Council of Florence
1431-1445 A.D.

part twelve

For document sources noted, see Abbreviations

SESSION 12 14 October 1443

[Eugenius IV convokes the Lateran council, that is, the continuation of the council of Florence]

Eugenius. Convocation of the Lateran council. For an everlasting record. By the infinite clemency and pity of the redeemer of the human race, our God and lord Jesus Christ, by whose ineffable providence the whole body of the church is sanctified and ruled and through whose aid -- which surpasses our merits and exceeds what we recognise ourselves as worthy either to seek or to solicit -- gifts and favours of his mercy daily come to us, we have returned to bountiful Rome, the see of most blessed Peter, to the holy of holies, the Lateran of the patriarchs. With great trust we are embracing and earnestly pursuing the things which seem to be promoted and revealed by divine rather than by human wisdom. Hence it is that because of various just, reasonable and necessary causes which then moved our mind, by apostolic authority and the plenitude of power and with the approval of the council, we transferred the holy ecumenical council of Florence, over which we were then presiding, to this bountiful city of Rome and the Lateran basilica, to be re-established and continued on the first day following the fifteenth day after our arrival, as is contained in more detail in the letter composed for that purpose, whose text is word for word as follows:

Eugenius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, for an everlasting record The compassionate and merciful Lord ordained that his only-begotten Son should assume a human nature and should so join it to himself into a single person that not only would fallen nature be repaired by virtue of that ineffable union, but also by his embrace as spouse and by the kiss of his mouth his bride the holy church would be brought forth, her members would be joined together by a solid bond of love, and the christian people would acquire peace in harmony, salvation in a unity of spirit, and glory in the bond of charity.

In so far as it is granted to us by the mercy of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ, whose place we though unworthy take on earth, we, following in his footsteps, ardently desire and intensely pursue the salvation, unity and peace of the christian people. Therefore we are intent, with a deserved watchfulness, on the conservation of this holy ecumenical council. In it, by the marvellous kindness and mercy of the same Saviour, very many most noteworthy works have been achieved for his praise and glory, the increase of the catholic faith, the unity of the christian people and the exaltation of the holy apostolic see and the Roman church. For in our own days we have seen Greeks, Armenians, Jacobites and other almost innumerable peoples, some of whom have been separated from the rite and the holy teaching of the Roman church for almost five hundred or even seven hundred years, joined with us in this sacred council, by God's mercy, under one divine law of truth and embracing us with due reverence as the true vicar of Christ, the successor of Peter and the shepherd of the universal church.

There are no limits to the kindness of our Saviour, who works for the unity of the christian people and his mystical body, for which he prayed: I wish, Father, that they may be one even as we are one. Indeed we are experiencing his kindness particularly in these times. For his infinite mercy has granted that we are now awaiting the arrival of envoys, furnished with full power to accept in this holy council the doctrine of the orthodox faith from which their peoples have gone astray in many points, from our most dear son in Christ Zar'a Ya'qob, king of Ethiopia, commonly called Prester John, to whom very many kings and almost innumerable peoples are subject and who is impelled, as we trust, by divine inspiration. To foster and hasten such a holy and divine proposal, which is so necessary for the whole of Christianity, we have sent our own nuncios and envoys, who are full of zeal for this holy task and have considerable influence with the said most powerful king.

