Thursday, March 20, 2014

What are the Criteria for an Ecumenical Synod?


- St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite writes in the The Rudder:

I find some four characteristic features of an Ecumenical Synod here and there referred to by many authors....

Three of them are remote and common, and pertain to some local Synods, whereas the other one is the most proximate, and, so to speak, the essential one, the constituent one, and is in fact the peculiar difference which distinguishes all Ecumenical Synods....

1. The chief distinguishing feature of all Ecumenical Synods is the fact that they are convoked at the behest, not of the Pope or of such and such a patriarch, but by imperial orders, i.e., at the behest of emperors or kings....

2. [They are] for the purpose of discussing matters of faith, and consequently to render a decision, and give it dogmatic definition....

3. All dogmas laid down by them and their canons [are] to be orthodox, pious, and in agreement with the divine Scriptures or previous Ecumenical Synods....

4. All Orthodox patriarchs and prelates of the catholic Church [are] to agree and to accept everything that has been decreed and ordained by the Ecumenical Synods, either by their personal presence or by their own legate, or deputy, or, in the absence of such a representative, by means of a letter of their own.


- Fr. John Romanides writes in the summary of his positions in his website www.romanity.org:

Religion is a neurobiological sickness with a specific cure which has been handed down by the prophets and apostles of the Old and New Testaments and preserved by the Fathers of the Church whose tradition of cure was defended by the Nine Roman Ecumenical Councils [or Synods]. These Councils were convened by the Roman Emperor, beginning with Constantine the Great, in coordination with the Roman Patriarchates of Elder Rome, New Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and finally Jerusalem by 451. These Councils are (1) Nicea 325, (2) Constantinople 381, (3) Ephesus 431, (4) Chalcedon 451, (5) Constantinople 553, (6) Constantinople 680, (7) Nicea 786/7, (8) Constantinople 879 and (9) Constantinople 1341. We have here Eight Ecumenical Councils which were promulgated as Roman Law by the signature of the Emperor after their minutes had been signed by the Five Roman Patriarchates and their Metropolitans and Bishops. Then we have the Ninth Ecumenical Council of 1341, whose minutes were signed by only Four Roman Patriarchates and countersigned by the Roman Emperor. Gone was now the Patriarchate of Elder Rome which had been forcefully captured by the Franks, Lombards, Germans and with the help of the Normans. This struggle began in intensity in 983 and was consummated in 1009-1046. After 1045 the Popes of Rome, except for Benedict X (1058-9), were no longer Romans, but members of the Franco-Latin nobility who enslaved the Roman population....

The current idea among many Orthodox that an Ecumenical Council becomes finally official when it is recognized by a subsequent Ecumenical Council has no basis in Roman Law. Each such Council became Roman Law the moment when its minutes were signed on the spot by the participating Patriarchal and Metropolitan Synods and countersigned by the Emperor himself. Heretics and their heresies were condemned on the spot and not at a subsequent Ecumenical Council. Their Creeds and Horoi became Roman Law on the spot. The Creed of 381 became the Orthodox Creed on the spot in 381and not in 431 which simply repeated the Creed of 381 as did each subsequent Ecumenical Council.

The Emperor convened these Ecumenical Councils in conjunction with the Five Roman Patriarchates of a) Elder Rome, b) Constantinople New Rome, c) Alexandria, d) Antioch to which e) Jerusalem was added in 451. But between 1009 and 1046 the Franco-Germans created a serious crisis in this Roman tradition when they captured and took over the Patriarchate of Elder Rome during a struggle which began in 983 and was consummated in 1009. The Patriarchate of Constantinople New Rome was obliged to take the place of Elder Rome in the order of "Seniority of Honor" which she held legally anyway since 451 "equally with and after Rome," having become New Rome in 330....

After the Roman Emperor and Empire fell in 1453 the Four Roman Patriarchates of Constantinople New Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem continued to convene Church Councils which continued the tradition of the Ecumenical Councils. The only reason why these Councils are not called "Ecumenical" is simply that this title means "Imperial" since the decisions of these Ecumenical Councils became part of Roman Law. In other words the decisions of the Roman Councils after 1453 are part of Church Law, but no longer part of Imperial law. There was no longer a Roman Empire and Roman Emperor to enact Roman Law. So these Nine Ecumenical Councils are at the same time both Church Law and Roman Law. The Councils convened after 1453 are part of Church Law and with no less authority than Ecumenical Councils, except in the imagination of modern Orthodox misled by the Russian Orthodoxy of Peter the Great.

So there are now Orthodox who even call themselves the Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Most Orthodox are in a state of limbo about the Eighth and Ninth Ecumenical Councils. The Eighth Ecumenical Council of 879 simply condemned those who either "add to" or "subtract from" the Creed of 381 and also those who have not yet accepted the teaching of the Seventh Ecumenical Council about Icons. The Franks condemned were not mentioned at the time in order to allow them to reconsider.

The Ninth Ecumenical Council of 1341 condemned the Platonic mysticism of Barlaam the Calabrian who had come from the West as a convert to Orthodoxy.

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