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Seven or Nine Ecumenical Councils?
As far as some Orthodox are concerned, since the Seventh Ecumenical Council there has been no synod or council of the same scope as any of the Ecumenical councils. Local meetings of hierarchs have been called "pan-Orthodox," but these have invariably been simply meetings of local hierarchs of whatever Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions are party to a specific local matter. From this point of view, there has been no fully "pan-Orthodox" (Ecumenical) council since 787. Unfortunately, the use of the term "pan-Orthodox" is confusing to those not within Eastern Orthodoxy, and it leads to mistaken impressions that these are ersatz ecumenical councils rather than purely local councils to which nearby Orthodox hierarchs, regardless of jurisdiction, are invited.
Others, including 20th century theologians Fr. John S. Romanides and Fr. George Metallinos (both of whom refer repeatedly to the "Eighth and Ninth Ecumenical Councils") and the 1848 Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs (which refers explicitly to the "Eighth Ecumenical Council" and was signed by the patriarchs of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria as well as the Holy Synods of the first three), regard other synods beyond the Seventh Ecumenical Council as being ecumenical. Those who regard these councils as ecumenical often characterize the limitation of Ecumenical Councils to only seven to be the result of influence in Russia, part of the so-called "Western Captivity of Orthodoxy."
List of Ecumenical Councils
- II. First Council of Constantinople, (381); revised the Nicene Creed into the present form used in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches.
- III. Council of Ephesus, (431); repudiated Nestorianism, proclaimed the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God (Greek, Θεοτόκος).
- IV. Council of Chalcedon, (451); repudiated the Eutychian doctrine of Monophysitism, described and delineated the two natures of Christ, human and divine; adopted the Chalcedonian Creed. This and all following councils are not recognized by Oriental Orthodox Communion.
- V. Second Council of Constantinople, (553); reaffirmed decisions and doctrines explicated by previous Councils, condemned new Arian, Nestorian, and Monophysite writings.
- VI. Third Council of Constantinople, (680-681); repudiated Monothelitism, affirmed that Christ had both human and Divine wills.
- Quinisext/Penthekte Council (= Fifth and Sixth) or Council in Trullo, (692); mostly an administrative council that raised some local canons to ecumenical status and established principles of clerical discipline. It is not considered to be a full-fledged council in its own right because it did not determine matters of doctrine. This council is accepted by the Orthodox Church as a part of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, but that is rejected by Roman Catholics.
- VII. Second Council of Nicaea, (787); restoration of the veneration of icons and end of the first iconoclasm.
The next two are regarded as ecumenical by some in the Orthodox Church but not by other Orthodox Christians, who instead consider them to be important local councils.
- VIII. Fourth Council of Constantinople, (879-880); restored St. Photius the Great to his see in Constantinople and anathematized any who altered the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, abrogating the decrees of the Robber Council of 869-870. This council was at first accepted as ecumenical by the West but later repudiated in favor the robber council which had deposed Photius.
- IX. Fifth Council of Constantinople, (1341-1351); affirmed hesychastic theology according to St. Gregory Palamas and condemned the Westernized philosopher Barlaam of Calabria.