Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451)

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The Council of Chalcedon -- 150 bishops under Pope Leo the Great and the Emperor Marcian -- defined the two natures (Divine and human) in Christ against Eutyches, who was excommunicated.



The Fourth Ecumenical Council, held in 451, from 8 October until 1 November inclusive, at Chalcedon, a city of Bithynia in Asia Minor. 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. Scarcely had the heresy of Nestorius concerning the two persons in Christ been condemned by the Council of Ephesus, in 431, when the opposite error of the Nestorian heresy arose. Since Nestorius so fully divided the Divine and the human in Christ that he taught a double personality or a twofold being in Christ, it became incumbent on his opponents to emphasize the unity in Christ and to exhibit the God-man, not as two beings but as one. Some of these opponents in their efforts to maintain a physical unity in Christ held that the two natures in Christ, the Divine and the human, were so intimately united that they became physically one, inasmuch as the human nature was completely absorbed by the Divine. Thus resulted one Christ not only with one personality but also with one nature. After the Incarnation, they said, no distinction could be made in Christ between the Divine and the human. The principal representatives of this teaching were Dioscurus, Patriarch of Alexandria, and Eutyches, an archimandrite or president of a monastery outside Constantinople. The Monophysitic error, as the new error was called (Gr. mone physis, one nature), claimed the authority of St. Cyril, but only through a misinterpretation of some expressions of the great Alexandrine teacher.

2 The error of Eutyches was first detected by Domnus, Patriarch of Antioch. a formal accusation was preferred against the former by Eusebius, Bishop of Dorylaeum (Phrygia), at a synod of Constantinople in November of that year. This synod declared it a matter of faith that after the Incarnation, Christ consisted of two natures (united) in one hypostasis or person; hence there was one Christ, one Son, one Lord. Eutyches, who appeared before this synod, protested, on the contrary, that before the Incarnation there were two natures, but after the union there was only one nature in Christ; and the humanity of Christ was not of the same essence as ours. These statements were found contrary to Christian orthodoxy; Eutyches was deposed, excommunicated, and deprived of his station in the monastery. He protested, and appealed for redress to Pope Leo I (440-61), to other distinguished bishops, and also to Theodosius II. Bishop Flavian of Constantinople informed Pope Leo and other bishops of what had occurred in his city. Eutyches won the sympathy of the emperor; through the monk's representations and those of Dioscurus, Patriarch of Alexandria, the emperor was induced to invoke a new council, to be held at Ephesus. Pope Leo, Dioscurus, and a number of bishops and monks were invited to attend and investigate anew the orthodoxy of Eutyches. The pope was unable to go, but sent three delegates as his representatives and bearers of letters to prominent personages of the East and to the impending synod. Among these letters, all of which bear the date of 13 June, 449, is one known as the "Epistola Dogmatica", or dogmatic letter, of Leo I, in which the pope explains the mystery of the Incarnation with special reference to the questions raised by Eutyches. Thus, he declares that after the Incarnation what was proper to each nature and substance in Christ remained intact and both were united in one person, but so that each nature acted according to its own qualities and characteristics. As to Eutyches himself, the pope did not hesitate to condemn him. The council was held at Ephesus, in August, 449. Only the friends and partisans of Dioscurus and Eutyches were allowed to have a voice. The Alexandrine patriarch presided; he ignored the papal delegates, would not permit the letters of Pope Leo, including the "Epistola Dogmatica", to be read in the assembly. Eutyches was declared orthodox and reinstated in his priestly and monastic office. On the other hand, Flavian of Constantinople and Eusebius of Dorylaeum were deposed. The former was banished, and died shortly afterwards in consequence of ill-treatment; he was succeeded by the deacon Anatolius, a partisan of Dioscurus. Owing to the gross violence of Dioscurus and his partisans, this assembly was called by Leo I the "Latrocinium", or Robber Council, of Ephesus, a name that has since clung to it.

3 Theodosius II, who sympathized with Eutyches, approved these violent deeds; Leo I, on the other hand, when fully informed of the occurrences at Ephesus, condemned, in a Roman synod and in several letters, all the Acts of the so-called council. He refused also to recognize Anatolius as lawful Bishop of Constantinople, at least until the latter would give satisfaction concerning his belief. At the same time he requested the emperor to order the holding of a new council in Italy, to right the wrongs committed at Ephesus. As a special reason for the opportuneness, and even necessity, of the new council, he alleged the appeal of the deposed Flavian of Constantinople. Theodosius, however, positively declined to meet the wishes of the pope. At this stage the sudden death of the emperor (28 July, 450) changed at once the religious situation in the East. Theodosius was succeeded by his sister, Pulcheria, who offered her hand, and with it the imperial throne, to a brave general named Marcian (450-57). Both Marcian and Pulcheria were opposed to the new teaching of Dioscurus and Eutyches; and Marcian at once informed Leo I of his willingness to call a new council according to the previous desire of the pope. In the meantime conditions had changed. Anatolius of Constantinople, and with him many other bishops, condemned the teaching of Eutyches and accepted the dogmatic epistle of Pope Leo. Any new discussions concerning the Christian Faith seemed therefore superfluous. Western Europe, moreover, was in a state of turmoil owing to the invasion of the Huns under Attila, for which reason most of the Western bishops could not attend a council to be held in the East. Leo I therefore protested repeatedly against a council and wrote in this sense to the Emperor Marcian, the Empress Pulcheria, Anatolius of Constantinople, and Julian of Cos; all these letters bear the date of 9 June, 451. Meanwhile, 17 May, 451, a decree was issued by Marcian -- in the name also of the Western Emperor Valentinian III (425-55) -- ordering all metropolitan bishops with a number of their suffragan bishops to assemble the following September at Nicaea in Bithynia, there to hold a general council for the purpose of settling the questions of faith recently called in doubt.