Many more works have been proposed to us for the praise of God and the increase of the faith and the christian people. We wish to give careful attention to them. Frightened by neither the heavy expenses nor the many labours, we put our trust in the power of him whose inspiration motivates us. Let us hope, moreover, that in the course of time many other desirable and salutary fruits will accrue to the catholic faith and the church of Christ, especially if this holy synod is held in a place of greater importance and in a royal and sacerdotal city. To the genial city of Rome, which is particularly our city and which, as is right, we want to participate and help in these salutary and divine tasks, we have turned our attention, a city which we consider to be abounding in all spiritual and temporal goods and more holy and outstanding than all other cities for carrying out these holy tasks and bringing them to a religious and happy conclusion. For in it our Saviour in his eternal providence settled the apostolic see in blessed Peter, prince of all the apostles, and on his right in fellowship the wondrous foresight of the same Saviour added the blessed apostle Paul. They are two bulwarks of the faith through whom the gospel shone in Rome; they are true fathers and true pastors; they are those who suffered on one day for merit, in one place for grace, under one persecutor for equal virtue, and made this city sacerdotal and royal and the capital of the world, as being the holy seat of Peter, and consecrated it to the lord Christ with the glorious blood of martyrdom. "For the Roman church founded all, whether the eminence of a patriarch or the seats of metropolitan primacy or of bishoprics or the dignities of churches of whatever rank; he alone, who entrusted to blessed Peter, the key-bearer of eternal life, the rights of the heavenly as well as of the earthly kingdom, founded the Roman church and straightaway set it on the rock of nascent faith." Since, then, the city of Rome has been ennobled and distinguished by so many and so great divine gifts and is resplendent with so much authority and also draws the faithful to itself from all sides by the relics and sanctity of apostles, martyrs and confessors; since christian nations and peoples even in the furthest parts of the world flock to the said city and are seen to desire greatly that we return to our see, which has been divinely constituted for Roman pontiffs, in order that a greater veneration and devotion may grow in the christian people towards both us, through the authority of the said see, and the said see, through our presence and authority, and since we are informed that, on account of our residence in Rome, subjects and faithful of ours and of the Roman church, whose peace and tranquillity we are bound to procure and preserve with special zeal, will enjoy much greater peace and unity and that in this way, with God's blessing, we shall be more expeditious and effective in pursuing works of peace and harmony and in arranging and confirming, as we ardently desire, peace and unity among other catholic kings and princes and peoples; Therefore to Rome, which is a suitable and safe place fulfilling all human needs as regards fertility of the soil and sea transport; under the influence of the above-mentioned necessary causes and many other just and reasonable ones which direct our mind to the praise and glory of almighty God, the extirpation of heresies and errors, the reform of morals, the peace, salvation and increase of the christian people and the prosecution of other holy works, under the Lord's leadership, for which the said council was originally convened;

In the name of the holy and undivided Trinity, Father, Son and holy Spirit, with the approval of the said general council given on 5 January last, in a general congregation under our presidency, by apostolic authority and by this present letter, we translate as from now this holy ecumenical council of Florence, and by the same authority and the same letter we have decreed and declared it to be translated to the Lateran basilica, which is the first and proper seat of the supreme pontiff and the vicar of Jesus Christ, to be resumed, continued and prosecuted on the day following the fifteenth day after our entry into bountiful Rome. In addition, by an inviolable constitution and decree we ordain that each and all of the securities and safe-conducts, which we granted at the beginning of this sacred council and which we are extending anew and prolonging, are to be considered as included in this present letter and as having the same force and effect as if they had been mentioned word for word in this our synodal constitution and had been inserted and denoted in it. Let nobody therefore . . . If anyone however . . .

Now that the appointed day has come and all the reasons for which it had then seemed necessary to resume the council are recognised to be more than ever necessary, with the said necessary reasons and many other just and reasonable ones impelling us, for the praise and glory of almighty God, the extirpation of heresies and errors, the reform of morals, the peace, salvation and increase of the christian people, and the completion of other holy works, under the Lord's leadership, for which the aforesaid council was originally convened;

In the name of the holy and undivided Trinity, Father, Son and holy Spirit, by the same authority and power, with the same approval and by this present letter; We resume, continue and carry forward the aforesaid ecumenical council of Florence, which was translated as above, and we decree and declare by this present letter that this continuation, resumption and prosecution is taking place in this council hall of the sacred Lateran patriarchate. We warn and require each and all of those who are bound by law or custom to take part in general councils that they should come as quickly as possible to this present holy ecumenical Lateran council, as referred to above, which is continuing for the attainment of the above-mentioned ends. In addition, we ordain again by this constitution and decree that each and all of the securities and safe-conducts, which we granted at the beginning of the sacred ecumenical council of Ferrara and which we are extending anew and prolonging, are to be considered as included in this present letter and as having the same force and effect as if they had been mentioned word for word in this our synodal constitution and had been inserted and denoted in

Let nobody therefore . . . if anyone however . . .

