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Florence, Council of

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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(transferred from Ferrara in 1439). The circumstances under which the Council of Ferrara was called by Eugenius IV are stated under BASLE, COUNCIL OF (See BASLE, COUNCIL OF); FERRARA, COUNCIL OF (See FERRARA, COUNCIL OF). The plea for the transfer of the council from Ferrara to Florence was the prevalence of the plague in Ferrara; but this must be pronounced a blind, as the plague had prevailed for months, and was nearly over when the transfer took place. "Are we, then, free to surmise that the true reason was kept a profound secret after all, and was, really, that the Latins were getting thoroughly the worst of it on the point of adding to the creed, and that attention was to be diverted from the subject by a change of scene and improved fare ?" (Ffoulkes, Christendom's Divisions, 2:346). " It is clear that the Greek bishops were only led to consent to obey the pope and go from Ferrara to Florence by the promise that their allowance for expenses, which had been withheld for several months, should be promptly paid" (Popoff, History of the Council of Florence, edited by Neale, Lond. 1861, chapter 6).

The bull transferring the council to Florence was read in the cathedral of Ferrara, January 10, 1439, on February 9 the pope and bishops entered Florence; the emperor, John Palseologus, arrived on the 15th. The aim of the council was (in continuation of that at Ferrara) to restore union between the churches of the East and the West, Eugenius IV desired this greatly, in order to confound his enemies at the Council of Basle, who were still in session, and who soon afterwards deposed him (June 25,1439: (See BASLE) ); while the emperor John Palaeologus sought to gain the aid of the West in his wars with the Turks. The chief topic of discussion was the addition of the filioque to the creed, (See FILIOQUE); but the Latins succeeded in taking up the doctrinal question of the procession of the Holy Ghost instead of the historical one of the additions to the creed. The cardinal Julian chiefly represented the Latin side, and Mark of Ephesus was the strongest disputant on the side of the Greeks. Bessarion, of the Greek side, was won over to the Latin by promises of rewards from the pope. (See BESSARION).

At the first session, February 26, 1439, Joseph, patriarch of Constantinople, was absent on account of illness. He died before the close of this council. Cardinal Julian proposed a discussion of the means of union; the emperor reminded him that the dispute on the filioque was not ended. At the end of the sitting, he held a private meeting of the Greeks to consider terms of union, but nothing came of it. In the second session (March 2) a beginning was made in discussing the doctrine of the procession, the Latin side being ably represented by Johannes de Monte Nigro, provincial of the Dominicans in Lombardy. The discussion was continued in several sessions up to the ninth (March 25). The Greeks succeeded best in the scriptural argument, and also showed that many of the passages from Epiphanius, Basil, and Augustine, cited by the Latins, had been corrupted. After the session of March 17, the emperor prohibited Mark of Ephesus and Anthony of Heraclea, the two strongest advocates on the Greek side, from taking further part in the discussions. The emperor was bent on union at any price. At the end of the session of March 24, the pope sent word to the patriarch that the Greeks must either express their assent to thee Roman view, or return home, by Easter, April 5. From this time the emperor vacillated: on the one side was his conscience, and also the fear that the whole East would brand him traitor to orthodoxy; on the other hand was his desire for the aid of the West in maintaining his falling empire. Policy triumphed. Moreover, the Greeks were far from home, and without money and they received nothing on account of the allowance promised them by the pope from the time of their arrival in Florence until May 22. The emperor summoned a meeting of the Greek bishops, March 30, in the apartment of the invalid patriarch Joseph, and other such meetings followed. The discussions were stormy. Dositheus of Jerusalem declared that he would rather die, than be false to time creed and "Latinize."

