Eighth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople IV 869-70
Summary. This canon is a renewal of earlier decrees.
Text. The ancient canons of the Apostles and of the general and
particular councils, as well as those of the fathers and doctors
of he Church, must be firmly maintained.
Summary. All the synodal decrees of Popes Nicholas and Adrian
dealing with Ignatius and Photius must be observed.
Text. All synodal decrees of Pope Nicholas and Pope Adrian dealing
with Ignatius and Photius must be scrupulously observed. If after
this declaration, anyone be found disregarding them, if he be
a priest or cleric, let him be deposed; if monk or layman of whatsoever
dignity, let him be excommunicated.
Summary. The images of our Lord and of His Blessed Mother and
those of the Apostles, prophets, martyrs, and saints shall be
duly honored and venerated.
Text. The holy images of our Lord Jesus Christ shall be honored
in like manner as the Gospel-book. For, as the words of the Gospel
lead us to salvation, so also do the pictures through their colors
produce the same effect, and all, learned and unlearned, can derive
benefit therefrom. The message that comes to us through the written
word, the same is brought home to us through the color of the
Picture. Since the honor directed toward the picture reverts in
intention to the prototype, it follows, in accordance with right
reason and ancient tradition, that pictures must be honored in
the same manner as the Gospel-book and the picture of the precious
cross. If, therefore, anyone does not now honor the picture of
Christ, he shall not see His form when He comes to glorify His
saints. Likewise do we design pictures and images of His Blessed
Mother and of the angels, as also the Sacred Scriptures picture
them for us in words; also of the Apostles, prophets, martyrs,
and all the saints .
Summary. Photius was never bishop, hence those ordained by
him must be deposed.
Text. We declare that Photius never was bishop nor is now and
that those ordained or promoted by him may not retain the dignity
to which he raised them; furthermore, that those elevated by him
through the solemn rite of benediction to the office of superiors
(of monasteries) shall be deposed," and that the churches
consecrated and altars erected by him or by bishops ordained by
him, must be consecrated and erected anew.
Summary. In all promotions to ecclesiastical orders the interstices
must be observed. Anyone raised to any rank in a manner contrary
to this ordinance shall be suspended.
Text. In accordance with earlier canons, we decree that no senator
and, for that matter, no layman, who has but lately received the
tonsure in the hope of being elevated to the episcopal or patriarchal
rank and has become a cleric or monk, is permitted to rise to
such a dignity unless he has passed through the period of probation
required for each order. Because the desire for the tonsure inspired
by such a disposition is prompted not by religion, the love of
God, or the hope of leading a virtuous life, but solely by the
love of glory d power. Especially do we forbid such promotions
when they are instigated by imperial request or coercion. Anyone
who without any desire for a high dignity, but in a spirit of
humility renounces the world, becomes cleric or monk, and passes
through the required probationary period for each order, that
is, acts for one year as lector, two as subdeacon, three as deacon,
and four as priest, such a one may be elected bishop. In regard
to those who for a long time have been clerics in minor orders
or monks, have religiously observed the laws of the Church, and
are worthy of the episcopal dignity, the aforesaid period of probation
may be abbreviated by the hops. Anyone who has been raised to
the aforesaid rank in a manner contrary to this ordinance, shall
be suspended from all sacerdottal functions, as one having been
promoted in violation of the canons.
Summary. Photins is condemned for his diabolical and fraudulent
actions in the synod of 867.
Text. Since Photius, after he had been condemned by Pope Nicholas
for his usurpation of the Constantinopolitan see, appears to have
picked up from the streets some worthless men and to have appointed
them vicars of the three Oriental patriarchal sees, using them
in his fraudulent council, in which he charged the Pope with numerous
crimes and excommunicated him and all who are in communion with
him, the acts of which we have seen and which have been synodically
consigned to the flames, we condemn him, therefore, also on that
account; likewise all the accomplices in that fraud, the false
vicars and the authors of the defamatory writings (against the
Pope), in accordance with the canon of Martin I.
Summary. Those anathematized are forbidden to paint images
in the churches or to give instructions of any kind anywhere.
Text. Those who have been anathematized by this holy and ecumenical
council are not permitted to paint holy images in the churches
or to give instructions anywhere, no matter whether these be of
a divine or purely secular nature. Anyone employing such persons
in violation of this ordinance, if he be a cleric, shall be in
danger of being deposed from his rank; if a layman, he shall be
deprived of holy communion.
