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I've read that the Melkite Catholic Church only recognises 7 Councils as Ecumenical. Is this also the case with the Ukrainian Catholic Church and others of similar history?

Does this then mean that Churches such as the Armenian Catholic and Ethiopian Catholic Churches only recognise 3, as their Oriental Orthodox brethren?

Likewise do the Catholic Churches of the East Syriac tradition (i.e. the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church) only recognise 2 Ecumenical Councils in keeping with the tradition of the Assyrian Church of the East?

Are there any set agreements in regards to these things?

Thank you and look forward to hearing well informed replies.

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Dear brother Blind Didymus,

I want to stress that my response is my personal perspective. I'll respond from two angles: (1) According to the principle of participation; (2) According to the principle of belief.

(1) According to principle of participation, what can be considered "Ecumenical has two aspects:
(a) it is normally assumed that participation of all the Churches is required for an Ecumenical Council to be regarded as "Ecumenical." Unlike some or many (I suppose), I believe this requirement refers not just to those who ACTUALLY attended the Ecumenical Council, but also to those who are or were INTENDED to attend. If a Church (or representative of which) was invited but did not attend for whatever reason, that should not affect the ecumenicity of a Council. For example, the Patriarch of Antioch was invited to the Third Ecum, but did not show up. Nevertheless, it is considered an Ecum Council. By the same standard, the Orthodox Churches were invited to Vatican 1, but did not show up. The refusal of certain portions of the Church to show up at a Council should not, I believe, be a detriment to the ecumenicity of a Council. Basically, this means that "ecumenicity" is defined not by the participation of ALL the Churches, but participation by MOST of the Churches.
(b) If there are two competing groups representing a particular Church, the participation of one group is sufficient to indicate participation by the particular Church. So, for example, though there were miaphysite and diophysite representatives of the Church of Alexandria at the Fourth Ecum, the approval of the diophysite party is sufficient to regard the Church of Alexandria as having participated at the Council. By the same token, the representation of the Melkites and the Chaldeans, for example, at Vatican 1 is sufficient to indicate particpation by the Church of Antioch and the Assyrian Church.

(2) According to the principle of belief, what can be considered "Ecumenical" has three aspects:
(a) That the dogmas pronounced by the Council are accepted as orthodox, and have relevance for ALL the Churches.
(b) The non-dogmatic pronouncements need not be accepted universally (this includes anathemas on persons, and discplinary canons).
(c) If an Ecum Council was originally rejected by a particular Church due to what can be resolved as a doctrinal MISUNDERSTANDING that is later clarified, then such Councils can be considered "Ecumenical."

Aside from those 2 principles, I add the confirmation of the head bishop of the Church universal as a condition for a Council to be considered Ecumenical.

On these principles, I personally accept 13 Ecumenical Councils - the first eight (by Catholic reckoning), Lyons, Florence, Trent, Vatican 1, and Vatican 2.

That last line is informred by the fact that the NUMBER of Ecumenical Councils is NOT a dogmatic belief in the Catholic Church - unlike the reckoning of many or most in the other Apostolic Churches (yes, you can find Latin Catholics insisting on the number 22, but those who insist ironically cannot support their insistence by any formal dogma of the Catholic Church). In the Catholic reckoning, belief in the dogmas pronounced by Councils (whether ecumenical or not) is of more importance than belief in what the number of Ecumenical Councils are. When I translated to the Catholic Church, I was never asked or required to believe that there are a certain number of Ecum Councils. All who have translated or "converted" to the Catholic Church from other apostolic Churches can attest to the same thing. So I am confident in saying that belief in the NUMBER of Ecum Councils is not (and should not be) a criteria for membership in the Catholic Church. Of course, I admit my perspective is influenced by having spent most of my life in the Oriental Orthodox communion. In ecumenical talks bet the OOC's and EOC's, the OO's have consistently proposed that the number of Ecum Councils should not be insisted upon. It should be enough that the OO's accept the dogmatic decisions of the Ecum Councils apart from the first 3. So long as the dogmas are accepted, it should not matter if they are regarded as "ecumenical" or not.

Those who become Catholic should not feel constrained by the beliefs of their former communion regarding the number of Ecum Councils. The fact of translation or "conversion" already signifies that one has conscientiously determined that, among other things, whatever reasons your former Church has for rejecting a Council as "ecumenical," you no longer fully accept the validity of those reasons. But if you still DO accept the validity of those reasons, that should still not prevent you from becoming Catholic - the only thing that the Catholic Church formally requires is that you accept the orthodox DOGMAS that came from all the Councils.

Blessings

Last edited by mardukm; 10/17/14 09:41 AM.
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On these principles, I personally accept 13 Ecumenical Councils - the first eight (by Catholic reckoning), Lyons, Florence, Trent, Vatican 1, and Vatican 2.


