Council of Florence
(Basle-Ferrara-Florence)
1431-1445 A.D.

part eleven

For document sources noted, see Abbreviations


SESSION 11 4 February 1442

[Bull of union with the Copts]

Eugenius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, for an everlasting record. Sing praises to the Lord for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the holy one of Israel. To sing and to exult in the Lord certainly befits the church of God for his great magnificence and the glory of his name, which the most merciful God has deigned to bring about on this very day. It is right, indeed, to praise and bless with all our hearts our Saviour, who daily builds up his holy church with new additions. His benefactions to his christian people are at all times many and great and manifest more clearly than the light of day his immense love for us. Yet if we look more closely at the benefactions which the divine mercy has deigned to effect in most recent times, we shall assuredly be able to judge that in these days of ours the gifts of his love have been more in number and greater in kind than in many past ages.

For in less than three years our lord Jesus Christ by his indefatigable kindness, to the common and lasting joy of the whole of Christianity, has generously effected in this holy ecumenical synod the most salutary union of three great nations. Hence it has come about that nearly the whole of the east that adores the glorious name of Christ and no small part of the north, after prolonged discord with the holy Roman church, have come together in the same bond of faith and love. For first the Greeks and those subject to the four patriarchal sees, which cover many races and nations and tongues, then the Armenians, who are a race of many peoples, and today indeed the Jacobites, who are a great people in Egypt, have been united with the holy apostolic see.

Nothing is more pleasing to our Saviour, the lord Jesus Christ, than mutual love among people and nothing can give more glory to his name and advantage to the church than that Christians, with all discord between them banished, should come together in the same purity of faith. Deservedly all of us ought to sing for joy and to exult in the Lord; we whom the divine clemency has made worthy to see in our days such great splendour of the christian faith. With the greatest readiness we therefore announce these marvellous facts to the whole christian world, so that just as we are filled with unspeakable joy for the glory of God and the exaltation of the church, we may make others participate in this great happiness. Thus all of us with one voice may magnify and glorify God and may return abundant and daily thanks, as is fitting, to his majesty for so many and so great marvellous benefits bestowed on his holy church in this age. He who diligently does the work of God not only awaits merit and reward in heaven but also deserves generous glory and praise among people. Therefore we consider that our venerable brother John, patriarch of the Jacobites, whose zeal for this holy union is immense, should deservedly be praised and extolled by us and the whole church and deserves, together with his whole race, the general approval of all Christians. Moved by us, through our envoy and our letter, to send an embassy to us and this sacred synod and to unite himself and his people in the same faith with the Roman church, he sent to us and this synod the beloved son Andrew, an Egyptian, endowed in no mean degree with faith and morals and abbot of the monastery of St Anthony in Egypt, in which St Anthony himself is said to have lived and died. The patriarch, fired with great zeal, ordered and commissioned him reverently to accept, in the name of the patriarch and his Jacobites, the doctrine of the faith that the Roman church holds and preaches, and afterwards to bring this doctrine to the patriarch and the Jacobites so that they might acknowledge and formally approve it and preach it in their lands.

We, therefore, to whom the Lord gave the task of feeding Christ's sheep', had abbot Andrew carefully examined by some outstanding men of this sacred council on the articles of the faith, the sacraments of the church and certain other matters pertaining to salvation. At length, after an exposition of the catholic faith to the abbot, as far as this seemed to be necessary, and his humble acceptance of it, we have delivered in the name of the Lord in this solemn session, with the approval of this sacred ecumenical council of Florence, the following true and necessary doctrine.

First, then, the holy Roman church, founded on the words of our Lord and Saviour, firmly believes, professes and preaches one true God, almighty, immutable and eternal, Father, Son and holy Spirit; one in essence, three in persons; unbegotten Father, Son begotten from the Father, holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; the Father is not the Son or the holy Spirit, the Son is not the Father or the holy Spirit, the holy Spirit is not the Father or the Son; the Father is only the Father, the Son is only the Son, the holy Spirit is only the holy Spirit. The Father alone from his substance begot the Son; the Son alone is begotten of the Father alone; the holy Spirit alone proceeds at once from the Father and the Son. These three persons are one God not three gods, because there is one substance of the three, one essence, one nature, one Godhead, one immensity, one eternity, and everything is one where the difference of a relation does not prevent this. Because of this unity the Father is whole in the Son, whole in the holy Spirit; the Son is whole in the Father, whole in the holy Spirit; the holy Spirit is whole in the Father, whole in the Son. No one of them precedes another in eternity or excels in greatness or surpasses in power. The existence of the Son from the Father is certainly eternal and without beginning, and the procession of the holy Spirit from the Father and the Son is eternal and without beginning. Whatever the Father is or has, he has not from another but from himself and is principle without principle. Whatever the Son is or has, he has from the Father and is principle from principle. Whatever the holy Spirit is or has, he has from the Father together with the Son. But the Father and the Son are not two principles of the holy Spirit, but one principle, just as the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit are not three principles of creation but one principle. Therefore it condemns, reproves, anathematizes and declares to be outside the body of Christ, which is the church, whoever holds opposing or contrary views. Hence it condemns Sabellius, who confused the persons and altogether removed their real distinction. It condemns the Arians, the Eunomians and the Macedonians who say that only the Father is true God and place the Son and the holy Spirit in the order of creatures. It also condemns any others who make degrees or inequalities in the Trinity.

