Does the Lateran Council of 649 Prove Papal Infallibility?

The Lateran council of 649, called to combat Monothelitism, is often times cited by Roman Catholic apologists as evidence of Vatican I’s doctrines of papal infallibility and the Pope’s universal, ordinary, and immediate jurisdiction over all the faithful.

Such articles containing these claims are included here, here and here.

The four pieces of evidence used to support this are:

  1. The letter from Stephen of Dor
  2. The letter of the Synod at Cyprus in 643
  3. The letter from the synods of Numidia, Byzacena, and Mauretania
  4. The successive appointments of Stephen of Dora and then John of Philadelphia as papal vicar in the Holy Land with the power to depose Monothelite bishops (John was placed as Stephen’s replacement in this task).

We will analyze these one by one and include the commentary of Fr. Richard Price, the Roman Catholic priest and patristics scholar who translated the Acts of Lateran 649.


The Letter of Stephen of Dor

The first piece of evidence is that of Stephen of Dor (sometimes “Dora”). He had been the locum tenans of the see of Jerusalem after the repose of St. Sophronius of Jerusalem (Jerusalem, it should be noted, was the only patriarchal see never to embrace Monothelitism as the patriarchal throne was vacant from 638 until at least 681, possibly 692). The full text of the letter is found on pages 142-149 in the Acts of Lateran 649 and we have included them in the end notes[1]. For the sake of brevity, we have selected the sections quoted by Catholic apologists most often and have set them apart in blocks and italics.

From Stephen of Dor:

“As a result of their troubling the whole catholic church in this way – in the words of the blessed Jeremiah, ‘we have been put to shame, because we heard reproach against us; it has covered our face with reversal, because aliens have entered our sanctuary’ – for this reason we the pious, all of us, have been looking everywhere, sometimes for ‘water for the head and fountains of tears for the eyes’ for lamenting this pitiable catastrophe, and sometimes for ‘the wings of a dove’ (in the words of the divine David), so that we might ‘fly away’ and announce these things to the See that rules and presides over all others (I mean your sovereign and supreme See), in quest of healing for the wound inflicted.”

Terms like “rule,” “preside,” and “supreme” do not qualify the extent and prerogatives, or content of said rule and presidency. For example, patriarchs or metropolitans are said to “preside” over their synods. Likewise, they are the highest, or “supreme” leader within such a synod. Only the most clueless doubt Rome held the highest position in the first millennium Church so arguing for that point is attacking a strawman.

Further, Stephen’s letter is in Greek and as we see later on in the quotation, he is drawing a parallel between the words of Christ to Peter in John 21:16 and the role of Pope Martin. This means means Stephen’s original Greek used the verb “ποιμαίνω,” which though occasionally translated “rule”[2] actually tends towards the meaning “tend” or “shepherd.”[3]

Aside from the excessively low social status a shepherd carried, the most notable aspect of the life of a shepherd was that he actually lived with and among the sheep, not apart from them in a separate dwelling so it carries the implication of a leader from among them and would have been shocking to the ears of those who heard it when applied to leaders as it carries the connotations of meekness and humility. The more common words in Greek for actual “rule” in the sense we consider it (of someone being above those they govern) are “ἄρχω” or “κατακυριεύω”. Because of this, terms like “shepherd,” “rule,” “preside,” and “supreme” have to be radically repurposed and redefined to entail the type of infallible autocracy Vatican I accorded to the Roman Pontiff.

“It has been accustomed to perform this authoritatively from the first and from of old, on the basis of its apostolic and canonical authority, for the reason, evidently, that the truly great Peter, the head of the apostles, was deemed worthy not only to be entrusted, alone out of all, with ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ for both opening them deservedly to those who believe and shutting them justly to those who do not believe in the gospel of grace, but also because he was the first to be entrusted with shepherding the sheep of the whole catholic church. As the text runs, ‘Peter, do you love me? Shepherd my sheep.'”

What is interesting is how Stephen seemingly departs from the typical patristic exegesis of Matt. 16:18 and 18:18 when he implies the keys were not given to the other apostles as well but there is a clue as to why he does this in the next section. This is exceptional considering the power of the keys, even in Roman Catholic theology, is simply the power to forgive sins. Further, in contravention to Vatican I’s Pastor Aeternus, he states Rome’s capabilities are based on both its apostolic and canonical situation while Pastor Aeternus specifically denies the canons or councils have given anything to Rome. 

And again, because he possessed more than all others, in an exceptional and unique way, firm and unshakeable faith in our Lord, [he was deemed worthy] to turn and strengthen his comrades and spiritual brethren when they were wavering, since providentially he had been adorned by the God who became incarnate for our sake with power and priestly authority over them all. Witnessing this, Sophronius of blessed memory, who was patriarch of the holy city of Christ our God and under whom I served as a priest, not conferring at all with flesh and blood but like your most holy self caring only for the things of Christ, hastened without delay to send my nothingness, solely over this matter, to this great and apostolic see with his own appeals […]

The Basilica of John Lateran

He speaks of Peter as having “power and priestly authority over them [the apostles] all.” The term “priest” or “priestly” in Byzantine literature is typically used to refer to bishops as a bishop is a true priest – priests are simply those delegated by the bishop to fulfill the bishop’s task (this is why St. John Chrysostom’s “Six Books on the Priesthood” is primarily a defense of his refusal to become a bishop) so he is speaking in terms of episcopal capabilities.

Now, even within the Catholic Church, the pope has no more sacramental power than any other bishop and so his power is not properly described as priestly or episcopal but instead as papal but Stephen uses a term pertaining to the episcopate to describe how St. Peter functioned within the apostolate. The reason is an undercurrent in patristic understanding in which St. Peter is the archetype of a bishop and therefore, that all bishops hold the place of Peter. We see this in writers as various as St. Cyprian of Carthage, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Aphraahat the Persian.