How can the so-called eight Ecumenical Council be considered ecumenical? It was repudiated by the Churches of Rome and the East very soon afterwards. St. Photius the Great and St. Ignatius were reconciled. If any of the Photian councils are Ecumenical it is the council the restored Photius in 879.


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OOPS! Sorry, brother. 2 years ago I decided after research that the 8th Ecum (by the reckoning of either Latin Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church) was not truly Ecumenical because they were not convened for a doctrinal purpose, but merely because of ecclesiastical politics. I think I simply had a non-cerebral moment as I was quickly jotting down my thoughts in that post, and simply reverted to what I was used to thinking for so long.

However, I would add that the fact that the resolution of the patriarchal struggle in Constantinople had to be resolved by a convention of all the Churches demonstrates what I stated in another thread - that the standard of the 1st millennium was that only an Ecum Council can establish Patriarchates.

Blessings

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Thank you for a very good explanation as always mardukm.
(Assuming you're the same mardukm as on the Catholic Answers Forums. Please correct this if it's mistaken.)

If it is alright to ask please, by accepting the dogmas that came from those Councils, do you mean that the Catholic Church only requires folk who tranlate to recognise that those dogmas which were affirmed by the Councils were correct but not that those which were condemned were incorrect? That is, is one still permitted to hold that certain views (e.g. the miaphysitism of St Dioscorus) which were condemned by Councils were in fact also correct, just misunderstood?

If I may stretch this a bit more please, does this mean that, for example, if a member of the Assyrian Church of the East were to become Catholic, that person could continue to hold the christology of Mar Nestorius while also recognising that the christology of the Council of Ephesus was also correct even though the Council misunderstood what Nestorius was intending to say? This particularly related to what you listed as point 2(c). The Church of the East rejected the Council of Ephesus because it condemned the position which the Church of the East already held, as it had been expressed by Mar Nestorius. In this case, there was some misunderstanding on behalf of the Church in the Roman Empire.

While this has helped, it still doesn't really answer the question about how many Councils the Eastern Catholic Churches hold. Unless the answer is simply that Eastern Catholics (together with all Catholics based upon what mardukm said) are not required to hold any particular number of Councils as Ecumenical. Is that the case?

Thank you for your assistance as always.

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Originally Posted by Nelson Chase
How can the so-called eight Ecumenical Council be considered ecumenical? It was repudiated by the Churches of Rome and the East very soon afterwards. St. Photius the Great and St. Ignatius were reconciled. If any of the Photian councils are Ecumenical it is the council the restored Photius in 879.

I get what you're saying, but it's definitely "traditional" for Catholics to count Constantinople IV as an Ecumenical Council. However, a reduction of the list of ecumenical councils from 21 down to the more traditional list of 13 (that is to say, to remove the 8 that were added to the list en masse around the time of the Reformation) would be great step forward.

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but it's definitely "traditional" for Catholics to count Constantinople IV as an Ecumenical Council.


How can a council condemned later by the Church and then later added to the list of Ecumenical Councils (as a polemic against the Eastern Church to smear the good name of a great saint) be an Ecumenical Council?

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However, a reduction of the list of ecumenical councils from 21 down to the more traditional list of 13 (that is to say, to remove the 8 that were added to the list en masse around the time of the Reformation) would be great step forward.


Could you elaborate which councils constitute the traditional 13?

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Originally Posted by Nelson Chase
How can a council condemned later by the Church and then later added to the list of Ecumenical Councils (as a polemic against the Eastern Church to smear the good name of a great saint) be an Ecumenical Council?

Good question. I don't see how it can be. As a Melkite I accept only seven ecumenical councils. All the rest of the councils referred to by the Latins as "ecumenical" are merely local synods of that patriarchate.

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For what it's worth, the Roman theologians consider the Church's acceptance of a council as ecumenical to be infallible, the legality of an Ecumenical Council being a "dogmatic fact," that is, a historical fact not divinely revealed but intrinsically connected with revelation. This being the case, I'm not sure how to square this with, on one hand, Eastern Catholic non-acceptance of some of the 21 Councils, and on the other hand, the Roman about-face on Constantinople IV.

I suppose mardukm's distinction between accepting the ecumenicity of a particular council and the dogma(s) defined by the same council could help with the first problem, but the second seems hard to reconcile with the Roman position.

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May it be that the expression of the Roman position is simply imprecise?

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Originally Posted by Blind Didymus
Thank you for a very good explanation as always mardukm.
(Assuming you're the same mardukm as on the Catholic Answers Forums. Please correct this if it's mistaken.)

If it is alright to ask please, by accepting the dogmas that came from those Councils, do you mean that the Catholic Church only requires folk who tranlate to recognise that those dogmas which were affirmed by the Councils were correct but not that those which were condemned were incorrect? That is, is one still permitted to hold that certain views (e.g. the miaphysitism of St Dioscorus) which were condemned by Councils were in fact also correct, just misunderstood?