Summary. Patriarchs of Constantinople are forbidden to demand
for their security from their clergy a written declaration of
Text. Since it has come to our knowledge that not only heretics
and wicked persons when they possess themselves of the throne
of the Church of Constantinople, but also orthodox and legitimate
patriarchs demand for the security of their position from their
clergy (including the bishops subject to their jurisdiction) a
written declaration of adherence, this holy and ecumenical council
forbids that this be done in the future, with the single exception
of documents in which according to a prescribed form and ancient
custom bishops at their consecration make profession of their
orthodoxy. Anyone who shall dare violate this ordinance, or attempt
to do so, or consent to such an attempt, shall be deprived of
Summary. All contracts made by Photius between himself and
his adherents before his intrusion into the Constantinopolitan
see are null and void.
Text. Since Photius long before his intrusion into the Constantinopolitan
see bound his adherents to himself by written documents or contracts,
in order to learn from them a new wisdom, which is folly in the
sight of God, we declare all such contracts null and void. Anyone
found acting in contravention of this decision, if a cleric, let
him be deposed; if a layman, excommunicated.
Summary. No one is to leave without approval the jurisdiction
of his own patriarch, even though the latter be guilty of a grave
Text. No layman, monk, or cleric shall, previous to an examination
and conciliar decision, leave the jurisdiction of his own patriarch,
though he may pretend to know that the latter is guilty of a grave
crime; nor shall he omit his name in the liturgy. The same rule
is to be observed also by bishops and priests toward their patriarch.
Whoever is found to act contrary to this decision of the holy
council, shall, if a bishop or cleric, be suspended; if a monk
or layman, excommunicated.
Summary: The Old and New Testaments teach that man has but
one rational and intellectual soul.
Text. While the Old and New Testaments teach that man has one
rational and intellectual soul, and this is the teaching also
of all the fathers and doctors of the Church, some persons, nevertheless,
blasphemously maintain that he has two souls. This holy and general
council, therefore, anathematizes the authors and adherents of
that false teaching. Anyone presuming to act contrary to the decision
of this great council, shall be anathematized and cut off from
the faith and society of Christians.
Summary. Those raised to the episcopal dignity by secular power
or intrigues, shall be deposed.
Text. As the Apostolic canon (31) and other synodal decrees, so
do we also ordain that whoever has been raised to the episcopal
dignity through the intrigues or power of secular princes, shall
Summary. For the higher ecclesiastical dignities, clerics attached
to the cathedral of Constantinople shall be chosen, and not strangers
Text. We decree that for the higher ecclesiastical dignities,
clerics attached to the cathedral of Constantinople, who have
spent some time in clerical orders and are known to be of good
character and deserving of preferment, shall be chosen, and not
strangers or outsiders (that is, laymen, such as Photius and others).
Moreover, those who hold the office of steward in the houses of
princes or on rural estates, shall not be appointed on the clerical
staff of the cathedral.
Summary. Bishops should be duly honored by the secular princes.
Text. Those who have by divine grace been raised to the episcopal
dignity, shall be duly honored by the secular princes. Under no
circumstances shall they go a great distance from their Churches
to meet these gentlemen, or on meeting them dismount from their
horses and greet them by bending the knee. Rather should bishops
have the courage to reprove such persons when necessary and correct
them. Any bishop who after this decision thus dishonors his dignity,
shall be suspended from office for one year, and the prince who
despises or belittles the episcopal dignity, shall be deprived
of holy communion.
Summary. No bishop may sell sacred vessels or other valuables
except in the case specified by the canons. Nor may he dispose
of ecclesiastical lands. All such transactions are null.
Text. No bishop is permitted to sell the sacred vessels or other
valuables belonging to his Church except in the case specified
by the ancient canons, namely, when it is necessary for the redemption
of captives. Neither is it permitted to dispose of under a perpetual
lease or to sell ecclesiastical lands or other properties. Everyone
having authority over ecclesiastical properties is expected to
improve and enlarge these according to the needs of the Church;
his own property, on the other hand, he may dispose of in the
manner and to whomsoever he wishes. Whoever acts contrary to this
decision shall be deposed, and the contracts, whether oral or
written, covering the sale or lease of such properties, of sacred
vessels, or other valuables, shall be null and void. He, however,
who has bought or holds under lease ecclesiastical possessions
as aforesaid and does not return them to the Church to which they
belong, shall be anathematized till he has made restitution.
Summary. Those who under Emperor Michael ridiculed everything
sacred and placed religion on a level with buffoonery, and have
not yet confessed their crime and atoned for it, are excommunicated.
