The Consequences of Chalcedon


From The Eastern Churches and the Papacy by the Rev. S. Herbert Scott, (published in 1928) pp. 207-225:

Eutyches and Monophysitism were condemned by the Council of Chalcedon. But Monophysitism continued to flourish, if Eutychianism waned. For Monophysitism and Eutychianism are not equivalent terms. There were, and are, many Monophysites who condemn Eutyches. In fact, the majority would.

By the "Eastern Church" we now mean the Orthodox Churches, whose chief figure is the Patriarch of Constantinople.

But after the Council of Ephesus and the Council of Chalcedon, great bodies of the Oriental Churches, sympathetic with, or maybe, not altogether alive to the bearings of, the teachings and heresies of Nestorianism and Monophysitism, broke away from the orthodox Churches--schisms which still at this day endure.

There was shown above (p. 4) the East Syrian Church, the Church of Persia, the Church of Armenia, Catholic in doctrine and in full communion with the West. And evidence was given of their teaching on the pre-eminent position of Peter in the apostolic band and in the Church.

All these separated Eastern Churches, then, spring either from Nestorianism or from Monophysitism--they are either "Nestorian" or "Monophysite."

The point now is, that when they pass into heresy and schism, they still, oddly enough, retain belief in, and afford by their documents many supports and considerable evidence of, Petrine primacy. The Church of Armenia must, at first, have accepted the Council of Chalcedon, for ten Armenian bishops were present at that synod and signed the acts.

As a matter of fact, the Armenians held the Faith of Chalcedon for ninety years. Why then did the Armenian Church come to reject it? The answer must be found to a certain extent in the reason already given for the spread of Nestorianism--that the empire had accepted the opposite and the empire, instead of helping them against the Persians by whom they were over-run, had failed them. Their patriarch Joseph, the bishops, and the generals of the army of Vartan had in their extreme distress appealed to Theodosius for aid against the Persians, who, they said: "were going to destroy among them the Faith received from the Prince of bishops who is at Rome." [Tournebize, _Histoire Politique et Religieuse de l'Armenie, p. 80] Theodosius died soon after this, but they found his successor Marcian more hopeless still. Thus they were prejudiced against anything favoured by Marcian and therefore against Chalcedon, of which he was the great supporter. National feeling was also always very strong in Armenia, and it had its influence in increasing their keen desire to be independent.

But there was also the difficulty caused by the paucity of their then language to represent the theological terms involved in the dispute. The primitive Armenian Church agreed with the Faith of Chalcedon--a speech of Sahag (Isaac) at the Synod of Aschtischat (435) shows his Christology perfectly in accord. Nos confitemur Christum ex duabus naturis unam hypostasim, unam personam, et unam Christum.

The letter of Leo to Flavian, too, had not been faithfully translated into Armenian, and interested heretics and schismatics used the opportunity to cause discord and discontent.

The Emperor Heraclius brought about a temporary re-union of the Armenians with the Eastern Church.

But in 645 they relapsed. A synod at Tovin denounced Chalcedon. Attempts still were made at re-union from time to time and Armenian bishops took part in the Ecumenical Councils of Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (680) and Nicaea II (787).

The Armenians to-day still acknowledge the pope as Patriarch of the West and the chief of the bishops of the Church--though some of its writers would have it that the primacy was conferred by the Council of Nicaea and lost by the "apostasy" of Chalcedon.

Here it is useful to give one or two quotations of what Armenian writers of our period have to say of Petrine prerogatives.

The Patriarch Sahag (Isaac), who died in the year that Leo the Great became Pope, wrote in 426, i.e. twenty-five years before the Council of Chalcedon, a letter in which he says:

"The precept of God commends to us, not a Church built of stones and wood, but the human race built on a rock by faith in the truth. Wherefore the true faith is the Church which gathers us together and builds in the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God, for He Himself the Life-giver, teaches us saying to Saint Peter: `Thou art Peter and on this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against thee.'" (Note his altering `it' to `thee.') "Now when we hear Peter called a rock, what are we to understand to be said? That it is like a stone among stones? Far from it, but it is as man using reason, the head of of the apostolic band; and since he with immovable faith confessed Christ the Son of the living God, he obtained the blessing and was called Rock. So, too, those who are built on it are not inanimate stones, but men sharers in the same faith, since the Holy Scriptures do not hesitate often and often where there is need to call Our Lord and Saviour by this name.

