An ecumenical council (or oecumenical council; also general council) is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice in which those entitled to vote are convoked from the whole world (oikoumene) and which secures the approbation of the whole Church.
The word "ecumenical" derives from the Late Latin oecumenicus "general, universal", from Greek oikoumenikos "from the whole world", from he oikoumene ge "the inhabited world (as known to the ancient Greeks); the Greeks and their neighbors considered as developed human society (as opposed to barbarian lands)", in later use "the Roman world" and in the Christian sense in ecclesiastical Greek, from oikoumenos, present passive participle of oikein "inhabit", from oikos "house, habitation." The first seven ecumenical councils, recognised by both the eastern and western denominations comprising Chalcedonian Christianity, were convoked by Roman Emperors, who also enforced the decisions of those councils within the state church of the Roman Empire.
Starting with the third ecumenical council, noteworthy schisms led to non-participation by some members of what had previously been considered a single Christian Church. Thus, some parts of Christianity did not attend later councils, or attended but did not accept the results. Bishops belonging to what became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church accept only seven ecumenical councils, as described below. Bishops belonging to what became known as the Church of the East only participated in the first two councils. Bishops belonging to what became known as Oriental Orthodoxy participated in the first four councils, but rejected the decisions of the fourth and did not attend any subsequent ecumenical councils.
Acceptance of councils as ecumenical and authoritative varies between different Christian denominations. Disputes over christological and other questions have led certain branches to reject some councils that others accept.
The Church of the East (accused by others of adhering to Nestorianism) accepts as ecumenical only the first two councils. Oriental Orthodox Churches accept the first three. Both the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church recognise as ecumenical the first seven councils, held from the 4th to the 9th centuries. While the Eastern Orthodox Church accepts no later council or synod as ecumenical, the Roman Catholic Church continues to hold general councils of the bishops in full communion with the Pope, reckoning them as ecumenical. In all, the Roman Catholic Church recognises twenty-one councils as ecumenical. Anglicans and confessional Protestants accept either the first seven or the first four as ecumenical councils.
The doctrine of the infallibility of ecumenical councils states that solemn definitions of ecumenical councils, which concern faith or morals, and to which the whole Church must adhere, are infallible. Such decrees are often labeled as 'Canons' and they often have an attached anathema, a penalty of excommunication, against those who refuse to believe the teaching. The doctrine does not claim that every aspect of every ecumenical council is dogmatic, but that every aspect of an ecumenical council is free of errors or is indefectible.
Both the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches uphold versions of this doctrine. However, the Roman Catholic Church holds that solemn definitions of ecumenical councils meet the conditions of infallibility only when approved by the Pope, while the Eastern Orthodox Church holds that an ecumenical council is itself infallible when pronouncing on a specific matter.
Protestant churches would generally view ecumenical councils as fallible human institutions that have no more than a derived authority to the extent that they correctly expound Scripture (as most would generally consider occurred with the first four councils in regard to their dogmatic decisions).
Church councils were, from the beginning, bureaucratic exercises. Written documents were circulated, speeches made and responded to, votes taken, and final documents published and distributed. A large part of what is known about the beliefs of heresies comes from the documents quoted in councils in order to be refuted, or indeed only from the deductions based on the refutations.
Most councils dealt not only with doctrinal but also with disciplinary matters, which were decided in canons ("laws"). Study of the canons of church councils is the foundation of the development of canon law, especially the reconciling of seemingly contradictory canons or the determination of priority between them. Canons consist of doctrinal statements and disciplinary measures—most Church councils and local synods dealt with immediate disciplinary concerns as well as major difficulties of doctrine. Eastern Orthodoxy typically views the purely doctrinal canons as dogmatic and applicable to the entire church at all times, while the disciplinary canons apply to a particular time and place and may or may not be applicable in other situations.
Of the seven councils recognised in whole or in part by both the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church as ecumenical, all were called by a Roman emperor. The emperor gave them legal status within the entire Roman Empire. All were held in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. The bishop of Rome (self-styled as "pope" since the end of the fourth century) did not attend, although he sent legates to some of them.
Church councils were traditional and the ecumenical councils were a continuation of earlier councils (also known as synods) held in the Empire before Christianity was made legal. These include the Council of Jerusalem (c. 50), the Council of Rome (155), the Second Council of Rome (193), the Council of Ephesus (193), the Council of Carthage (251), the Council of Iconium (258), the Council of Antioch (264), the Councils of Arabia (246–247), the Council of Elvira (306), the Council of Carthage (311), the Synod of Neo-Caesarea (c. 314), the Council of Ancyra (314) and the Council of Arles (314).
The first seven councils recognised in both East and West as ecumenical and several others to which such recognition is refused were called by the Byzantine emperors. In the first millennium, various theological and political differences such as Nestorianism or Dyophysitism caused parts of the Church to separate after councils such as those of Ephesus and Chalcedon, but councils recognised as ecumenical continued to be held.
The Council of Hieria of 754, held at the imperial palace of that name close to Chalcedon in Anatolia, was summoned by Byzantine Emperor Constantine V and was attended by 338 bishops, who regarded it as the seventh ecumenical council The Second Council of Nicaea, which annulled that of Hieria, was itself annulled at a synod held in 815 in Constantinople under Emperor Leo V. This synod, presided over by Patriarch Theodotus I of Constantinople, declared the Council of Hieria to be the seventh ecumenical council, but, although the Council of Hieria was called by an emperor and confirmed by another, and although it was held in the east, it later ceased to be considered ecumenical.