While the bishop of Rome has his lineage directly from St. Peter (as the bishops of Antioch, Alexandria, and many other cities have) and is the guardian of the relics of the archetypical bishop,[4] he does not have a monopoly on Peter as all bishops hold that place.

Further, in the footnotes for this section of the letter, Fr. Price notes that while not supporting Vatican I, it does support the idea of Peter having the lead role among the apostles and that it was inherited by Rome (something we Orthodox gladly accept) but that this did not entail papal infallibility:

“This expresses the papalist theory that St Peter had unique authority among the apostles and that his role was fully and uniquely inherited by the popes of Rome. This theory was accepted in the East to the extent that it recognized that the popes had a special responsibility to stand up for the truth, but not in the sense that they were believed to possess a charism of truth in virtue of which their rulings were to be accepted without question or examination.” See de Vries (1974).

Price, “Acts of Lateran 649”, pg. 144, ft. 47

“The involvement of successive popes in the controversy reflected the position of the Roman church as leader of the universal church and the special prestige of Rome in matters of doctrine articulated in ideas of papal primacy. Peter’s confession of faith at Matthew 16:18–19 was the basis for the idea that the popes had a special authority in matters of doctrine and teaching because they had gained their understanding through St Peter directly from Christ. This primatial position was acknowledged throughout the eastern and western churches […] However, this did not mean that in the east papal pronouncements on matters of doctrine were regarded as automatically definitive and necessitating acceptance.

Price, “Acts of Lateran” p. 40-41

Stephen’s letter continues:

“Therefore [repeating the instructions of St. Sophronius] proceed in haste from one end of the world to the other until you come to the apostolic see, where are the foundations of the pious doctrines, and acquaint the all-sacred men there, not once or twice but many times, with everything that has with precision been mooted here. You are not to desist from vigorous exhortation and entreaty, until with apostolic wisdom they bring their judgement to a victorious conclusion and issue canonically a total refutation of the outlandish doctrines […] Since then it is now the third time that I have arrived at your apostolic feet, entreating and beseeching what he and all of them have readily implored, namely, succour for the endangered faith of Christians.”

First, he speaks of it in terms of a group effort saying “until with apostolic wisdom they bring their judgement to a victorious conclusion and issue canonically a total refutation of the outlandish doctrines.” So we immediately see this will be a decree of the Roman Synod, not that of the Pope solo, which is what one would need in order to prove the Vatican I papacy. Throughout these letters, the reader notices the shift back and forth between addressing the pope and then all of the bishops in much the same terms. This is why Fr. Price comments that:

“There was no real difference between addressing all the bishops directly and doing so via their president, and ambiguity of addressee is recurrent in conciliar acts.”

Price “Acts of Lateran 649” p. 154; ft. 92

Second, Stephen had been sent once before to Rome by St. Sophronius, specifically during the papacy of the ill-famed Pope Honorius, who paid no heed to the message Stephen brought. In his letter to the infamous monoenergist Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople, Pope Honorius even maligned St. Sophronius and dyoenergism, a doctrine Stephen is now begging the synod to defend. This, based on his prior experience with Rome, Stephen’s enthusiasm for Rome is more of a desperate pleading to win Rome to his side than a confidence in Rome’s course of action.

Stephen continues:

“This fact I communicated earlier to the apostolic see, namely to the sainted pope Theodore; he by an apostolic letter appointed me his representative, despite my unworthiness, and by an all-sacred instruction bade me, apart from conducting other ecclesiastical business, to carry out a canonical deposition of the bishops ordained in this way, if they proved incorrigible.”

The situation with Stephen of Dor and John of Philadelphia will be handled in section four of this article.

Letter of Sergius (of Cyprus) from the Synod of Cyprus in 643

The second piece of Evidence brought forward to support the notion the Lateran synod of 649 supports the Vatican I is a letter from Sergius of Cyprus that was issued at the Synod of Cyprus in 643. It should be noted that despite Pope St. Martin attempting to present the letter as though it were written to the council itself, it had actually been written to a previous pope six years prior to the Lateran council of 649 and so was really a grasping at straws for the pope to present it when he did as it reveals how desperate he was for appeals.

Christ our God founded your apostolic see, O sacred head, as a divinely fixed and immovable support and conspicuous inscription of the faith. For you, as the divine Word truly declared without deceit, are Peter, and on your foundation the pillars of the church are fixed; to you he committed the keys of the heavens and decreed that you are to bind and loose with authority on earth and in heaven. You have been made the destroyer of profane heresies, as the leader and teacher of the orthodox and unimpeachable faith. […] Since at your command, our masters and divinely inspired fathers, we too, as has already been said, strike them with anathemas, let us then initiate proposals and contests on the matters they are examining, since we are filled with hope by your support, which is both taught and inspired by God, since we shall not be timorous or ‘craven with fear where there is no fear’[5]

Price, “Acts of Lateran,” p. 157-160

For whatever Sergius of Cyprus wrote at the time, it is qualified by the fact that he later joins the Monothelites, which seems odd that he would adjust his views in such a relatively niche way in contradiction to Rome while supposedly considering Rome infallible. As Fr. Price notes:

“The letter of Archbishop Sergius of Cyprus was a powerful document in Rome’s arsenal: his predecessor Arcadius of Cyprus had been an important figure in the early development of the controversy and had hosted a synod in 636 which had rejected the position of Sophronius and Maximus. Sergius’ letter is vehement in its support of Pope Theodore, calling for the anathematisation of those promoting the new teachings. However, it dated to 643 and thus predated the Typos. Furthermore, we know that at a later date Sergius abandoned the dyothelete position and joined the imperial camp.”