Most firmly it believes, professes and preaches that the one true God, Father, Son and holy Spirit, is the creator of all things that are, visible and invisible, who, when he willed it, made from his own goodness all creatures, both spiritual and corporeal, good indeed because they are made by the supreme good, but mutable because they are made from nothing, and it asserts that there is no nature of evil because every nature, in so far as it is a nature, is good. It professes that one and the same God is the author of the old and the new Testament -- that is, the law and the prophets, and the gospel -- since the saints of both testaments spoke under the inspiration of the same Spirit. It accepts and venerates their books, whose titles are as follows.

Five books of Moses, namely Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, Esdras, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Job, Psalms of David, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, namely Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; two books of the Maccabees; the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; fourteen letters of Paul, to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, two to the Thessalonians, to the Colossians, two to Timothy, to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two letters of Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude; Acts of the Apostles; Apocalypse of John.

Hence it anathematizes the madness of the Manichees who posited two first principles, one of visible things, the other of invisible things, and said that one was the God of the new Testament, the other of the old Testament. It firmly believes, professes and preaches that one person of the Trinity, true God, Son of God begotten by the Father, consubstantial and coeternal with the Father, in the fullness of time which the inscrutable depth of divine counsel determined, for the salvation of the human race, took a real and complete human nature from the immaculate womb of the virgin Mary, and joined it to himself in a personal union of such great unity that whatever is of God there, is not separated from man, and whatever is human is not divided from the Godhead, and he is one and the same undivided, each nature perduring in its properties, God and man, Son of God and son of man, equal to the Father according to his divinity, less than the Father according to his humanity, immortal and eternal through the nature of the Godhead, passible and temporal from the condition of assumed humanity. It firmly believes, professes and preaches that the Son of God was truly born of the virgin in his assumed humanity, truly suffered, truly died and was buried, truly rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father and will come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. i It anathematizes, execrates and condemns every heresy that is tainted with the contrary. First it condemns Ebion, Cerinthus, Marcion, Paul of Samosata, Photinus and all similar blasphemers who, failing to see the personal union of the humanity with the Word, denied that our lord Jesus Christ was true God and professed him to be simply a man who by a greater participation in divine grace, which he had received through the merit of his holier life, should be called a divine man.

It anathematizes also Manes and his followers who, imagining that the Son of God took to himself not a real body but a phantasmal one completely rejected the truth of the humanity in Christ, Valentinus, who declared that the Son of God took nothing from his virgin mother but that he assumed a heavenly body and passed through the virgin's womb like water flowing down an aqueduct; Arius, who by his assertion that the body taken from the virgin had no soul, wanted the Deity to take the place of the soul; and Apollinarius who, realizing that if the soul informing the body were denied there would be no true humanity in Christ, posited only a sensitive soul and held that the deity of the Word took the place of the rational soul. It anathematizes also Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius, who asserted that the humanity was united to the Son of God through grace, and hence that there are two persons in Christ just as they profess there are two natures, since they could not understand that the union of the humanity to the Word was hypostatic and therefore they denied that he had received the subsistence of the Word. For according to this blasphemy the Word was not made flesh but the Word dwelt in flesh through grace, that is, the Son of God did not become man but rather the Son of God dwelt in a man. It also anathematizes, execrates and condemns the archimandrite Eutyches who, when he understood that the blasphemy of Nestorius excluded the truth of the incarnation, and that it was therefore necessary for the humanity to be so united to the Word of God that there should be one and the same person of the divinity and the humanity; and also because, granted the plurality of natures, he could not grasp the unity of the person, since he posited one person in Christ of divinity and humanity; so he affirmed that there was one nature, suggesting that before the union there was a duality of natures which passed into a single nature in the act of assumption, thereby conceding a great blasphemy and impiety that either the humanity was converted into the divinity or the divinity into the humanity. It also anathematizes, execrates and condemns Macarius of Antioch and all others of similar views who, although they are orthodox on the duality of natures and the unity of person, yet have gone enormously wrong on Christ's principles of action by declaring that of the two natures in Christ, there was only one principle of action and one will. The holy Roman church anathematizes all of these and their heresies and affirms that in Christ there are two wills and two principles of action.

