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The Donatists were a schismatic body in the African Church. They refused to accept Caecilian, Bp. of Carthage (consecrated most probably in 311), on the ground that his consecrator had been a traditor in the Diocletianic persecution. The Numidian bishops, supporting the objectors, consecrated Majorinus as a rival to Caecilian; he was succeeded by Donatus, from whom the schism is named. A commission under Miltiades, Bp. of Rome, investigated the dispute in 313 and decided against the Donatists. The State employed coercion between 316 and 321, and again early in the 5th cent. The schism nevertheless continued until the African Church was destroyed by the Arabs in the 7th–8th cents. The Donatists drew on African regional feeling, Numidian jealousy of Carthage, and economic unrest. Theologically they were rigorists and maintained that they alone formed the Church. They were vigorously opposed by St Augustine.

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