Price, “Acts of Lateran 649” p. 76

Cyrus, the Pope of Alexandria, addresses Sergius, the Ecumenical Patriarch with these words:

To my Master, honored by God, the good chief shepherd, the father of fathers, the ecumenical patriarch Sergius, from Your most humble Cyrus. Contrary thoughts came into my mind as I was intending to extend the present report to my divinely honoured Master…I summoned the courage to write, when I had taken to heart the inspired teachings of You Thrice-blessedness,…’I shall be completely corrected in what I report in this letter, being deemed worthy, O divinely honoured one, of the all-pious footsteps of our God-strengthened Master…I was commanded to embark on reading the all-revered report of You divinely inspired Self…I have learned to take refuge in Your teaching, which speaks from God, even as I beg its precious and clearly instructive message to vouchsafe still brighter clarity…As a result, when our ignorance has been illuminated by Your God-taught Self, perhaps in this too we may imitate the fat and fertile land…My good Master…I, humble Cyrus, praying for the all-esteemed well-being of my Master who is honoured by God, composed this.”

If we employed the same type of logic used by Catholic apologists like Erick Ybarra, we would come to believe several things about Sergius of Constantinople:

  1. Sergius is the highest bishop in the Church because he is “the Chief Shepherd” of the Church and the “Father of fathers.”
  2. He is infallible because his teachings are “inspired” and “speak from God” and is “God-taught.”
  3. His teachings are binding on believers as one is to “take refuge” in his teachings due to #2.
  4. His is honoured even by God and even something as insignificant as his “footsteps” are completely pious.

Within the Acts of Lateran 649, the bishops go over the acts of the synods that approved Monoenergist and Monothelite documents and we find similar flowery statements made by Byzantine churchmen concerning the Emperor and other clerics.[6]

The Letter from the Synods of Numidia, Byzacena, and Mauretania

Originally dating to 646, this letter was dug up by Pope St. Martin and presented as an appeal to the Lateran council of 649 due, as with the previous letter from Sergius of Cyprus and his synod, to a shortage of actual appeals.[7] They also, unconvincingly, attempt to show all of North Africa is in agreement with Rome on the issue of Dyoenergism and Dyothelitism.[8]

That there is in the apostolic see a great and inexhaustible spring pouring forth abundantly for all Christians, from which flow forth rivulets that generously water the entire Christian world, no one can dispute. […] For it was laid down in ancient regulations that nothing, even if raised in remote and far distant provinces, should first be treated or accepted until it had been brought to the notice of your bountiful see, so that the sentence pronounced might be confirmed by her just authority, and the other churches might take from there, as from their native source, the origin of their preaching, and there might abide through the various regions of the whole world, unsullied in their purity, the mysteries of the saving faith.[9](Lateran, pg. 161-162)

First, it states there is an inexhaustible supply “in” the apostolic see, not that the apostolic see is the inexhaustible supply itself. As discussed earlier, St. Peter is the archetype of bishops and his relics[10], present in Rome, are the source of that supply of grace.

Pope St. Martin I

Second, the letter reflects the importance of conciliarity in placing Rome as the head of the synod and speaks of Rome’s auctoritas as confirmation (more can be read about that here and in the third part of this post) demonstrating Rome’s co-approval, as head of all bishops, was, under normal circumstances, the standard mode of operating. Now, Catholic apologists then misunderstand this to mean that Rome can therefore act on its own but that is not what this means, it simply means the Pope acted as a prime minister whose final ratification was necessary along with the ratification of the other ministers. Further, contra Pastor Aeternus, it locates this in “ancient regulations” (i.e. canons).

Stephen of Dora and John of Philadelphia as Papal Vicars

The fourth and final piece of evidence Catholic apologists bring to the table to claim Lateran 649 supports the First Vatican Council is the successive appointments of Stephen of Dora and then John of Philadelphia as papal vicars in the Holy Land with the power to depose Monothelite bishops (John was placed as Stephen’s replacement in this task).

Due to the general adoption of Monoenergism and Monothelitism in the East, the move of Pope St. Theodore, and later Pope St. Martin, of appointing orthodox clergy in such a place was essentially unheard of but was not out of line. The current practice of establishing hierarchies of Orthodox bishops in the diaspora, specifically in Roman Catholic or Protestant countries, is really no different and is built upon the same principle Popes Theodore and Martin were operating on: restoring an Orthodox hierarchy to an area embroiled in heresy (if a Catholic bishop in the west wishes to join the Orthodox Church with his flock, then he is welcomed and considered the rightful bishop of the region. Otherwise, he is considered a persona non grata and an Orthodox bishop is established to care for those Orthodox Christians in the area). Despite that, the Roman Catholic patristics scholar and translator of the Acts of Lateran 649, Fr. Richard Price, is astonished at how novel this move was stating:

“Martin wrote to Bishop John of Philadelphia appointing him papal vicar to replace Stephen of Dora, giving him authority in the patriarchates of Jerusalem and Antioch to consecrate bishops and clergy in place of those loyal to the Typos. He sent him the encyclical and proceedings of the Lateran synod which he asked him to publicise. Further letters in this collection, to clergy and monks in Syria and Palestine, admonish them to support John in his work. These letters demonstrate the fact that those bishops and priests who had accepted the Typos were regarded as heretics who should no longer officiate in the church; this included the patriarchs of Antioch and of Alexandria. His interventions, together with similar steps taken by his predecessor Theodore represented an unprecedented assumption of authority in the territory of the eastern patriarchates.”

