Eighth Ecumenical Council
The Eighth Ecumenical Council was a reunion council held at Constantinople in 879-880. This council was originally accepted and fully endorsed by the papacy in Rome (whose legates were present at the behest of Pope John VIII), but later repudiated by Rome in the 11th century, retroactively regarding the robber council of 869-870 to be ecumenical. The council of 879-880 affirmed the restoration of St. Photius the Great to his see and anathematized any who altered the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, thus condemning the Filioque.
This council is not regarded as ecumenical by all Orthodox Christians, but some major voices in the Orthodox world do so, including 20th century theologians Fr. John S. Romanides and Fr. George Metallinos (both of whom refer repeatedly to the "Eighth and Ninth Ecumenical Councils"), as well as Fr. John Meyendorff, Fr. George Dragas and Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos.
Further, the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs refers explicitly to the "Eighth Ecumenical Council" regarding the synod of 879-880 and was signed by the patriarchs of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria as well as the Holy Synods of the first three.
Those who regard these councils as ecumenical often characterize the limitation of Ecumenical Councils to only seven to be the result of Jesuit influence in Russia, part of the so-called "Western Captivity of Orthodoxy."
An interesting external attestation to the consideration of this synod to be the Eighth Ecumenical Council is the Roman Catholic Church's Catholic Encyclopedia (1907), which describes the council of 879-880 as the "Pseudosynodus Photiana," noting that the "Orthodox count [it] as the Eighth General Council."
From H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: Text, Translation and Commentary, (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1937). pp. 157-176.
Summary. This canon is a renewal of earlier decrees.
Text. The ancient canons of the Apostles and of the general and particular councils, as well as those of the fathers and doctors of he Church, must be firmly maintained.
Summary. All the synodal decrees of Popes Nicholas and Adrian dealing with Ignatius and Photius must be observed.
Text. All synodal decrees of Pope Nicholas and Pope Adrian dealing with Ignatius and Photius must be scrupulously observed. If after this declaration, anyone be found disregarding them, if he be a priest or cleric, let him be deposed; if monk or layman of whatsoever dignity, let him be excommunicated.
Summary. The images of our Lord and of His Blessed Mother and those of the Apostles, prophets, martyrs, and saints shall be duly honored and venerated.
Text. The holy images of our Lord Jesus Christ shall be honored in like manner as the Gospel-book. For, as the words of the Gospel lead us to salvation, so also do the pictures through their colors produce the same effect, and all, learned and unlearned, can derive benefit therefrom. The message that comes to us through the written word, the same is brought home to us through the color of the Picture. Since the honor directed toward the picture reverts in intention to the prototype, it follows, in accordance with right reason and ancient tradition, that pictures must be honored in the same manner as the Gospel-book and the picture of the precious cross. If, therefore, anyone does not now honor the picture of Christ, he shall not see His form when He comes to glorify His saints. Likewise do we design pictures and images of His Blessed Mother and of the angels, as also the Sacred Scriptures picture them for us in words; also of the Apostles, prophets, martyrs, and all the saints .
Summary. Photius was never bishop, hence those ordained by him must be deposed.
Text. We declare that Photius never was bishop nor is now and that those ordained or promoted by him may not retain the dignity to which he raised them; furthermore, that those elevated by him through the solemn rite of benediction to the office of superiors (of monasteries) shall be deposed," and that the churches consecrated and altars erected by him or by bishops ordained by him, must be consecrated and erected anew.
Summary. In all promotions to ecclesiastical orders the interstices must be observed. Anyone raised to any rank in a manner contrary to this ordinance shall be suspended.
Text. In accordance with earlier canons, we decree that no senator and, for that matter, no layman, who has but lately received the tonsure in the hope of being elevated to the episcopal or patriarchal rank and has become a cleric or monk, is permitted to rise to such a dignity unless he has passed through the period of probation required for each order. Because the desire for the tonsure inspired by such a disposition is prompted not by religion, the love of God, or the hope of leading a virtuous life, but solely by the love of glory d power. Especially do we forbid such promotions when they are instigated by imperial request or coercion. Anyone who without any desire for a high dignity, but in a spirit of humility renounces the world, becomes cleric or monk, and passes through the required probationary period for each order, that is, acts for one year as lector, two as subdeacon, three as deacon, and four as priest, such a one may be elected bishop. In regard to those who for a long time have been clerics in minor orders or monks, have religiously observed the laws of the Church, and are worthy of the episcopal dignity, the aforesaid period of probation may be abbreviated by the hops. Anyone who has been raised to the aforesaid rank in a manner contrary to this ordinance, shall be suspended from all sacerdottal functions, as one having been promoted in violation of the canons.