...John Mantagouni, patriarch from 482-489, in a solemn discourse, speaks of referring to the doorkeeper and key-bearer of heaven those who had made shipwreck of the faith. Like his three predecessors, this patriarch accepted the faith promulgated and defined at Chalcedon.

To return to the years more immediately succeeding the Council of Chalcedon and its condemnation of Monophysitism, Pope Leo's labours in the controversy were by no means finished by his work at Chalcedon. As one studies the history of these Easterns it is plain that theological questions are often, if not always, made national questions--the rivalry between Alexandria and Constantinople is the key to much. It requires little imagination to conceive the hot indignation and violent hostility that the condemnation and humiliation of the proud ecclesiastical "Pharaoh" at the hands of Constantinople, meant from the side of fanatical hordes of ignorant Egyptian monks. The Nestorian and Eutychian quarrels, in different forms, still continued long to trouble the East.

Proterius had been chosen by those who accepted Chalcedon to succeed Dioscorus at Alexandria, and supported by the Emperor Marcian, the orthodox became the imperial party--the Melkites. [From the Syrian word "Malka" = royal. They were the "imperialists," holding to the religion of the emperor and to Chalcedon.]

The death of Marcian (457) was the opportunity for fresh trouble. The Monophysites chose Timothy Ailurus, who, consecrated by three Monophysite bishops, became the rival of Proterius. The latter was murdered, and Timothy was bold enough to ask the new emperor (Leo I) to recognize him as Patriarch of Alexandria.

The Emperor was inclined to accede to his request, and Anatolius supported him. But in spite of the letter which they sent out to the bishops asking their opinion of Timothy and his petition, and suggesting a council, all save one were against him, and Pope Leo the Great was adamant against opening questions already answered. "Non ad confligendum cum hostibus fidei, nec ad certandum contra ullos....tanquam dubia vel infirma sint quae tanta per Spiritum Sanctum fixit auctoritas." (P.L. liv., 1143, Ep, 162.)

The result of all this was that for the time being Timothy the Cat was sent into exile--another Timothy (Sakophakiolos) being set up as the Catholic patriarch.

Meanwhile at Antioch also there was trouble. Peter the Fuller was objecting to Chalcedon, and got himself made Patriarch of Antioch, sympathised with and supported by Zeno, son-in-law of the emperor and afterwards emperor himself. The Fuller it was who became famous as the inventor of the phrase "who was crucified for us," which he inserted in the Trisagion--a phrase which, but for its origin, need not have been suspect. He too went into exile.

But the reign of Zeno was interrupted by a rebellion of Basiliscus, who made himself emperor for a year, and during that time he restored Timothy the Cat and Peter the Fuller.

Basiliscus went so far as to issue a letter condemning Chalcedon and Leo; and he frightened more than five hundred bishops into signing it.

The archimandrites of Constantinople appealed to the Pope Simplicius. Their letter is not extant, but the Pope's replies to them and the Emperor are. Pope Simplicius counsels the Emperor to imitate his predecessors Marcian and Leo, and maintain the Council of Chalcedon and the letters of S. Leo. "For the rule of apostolic doctrine abides always unaltered with the successor of him to whom the Lord entrusted all the flock and promised His perpetual assistance to the end of time, against whom He has promised that the gates of hell shall never prevail, and to the sentence of whom He has declared that what has been bound on earth cannot be unbound even in heaven itself." [Mansi, vii, 974. Simplicii ep., 4,5,6,7.] To the archimandrites Simplicius writes that there is no need, after the letters of S. Leo, for any further explanation of the Faith.

And now comes the Acacian Schism.