4 Though displeased with this action, the pope nevertheless agreed to send his representatives to Nicaea. He appointed as legates Paschasinus, Bishop of Lilybaeum (Marsala) in Sicily, Lucentius, also a bishop, Julian, Bishop of Cos, and two priests, comma, Boniface and Basil; Paschasinus was to preside over the coming council in the pope's place. On 24 and 26 June, 451, Leo I wrote letters to the Emperor Marcian, to his legate Paschasinus, to Anatolius of Constantinople, to Julian of Cos, and to the synod itself, in which he expressed the desire that the decrees of the synod should be in conformity with his teaching as contained in the aforesaid dogmatic epistle. A detailed instruction was also given to the papal legates, which contained directions for their guidance in the council; this document, however, has perished, with the exception of two fragments preserved in the Acts of the council. In July the papal legates departed for their destination. Many bishops arrived at Nicaea during the summer, but the opening of the council was postponed owing to the emperor's inability to be present. Finally, at the complaint of the bishops, who grew weary of waiting, Marcian requested them to come to Chalcedon, in the near vicinity of Constantinople. This was done, and the council opened at Chalcedon on 8 October.

5 In all likelihood an official record of the proceedings was made either during the council itself or shortly afterwards. The assembled bishops informed the pope that a copy of all the "Acta" would be transmitted to him; in March, 453, Pope Leo commissioned Julian of Cos, then at Constantinople, to make a collection of all the Acts and translate them into Latin. Very ancient versions of the Acts, both in Greek and Latin, are still extant. Most of the documents, chiefly the minutes of the sessions, were written in Greek; others, e.g. the imperial letters, were issued in both languages; others, again, e.g. the papal letters, were written in Latin. Eventually nearly all of them were translated into both languages. The Latin version, known as the "versio antiqua", was probably made about 500, perhaps by Dionysius Exiguus. About the middle of the sixth century the Roman deacon Rusticus then in Constantinople with Pope Vigilius (537-55), made numerous corrections in the "versio antiqua", after comparison with Greek manuscripts of the Acts, chiefly with those of the "Acoemetae" monastery either at Constantinople or at Chalcedon. As to the number of sessions held by the Council of Chalcedon there is a great discrepancy in the various texts of the Acts, also in the ancient historians of the council. Either the respective manuscripts must have been incomplete; or the historians passed over in silence several sessions held for secondary purposes. According to the deacon Rusticus, there were in all sixteen sessions; this division is commonly accepted by scholars, including Bishop Hefele, the learned historian of the councils. If all the separate meetings were counted, there would be twenty-one sessions; several of these meetings, however, are considered as supplementary to preceding sessions. all the sessions were held in the church of St. Euphemia, Martyr, outside the city and directly opposite Constantinople. The exact number of bishops present is not known. The synod itself, in a letter to Pope Leo, speaks of 520, while Pope Leo says there were 600; according to the general estimate there were 630, including the representatives of absent bishops. No previous council could boast of so large a gathering of bishops, while the attendance at later councils seldom surpassed or even equalled that number. The council, however, was not equally representative as to the countries whence came so many bishops. Apart from the papal legates and two African bishops, practically all the bishops belonged to the Eastern Church. This, however, was well represented; the two great civil divisions (prefectures), of the Orient and of Illyricum, comprising Egypt, the Orient (including Palestine), Pontus, Asia, Thrace, Dacia, and Macedonia, sent their contingents. The more prominent among the Eastern bishops were Anatolius of Constantinople, Maximus of Antioch, Dioscurus of Alexandria, Juvenal of Jerusalem, Thalassius of Caesarea in Cappadocia, Stephen of Ephesus, Quintillus of Heraclea, and Peter of Corinth. The honour of presiding over this venerable assembly was reserved to Paschasinus, Bishop of Lilybaeum, the first of the papal legates, according to the intention of Pope Leo I, expressed in his letter to Emperor Marcian (24 June, 451). Shortly after the council, writing to the bishops of Gaul, he mentions that his legates presided in his stead over the Eastern synod. Moreover, Paschasinus proclaimed openly in presence of the council that he was presiding over it in the name and in the place of pope Leo. The members of the council recognized this prerogative of the papal legates. When writing to the pope they professed that, through his representatives, he presided over them in the council. In the interest of order and a regular procedure the Emperor Marcian appointed a number of commissioners, men of high rank, who received the place of honour in the council. Their jurisdiction, however, did not cover the ecclesiastical or religious questions under discussion. The commissioners simply directed the order of business during the sessions; they opened the meetings, laid before the council the matters to be discussed, demanded the votes of the bishops on the various subjects, and closed the sessions. Besides these there were present several members of the Senate, who shared the place of honour with the imperial commissioners.

