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Synod of Constantinople (543). The Fifth Ecumenical Council

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Church councils have been held to solve various problems when consensus could not be reached through simple discussion. Most councils were local, although in some cases the decisions adopted were widely accepted (such as the The Synod of Constantinople).

The Synod of Constantinople was held in Constantinople in 553, convened by Emperor Justinian I. The Monophysite controversy continued after the condemnation of Eutychius and the issuing of the Chalcedon Confession. Personal disputes between bishops and the interference of the state in theological and ecclesiastical matters led to an unfortunate situation in the Church, which even Justinian’s authority and influence could not resolve.

The seven councils cover the period between 325 and 757 AD, and their decisions represent the foundation of Christian teaching accepted by the Eastern and Western branches of the Christian Church. 

The decisions of this Council met with great resistance, but by the Third Council of Constantinople, most of the opponents were (convinced) to accept them. But some evidence of the pre-existence of the soul was omitted, it is still found in the Gospels accepted by this council.

How many bishops were present at the Synod of Constantinople?

The letter of Ibas of Edessa to Bishop Maris of Ardasir (Persia) and the person and work of Theodore of Mopsuestia.

According to historical scholars, 165 bishops participated, and the writings of the three were condemned and they anathematized. This decision was accepted with difficulty in the West.

During the Synod of Constantinople, a dispute arose between the Eastern and Western bishops over the anathematization of the dead, and for a time the Pope’s name was removed from the script. The permanent rift between East and West was avoided through the efforts of Justinian. It provided the foundation for the creation of new and independent churches, such as the Armenian, Ethiopian, and others.

Who was president of the Council of Constantinople?

Following the edict, Vigilius broke off all fellowship with Patriarch Mina and Theodore Askida. So the bishop of Rome took refuge with 11 Latin and 2 African bishops in St Peter’s Church, striking anathema on Patriarch Mina and Theodore Askida. Therefore, after many hardships, on the night of 23 December 551, he managed to cross the Bosphorus, taking shelter in the church of St Euphemia in Chalcedon. From there, in January 552, he issued another decree condemning Patriarch Mina and Theodore Askida.

Eutychius presided over the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople. Present at the opening of the Synod were Apollinaris of Alexandria, Domnus of Antioch, three representatives of Patriarch Eutychius of Jerusalem, and 145 other bishops, of whom only 8 were Latin. Vigilius did not attend, citing illness. The Synod worked in six sessions until 19 May.

Justinian recognized the authority of the four previous ecumenical synods, and proposed the condemnation of the “three chapters” so as not to prejudice the authority of the Chalcedon decisions; then he approved the condemnation of Origen, Didymus the Blind, and Evagrius of Pontus for adherence to Origenist apokatastasis.

Key Verse related to The Fifth Synod of Constantinople

On the admission, support, or expulsion of clerics mutilated by choice or by violence. Concerning episcopal elections. Concerning the ex-communication. Confirms the right of the bishops of Jerusalem to enjoy certain honors. Concerns the Novatians. Certain sins known after ordination involve invalidation.

Church Fathers

Synod of Constantinople

(Fresco depicting the First General Council of Constantinople in the narthex of St. Athanasius church on Mount Athos)

Read also: Council of Chalcedon. What happened at the Council of Chalcedon?

What did Justinian do at the Council of Constantinople?

The Monophysite accusers wanted the three condemned, even though they were dead. 

According to historical sources, at the Council of Constantinople, Justinian initially took the side of the Monophysites, but later switched to the Orthodox. So, Empress Theodora encouraged the Monophysites to create new problems by questioning the theological position of three illustrious theologians who had been dead for a century.

These were Antiochian bishops and also renowned fathers, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus, and Iba of Edessa. 

Who started the fight against the edict in 544?

In 544, the emperor issued a theological edict condemning the “three chapters”. Pope Vigilius came to Constantinople, invited by Justinian to take a stand against the “three chapters”. Arriving in the capital, he refused for a while to talk to Patriarch Mina and the bishops who had signed the imperial edict.

The first Western to publicly fight against the 544 edicts were the bishops Dacia of Milan and Facund of Hermione. So did the deacon Fulgentius Ferrand of Carthage.

So on April 15, 548, at a mock synod attended by 70 bishops who had refused to sign the imperial edict, Vigilius, in his famous “Judicatum” sent to Patriarch Mina, accepted the condemnation of Theodore of Mopsuestia and the indicated writings of Ibas of Edessa. And also Theodoret of Cyrus and against the “12 Anathematisms” of St. Cyril of Alexandria.