SESSION 13 30 November 1444

[Bull of union with the Syrians]

Eugenius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, for an everlasting record. In these our days the ineffable clemency of divine mercy bestows on his holy church many and marvellous gifts which are much greater than we could have asked for or envisaged. Hence we see that the orthodox faith is expanded, new peoples daily return to the obedience of the apostolic see and reasons for joy and exaltation are daily being multiplied for us and all Christ's faithful, in such wise that we are deservedly incited time and again to say in jubilation with the prophet to the faithful peoples: Come, let us exult in the Lord, let us hail the God who saves us, for the Lord is great and most worthy of praise in the city of our God, on his holy mountain. It is true that in the catholic church, which is the city of God on the holy mountain and is founded on the authority of the apostolic see and Peter, God, whose omnipotence and wisdom knows no limits, has always worked great and inscrutable deeds. But the singular and special gift which the ineffable providence of its founder bestowed on it is that the orthodox faith, which alone gives life to and sanctifies the human race, should abide for ever on that holy mountain in a unique and unchangeable profession of faith and that dissents, which arise against the church from the variety of earthly opinions and separate people off from the firmness of that rock, should return to that mountain and be exterminated and eradicated. Whence it comes about that the peoples and nations thronging to its bosom agree with it in one truth of faith. Assuredly it is not from our merit that the immensity of divine goodness has granted us to behold these great sublime and marvellous gifts of God. His benevolence and condescension alone have granted that after the union of the Greeks in the sacred ecumenical council of Florence, who were seen to differ from the Roman church in some articles, and after the return of the Armenians and the Jacobites, who were entangled in various opinions, they should at last, having abandoned all dissent, come together into the one right way of truth. Behold now again with the Lord's help other nations have gathered from afar, inhabitants of Mesopotamia between the Tigris and the Euphrates, whose thinking about the procession of the holy Spirit and some other articles had gone astray.

Great, then, for us and for all Christ's faithful is the reason for rejoicing. For with the Lord's approval the most illustrious profession of the Roman church about the truth of the faith, which has always been pure from all stain of error shines with new beams also in the east beyond the bounds of the Euphrates inasmuch as it has drawn our venerable brother Abdala, archbishop of Edessa and legate of our venerable brother Ignatius, patriarch of the Syrians, and of his whole nation, to us here in bountiful Rome and to this sacred ecumenical Lateran council and has bidden him humbly and devoutly to petition that we give to them the rule of faith which the holy Roman church professes. Among all the preoccupations of the holy apostolic see, we hold, as we have always done, our first and chiefest care to be the defence of the faith, the extermination of heresies and the propagation of the orthodox faith. Therefore we selected some of our venerable brethren, cardinals of the holy Roman church, who in turn co-opted from this sacred council some masters in holy scripture, to confer with the aforesaid archbishop about the difficulties, doubts and errors of that nation, to examine him in person and to open to him the rule of catholic truth, and finally to instruct and inform him fully about the integrity of the faith of the Roman church.

They found him orthodox on all points of faith and practice except three articles: namely, the procession of the holy Spirit, the two natures in Jesus Christ our saviour, the two wills and principles of action in him. They laid before him the truth of the orthodox faith, opened up the meaning of the sacred scriptures, adduced the testimonies of holy doctors and added telling and pertinent reasons.

When the archbishop had understood the doctrine on these points, he affirmed that all his doubts had been completely answered. He professed that he thought he fully understood the truth of the faith as regards both the procession of the holy Spirit and the two natures, two wills and two principles of action in our lord Jesus Christ. Moreover he declared that he would accept, in the name of the aforesaid patriarch and of the whole nation and of himself, the whole faith and all the teaching which we, with the approval of this sacred council, would propose to him.

For this reason we were filled with exultation in Christ and poured out immense gratitude to our God, since we are seeing our desire for the salvation of that nation fulfilled.

After careful discussion with our brethren and the sacred council, we decided, with the approval of the same council, to propose and assign to the said archbishop, who will accept it in the name of the above persons, the faith and doctrine which the holy Roman mother church holds.