If I may stretch this a bit more please, does this mean that, for example, if a member of the Assyrian Church of the East were to become Catholic, that person could continue to hold the christology of Mar Nestorius while also recognising that the christology of the Council of Ephesus was also correct even though the Council misunderstood what Nestorius was intending to say? This particularly related to what you listed as point 2(c). The Church of the East rejected the Council of Ephesus because it condemned the position which the Church of the East already held, as it had been expressed by Mar Nestorius. In this case, there was some misunderstanding on behalf of the Church in the Roman Empire.

While this has helped, it still doesn't really answer the question about how many Councils the Eastern Catholic Churches hold. Unless the answer is simply that Eastern Catholics (together with all Catholics based upon what mardukm said) are not required to hold any particular number of Councils as Ecumenical. Is that the case?

Thank you for your assistance as always.


Dear Didymus,

I take it you are referring to St Didymus the Blind who is venerated in the Miaphysite Churches? (Just would like to know as I've an icon of him.)

In actual fact, Pope St Dioscoros was NEVER condemned by that council for anything other than his behaviour re: the "Robber Synod."

He was never condemned as an heretic.

There were other Miaphysite Orthodox saints and teachers who were.

However, as the Emperor St Justinian affirmed, such anathemas could be lifted. In fact, one would find in a growing number of Eastern Orthodox parishes that the names of those Miaphysites formerly condemned and named by the Council have been quietly dropped for the service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

I have an icon of St Dioscoros written on papyrus . . .

Alex

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Ultimately, these matters would have to be finally decided by the Churches involved - however, well-meaning and scholarly the analysis of others might be! smile

Alex

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Glory be to Jesus Christ!

From an Eastern Christian perspective, to be a follower of the dogmas, teaching or canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils is to adhere not only by mere word but also primarily in practice as the Eastern Christian Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, are rooted in the union of Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy. The challenge of being The Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils is one which Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches either are aspiring to or should work toward--it is the ecclesial goal par excellence.

The General Councils of the Latin Church even that of Florence are ecclesially focused on the needs and pastoral realities of that Church only--even though Florence was a so-called "Reunion Council". The Second Vatican Council surpassed all others in trying to reach a true ecumenical spirit and is a great beginning in the attempt to move toward ecclesiastical re-union between the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Communion of Churches, but nevertheless it cannot be considered an Ecumenical Council which Eastern Catholics or Orthodox are bound to in any real sense, except in the call to restore the fullness of our life and mutual respect for all Apostolic Churches--even the 1990 Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Catholic Churches should eventually be abrogated since it a Roman document which is a code of law which pretends to surpass our proper canons as enshrined in the Seven Ecumenical Councils.

Particular Law, in both Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches should only be a pastoral measure until full restoration of our Churches to the ancient canons occurs. The canonical law for our Churches is enshrined in the Seven Ecumenical Councils and thus as a part of our return to the fullness of our canonical tradition we should restore a real adherence in praxis and not in name only to their ecclesiastical laws. How can it be said Eastern Catholics should return to their authentic expression of doctrine, liturgy, and praxis and not a return to the life-giving Spring of the canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils? On the other hand a Holy and Great Council in the 21st Century convened by the Orthodox also requires the restoration of the bishop of Rome as presiding in charity as first among equals and that of the Churches in communion with him.

Pope Francis in his reform of the Curia, the reorganization of the Roman congregations or consolidation of them, and the acceptance of Orthodox ecclesiology or Synodality, especially in regard to the place of the bishop of Rome, will greatly move the two Communions together more quickly. Pope Francis will need to get the bishops and Cardinals on the same page and with the recent Synod on the Family he has much damage control to do. Since pastoral realities tend to trump idealizations...my above assertions are mere fantasies which in a perfect ecclesial world may happen...most likely will never...but we must always have hope for the full restoration of Christian union between the Apostolic Churches and of our Church with our Mother Patriarchal Church, The Patriarchate of Constantinople, but only after the bishop of Rome is reconciled with the Orthodox Churches along with the Churches in the Catholic Communion.

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An EO insisting on the number 7 as mandatory, is equivalent to a Latin insisting on the number 21, to the OO. Why fuss over the number when it's the faith that matters?

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The Ukrainian Catholic Church accepts all 21 Councils of the West as Ecumenical.

And I have permission from my bishop to say so.

Ideally, there should be no reason why in a united Church the Seven Ecumenical Councils could not be accepted as normative for both East and West, with the remaining 14 as "local Latin Councils."

However, the OO accept only three Ecumenical Councils - they see the other four as also being "Roman Councils" since they regard both Elder Rome and New Rome as being one "Roman province" of the Church. Would they have to accept the other four in a reunited Church? Is there anything in those four other Councils that they need today to enhance their understanding and expression of the Orthodox Faith?

Alex


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