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Milton V. Anastos

Constantinople and Rome

A Survey of the Relations between the Byzantine and the Roman Churches.

M. Anastos, Aspects of the Mind of Byzantium (Political Theory, Theology, and Ecclesiastical Relations with the See of Rome), Ashgate Publications, Variorum Collected Studies Series, 2001. ISBN: 0 86078 840 7.

5. The canons of the Council of Sardica [The ancient spelling is said to have been Serdica.] (343) and the papal claim to universal jurisdiction over the Church

Although a majority of non-Roman authorities now credit the tradition that Peter visited Rome, they do not on that account admit that Peter ever was bishop in that city. Nor do they accept the Roman primacy or its far-reaching consequences. One of the most momentous of these is the authority claimed by the Roman pope to pass judgment upon the affairs of other bishops, and to intervene directly in local affairs. The Byzantine emperor and his Church never conceded this right to Rome, which would have involved a surrender of sovereignty on their part. For the Byzantine prelates who appealed(41) to Rome when dissatisfied for one reason or another with conditions at home or with decisions of the emperor or patriarch did so on their own initiative; and such appeals, unless sanctioned by the Byzantine government, were totally devoid of validity or practical meaning, so far as Byzantium was concerned.

This proposition may seem startling in view of the fact that the canons of the Council of Sardica (modern Sofia in Bulgaria) of 343,(42) three of which (nos. 3-5 or 3, 4, and 7 in the usual enumeration) grant the bishop of Rome appellate jurisdiction in certain cases, were incorporated by Johannes Scholasticus, who was patriarch of Constantinople from 565 to 577, into his Collection of fifty titles (a digest of ecclesiastical law),(43) and were endorsed both by the Byzantine Council in Trullo (692)(44) and by the Byzantine canonists of the twelfth (Βalsamοn, Zonaras, and Arsitenus) and fourteenth (Matthew Blastares) centuries.(45)

But, as students of this problem often fail to note, the Patriarch Photius ca. 860 declared(46) in a letter to Pope Nicholas Ι (858-67) that the Church of Constantinople had never recognized the Sardican regulations. Photius was somewhat disingenuous on this point, as Pope Nicholas rightly objected, since they were included in Johannes Scholasticus's Collectίon of fifty titles, and he might have added also that they were cited frequently in the summary of ecclesiastical law (Nomocanon xiv titulorum) edited by Photius himself in 882 (47) What Photius should have said was that his Church knew the legislation of Sardica but was not bound by it.

Balsamon and Zonaras took a different tack. Though voicing approval of the general procedure of appeal outlined at Sardica,(48) they maintain that the pope of Rome did not have exclusive title to the privileges there set forth, since, Balsamon contends, the patriarch of Constantinople had identical rights in this regard as in all other respects. Furthermore, Zonaras adds, these canons were not issued by the First Council of Nicaea (325), as Rome had once claimed, nor did they grant the pope authority over any bishops except those who resided in lands subject to his control. At the time these ordinances were drawn up, he remarks, the Roman Church held sway over Macedonia, Thessaly, Illyricum, Greece, the Peloponnesus, and Epirus, which later (732-33) passed over to the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople (see note 128 below), who then took over the administration of appeals from these regions. Α somewhat similar argument was advanced by Nicholas Mesarites in 1207,(49) and many other Byzantine writers set forth reasons for holding that the canons of Sardica were valid in the West but not in the Byzantine Empire.(50)

Actually, the powers conferred upon Rome by these canonss(51) were extremely
limited in scope, applied only to appeals by an aggrieved bishop, or in his behalf, and did not permit the Roman pontiffs to intervene in any case on their own initiative or to settle it apart from a council of bishops, in which the legates sent by the pope had only a single vote each. It should be noted also that almost all of the Greek bishops had seceded from the Council of Sardica before the enactment of the canons, which were then drafted by a group of nearly ninety bishops, almost all of whom were from the Latin West.