Price “Acts of Lateran 649” p. 78

He even states such letters would have to be considered forgeries were it not for the utter and unfathomable chaos with which the Islamic invasion had left the area:

“But Martin’s instructions to John of Philadelphia to consecrate ‘catholic’ bishops in Syria and Palestine constituted an attempt to replace the patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem by direct Roman jurisdiction, and would have been perceived in the East as utterly uncanonical. The policy was so startling and so doomed to failure that one might even begin to doubt the authenticity of these letters. But it had been anticipated a few years before by Pope Theodore, who had instructed Stephen of Dora, acting as his representative, to depose monothelete Palestinian bishops. And this policy is comprehensible in the chaotic conditions that had resulted from the Arab seizure of Syria and Palestine.

Sophronius of Jerusalem (d. 638) had no successor and the patriarch of Antioch, now resident within the safety of the walls of Constantinople, was not in control of his patriarchate; nor was the emperor any longer in a position to influence developments in the Levant. These circumstances render credible an attempt by Rome to impose its own authority on the basis of a dyoenergist–dyothelete doctrine appealing to the legacy of Sophronius. The Palestinian monks who had come to Rome to take part in the synod may well have encouraged Martin to believe that the East was waiting for his lead.

But, as these letters reveal (160A, 171BC), Martin was well aware that Sophronius himself had lost control of episcopal consecrations in his own patriarchate, and that John of Philadelphia’s predecessor as papal representative, Stephen of Dora, had failed in his attempt to create an anti-monothelete episcopacy in the Jerusalem patriarchate (Letter 7). The best Martin could hope to achieve was the creation of what we may call a ‘uniate’ church in the East, beholden to Rome rather than to Constantinople or the eastern patriarchates. This would have weakened still further the Christian communities now under Islamic rule, and would have done nothing to improve the standing of the Roman see.”

“Price, “Acts of Lateran 649,” p. 397

Price adds:

“Even before the publication of the Typos Theodore had intensified the papal dissent […] he had taken the remarkable step of investing a prominent Palestinian disciple of Sophronius – Stephen, bishop of Dora – as papal representative in the east, charged with the examination and deposition of ‘irregular’ (i.e. monothelete) bishops within the patriarchate of Jerusalem. Although that mission met (it seems) with near-universal resistance, it nevertheless provides ample measure of the striking papal posturing which marked Theodore’s pontificate.

Price, “Acts of Lateran 649” p. 16-17

There really is nothing stunning or special about a bishop excommunicating another bishop, even outside of his jurisdiction. It was a normal occurrence and is one of the main reasons for schisms to this day. It was so common in the first millennium that within this article, we have a list of such incidences.

Conclusion

The translator and commentator on the Acts, the Roman Catholic priest and patristics scholar Fr. Richard Price, states:

“…the synodal Acts set forth a resounding statement of papal primacy and of the pope’s authority as the prime guardian of orthodoxy in the universal church.”

Price “Acts of Lateran 649” p. 77

Despite this being the case, Lateran Council of 649 falls excessively short of Vatican I’s Pastor Aeternus, never once providing an example of infallibility or universal, ordinary, and immediate jurisdiction. At the same time, the council does reflect the type of conciliarist ecclesiology found within the Orthodox Church.


1 Full text from Stephan of Dor: “To the holy and apostolic synod convened in this renowned and elder Rome according to the grace of God and the authoritative bidding of Martin the thrice-blessed pope, who is religiously presiding over it for the sacred confirmation and vindication of the definitions and decrees of the fathers and councils of the catholic church, I, Stephen by the mercy of God bishop and first man in the jurisdiction subject to the archiepiscopal see of Jerusalem, present what follows. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all consolation, who, by the blessed and episcopal convening of your most holy selves, has consoled us in all our affliction, namely that which we feel for his holy catholic church because of those who oppose the word of faith. For like ‘wild waves’ they assailed and troubled her with their heresy, when, honoured by God, she was enjoying peace and calm, first of all Theodore bishop of Pharan, then Cyrus of Alexandria, and subsequently Sergius of Constantinople and his successors Pyrrhus and Paul. For these men revived the doctrines of the heretics Apollinarius and Severus, by which they held and defined one will and one operation of the Godhead and manhood of Christ; there is testimony to this in their writings, which they disseminated throughout the world for the deception of the more simple-minded. For they contrived not only to expound and record these doctrines but also to publish them openly, in opposition to all the doctrines of the fathers and councils of the church, by means both of chapters read out from the pulpit and written anathemas against those whose beliefs differed from theirs, and of decrees, subscriptions, and records of proceedings.

