First Council of Constantinople

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The famous third canon reads:

This canon was a first step in the rising importance of the new imperial capital, just fifty years old, and was notable in that it demoted the patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria. Jerusalem, as the site of the first Church, retained its place of honor.

Baronius maintained the non-authenticity of the third canon, while some medieval Greeks maintained that it did not declare supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, but the primacy; "the first among equals," similar to how they today view the Bishop of Constantinople. Throughout the next several centuries, the Western Church asserted that the Bishop of Rome had supreme authority, and by the time of the Great Schism the Roman Catholic Church based its claim to supremacy on the succession of St. Peter. When the First Council of Constantinople was approved, Rome protested the diminished honor to be afforded the bishops of Antioch and Alexandria. The status of these Eastern patriarchs would be brought up again by the Papal Legates at the Council of Chalcedon. Pope Leo the Great[7], declared that this canon had never been submitted to Rome and that their lessened honor was a violation of the Nicene order. At the Fourth Council of Constantinople (869), the Roman legates[8] asserted the place of the bishop of Rome's honor over the bishop of Constantinople's. After the Great Schism (1054), in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council[9], Roman supremacy over the whole world was formally claimed by the new Latin patriarch. The Roman correctores of Gratian[10], insert the words: "canon hic ex iis est quos apostolica Romana sedes a principio et longo post tempore non recipit."

The fourth canon[11] declares invalid the consecration of Maximus of Constantinople, the Cynic philosopher and rival of Gregory of Nazianzus, as Bishop of Constantinople.

The fifth canon[12] might have been passed the next year, 382, and is in regard to a Tome of the Western bishops, perhaps that of Pope Damasus I.

The sixth canon[13] might belong to the year 382 as well and was passed at the Quinisext Council as #95 and limits the ability to accuse bishops of wrongdoing.

The seventh canon[14] regards procedures for receiving certain heretics into the church.

Pope Damasus I was not invited (or declined to attend), thus sometimes this council is called the unecumenical council. However, it was affirmed as ecumenical at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.


This council condemned Arianism which began to die out with more condemnations at a council of Aquileia by Ambrose of Milan in 381. With the discussion of Trinitarian doctrine now developed and well under agreement to orthodox and biblical understanding, it led to Christology, which would be the topic of the Council of Ephesus of 431 and the Council of Chalcedon of 451.

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