The doctrine expressed by this phrase, as inserted into the Creed, is accepted as orthodox by the Catholic Church, by Anglicanism and by Protestant churches in general. Christians of these groups generally include it when reciting the Nicene Creed. Nonetheless, these groups recognize that filioque is not part of the original text established at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 and they do not demand that others too should use it when saying the Creed. Indeed, the Roman Catholic Church does not add the phrase corresponding to Filioque (καὶ τοῦ Υἱοῦ) to the Greek text of the Creed, even in the liturgy for Latin Rite Catholics. Pope John Paul II recited the Nicene Creed several times with patriarchs of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Greek according to the original text.
The Eastern Orthodox Church has reservations about the orthodoxy of the phrase and, moreover, objects to making any additions whatsoever to the Creed as enunciated at the First Council of Constantinople.
The filioque became a point of contention between the Eastern and Western Churches in 867, when Patriarch Photios I of Constantinople declared it heretical. The controversy over the phrase contributed to the East-West Schism of 1054 and, despite agreements among participants at the Second Council of Lyon (1274) and the Council of Florence (1439), reunion has not been achieved.
The First Council of Nicaea of 325 ended its Creed with the words "And in the Holy Spirit." In 381, the First Council of Constantinople added to this the words, "the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father …" This last phrase comes from .
Filioque first appears as an interpolation in the Creed at the Third Council of Toledo, at which Visigothic Spain renounced Arianism, accepting Catholic Christianity. The anti-Arian addition underlined the equality of the Son with the Father, denied by Arianism, which held that Jesus was created by God and that there had been a time when the Son did not exist.
It has been argued that the Filioque was already used in the Nicene Creed before the Third Council of Toledo and that the Council was quoting what it believed to be the exact text.
The Aachen council was held because some Eastern monks protested to the Pope about the use of the phrase in a Western monastery in Jerusalem. Pope Leo III approved the doctrine yet opposed adding "Filioque" to the Creed. He had the Creed in its original form engraved on two silver tables, one in Greek, the other in Latin, and placed them at the tomb of Saint Peter, writing: "I, Leo, have placed these for love and protection of the orthodox faith".
However, the Filioque continued to be included in the Creed as sung generally throughout the West, though in Rome itself the Creed was only read, not sung, and did not include the interpolation. But in 1014, at the request of the German King Henry II who had come to Rome to be crowned Emperor, and was surprised at the different custom in force there, Pope Benedict VIII, who owed to Henry his restoration to the papal throne after usurpation by Antipope Gregory VI, had the Creed, with the addition of Filioque, sung at Mass in Rome for the first time.
Since then the Filioque phrase is included in the Creed as used throughout the Latin Rite, except where Greek is used in the liturgy. Eastern Catholic Churches such as the Maronites and those of Byzantine Rite, which are in full communion with the Holy See, have never used the Filioque.
The Roman Catholic Church fully recognizes that the original text of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed does not include the Filioque and does not insert it when quoting that text, as it did in the 6 August 2000 document, Dominus Iesus on the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church.
Photius, with the support of Emperor Michael, rejected the Pope's judgment. To rally the Eastern Churches to his course he issued an Encyclical to the Eastern Patriarchs denouncing the Latin Church for differences in customs and, most importantly for the Filioque, which he deemed heretical. This latter element, appearing for the first time, is of special importance, as it moved the issue from jurisdiction and custom to one of dogma. In 867, he assembled a synod excommunicating Pope Nicholas and condemning Latin "aberrations".
Photius's importance endured in regard to relations between East and West, as he was the first theologian to make the Filioque a contentious issue and to accuse Rome of heresy in the matter. He is recognized as a Saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church and his line of criticism has often been echoed later, making reconciliation between East and West difficult.
Constantine Platis refers to three Greek Fathers as saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds (ἐκπορεύεσθαι) from the Father only: St. Dionysius the Areopagite, On the Divine Names 2:5: Blessed Theodoret, PG 76:432; St Gregory Palamas, A NT Decalogue 6.