6 At the very beginning of the first session, the papal legates, Paschasinus at their head, protested against the presence of Dioscurus of Alexandria. Formal accusations of heresy and of unjust actions committed in the Robber Council of Ephesus were preferred against him by Eusebius of Dorylaeum; and at the suggestion of the imperial commissioners he was removed from his seat among the bishops and deprived of his vote. In order to make a full investigation of his case the Acts of the Robber Council, with those of the synod held in 448 by Flavian of Constantinople, were read in full; this occupied the whole first session. At the end the imperial commissioners declared that since Flavian of Constantinople and other bishops had been unjustly deposed by the Robber Council it would be just that Dioscurus and the leaders in that synod should now suffer the same punishment. A number of bishops agreed, but finally all declared themselves satisfied with the deposition of Dioscurus alone. The second session (10 October) was occupied with the reading of testimonia bearing on questions of faith, chiefly those under discussion. Among them were the symbols or creeds of the Councils of Nicaea (325) and of Constantinople (381); two letters of St. Cyril of Alexandria, viz. his second letter to Nestorius and the letter written to the Antiochene bishops in 433 after his reconciliation with them; finally the dogmatic epistle of Pope Leo I. All these documents were approved by the council. When the pope's famous epistle was read the members of the council exclaimed that the faith contained therein was the faith of the Fathers and of the Apostles; that through Leo, Peter had spoken.

7 The third session was held 13 October; the imperial commissioners and a number of bishops were absent. Eusebius of Dorylaeum presented a new accusation against Dioscurus of Alexandria in which the charges of heresy and of injustice committed in the Robber Council of Ephesus were repeated. Three ecclesiastics and a layman from Alexandria likewise presented accusations against their bishop; he was declared guilty of many acts of injustice and of personal misconduct. At the end of the session the papal legates declared that Dioscurus should be deprived of his bishopric and of all ecclesiastical dignities for having supported the heretic Eutyches, for having excommunicated Pope Leo, and for having refused to answer the charges made against him. All the members present agreed to this proposition; and the decree of deposition was communicated to Dioscurus himself, to the Alexandrine ecclesiastics with him at Chalcedon, to the Emperors Marcian and Valentinian III, and to the Empress Pulcheria. The fourth session, which comprised two meetings, was held on 17 and 20 October. At the request of the imperial commissioners the bishops again approved the dogmatic epistle of Pope Leo I; Juvenal of Jerusalem, Thalassius of Caesarea in Cappadocia, Eusebius of Ancyra, Eustathius of Berytus, and Basil of Seleucia in Cicilia, former partisans of Dioscurus in the Robber Council of Ephesus, were pardoned and admitted to the sessions; an investigation was made into the orthodoxy of a number of bishops from Egypt, and of a number of monks and archimandrites suspected of Eutychianism; finally a dispute between Photius of Tyre and Eustathius of Berytus concerning the territorial extent of their respective jurisdiction was adjudicated.

8 The most important of all the sessions was the fifth, held 22 October; in this the bishops published a decree concerning the Christian Faith, which must be considered as the specific dogmatic decree of the Fourth General Council. A special commission, consisting of the papal legates, of Anatolius of Constantinople, Maximus of Antioch, Juvenal of Jerusalem, and several others, was appointed to draw up this creed or symbol. After again approving the decrees and symbols of the Councils of Nicaea (325), Constantinople (381), and Ephesus (431), as well as the teaching of St. Cyril against Nestorius and the dogmatic epistle of Pope Leo I, the document in question declares:

We teach . . . one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, known in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.

9 After the recitation of the decree all the bishops exclaimed that such was the true faith, and that all should at once sign their names to it. The imperial commissioners announced that they would communicate to the emperor the decree as approved by all the bishops. The sixth session (25 October) was celebrated with special solemnities; Marcian and Pulcheria were present with a great attendance, with all the imperial commissioners and the Senate. The emperor made an appropriate address; the decree of faith made in the preceding session was read again and approved by the emperor; and with joyful acclamations to the emperor and to the empress, in which they were compared to Constantine and Helena, the proceedings were closed.

10 The object of the council was attained in the sixth session, and only secondary matters were transacted in the remaining sessions. the seventh and eighth sessions were both held 26 October. In the seventh an agreement between Maximus of Antioch and Juvenal of Jerusalem was approved, according to which the territory of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem was restricted to the three provinces of Palestine. in the eighth session Theodoret of Cyrus, a former partisan of Nestorius, was compelled to condemn the name of his friend under threats of expulsion from the council. He was then reinstated in his bishopric. The ninth and tenth sessions (27 and 28 October) dealt with the case of Ibas, Bishop of Edessa, who had been deposed on charges made by some of his ecclesiastics. The accusation proved to be unfounded and Ibas was reinstated in his office. A decision was also given to the effect that a pension should be paid by Maximus of Antioch to his deposed predecessor Domnus. The eleventh and twelfth sessions (29 and 30 October) dealt with a conflict between Bassianus and Stephen, both raised successively but irregularly to the See of Ephesus. The council declared that a new bishop should be chosen for Ephesus, but the two aforesaid should retain their episcopal dignity and receive a pension from the church revenues of Ephesus. The thirteenth session (30 October) decided a case of conflicting jurisdiction. Eunomius of Nicomedia and Anastasius of Nicaea both claimed metropolitan rights, at least for a part of Bithynia. The council decreed that in a province there could be only one metropolitan bishop, and in favour of the Bishop of Nicomedia.

