it shall seem fitting to a general meeting of the bishops to pronounce a milder sentence upon them. And let these synods be held, the one before Lent, (that the pure Gift may be offered to God after all bitterness has been put away), and let the second be held about autumn.


Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, so that the Bishop of Alexandria may have authority over all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Similarly, in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if anyone be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop. If, however, two or three bishops should, because of their own contentiousness, oppose the common decrees of the rest, which are reasonable and in accordance with the ecclesiastical law, let the judgment of the majority prevail


Since custom and ancient tradition have prevailed, so that the Bishop of Heliae [i.e., Jerusalem] would be honored, let him have the consequent honor, apart from the proper dignity of the Metropolitan.


Concerning those who call themselves Cathars, if at times they come to the Catholic Church, the great and holy Synod decrees that those who are ordained shall continue as they are in the clergy. But it is before all things necessary that they should profess in writing that they will observe and follow the dogmas of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; in particular that they will remain in communion with persons who have been married a second time, and with those who having lapsed in persecution have had a period [of penance] laid upon them, and a time [of restoration] fixed, so that in all things they will follow the dogmas of the Catholic Church. Wherever, then, whether in villages or in cities, all of the ordained are found to be of these only, let them remain in the clergy, and in the same rank in which they are found. But if they convert where there is a bishop or priest of the Catholic Church, it is manifest that the Bishop of the Church must have the bishop's dignity; and he who was named bishop by those who are called Cathars shall have the rank of priest, unless it shall seem fitting to the Bishop to admit him to partake in the honor of the title. Or, if this should not be satisfactory, then the bishop shall provide for him a place as chorbishop [rural bishop], or priest, in order that he may be evidently seen to be of the clergy, and that there may not be two bishops in the city.


If any priests have been promoted without examination, or, if upon examination they have made a confession of crime, yet men acting in violation of the canon have laid hands on them, despite their confession, such as these the canon does not admit [to the clergy]. For the Catholic Church defends [only] that which is blameless.


If any who have lapsed have been ordained through the ignorance or feigned ignorance of the ordainers, this shall not prejudice the canon of the Church; for upon discovery, they shall be deposed.


Concerning those who have fallen away without compulsion, without the confiscation of their property or without danger or anything similar, as happened during the tyranny of Licinius, the Synod declares that, though they are unworthy of clemency, they shall be treated mercifully. As many as were communicants, if they are truly repentant, shall spend three years among the hearers; for seven years they shall be prostrators; and for two years they shall communicate with the people in prayers, but not the offering.


As many as were called by grace, and displayed the first zeal, having cast aside their military girdles, but afterwards returned like dogs to their own vomit, (so that some spent money and by means of gifts regained their military stations) -- let these, after they have spent the space of three years as hearers, be prostrators for ten years. But in all these cases, it is necessary to examine well into their purpose and what their repentance appears to be like. For as many as give evidence of their conversions by deeds, and not pretense, with fear and tears and perseverance and good works, when they have fulfilled their appointed time as hearers, may properly communicate in prayers; and after that the bishop may determine yet more favorably concerning them. But those who act with indifference, and who think the form of [not] entering the Church is sufficient for their conversion, must fulfill the whole time.


Concerning the dying, the ancient canonical law is still to be maintained, specifically, that if anyone is at the point of death, he must not be deprived of the last and most indispensable Viaticum. But, if anyone should be restored to health again who has received the communion when his life was despaired of, let him remain among those who communicate in prayers only. But in general, and in the case of any dying person whatsoever asking to receive Communion, let the Bishop, after examination, give him a share in the offering.


Concerning catechumens [who have lapsed], the holy and great Synod has decreed that, after they have passed three years as hearers only, they shall pray with the catechumens.


Because of the great disturbance and strife that occurs, it is decreed that the custom prevailing in certain places, contrary to the canon, must entirely cease; so that neither bishop, priest, nor deacon shall move from city to city. And if anyone, after this decree of the holy and great Synod, shall attempt any such thing, or continue to act in such a manner, his actions shall be utterly void, and he shall be restored to the Church for which he was ordained bishop, priest, or deacon.


Any priest or deacon, or anyone enrolled under the canon in any way, should break away from their church rashly and dangerously, and having neither the fear of God before their eyes, nor an acknowledgement of ecclesiastical regulation, should never in any way be received by another church. Instead, all necessity should be brought to bear against them, so that they would return to their own diocese. Or, if they will not be brought back, it is right that they should be deprived of communion. But if anyone has the audacity to take possession of him who belongs to another, and should presume to ordain him in his own church, without consent of the bishop with whom he was enrolled before he departed, the ordination is thereby proven to be null.


Since many enrolled in the clergy are pursuing avarice and shameful profit, and have forgotten the saying of Sacred Scripture: "who has not given his money in usury," and when they offer loans, they charge a percent, this holy and great Synod justly establishes that if anyone will be found, after this definition, to receive usury or to transact business by any other invention or means whatever, so as to charge fifty percent or in some other way to contrive shameful profit from credit, he shall be deposed from the clergy and removed from the enrollment.


It has come to the knowledge of the holy and great Synod that, in some districts and cities, the deacons administer Communion to the priests. But neither canon nor custom permits those who have no right to offer [i.e. to consecrate], to give the Body of Christ to those who do offer. And this also has been made known, that certain deacons now touch the sacred oblation even before the bishops.