“As a result of their troubling the whole catholic church in this way – in the words of the blessed Jeremiah, ‘we have been put to shame, because we heard reproach against us; it has covered our face with reversal, because aliens have entered our sanctuary’ – for this reason we the pious, all of us, have been looking everywhere, sometimes for ‘water for the head and fountains of tears for the eyes’ for lamenting this pitiable catastrophe, and sometimes for ‘the wings of a dove’ (in the words of the divine David), so that we might ‘fly away’ and announce these things to the see that rules and presides over all others (I mean your sovereign and supreme see), in quest of healing for the wound inflicted. It has been accustomed to perform this authoritatively from the first and from of old, on the basis of its apostolic and canonical authority, for the reason, evidently, that the truly great Peter, the head of the apostles, was deemed worthy not only to be entrusted, alone out of all, with ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ for both opening them deservedly to those who believe and shutting them justly to those who do not believe in the gospel of grace, but also because he was the first to be entrusted with shepherding the sheep of the whole catholic church. As the text runs, ‘Peter, do you love me? Shepherd my sheep.’ And again, because he possessed more than all others, in an exceptional and unique way, firm and unshakeable faith in our Lord, [he was deemed worthy] to turn and strengthen his comrades and spiritual brethren when they were wavering, since providentially he had been adorned by the God who became incarnate for our sake with power and priestly authority over them all. Witnessing this, Sophronius of blessed memory, who was patriarch of the holy city of Christ our God and under whom I served as a priest, not conferring at all with flesh and blood but like your most holy self caring only for the things of Christ, hastened without delay to send my nothingness, solely over this matter, to this great and apostolic see with his own appeals, explaining both in writing and orally through me your suppliant the whole innovation of the said men, which they had committed in opposition to the orthodox faith. In addition, while still alive, he in person put up a noble resistance to those in the East, charging and adjuring them to cease from their heresy and return to the pious faith of the fathers, providing in two books six centuries of patristic citations to refute their impiety and confirm the truth; he did not, however, persuade them but excited them to calumny and wicked machinations against himself. Yet he was not at all alarmed on this account, nor did he ‘fear where there is no fear’, for (says the scripture) ‘the just man is confident like a lion’, but, filled with godly eagerness and zeal, he took and placed me, despite my unworthiness, on holy Calvary, where, voluntarily on our behalf, the one who as God transcends us in nature, our Lord Jesus Christ, deigned to be crucified in the flesh. And there he bound me with unloosable bonds, saying: ‘To the God who voluntarily on our behalf was crucified in this holy place you yourself will have to render an account at his glorious and dread coming, when he will judge the living and the dead, if you ignore and overlook the danger to faith in him, even though I myself, as you know, am bodily prevented from acting by the incursion of the Saracens as a result of our sins.

“Therefore proceed in haste from one end of the world to the other until you come to the apostolic see, where are the foundations of the pious doctrines, and acquaint the all-sacred men there, not once or twice but many times, with everything that has with precision been mooted here. You are not to desist from vigorous exhortation and entreaty, until with apostolic wisdom they bring their judgement to a victorious conclusion and issue canonically a total refutation of the outlandish doctrines, lest, as says the apostle, these any longer “spread like a cancer”, feeding on the souls of the more simple-minded.’ Wherefore, terrified and petrified at this because of the awesome judgement delivered by him on myself in this most awesome and venerable place, and then reflecting also on the episcopal dignity belonging to me by God’s leave, and on the petitions relating to the matter from almost all the God-loving bishops and Christ-loving congregations in the East, who in accord with the sainted Sophronius were urging me to go with this purpose as the first man in the jurisdiction of Jerusalem, I did not, to use scriptural language, ‘give sleep to my eyes and slumber to my eyelids and rest to my head’ in fulfilling this adorable command, but without any delay and solely for this purpose made the journey hither. Since then it is now the third time that I have arrived at your apostolic feet, entreating and beseeching what he and all of them have readily implored, namely, succour for the endangered faith of Christians.

“On discovering that I had acted in this way, my opponents piled no slight afflictions on me, sending instructions about me through places and regions that I should be apprehended and sent to them in irons, as is known to all. But the Lord came to my assistance and rescued my life from those in pursuit of it. Therefore, as I pursued the goal and aimed at the prize of your apostolic see, God did not overlook the petition of his servants presented with tears, but stirred up to no small degree the then apostolic high priests to warn and adjure the men aforesaid, even if in the event they had no success in pacifying them. He also stirred up the one who is now the sacred president, our master Martin, the thrice-blessed pope, whom he will guard for his churches safe and sound, with a long life, ‘expounding correctly the word of truth’, so as incomparably and surpassingly to be ‘zealous with zeal for God’, and to gather all of you most sacred high priests to himself for the rejection of outlandish doctrines and the preservation of those of the fathers of the church. I too exhort and beseech you to complete the work of grace for which God has summoned you through him, so that (as the scripture says) ‘you may remove the evil one from among you’; for the divine apostle, writing to you Romans, exhorts you ‘to observe those who create scandals and divisions in opposition to the teaching you learnt and to shun them, for such people do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ but their own bellies, and by specious and fair words deceive the hearts of the innocent.’ For as you know, most blessed one, the pious faith of the fathers cannot be blunted by innovation, but is accustomed, rather, to be strengthened by apostolic orthodoxy. Wherefore, rejecting every false belief, it ‘acknowledges one and the same our Lord and God Jesus Christ in two natures hypostatically united without confusion or separation, the difference between the natures being in no way removed by the union, but rather the distinctive character of each nature being preserved and coming together into one person and one hypostasis’; and accordingly it piously proclaims him complete God by nature and complete man by nature, apart from sin alone. If then it proclaims him to be truly complete God by nature and complete man by nature, it is clear that he was in no way incomplete in the essential will and operation of either his Godhead or his manhood, but that he possessed without diminution his natural wills and operations, equal in number to his natures; it was by willing and performing what is divine and what is human by means of these that he was known to be truly both God and man. For if, as our opponents hold, he was incomplete in his divine and human will and operation according to nature, he was neither complete God nor complete man but was rather neither God nor man at all, since one who lacks divine will and operation by nature is not God by nature and likewise one who lacks human will and operation by nature is not man by nature. But he is neither incomplete God nor incomplete man, since both of Christ’s natures, from which and in which63 he is composed without confusion or separation, are acknowledged in natural completeness; and because of this he was complete by nature in each of his natures. It is therefore incumbent on us to reject these innovations and strengthen inviolably the orthodox faith of the holy fathers in the completeness of the natures that are preserved in union in Christ God and of his natural wills and operations, so as to profess that the natures, as united, of the one and the same are two, and that this is also true of his natural wills and operations, divine and human, for a total demonstration of the true completeness of each of his natures, such that there is no diminution of the essential and natural character or will and  operation in either nature. For will and operation according to nature are clearly a natural property of a nature, and it is by means of them that the definition of the holy council at Chalcedon stands confirmed and preserves without diminution the mystery of Christ God. But they, in their present attempt to confuse this mystery, have now devised another evil. For Paul, the primate of Constantinople, has induced our most pious emperor to issue a Typos about the faith, and in this Typos they have cast out the teachings of the holy fathers together with the evil doctrines of accursed heretics, decreeing that neither one nor two wills and operations are to be acknowledged in Christ God, making it easy to proclaim in his case now one and now not even one, and consequently to describe him as either God alone, since possessing only a divine nature, or a mere man alone, since possessing only a human nature, or to describe him as neither God nor man, since possessing neither divine nor human will and operation but being in their view totally devoid of both will and operation. This is something that the definition of the holy fathers and of the said holy council at Chalcedon totally prohibits, teaching that the natural property of each of the natures from which and in which is Christ is perfectly preserved after the union. Yet they, in their eagerness to reject both the council and all the holy fathers, have attempted to decree and record these things against the faith. I have also to inform your holinesses that by exploiting the turmoil of the times and through lust for power they have led many in the East astray. For Sergius bishop of Joppa, usurping the role of caretaker of the see of Jerusalem after the withdrawal of the Persians, in virtue not of ecclesiastical procedure but secular power, ordained several bishops there, in contravention of the canons, as suffragans of the see of Jerusalem; {although he himself was far from having been confirmed, he presumed to ordain others}. They, being well aware in consequence that their ordination was worthless, sent in their submission by letter, assenting to the innovation championed by Bishop Paul of Constantinople, so that indeed they might be irregularly confirmed by him, which was impossible. This fact I communicated earlier to the apostolic see, namely to the sainted pope Theodore; he by an apostolic letter appointed me his representative, despite my unworthiness, and by an all-sacred instruction bade me, apart from conducting other ecclesiastical business, to carry out a canonical deposition of the bishops ordained in this way, if they proved incorrigible. This indeed I did, particularly in view of the fact that of their own accord they had deserted the truth for error; in accordance with his injunction I only approved those who submitted a declaration of repentance and professed in writing that they had always held, embraced and preached the pious doctrines of the holy fathers and councils.