11 The fourteenth session (31 October) decided the rival claims of Sabinian and Athanasius to the See of Perrha in Syria. Sabinian had been chosen in place of Athanasius deposed by an Antiochene synod in 445; later Athanasius was reinstated by the Robber Council of Ephesus. The council decreed that further investigation should be made into the charges against Athanasius, Sabinian meanwhile holding the see. If the charges should prove untrue, Athanasius should be reinstated and Sabinian receive a pension from the diocese. In the same session a letter of Pope Leo was read, and the council approved the decisions in regard to Maximus of Antioch in his conflict with Juvenal of Jerusalem, and his obligation of providing for his predecessor Domnus. in the fifteenth session (31 October) the council adopted and approved twenty-eight disciplinary canons. The papal legates, however, as well as the imperial commissioners departed at the beginning of the session, probably foreseeing that the hierarchical status of the Bishop of Constantinople would be defined, as really occurred in canon 28.

  • The first canon approved the canons passed in previous synods.
  • The second established severe penalties against those who conferred ecclesiastical orders or positions for money, or received such orders or positions for money, and acted as intermediaries in such transactions.
  • The third forbade secular traffic to all ecclesiastics, except in the interest of minors, orphans, or other needy persons.
  • The fourth forbade the erection of a monastery or an oratory without the permission of the proper bishop; recommended to the monks a life of retirement, mortification, and prayer; and forbade the reception of a slave in a monastery without the permission of his master.
  • The fifth inculcated the canons of previous synods concerning the transfer of bishops and clerics from one city to another.
  • The sixth recommended that no one should be ordained except he were assigned to some ecclesiastical office. Those ordained contrary to this provision were not to exercise their order.
  • The seventh forbade ecclesiastics to exercise the military art or to hold a secular office.
  • The eighth decreed that the clerics of charitable homes, monasteries, or oratories of martyrs should be subject to the bishop of the territory.
  • The ninth ordained that ecclesiastics should conduct their lawsuits only before the bishop, the synod of the province, the exarch, or the Bishop of Constantinople.
  • The tenth forbade ecclesiastics to be enrolled in the church-registers of different cities.
  • The eleventh ordained that the poor and needy, when travelling, should be provided with letters of recommendation (litterae pacificae) from the churches.
  • The twelfth forbade the bishops to obtain from the emperors the title of metropolitans to the prejudice of the real metropolitan of their province.
  • The thirteenth forbade to strange clerics the exercise of their office unless provided with letters of recommendation from their bishop.
  • The fourteenth forbade minor clerics to marry heretical women, or to give their children in marriage to heretics.
  • The fifteenth decreed that no deaconess should be ordained below the age of forty; and no person once ordained a deaconess was allowed to leave that state and marry.
  • The sixteenth forbade the marriage of virgins or monks consecrated to God.
  • The seventeenth ordained that the parishes in rural districts should remain under the jurisdiction of their respective bishops; but if a new city were built by the emperor, its ecclesiastical organization should be modelled on that of the State.
  • The eighteenth forbade secret organizations in the Church, chiefly among clerics and monks.
  • The nineteenth ordained that the bishops of the province should assemble twice a year for the regular synod.
  • The twentieth forbade again the transfer of an ecclesiastic from one city to another, except in the case of grave necessity.
  • The twenty-first ordained that complaints against bishops or clerics should not be heard except after an investigation into the character of the accuser.
  • The twenty-second forbade ecclesiastics to appropriate the goods of their deceased bishop.
  • The twenty-third forbade clerics or monks to sojourn in Constantinople without the permission of their bishop.
  • The twenty-fourth ordained that monasteries once established, together with the property assigned to them, should not be converted to other purposes.
  • The twenty-fifth ordained that the metropolitan should ordain the bishops of his province within three months (from election).
  • The twenty-sixth ordained that ecclesiastical property should not be administered by the bishop alone, but by a special procurator.
  • The twenty-seventh decreed severe penalties against the abduction of women.
  • The twenty-eighth ratified the third canon of the Council of Constantinople (381), and decreed that since the city of Constantinople was honoured with the privilege of having the emperor and the Senate within its walls, its bishop should also have special prerogatives and be second in rank, after the Bishop of Rome. In consequence thereof he should consecrate the metropolitan bishops of the three civil Dioceses of Pontus, Asia, and Cappadocia.

12 This last canon provoked another session of the council, the sixteenth, held on 1 November. The papal legates protested therein against this canon, alleging that they had special instructions from Pope Leo on that subject, that the canon violated the prerogatives of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, and was contrary to the canons (vi, vii) of the Council of Nicaea. Their protests, however, were not listened to; and the council persisted in retaining this canon in its Acts. With this incident the Council of Chalcedon was closed.