Text. Those who under the regime of Emperor Michael ridiculed
the sacred liturgy, impersonated bishops and otherwise parodied
our holy religion, and have not yet confessed their crime and
by penance atoned for it, are excommunicated for a period of three
years. During the first year they shall take their place with
the flentes, during the second with the catechumens; and
the third year shall be spent in the class of the consistentes.
If in the future any emperor or other high official shall stage
such buffoonery, it is the duty of the patriarch and of the bishops
who are with him to reprove and exclude him from the sacred mysteries;
a severe penance shall be imposed on him, and if he does not speedily
undertake the performance of it, he shall be anathematized. If
the patriarch and bishops fail to manifest the necessary zeal
in this respect, let them be deposed.
Summary. Patriarchs have the right to summon all their metropolitans
to the patriarchal synod and to punish them if they are guilty
of a misdemeanor. Those who without good reason fail to heed the
summons, shall be punished.
Text. The council declares that the patriarchs have the right
to summon to the patriarchal synod and to punish if convicted
of a misdemeanor, all metropolitans who have been elevated by
them either through ordination or through the bestowal of the
pallium; and the metropolitans are no longer to excuse their absence
from the patriarchal synod on the plea that they themselves held
metropolitan synods. Even though the general council does not
forbid the latter, the patriarchal synods are, nevertheless, far
more important. Nor is it true that a synod may not be held without
the presence of the secular ruler. The canons do not say that
secular rulers, b the bishops shall assemble in a synod. In ancient
times a lay was never present at a local synod, but only at a
general c Moreover, it is not proper that secular princes be spectators
o takes place in regard to the clergy. The metropolitan who in
turn without a very good reason fails to obey the summons patriarch,
shall, if he delays two months, be suspended; if a year, deposed.
He who fails to comply with this decision, shall be anathematized.
Summary. Property and privileges granted to a Church and possessed
by that Church for thirty years, may not be taken away by seculars.
Text. The property and privileges which have been granted, whether
in writing or not, by emperors or by other persons to a Church,
and which that Church has possessed for a period of thirty years,
may not be taken away by a secular person either by force or other
means. Any such persons acting contrary to this ordinance, shall
Summary. Metropolitans shall not go to the Churches of their
suffragans and impose burdens on them, squandering the money intended
for the poor and other purposes.
Text. No archbishop or metropolitan shall leave his own Church
and, under pretext of visitation, but really impelled by avarice,
betake himself to the Churches of his suffragans to abuse his
power by imposing heavy burdens on their subjects and squandering
the money that was intended for the poor and other ecclesiastical
purposes. Let hospitality and other things necessary for the journey
be accepted with reverence and the fear of God, but no demand
should be made that would prove a burden to those Churches or
Summary. A bishop who without due notice expels for failure
to pay rent one who possesses Church property as emphyreusis,
shall be deposed.
Text. No bishop shall by his own authority forcibly expel, for
failure to pay rent, one who possesses Church property as emphyteusis (a perpetual lease of lands and tenements in consideration of
annual rent and improvements thereon); but he must notify such
a one that he will lose the possession if he fails to pay rent
for a period of three years. If he delays for that length of time,
then the bishop shall take the matter to court and demand the
return of the Church property. If any bishop acts contrary to
this decision and continues in his disobedience, let him be deposed.
Summary. Secular authority shall not treat disrespectfully
or seek to depose any patriarch; nor shall anyone direct against
the pope of Rome any libelous and defamatory writing. Any secular
power attempting to expel any patriarch, shall be anathematized.
Text. No secular authority shall treat disrespectfully or seek
to depose any of the five patriarchs; rather are they to be highly
honored, especially the pope of Old Rome, then the patriarchs
of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Nor shall
anyone direct against the pope of Old Rome any libelous and defamatory
writings, as was done recently by Photius and earlier by Dioscurus.
If a secular authority shall attempt to expel the pope or any
of the other patriarchs, let him be anathema. And if an ambiguity
or controversy concerning the Holy Church of the Romans be brought
before a general council, the question should be examined and
disposed of with becoming respect and reverence, and no sentence
should be boldly pronounced against the supreme pontiff of the
elder Rome .
Summary. All promotions and consecrations of bishops must be
made by the election and decision of the college of bishops, and
no secular power shall intrude itself.