“These declarations I have now brought and presented to the thrice-blessed Pope Martin, who is presiding most sacredly over your holinesses, because some have been justly approved and others condemned, for the protection of the catholic church. I therefore exhort you not to overlook the numerous and urgent petitions on this head (brought with tears to your beatitude by me in my insignificance) from my lowly self, all the orthodox priests and congregations in the East, and my aforementioned master, the sainted Sophronius. But, ‘like luminaries in the world, keeping the word of life’, dispel the invading darkness of the heresy of the ill-named Apollinarius and Severus, which has been monstrously disseminated in our times by the men aforesaid, so that, once this is totally dispelled, there may rise upon us the daystar and the dogmatic definition (illuminating everyone everywhere through your most holy selves) which the illustrious fathers of the church and the holy and ecumenical five councils confirmed for us by their pious doctrines, for the sure attainment of eternal life. The subscription. I, Stephen, by God’s mercy bishop of Dora and the first man of the holy synod subject to the patriarchal see of Jerusalem, who composed the present plaint, have signed it with my own hand and presented it on Thursday, 8 October in the eighth indiction.” (Price, Acts of Lateran 649 Pg. 142-149)

[2] Rev. 12:5, 19:15

[3] Luke 17:7, John 21:16, Acts 20:28, 1 Cor 9:7, 1 Peter 5:2, Jude 1:12

[4] George Democopoulos’s work “The Invention of Peter” discusses at length how the popes leverages the relics of St. Peter to stay relevant while Rome’s secular status sunk rapidly over the centuries.

[5] Full text from the Synod of Cyprus 643: “Christ our God founded your apostolic see, O sacred head, as a divinely fixed and immovable support and conspicuous inscription of the faith. For you, as the divine Word truly declared without deceit, are Peter, and on your foundation the pillars of the church are fixed; to you he committed the keys of the heavens and decreed that you are to bind and loose with authority on earth and in heaven.100 You have been made the destroyer of profane heresies, as the leader and teacher of the orthodox and unimpeachable faith. Therefore, my father, do not overlook the faith of our fathers, tempest-tossed, assailed and endangered by the winds of heresy; dissolve the mist of the demented by the light of your knowledge of God, O all-holy one, obliterate the blasphemies and the raging of the heretical teachers, newly sprouted and spouting novelties. For nothing is lacking to your orthodox and apostolic ordinances and traditions, such that the faith should receive some addition from us. For we, being guided by God, and as the associates and colleagues of the holy apostles, have held and professed them from the first, indeed from the very cradle, proclaiming and affirming to all in the words of the holy and God-bearing Pope Leo, ‘Each form operates in communion with the other.’ With this all the God-bearing and all-holy fathers speak in accord, and it {has been followed} by us the most insignificant servants and disciples. Therefore we do not tolerate the verbosity and adverse arguments of our opponents, for we are ready to undergo martyrdom in defence of the orthodox faith, with the support of the prayers of your most holy self. And if they were to choose to condemn the soul-destroying doctrines newly proposed in the fortunate [city of Constantinople] (that is to say, for the destruction of the beliefs and profession of the holy fathers and of the supremely glorious and renowned Pope Leo), doctrines to which our own beliefs will not cease to be contrary, things would be well, the peace dear to God would be bestowed on the churches, every division in the churches abolished, and the schisms healed, with a restoration of unity. But since they do not follow you apostolic fathers, taught by God, we anathematise them both in writing and orally. For it is neither godly nor right, indeed it is not, when the plague of heresy is present and blasphemous anathemas have been composed, to engage in a battle of words. May they at all events respect what is rational, be in awe of God, and withdraw these blasphemies; and then, at whatever time or place they choose, let us discuss the doctrines about which they think to hold an opinion. In brief, therefore, most holy ones, what we say is this: let there be condemned the writings that seek to refute and condemn the God-bearing fathers, the all-holy Pope Leo, and you who speak of God. Since at your command, our masters and divinely inspired fathers, we too, as has already been said, strike them with anathemas, let us then initiate proposals and contests on the matters they are examining, since we are filled with hope by your support, which is both taught and inspired by God, since we shall not be timorous or ‘craven with fear where there is no fear’, when the subject is God and the orthodox faith. Until today, while they were practising a certain accommodation, we have remained silent, thinking that they would change their doctrines for the better. For such were also the convictions of our divine Arcadius, now among the saints, heeding your orthodox teaching, whose steps we pray to follow with all our strength, concurring with your orthodox and divinely inspired teaching, our most holy masters and fathers; for we shall endure no longer those who scatter tares and stumbling-blocks, so to speak, throughout the world. These are the beliefs of our sacred synod, which approves and embraces the Tome of the all-holy and God-bearing Leo, confirms it as a salvific anchor of orthodoxy, exults in the doctrines of your knowledge of God, while falsifying nothing at all, and prays to depart to the Lord and stand before his dread tribunal with this orthodox profession. May God, the Creator of all things, protect through a long life our all-holy master for the support of his holy churches and the orthodox faith, the good shepherd who offers his life for his spiritual sheep and drives away the ravenous wolves with his pastoral staff. To all those privileged to serve my all-holy master, honoured by God, I and those with me send abundant greetings in the Lord. The subscription. Father of fathers, honoured by God, pray that I may enjoy good health and be well-pleasing to the Lord. This was written and sent on 29 May in the first indiction.” (Price, Acts of Lateran 649 pg. 157-160)