13 At the closing of the sessions the council wrote a letter to Pope Leo I, in which the Fathers informed him of what had been done; thanked him for the exposition of Christian Faith contained in his dogmatic epistle; spoke of his legates as having presided over them in his name; and asked for the ratification of the disciplinary matters enacted, particularly canon 28. This letter was handed to the papal legates, who departed for Rome soon after the last session of the council. Similar letters were written to Pope Leo in December by Emperor Marcian and Anatolius of Constantinople. In reply Pope Leo protested most energetically against canon xxviii and declared it null and void as being against the prerogatives of Bishops of Alexandria and Antioch, and against the decrees of the Council of Nicaea. Like protests were contained in the letters written 22 May, 452, to Emperor Marcian, Empress Pulcheria, and Anatolius of Constantinople. Otherwise the pope ratified the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, but only inasmuch as they referred to matters of faith. This approval was contained in letters written 21 March, 453, to the bishops who took part in the council; hence the Council of Chalcedon, at least as to the first six sessions, became an ecumenical synod, and was considered as such by all Christians, both in the time of Poe Leo and after him. The Emperor Marcian issued several edicts (7 February, 13 March, and 28 July, 452) in which he approved the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon, forbade all discussions on questions of faith, forbade the Eutychians to have priests, to live in monasteries, to hold meetings, to inherit anything, to bequeath anything to their partisans, or to join the army. The clerics among the followers of Eutyches, hitherto orthodox, and the monks of his monastery, were to be expelled from Roman territory, as once the Manichaeans were. The writings of the Eutychians were to be burned; their authors, or those who spread them, were to be punished with confiscation and banishment. Finally Eutyches and Dioscurus were both banished. The former died about that time, while the latter lived to the year 454 in Gangra in Paphlagonia.

14 The Council of Chalcedon with its dogmatic definition did not put an end to the controversy concerning the natures of Christ and their relation to each other. Many people in the East disliked the term person used by the council to signify the union of, or the means of uniting, the two natures in Christ. They believed that Nestorianism was thereby renewed; or at least they thought the definition less satisfactory than St. Cyril's concept of the union of the two natures in Christ (Bardenhewer, Patrologie, 2nd ed., 321-22). In Palestine, Syria, Armenia, Egypt, and other countries, many monks and ecclesiastics refused to accept the definition of Chalcedon; and Monophysites are found there to this day.


From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press

Definition of the Faith

15 The sacred and great and universal synod by God's grace and by decree of your most religious and Christ-loving emperors Valentinian Augustus and Marcian Augustus assembled in Chalcedon, metropolis of the province of Bithynia, in the shrine of the saintly and triumphant martyr Euphemia, issues the following decrees.

16 In establishing his disciples in the knowledge of the faith, our lord and saviour Christ said: "My peace I give you, my peace I leave to you"', so that no one should disagree with his neighbour regarding religious doctrines but that the proclamation of the truth would be uniformly presented. But the evil one never stops trying to smother the seeds of religion with his own tares and is for ever inventing some novelty or other against the truth; so the Master, exercising his usual care for the human race, roused this religious and most faithful emperor to zealous action, and summoned to himself the leaders of the priesthood from everywhere, so that through the working of the grace of Christ, the master of all of us, every injurious falsehood might be staved off from the sheep of Christ and they might be fattened on fresh growths of the truth.

17 This is in fact what we have done. We have driven off erroneous doctrines by our collective resolution and we have renewed the unerring creed of the fathers. We have proclaimed to all the creed of the 318; and we have made our own those fathers who accepted this agreed statement of religion -- the 150 who later met in great Constantinople and themselves set their seal to the same creed.

Therefore, whilst we also stand by

18 * the decisions and all the formulas relating to the creed from the sacred synod which took place formerly at Ephesus, o whose leaders of most holy memory were Celestine of Rome and Cyril of Alexandria

we decree that

19 * pre-eminence belongs to the exposition of the right and spotless creed of the 318 saintly and blessed fathers who were assembled at Nicaea when Constantine of pious memory was emperor: and that * those decrees also remain in force which were issued in Constantinople by the 150 holy fathers in order to destroy the heresies then rife and to confirm this same catholic and apostolic creed. o The creed of the 318 fathers at Nicaea. o And the same of the 150 saintly fathers assembled in Constantinople.

19 This wise and saving creed, the gift of divine grace, was sufficient for a perfect understanding and establishment of religion. For its teaching about the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit is complete, and it sets out the Lord's becoming human to those who faithfully accept it.

20 But there are those who are trying to ruin the proclamation of the truth, and through their private heresies they have spawned novel formulas:

21 * some by daring to corrupt the mystery of the Lord's economy on our behalf, and refusing to apply the word "God-bearer" to the Virgin; and * others by introducing a confusion and mixture, and mindlessly imagining that there is a single nature of the flesh and the divinity, and fantastically supposing that in the confusion the divine nature of the Only-begotten is passible.

22 Therefore this sacred and great and universal synod, now in session, in its desire to exclude all their tricks against the truth, and teaching what has been unshakeable in the proclamation from the beginning,

23 * decrees that the creed of the 318 fathers is, above all else, to remain inviolate. And because of those who oppose the holy Spirit, it * ratifies the teaching about the being of the holy Spirit handed down by the 150 saintly fathers who met some time later in the imperial city o -- the teaching they made known to all, * not introducing anything left out by their predecessors, but clarifying their ideas about the holy Spirit by the use of scriptural testimonies against those who were trying to do away with his sovereignty.

