Sardica, Council of
SARDICA, COUNCIL OF
Convoked by the Emperors constans i and constantius ii at the request of Pope julius i, the Council of Sardica (modern Sofia) was held in the year 342 according to E. Schwartz, who disputes the date 344, given by Mansi. Its task was to reexamine the case of Athanasius of Alexandria, Marcellus of Ancyra and Asclepiades of Gaza, who had been deposed at the Council of Tyre in 335 by the Semiarian Eusebians. Athanasius had fled from Alexandria in 340, expelled by the intruder Gregory and appealed to Pope Julius in Rome. In 341 or 342 Marcellus had also appealed to Rome by letter. All had found refuge in Rome with Julius, including Paul of Constantinople, who was likewise expelled by the Eusebians. The latter held a Synod at Antioch in 341 and sent flattering letters to Julius but announced that they would accept the Roman settlement only if it agreed with the decision taken at Tyre.
The Council of Sardica was presided over by Hosius of Córdoba with the Roman legates Archedamius and Philoxenus. It was attended by Athanasius, Marcellus and Asclepiades together with six Oriental bishops in communion with some 100 Western bishops. Some 80 Eusebian bishops were also on hand, among whom the leaders were Acacius of Caesarea in Palestine, basil of ancyra, Maris of Chalcedon and the Western bishops Ursacius of Singidunum and Valens of Mursa. When the Eusebians saw that the Western bishops favored Athanasius and his companions, they refused to sit in council with them and betook themselves to Philippopolis, where they excommunicated Pope Julius, Hosius and the others, and promulgated a new formula of faith that was in agreement with the fourth formula Synod of Antioch (341).
Meanwhile, the Council of Sardica confirmed the orthodoxy and legitimate consecration of Athanasius, Asclepiades and Marcellus, but failed to recognize that the doctrine of Marcellus, although violently anti-Arian, savored of sabellianism. The Council condemned as Arians and deposed Gregory, Acacius of Caesarea, Theodore of Heraclea, Basil of Ancyra, Ursacius and Valens. It also promulgated a formula of faith preserved by Theodoret of Cyr (Hist. Eccl. 2.6) in which it declared that the hypostasis of the Father and the Son was one, taking the word hypostasis in the sense of nature or substance. But this terminology was not clear, since at the end of the fifth century the word hypostasis was interpreted as person. Hosius supported the new formula; but it was rejected by Athanasius, who claimed that the formula of Nicaea (325) was sufficient; hence the synod made no dogmatic declaration. It set the date of Easter for the following 50 years and promulgated 20 canons that were handed down in all the Greek collections and were frequently attributed to the Council of Nicaea.
Canons 3, 4 and 5 describe the right of appeal for bishops, particularly the appeal to Rome. Canon 3, proposed by Hosius, forbade bishops to transfer from one province to another; in a dispute between bishops a judge might not be brought in from another province; and it was illegitimate to visit or seek the assistance of the secular court (canons 7–9). Canon 4 stated that a deposed bishop who appealed to Rome should not be replaced until judgment was passed; canon 5 acknowledged the right of the bishop of Rome to receive and judge an appeal, to send the case to be adjudicated by neighboring bishops, or to send or designate the judge. This had already been done in the case of Athanasius and Marcellus.
The Council sent an encyclical letter to all the churches describing its decisions. It wrote to the Church of Egypt and to Pope Julius upholding the innocence and orthodoxy of Athanasius and declaring the propriety of the provinces in keeping in touch with "the head, that is the See of Peter the Apostle."
The Council of Sardica was not a great success. It did not convince the Semiarians to accept the judgment favoring Athanasius against the condemnation at Tyre. The synodal canons, though recognized in the West as regulating relations between metropolitan sees, were not accepted in the Eastern churches. But the fundamental differences between Western and Oriental thinking on theological and disciplinary matters received its first open expression.
Bibliography: c. j. von hefele, Histoire des conciles d'après les documents originaux, tr. and continued by h. leclercq, 10 v. in 19 (Paris 1907–38) 1.2:737–823. Histoire de l'église depuis les origines jusqu'à nos jours, eds., a. fliche and v. martin (Paris 1935–) 3:123–130. h. hess, The Canons of the Council of Sardica, A.D. 343 (Oxford 1958). p. joannou, Discipline générale antique (II e–IXes. ) (Sacra Congregazione Orientale, Codificazione orientale, Fonti, 1962–) 1.2:156–189. s. g. hall, "The Creed of Sardica," Studia Patristica, 19 (1989): 173–184. l. w. barnard, The Council of Sardica, 343 AD (Sophia 1983).
[i. ortiz de urbina]