The Greek Father most often quoted in favour of the Holy Spirit proceeding (προϊέναι) from Father and Son is Saint Cyril of Alexandria, who in his struggle against Nestorianism spoke of the Holy Spirit as belonging to the Son (τὸ ἴδιον τοῦ Υἱοῦ) and who several times spoke of the Holy Spirit proceeding (προϊέναι) from the Father "and the Son", alongside the phrase preferred in the East: "through the Son", the former indicating the equality of principle, the latter the order of origin. On the other hand, his Nestorian opponents Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret denied that the Holy Spirit derives his existence from or through the Son.
The formula most used in the East in relation to the Son when speaking of the procession (ἐκπορεύεσθαι) of the Holy Spirit from (ἐκ) the Father is through (διά) the Son. Platis gives as sources: St Dionysius the Great of Alexandria, Letter to Dionysius, Bishop of Rome 2:8-9; St Hilary of Poitiers, De Trinitate 12:57, 8:19-20, 2:1; St John of Damascus, Orthodox Faith 1:12.; St Tarasius of Constantinople, [Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum 12:1122.]; and St Gregory of Sinai, On Commandments and Doctrines 27. Quotations are also given in Lossky, Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.
Already in the fourth century the distinction was made, in connection with the Trinity, between the two Greek verbs ἐκπορεύεσθαι (the verb used in the original Greek text of the 381 Nicene Creed) and προϊέναι. In his Oration on the Holy Lights (XXXIX), Saint Gregory of Nazianzus wrote: "The Holy Ghost is truly Spirit, coming forth (προϊέναι) from the Father indeed, but not after the manner of the Son, for it is not by Generation but by Procession (ἐκπορεύεσθαι)". The original is "προϊὸν μὲν ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς, οὐχ ὑϊκῶς δὲ, οὐδὲ γὰρ γεννητῶς, ἀλλ' ἐκπορευτῶς".
That the Holy Spirit "proceeds" from the Father and the Son in the sense of the Latin word procedere and the Greek προϊέναι (as opposed to the Greek ἐκπορεύεσθαι) was taught by the early fifth century by Saint Cyril of Alexandria in the East and even earlier by the fourth-century Western Fathers Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome, all of whom taught that the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father and the Son, though subordinate to neither. The Athanasian Creed, probably of the middle of the fifth century, and a dogmatic epistle of Pope Leo I. gives the same teaching,
Constantine Platis argues: "When the early Christian writers are not unanimous, it is best to remember the words of St. Vincent of Lerins, a Church Father who says that in the universal Church we should be very careful to teach only what 'has been believed everywhere, always, and by all' or at least by 'almost all' our holy ancestors and Fathers (Commonitory 2 ). The filioque was not taught 'always' (it was not taught before the 5th century); nor has it been taught 'everywhere' (it has been believed only in the Latin Church)"
On the other hand, denial that the Holy Spirit "proceeds" (προϊέναι, procedere) from the Father and the Son arose much later, appearing only at the start of the ninth century.
Two councils held to heal the break discussed the question.
The Second Council of Lyon (1274) accepted the profession of faith of Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos in the Holy Spirit, "proceeding from the Father and the Son" and the Greek participants, including Patriarch Joseph I of Constantinople sang the Creed three times with the Filioque addition. Though Emperor Michael had in 1261 succeeded in winning back the city of Constantinople, which had been in the hands of Westerners since the sack of Constantinople in 1204, most Byzantine Christians refused to accept the agreement made at Lyon with the Latins. In 1282, Emperor Michael VIII died and Patriarch Joseph I's successor, John XI, who had become convinced that the teaching of the Greek Fathers was compatible with that of the Latins, was forced to resign, and was replaced by GregoryII, who was strongly of the opposite opinion.
Another attempt at reunion was made at the fifteenth-century Council of Florence, to which Emperor John VIII Palaiologos, Ecumenical Patriarch Joseph II of Constantinople, and other bishops from the East had gone in the hope of getting Western military aid against the looming Ottoman Empire. Thirteen public sessions held in Ferrara from 8 October to 13 December 1438 the Filioque question was debated without agreement. The Greeks held that any addition whatever, even if doctrinally correct, to the Creed had been forbidden by the Council of Ephesus, while the Latins claimed that this prohibition concerned meaning, not words. In fact, what this third Ecumenical Council prohibited was: "It is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different (ἑτέραν) Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicæa. But those who shall dare to compose a different faith, or to introduce or offer it to persons desiring to turn to the acknowledgment of the truth, whether from Heathenism or from Judaism, or from any heresy whatsoever, shall be deposed, if they be bishops or clergymen; bishops from the episcopate and clergymen from the clergy; and if they be laymen, they shall be anathematized"; and the acts of the council contains the creed in its original 325 form, as adopted at Nicaea, without the additions made in 381 by the First Council of Constantinople, such as the clause "who proceeds from the Father", additions accepted without question by both East and West.