24 And because of those who are attempting to corrupt the mystery of the economy and are shamelessly and foolishly asserting that he who was born of the holy virgin Mary was a mere man, it has accepted * the synodical letters of the blessed Cyril, [already accepted by the Council of Ephesus] pastor of the church in Alexandria, to Nestorius and to the Orientals, as being well-suited to refuting Nestorius's mad folly and to providing an interpretation for those who in their religious zeal might desire understanding of the saving creed.

25 To these it has suitably added, against false believers and for the establishment of orthodox doctrines * the letter of the primate of greatest and older Rome, the most blessed and most saintly Archbishop Leo, written to the sainted Archbishop Flavian to put down Eutyches's evil-mindedness, because it is in agreement with great Peter's confession and represents a support we have in common.

26 cIt is opposed to those who attempt to tear apart the mystery of the economy into a duality of sons; and

27 * it expels from the assembly of the priests those who dare to say that the divinity of the Only-begotten is passible, and * it stands opposed to those who imagine a mixture or confusion between the two natures of Christ; and * it expels those who have the mad idea that the servant-form he took from us is of a heavenly or some other kind of being; and * it anathematises those who concoct two natures of the Lord before the union but imagine a single one after the union.

28 So, following the saintly fathers, we all with one voice teach the confession of one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and a body; consubstantial with the Father as regards his divinity, and the same consubstantial with us as regards his humanity; like us in all respects except for sin; begotten before the ages from the Father as regards his divinity, and in the last days the same for us and for our salvation from Mary, the virgin God-bearer as regards his humanity; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, acknowledged in two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation; at no point was the difference between the natures taken away through the union, but rather the property of both natures is preserved and comes together into a single person and a single subsistent being; he is not parted or divided into two persons, but is one and the same only-begotten Son, God, Word, Lord Jesus Christ, just as the prophets taught from the beginning about him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ himself instructed us, and as the creed of the fathers handed it down to us.

29 Since we have formulated these things with all possible accuracy and attention, the sacred and universal synod decreed that no one is permitted to produce, or even to write down or compose, any other creed or to think or teach otherwise. As for those who dare either to compose another creed or even to promulgate or teach or hand down another creed for those who wish to convert to a recognition of the truth from Hellenism or from Judaism, or from any kind of heresy at all: if they be bishops or clerics, the bishops are to be deposed from the episcopacy and the clerics from the clergy; if they be monks or layfolk, they are to be anathematised.




30We have deemed it right that the canons hitherto issued by the saintly fathers at each and every synod should remain in force.


31 If any bishop performs an ordination for money and puts the unsaleable grace on sale, and ordains for money a bishop, a chorepiscopus, a presbyter or a deacon or some other of those numbered among the clergy; or appoints a manager, a legal officer or a warden for money, or any other ecclesiastic at all for personal sordid gain; led him who has attempted this and been convicted stand to lose his personal rank; and let the person ordained profit nothing from the ordination or appointment he has bought; but let him be removed from the dignity or responsibility which he got for money. And if anyone appears to have acted even as a go-between in such disgraceful and unlawful dealings, let him too, if he is a cleric, be demoted from his personal rank, and if he is a lay person or a monk, let him be anathematised.


32 It has come to the notice of the sacred synod that some of those enrolled in the clergy are, for sordid gain, acting as hired managers of other people's property, and are involving themselves in worldly business, neglecting the service of God, frequenting the houses of worldly persons and taking over the handling of property out of avarice. So the sacred and great synod has decreed that in future no one, whether a bishop, a cleric or a monk, should either manage property or involve himself as an administrator of worldly business, unless he is legally and unavoidably summoned to take care of minors, or the local bishop appoints him to attend, out of fear of the Lord, to ecclesiastical business or to orphans and unprovided widows and persons in special need of ecclesiastical support. If in future anyone attempts to transgress these decrees, he must be subject to ecclesiastical penalties.


33 Those who truly and sincerely live the monastic life should be accorded appropriate recognition. But since there are some who don the monastic habit and meddle with the churches and in civil matters, and circulate indiscriminately in the cities and even are involved in founding monasteries for themselves, it has been decided that no one is to build or found a monastery or oratory anywhere against the will of the local bishop; and that monks of each city and region are to be subject to the bishop, are to foster peace and quiet, and attend solely to fasting and prayer, staying set apart in their places. They are not to abandon their own monasteries and interfere, or take part, in ecclesiastical or secular business unless they are perhaps assigned to do so by the local bishop because of some urgent necessity. No slave is to be taken into the monasteries to become a monk against the will of his own master. We have decreed that anyone who transgresses this decision of ours is to be excommunicated, lest God's name be blasphemed. However, it is for the local bishop to exercise the care and attention that the monasteries need.


34 In the matter of bishops or clerics who move from city to city, it has been decided that the canons issued by the holy fathers concerning them should retain their proper force.


35 No one, whether presbyter or deacon or anyone at all who belongs to the ecclesiastical order, is to be ordained without title, unless the one ordained is specially assigned to a city or village church or to a martyr's shrine or a monastery. The sacred synod has decreed that the ordination of those ordained without title is null, and that they cannot operate anywhere, because of the presumption of the one who ordained them.