Text. In accordance with earlier councils this holy and general
assembly decrees that all promotions and consecrations of bishops
shall be made by the election and decision of the college of bishops,
and no secular ruler or other lay person possessing influence
shall under penalty of anathema mix himself into the election
or promotion of a patriarch, metropolitan, or any bishop, unless
he be invited by the Church herself.
Summary. Bishops are forbidden to dispose of properties belonging
to other Churches. No priest or deacon shall pass without approval
from his own Church to another.
Text. It has come to our knowledge that some bishops dispose of
possessions belonging to other Churches, and thus usurp an authority
that belongs to other bishops. This great and general council
has decreed therefore, that no bishop or chorepiscopus shall perform
or take part in such an iniquitous transaction; nor shall he appoint
priests or any other clerics to churches that are not under his
jurisdiction. Furthermore, no priest or deacon shall of his own
accord pass to a Church for which he was not originally ordained,
for this is illicit and contrary to the canons. Whoever acts contrary
to these provisions, shall be duly punished and if he does not
amend, let him be deposed.
Summary. Metropolitans who are so absorbed in secular pursuits
that they compel their suffragans to do their work, shall be punished.
Text. Some metropolitans are, contrary to ecclesiastical law,
so absorbed in secular pursuits and so utterly negligent and careless
in their spiritual duties that they have all the divine service
in their own churches conducted by one of their suffragan bishops,
who are said to be commanded to perform those services in their
turn and at their own expense, thus forcibly employing those who
are vested with episcopal dignity as clerics subject to them,
a proceeding that absolutely lacks all Apostolic sanction. Any
metropolitan, therefore, who in the future shall employ his suffragans
to perform the aforesaid services, shall be punished by his patriarch
and, if he does not amend, let him be deposed.
Summary. All clerics ordained by Ignatius and Methodius but
who even now are adherents of Photius and refuse to submit, are
deposed and deprived of all sacerdotal functions.
Text. The bishops, priests, deacons, and subdeacons of the Church
of Constantinople who have been ordained by the Patriarchs Ignatius
and Methodius, but who even now are adherents of Photius and refuse
to submit to this holy and ecumenial council, are deposed and
deprived of all sacerdotal functions, as Pope Nicholas had already
decreed, and under no circumstances are they to be listed again
in the register of the clergy, even if they repent. Moved by compassion,
we permit them in that case to receive holy communion as laymen.
Summary. A priest or deacon deposed by his bishop and dissatisfied
with the judgmcnt rendered, may appeal to the metropolitan. In
like manner may a bishop appeal to the patriarch against a metropolitan.
Text. If a priest or deacon has been deposed by his bishop on
account of some crime, and if he maintains that he has suffered
an injustice and is dissatisfied with the judgment of his bishop,
feeling that he in his decision was influenced by ill-feeling
toward him or by favor toward others, he may appeal to the metropolitan
of the province, who shall then with the bishops examine the matter
in a provincial synod and pronounce judgment in accordance with
the results of their investigation. In like manner may a bishop
appeal to the patriarch against the decision of his metropolitan,
who shall then with the other metropolitans subject to him, decide
the matter. No metropolitan or bishop may be judged by the neighboring
metropolitans of his province; this must be done by the patriarch.
Anyone who does not submit to this decision, let him be excommunicated.
Summary. The customary liturgical vestments are to be retained
in each province. Bishops are not to wear the pallium to satisfy
a spirit of self -love. Monks raised to the episcopal dignity
must retain the monastic habit.
Text. We decree that the customary signs or marks (liturgical
vestments) that characterize the various ecclesiastical orders
be retained in each province and locality. Bishops to whom the
pallium has been granted shall wear it only at certain times and
places and not indiscriminately to satisfy a spirit of self-love
and a desire for vain glory. Monks who have been raised to the
episcopal dignity must retain the monastic habit, and no one is
permitted to lay it aside without becoming a violator of his own
agreements. Every bishop, therefore, who wears the pallium outside
the times prescribed, or lays aside the monastic habit, if he
does not submit to correction, let him be deposed.
From H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils:
Text, Translation and Commentary, (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1937).
NOTE 1: B. Herder's list was bought by TAN books, of Rockford
IL. TAN confirmed that US copyright was not renewed after the
statuary 28 years and that the text is now in the public domain
in the US.]
NOTE 2: Fr. Schroeder accompanied the text with a commentary
which, while well informed, was dominated by a concern to defend
Catholic positions of his own time, and contained, moreover, a
number of verbal attacks on the Orthodox churches. This commentary
has not been reproduced here.
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(c)Paul Halsall Mar 1996