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Third Council of Constantinople

Third Council of Constantinople

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The Third Council of Constantinople, counted as the Sixth Ecumenical Council
Ecumenical council
An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice....

by the Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 and Eastern Orthodox churches and other Christian groups, met in 680/681 and condemned monoenergism and monothelitism
Monothelitism
Monothelitism is a particular teaching about how the divine and human relate in the person of Jesus, known as a Christological doctrine, that formally emerged in Armenia and Syria in 629. Specifically, monothelitism teaches that Jesus Christ had two natures but only one will...

 as heretical
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

 and defined Jesus Christ as having two energies and two wills (divine and human).

Background


The Council settled a set of theological controversies that go back to the sixth century but had intensified under the Emperors Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

 (610-641) and Constans II
Constans II
Constans II , also called Constantine the Bearded , was Byzantine emperor from 641 to 668. He also was the last emperor to become consul in 642, becoming the last Roman consul in history....

 (641-668). Heraclius had set out to much of his Empire from the Persians and had attempted to bridge the controversy with Monophysitism
Monophysitism
Monophysitism , or Monophysiticism, is the Christological position that Jesus Christ has only one nature, his humanity being absorbed by his Deity...

, which was particularly strong in Syria and Egypt, by proposing a moderate theological position that had as good support in the tradition as any other. The result was first monoenergism
Monothelitism
Monothelitism is a particular teaching about how the divine and human relate in the person of Jesus, known as a Christological doctrine, that formally emerged in Armenia and Syria in 629. Specifically, monothelitism teaches that Jesus Christ had two natures but only one will...

, i.e. that Christ, though existing in two natures, had one energy (divine and human), the second was monothelitism
Monothelitism
Monothelitism is a particular teaching about how the divine and human relate in the person of Jesus, known as a Christological doctrine, that formally emerged in Armenia and Syria in 629. Specifically, monothelitism teaches that Jesus Christ had two natures but only one will...

, i.e. that Christ had one will (that is, that there was no opposition in Christ between his human and divine volition). This doctrine was accepted in most of the Byzantine world, but was opposed at Jerusalem and at Rome and started a controversy that persisted even after the loss of the reconquered provinces and the death of Heraclius. When Heraclius' grandson Constans II took the throne, he saw the controversy as threatening the stability of the Empire and attempted to silence discussion, by outlawing speaking either in favour or against the doctrine. Pope Martin I
Pope Martin I
Pope Martin I, born near Todi, Umbria in the place now named after him , was pope from 649 to 653, succeeding Pope Theodore I in July 5, 649. The only pope during the Byzantine Papacy whose election was not approved by a iussio from Constantinople, Martin I was abducted by Constans II and died in...

 and the monk Maximus
Maximus the Confessor
Maximus the Confessor was a Christian monk, theologian, and scholar. In his early life, he was a civil servant, and an aide to the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius...

, the foremost opponents of monothelitism (which they misinterpreted as denying a human faculty of will to Christ), held a synod in Rome in 649 that condemned monoenergism and monothelitism. Subsequently, they supported abortive attempts by usurpers to seize power, out of a belief that only a new and orthodox emperor would win divine protection for the empire against its enemies. At Constantinople, however, this was regarded as high treason, and Martin and Maximus were accordingly arrested, tried, condemned and sent into exile, where they soon died. A council at Constantinople in 662, attended by perhaps as many as 400 bishops, reasserted monothelitism, leading to schism with Rome and the western churches.

After Constans' son and successor, Constantine IV
Constantine IV
Constantine IV , , sometimes incorrectly called Pogonatos, "the Bearded", by confusion with his father; was Byzantine emperor from 668 to 685...

 had overcome the Muslim siege of Constantinople in 678, he immediately set his sights on restoring communion with Rome: he wrote to Pope Donus
Pope Donus
Pope Donus was Pope from November 2, 676 to April 11, 678.He was the son of a Roman named Mauricius. Not much is known of this pope.-Reign:...

 suggesting a conference on the matter. When the letter reached Rome, Donus had died, but his successor, Pope Agatho
Pope Agatho
-Background and early life:Little is known of Agatho before his papacy. A letter written by St. Gregory the Great to the abbot of St. Hermes in Palermo mentions an Agatho, a Greek born in Sicily to wealthy parents. He wished to give away his inheritance and join a monastery, and in this letter...