Acacius, the founder of a schism that lasted thirty-five years, is to be remembered as he "qui, le premier, apprit a l'Eglise grecque a vivre separee de la Chaire de saint Pierre." ["who first taught the Greek Church to live separated from St Peter's chair"--quoting French writer A. Roux.]

The key to the troublous situation is to be found in the XXVIIIth Canon of Chalcedon, though this famous canon was never placed in any Eastern Code of Canon Law till Photius did so. I may remark en passant, that even judged by the test of "universal consent," it can never be looked upon as a judgment and decree of the "Catholic" Church. Rejected by the West, like the IIIrd Canon of Constantinople, how can it be looked upon as of ecumenical validity?

Acacius, however, was determined to make it the means of fostering his ambition--though, as we have seen, even the Easterns had, anyhow in appearance, renounced it. This is the only hypothesis one has by which to account for his changes and vacillations.

Acacius at first had merited by his zeal the praise of Pope Simplicius, to whom he had denounced Peter Mongos, suspected both of Eutychianism and of having had some part in the murder of Proterius. And when Basiliscus issued his daring encyclical, alone of all the Oriental bishops, Acacius had the courage to resist him.

The Pope, Simplicius, urges Acacius to influence the Emperor in the Catholic direction, to join the monks in opposing the Cat, and assures him that there is no need of a council, the error of Eutyches having already been thoroughly dealt with. As the result, the Patriarch stirred up the monks against the usurprer, and Basiliscus fled. Evidently Acacius was at the time a whole-hearted supporter of the Apostolic See.

But conscious of the influence which he found he possessed in bringing about the expulsion of Basiliscus and the return of Zeno, Acacius apparently began to dream ambitious dreams of dominating the East and breaking with the See of Rome. For Pope Gelasius tells us that many of his predecessor's letters were ignored and unanswered. And when the two most important sees of the East happened to be vacant at the same time, it probably occurred to Acacius that now was his opportunity of uniting under his leadership all who were at loggerheads with Rome.

Soon after Zeno's restoration Timothy died, but his usurpation was continued by Peter Mongos. Then, when the Catholic Timothy Sakophakiolos died, the Egyptians wanted Peter Mongos to succeed him. But a Catholic (John Talaia) was chosen.

Acacius had excommunicated Mongos, but now they became friends and allies, and each in the other found a suitable auxiliary for his schemes and ambitions.

Zeno, since Egypt and Syria, the two most populous rich and powerful provinces of the empire, were specially affected by Monophysitism, and with the Monophysitism was mixed up a good deal of anti-imperialist feeling, embarked on a policy of compromise and "comprehensiveness"--a policy which would be continued for many weary years and bring nothing but dissatisfaction in trying to conciliate the Monophysites. Hence the genesis of the decree Henoticon, which consisted of:

1. The Niceno-Constantinopolitan symbol.
2. Cyril's XII Anathemas.
3. The decrees of Ephesus.
4. The Condemnations of Nestorius and Eutyches.

Christ is "one not two" and "two natures" is avoided. But there was nothing said about the Tome of Leo or about Chalcedon except aversely. "Whoever thinks or has thought otherwise, whether at Chalcedon or at any other synod, is excommunicate," gives the text of the Henoticon. The men really responsible for this Henoticon were Acacius and Peter Mongos. The Emperor judged that this decree, which would be acceptable to the Monophysites, could also be signed by the orthodox, as, so far as it went (apart from the clause about Chalcedon), it was patient of a Catholic interpretation. But of course it really satisfied nobody.

John Talaia was driven from his see of Alexandria and Mongos took his place, intruded by the Emperor. The ejected patriarch fled, like Athanasius, to Rome to the Pope, to denounce both Acacius and Peter to him as heretics.

The difficult stage for both Acacius and Zeno arrives now. It is to obtain the confirmation of the election of Mongos from the Pope.

Simplicius, in spite of a letter from Zeno accusing Talaia of perjury, hesitated to give the consent of the Apostolic See to Mongos, and Acacius kept silence when information was sought.

The next pope, Felix II, wanted Acacius to come to Rome to a council, to have the charges against him investigated. But his legates to Constantinople were imprisoned and then cajoled, with the result that they communicated with Acacius and betrayed their mission.