It firmly believes, professes and preaches that never was anyone, conceived by a man and a woman, liberated from the devil's dominion except by faith in our lord Jesus Christ, the mediator between God and humanity, who was conceived without sin, was born and died. He alone by his death overthrew the enemy of the human race, cancelling our sins, and unlocked the entrance to the heavenly kingdom, which the first man by his sin had locked against himself and all his posterity. All the holy sacrifices sacraments and ceremonies of the old Testament had prefigured that he would come at some time.

It firmly believes, professes and teaches that the legal prescriptions of the old Testament or the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, holy sacrifices and sacraments, because they were instituted to signify something in the future, although they were adequate for the divine cult of that age, once our lord Jesus Christ who was signified by them had come, came to an end and the sacraments of the new Testament had their beginning. Whoever, after the passion, places his hope in the legal prescriptions and submits himself to them as necessary for salvation and as if faith in Christ without them could not save, sins mortally. It does not deny that from Christ's passion until the promulgation of the gospel they could have been retained, provided they were in no way believed to be necessary for salvation. But it asserts that after the promulgation of the gospel they cannot be observed without loss of eternal salvation. Therefore it denounces all who after that time observe circumcision, the sabbath and other legal prescriptions as strangers to the faith of Christ and unable to share in eternal salvation, unless they recoil at some time from these errors. Therefore it strictly orders all who glory in the name of Christian, not to practise circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation.

With regard to children, since the danger of death is often present and the only remedy available to them is the sacrament of baptism by which they are snatched away from the dominion of the devil and adopted as children of God, it admonishes that sacred baptism is not to be deferred for forty or eighty days or any other period of time in accordance with the usage of some people, but it should be conferred as soon as it conveniently can; and if there is imminent danger of death, the child should be baptized straightaway without any delay, even by a lay man or a woman in the form of the church, if there is no priest, as is contained more fully in the decree on the Armenians.

It firmly believes, professes and teaches that every creature of God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because according to the word of the Lord not what goes into the mouth defiles a person, and because the difference in the Mosaic law between clean and unclean foods belongs to ceremonial practices, which have passed away and lost their efficacy with the coming of the gospel. It also declares that the apostolic prohibition, to abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled, was suited to that time when a single church was rising from Jews and gentiles, who previously lived with different ceremonies and customs. This was so that the gentiles should have some observances in common with Jews, and occasion would be offered of coming together in one worship and faith of God and a cause of dissension might be removed, since by ancient custom blood and strangled things seemed abominable to Jews, and gentiles could be thought to be returning to idolatry if they ate sacrificial food. In places, however, where the christian religion has been promulgated to such an extent that no Jew is to be met with and all have joined the church, uniformly practising the same rites and ceremonies of the gospel and believing that to the clean all things are clean, since the cause of that apostolic prohibition has ceased, so its effect has ceased. It condemns, then, no kind of food that human society accepts and nobody at all neither man nor woman, should make a distinction between animals, no matter how they died; although for the health of the body, for the practice of virtue or for the sake of regular and ecclesiastical discipline many things that are not proscribed can and should be omitted, as the apostle says all things are lawful, but not all are helpful.

It firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the catholic church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the catholic church before the end of their lives; that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do the church's sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the christian militia produce eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed his blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and the unity of the catholic church.

It embraces, approves and accepts the holy synod of 318 fathers at Nicaea, which was convened in the time of our predecessor most blessed Silvester and the great and most pious emperor Constantine. In it the impious Arian heresy and its author was condemned and there was defined that the Son of God is consubstantial and coeternal with the Father. It also embraces, approves and accepts the holy synod of 150 fathers at Constantinople, which was convoked in the time of our predecessor most blessed Damasus and the elder Theodosius and which anathematized the impious error of Macedonius, who asserted that the holy Spirit is not God but a creature. Those whom they condemn, it condemns; what they approve, it approves; and in every respect it wants what was defined there to remain unchanged and inviolate.