, agreed to the Emperor's suggestion and ordered councils held throughout the West so that legates could present the tradition of the Western Church. Then he sent a delegation to meet the Easterners at Constantinople. In the meantime, Constantine summoned Patriarch George I of Constantinople
Patriarch George I of Constantinople
George I was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople from 679 to 686..- References :...

 and all bishops of his jurisdiction of Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 to a council. He also summoned Patriarch Macarius of Antioch
Macarius of Antioch
Macarius of Antioch was Patriarch of Antioch in the 7th century, deposed in 681. His title seems to have been a purely honorary one, for his patriarchate lay under the dominion of the Saracens, and he himself resided at Constantinople...

, a Byzantine appointee permanently resident in Constantinople because of the Muslim occupation of his see.

Proceedings


On 7 November 680, a mere 37 bishops and a number of presbyters convened in the imperial palace, in the domed hall called Trullo, from which the council also took the name Trullan Synod. The Patriarchs of Constantinople and of Antioch participated in person, whereas the patriarchates of Alexandria and Jerusalem were represented by Byzantine appointees (because of the Arab conquest there was at this date no patriarch in either of these sees). The POpe and a council he had held in Rome were represented (as was normal at eastern ecumenical councils) by a few priests and bishops. In its opening session, the council assumed the authority of an Ecumenical Council
Ecumenical council
An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice....

. The Emperor attended and presided over the first eleven sessions and returned for the closing session on 16 September 681, attended by 151 bishops.

During the council, a letter by Pope Agatho was read which asserted as the traditional belief of the Church that Christ was of two wills, divine and human. Most of the bishops present accepted the letter, proclaiming that Peter spoke through Agatho. Macarius of Antioch
Macarius of Antioch
Macarius of Antioch was Patriarch of Antioch in the 7th century, deposed in 681. His title seems to have been a purely honorary one, for his patriarchate lay under the dominion of the Saracens, and he himself resided at Constantinople...

 defended monothelitism
Monothelitism
Monothelitism is a particular teaching about how the divine and human relate in the person of Jesus, known as a Christological doctrine, that formally emerged in Armenia and Syria in 629. Specifically, monothelitism teaches that Jesus Christ had two natures but only one will...

 but was condemned and deposed, along with his partisans. The council, in keeping with Agatho's letter, defined that Jesus Christ possessed two energies and two wills but that the human will was 'in subjection to his divine and all-powerful will'. The council carefully avoided any mention of Maximus the Confessor, who was still regarded with suspicion. It condemned both monoenergism
Monoenergism
Monoenergism is a Christian heresy related to Monophysitism.In the 7th century, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius attempted to solve the schism between Chalcedonians and Monophysites, and suggested the compromise of Monoenergism...

 and monothelitism
Monothelitism
Monothelitism is a particular teaching about how the divine and human relate in the person of Jesus, known as a Christological doctrine, that formally emerged in Armenia and Syria in 629. Specifically, monothelitism teaches that Jesus Christ had two natures but only one will...

 as heretical
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

 and included those who had supported this heresy, including Pope Honorius I
Pope Honorius I
Pope Honorius I was pope from 625 to 638.Honorius, according to the Liber Pontificalis, came from Campania and was the son of the consul Petronius. He became pope on October 27, 625, two days after the death of his predecessor, Boniface V...

 and four previous patriarchs of Constantinople. When the council had concluded, the decrees were sent to Rome where they were confirmed by Agatho's successor, Pope Leo II
Pope Leo II
-Background and early activity in the Church:He was a Sicilian by birth , and succeeded Agatho. Though elected pope a few days after the death of St. Agatho , he was not consecrated till after the lapse of a year and seven months...

The subsequent Byzantine tradition came to interpret the decrees in line with the teaching of Maximus the Confessor, which brilliantly combined a recognition (shared with the monotheletes) that all Christ's individual actions were directed by his divine will with an insistence that his human will nevertheless possessed true spontaneity, in virtue of its intrinsic drive (as created) to obey its Creator.

Literature


"Concilium Universale Constantinopolitanum Tertium", in Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum, ser. 2, II.1-2. ed. R. Riedinger (Berlin 1990 and 1992).
  • Ostrogorsky, George. History of the Byzantine State. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0813505992
  • Ekonomou, Andrew J. 2007. Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes: Eastern influences on Rome and the papacy from Gregory the Great to Zacharias, A.D. 590-752. Lexington Books.

External links