Comparing the Greek and Latin Texts of Pope Hadrian’s Letters Read Aloud at Nicaea 2: Did the Greek Text reject Papal Supremacy and Infallibility?

In the year 785, the Empress of Byzantium, Irene, wrote to Pope Hadrian I petitioning him to be present at an Ecumenical Council at which to defend the veneration of holy images. In return, the Pope wrote 2 letters, one to Irene and Constantine VI (her 9 year old son for whom she was vice regent), and another to the Patriarch of Constantinople, Tarasios. These documents defend the lawful veneration of holy images, but they also include some of the most glaring testimonies of the divine institution of the Papal office. However, many historians and theologians, even if recognizing the clear proof of some sort of Roman primacy, have been hesitant to admit that the full blown claims of Hadrian were acceptable to the Greeks at this time (8th century). Such hesitations are rooted in the manuscript transmission of the Acts of the Council.

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Filioque – Council of Toledo 675 AD

From the archives – Filioque from Toledo 675

Erick Ybarra

340px-simone_martini_003St. Augustine of Hippo

“We particularly profess that the Father is not born, not created, but is unborn. For he, from whom the Son was born and the Holy Spirit proceeded, has origin from no one. He is, therefore, the source and origin of the whole divinity; he is the Father of his own essence and he begot the Son of his indescribably substance in an indescribable way….We also believe that the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity, is God, one and equal with God the Father and the Son, of one substance and of one nature, not, however, begotten nor created but proceeding from both, and that He is the Spirit of both. Of this Holy Spirit, we also believe that He is neither unbegotten nor begotten, for if we called Him unbegotten we would assert two Fathers, or if begotten, we would appear to preach two…

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The Impact of Pope Agatho’s Dogmatic Epistle to the 6th Ecumenical Council and the Condemnation of Pope Honorius on Catholic and Orthodox perspectives on Papal Infallibility

This essay will attempt to flesh out some important details that affect how the doctrine of Papal infallibility, today held by all Catholics, is analyzed by Catholics and Orthodox by drawing to critical aspects of Pope Agatho’s letters that were read aloud at the 6th Ecumenical Council, that of Constantinople (681). In the dogmatic letters of Pope Agatho and the Roman Synod under him addressed to the  Byzantine Emperor, and read aloud at the Council, the Pope describes his intention to uphold the Apostolic faith by sending legates to the East with his letters. The legation to the Emperor are given in words that show clearly that the doctrinal position of the Apostolic See was not up for debate, but was rather settled, leaving only that the Ecumenical Council hosted by the Empire should formally ratify the contents:

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Did Pope Agatho Teach Papal Infallibility in His Dogmatic Epistle accepted by the 6th Ecumenical Council?

File:Procession of the Apostles. First left - Saint Peter. Part of the mosaic in Arian Baptistery. Ravenna, Italy.jpg

During the 7th century, the error of Monotheletism, the belief that Christ only has an exercising one will, plagued the great Churches of the East in the Roman Empire. Steps toward fixing this problem were taken from the efforts of Sophronius of Jerusalem, Maximus the Confessor, and Pope Martin. The Council of Lateran (649) held in Rome officially condemned the error and served to stamp Rome’s position on the matter from then going forward. In 680, the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV sought the participation of the bishop of Rome in resolving the dispute in the East. Two significant letters were brought to Constantinople, one written by the Pope himself to the Emperor, and another epistle in the name of the synod of bishops held in Rome which convened to readdress the doctrinal question. Both epistles are dogmatic and were read aloud by the bishops at the Ecumenical Council that convened in Constantinople in 681. My concern here is exclusively with Agatho’s own dogmatic epistle to the Emperor since it is this text which contains the clearest assertion, coming ahead of the Formulary of Pope Hormisdas, of the infallibility of the bishops of Rome. This is especially significant, since the 6th Council not only read the epistle and unanimously accept it as it was written but celebrated the letter as a text written under the divine guidance that Christ promised to St. Peter and his successors. However, some have called this all into question, insisting on a variety of different points in order to deny that Agatho made such extreme Papal claims, and even more so that the Council accepted them. There are a few different ways to spin the claims such that Agatho’s description of Rome is not a claim to a divinely instituted infallible teaching office, but simply a contingent accident which nevertheless merits the language for reasons related to moral superiority, a respect for Rome’s antiquity being the place where the chief Apostles were martyed, or some other accidental decoration which isn’t intrinsic to the structure of Christ’s Church. I have a forthcoming article devoted to looking at further implications that yield from the dogmatic epistle of Agatho, but here I prefer to settle the question on what precisely is communicated by the Pope on the special ministry of the See of Peter.

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