Summary. Photins is condemned for his diabolical and fraudulent actions in the synod of 867.
Text. Since Photius, after he had been condemned by Pope Nicholas for his usurpation of the Constantinopolitan see, appears to have picked up from the streets some worthless men and to have appointed them vicars of the three Oriental patriarchal sees, using them in his fraudulent council, in which he charged the Pope with numerous crimes and excommunicated him and all who are in communion with him, the acts of which we have seen and which have been synodically consigned to the flames, we condemn him, therefore, also on that account; likewise all the accomplices in that fraud, the false vicars and the authors of the defamatory writings (against the Pope), in accordance with the canon of Martin I.
Summary. Those anathematized are forbidden to paint images in the churches or to give instructions of any kind anywhere.
Text. Those who have been anathematized by this holy and ecumenical council are not permitted to paint holy images in the churches or to give instructions anywhere, no matter whether these be of a divine or purely secular nature. Anyone employing such persons in violation of this ordinance, if he be a cleric, shall be in danger of being deposed from his rank; if a layman, he shall be deprived of holy communion.
Summary. Patriarchs of Constantinople are forbidden to demand for their security from their clergy a written declaration of adherence.
Text. Since it has come to our knowledge that not only heretics and wicked persons when they possess themselves of the throne of the Church of Constantinople, but also orthodox and legitimate patriarchs demand for the security of their position from their clergy (including the bishops subject to their jurisdiction) a written declaration of adherence, this holy and ecumenical council forbids that this be done in the future, with the single exception of documents in which according to a prescribed form and ancient custom bishops at their consecration make profession of their orthodoxy. Anyone who shall dare violate this ordinance, or attempt to do so, or consent to such an attempt, shall be deprived of his dignity.
Summary. All contracts made by Photius between himself and his adherents before his intrusion into the Constantinopolitan see are null and void.
Text. Since Photius long before his intrusion into the Constantinopolitan see bound his adherents to himself by written documents or contracts, in order to learn from them a new wisdom, which is folly in the sight of God, we declare all such contracts null and void. Anyone found acting in contravention of this decision, if a cleric, let him be deposed; if a layman, excommunicated.
Summary. No one is to leave without approval the jurisdiction of his own patriarch, even though the latter be guilty of a grave crime.
Text. No layman, monk, or cleric shall, previous to an examination and conciliar decision, leave the jurisdiction of his own patriarch, though he may pretend to know that the latter is guilty of a grave crime; nor shall he omit his name in the liturgy. The same rule is to be observed also by bishops and priests toward their patriarch. Whoever is found to act contrary to this decision of the holy council, shall, if a bishop or cleric, be suspended; if a monk or
Summary: The Old and New Testaments teach that man has but one rational and intellectual soul.
Text. While the Old and New Testaments teach that man has one rational and intellectual soul, and this is the teaching also of all the fathers and doctors of the Church, some persons, nevertheless, blasphemously maintain that he has two souls. This holy and general council, therefore, anathematizes the authors and adherents of that false teaching. Anyone presuming to act contrary to the decision of this great council, shall be anathematized and cut off from the faith and society of Christians.
Summary. Those raised to the episcopal dignity by secular power or intrigues, shall be deposed.
Text. As the Apostolic canon (31) and other synodal decrees, so do we also ordain that whoever has been raised to the episcopal dignity through the intrigues or power of secular princes, shall be deposed."'
Summary. For the higher ecclesiastical dignities, clerics attached to the cathedral of Constantinople shall be chosen, and not strangers or outsiders.
Text. We decree that for the higher ecclesiastical dignities, clerics attached to the cathedral of Constantinople, who have spent some time in clerical orders and are known to be of good character and deserving of preferment, shall be chosen, and not strangers or outsiders (that is, laymen, such as Photius and others). Moreover, those who hold the office of steward in the houses of princes or on rural estates, shall not be appointed on the clerical staff of the cathedral.
Summary. Bishops should be duly honored by the secular princes.
Text. Those who have by divine grace been raised to the episcopal dignity, shall be duly honored by the secular princes. Under no circumstances shall they go a great distance from their Churches to meet these gentlemen, or on meeting them dismount from their horses and greet them by bending the knee. Rather should bishops have the courage to reprove such persons when necessary and correct them. Any bishop who after this decision thus dishonors his dignity, shall be suspended from office for one year, and the prince who despises or belittles the episcopal dignity, shall be deprived of holy communion.