It also embraces, approves and accepts the first holy synod of 200 fathers at Ephesus, which is third in the order of universal synods and was convoked under our predecessor most blessed Celestine and the younger Theodosius. In it the blasphemy of the impious Nestorius was condemned, and there was defined that the person of our lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is one and that the blessed ever-virgin Mary should be preached by the whole church not only as Christ-bearer but also as God-bearer, that is as mother of God as well as mother of the man.

But it condemns, anathematizes and rejects the impious second synod of Ephesus, which was convened under our predecessor most blessed Leo and the aforesaid emperor. In it Dioscorus, bishop of Alexandria, defender of the heresiarch Eutyches and impious persecutor of holy Flavian, bishop of Constantinople, with cunning and threat led the execrable synod to an approval of the Eutychian impiety.

It also embraces, approves and accepts the holy synod of 630 fathers at Chalcedon, which is fourth in the order of universal synods and was held in the time of our predecessor most blessed Leo and the emperor Marcian. In it the Eutychian heresy and its author Eutyches and its defender Dioscorus were condemned, and there was defined that our lord Jesus Christ is true God and true man and that in the one and same person the divine and human natures remain entire, inviolate, incorrupt, unconfused and distinct, the humanity doing what befits man, the divinity what befits God. Those whom they condemn, it condemns; those whom they approve, it approves.

It also embraces, approves and accepts the fifth holy synod, the second of Constantinople, which was held in the time of our predecessor most blessed Vigilius and the emperor Justinian. In it the definition of the sacred council of Chalcedon about the two natures and the one person of Christ was renewed and many errors of Origen and his followers, especially about the penitence and liberation of demons and other condemned beings, were refuted and condemned.

It also embraces, approves and accepts the third holy synod of 150 fathers at Constantinople, which is sixth in the order of universal synods and was convened in the time of our predecessor most blessed Agatho and the emperor Constantine IV. In it the heresy of Macarius of Antioch and his adherents was condemned, and there was defined that in our lord Jesus Christ there are two perfect and complete natures and two principles of action and also two wills, although there is one and the same person to whom the actions of each of the two natures belong, the divinity doing what is of God, the humanity doing what is human.

It also embraces, approves and accepts all other universal synods which were legitimately summoned, celebrated and confirmed by the authority of a Roman pontiff, and especially this holy synod of Florence, in which, among other things, most holy unions with the Greeks and the Armenians have been achieved and many most salutary definitions in respect of each of these unions have been issued, as is contained in full in the decrees previously promulgated, which are as follows: Let the heavens be glad . . . 1; Exult in God . 2

However, since no explanation was given in the aforesaid decree of the Armenians in respect of the form of words which the holy Roman church, relying on the teaching and authority of the apostles Peter and Paul, has always been wont to use in the consecration of the Lord's body and blood, we concluded that it should be inserted in this present text. It uses this form of words in the consecration of the Lord's body: For this is my body. And of his blood: For this is the chalice of my blood, of the new and everlasting covenant, which will be shed for you and for many unto the remission of sins .

Whether the wheat bread, in which the sacrament is confected, has been baked on the same day or earlier is of no importance whatever. For, provided the substance of bread remains, there should be no doubt at all that after the aforesaid words of consecration of the body have been pronounced by a priest with the intention of consecrating, immediately it is changed in substance into the true body of Christ.

It is asserted that some people reject fourth marriages as condemned. Lest sin is attributed where it does not exist, since the apostle says that a wife on her husband's death is free from his law and free in the Lord to marry whom she wishes, and since no distinction is made between the deaths of the first, second and third husbands, we declare that not only second and third marriages but also fourth and further ones may lawfully be contracted, provided there is no canonical impediment. We say, however, that they would be more commendable if thereafter they abstain from marriage and persevere in chastity because we consider that, just as virginity is to be preferred in praise and merit to widowhood, so chaste widowhood is preferable to marriage.

After all these explanations the aforesaid abbot Andrew, in the name of the aforesaid patriarch and of himself and of all the Jacobites, receives and accepts with all devotion and reverence this most salutary synodal decree with all its chapters, declarations, definitions traditions, precepts and statutes and all the doctrine contained therein, and also whatever the holy apostolic see and the Roman church holds and teaches. He also reverently accepts those doctors and holy fathers whom the Roman church approves, and he holds as rejected and condemned whatever persons and things the Roman church rejects and condemns, promising as a son of true obedience, in the name of the above persons, faithfully and always to obey the regulations and commands of the said apostolic see.


See Part Twelve of the Council of Florence

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