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Constantinople I, Council of


From May to July 381, at the invitation of Emperors Theodosius I and Gratian, some 150 bishops of Thrace, Asia Minor, and Egypt met in Constantinople to deal with the Arian heresy, which had prevailed in the East since the reign of constantius ii. Under the presidency of Meletius of Antioch, the assembly deposed the Arian bishop of Constantinople, Maximus the Cynic, and replaced him with gregory of nazianzus, who presided over the Council after the sudden death of Meletius. The Council accepted the Nicene Creed, proclaimed Constantinople as the second see in the Empire after Rome, and, upon the resignation of Gregory, whose authority was challenged by Timothy of Alexandria, selected Nectarius, a retired imperial official, as the new bishop. The acceptance by the Council of the teaching on the Holy Spirit occasioned the refusal of the Macedonian bishops to participate.

As the acts of this Council have been lost, its activities are known only through citations in the letter of the synod at Constantinople to Pope damasus the following year (382), which attests that the Council confirmed the faith of Nicaea, accepted the consubstantiality and coeternity of the three divine Persons in the Trinity against the Sabellians, Anomoeans, Arians, and Pneumatics, and clarified the perfect humanity of the Word against those who deny the soul or the manhood of Christ (see pneuma tomachians).

The so-called Constantinopolitan Creed, which was actually composed after the Alexandrian synod of 362 and which embodied the Creed of Jerusalem, was recited by Nectarius in the baptismal ceremony preceding his consecration during the Council, and then became proper to the Church of Constantinople.

The Council promulgated four canons: (1) against the Arian heresy and its sects; (2) limiting the jurisdictional activities to the civil dioceses for all bishops; (3) favoring Constantinople as the second see after Rome in honor and dignity; (4) condemning Maximus the Cynic and his followers. Three other canons recorded in the Greek MSS belong to the local synod of 382. Canons two through four were intended to prevent the interference of the See of Alexandria in the ecclesiastical dioceses of the East. The Council closed on July 9, 381, and at the bishops' request the emperor promulgated its decrees on July 30.

The Council fathers themselves spoke of it as "ecumenical," this term having been used in reference to a council at carthage in a letter to Pope celestine by the African bishops, and it was intended to have the meaning of a full or general council, in contrast to the synodos endemousa, or particular, local council permanently in session at Constantinople. Gregory of Nazianzus showed annoyance over the use of the term ecumenical, and there is no evidence that the Council's acts were accepted by Pope Damasus in the Roman synod of 382. However, the Council is mentioned in the acts of both the 2d and 5th sessions of Chalcedon, and in those of the 16th session it is joined to Nicaea I. Its regulation concerning the precedence of Constantinople (the so-called 28th canon) became law for the Oriental Churches. However, Pope Leo I strenuously objected to the validity of this regulation and claimed that canon three of Constantinople, upon which it was based, had never been brought to the attention of Rome (Epist. 106; Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, 54:1007). It was Dionysius Exiguus who translated these canons into Latin during the reign of Pope hor misdas, and eventually Gregory I acknowledged Constantinople I as one of the four councils that in their spiritual authority paralleled the four Gospels.

Bibliography: c. j. von hefele, Histoire des conciles d'après les documents originaux, tr. and continued by h. leclercq, 10 v. in 19 (Paris 190738) 2.1:148. j. bois, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350) 3.1:122731. g. bardy, Dictionnaire de droit canonique, ed. r. naz, 7 v. (Paris 193565) 4:424428. r. janin, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 13:629740. n. q. king, "The 150 Holy Fathers of the Council of Constantinople," Studia Patristica 1 (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschitchte der altchristlichen Literatur 67;1957) 635641; The Emperor Theodosius and the Establishment of Christianity (Philadelphia 1960). h. d. kreilkamp, The Origin of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (Doctoral diss. microfilm; Catholic University of America 1964) 2863. n. m. vaporis, ed., "Second Ecumenical Council, Constantinople, AD 381," Greek Orthodox Theological Review 27 (1982) 341453. k. lehmann and w. pannenberg, eds., Glaubensbekenntnis und Kirchengemeinschaft: Das Modell des Konzils von Konstantinopel (Freiburg im Breisgau 1982).

[h. d. kreilkamp]

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