Mark declared that the Latins were not only schismatics, but heretics. It was finally agreed that a committee of twenty should be, appointed, ten from each side, to lay down the doctrine of the procession in a form that might be accepted by both sides. "After many unsuccessful endeavors, they drew up a profession of faith upon the subject of the procession of the Holy Spirit, in which they declared as follows: That the Holy Spirit is from all eternity from the Father and of the Son; that he from all eternity proceedeth from both, as from one only principle, and by one only spiration; that by this way of speaking it is signified that the Son also is, as the Greeks express it, the cause, or, as the Latins, the principle of the subsistence of the Holy Spirit equally with the Father. Also we declare that what some of the holy fathers have said of the procession of the Holy Spirit from (ex) the Father by (per) the Son is to be taken in such a sense as that the Son is, as well as the Father, and conjointly with him, the cause or principle of the Holy Spirit; and since all that the Father hath he hath, in begetting him, communicated to his only begotten Son, the paternity alone excepted; so it is from the Father from all eternity that the Son hath received this also, that the Holy Spirit proceedeth from the Son as well as from the Father.' In the same decree the council declared that it was lawful to consecrate unleavened bread as well as that which had been leavened and upon the subject of purgatory, that the souls of those who die truly penitent in the love of God, before bringing forth fruit meet for repentance, are purified after death by the pains of purgatory, and that they derive comfort in those pains from the prayers of the faithful on earth, as also by the sacrifice of the mass, alms, and other works of piety. Concerning the primacy of the pope, they confessed the pope to be the sovereign pontiff and vicar of Jesus Christ, the head of the whole Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians, and the governor of the Church of God, according to the sacred canons sand acts of the oecumenical councils, saving the privileges and rights of the Eastern patriarchs.

After various conferences, the decree of union was drawn up in due order, in Greek and in Latin; it was then read and signed by the pope, and by eighteen cardinals, by the Latin patriarchs of Jerusalem and Grenada, and the two episcopal ambassadors of the duke of Burgundy, eight archbishops, forty-seven bishops (who were almost all Italians), four generals of monastic orders, and forty-one abbots. On the Greek side, it was signed by the emperor John Palseologus, by the vicars of the patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem (the patriarch of Constantinople had lately died), and by several metropolitans. This decree was published on the 6th of July, 1439, after which the Greeks, to the number of thirty, left Florence, and arrived at Constantinople, February 1, 1440. The union thus formed was of very short duration. (See GREEK CHURCH). After their departure, the council continued its sittings; and in the next session, held September 4th, the fathers at Basle were declared to be heretics and schismatics. In the second, November 22d, a very long decree was made upon the subject of the union of the Armenians with the Roman Church. This decree runs in the name of the pope only. In the third, March 23, 1440, the anti-pope Amadeus, who on the council at Basle had elected, pope (Felix V), was declared to be a heretic and schismatic, and all his followers guilty of high treason; a promise of pardon being held out to those who should submit within fifty days. In the fourth session, 4th of February, 1441, a decree for the reunion of the Jacobites of Ethiopia with the Roman Church was published, signed by the pope and eight cardinals. Andrew, the deputy of John XI, the patriarch of Alexandria, received it in the name of the Ethiopian Jacobites. In the fifth session, 26th of April, 1442, the pope's proposal to transfer the council to Rome was agreed to, but only two sessions were held there, in which decrees for the union of thee Syrians, Chaldaeans, and Maronites with the see of Rome were drawn up" (Landon, Manual of Councils, s. 5). On the return home of the Greeks, they found no welcome: Mark of Ephesus was held up as the true representative of orthodoxy, and the signers to the union were denounced as recreants. Most of those who haud signed their names recanted, saying, "Alas! we have I seen seduced by distress, by fraud, and by the hopes and fears of a transitory life. The hand that has signed the union should be cut off, and the tongue that has pronounced the Latin creed deserves to be torn from the root."

Literature. For the acts of the council (on the Latin side), see Hor. Justinianus, Acta Concil. Florentini (Rom. 1638, 3 parts fol.); Mansi, Concilia, 5, 9; Labbe et Cossart, Consil. 13:223, 510, 1034; Harduin, Cons cil. 9: The acts are summed up in Semler, Selecta Historiae Eccles. capit. 3:140 sq. On the Greek side we have Sylvester Sguropulos (often written Syropulus) Ἀπομνημονεύματα, Vera Hist. unionis non verae inter Graecos et Latinos, s. Concil. Florent. narratio; Gr. et Lat., ed. Rob. Creyghton (Hague, 1660, fol.); in reply to which, Leo Allatius wrote Exercit. in R. Creyghtoni apparat., etc.,(Romae, 1674, 166o, 4to). See also Schrockh, Kirchengeschichte, 34:388 sq.; Ffoulkes, Christendom's Divisions (Lond. 1867) 2:332 sq.; Milman, Latin Christianity, Luke 13, chapter 14; Hefele, in Tubing. Quartal-Schrift, 1847, 183 sq.; Grier, Epitome of Councils (Dublin, 1827, 8vo), chapter 26; The History of the Council of Florence translated by Basil Popoff, ed. by J. M. Neale (Lond. 1861, 12mo) Cunningham, Historical Theology, 1:468 sq.; Elliott, Delineation of Romanism, book 3, chapter 3.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Florence, Council of'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​f/florence-council-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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