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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XIV:
The Fourth Ecumenical Council.  The Council of Chalcedon.: Excursus on the Later History of Canon XXVIII.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Excursus on the Later History of Canon XXVIII.

Among the bishops who gave their answers at the last session to the question whether their subscription to the canons was voluntary or forced was Eusebius, bishop of Dorylæum, an Asiatic bishop who said that he had read the Constantinopolitan canon to “the holy pope of Rome in presence of clerics of Constantinople, and that he had accepted it” (L. and C., Conc., iv. 815).  But quite possibly this evidence is of little value.  But what is more to the point is that the Papal legates most probably had already at this very council recognized the right of Constantinople to rank immediately after Rome.  For at the very first session when the Acts of the Latrocinium were read, it was found that to Flavian, the Archbishop of Constantinople, was given only the fifth place.  Against this the bishop protested and asked, “Why p. 289 did not Flavian receive his position?” and the papal legate Paschasinus answered:  “We will, please God, recognize the present bishop Anatolius of Constantinople as the first [i.e. after us], but Dioscorus made Flavian the fifth.”  It would seem to be in vain to attempt to escape the force of these words by comparing with them the statement made in the last session, in a moment of heat and indignation, by Lucentius the papal legate, that the canons of Constantinople were not found among those of the Roman Code.  It may well be that this statement was true, and yet it does not in any way lessen the importance of the fact that at the first session (a very different thing from the sixteenth) Paschasinus had admitted that Constantinople enjoyed the second place.  It would seem that Quesnel has proved his point, notwithstanding the attempts of the Ballerini to counteract and overthrow his arguments.

It would be the height of absurdity for any one to attempt to deny that the canon of Constantinople was entirely in force and practical execution, as far of those most interested were concerned, long before the meeting of the council of Chalcedon, and in 394, only thirteen years after the adoption of the canon, we find the bishop of Constantinople presiding at a synod at which both the bishop of Alexandria and the bishop of Antioch were present.

St. Leo made, in connexion with this matter, some statements which perhaps need not be commented upon, but should certainly not be forgotten.  In his epistle to Anatolius (no. cvi.) in speaking of the third canon of Constantinople he says:  “That document of certain bishops has never been brought by your predecessors to the knowledge of the Apostolic See.”  And in writing to the Empress (Ep. cv., ad Pulch.) he makes the following statement, strangely contrary to what she at least knew to be the fact, “To this concession a long course of years has given no effect!”

We need not stop to consider the question why Leo rejected the xxviijth canon of Chalcedon.  It is certain that he rejected it and those who wish to see the motive of this rejection considered at length are referred to Quesnel and to the Ballerini; the former affirming that it was because of its encroachments upon the prerogatives of his own see, the latter urging that it was only out of his zeal for the keeping in full force of the Nicene decree.

Leo can never be charged with weakness.  His rejection of the canon was absolute and unequivocal.  In writing to the Emperor he says that Anatolius only got the See of Constantinople by his consent, that he should behave himself modestly, and that there is no way he can make of Constantinople “an Apostolic See,” and adds that “only from love of peace and for the restoration of the unity of the faith” he has “abstained from annulling this ordination” (Ep. civ.).

To the Empress he wrote with still greater violence:  “As for the resolution of the bishops which is contrary to the Nicene decree, in union with your faithful piety, I declare it to be invalid and annul it by the authority of the holy Apostle Peter” (Ep. cv.).

The papal annulling does not appear to have been of much force, for Leo himself confesses, in a letter written about a year later to the Empress Pulcheria (Ep. cxvi.), that the Illyrian bishops had since the council subscribed the xxviiith canon.

The pope had taken occasion in his letter in which he announced his acceptance of the doctrinal decrees of Chalcedon to go on further and express his rejection of the canons.  This part of the letter was left unread throughout the Greek empire, and Leo complains of it to Julian of Cos (Ep. cxxvij.).

Leo never gave over his opposition, although the breach was made up between him and Anatolius by an apparently insincere letter on the part of the latter (Ep. cxxxii.).  Leo’s successors followed his example in rejecting the canons, both the IIId of Constantinople and the XXVIIIth of Chalcedon, but as M. l’abbé Duchesne so admirably says:  “Mais leur voix fut peu écoutée; on leur accorda sans doute des satisfactions, mais de pure cérémonie.” 296   But p. 290 Justinian acknowledged the Constantinopolitan and Chalcedonian rank of Constantinople in his CXXXIst Novel. (cap. j.), and the Synod in Trullo in canon xxxvj. renewed exactly canon xxviij. of Chalcedon.  Moreover the Seventh Ecumenical with the approval of the Papal Legates gave a general sanction to all the canons accepted by the Trullan Synod.  And finally in 1215 the Fourth Council of the Lateran in its Vth Canon acknowledged Constantinople’s rank as immediately after Rome, but this was while Constantinople was in the hands of the Latins!  Subsequently at Florence the second rank, in accordance with the canons of I. Constantinople and of Chalcedon (which had been annulled by Leo) was given to the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople, and so the opposition of Rome gave way after seven centuries and a half, and the Nicene Canon which Leo declared to be “inspired by the Holy Ghost” and “valid to the end of time” (Ep. cvi.), was set at nought by Leo’s successor in the Apostolic See.

From the Acts of the same Holy Synod concerning Photius, Bishop of Tyre, and Eustathius, Bishop of Berytus.

The most magnificent and glorious judges said:

What is determined by the Holy Synod [in the matter of the Bishops ordained by the most religious Bishop Photius, but removed by the most religious Bishop Eustathius and ordered to be Presbyters after (having held) the Episcopate]?

The most religious Bishops Paschasinus and Lucentius, and the Priest Boniface, representatives of the Church 297 of Rome, said:



Duchesne, Origines du Culte Chrétien, p. 24.


“Apostolic Chair of Rome” in the Greek of the acts.

Next: Canon XXX

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