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Constantinople III, Council of


The sixth ecumenical council, held in Constantinople from Nov. 7, 680, to Sept. 16, 681; it is referred to also as the First Trullan Council. With the support of Emperor heraclius, the Patriarch of Constantinople sergi us i (610638) had introduced monothelitism into the byzantine church in an attempt to reunify the mo nophysite and orthodox Christians in the East. The result, however, was the opposite of that hoped fornot only did the East fail to achieve religious unity, but the new doctrine provoked grave complications in the West. And so, with the double-edged purpose of restoring orthodoxy and thus preventing the secession of Italy from the Byzantine Empire, the Emperor Constantine IV (668685) decidedwith the consent of Pope agathoto summon the entire episcopate to a general assembly.

The patriarch of Constantinople duly transmitted the edict convoking this assembly (dated Sept. 10, 680) to his three fellow patriarchs in the East. The Council was held at Constantinople in the Imperial Palace, in the hall of the cupola, and is thus often described as the council In Trullo (I). Despite the pressure of the secular authorities, the number of conciliar fathers who attended the Council before the tenth session was extremely small: only 50 (44 bishops and six monks) came to the first session (Nov. 7, 680). The West had been invited to send at least 12 bishops, but only one priest (for the Church of Ravenna), and four Greek monks for the Byzantine monasteries of southern Italy actually came. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem sent only two apocrisiarii; Alexandria was represented by only a few clerics. Thus, by contrast, the pope's own delegation appeared imposing, for it consisted of three bishops, two priests, one deacon, and one subdeacon.

The first 11 sessions, as well as the final one, were presided over by the emperor, whose original intention had been to convoke a simple conference; but the assembly insisted on being ecumenical from its first session. In all it held 18 sessions between Nov. 7, 680, and Sept. 16,681.

Patriarch Macarius of Antioch and his supporters, representing the Monothelite heresy that was to be adjudicated, made their statements at the fifth and sixth sessions (Dec. 7, 680, and Feb. 12, 681). At the following session (March 7, 681), they defended their position. The ensuing debates, hard-fought and meticulous, were protracted. The process against Macarius, who was accused of having misapplied and of having truncated the texts of Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, was begun only during the 11th and 12th sessions (March 20 and 22), but his deposition occurred at the 13th session (March 28). The 17th session (September 11) was occupied with formulating the decree of faith (horos ) that proclaimed the doctrine of the two wills and the two natural energies in Christ, undivided, inseparable, and without confusion. The document was signed first by the emperor and then by the 178 council fathers then present. Like the fifth ecumenical council, Constantinople II (553), this Council did not promulgate disciplinary canons, an omission that the quinisext synod (691692), In Trullo (II), felt it had to remedy.

One of the most important acts of Constantinople III was the condemnation of Pope honorius i, listed among the real champions of Monothelitism. This condemnation, renewed by the Quinisext Synod and by the eighth ecumenical council, constantinople iv (869870), was extensively used at vatican council i as an argument against papal infallibility. There was no protest during the sessions against the condemnation on the part of the papal legates, and Honorius's successor, Pope leo ii, seems to have approved, though he saw Honorius's case only as one of personal failure.

The Council was immediately approved and pronounced ecumenical by Leo II (letter of May 7, 683), subsequently by Pope benedict ii and the third Council of toledo (684), and finally by both the Church of the West and the Church of the East, the latter having always recognized it without question as the sixth in the series of general councils of the Church. The Acta, of which there is no critical edition, can be consulted most conveniently in J. D. Mansi, Sacorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio 11:190922.

Bibliography: j. bois, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350) 3.1:125974. É. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 7.1:93132. m. jugie, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 10.2:230723; Tables générales 664665. c. j. von hefele, Histoire des conciles d'après les documents originaux, tr. and continued by h. leclercq, 10 v. in 19, (Paris 190738) 3.1:472538. e. caspar, Geschichte de Papsttums von den Anfängen bis zur Höhe der Weltherrschaft, 2 v. (Tübingen 193033) 2:587614. a. fliche and v. martin, eds., Histoire de l'église depuis les origines jusqu'à nos jours (Paris 1935) 5:183191. k. baus, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 6:496, 497, recent bibliog. j. m. a. salles-dabadie, Les Conciles oecuméniques dans l'histoire (Geneva 1962) 189209. On Pope Honorius. k. hirsch, "Papst Honorius I. und das VI. allgemeine Konzil," Festschrift der 57. Versammlung deutscher Philologen u. Schulmänner in Salzburg (Salzburg 1929) 158179. a. fliche and v. martin, eds., Histoire de l'église depuis les origines jusqu'à nos jours 5:120124, 397400. p. viard, Catholicisme. Hier, aujourd'hui et demain, ed. g. jacquemet (Paris 1947) 5:923925. r. bÄumer, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner 5:474475; "Die Wiederentdeckung der Honoriusfrage im Abendland," Römische Quartalschrift für christliche Altertumskunde und für Kirchengeschichte 56 (1961) 200214. On Honorius's letters to Constantinople. v. grumel, "Recherches sur l'histoire du monothélisme. III. Action et rôle d'Honorius," Échos d'Orient 28 (1929) 272282. p. galtier, "La Première lettre du pape Honorius," Gregorianum 29 (1948) 4261.

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