Similarly, the Second Council of Ephesus of 449, also held in Anatolia, was called by the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II and, though annulled by the Council of Chalcedon, was confirmed by Emperor Basiliscus, who annulled the Council of Chalcedon. This too ceased to be considered an ecumenical council.
The Roman Catholic Church does not consider the validity of an ecumenical council's teaching to be in any way dependent on where it is held or on the granting or withholding of prior authorization or legal status by any state, in line with the attitude of the 5th-century bishops who "saw the definition of the church's faith and canons as supremely their affair, with or without the leave of the Emperor" and who "needed no one to remind them that Synodical process pre-dated the Christianisation of the royal court by several centuries".
The Roman Catholic Church recognizes as ecumenical various councils held later than the First Council of Ephesus (after which churches out of communion with the Holy See because of the Nestorian Schism did not participate), later than the Council of Chalcedon (after which there was no participation by churches that rejected Dyophysitism), later than the Second Council of Nicaea (after which there was no participation by the Eastern Orthodox Church), and later than the Fifth Council of the Lateran (after which groups that adhered to Protestantism did not participate).
Of the twenty-one ecumenical councils recognised by the Roman Catholic Church, some gained recognition as ecumenical only later. Thus the Eastern First Council of Constantinople became ecumenical only when its decrees were accepted in the West also.
In the history of Christianity, the first seven ecumenical councils, from the First Council of Nicaea (325) to the Second Council of Nicaea (787), represent an attempt to reach an orthodox consensus and to unify Christendom.
All of the original seven ecumenical councils as recognized in whole or in part were called by an emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire and all were held in the Eastern Roman Empire, a recognition denied to other councils similarly called by an Eastern Roman emperor and held in his territory, in particular the Council of Serdica (343), the Second Council of Ephesus (449) and the Council of Hieria (754), which saw themselves as ecumenical or were intended as such.
As late as the 11th century, only seven councils were recognised as ecumenical in the Roman Catholic Church. Then, in the time of Pope Gregory VII (1073–1085), canonists who in the Investiture Controversy quoted the prohibition in canon 22 of the Council of Constantinople of 869–870 against laymen influencing the appointment of prelates elevated this council to the rank of ecumenical council. Only in the 16th century was recognition as ecumenical granted by Catholic scholars to the Councils of the Lateran, of Lyon and those that followed. The following is a list of further councils generally recognised as ecumenical by Roman Catholic theologians:
Eastern Orthodox catechisms teach that there are seven ecumenical councils and there are feast days for seven ecumenical councils. Nonetheless, some Eastern Orthodox consider events like the Council of Constantinople of 879–880, that of Constantinople in 1341–1351 and that of Jerusalem in 1672 to be ecumenical:
It is unlikely that formal ecumenical recognition will be granted to these councils, despite the acknowledged orthodoxy of their decisions, so that only seven are universally recognized among the Eastern Orthodox as ecumenical.
Although some Protestants reject the concept of an ecumenical council establishing doctrine for the entire Christian faith, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox all accept the authority of ecumenical councils in principle. Where they differ is in which councils they accept and what the conditions are for a council to be considered "ecumenical". The relationship of the Papacy to the validity of ecumenical councils is a ground of controversy between Roman Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Roman Catholic Church holds that recognition by the Pope is an essential element in qualifying a council as ecumenical; Eastern Orthodox view approval by the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) as being roughly equivalent to that of other patriarchs. Some have held that a council is ecumenical only when all five patriarchs of the Pentarchy are represented at it. Others reject this theory in part because there were no patriarchs of Constantinople and Jerusalem at the time of the first ecumenical council.
The Church of the East accepts two ecumenical councils, the First Council of Nicaea and the First Council of Constantinople. It was the formulation of Mary as the Theotokos which caused a schism with the Church of the East, now divided between the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East, while the Chaldean Catholic Church entered into full communion with Rome in the 16th century. Meetings between Pope John Paul II and the Assyrian Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV led to a common Christological declaration on 11 November 1994 that "the humanity to which the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth always was that of the Son of God himself". Both sides recognised the legitimacy and rightness, as expressions of the same faith, of the Assyrian Church's liturgical invocation of Mary as "the Mother of Christ our God and Saviour" and the Catholic Church's use of "the Mother of God" and also as "the Mother of Christ".
Oriental Orthodoxy accepts three ecumenical councils, the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople, and the Council of Ephesus. The formulation of the Chalcedonian Creed caused a schism in the Alexandrian and Syriac churches. Reconciliatory efforts between Oriental Orthodox with the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic Church in the mid- and late 20th century have led to common Christological declarations. The Oriental and Eastern Churches have also been working toward reconciliation as a consequence of the ecumenical movement.
The Oriental Orthodox hold that the Dyophysite formula of two natures formulated at the Council of Chalcedon is inferior to the Miaphysite formula of "One Incarnate Nature of God the Word" (Byzantine Greek: Mia physis tou theou logou sarkousomene) and that the proceedings of Chalcedon themselves were motivated by imperial politics. The Alexandrian Church, the main Oriental Orthodox body, also felt unfairly underrepresented at the council following the deposition of their Pope, Dioscorus of Alexandria at the council.
The Eastern Orthodox Church accepts seven ecumenical councils, with the disputed Council in Trullo—rejected by Catholics—being incorporated into, and considered as a continuation of, the Third Council of Constantinople.