36 We decree that those who have once joined the ranks of the clergy or have become monks are not to depart on military service or for secular office. Those who dare do this, and do not repent and return to what, in God, they previously chose, are to be anathematised.


37 Clerics in charge of almshouses and monasteries and martyrs' shrines are, in accordance with the tradition of the holy fathers, to remain under the jurisdiction of the bishop in each city. They are not to be self-willed and rebellious towards their own bishop. Those who dare to break a rule of this kind in any way whatever, and are not obedient to their own bishop, are, if they are clerics, to be subject to the canonical penalties; and if they are monks or layfolk they are to be made excommunicate.


38 If any cleric has a case to bring against a cleric, let him not leave his own bishop and take himself off to the secular courts, but let him first air the problem before his own bishop, or at least, with the permission of the bishop himself, before those whom both parties are willing to see act as arbiters of their lawsuit. If anyone acts in a contrary fashion, let him be subject to canonical penalties. If a cleric has a case to bring either against his own or against another bishop, let him bring the case to the synod of the province. If a bishop or a cleric is in dispute with the metropolitan of the same province, let him engage either the exarch of the diocese or the see of imperial Constantinople, and let him bring his case before him.


39 A cleric is not allowed to be appointed to churches in two cities at the same time: to the one where he was originally ordained, and to another more important one to which he has betaken himself out of desire to increase a baseless reputation. Those who do this are to be sent back to their own church in which they were ordained at the beginning, and only there are they to serve. But if some have already been transferred from one church to another, they are not to take part in any of the affairs of their former church, or of the martyrs' shrines or almshouses or hospices that come under it. The sacred synod has decreed that those who, subsequent to this decree of this great and universal synod, dare to do anything that is now forbidden are to lose their personal rank.


40 We have decreed that, subject to examination, all paupers and needy persons are to travel with ecclesiastical letters or letters of peace only, and not of commendation, since it befits only reputable persons to be provided with letters of commendation.


41 It has come to our notice that, contrary to the ecclesiastical regulations, some have made approaches to the civil authorities and have divided one province into two by official mandate, with the result that there are two metropolitans in the same province. The sacred synod therefore decrees that in future no bishop should dare do such a thing, since he who attempts it stands to lose his proper station. Such places as have already been honoured by imperial writ with the title of metropolis must treat it simply as honorary, and that goes also for the bishop who is in charge of the church there, without prejudice of course to the proper rights of the real metropolis.


42 Foreign clerics and readers without letters of commendation from their own bishop are absolutely forbidden to serve in another city.


29 Since in certain provinces readers and cantors have been allowed to marry, the sacred synod decrees that none of them is permitted to marry a wife of heterodox views. If those thus married have already had children, and if they have already had the children baptised among heretics, they are to bring them into the communion of the catholic church. If they have not been baptised, they may no longer have them baptised among heretics; nor indeed marry them to a heretic or a Jew or a Greek, unless of course the person who is to be married to the orthodox party promises to convert to the orthodox faith. If anyone transgresses this decree of the sacred synod, let him be subject to canonical penalty.


43 No woman under forty years of age is to be ordained a deacon, and then only after close scrutiny. If after receiving ordination and spending some time in the ministry she despises God's grace and gets married, such a person is to be anathematised along with her spouse.


44 It is not permitted for a virgin who has dedicated herself to the Lord God, or similarly for a monk, to contract marriage. If it is discovered that they have done so, let them be made excommunicate. However, we have decreed that the local bishop should have discretion to deal humanely with them.


45 Rural or country parishes belonging to a church are to stay firmly tied to the bishops who have possession of them, and especially if they have continually and peacefully administered them over a thirty-year period. If, however, within the thirty years any dispute about them has arisen, or should arise, those who are claiming to be wronged are permitted to bring the case before the provincial synod. If there are any who are wronged by their own metropolitan, let their case be judged either by the exarch of the diocese or by the see of Constantinople, as has already been said. If any city has been newly erected, or is erected hereafter, by imperial decree, let the arrangement of ecclesiastical parishes conform to the civil and public regulations.


46 The crime of conspiracy or secret association is entirely prohibited even by the laws of the land; so all the more properly is this forbidden in the church of God. So if any clerics or monks are found to be either forming a conspiracy or a secret society or hatching plots against bishops or fellow clergy, let them lose their personal rank completely.


47 We have heard that in the provinces the synods of bishops prescribed by canon law are not taking place, and that as a result many ecclesiastical matters that need putting right are being neglected. So the sacred synod decrees that in accordance with the canons of the fathers, the bishops in each province are to foregather twice a year at a place approved by the bishop of the metropolis and put any matters arising to rights. Bishops failing to attend who enjoy good health and are free from all unavoidable and necessary engagements, but stay at home in their own cities, are to be fraternally rebuked.


48 As we have already decreed, clerics who are serving a church are not permitted to join a church in another city, but are to be content with the one in which they were originally authorised to minister, apart from those who have been displaced from their own country and been forced to move to another church. If subsequent to this decision any bishop receives a cleric who belongs to another bishop, it is decreed that both the received and the receiver are to be excommunicate until such time as the cleric who has moved returns to his own church.


49 Clerics or layfolk who bring allegations against bishops or clerics are not to be admitted to make their charges without more ado and before any examination, but their reputation must first be investigated.