Even so, the canons were repudiated by the African Church in 418 and 424 52 But, most important of all, the Byzantine Church never submitted itself to papal scrutiny in the manner prescribed by Sardica, not even in the year 861, when, as we shall see below, the Emperor Michael ΙΙΙ and the Patriarch Photius invited papal legates to pass upon the validity of the deposition of the Patriarch Ignatius under conditions which made it impossible for the Latins not to confirm the decision that the Byzantines had already made. Thus, Byzantium
did not absorb from the Sardican canons the concept of the supreme jurisdiction- the Roman pope over the entire Church, even to the very slight extent to which this notion can be ascribed to them. Nor did Byzantium ever embrace the more developed form of this doctrine as juridically established by the Emperor Gratian (375-83), who in a rescript of the year 378 (or January 379)(53) not only invested the Roman pope with the right to judge all metropolitans and with wide powers in hearing the appeals of lower clerics, but also provided for enforcement by the imperial authorities of papal or conciliar decisions requiring removal of ecclesiastics from their posts and summoning them to appear before a tribunal of the Church.

The privileges granted by Gratian were confirmed and enlarged by Valentinian ΙII,
Emperor of the West, in 445 (Novel 17),(54) when he ordained that the rule of the bishop of Rome should prevail over all the churches in the western Empire, and that any bishop summoned to the court of the bishop of Rome would be compelled by the imperial government to appear.

These measures contributed greatly to the centralization of power in the papacy and to the claims of the popes of the later Middle Ages to supremacy in the Church. But they represent a wholly western development and never applied to Byzantium. Nevertheless, some Roman Catholic theologians minimize the importance of this legislation because of their hostility to any suggestion that the papal primacy, which they take to be of divine origin, owed anything to secular governments or even to conciliar decisions like the sixth canοn of Nicaea or the third of Constantinople. For this reason, some would take umbrage at Valentinian's statement in the above-mentioned Novel that the primacy of Rome had been "confirmed by the merit of St. Peter ..., by the dignity of the City of Rome, and by the authority of the sacred synod [Nicaea]."


41. - Οn these see Batiffol, "Cathedra Petri" (cited in note 11 above), 215 ff.: «Les recours a Rome en Orient avant le concile de Chalcédoine» (revised ed. of "RHE", 21 [1925], 5-32); Ρ Bernardakis, «Les appels au pape dans l'église grecque jusqu'à Photius," "ΕO", 6 (1903), 30-42, 118-25, 249-57. Note, however, that many scholars deny, rightly, Ι believe, that recognition of papal primacy was involved in these appeals, as, e.g., in the career of Bishop John Chrysostom of Constantinople, who, it is maintained, did not recognize Roman jurisdiction over the East: Κ. Ο. Muratides, «Did St. John Chrysostom accept the papal primacy?» (in Greek), "Ekklesia", 36 (Athens, 1959), 22 f., 40-42, 59-62, 78-80, 96-98; "Altaner, Patrologie", § 69, 6.

42. - The best critical texts are those edited by Cuthbert Η. Turner, "Ecclesiae οccidentalis monumenta iuris antiquissima", tom. 1, fasc. 2, pars 3 (Oxford, 1930), 442 f., 456 ff., 494 ff. (Latin and Greek); cf. "Gesta de nomine Apiarii, ibid., 561 ff. See Hamilton Hess, "The canons of the council of Sardica, A.D. 343 (Oxford, 1958), 109-26 with English trans.); reviewed by Hans Μ. Klinkenberg, ΖSavΚan, 46 (1959), 320-22, who shows that these canons cannot be taken to prove that the Roman primacy was recognized in 343. See Beck, "Kirche, 51 f. The problems are summarized lucidly by Victor C. de Clercq, Ossius of Cordova (Studies in Christian Antiquity, 13 [Washington, D.C., 1954]), 290-376, n.b. 376 ff., 390 f., 394 f. (with English paraphrase). Cf Jalland, "Church and papacy", 220 f.; Caspar, Geschichte, 1, 159 ff., 163 ff., 586--88; Β. J. Kidd, History of the Church to A.D. 461", 2 (Oxford, 1922), 86 f. Hefele-Leclercq, "Conciles", 1, 2 (1907), 737-59, n.b. 762-77, 819-23, erroneously states that the papal legates were to "preside over the new trial. The text merely has it that they were to be authorized to act in the pope's name as his representatives.

43. - Vladimirus Benešević, "Ιοannis Scholastici synagoga L titulorum (ABAW", philos: hist. Abt., N.F. 14 [Munich, 1937]), Tit. 16, p. 64 f. (Greek text); on whom see Beck, Kirche, 422 f; Grumel, Regestes, nos. 250-259.

44. - Hefele-Leclercq, Conciles, 3, 1 (Paris, 1909), 562 f.; Mansi, Concilia, 11, 930.