Summary. No bishop may sell sacred vessels or other valuables except in the case specified by the canons. Nor may he dispose of ecclesiastical lands. All such transactions are null.
Text. No bishop is permitted to sell the sacred vessels or other valuables belonging to his Church except in the case specified by the ancient canons, namely, when it is necessary for the redemption of captives. Neither is it permitted to dispose of under a perpetual lease or to sell ecclesiastical lands or other properties. Everyone having authority over ecclesiastical properties is expected to improve and enlarge these according to the needs of the Church; his own property, on the other hand, he may dispose of in the manner and to whomsoever he wishes. Whoever acts contrary to this decision shall be deposed, and the contracts, whether oral or written, covering the sale or lease of such properties, of sacred vessels, or other valuables, shall be null and void. He, however, who has bought or holds under lease ecclesiastical possessions as aforesaid and does not return them to the Church to which they belong, shall be anathematized till he has made restitution.
Summary. Those who under Emperor Michael ridiculed everything sacred and placed religion on a level with buffoonery, and have not yet confessed their crime and atoned for it, are excommunicated.
Text. Those who under the regime of Emperor Michael ridiculed the sacred liturgy, impersonated bishops and otherwise parodied our holy religion, and have not yet confessed their crime and by penance atoned for it, are excommunicated for a period of three years. During the first year they shall take their place with the flentes, during the second with the catechumens; and the third year shall be spent in the class of the consistentes. If in the future any emperor or other high official shall stage such buffoonery, it is the duty of the patriarch and of the bishops who are with him to reprove and exclude him from the sacred mysteries; a severe penance shall be imposed on him, and if he does not speedily undertake the performance of it, he shall be anathematized. If the patriarch and bishops fail to manifest the necessary zeal in this respect, let them be deposed.
Summary. Patriarchs have the right to summon all their metropolitans to the patriarchal synod and to punish them if they are guilty of a misdemeanor. Those who without good reason fail to heed the summons, shall be punished.
Text. The council declares that the patriarchs have the right to summon to the patriarchal synod and to punish if convicted of a misdemeanor, all metropolitans who have been elevated by them either through ordination or through the bestowal of the pallium; and the metropolitans are no longer to excuse their absence from the patriarchal synod on the plea that they themselves held metropolitan synods. Even though the general council does not forbid the latter, the patriarchal synods are, nevertheless, far more important. Nor is it true that a synod may not be held without the presence of the secular ruler. The canons do not say that secular rulers, b the bishops shall assemble in a synod. In ancient times a lay was never present at a local synod, but only at a general c Moreover, it is not proper that secular princes be spectators o takes place in regard to the clergy. The metropolitan who in turn without a very good reason fails to obey the summons patriarch, shall, if he delays two months, be suspended; if a year, deposed. He who fails to comply with this decision, shall be anathematized.
Summary. Property and privileges granted to a Church and possessed by that Church for thirty years, may not be taken away by seculars.
Text. The property and privileges which have been granted, whether in writing or not, by emperors or by other persons to a Church, and which that Church has possessed for a period of thirty years, may not be taken away by a secular person either by force or other means. Any such persons acting contrary to this ordinance, shall be anathematized.
Summary. Metropolitans shall not go to the Churches of their suffragans and impose burdens on them, squandering the money intended for the poor and other purposes.
Text. No archbishop or metropolitan shall leave his own Church and, under pretext of visitation, but really impelled by avarice, betake himself to the Churches of his suffragans to abuse his power by imposing heavy burdens on their subjects and squandering the money that was intended for the poor and other ecclesiastical purposes. Let hospitality and other things necessary for the journey be accepted with reverence and the fear of God, but no demand should be made that would prove a burden to those Churches or their bishops.
Summary. A bishop who without due notice expels for failure to pay rent one who possesses Church property as emphyreusis, shall be deposed.
Text. No bishop shall by his own authority forcibly expel, for failure to pay rent, one who possesses Church property as emphyteusis (a perpetual lease of lands and tenements in consideration of annual rent and improvements thereon); but he must notify such a one that he will lose the possession if he fails to pay rent for a period of three years. If he delays for that length of time, then the bishop shall take the matter to court and demand the return of the Church property. If any bishop acts contrary to this decision and continues in his disobedience, let him be deposed.
Summary. Secular authority shall not treat disrespectfully or seek to depose any patriarch; nor shall anyone direct against the pope of Rome any libelous and defamatory writing. Any secular power attempting to expel any patriarch, shall be anathematized.