This, then, is the faith which the holy Roman mother church has always held, preached and taught and which she now holds, preaches, professes and teaches. This is the faith, as regards those three articles, which we decree that the said archbishop Abdala, on behalf and in the name of the said patriarch of the Syrians and of all that nation and of himself, shall accept and shall keep for ever. First, that the holy Spirit is eternally from the Father and the Son, and has his essence and his subsistent being from the Father together with the Son, and proceeds from both eternally as from one principle and a single spiration.

Also it holds, professes and teaches that one and the same Son of God and of man, our lord Jesus Christ, is perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity; true God and true man, of a rational soul and a body; consubstantial with the Father as regards his divinity, consubstantial with us as regards his humanity; like us in all respects except for sin; begotten before the ages from the Father, and in the last days the same born according to his humanity for us and our salvation from Mary the virgin mother of God; one and the same Christ true only-begotten Son of God, acknowledged in two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation; at no point was the difference between the natures taken away through the union, but rather the property of both natures is preserved and comes together into a single person and a single subsistent being; he is not parted or divided into two persons, but is one and the same Son of God and of man, our lord Jesus Christ.

Also it believes, professes and teaches in the one lord Jesus Christ two natural principles of action which undergo no division, no change, no separation, no confusion, in accordance with the teaching of the holy fathers; and two natural wills one divine, the other human, not in opposition, but his human will subject to his divine and all powerful will. For in the same way that his most holy animate flesh was made divine, not destroyed, but remained in its own limit and category, so his human will was made divine, not destroyed, but rather was preserved and perfected.

We decree that the said archbishop Abdala ought, in the name of the above persons, to accept this faith, to hold it in his heart and to profess it with his mouth. Further we ordain and decree that he ought to receive and embrace, in the name of the above persons, whatever has been defined and established at various times by the holy Roman church, especially the decrees on the Greeks, the Armenians and the Jacobites, which were issued in the sacred ecumenical council of Florence and which, since Archbishop Abdala has carefully read them translated into Arabic and praised them, we have given to him, in the name of the above persons, for a wider and more complete instruction on everything; that whatever doctors and holy fathers the holy Roman church approves and accepts, he should, in the name of the above persons, approve and accept; and that whatever persons and other things she condemns and rejects, he should, in the name of the above persons, hold as condemned and rejected; promising on oath as a true son of obedience, in the name of the above persons, always devoutly and faithfully to obey the regulations and orders of the said apostolic see. If anyone however . . . Let nobody therefore . . .

SESSION 14 7 August 1445

[Bull of union with the Chaldeans and the Maronites of Cyprus]

Eugenius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, for an everlasting record. Blessed be the God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all consolation, who daily promotes with many great favours, and accompanies with happy results far beyond our deserts, our aims and pious desires, whereby in fulfilment of our pastoral duties we long for and foster with many works, in so far as this allowed us from on high, the salvation of the christian people.

Indeed, after the union of the eastern church with the western church in the ecumenical council of Florence, and after the return of the Armenians, the Jacobites and the people of Mesopotamia, we despatched our venerable brother Andrew, archbishop of Kalocsa, to eastern lands and the island of Cyprus. He was to confirm in the faith which had been accepted the Greeks, Armenians and Jacobites living there, by his sermons and his expositions and explanations of the decrees issued for their union and return. He was also to try to bring back to the truth of the faith, using our warnings and exhortations, whoever else he might find there to be strangers to the truth of faith in other sects, whether they are followers of Nestorius or of Macarius.

He pursued this task with vigour, thanks to the wisdom and other virtues with which the Lord, the giver of graces, has enriched him. He finally eliminated from their hearts, after many discussions, first all the impurity of Nestorius, who asserted that Christ is only a man and that the blessed Virgin is the mother of Christ but not of God, then that of the most impious Macarius of Antioch who, although he confessed that Christ is true God and man, asserted that there is in him only the divine will and principle of action, thereby diminishing his humanity.

With divine assistance he converted to the truth of the orthodox faith our venerable brothers Timothy, metropolitan of the Chaldeans, who have been called Nestorians in Cyprus until now because they used to follow Nestorius, and Elias, bishop of the Maronites, who with his nation in the same realm was infected with the teachings of Macarius, together with a whole multitude of peoples and clerics subject to him in the island of Cyprus. To these prelates and all their subjects there, he delivered the faith and doctrine that the holy church has always cherished and observed. The said prelates, moreover, accepted this faith and doctrine with much veneration in a great public assembly of different peoples living in that realm, which was held in the metropolitan church of St Sophia.

