The lapsed were those who had denied the faith under persecution. In Rome, from 303-313, the property of the church was confiscated and many perished under persecution. The response of the Christians varied, some recanted under pressure of torture and imprisonment, others sent pagans or friends to sacrifice for them. Some wavered, but eventually gave themselves to the authorities. Others sought martyrdom, discouraged by the church as fanaticism. There had been a host of martyrs but many succumbed under persecution and had recanted. Now became the problem of the "lapsed" and caused a serious division.

The Lord has given Christians the grace to reconcile the children to their Fathers

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