When Felix had heard from John Talaia about all that had happened in the East, he excommunicated Acacius as the author of the Henoticon, and for being responsible for the presence of Peter Mongos at Alexandria and for Peter the Fuller at Antioch. To be in communion with Mongos, an out-and-out Monophysite, was to cease to be Catholic. And, as Hormisdas later wrote, "To receive the Tome of Leo and to maintain in the diptychs the name of Acacius are contradictory things." Felix excommunicated his treacherous legates too, while Acacius, for his part, removed the name of the pope from his diptychs.

Some monk dared to pin the document of excommunication to the vestments of Acacius as he went to Liturgy in S. Sophia, but although Talaia was recognized by the Roman Council as the lawful Patriarch of Alexandria, he was never able to take possession of his see, but, spending the rest of his life in Italy, became the friend and helper of Pope Gelasius I.

At Constantinople the Pope had devoted adherents in the monks, the Akoimetai, the "sleepless ones," [so-called because of their keeping up by night as well as day ceaseless round of prayer] eager to maintain communion with the apostolic see. They fearlessly denounced the action of their bishop and publicly reproved the conduct of Mongos, who, not content with signing the Henoticon, had even gone to the length of anathematising Chalcedon.

Felix II still protested his desire for reconciliation of "this unfortunate" Acacius. But his hopes were not realized. A few years, and Peter the Fuller, Acacius, Mongos, and Felix II were all dead. But the schism still went on, though Euphemius, who after Flavita became Patriarch of Constantinople, desired communion with the Holy See, stipulating however, that the name of Acacius should not be removed from the diptychs.

The really great pope, Gelasius I, ascended the chair of Peter in 492, and the affairs of the East claimed a great deal of his attention. Out of forty-three of his letters which are extant eleven are devoted to these questions.

The chief thesis of the letters is that the rehabilitation of the name of Acacius is impossible, since this prelate is dead without any sign of repentance, condemned by a sentence just from every point of view, and all the excuses alleged by his supporters are ridiculous. And the complaints he makes against Acacius are that he upset in the East the discipline established by the Council of Nicea; though a mere suffragan of Heraclea, he exalted himself above the patriarchal sees of Alexandria and Antioch; arrogating to himself the power which belongs only to the pope, he took upon himself to settle the question between two claimants for the second see. When he was summoned to Rome to the papal council he took no notice of the citation; he encouraged and harboured notorious heretics, and, worst of all, he corrupted the papal legates in favour of Mongos, and gave a blow, in the mind of the weak, to the fundamental dogma of Catholic unity, the indefectibility of the Apostolic See in the purity of Faith.

All this, whatever one says of it in itself, shows what the relation was in which Rome claimed to stand towards the East, at the end of the fifth century. And Gelasius bases his contentions on Scripture and traditions and the most famous Eastern prelates:

"It is the canons themselves which have willed that the appeals of all the Church should be referred to this see, but that from its sentence no appeal could be made. It is the see which the words of Jesus Christ, the traditions of our Fathers, and the authority of the canons support, in order that it may have authority to judge all the Church." [Ep. xxvi.]

Again he writes: "The Universal Church well knows that what has been bound by whatever pontiff, the See of the Blessed Apostle Peter has the right of loosing, because to it has been given to judge all the Churches, and no one has the right of judging what has been once decided." [as cited in Robertson, J.C., vol.ii, _History of the Christian Church_, p. 285.]

The Epistles 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 18, 26, 27, all deal with the question of Acacius. But Ep. 11 is really a letter to Gelasius, a reply from the Bishops of Dardania. It is a protestation of the fidelity of the Eastern bishops to the Apostolic See, that they observe in everything the precepts of their fathers and follow inviolably the rules of the holy canons, and so endeavour to obey all, with a common faith and an equal devotion to the Apostolic See of the Roman pontiff exalted and angelic.