To be considered ecumenical, Orthodox accept a council that meets the condition that it was accepted by the whole church. That it was called together legally is also an important factor. A case in point is the Third Ecumenical Council, where two groups met as duly called for by the emperor, each claiming to be the legitimate council. The Emperor had called for bishops to assemble in the city of Ephesus. Theodosius did not attend but sent his representative Candidian to preside. However, Cyril managed to open the council over Candidian's insistent demands that the bishops disperse until the delegation from Syria could arrive. Cyril was able to completely control the proceedings, completely neutralizing Candidian, who favored Cyril's antagonist, Nestorius. When the pro-Nestorius Antiochene delegation finally arrived, they decided to convene their own council, over which Candidian presided. The proceedings of both councils were reported to the emperor, who decided ultimately to depose Cyril, Memnon and Nestorius. Nonetheless, the Orthodox accept Cyril's group as being the legitimate council because it maintained the same teaching that the church has always taught.
Paraphrasing a rule by St Vincent of Lérins, Hasler states
...a teaching can only be defined if it has been held to be revealed at all times, everywhere, and by all believers.
Orthodox believe that councils could over-rule or even depose popes. At the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Pope Honorius and Patriarch Sergius were declared heretics. The council anathematized them and declared them tools of the devil and cast them out of the church.
It is their position that, since the Seventh Ecumenical Council, there has been no synod or council of the same scope. Local meetings of hierarchs have been called "pan-Orthodox", but these have invariably been simply meetings of local hierarchs of whatever Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions are party to a specific local matter. From this point of view, there has been no fully "pan-Orthodox" (Ecumenical) council since 787. Unfortunately, the use of the term "pan-Orthodox" is confusing to those not within Eastern Orthodoxy, and it leads to mistaken impressions that these are ersatz ecumenical councils rather than purely local councils to which nearby Orthodox hierarchs, regardless of jurisdiction, are invited.
Others, including 20th-century theologians Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Naupactus, Fr. John S. Romanides, and Fr. George Metallinos (all of whom refer repeatedly to the "Eighth and Ninth Ecumenical Councils"), Fr. George Dragas, and the 1848 Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs (which refers explicitly to the "Eighth Ecumenical Council" and was signed by the patriarchs of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria as well as the Holy Synods of the first three), regard other synods beyond the Seventh Ecumenical Council as being ecumenical.
From the Eastern Orthodox perspective, a council is accepted as being ecumenical if it is accepted by the Eastern Orthodox church at large – clergy, monks and assembly of believers. Teachings from councils that purport to be ecumenical, but which lack this acceptance by the church at large, are, therefore, not considered ecumenical.
Both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches recognize seven councils in the early centuries of the church, but Roman Catholics also recognize fourteen councils in later times called or confirmed by the Pope. At the urging of German King Sigismund, who was to become Holy Roman Emperor in 1433, the Council of Constance was convoked in 1414 by Antipope John XXIII, one of three claimants to the papal throne, and was reconvened in 1415 by the Roman Pope Gregory XII. The Council of Florence is an example of a council accepted as ecumenical in spite of being rejected by the East, as the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon are accepted in spite of being rejected respectively by the Church of the East and Oriental Orthodoxy.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that an ecumenical council is a gathering of the College of Bishops (of which the Bishop of Rome is an essential part) to exercise in a solemn manner its supreme and full power over the whole Church. It holds that "there never is an ecumenical council which is not confirmed or at least recognized as such by Peter's successor". Its present canon law requires that an ecumenical council be convoked and presided over, either personally or through a delegate, by the Pope, who is also to decide the agenda; but the church makes no claim that all past ecumenical councils observed these present rules, declaring only that the Pope's confirmation or at least recognition has always been required, and saying that the version of the Nicene Creed adopted at the First Council of Constantinople (381) was accepted by the Church of Rome only seventy years later, in 451. One writer has even claimed that this council was summoned without the knowledge of the pope.
While the Councils are part of the "historic formularies" of Anglican tradition, it is difficult to locate an explicit reference in Anglicanism to the unconditional acceptance of all Seven Ecumenical Councils. There is little evidence of dogmatic or canonical acceptance beyond the statements of individual Anglican theologians and bishops.
Bishop Chandler Holder Jones, SSC, explains:
We indeed and absolutely believe all Seven Councils are truly ecumenical and Catholic—on the basis of the received Tradition of the ancient Undivided Church of East and West. The Anglican formularies address only particular critical theological and disciplinary concerns of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and that certainly by design. Behind them, however, stands the universal authority of the Holy and Apostolic Tradition, which did not have to be rehashed or redebated by Anglican Catholics.
He quotes William Tighe, Associate Professor of History at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania (another member of the Anglo-Catholic wing of Anglicanism):
...despite the fact that advocates of all sides to the 16th-century religious conflict, Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed alike, were given to claiming that their particular doctrinal stances and, in some cases, distinctive practices, were in accord with those of the Early Church Fathers, or at least with those of high standing (such as St. Augustine), none [but Anglicanism] were willing to require, or even permit, their confessional stances to be judged by, or subordinated to, a hypothetical 'patristic consensus' of the first four or five centuries of Christianity.' But Anglicanism most certainly did, and does so to this day.
Article XXI teaches: "General Councils ... when they be gathered together, forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and word of God, they may err and sometime have erred, even in things pertaining to God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture."
The 19th Canon of 1571 asserted the authority of the Councils in this manner: "Let preachers take care that they never teach anything...except what is agreeable to the doctrine of the Old and New Testament, and what the Catholic Fathers and ancient Bishops have collected from the same doctrine." This remains the Church of England's teaching on the subject. A modern version of this appeal to catholic consensus is found in the Canon Law of the Church of England and also in the liturgy published in Common Worship:
The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons.