50 It is not permitted for clerics, following the death of their own bishop, to seize the things that belong to him, as has been forbidden even by earlier canons. Those who do this risk losing their personal rank.


51 It has come to the notice of the sacred synod that certain clerics and monks who have no employment from their own bishop and have sometimes even been excommunicated by him, are frequenting imperial Constantinople and spending long periods there causing disturbances, upsetting the ecclesiastical establishment and ruining people's homes. So the sacred synod decrees that such people are first to be warned by the public attorney of the most holy Constantinopolitan church to get out of the imperial city; and if they shamelessly persist in the same kinds of behaviour, they are to be expelled by the same public attorney even against their will, and are to betake themselves to their own places.


52 Monasteries once consecrated in accordance with the will of the bishop are to remain monasteries in perpetuity, and the effects which belong to them are reserved to the monastery, and they must not be turned into secular hostelries. Those who allow this to happen are to be subject to the canonical penalties.


53 According to our information, certain metropolitans are neglecting the flocks entrusted to them and are delaying the ordination of bishops, so the sacred synod has decided that the ordination of bishops should take place within three months, unless the period of delay has been caused to be extended by some unavoidable necessity. If a metropolitan fails to do this, he is to be subject to ecclesiastical penalties. The income of the widowed church is to be kept safe by the administrator of the said church.


54 According to our information, in some churches the bishops handle church business without administrators; so it has been decided that every church which has a bishop is also to have an administrator, drawn from its own clergy, to administer ecclesiastical matters according to the mind of the bishop concerned so that the church's administration may not go unaudited, and that consequently the church's property is not dispersed and the episcopate not exposed to serious criticism. If he does not comply with this, he is to be subject to the divine canons.


55 The sacred synod decrees that those who carry off girls under pretext of cohabitation, or who are accomplices or co-operate with those who carry them off, are to lose their personal rank if they are clerics, and are to be anathematised if they are monks or layfolk.

28 [in fact a resolution passed by the council at the 16th session but rejected by the Pope]

56 Following in every way the decrees of the holy fathers and recognising the canon which has recently been read out--the canon of the 150 most devout bishops who assembled in the time of the great Theodosius of pious memory, then emperor, in imperial Constantinople, new Rome -- we issue the same decree and resolution concerning the prerogatives of the most holy church of the same Constantinople, new Rome. The fathers rightly accorded prerogatives to the see of older Rome, since that is an imperial city; and moved by the same purpose the 150 most devout bishops apportioned equal prerogatives to the most holy see of new Rome, reasonably judging that the city which is honoured by the imperial power and senate and enjoying privileges equalling older imperial Rome, should also be elevated to her level in ecclesiastical affairs and take second place after her. The metropolitans of the dioceses of Pontus, Asia and Thrace, but only these, as well as the bishops of these dioceses who work among non-Greeks, are to be ordained by the aforesaid most holy see of the most holy church in Constantinople. That is, each metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses along with the bishops of the province ordain the bishops of the province, as has been declared in the divine canons; but the metropolitans of the aforesaid dioceses, as has been said, are to be ordained by the archbishop of Constantinople, once agreement has been reached by vote in the usual way and has been reported to him.

29 [an extract from the minutes of the 19th session]

57 The most eminent and illustrious officials asked: What does the sacred synod advise in the case of the bishops ordained by the most reverend Bishop Photius and removed by the most reverend Bishop Eustathius and consigned to be priests after losing the episcopacy? The most reverend Bishops Paschasinus and Lucentius and the priest Bonifatius, representatives of the apostolic see of Rome, replied: It is sacrilege to reduce a bishop to the rank of priest. But if whatever cause there is for removing those persons from the exercise of episcopacy is just, they ought not to occupy the position even of a priest. And if they have been removed from office and are without fault, they shall be restored to the episcopal dignity. The most reverend archbishop of Constantinople, Anatolius, replied: If those who are said to have descended from the episcopal dignity to the rank of priest have been condemned on what are reasonable grounds, they are clearly not worthy to hold even the office of a priest. But if they have been demoted to the lower rank without reasonable cause, then as long as they are seen to be innocent, they have every right to resume the dignity and priesthood of the episcopacy .

30 [an extract from the minutes of the 4th session]

58 The most eminent and illustrious officials and the exalted assembly declared: Since the most reverend bishops of Egypt have up to now put off subscribing to the letter of the most holy Archbishop Leo, not because they are in opposition to the catholic faith, but because they claim that it is customary in the Egyptian diocese not to do such things in contravention of the will and ordinance of their archbishop, and because they consider they should be given until the ordination of the future bishop of the great city of Alexandria, we think it reasonable and humane that, retaining their present rank in the imperial city, they should be granted a moratorium until such time as an archbishop of the great city of Alexandria is ordained. Most reverend Bishop Paschasinus, representative of the apostolic see, said: If your authority demands it, and you order that some measure of kindness be shown them, let them give guarantees that they will not leave this city before Alexandria receives its bishop. The most eminent and illustrious officials and the exalted assembly replied: Let the resolution of the most holy Bishop Paschasinus be upheld. So let the most reverend bishops of the Egyptians maintain their present rank and, either providing guarantees if they can, or pledging themselves on solemn oath, let them await the ordination of the future bishop of the great city of Alexandria.



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