Ep. 12 to the Emperor Anastasius furnishes us with one example of many which occur in the writings of Gelasius--of instances of the Pope's teaching on the distinction between the spiritual and civil powers, and the supremacy of the former. "And the charge of pontiffs is the much more heavy, because at the judgment of God they will have to give account of kings themselves. You know, most clement Son, that although you preside over the human race by your dignity, you are nevertheless subject to the ministers of sacred things....if in that which concerns order and public administration the pontiffs of religion, recognising that the empire has been entrusted to you by a disposition from on high, obey your laws, with what assiduity ought you not to obey those who are set up to dispense the sacred mysteries."

The writings of these popes of the fifth century are extremely interesting in their so uncompromising claims. Whether the emperors like it or not, whether the emperors recognize it or not, the popes assert that they are above the monarchs, that there is no appeal from the Roman see, and that no council can set aside their decision: that Peter speaks through them, and, as the Acts of Ephesus recorded, "ever lives in his see and gives judgment."

Acacius, more than once, averred that the popes owed their pre-eminence in the Church to their being bishops of the capital city of the empire, and now that that capital was transferred to Constantinople, the first rank should go to its patriarchs.

Gelasius fitly replied:

"We laughed at the prerogative which is desired to be attributed to Acacius because he was bishop of the imperial city. Hasn't the emperor resided for a long time at Ravenna, at Milan, at Sirmium, at Trier, and have the bishops of these cities exceeded teh limits that antiquity fixed for them?...The secular power of the empire is one thing; the distribution of ecclesiastical dignities is another thing. However small a town may be, it does not diminish the greatness of the prince who resides there; in the same way, the presence of the emperor does not change the order of the hierarchy."

The Acacian Schism had now lasted nearly thirty years. The policy of compromise still had its strong supporters, though recent essays in that direction had shown so little success. The Monophysites must indeed be reconciled, but not at the price of any modification of the settled Faith. There were, however, plenty of orthodox "Chalcedonians" in the East, and especially at Constantinople. They saw that the only means of preventing the further spread of the growing heresy was to have the help of the West. Negotiations were entered upon with Pope Anastasius II (496-498), but were frustrated by his early death. Pope Symmachus, his successor, received in 512 from Eastern bishops a letter begging for the communion of Blessed Peter "the Prince of the Apostles," and promising obedience to the Apostolic See.

The Eastern bishops were weary of the schism, and their letter begging for reunion will show the high claims made by the popes were hardly strange, or novel, or unacknowledged in the East.

Having referred to the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, they say they are begging, not for lost sheep or drachma,

"but for the precious salvation, not only of the East, but of three parts almost of the inhabited world, redeemed, not with corruptible gold or silver, but with the precious Blood of the Lamb of God, according to the doctrine of the
blessed Prince of the glorious Apostles, whose See Christ, the good Shepherd, has entrusted to Your Blessedness. Following his example, most holy Father, hasten to help us, just as Blessed Paul, your Doctor, informed in a vision that the Macedonians were in danger, hastened to help them in deed. O Father, full of tenderness for your children, since it is not in vision but in reality that in the eyes of your mind you see us perishing by the prevarication of our Father Acacius, do not delay, or rather, to speak with the prophet, do not slumber, but hasten to help us. You have not only received the power of binding, but also that of loosing, in accordance with the example of the Master, those who long have been in bonds, nor only the power of uprooting and of destroying, but also that of planting and building, as Jeremias, or rather as Jesus Christ, of whom Jeremias was the type; nor only that of delivering to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, but also that of restoring by love those long since rejected, lest (which God forbid) Satan, coming to plunge us into the greatest distress, may appear to gain the advantage over you. You are not ignorant of his malice, you whom Peter, your blessed Doctor, teaches always to shepherd, not by violence but by an authority fully accepted, the sheep of Christ which are entrusted to You in all the habitable world. We earnestly beg You therefore to tear away this new hindrance which weighs on us, as Jesus Christ our Saviour and our Leader destroyed the old one on the Cross....If Acacius was excommunicated because of his friendship for the Alexandrians or rather for the Eutychians, who anathematised Leo and the Council of Chalcedon, why are we accounted as heretics and subject to the anathema, we who cleave solely to the letter of Leo which was read at the council, who are attacked every day and condemned as heretics by the Eutychians because we preach your orthodox doctrine?