I, AB, do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness; and in public prayer and administration of the sacraments, I will use only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canon.
The 1559 Act of Supremacy made a distinction between the decisions of the first four ecumenical councils, which were to be used as sufficient proof that something was heresy, as opposed to those of later councils, which could only be used to that purpose if "the same was declared heresy by the express and plain words of the...canonical Scriptures".
Many Protestants (especially those belonging to the magisterial traditions, such as Lutherans, or those such as Methodists, that broke away from the Anglican Communion) accept the teachings of the first seven councils but do not ascribe to the councils themselves the same authority as Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox do. The Lutheran World Federation, in ecumenical dialogues with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has affirmed all of the first seven councils as ecumenical and authoritative.
Some, including some fundamentalist Christians, condemn the ecumenical councils for other reasons. Independency or congregationalist polity among Protestants may involve the rejection of any governmental structure or binding authority above local congregations; conformity to the decisions of these councils is therefore considered purely voluntary and the councils are to be considered binding only insofar as those doctrines are derived from the Scriptures. Many of these churches reject the idea that anyone other than the authors of Scripture can directly lead other Christians by original divine authority; after the New Testament, they assert, the doors of revelation were closed and councils can only give advice or guidance, but have no authority. They consider new doctrines not derived from the sealed canon of Scripture to be both impossible and unnecessary whether proposed by church councils or by more recent prophets. Catholic and Orthodox objections to this position point to the fact that the Canon of Scripture itself was fixed by these councils. They conclude that this would lead to a logical inconsistency of a non-authoritative body fixing a supposedly authoritative source.
Ecumenical councils are not recognised by nontrinitarian churches such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and other denominations within the Latter Day Saint movement), Jehovah's Witnesses, Church of God (Seventh-Day), their descendants and Unitarians. They view the ecumenical councils as misguided human attempts to establish doctrine, and as attempts to define dogmas by debate rather than by revelation.
An ecclesiological theory which has been popular since the time of the Slavophile philosopher Alexis Khomiakov first defined it is that ecumenicity—the idea that a particular council is of universal, infallible significance for the Church—is determined by the reception of the whole body of the Church.
So the new teachings, that are outside the ecumenical councils cannot be accepted because they have not been verified (by) the whole body of the Church.
The Council of Chalcedon () was a church council held from 8 October to 1 November, 451, at Chalcedon. The Council was called by Emperor Marcian to set aside the 449 Second Council of Ephesus. Its principal purpose was to assert the orthodox catholic doctrine against the heresy of Eutyches and the Monophysites, although ecclesiastical discipline and jurisdiction also occupied the council's attention.The council is numbered as the fourth ecumenical council by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and most Protestants. Oriental Orthodox Churches do not agree with the conduct and the proceedings of the Council, commonly calling it "Chalcedon, the Ominous".
Followers of the Council believe its most important achievement was to issue the Chalcedonian Definition, stating that Jesus is "perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man." The council's judgments and definitions regarding the divine marked a significant turning point in the Christological debates.Council of Constance
The Council of Constance is the 15th-century ecumenical council recognized by the Catholic Church, held from 1414 to 1418 in the Bishopric of Constance. The council ended the Western Schism by deposing or accepting the resignation of the remaining papal claimants and by electing Pope Martin V.
The council also condemned Jan Hus as a heretic and facilitated his execution by the civil authority. It also ruled on issues of national sovereignty, the rights of pagans and just war, in response to a conflict between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Kingdom of Poland and the Order of the Teutonic Knights. The council is important for its relationship to ecclesial conciliarism and Papal supremacy.Council of Ephesus
The Council of Ephesus was a council of Christian bishops convened in Ephesus (near present-day Selçuk in Turkey) in AD 431 by the Roman Emperor Theodosius II. This third ecumenical council, an effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom, confirmed the original Nicene Creed, and condemned the teachings of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who held that the Virgin Mary may be called the Christotokos, "Birth Giver of Christ" but not the Theotokos, "Birth Giver of God". It met in June and July 431 at the Church of Mary in Ephesus in Anatolia.Council of Trent
The Council of Trent (Latin: Concilium Tridentinum), held between 1545 and 1563 in Trent (or Trento, in northern Italy), was the 19th ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. Prompted by the Protestant Reformation, it has been described as the embodiment of the Counter-Reformation.The Council issued condemnations of what it defined to be heresies committed by proponents of Protestantism, and also issued key statements and clarifications of the Church's doctrine and teachings, including scripture, the Biblical canon, sacred tradition, original sin, justification, salvation, the sacraments, the Mass, and the veneration of saints. The Council met for twenty-five sessions between 13 December 1545 and 4 December 1563. Pope Paul III, who convoked the Council, oversaw the first eight sessions (1545–47), while the twelfth to sixteenth sessions (1551–52) were overseen by Pope Julius III and the seventeenth to twenty-fifth sessions (1562–63) by Pope Pius IV.
The consequences of the Council were also significant in regards to the Church's liturgy and practices. During its deliberations, the Council made the Vulgate the official example of the Biblical canon and commissioned the creation of a standard version, although this was not achieved until the 1590s. In 1565, a year after the Council finished its work, Pius IV issued the Tridentine Creed (after Tridentum, Trent's Latin name) and his successor Pius V then issued the Roman Catechism and revisions of the Breviary and Missal in, respectively, 1566, 1568 and 1570. These, in turn, led to the codification of the Tridentine Mass, which remained the Church's primary form of the Mass for the next four hundred years.