What was discussed at the Synod of Constantinople?

On 23 February 554 Vigilius revoked his first memorial by publishing a second “Constitution”, in which he withdrew all his previous statements, stressing his condemnation of the “three chapters”.

According to historians, at the Synod of Constantinople, the condemnation of Origenism discredited and discussed the Platonic method of theological exegesis, and consequently, the schools of Alexandria and Antioch lost their old prestige.

Therefore, the Second Council of Constantinople, (553) reaffirms some statements of the previous councils and condemns the new Arian, Nestorian. And also Monophysite theories condemn all previous theories concerning the pre-existence of the soul. Also condemns all previous theories concerning creation (to-wabohu), condemns all previous theories concerning angelic and demonic hierarchies.

What was the outcome of the Council of Constantinople?

So the 5th Council has gone down in history as the council of acclamation and ovation of the imperial pair Justinian I and Theodora. Justinian ordered the arrest of Pope Vigilius (537-555), who held other views before the council began.

According to the records of the historians present at the Council of Constantinople, the bishops came to recognize the Trinitarian thesis. That is the acceptance of the presence and equality of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The Bible speaks clearly of God the Son, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit, but at the same time emphasizes that there is ONE God.

At this council, he forced Pope Vigilius to force the bishops to approve, under unanimous acclamation on command, all the religious theses proposed by the imperial pair: declaration of the inauthenticity of many of the theses originally accepted by the church, especially those of Origenes (185-254), the reincarnation thesis.

So, Deacon Fulgentius Ferrandus of Carthage spoke out against the attitude of the Roman bishop, criticizing his act of treason. But the deacons of the Roman Church, Rusticus and Sebastian, Vigilius’ nephew, spoke out against him.

The Council of Constantinople confirmed the Church’s teaching on the dual nature of Christ and reaffirmed that He is both a perfect God and a perfect Man. 

So in the summer of 550, Justinian and Vigilius agreed to convene an ecumenical synod. Also, in the summer of 551, the emperor, at the urging of Theodore Askidas, issued a new edict, known as the “Confession of Faith of Emperor Justinian against the Three Chapters”.

Primary Takeaways

  • So The Fifth Council of Constantinople was the name of a series of six patriarchal councils held in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople to resolve disputes over the occult doctrine of hesychasm.
  • Also, personal squabbles between bishops and government interference in theology and church affairs created an unfortunate situation in the church that even Justinian’s authority and influence could not resolve. 
  • Queen Theodora encouraged non-Chalkonians to create new problems by also challenging the theological positions of three prominent theologians who had been dead for a century. So these were the bishops and famous godfathers of Antioch, Theodore of Mopsustia, Theodore of Cyrus, and Iba of Edessa. 

Conclusion

In attendance were 165 bishops. To the displeasure of the non-Chalcedonians, the Synod confirmed the Church’s teaching on the dual nature of Christ and reaffirmed that He is the perfect God and perfect Man. So, the Fifth Ecumenical Council was held in Constantinople in 553, convened by Emperor Justinian I in an attempt to bring the non-Chalcedonians back into the bosom of the Church. 

A quiz about The Fifth Synod of Constantinople

Synod of Constantinople

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The fifth ecumenical Synod take place in _____.

2 / 10

The Council was held in ___.

3 / 10

It was convened by Emperor ____.

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The Monophysite controversy continued after the condemnation of ____.

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____ presided over the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople.

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____ bishops participated.

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The first Council of the Church was held by the ____ in Jerusalem in the first century.

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The first Western to publicly fight against the 544 edicts were the bishops _____ and Facund of Hermione.

9 / 10

____ initially took the side of the Monophysites.

10 / 10

Justinian recognized the authority of the ____ previous ecumenical synods.

Your score is

The average score is 90%

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Bibliography

  • Therefore. Gastgeber, C., Mitsiou, E., Preiser-Kapeller, J., & Zervan, V. (2017). So The Patriarchate of Constantinople in Context and Comparison.
  • Harris, J. (2017). SO
  • Millar, F. (2008). Rome, Constantinople, and the Near Eastern Church under Justinian: so the two synods of CE 536. The Journal of Roman Studies98, 62-82.
  • SO. But Telfer, W. (1950). Therefore Paul of Constantinople. Also. Therefore, Harvard Theological Review43(1), 31-92.
  • Vranić, V. (2008). So The Christology of Eutyches at the Council of Constantinople 448. Also Philotheos, 8, 208-221.