Do not disdain to succour us and do not hate us because we are in communion with our enemies. Among those who only had the care of a small number of souls, many have separated from their communion, the others in charge of a numerous flock yielded to the necessity not to abandon, as the hireling, the sheep to the wolf. It is not for love of life, but only for the salvation of souls that a great number of priests act thus....We all, both those who appear to communicate with the adversaries and those who abstain from it, await, after God, the light of your visitation and of your assistance. Hasten then to aid the East, whence the Saviour sent you two great suns to lighten all the earth; render Him what He sent you, illumine it with the light of the true Faith as He enlightened you with the light of knowledge divine....Just as the Lord said to Paul concerning Corinth `Speak and keep not silence, for I have a great multitude in this city,' so He says to You to-day `Hasten and go without dealy to the help of the East, for it is not a multitude of a hundred and twenty thousand men as at Nineveh, but a crowd much more numerous which awaits, after God, its healing from You.'"
[Mansi, _Sacrorum Conciliorum Collectio_, viii, 221 seq.]

In his acknowledgement of the appeal Symmachus urges all abstention of communion with the partisans of Acacius. Only so could they hope for communion with the Apostolic See.

It took seven years before the healing could be accomplished.

The Emperor Anastasius was veering more and more in favour of Monophysitism. The lot of the orthodox was a hard one. When Vitalian the barbarian general found it good policy to espouse the cause of the Catholics, and brought his 50,000 troops to the very walls of Constantinople (514), Anastasius thought it wise to modify his treatment of the orthodox and to seek restoration of communion with Rome. This would be possible on condition that the persecution ceased, the exiled bishops were restored, and a great council should be called together at Heraclea to effect the reunion of East and West. It was suggested that the Pope should be invited to this, but there was no precedent for a pope being present at a General Council, or leaving Rome to be present at a Council of the East. Besides, an attempt might be made to reopen the questions solemnly closed at Chalcedon. It was a delicate situation. Dorotheus, the Metropolitan of Thessalonica, at the head of forty bishops, sought reunion with Rome. They protested their attachment to it and their utter detestation of the heresies of Nestorius and Eutyches.

Hormisdas, now Pope, acknowledged the Emperor's letters, but he was guarded in his reply. His legates carried to Constantinople letters of Anastasius and Vitalian, together with his conditions for restoration of communion. These negotiations came to little. Hormisdas sends once more his messengers to Anastasius, and they bring his rule of Faith. But Anastasius becomes more reactionary and recalcitrant.

In the East persecution appears again. But the monks appeal to:

"The Successor of the Prince of the Apostles," "The Head of all," "The most holy and blessed Patriarch of the whole world."

Hormisdas counsels patience and faith.

In 518 Anastasius was succeded by Justin, who, like his nephew the great Justinian, was a Catholic, and Justin speedily took steps to restore union with Rome. This was not now so difficult a task, bearing in mind the Eastern mentality were a sovereign was concerned, and the efforts that had already been made to that end, e.g. John of Nicopolis (516) in his own name and that of others sent to Hormisdas begging for restoration of communion and protesting adhesion to the decrees of Chalcedon.

Pope Hormisdas issued his famous Formula, and all who desired communion with Rome were required to sign it. No modification or alteration could be tolerated, and signatures to the libellus were received were received from 2,500 Eastern bishops.

This Formula is of extreme importance, not only because of its explicit condemnation of the heresies and heresiarchs and of their supporters by name, but also because of the unequivocal assertion of papal authority to which these Easterns assented.

It puts the Tome of Leo on the same level as the decisions of ecumenical councils--Nicea, Ephesus and Chalcedon.

It puts in the most uncompromising terms the prerogatives claimed by the Roman see--though, as has been shown before, in earlier sections, those claims had long been made and allowed. It runs:

[Click here to read the full text of The Formula of Pope St Hormisdas reproduced in full elsewhere on this site.]

