Sixth Ecumenical Council

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The Sixth Ecumenical Council took place in Constantinople in 680-681 AD, and is also known as the Third Council of Constantinople.


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The sixth of the seven Ecumenical Councils, called together by St. Constantine the New, dealt with the following:

  • Condemning the heresy of the Monothelites

By this point, Arianism had become largely marginalized and many Arians were accepted back into the Church. But a new attack on the Person of Christ emerged in the form of the Monothelites. The Monothelites argued that Christ has only one will, for He is one person albeit with two natures. The Council felt that this "impaired the fullness of Christ's humanity," and that human nature without human will would be incomplete. That affirmed that since Christ was true man and true God, He must have two wills: a human will and a divine will. Monothelitism was condemned as heresy.

  • During the 50 years prior to the meeting of the sixth Council, Byzantium saw a sudden development in the rise of Islam. Islam's speed was striking, starting with only Hejaz at the Prophet's death (632) and ending with Syria, Palestine and Egypt within the 50 years. Islam was at the walls of Constantinople after this time, and almost captured the city. Within a hundred years, Islam had taken North Africa, went through Spain and "forced western Europe to fight for its life at the Battle of Poitiers." The old Empires were in no position to resist the conquests of Islam. Byzantium lost her eastern possessions and the Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria. Constantinople was now without rival, but was never free from Muslim attacks. It held out only eight centuries more, and then succumbed to invasion. Christendom did survive, but only with difficulty.


The Holy Fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council are commemorated on January 23 and also on the 9th Sunday after Pentecost the Sunday of the Fathers of the First Six Councils.

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