More than three hundred years passed until the next ecumenical council, the First Vatican Council, was convened in 1869.Council of Vienne
The Council of Vienne was the fifteenth Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church that met between 1311 and 1312 in Vienne. Its principal act was to withdraw papal support for the Knights Templar on the instigation of Philip IV of France, after the French monarch attacked Rome and killed Pope Boniface VIII (Attack at Agnani).Fifth Council of Constantinople
Fifth Council of Constantinople is a name given to a series of six patriarchal councils held in the Byzantine capital Constantinople between 1341 and 1351, to deal with a dispute concerning the mystical doctrine of Hesychasm. These are referred to also as the Hesychast councils or the Palamite councils, since they discussed the theology of Gregory Palamas, whom Barlaam of Seminara opposed in the first of the series, and others in the succeeding five councils. The result of these councils is accepted as having the authority of an ecumenical council by Eastern Orthodox Christians, who sometimes call it the Ninth Ecumenical Council. Principal supporters of the view that this series of councils comprises the Ninth Ecumenical Council include Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos, Fr. John S. Romanides, and Fr. George Metallinos.
As it became clear that the dispute between Barlaam and Palamas was irreconcilable and would require the judgment of an episcopal council. A series of six patriarchal councils was held in Constantinople on 10 June 1341, August 1341, 4 November 1344, 1 February 1347, 8 February 1347, and 28 May 1351 to consider the issues. Collectively, these councils are accepted as having ecumenical status by Orthodox Christians, some of whom call them the Fifth Council of Constantinople and the Ninth Ecumenical Council.
The dispute over Hesychasm came before a synod held at Constantinople in May 1341 and presided over by the emperor Andronicus III Palaeologus. The assembly, influenced by the veneration in which the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius were held in the Eastern Church, condemned Barlaam, who recanted.
Barlaam's primary supporter Emperor Andronicus III died just five days after the synod ended. Although Barlaam initially hoped for a second chance to present his case against Palamas, he soon realised the futility of pursuing his cause, and left for Calabria where he converted to the Roman Church and was appointed Bishop of Gerace.After Barlaam's departure, Gregory Akindynos became the chief critic of Palamas. A second council held in Constantinople in August 1341 condemned Akindynos and affirmed to findings of the earlier council. Akindynos and his supporters gained a brief victory at the third synod held in 1344 which excommunicated Palamas and one of his disciples, Isidore Buchiras. Palamas and Buchiras recanted.
In 1347, however, after a vicious civil war, their protector, John Cantacuzenus, entered Constantinople and forced his opponents to crown him co-emperor. In February 1347, a fourth synod was held which deposed the patriarch, John XIV, and excommunicated Akindynos. Isidore Buchiras, who had been excommunicated by the third synod, was now made patriarch. In the same month, the Barlaamite party held a competing synod which refused to acknowledge Isidore and excommunicated Palamas. Akindynos having died in 1348, Nicephorus Gregoras became the chief opponent of Hesychasm.
In May 1351, a patriarchal council conclusively exonerated Palamas and condemned his opponents. This synod ordered that the metropolitans of Ephesus and Ganos be defrocked and jailed. All those who were unwilling to submit to the orthodox view were to be excommunicated and kept under surveillance at their residences. A series of anathemas were pronounced against Barlaam, Akindynos and their followers; at the same time, a series of acclamations were also declared in favor of Gregory Palamas and the adherents of his doctrine.Gregoras refused to submit to the dictates of the synod and was effectively imprisoned in a monastery until the Palaeologi triumphed in 1354 and deposed Cantacuzenus.First Council of Constantinople
The First Council of Constantinople (Greek: Πρώτη σύνοδος της Κωνσταντινουπόλεως commonly known as Greek: Β΄ Οικουμενική, "Second Ecumenical"; Latin: Concilium Constantinopolitanum Primum or Latin: Concilium Constantinopolitanum A) was a council of Christian bishops convened in Constantinople in AD 381 by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. This second ecumenical council, an effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom, except for the Western Church, confirmed the Nicene Creed, expanding the doctrine thereof to produce the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, and dealt with sundry other matters. It met from May to July 381 in the Church of Hagia Irene and was affirmed as ecumenical in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon.First Council of Lyon
The First Council of Lyon (Lyon I) was the thirteenth ecumenical council, as numbered by the Catholic Church, taking place in 1245.
The First General Council of Lyon was presided over by Pope Innocent IV. Innocent IV, threatened by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, arrived at Lyon on 2 December 1244, and early the following year he summoned the Church's bishops to the council later that same year. Some two hundred and fifty prelates responded including the Latin Patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch, and Aquileia (Venice) and 140 bishops. The Latin emperor Baldwin II of Constantinople, Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse, and Raymond Bérenger IV, Count of Provence were among those who participated. With Rome under siege by Emperor Frederick II, the pope used the council to excommunicate and depose the emperor with Ad Apostolicae Dignitatis Apicem, as well as the Portuguese King Sancho II. The council also directed a new crusade (the Seventh Crusade), under the command of Louis IX of France, to reconquer the Holy Land.At the opening, on 28 June, after the singing of the Veni Creator, Spiritu, Innocent IV preached on the subject of the five wounds of the Church and compared them to his own five sorrows: (1) the poor behaviour of both clergy and laity; (2) the insolence of the Saracens who occupied the Holy Land; (3) the Great East-West Schism; (4) the cruelties of the Tatars in Hungary; and (5) the persecution of the Church by the Emperor Frederick.