This Formulary, then, was dispatched for signature to the East, but it met with a certain amount of opposition, chiefly, indeed solely, I think, because of its condemnation of Acacius, who had been very popular at Constantinople, and also because of the omission of the diptychs of his name and those of his orthodox successors. The opposition to signing it did not arise from its clear affirmation of the rights of Rome. No one raised any objection to the powers of the Apostolic See, which were so plainly set out in it.

Hormisdas had a difficult task, no doubt, but he was endowed with a masterful disposition. The accession to power and influence of Justin, Vitalian, and Justinian, all orthodox, would perhaps still more "stiffen" him (if indeed he needed it), and he did not hesitate later to suggest to the Emperor that a little physical force might advantageously be used to encourage signatures. But things did not go quite so smoothly as it was given out. The obtaining of the signature of John, the Patriarch of Constantinople, affords a certain interest and subject for discussion as it has of controversy. Hormisdas, we have seen, would not tolerate any modification of his Formula. John wished to send instead his own profession of faith, and when this was ruled out he insisted on adding a preamble:

"Sanctissimas enim Dei ecclesias, id est, superioris vestrae et novellae istius Romae, unam esse accipio ilam sedem Apostoli Petri et istius augustae civitatis unam esse definio."

[The English translation of Patriarch John's preamble is given below.]

"John--a poor weak man--did accept it under severe imperial pressure," writes [Anglican] Bishop Gore, "but in accepting it he prefaced it with a statement which evacuated it of its Roman meaning. He somehow identified his own see with the Roman see, so as to admit of the position that he was accepting nothing as belonging to Hormisdas which he himself did not share. Moreover, numbers of Eastern bishops were admitted to the communion of Rome without signing anything except a statement of the orthodox faith." [Article "Papal Rome and the Orthodox East," _The Christian East_ (June, 1924), p. 69.]

But Bishop Gore is once again echoing the words of [Anglican] Fr Puller, who asserts "the Patriarch John managed to blunt very considerably the edge of the Formulary, for by identifying in some curious fashion his own see of new Rome with the papal see of old Rome, he managed to claim for the Constantinopolitan see a share in all the special privileges which in the Formulary were assigned to the Western apostolic chair." [_Primitive Saints and the See of Rome_, p. 400]

But John could hardly claim a share in "all" the privileges of old Rome. For example, Constantinople was not a "See of Peter."

When John prefaced to the Formula, "For I hold the most holy Churches of your elder and our new Rome to be one Church. I define that the see of the Apostle Peter and this of the imperial city to be one see," he might be simply expressing the oneness of faith and closeness of union in a striking manner just as Gregory the Great (in Ep. VII. 40) speaks of the "oneness" of Antioch, Alexandria and Rome.

[Gregory writes to Eulogius, Patriarch of Antioch: "Who does not know that the Church was built and established on the firmness of the Prince of the apostles, by whose name is implied a rock? Hence, though there were several apostles, there is but one apostolic see, that of the Prince of the apostles, which has acquired great authority; and that see is in three places--in Rome where he died, in Alexandria where it was founded by his disciple S. Mark, and in Antioch where he himself lived seven years. These three therefore are but one see, and on that one see sit three bishops, who are but one in Him Who said, I am in My Father, and you in me, and I in you."]

It may be that he has Byzantine ideas and aims at the back of his mind. Nevertheless, he does not withdraw anything from the declaration required of the Pope. By signing, he agrees that Rome is the see of Peter; that it is because of the words of Christ to Peter--["You are Peter"]--that in ["the Apostolic See that the Catholic religion has always been preserved undefiled."] He declares that union with Rome is communion with the Catholic Church (cf. ["separated from the Catholic Church, that is to say, those who are not in agreement with the Apostolic See"]).

He desires to follow Rome in everything since in Rome is "the true and perfect solidity of the Christian religion." ["Desiring to follow in everything, as we said, the Apostolic See; and proclaiming all its constitutions. I hope therefore to enter into communion with you, representatives of the Apostolic See; it is there that the Christian religion finds it perfect solidity."]