[6] “From the proceedings of Sergius bishop of Constantinople in support of the Ekthesis. Sergius the most holy patriarch said: ‘Let the decree presented by Stephen our God-beloved syncellus, composed by our all-pious and magnanimous emperor, and already familiar to us, be read by him with due reverence and inserted in the proceedings.’ Stephen, the most God-beloved presbyter, syncellus and archivist, read it out. And after the reading Sergius the most holy patriarch said: ‘The most holy synod of our beloved fellow-ministers here assembled, has learnt and come to know the consummate perfection of our great emperor, wise in God, by means of the present proceedings relating to the Ekthesis of the doctrine of orthodoxy of our great and mighty emperor and by means of the previous reading that took place some days ago, for he has been “taught by wisdom, the maker of all things”. It should now make known through its own assent whether it approves and confirms with its seal the profession of doctrine that he has composed in this form and which, at least as appears to us, is flawless.’…The holy synod said: ‘The Ekthesis of our great and all-wise emperor, which has now been read, is truly in harmony with the apostolic teaching…The most holy and most blessed Sergius, archbishop and ecumenical patriarch, said: ‘Perfectly, clearly and concisely, in words guided by the principle of virtue, has the eloquence of the divinely wise and all-pious master and great emperor issued this definition, after receiving this grace as well from God.’…Therefore, if from now on anyone, in contempt of the prohibition by the most mighty and divinely established master and great emperor…” (Lateran, pg. 231-2)

From Pyrrhus “Now truly the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, inspiring those present together, has obliterated all error and enlightened the understanding of the faithful with the doctrines of piety, while the great and most clement emperor has himself, like a beacon, beamed this forth [the Ekthesis] and illuminated every part of the world…Like the great emperor, revealed as the author of great things, so too (naturally enough) we ourselves, following its purport and accepting in every respect the composition of his dogmatic and divinely inspired teaching, which is in accord in all respects with the apostolic tradition and the holy and ecumenical five councils, crown it with abundant praise, rising to the skies, on account of such an intensity of godly zeal. According to the measure of the power within us, we offer up fervent prayers constantly to God on behalf of his pious and enlightened soul, that the power of his rule may remain unshaken, subduing all the barbarian tribes, and so be passed down after very many years and in deep peace to his children’s children, and that there may be granted him in time to come the enjoyment of eternal life.” (Lateran pg. 233)

“To my master honoured by God and most blessed in every respect, spiritual brother and fellow minister Sergius, archbishop and patriarch, from the most insignificant Cyrus of Alexandria. When we were about to dispatch a response to the all-fortunate [city of Constantinople], the most glorious general Eustathius received and brought to me the all-honoured words of the God-honoured beatitude of my distinguished master [Sergius], enclosing a copy, [addressed] to Isaacius the most exalted patrician and exarch of Italy, of the Ekthesis of our all-venerable faith composed in a manner timely, far-sighted and pleasing to God by our most pious and God-protected master and great emperor, which now needs to be ratified by our common brother the most holy Severinus, who, with the help of God, is to be consecrated in Rome. I went through it carefully not only once or twice but many times. Delighted by the reading and delighting those with me because of the excellent exposition in the text, which is radiant like the sun and publicly proclaims our true and unimpeachable faith correctly and without error, I offered up hymns of thanksgiving to God the master of the universe for having given us a wise governor, who directs his holy churches felicitously and does not allow us to be troubled by the storm that may well be threatening, nor those who have pure recourse to them to be wrecked on hidden rocks, but instead leads us safely and benignly to a calm haven, while taking thought in godly fashion for the peace of the Christ-loving congregations they contain. The God who made him such and placed him among those spiritual will grant to his all-pious rule strength and might against the enemies who oppose his reign, obedient [to God], so that we may exclaim at that time with songs of thanksgiving, ‘The one all-pious and thrice-august has saved, has saved us, thrice he saved us,’ I mean from tyrannical oppression and Persian ferocity, and also Saracen wilfulness. We too, having received your teaching and following it totally, embrace and preserve the pious and devout gifts of his all-calm serenity, as is known already to your all-holiness honoured by God, through what at various times has been written to you by our mediocrity, in words uncouth yet orthodox. To the whole brotherhood in Christ together with your God-honoured beatitude both I and those with me send abundant greetings. P. 235-236

