"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, February 28, 2022

The Fourth Council of Constantinople and its Acts

I have previously and regularly hailed the efforts of Liverpool University Press to bring out volumes in their series Translated Texts for Historians. The beginning of May of this year will give us another: The Acts of the Council of Constantinople of 869-70, trans. Richard Price and Federico Montinaro (LUP, 2022), 520pp.

Readers with better memories than mine will recall, as I seem vaguely to do, that the late John Meyendorff once pleaded with Christians, Catholics especially, to bring this council in from the cold and see it as an important tool to resolving the impasse over papal primacy. I'm sure Meyendorff's views are cited at greatly revealing length in this loser's book.

Anyway, about this new translation we are told this:

The Council of Constantinople of 869-70 was highly dramatic, with its trial and condemnation of Patriarch Photius, a towering figure in the Byzantium of his day, and the tussle of wills at the council between the papal legates, the imperial representatives and the bishops. It was church politics and personalities rather than issues of doctrine, such as icon veneration, that dominated the debates. Out of all the acts of the great early councils, the acts of this council, of which this edition is the first modern translation, are the nearest to an accurate and complete record. Its protest against secular interference in ecclesiastical elections was taken up later in the West and led to this council's being accorded full ecumenical status, although it had been repudiated in Byzantium soon after it was held. No early council expresses so vividly the tension between Rome's claim to supreme authority and the Byzantine reduction of this to a primacy of honour.

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