When the Council moved to Florence in 1439, accord continued to be elusive, until the argument prevailed among the Greeks themselves that, though the Greek and the Latin saints expressed their faith differently, they were in agreement substantially, since saints cannot err in faith; and by 8 June the Greeks accepted the Latin statement of doctrine. On 10 June Patriarch Joseph II died. A statement on the Filioque question was included in the Laetentur Caeli decree of union, which was signed on 5 July 1439 and promulgated the next day, with Mark of Ephesus being the only bishop to refuse his signature.
The Eastern Church refused to consider the agreement reached at Florence binding, since the death of Joseph II had for the moment left it without a Patriarch of Constantinople. There was strong opposition to the agreement in the East, and when in 1453, 14 years after the agreement, the promised military aid from the West still had not arrived and Constantinople fell to the Turks, neither Eastern Christians nor their new rulers wished union between them and the West.
On the Western side, it is claimed that absence of a declaration by an Ecumenical Council is not denial of this teaching that safeguards against Arianism the doctrine of the First Council of Nicaea that the Son is consubstantial with the Father; that, since the Son as well as the Father sends the Spirit in , we are justified by analogy with this relationship to us in inferring that the Spirit proceeds from both Father and Son in the relationship within the Trinity; and that to deny this teaching is to divorce the Spirit from the Son in contradiction of the passages that speak of him as the Spirit of Christ, as and .
Eastern theologians have said that, for the Holy Spirit to proceed from the Father and the Son, there would have to be two sources in the deity, whereas in the one God there can only be one source of divinity.
Western theologians counter by saying that, since both Greeks and Latins agree in attributing everything as common to the Father and the Son except the relation of Fatherhood and Sonship, the Spiration (breathing forth) of the Holy Spirit, which does not involve this relation, must also be common to both Father and Son.
The Roman Catholic Church has expressed this by saying that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son as from a single principle or beginning: "We declare that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, not as from two beginnings, but from one beginning, not from two breathings but from one breathing.
The Western tradition does not see itself as merging and confusing the persons of the Father and the Son, as it has been accused of doing: it has always held that the Holy Spirit proceeds, in a principal, proper and immediate manner, from the Father, not the Son. Saint Augustine of Hippo admits that the Holy Spirit takes his origin from the Father "principaliter" (as principle).
For this reason, even if Filioque has been accused of making both Father and Son, but not the Holy Spirit, sources of deity, thus diminishing the Holy Spirit, it "must not lead to a subordination of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity. Even if the Catholic doctrine affirms that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son in the communication of their consubstantial communion, it nonetheless recognizes the reality of the original relationship of the Holy Spirit as person with the Father, a relationship that the Greek Fathers express by the term ἐκπόρευσις."
Although the Western teaching speaks of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Persons of the Father and the Son, it has been accused of making the divine essence itself the source of deity in God, thereby suggesting that the Holy Spirit proceeds from himself, since he is certainly not separate from the divine essence. The Western response is that the origin of the Holy Spirit is similar to that of the Son, whom the original text of the Nicene Creed as established in the First Council of Nicaea declares to be "begotten from the Father, only-begotten, that is, from the essence of the Father" (γεννηθέντα ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς μονογενῆ, τουτέστιν ἐκ τῆς ουσίας τοῦ πατρός), without thereby implying that the Son is self-begotten.
