February 13, 2016

Photios the Great and the Eighth Ecumenical Synod (4 of 7)

b) The "Commonitory"

The "Commonitory", which means orders and instructions, is the decisions of the Synod convened in Rome for this purpose and which were sent to Constantinople with Cardinal Peter, to be coordinated with the new decisions of the Pope by the papal legates and Eugenios who were already in Constantinople, to address the issues that were discussed at the Synod convened for this purpose. These mandates refer to ten specific issues:

- The papal envoys sent were to communicate first with the emperor then with the others.

- They were not to discuss anything with the emperor until he read the Commonitory and the letter sent to him by the Pope.

- They were not to refer to the content of the letters sent to the Synod and Photios, before the emperor himself read them.

- After the emperor reads the letters, then the next day the envoys are to communicate with Photios and deliver to him the letter from the Pope addressed to him and to tell him that the Pope is in communion with him.

- They were to inform Photios that the Pope wants restored all the expelled Ignatian Bishops.

- The papal legates were sent by the Pope to the Synod in order to pacify the Church of Constantinople and bring concord to it.

- Those Bishops who did not comply were to be deposed.

- There were to be no more "all at once" ordinations of Bishops, in the manner Patriarch Photios was elected and certain other Bishops.

- Photios was hereinafter to no longer send his people to Bulgaria.

- The Synod of 869-870 which deposed Photios is now cancelled.

From these mandates it becomes obvious the way the Pope was acting, on the one hand because the envoys were to refer first to the emperor and then to Photios and the Synod, on the other hand it shows that he is overriding the Synod and wants to impose his decisions, which the Synod had to accept. Hence, synodical polity could not be applied, since the decisions were predetermined and thus the Pope is showing his Primacy of authority over the entire Church.

Characteristic also is the way the Pope transmits these mandates and directives to the Synod which convened for this purpose. There are some very expressive sentences which indicate the authority the Pope wants to have over the Synod. "I command, that before us (Photios) comes to the Synod, and may the entire Church receive him." "According to the decree of our letters we also receive him (Photios)." "Rise up and say to him (Photios): Our lord, the most-holy Pope bids you." "Receive him (Photios) as a father does his children." "Our lord, the most-holy Pope of the entire Church, is a caring shepherd of our salvation." "Excommunicate them and depose them from every ecclesiastical office, until they unite with the domestic patriarch."

It should be noted that during the reading of the Commonitory discussions took place twice. First, after the reading of the sixth term, where it says that the papal legates were sent by the Pope to the Synod in order to pacify the Church of Constantinople and bring concord to it, and the papal legates asked, "Is this good or not?" Then the Synod said, "As for the peace and concord of the Church, it is both a good and welcome prescription." Then, during the reading of the Commonitory, specifically the tenth term where it says the Synod of 869-870 which deposed Photios is now cancelled, the Bishops present at the Synod said that they had preached against, expelled and anathematized the Synod when they united with Photios, their Patriarch, and anathematized those who had participated in that Synod of the year 869-870.

From these it appears that the Pope considered himself above the Church, which is why he issued mandates, even in the first person.

As stated above, the Commonitory was read during the Third Session of the Synod. However, at the Fourth Session of the Synod they raised, among other things, the claims of the Pope for the Throne of Constantinople to not interfere in the ecclesiastical provinces of Bulgaria and regarding the ordinations of Bishops from the status of the laity, as it was done with Photios and certain others. Regarding the first claim, the Synod did not accept this claim of the Pope and decided that it was not to be decided upon in the present moment, rather it was referred to the emperor to solve it, especially when the Empire was to be restored to its "ancient boundaries". In this way they rejected the claim of the Pope to having canonical jurisdiction over the Church of Bulgaria. As for the second claim, which had to do with elevating a layman to the status of a patriarch, this was related to what was happening in the West at the time. At that time the Pope was facing a problem in his Church from the fact that the Franks were imposing Bishops from the status of laymen. The Synod decided that since each Throne is ancient and has its own customs, it is not for others to impose their own decrees upon another.

Thus the fundamental claims/mandates of the Pope were not accepted by the Eighth Ecumenical Synod, as can be read in the Minutes of the Synod. Wherefore, the synodal system prevailed in the Church and not the absolutism of the Pope of Rome, who wanted to impose his own views.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.