(Lat., ‘the fallen’). Those who in varying degree denied the Christian faith under persecution. Apostasy was regarded as the most serious sin a Christian could commit, and was perhaps at first regarded as unforgivable. After the persecution of 250–1 the Church decided to readmit such persons as showed repentance after penance and a period of probation. The decision led the Novatianist rigorists into open schism. See also traditors.