Personally I find it hard to see how his preamble blunted the edge of the Formulary. He subscribed to all these "Roman Claims." What more could the Pope want?

The Formula, indeed, is reproduced textually in the Letter Redditis mihi (28 March 519) of John of Constantinople announcing to Pope Hormisdas his submission.

Mgr. Battifol's comments on the above remarks of Bishop Gore are very much to the point. "Bishop Gore accuse Jean d'etre un pauvre homme, `a poor weak man,' qui a accepte toutes les conditions imposees par le pape Hormisdas et par l'empereur Justin: ceci rend deja invraisemblable qu'il ait par son preambule vide la formule de la signification que Rome lui donnait. Mais, en fait, cette preface n'affecte pas la formule et affirme l'union que Jean declare vouloir entre son siege et Rome." [Bishop Gore charges John as being "a poor weak man," who accepted all the conditions imposed by Pope Hormisdas and by Emperor Justin: which would make it all the more unlikely that he had by his preamble emptied the formula of the significance which Rome gave it. But, in fact, this preface did not impair the Formula but it affirmed the union which John would like to declare between his see and Rome.]

As regards the last paragraph of the passage from Dr Gore's article, "numbers of Eastern bishops were admitted to the communion of Rome without signing anything except a statement of the orthodox faith," he is again but following Father Fuller. And the lack of basis for this statement has been so trenchantly and so completely exposed by Dom. Chapman, that there is nothing to add. His strictures will be found in the footnotes, and Mgr. Battifol agrees with Dom. Chapman's words: "Fr Puller's blunder is such a big one that a public withdrawal would be desirable"...

The Formula of Pope Hormisdas was signed by the great Emperor Justinian, as we shall later see. And the bishops at the Eighth General Council all subscribed to it. But as this council is not now acknowledged by the Eastern Churches as ecumenical, and as our deductions are drawn from the Seven Ecumenical Councils common to East and West, the weight of the Formula, from an Eastern point of view, is certainly lessened.

Hormisdas was succeeded by John I, and this pope is to be remembered as the first pope to visit Constantinople [in 526]. It was not a willing visit however; it was, in fact, one from which he shrank. The Arian king Theodoric had incongruously compelled him to undertake the conduct of an embassy to Constantinople, to obtain from the Emperor Justinian mitigation of his severe policy,--the stern repression of the Arians in the East. For the Churches of the heretics had compulsorily been surrendered to the Catholics, and they themselves had been subjected to the utmost pressure to make them accept the Catholic Faith.

The enthusiasm and reverence with which Pope John was received in Constantinople were remarkable: the whole city being moved, and in its thousands going out to greet with crosses and lights "the vicar of the blessed Apostle Peter," and by their devotion "to honour the blessed Apostle Peter."

[Here we will cite J.N.D. Kelly's description of Pope St John I's visit to Constantinople which further shows it did not claim its see to be "equal in honour" with Rome:

"Leaving Ravenna early in 526, the embassy reached Constantinople shortly before Easter (19 Apr.). John was the first pope to leave Italy for the east, and his mission was a humiliating one. His reception, however, was brilliant: the whole city came out to the twelfth milestone to greet him, the emperor [Justin I] prostrated himself before St Peter's vicar, and on Easter Day he was given a throne in church higher than the patriarch's, celebrated mass according to the Latin rite, and instead of the patriarch placed the customary Easter crown on Justin's head." (The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, published in 1986, pp. 54-55.)]

....Documents relative to this pontificate are scanty. But it is evident from the "glory" with which the pontiff was received at Constantinople, and by the way in which he was treated by Theodoric on his return (he was cast into prison at Ravenna, where shortly afterwards he died), that the Catholics were satisfied, not only with his attitude towards the Arians, but also with his confirmation of the Faith; and that, while doubtless urging the emperor to clemency and forbearance with them, he had no idea of compromising or modifying the doctrine of the Church.

For some historical background on some personages of this era, see:

Catholic Encyclopedia article on Pope St Gelasius I

Catholic Encyclopedia article on Pope St John I

Catholic Encyclopedia article on Epiphanius of Constantinople

Return to Main Page