Therefore, let all these things be rescinded, and let the deacons remain within their own bounds, knowing, indeed, that they are the ministers of the bishop and that they are to be deemed the inferiors of the priests. Let them receive Communion according to their order, after the priests, and let either the bishop or the priest administer it to them. Furthermore, let not the deacons sit among the priests, for that is contrary to canon and order. And if, after this decree, anyone shall refuse to obey, he ought to cease to minister.


Concerning lapsed Paulinists who have fled to the Catholic Church, it has been decreed that they must by all means be baptized. Yet truly, if any of them, who were formerly numbered among their clergy, should appear to be blameless and without reproach, let them be baptized and ordained by a bishop of the Catholic Church.

But if the discussion should discover them to be unfit, they should be deposed. Then similarly, in the case of their deaconesses [Lat. diaconissis], and all those who have been enrolled among their clergy, let the same form be observed. And we mean by deaconesses those who have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are deemed to be only among the laity [Lat. laicos].


In so far as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord's Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, so that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere, it pleases the holy Council that prayer be made to the Lord while standing.


To the Church of Alexandria, by the grace of God, holy and great; and to our well-beloved brethren, the orthodox clergy and laity throughout Egypt, and Pentapolis, and Lybia, and every nation under heaven, the holy and great synod, the bishops assembled at Nicea, wish health in the Lord.

In so far as the great and holy Synod, which was assembled at Nicea through the grace of Christ and our most religious Sovereign Constantine, who brought us together from our several provinces and Cities, has considered matters which concern the faith of the Church, it seemed to us to be necessary that certain things should be communicated from us to you in writing, so that you might have the means of knowing what has been moved and examined, and also what has been determined.

First of all, then, in the presence of our most religious Sovereign Constantine, investigation was made of matters concerning the impiety and transgression of Arius and his adherents; and it was unanimously decreed that he and his impious opinion should be anathematized, together with the blasphemous words and speculations in which he indulged, blaspheming the Son of God, and saying that he is from things that are not, and that before he was begotten he was not, and that there was a time when he was not, and that the Son of God is by his free will capable of vice and virtue; saying also that he is a creature. All these things the holy Synod has anathematized, not even enduring to hear his impious doctrine and madness and blasphemous words. And of the charges against him and of the results they had, you have either already heard or will hear the particulars, lest we should seem to be oppressing a man who has in fact received a fitting recompense for his own sin. So far indeed has his impiety prevailed, that he has even destroyed Theonas of Marmorica and Secundas of Ptolemais; for they also have received the same sentence as the rest.

But when the grace of God had delivered Egypt from that heresy and blasphemy, and from the persons who have dared to make disturbance and division among a people heretofore at peace, there remained the matter of the insolence of Meletius and those who have been ordained by him; and concerning this part of our work we now, beloved brethren, proceed to inform you of the decrees of the Synod. The Synod, then, being disposed to deal gently with Meletius (for in strict justice he deserved no leniency), decreed that he should remain in his own city, but have no authority either to ordain, or to administer affairs, or to make appointments; and that he should not appear in the countryside, nor in any other city for this purpose, but should enjoy the bare title of his rank.

But those who have been placed by him, after they have been confirmed by a more sacred laying on of hands, shall on these conditions be admitted to communion: that they shall both have their rank and the right to officiate, but that they shall be altogether the inferiors of all those who are enrolled in any church or parish and have been appointed by our most honorable colleague Alexander. So that these men are to have no authority to make appointments of persons who may be pleasing to them, nor to suggest names, nor to do anything whatever, without the consent of the bishops of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, who are serving under our most holy colleague Alexander; while those who, by the grace of God and through your prayers have been found in no schism, but on the contrary are immaculate in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, are to have authority to make appointments and nominations of worthy persons among the clergy, and in short to do all things according to the law and ordinance of the Church.

But, if it should happen that any of the clergy who are now in the Church should die, then those who have been lately received are to succeed to the office of the deceased; always provided that they shall appear to be worthy, and that the people elect them, and that the bishop of Alexandria shall concur in the election and ratify it. This concession has been made to all the rest. However, on account of his disorderly conduct from the start, and the rashness and precipitousness of his character, the same decree was not made concerning Meletius himself, but that, in so far as he is a man capable of committing again the same disorders, no authority or privilege should be conceded to him.

These are the particulars, which are of special interest to Egypt and to the most holy Church of Alexandria; but if in the presence of our most honored lord, our colleague and brother Alexander, anything else has been enacted by canon or other decree, he will himself convey it to you in greater detail, he having been both a guide and fellow-worker in what has been done.

We further proclaim to you the good news of the agreement concerning the holy Easter, that this particular also has through your prayers been rightly settled; so that all our brethren in the East, who formerly followed the custom of the Jews, are henceforth to celebrate the aforesaid most sacred feast of Easter at the same time with the Romans and with yourselves and all those who have observed Easter from the beginning.

Therefore, rejoicing in these wholesome results, and in our common peace and harmony, and in the cutting off of every heresy, may you receive with the greater honor and with increased love, our colleague your Bishop Alexander, who has gladdened us by his presence, and who, at so great an age, has undergone so great a fatigue that peace might be established among you and all of us. Pray also for us all, that the things which have been deemed advisable may stand fast. For they have been done, as we believe, to the good pleasure of Almighty God and of his only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and a the Holy Spirit, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

[The Profession of Faith with attached anathema was translated from the Latin by Ronald L. Conte Jr. The Canons and Synodal Letter were taken from: Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume 14, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1900), and then edited by Ronald L. Conte Jr. Canons XVI and XVII translated from the Latin by Ronald L. Conte Jr.]