45. - PG, 137, 521 C, 524 Β-525 Β, cf. 329 C-332 D; 144, 973 C-976 A.

46. - PG, 102, 600 D-601 Α, 604; Nicholas Ι to Photius, Εpp. 86 and 92, MGH Epist., 6, Karolini aevi, 4, 450.8 ff., 537.28-538.10. Specifically at issue was the 13th canon (variously numbered 8, 10, 12, or 13) forbidding the elevation of a layman to the episcopal throne until he had served for some time as lector ("anagnostes"), deacon, and presbyter: ed. Τurner, Op. cit.", l, 2, 3, pp. 472 ff. Cf. Gordillo, "OrChrP", 6 (1940), 34 f.

47. - Ι. Β. Pitra, ed., Iuris ecclesiastici Graecorum historia et monumenta, 2 (Rome, 1868), 445-637, see introduction, 433 ff., n.b. 450, 463 (c. 5, citing canons 3-5 of Sardica), 469 (c. 11, which refers to the Sardican canon that forbids the promotion of a layman to the episcopal throne without previous service in the lower orders).

48. - PG, 137, 1312 BC, 1436 AB, 1441 C, 1444 AΒ. The twentieth Council of Carthago in 424 showed that Rome had erroneously ascribed the Sardican canons to the first Council of Nicaea: Hefele-Leclercq, Conciles, 2, 1 (Paris, 1908), 2Ι4 f, cf. 195 (can. 17).

49. - August Heisenberg, ed., Neue Quellen zur Geschichte des lateinischen Kaisertums und der Kirchenunion, 1, Der Epitaphios des Nikolaos Mesarites auf seinen Bruder Johannes (SBAW, 1922, 5. Abh. [Munich, 1922]), 57.2-58.9.

50. - Μ. Gordillo, ed., "OrChrP", 6 (1940), 14 f. (Greek text) and references, ibid, 36 f.; Jugie, "Theologia dogmatica", 1, 132 ff. (Latin paraphrase).

51. - The canons provided only that, after a bishop had been deposed by a synod of bishops, either he or his judges or the bishops of a neighbouring province could appeal to the bishop of Rome. The latter might then either confirm the decision of the synod or rule that there be a new hearing before bishops of the province neighbouring upon that of the accused. If he wished, the pope might also send clerics from Rome to participate as judges in the new trial. But the latter were not to take over the proceedings themselves or do any more than hear the case and cast their votes along with the bishops. The bishop of Rome was not authorized to judge such cases himself, preside over the hearing, or appoint any other tribunal than as above noted.

52. - Hefele-Leclercq, "Conciles", 2, 1 (Paris, 1908), 195 (can. 17), 214 f.

53. - "Collectio Avellana", 13, 11 f., CSEL, 35, 1, 57 f. Cf. Hans Lietzmann, A history of the early Church, 4, "The era of the Church fathers", 2d ed. (London, 1953), 54-56; Caspar "Geschichte", 1, 204 ff., 212-16, 593 f.; Kidd, History of the Church, 2, 318 f. L. Duchesne, «Les canons de Sardique,» "Bessarione", 7 (1902), 129-44, maintains, wrongly, Ι believe, that Gratian's rescript was issued "ad hoc", and had no bearing upon the powers of the pope, which were inherent in the papacy and not derived from the imperial government. Specifically, Gratian ruled that the imperial government (in the West) would enforce the deposition of clerics voted by the pope with his council of five or seven bishops, or by any council of orthodox Christians, and would compel accused clergymen to appear before the ecclesiastical tribunals which summoned them, whether in Rome or elsewhere. Metropolitans far from Rome were permitted to try their own subordinates, but they themselves were subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome or to judges appointed by him; and ecclesiastics condemned by their metropolitan might appeal to Rome or to a tribunal of fifteen "neighbouring bishops".

54. - Novel 17 (Haenel 16), ed. Τ. Mommsen and Ρ. Μ. Meyer, "Theodosiani libri XVI ... et leges novellae ad Theodosianum pertinentes", 2, 2d ed. (Berlin, 1954 reprint), 101-3; English trans. by Clyde Pharr, The Theodosian Code (Princeton, 1952), 530 f. Cf. Caspar, Geschichte, 1, 446 ff.; Β. J. Kidd, History of the Church to A.D. 461", 3 (Oxford, 1922), 358 f.

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