At the second session on 5 July, the bishop of Calvi and a Spanish archbishop attacked the emperor's behaviour, and in a subsequent session on 17 July, Innocent pronounced the deposition of Frederick. The deposition was signed by one hundred and fifty bishops and the Dominicans and Franciscans were given the responsibility for its publication. However, Innocent IV did not possess the material means to enforce the decree.
The Council of Lyon promulgated several other purely disciplinary measures:
It obliged the Cistercians to pay tithes,
It approved the Rule of the Grandmontines,
It decided the institution of the Octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin,
It prescribed that cardinals were to wear a red hat,
It prepared thirty-eight constitutions which were later inserted by Boniface VIII in his Decretals, the most important of which decreed a levy of a twentieth on every benefice for three years for the relief of the Holy Land.Among those attending was the future saint Thomas Cantilupe who was made a papal chaplain and given a dispensation to hold his benefices in plurality.First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea (; Greek: Νίκαια [ˈnikεa]) was a council of Christian bishops convened in the Bithynian city of Nicaea (now İznik, Bursa province, Turkey) by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325.
This ecumenical council was the first effort to attain consensus in the Church through an assembly representing all of Christendom. Hosius of Corduba, who was probably one of the papal legates, may have presided over its deliberations.Its main accomplishments were settlement of the Christological issue of the divine nature of God the Son and his relationship to God the Father, the construction of the first part of the Nicene Creed, establishing uniform observance of the date of Easter, and promulgation of early canon law.First Vatican Council
The First Vatican Council (Latin: Concilium Vaticanum Primum) was convoked by Pope Pius IX on 29 June 1868, after a period of planning and preparation that began on 6 December 1864. This, the twentieth ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, held three centuries after the Council of Trent, opened on 8 December 1869 and adjourned on 20 October 1870. Unlike the five earlier general councils held in Rome, which met in the Lateran Basilica and are known as Lateran councils, it met in the Vatican Basilica, hence its name. Its best-known decision is its definition of papal infallibility.The council was convoked to deal with the contemporary problems of the rising influence of rationalism, liberalism, and materialism. Its purpose was, besides this, to define the Catholic doctrine concerning the Church of Christ. There was discussion and approval of only two constitutions: the Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith (Dei Filius) and the First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ (Pastor aeternus), the latter dealing with the primacy and infallibility of the Bishop of Rome. The first matter brought up for debate was the dogmatic draft of Catholic doctrine against the manifold errors due to rationalism. The Council condemned rationalism, liberalism, naturalism and materialism. The Catholic Church was on the defensive against the main ideology of the XIX century.Fourth Council of Constantinople (Eastern Orthodox)
The Fourth Council of Constantinople was held in 879–880. It confirmed the reinstatement of Photius as Patriarch of Constantinople.
The result of this council is accepted as having the authority of an ecumenical council by Eastern Orthodox Christians, who sometimes call it the Eighth Ecumenical Council.Fourth Council of the Lateran
The Fourth Council of the Lateran was convoked by Pope Innocent III with the papal bull Vineam domini Sabaoth of 19 April 1213, and the Council gathered at Rome's Lateran Palace beginning 11 November 1215. Due to the great length of time between the Council's convocation and meeting, many bishops had the opportunity to attend. It is considered by the Catholic Church to have been the twelfth ecumenical council and is sometimes called the "Great Council" or "General Council of Lateran" due to the presence of 71 patriarchs and metropolitan bishops, 412 bishops, 900 abbots and priors together with representatives of several monarchs.During this council, the teaching on transubstantiation— a doctrine of the Catholic Church which describes the method by which the bread and wine offered in the sacrament of the Eucharist becomes the actual blood and body of Christ— was defined. It also infamously was the first to require from Jews (and Muslims) to wear distinctive clothing.Second Council of Constantinople
The Second Council of Constantinople is the fifth of the first seven ecumenical councils recognized by both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. It is also recognized by the Old Catholics and others. Protestant opinions and recognition of it are varied. Some Protestants, such as Calvinists and Lutherans, recognize the first four councils, whereas most Anglo-Catholics accept all seven. Constantinople II was convoked by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I under the presidency of Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople. It was held from 5 May to 2 June 553. Participants were overwhelmingly Eastern bishops—only sixteen Western bishops were present, including nine from Illyricum and seven from Africa, but none from Italy—out of the 152 total.The main work of the council was to confirm the condemnation issued by edict in 551 by the Emperor Justinian against the Three Chapters. These were the Christological writings and ultimately the person of Theodore of Mopsuestia (died 428), certain writings against Cyril of Alexandria's Twelve Anathemas accepted at the Council of Ephesus, written by Theodoret of Cyrrhus (died c. 466), and a letter written against Cyrillianism and the Ephesian Council by Ibas of Edessa (died 457).The purpose of the condemnation was to make plain that the Great Church, which followed a Chalcedonian creed, was firmly opposed to Nestorianism as supported by the Antiochene school which had either assisted Nestorius, the eponymous heresiarch, or had inspired the teaching for which he was anathematized and exiled. The council also condemned the teaching that Mary could not be rightly called the Mother of God (Gk. Theotokos) but only the mother of the man (Gk. anthropotokos) or the mother of Christ (Gk. Christotokos).Justinian hoped that this would contribute to a reunion between the Chalcedonians and monophysites in the eastern provinces of the Empire. Various attempts at reconciliation between these parties within the Byzantine Empire were made by many emperors over the four centuries following the Council of Ephesus, none of them successful. Some attempts at reconciliation, such as this one, the condemnation of the Three Chapters and the unprecedented posthumous anathematization of Theodore—who had once been widely esteemed as a pillar of orthodoxy—causing further schisms and heresies to arise in the process, such as the aforementioned schism of the Three Chapters and the emergent semi-monophysite compromises of monoenergism and monotheletism. These propositions assert, respectively, that Christ possessed no human energy but only a divine function or principle of operation (purposefully formulated in an equivocal and vague manner, and promulgated between 610 and 622 by the Emperor Heraclius under the advice of Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople) and that Christ possessed no human will but only a divine will, "will" being understood to mean the desires and appetites in accord with the nature (promulgated in 638 by the same and opposed most notably by Maximus the Confessor).Second Council of Lyon
