THE COUNCIL of 
CHALCEDON (451)

 

 Pope Leo Confronts Atilla
 Raphael, Vatican


adapted from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
Council
. BM551, 1372


 

 


INTRODUCTION
 

 

 

IT was the emperor Marcian who, after the “robber” council of Ephesus (449), commanded this council to meet. Pope Leo I was opposed to it. His view was that all the bishops should repent of their ways and individually sign his earlier dogmatic letter to Flavian, patriarch of Constantinople, and so avoid a new round of argument and debate. Moreover, the provinces of the West were being laid waste by Attila’s invasions. But before the pope’s view became known, the emperor Marcian had, by an edict of 17 May 451, convoked the council for 1 September 451. Although the pope was displeased, he sent legates: Paschasinus bishop of Lilybaeum, Bishop Lucentius, the priests Boniface and Basil, and Bishop Julian of Cos. No doubt Leo thought that the council would cause people to leave the church and go into schism. So he wanted it to be postponed for a time, and he implored the emperor that the faith handed down from ancient times should not become the subject of debate. The only business should be the restoration of the exiled bishops to their former positions.

     The council was convoked at Nicaea but later transferred to Chalcedon, so as to be close to Constantinople and the emperor. It began on 8 October 451. The legates Paschasinus, Bishop Lucentius and the priest Boniface presided, while Julian of Cos sat among the bishops. By their side were the imperial commissars and those serving on the Senate, whose responsibility was simply to keep order in the council’s deliberations.

     The lists we have of those present are unsatisfactory. According to Leo there were 600 bishops at the council, whereas according to a letter to him there were 500.

     The “Definition of the faith” was passed at the council’s fifth session, and was solemnly promulgated at the sixth session in the presence of the emperor and the imperial authorities. The formula accepted in the decree is: Christ is one in two natures. This is in agreement with Leo’s letter to Flavian of Constantinople, and Leo’s letter is expressly mentioned in the Definition of the faith.

     The council also issued 27 disciplinary canons (it is unclear at which session).

     What is usually called canon 28 (on the honor to be accorded the see of Constantinople) is in fact a resolution passed by the council at the 16th session. It was rejected by the Roman legates.

     In the ancient Greek collections, canons 29 and 30 are also attributed to the council:

i canon 29 is an extract from the minutes of the 19th session; and

i canon 30 is an extract from the minutes of the 4th session.

     Because of canon 28, which the Roman legates had opposed, the emperor Marcian and Anatolius, patriarch of Constantinople, sought approval for the council from the pope. This is clear from a letter of Anatolius which tries to defend the canon, and especially from a letter of Marcian which explicitly requests confirmation. Because heretics were misinterpreting his withholding approval, the pope ratified the doctrinal decrees on 21 March 453, but rejected canon 28 since it ran counter to the canons of Nicaea and to the privileges of particular churches.

     The imperial promulgation was made by Emperor Marcian in 4 edicts of February 452.

     Apart from Pope Leo’s letter to Flavian, which is in Latin, the English translation is from the Greek text, since this is the more authoritative version.


Chalcedon, Council of (AD 451). The Fourth Oecumenical Council, held in the city of Chalcedon in Asia Minor, nearly opposite Byzantium. It was convoked by the Emp. Marcian to deal with the *Eutychian heresy. At the first meeting, held on 8 Oct. 451, some 500–600 bishops were present, all of them Easterns except two bishops from the province of Africa and the two Papal legates, Paschasinus and Boniface. The decisions of the Latrocinium (449) were annulled and Eutyches was condemned. The Council then drew up a statement of faith, the so-called Chalcedonian Definition, and made a large number of important enactments. All the dogmatic decisions of the Council were accepted by the W. Church, but can. 28, which made the see of Constantinople second only to that of Rome and gave its bishop the exclusive right to ordain the metropolitans of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace (a canon which had been opposed by the Roman legates), was rejected in the W., in order (it was stated) to protect the interests of the older E. patriarchates. See also following entry.

Hardouin, 2, cols. 662–772; Mansi, 6 (1761), cols. 529–1230, and 7 (1762), cols. 1–872. Canons, Definition, and the *Tome of Leo, with Eng. tr., in Tanner,Decrees (1990), pp. 75–103. Crit. edn. of Acta ed. E. *Schwartz, ACO 2 (1932–8: 1. Acta Graeca. 2. Versiones Particulares. 3. Versio Antiqua a Rustico Correcta. 4. Leonis Papae I Epistolarum Collectiones. 5. Codex Encyclicus. 6. Indices). Fr.tr. of Greek text of Acts by A. J. Festugière, Éphèse et Chalcédoine, Actes des Conciles (1982), pp. 654–895; id., Actes du Concile de Chalcédoine, Sessions III–VI (La Définition de la Foi) (Cahiers d’Orientalisme, 4; Geneva, 1983), with preface by H. Chadwick, pp. 7–16. Hefele and Leclercq, 2 (2) (1908), pp. 649–857, with full bibl., pp. 650 f. E. Caspar, Geschichte des Papsttums, 1 (1930), pp. 511–531. A. Grillmeier, SJ, and H. Bacht, SJ (eds.), Das Konzil von Chalcedon (3 vols., 1951–4). R. V. Sellers, The Council of Chalcedon (1953). P.-T. Camelot, OP, Éphèse et Chalcédoine (Histoire des Conciles Œcuméniques, 2; 1962), pp. 79–182 and 209–35. S. O. Horn, Petrou Kathedra: Der Bischof von Rom und die Synoden von Ephesus (449) und Chalcedon (Konfessionskundliche und kontroverstheologische Studien, 45; Paderborn, 1982), pp. 143–250. CPG 4 (1980), pp. 82–155 (nos. 8945–9307). J. Bois in DTC 2 (1905), cols. 2190–208, s.v. ‘Chalcédoine (Concile de)’; M. Jugie, AA, in EC 3 (1950), cols. 324–8; P. T. Camelot, OP, in NCE (2nd edn.), 3 (2003), pp. 363–6, s.v. See also works cited under the following entry

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