Text. No secular authority shall treat disrespectfully or seek to depose any of the five patriarchs; rather are they to be highly honored, especially the pope of Old Rome, then the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Nor shall anyone direct against the pope of Old Rome any libelous and defamatory writings, as was done recently by Photius and earlier by Dioscurus. If a secular authority shall attempt to expel the pope or any of the other patriarchs, let him be anathema. And if an ambiguity or controversy concerning the Holy Church of the Romans be brought before a general council, the question should be examined and disposed of with becoming respect and reverence, and no sentence should be boldly pronounced against the supreme pontiff of the
elder Rome .
Summary. All promotions and consecrations of bishops must be made by the election and decision of the college of bishops, and no secular power shall intrude itself.
Text. In accordance with earlier councils this holy and general assembly decrees that all promotions and consecrations of bishops shall be made by the election and decision of the college of bishops, and no secular ruler or other lay person possessing influence shall under penalty of anathema mix himself into the election or promotion of a patriarch, metropolitan, or any bishop, unless he be invited by the Church herself.
Summary. Bishops are forbidden to dispose of properties belonging to other Churches. No priest or deacon shall pass without approval from his own Church to another.
Text. It has come to our knowledge that some bishops dispose of possessions belonging to other Churches, and thus usurp an authority that belongs to other bishops. This great and general council has decreed therefore, that no bishop or chorepiscopus shall perform or take part in such an iniquitous transaction; nor shall he appoint priests or any other clerics to churches that are not under his jurisdiction. Furthermore, no priest or deacon shall of his own accord pass to a Church for which he was not originally ordained, for this is illicit and contrary to the canons. Whoever acts contrary to these provisions, shall be duly punished and if he does not amend, let him be deposed.
Summary. Metropolitans who are so absorbed in secular pursuits that they compel their suffragans to do their work, shall be punished.
Text. Some metropolitans are, contrary to ecclesiastical law, so absorbed in secular pursuits and so utterly negligent and careless in their spiritual duties that they have all the divine service in their own churches conducted by one of their suffragan bishops, who are said to be commanded to perform those services in their turn and at their own expense, thus forcibly employing those who are vested with episcopal dignity as clerics subject to them, a proceeding that absolutely lacks all Apostolic sanction. Any metropolitan, therefore, who in the future shall employ his suffragans to perform the aforesaid services, shall be punished by his patriarch and, if he does not amend, let him be deposed.
Summary. All clerics ordained by Ignatius and Methodius but who even now are adherents of Photius and refuse to submit, are deposed and deprived of all sacerdotal functions.
Text. The bishops, priests, deacons, and subdeacons of the Church of Constantinople who have been ordained by the Patriarchs Ignatius and Methodius, but who even now are adherents of Photius and refuse to submit to this holy and ecumenial council, are deposed and deprived of all sacerdotal functions, as Pope Nicholas had already decreed, and under no circumstances are they to be listed again in the register of the clergy, even if they repent. Moved by compassion, we permit them in that case to receive holy communion as laymen.
Summary. A priest or deacon deposed by his bishop and dissatisfied with the judgmcnt rendered, may appeal to the metropolitan. In like manner may a bishop appeal to the patriarch against a metropolitan.
Text. If a priest or deacon has been deposed by his bishop on account of some crime, and if he maintains that he has suffered an injustice and is dissatisfied with the judgment of his bishop, feeling that he in his decision was influenced by ill-feeling toward him or by favor toward others, he may appeal to the metropolitan of the province, who shall then with the bishops examine the matter in a provincial synod and pronounce judgment in accordance with the results of their investigation. In like manner may a bishop appeal to the patriarch against the decision of his metropolitan, who shall then with the other metropolitans subject to him, decide the matter. No metropolitan or bishop may be judged by the neighboring metropolitans of his province; this must be done by the patriarch. Anyone who does not submit to this decision, let him be excommunicated.
Summary. The customary liturgical vestments are to be retained in each province. Bishops are not to wear the pallium to satisfy a spirit of self -love. Monks raised to the episcopal dignity must retain the monastic habit.
Text. We decree that the customary signs or marks (liturgical vestments) that characterize the various ecclesiastical orders be retained in each province and locality. Bishops to whom the pallium has been granted shall wear it only at certain times and places and not indiscriminately to satisfy a spirit of self-love and a desire for vain glory. Monks who have been raised to the episcopal dignity must retain the monastic habit, and no one is permitted to lay it aside without becoming a violator of his own agreements. Every bishop, therefore, who wears the pallium outside the times prescribed, or lays aside the monastic habit, if he does not submit to correction, let him be deposed.
- John Meyendorff, "Rome and Orthodoxy: Is 'Authority Still the Issue?," Living Tradition, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1978, pp. 63-80.