The First Council of Lyon, the Thirteenth Ecumenical Council, took place in 1245.The Second Council of Lyon was the fourteenth ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, convoked on 31 March 1272 and convened in Lyon, Kingdom of Arles (in modern France), in 1274. Pope Gregory X presided over the council, called to act on a pledge by Byzantine emperor Michael VIII to reunite the Eastern church with the West. The council was attended by about 300 bishops, 60 abbots and more than a thousand prelates or their procurators, among whom were the representatives of the universities. Due to the great number of attendees, those who had come to Lyon without being specifically summoned were given "leave to depart with the blessing of God" and of the Pope. Among others who attended the council were James I of Aragon, the ambassador of the Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos with members of the Greek clergy and the ambassadors of Abaqa Khan of the Ilkhanate. Thomas Aquinas had been summoned to the council, but died en route at Fossanova Abbey. Bonaventure was present at the first four sessions, but died at Lyon on 15 July 1274. As at the First Council of Lyons Thomas Cantilupe was an English attender and a papal chaplain.In addition to Aragon, which James represented in person, representatives of the kings of Germany, England, Scotland, France, the Spains and Sicily were present, with procurators also representing the kingdoms of Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Bohemia, the "realm of Dacia" and the duchy of Poland. In the procedures to be observed in the council, for the first time the nations appeared as represented elements in an ecclesiastical council, as they had already become represented in the governing of medieval universities. This innovation marks a stepping-stone towards the acknowledgment of coherent ideas of nationhood, which were in the process of creating the European nation-states.
The main topics discussed at the council were the conquest of the Holy Land and the union of the Eastern and Western Churches. The first session took place on 7 May 1274 and was followed by five additional sessions on 18 May 1274, 4 or 7 June 1274, 6 July 1274, 16 July 1274, and 17 July 1274. By the end of the council, 31 constitutions were promulgated. In the second session, the fathers approved the decree Zelus fidei, which contained no juridical statutes but rather summed up constitutions about the perils of the Holy Land, the means for paying for a proposed crusade, the excommunication of pirates and corsairs and those who protected them or traded with them, a declaration of peace among Christians, a grant of an indulgence for those willing to go on crusade, restoration of communion with the Greeks, and the definition of the order and procedure to be observed in the council. The Greeks conceded on the issue of the Filioque (two words added to the Nicene creed), and union was proclaimed, but the union was later repudiated by Andronicus II, heir to Michael VIII. The council also recognized Rudolf I as Holy Roman Emperor, ending the Interregnum.Second Council of Nicaea
The Second Council of Nicaea is recognized as the last of the first seven ecumenical councils by the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. In addition, it is also recognized as such by the Old Catholics and others. Protestant opinions on it are varied.
It met in AD 787 in Nicaea (site of the First Council of Nicaea; present-day İznik in Turkey) to restore the use and veneration of icons (or, holy images), which had been suppressed by imperial edict inside the Byzantine Empire during the reign of Leo III (717–741). His son, Constantine V (741–775), had held the Council of Hieria to make the suppression official.Second Council of the Lateran
The Second Council of the Lateran is believed to have been the tenth ecumenical council held by the Roman Catholic Church. It was convened by Pope Innocent II in April 1139 and attended by close to a thousand clerics. Its immediate task was to neutralise the after-effects of the schism which had arisen after the death of Pope Honorius II in 1130 and the papal election that year that established Pietro Pierleoni as the antipope Anacletus II.Second Vatican Council
The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, commonly known as the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II, addressed relations between the Catholic Church and the modern world. The council, through the Holy See, was formally opened under the pontificate of Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and was closed under Pope Paul VI on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 1965.
Several changes resulted from the council, including the renewal of consecrated life with a revised charism, ecumenical efforts towards dialogue with other religions, and the universal call to holiness, which according to Pope Paul VI was "the most characteristic and ultimate purpose of the teachings of the Council".According to Pope Benedict XVI, the most important and essential message of the council is "the Paschal Mystery as the center of what it is to be Christian and therefore of the Christian life, the Christian year, the Christian seasons". Other changes which followed the council included the widespread use of vernacular languages in the Mass instead of Latin, the subtle disuse of ornate clerical regalia, the revision of Eucharistic prayers, the abbreviation of the liturgical calendar, the ability to celebrate the Mass versus populum (with the officiant facing the congregation), as well as ad orientem (facing the "East" and the Crucifix), and modern aesthetic changes encompassing contemporary Catholic liturgical music and artwork. Many of these changes remain divisive among the Catholic faithful.Of those who took part in the council's opening session, four have become popes: Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, who on succeeding John XXIII took the name Pope Paul VI; Bishop Albino Luciani, the future Pope John Paul I; Bishop Karol Wojtyła, who became Pope John Paul II; and Joseph Ratzinger, present as a theological consultant, who became Pope Benedict XVI.In the 1950s, theological and biblical studies in the Catholic Church had begun to sway away from the Neo-Scholasticism and biblical literalism which a reaction to Catholic modernism had enforced since the First Vatican Council. This shift could be seen in theologians such as Karl Rahner, Michael Herbert, and John Courtney Murray who looked to integrate modern human experience with church principles based on Jesus Christ, as well as others such as Yves Congar, Joseph Ratzinger and Henri de Lubac, who looked to an accurate understanding of scripture and the early Church Fathers as a source of renewal (ressourcement).
