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§ 72. Fruitless Attempts at Reunion.


The Greek emperors, hard pressed by the terrible Turks, who threatened to overthrow their throne, sought from time to time by negotiations with the pope to secure the powerful aid of the West. But all the projects of reunion split on the rock of papal absolutism and Greek obstinacy.


The Council of Lyons. a.d. 1274.320320    See a full account of it in the sixth volume of Hefele’s Conciliengeschichte, p. 103-147.


Michael Palaeologus (1260–1282), who expelled the Latins from Constantinople (July 25, 1261), restored the Greek patriarchate, but entered into negotiations with Pope Urban IV. to avert the danger of a new crusade for the reconquest of Constantinople. A general council (the 14th of the Latins) was held at Lyons in 1273 and 1274 with great solemnity and splendor for the purpose of effecting a reunion. Five hundred Latin bishops, seventy abbots, and about a thousand other ecclesiastics were present, together with ambassadors from England, France, Germany, and other countries. Palaeologus sent a large embassy, but only three were saved from shipwreck, Germanus, ex-patriarch of Constantinople, Theophanes, metropolitan of Nicaea, and the chancellor of the empire. The pope opened the Synod (May 7, 1274) by the celebration of high mass, and declared the threefold object of the Synod to be: help for Jerusalem, union with the Greeks, and reform of the church. Bonaventura preached the sermon. Thomas Aquinas, the prince of schoolmen, who had defended the Latin doctrine of the double procession321321    In his book Contra errores Graecorum. was to attend, but had died on the journey to Lyons (March 7, 1274), in his 49th year. The imperial delegates were treated with marked courtesy abjured the schism, submitted to the pope and accepted the distinctive tenets of the Roman church.

But the Eastern patriarchs were not represented, the people of Constantinople abhorred the union with Rome, and the death of the despotic Michael Palaeologus (1282) was also the death of the Latin party, and the formal revocation of the act of submission to the pope.


The Council at Ferrara—Florence. a.d. 1438–1439.322322    See Cecconi (R.C.), Studi storici sul Concilio di Firenze (Florence 1869); Hefele (R.C.), Conciliengesch. vol. VII. Pt. II. (1874), p. 659-761; B. Popoff (Gr.), History of the Council of Florence, translated from the Russian, ed. by J. M. Neale (Lond. 1861); Frommann (Prot.), Krit. Beiträge zur Gesch. florentin. Kirchenvereinigung(Halle, 1872).


Another attempt at reunion was made by John VII. Palaeologus in the Council of Ferrara, which was convened by Pope Eugenius IV. in opposition to the reformatory Council of Basle. It was afterwards transferred to Florence on account of the plague. It was attended by the emperor, the patriarch of Constantinople, and twenty-one Eastern prelates, among them the learned Bessarion of Nicaea, Mark of Ephesus, Dionysius of Sardis, Isidor of Kieff. The chief points of controversy were discussed: the procession of the Spirit, purgatory, the use of unleavened bread, and the supremacy of the pope.323323    On the subject of purgatory the Greeks disagreed among themselves. The doctrine of transubstantiation was conceded, and therefore not brought under discussion. Bessarion became a convert to the Western doctrine, and was rewarded by a cardinal’s hat. He was twice near being elected pope (d. 1472). The decree of the council, published July 6, 1439, embodies his views, and was a complete surrender to the pope with scarcely a saving clause for the canonical rights and privileges of the Eastern patriarchs. The Greek formula on the procession, ex Patre per Filium, was declared to be identical with the Latin Filioque; the pope was acknowledged not only as the successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ, but also as “the head of the whole church and father and teacher of all Christians,” but with variations in the Greek texts.324324    Hefele (l.c. p. 741-761) gives the Latin and Greek texts with a critical discussion. Frommann and Döllinger charge the decree with falsification. The document of reunion was signed by the pope, the emperor, many archbishops and bishops, the representatives of all the Eastern patriarchs except that of Constantinople, who had previously died at Florence, but had left as his last sentence a disputed submission to the catholic and apostolic church of old Rome. For the triumph of his cause the pope could easily promise material aid to his Eastern ally, to pay the expenses of the deputation, to support three hundred soldiers for the protection of Constantinople, and to send, if necessary, an army and navy for the defense of the emperor against his enemies.

But when the humiliating terms of the reunion were divulged, the East and Russia rose in rebellion against the Latinizers as traitors to the orthodox faith; the compliant patriarchs openly recanted, and the new patriarch of Constantinople, Metrophanes, now called in derision Metrophonus or Matricide, was forced to resign.


After the Fall of Constantinople.


The capture of Constantinople by the Mohammedan Turks (1453) and the overthrow of the Byzantine empire put an end to all political schemes of reunion, but opened the way for papal propagandism in the East. The division of the church facilitated that catastrophe which delivered the fairest lands to the blasting influence of Islâm, and keeps it in power to this day, although it is slowly waning. The Turk has no objection to fights among the despised Christians, provided they only injure themselves and do not touch the Koran. He is tolerant from intolerance. The Greeks hate the pope and the Filioque as much as they hate the false prophet of Mecca; while the pope loves his own power more than the common cause of Christianity, and would rather see the Sultan rule in the city of Constantine than a rival patriarch or the Czar of schismatic Russia.

During the nineteenth century the schism has been intensified by the creation of two new dogmas,—the immaculate conception of Mary (1854) and the infallibility of the pope (1870). When Pius IX. invited the Eastern patriarchs to attend the Vatican Council, they indignantly refused, and renewed their old protest against the antichristian usurpation of the papacy and the heretical Filioque. They could not submit to the Vatican decrees without stultifying their whole history and committing moral suicide. Papal absolutism325325    Or, as the modern Greeks call it, the papolatria of the Latins. and Eastern stagnation are insuperable barriers to the reunion of the divided churches, which can only be brought about by great events and by the wonder-working power of the Spirit of God.




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