After that, the Chaldeans sent to us the aforesaid metropolitan Timothy, and Bishop Elias of the Maronites sent an envoy, to make to us a solemn profession of the faith of the Roman church, which by the providence of the Lord and the aid of blessed Peter and the apostle has always remained immaculate . Timothy, the metropolitan, reverently and devoutly professed this faith and doctrine to us, in this sacred general congregation of the ecumenical Lateran council, first in his own Chaldean tongue, which was interpreted in Greek and then translated from Greek into Latin, as follows: I, Timothy, archbishop of Tarsus and metropolitan of the Chaldeans who are in Cyprus, on behalf of myself and all my peoples in Cyprus, profess, vow and promise to almighty God, Father and Son and holy Spirit, and then to you, most holy and blessed father pope Eugenius IV, to this holy apostolic see and to this holy and venerable congregation, that henceforth I will always remain under the obedience of you and your successors and of the holy Roman church as under the unique mother and head of all other churches. Also, in future I will always hold and profess that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, as the holy Roman church teaches and holds. Also, in future I will always hold and approve two natures, two wills, one hypostasis and two principles of action in Christ.

Also, in future I will always confess and approve all seven sacraments of the Roman church, just as she holds, teaches and preaches.

Also, in future I will never add oil in the sacred eucharist.

Also, in future I will always hold, confess, preach and teach whatever the holy Roman church holds, confesses, teaches and preaches and I reject, anathematize and condemn whatever she rejects, anathematizes and condemns; in future I will always reject, anathematize and condemn especially the impieties and blasphemies of the most wicked heresiarch Nestorius and every other heresy raising itshead against this holy catholic and apostolic church.

This is the faith, holy father, that I vow and promise to hold and observe and to see that it is held and observed by all my subjects. I engage myself and solemnly promise to deprive of all his goods and benefices, to excommunicate and to denounce as heretical and condemned, whoever rejects it and raises himself up against it and, if he is obstinate, to degrade him and to hand him over to the secular arm.

Then our beloved son in Christ Isaac, envoy of our venerable brother Elias, bishop of the Maronites, on his behalf and in his name, rejecting the heresy of Macarius about one will in Christ, made with great veneration a profession that was similar in all details.

For the devotion of these professions and for the salvation of so many souls we offer immense thanks to God and our lord Jesus Christ, who is in our times so greatly enlarging the faith and bestowing benefits on so many christian peoples. We receive and approve these professions; we receive into the bosom of holy mother church the metropolitan and the bishop in Cyprus and their subjects; and while they remain in the aforesaid faith, obedience and devotion, we honour them with the following favours and privileges.

First, nobody shall in future dare to call the said metropolitan of the Chaldeans and the said bishop of the Maronites, or their clerics and peoples or any individual among them, heretics, or to call Chaldeans, Nestorians. If anyone despises this ordinance, we order him to be excommunicated until such time as he offers a worthy satisfaction or has been punished, in the judgment of the ordinary, by some other temporal penalty.

Also, the said metropolitan and bishop and their successors are forthwith to be preferred in each and every honour to bishops who are separated from the communion of the holy Roman church.

Also, in future they can lay censures on their subjects, and those whom they rightly excommunicate in future shall be held by all as excommunicated, and those whom they absolve shall be held by all as absolved.

Also, the said prelates and priests and their clerics can freely celebrate divine services in the churches of Catholics, and Catholics can freely celebrate them in their churches.

Also, in future the said prelates and clerics and their lay men and women, who have accepted this union and faith, can choose to be buried in the churches of Catholics, to contract marriages with Catholics, but in the rite of Latin Catholics, and to enjoy and utilize all benefits, immunities and liberties which other Catholics, both lay and clerical, possess and enjoy in the said realm. Let nobody therefore . . . If anyone however . . .

Translation taken from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner

To return to the section one of this Council, see Part One of the Council of Florence

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