At the same time, the world's bishops faced challenges driven by political, social, economic, and technological change. Some of these bishops sought new ways of addressing those challenges. The First Vatican Council had been held nearly a century before but had been cut short in 1870 when the Italian Army entered the city of Rome at the end of Italian unification. As a result, only deliberations on the role of the papacy and the congruent relationship of faith and reason were completed, with examination of pastoral issues concerning the direction of the Church left unaddressed.Pope John XXIII, however, gave notice of his intention to convene the Council on 25 January 1959, less than three months after his election in October 1958. This sudden announcement, which caught the Curia by surprise, caused little initial official comment from Church insiders. Reaction to the announcement was widespread and largely positive from both religious and secular leaders outside the Catholic Church, and the council was formally summoned by the apostolic constitution Humanae Salutis on 25 December 1961. In various discussions before the Council convened, John XXIII said that it was time to "open the windows [of the Church] and let in some fresh air". He invited other Christians outside the Catholic Church to send observers to the Council. Acceptances came from both the Eastern Orthodox Church and Protestant denominations as internal observers, but these observers did not cast votes in the approbation of the conciliar documents.Third Council of Constantinople
The Third Council of Constantinople, counted as the Sixth Ecumenical Council by the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches, as well by certain other Western Churches, met in 680/681 and condemned monoenergism and monothelitism as heretical and defined Jesus Christ as having two energies and two wills (divine and human).Third Council of the Lateran
The Third Council of the Lateran met in March 1179 as the eleventh ecumenical council. Pope Alexander III presided and 302 bishops attended.
By agreement reached at the Peace of Venice in 1177 the bitter conflict between Alexander III and Emperor Frederick I was brought to an end. When Pope Adrian IV died in 1159, the divided cardinals elected two popes: Roland of Siena, who took the name of Alexander III, and Octavian of Rome who, though nominated by fewer cardinals, was supported by Frederick and assumed the name of Pope Victor IV. Frederick, wishing to remove all that stood in the way of his authority in Italy, declared war upon the Italian states and especially the Church which was enjoying great authority. A serious schism arose out of this conflict, and after Victor IV's death in 1164, two further antipopes were nominated in opposition to Alexander III: Paschal III (1164–1168) and Callistus III (1168–1178). Eventually, at the Peace of Venice, when Alexander gained victory, he promised Frederick that he would summon an ecumenical council.
Besides removing the remains of the recent schism, the Council condemned the Cathar heresies and pushed for the restoration of ecclesiastical discipline. It also became the first general Council of the Church to legislate against sodomy. Three sessions were held, on 5, 14, and 19 March, in which 27 canons were promulgated.
The most important of these were:
Canon 1. In order to prevent the possibility of future schisms, only cardinals were to possess the right to elect a pope. In addition a two-thirds majority was to be required in order for the election to be valid. If any candidate should declare himself pope without receiving the required majority, he and his supporters were to be excommunicated.
Canon 2 declared null and void those ordinations performed by the antipopes Octavian (Victor IV), Guy of Crema (Paschal III), and John de Struma (Antipope Callixtus III).
Canon 3 forbade the promotion of anyone to a parish before the age of 25 and to the episcopate before the age of 30.
Canon 5 forbade the ordination of clerics not provided with any means of proper support.
Canon 7 forbade the charging of money to conduct burials, bless a marriage or indeed the celebration of any of the sacraments.
Canon 11 forbade clerics to have women in their houses or to visit the monasteries of nuns without a good reason; declared that married clergy should lose their benefices; and decreed that priests who engaged in sodomy should be deposed from clerical office and required to do penance - while laymen should be excommunicated.
Canon 18 required every cathedral church to appoint a master to teach the clerics and the poor scholars of the church; this action helped launch the cathedral schools that later became universities.
Canon 19 declared excommunication for those who tried to tax churches and clergy without the consent of the bishop.
Canon 23 concerns the proper organisation of accommodation for lepers.
Canon 25 excommunicates those who engage in usury.
Canon 26 forbade Jews and Muslims from having Christian servants and states that the evidence of Christians is always to be accepted against Jews.
Canon 27 stressed the duty of princes to repress heresy and condemned "the Brabantians, Aragonese, Basques, Navarrese, and others who practice such cruelty toward Christians that they respect neither churches nor monasteries, spare neither widows nor orphans, neither age nor sex, but after the manner of pagans, destroy and lay waste everything" (De Brabantionibus et Aragonensibus, Navariis, Bascolis, Coterellis et Triaverdinis, qui tantam in Christianos immanitatem exercent, ut nec ecclesiis, nec monasteriis deferant, non viduis, et pupillis, non senibus, et pueris, nec cuilibet parcant aetati, aut sexui, sed more paganorum omnia perdant, et vastent).Among the many attendees at the Council was William of Tyre, the famous historian and, at the time, archbishop of Tyre. William was sent by Baldwin IV as the representative of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and wrote about the journey to the Council in his history.
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