[7] “They do not reflect the intensification of the conflict in the course of 646, which led Pope Theodore to declare Paul deposed and excommunicate. But what was the significance of these letters for the Lateran Synod of 649? In this second session of the synod Pope Martin (or sometimes another bishop) provides a commentary on each of them as they are read out. Particularly revealing is his speech at the end of the session, when he commends Victor of Carthage for ‘not treating him [Paul] as excommunicate but calling him “fellow bishop” until such time as he may learn of the judgement passed on him by our apostolic authority’ (p. 186). He proceeds to interpret Victor’s letter (and by implication all the African letters) as plaints addressed to the synod, demanding condemnation of the monothelete leaders and their doctrines. Martin ignores the original context of 646 and the fact that his predecessor had excommunicated Paul and condemned his doctrine a few years previously; instead, he treats these letters as appeals to his own synod of 649. The synod claimed to be responding to appeals from the whole Christian world, which left it no choice but to proceed to action. But the only demands for action being made in 649 were from Stephen of Dora, Maximus the Confessor, and the Greek monks in their entourage.” (Lateran pg. 139)

[8] “In fact, if we take these documents as they stand, the story they tell is of an African enthusiasm for the cause that was far from universal. The first of them had been sent to Pope Theodore in the name of the primates of Byzacena, Numidia and Mauretania, the see of Carthage (the metropolis of Proconsularis) being vacant. It refers to a plan to hold synods in all the African provinces, aborted by unspecified adverse circumstances, and mentions an appeal to Patriarch Paul of Constantinople which the primates ask Rome to forward to its addressee through the services of the papal apocrisiarii at Constantinople. The second document is a plaint addressed to the emperor Constans by the primate of Byzacena and forty-one of his suffragans; since even under the Vandals we hear of 115 sees in Byzacena, this is not an impressive figure.13 The third document is an appeal addressed to Constans II from sixty-eight suffragan bishops of Proconsularis, meeting in synod; since there was at this juncture no primate of the province to require attendance (Victor, the author of the final document in this series, had not yet been elected), this is a very respectable figure. But there is nothing to suggest that comparable synods were held in the provinces of Numidia and Mauretania. The numerous eastern monks allied to Maximus the Confessor who had made their way to Africa as refugees are likely to have taken up residence in the two easterly provinces, while the impact of the debate held at Carthage in 645 between Maximus and Pyrrhus must have been muted by the fact that the then bishop of Carthage and primate of Africa (Fortunius or Fortunatus) supported the Byzantine government.14 In all, the four African documents read out at this session fell well short of proving that Rome’s anti-monothelete crusade enjoyed general support in the region.15 If these documents were indeed ‘falsifications’, intended to create an impression that all Christian Africa was passionately involved on the Roman side, they would surely have told a more rousing and unequivocal story.” (Lateran, pg. 135)

[9]Full text from Numidia, Byzacena, and Mauretania: “To the most blessed lord and elevated apostolic eminence, the holy father of fathers Theodore, pope and supreme pontiff of all the bishops, [from] Columbus bishop of the first see of the synod of Numidia, and Stephen bishop of the first see of the synod of Byzacena, and Reparatus bishop of the first see of the synod of Mauretania, and all the bishops of the said three synods of the region of Africa. That there is in the apostolic see a great and inexhaustible spring pouring forth abundantly for all Christians, from which flow forth rivulets that generously water the entire Christian world, no one can dispute. In honour of the most blessed Peter, {O father of fathers}, the decrees of the fathers decreed for it unique and total reverence, in the investigation of the affairs of God that need a full and careful examination, and most justly, since these need to be examined by the apostolic crown of the bishops, whose concern from of old has been both to condemn evil and approve what is worthy of praise. For it was laid down in ancient regulations that nothing, even if raised in remote and far distant provinces, should first be treated or accepted until it had been brought to the notice of your bountiful see, so that the sentence pronounced might be confirmed by her just authority, and the other churches might take from there, as from their native source, the origin of their preaching, and there might abide through the various regions of the whole world, unsullied in their purity, the mysteries of the saving faith. Therefore we pay to your apostolic eminence our most humble respects, which we offer with tears, since we cannot hold back our heartfelt groans.” (Price, Acts of Lateran 649 pg. 161-162)

[10] “Papal prestige was enhanced by the growing importance of Rome as a centre of martyr cults and as a place of pilgrimage. In the sixth and seventh centuries popes devoted very considerable resources to the enrichment of the churches there and to the promotion of the relic cults of the early Christian martyrs in Rome. At St Peter’s, for example, Pope Gregory the Great (590–604) remodelled the shrine of St Peter, inserting a ring crypt which allowed better access for pilgrims. Pope Honorius (625–638) was particularly active in the promotion of relic cults, establishing, for instance, a new and lavish church on the Via Nomentana over the tomb of St Agnes. John IV (640–642) and Theodore (642–649) both translated martyr relics to papal churches. These shrines and churches attracted a flow of pilgrims from across Christendom, from both west and east. Relic cults heightened the prestige of the popes who promoted them, and highlighted Rome’s apostolic inheritance and primatial status through its possession of the remains of St Peter. When Pope Theodore set out ritually to depose Patriarch Pyrrhus after the latter’s return to monotheletism, he was said to have done so at the tomb of Peter, an act which underlined his own exercise of apostolic authority, connecting it directly with the living presence in his tomb of the prince of the Apostles.” (Lateran p. 41)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s