It pointed out, in particular, that the Latin verb procedere (to proceed), used in the Latin version of the Nicene Creed, has a broader meaning than the verb ἐκπορεύεσθαι, which is used in the Greek text. It quoted Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, who used the Greek word to distinguish the Spirit's form of coming from the Father from that of the Son from the Father, for both forms of which he used the Greek verb προϊέναι, Προϊέναι was the word used by Greek Fathers of Alexandria when saying, as Saint Cyril of Alexandria did: "Since the Holy Spirit makes us like God when he has come to be in us, and since he also proceeds (προεῖσι) from the Father and the Son, it is clear that he is of the divine substance, proceeding (προϊόν) substantially (οὐσιωδῶς) in it and from it
Latin does not have two words, one of which corresponds to the precise meaning of ἐκπόρευσθαι and the other to the broader meaning of προϊέναι. Procedere has to be used for both these Greek verbs.
In this view, to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds (in the sense of the Greek word "ἐκπορευόμενον") from the Father and the Son can be considered heretical; but to say the same, giving to the word "proceeds" the meaning of the Latin word "procedere" (or of the Greek "προϊέναι"), is not heretical.
The difficulty or near impossibility of finding in another language words that will reproduce with complete accuracy certain words of another language was remarked on by Saint Maximus the Confessor in the seventh century precisely with regard to the Filioque expression. Of the Latins he wrote: "It is true, of course, that they cannot reproduce their idea in a language and in words that are foreign to them as they can in their mother-tongue, just as we too cannot do.
Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon concluded his examination of the Pontifical Council's study by saying: "The Vatican document on the procession of the Holy Spirit constitutes an encouraging attempt to clarify the basic aspects of the Filioque problem and show that a rapprochement between West and East on this matter is eventually possible. An examination of this problem in depth within the framework of a constructive theological dialogue can be greatly helped by this document.
Even before the publication of the Pontifical Council's study, several Orthodox theologians had considered the Filioque anew, with a view to reconciliation of East and West. Theodore Stylianopoulos provided in 1986 an extensive, scholarly overview of the contemporary discussion. Twenty years after writing the first (1975) edition of his book, The Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia said that he had changed his mind and had concluded that "the problem is more in the area of semantics and different emphases than in any basic doctrinal differences": "the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone" and "the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son" may both have orthodox meanings if the words translated "proceeds" actually have different meanings. For some Orthodox, then, the Filioque, while still a matter of conflict, would not impede full communion of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches if other issues were resolved. But many Orthodox consider that the Filioque is in flagrant contravention of the words of Christ in the Gospel, has been specifically condemned by the Orthodox Church, and remains the fundamental heretical teaching which divides East and West.
Easterners also object that, even if the teaching of the Filioque can be defended, its interpolation into the Creed is anti-canonical. The Roman Catholic Church, which like the Eastern Orthodox Church considers the teaching of the Ecumenical Councils to be infallible, "acknowledges the conciliar, ecumenical, normative and irrevocable value, as expression of the one common faith of the Church and of all Christians, of the Symbol professed in Greek at Constantinople in 381 by the Second Ecumenical Council. No profession of faith peculiar to a particular liturgical tradition can contradict this expression of the faith taught and professed by the undivided Church", but considers permissible additions that elucidate the teaching without in any way contradicting it, and that do not claim to have, on the basis of their insertion, the same authority that belongs to the original. It allows liturgical use of the Apostles' Creed as well of the Nicene Creed, and sees no essential difference between the recitation in the liturgy of a creed with orthodox additions and a profession of faith outside the liturgy such that of the Patriarch of Constantinople Saint Tarasius, who developed the Nicene Creed as follows: "the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father through the Son".
The Roman Catholic view that the Greek and the Latin expressions of faith in this regard are not contradictory but complementary has been expressed as follows:
For this reason, the Roman Catholic Church has refused the addition of καὶ τοῦ Υἱοῦ to the formula ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον of the Nicene Creed in the Churches, even of Latin rite, which use it in Greek. The liturgical use of this original text remains always legitimate in the Catholic Church.
In the judgment of the consultation, the question of the Filioque is no longer a "Church-dividing" issue, one which would impede full reconciliation and full communion. It is for the bishops of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches to review this work and to make whatever decisions would be appropriate.
The origins of the Filioque in the West are found in the writings of certain Church Fathers in the West and especially in the anti-Arian situation of seventh-century Spain. In this context, the Filioque was a means to affirm the full divinity of both the Spirit and the Son. It is not just a question of establishing a connection with the Father and his divinity; it is a question of reinforcing the profession of Catholic faith in the fact that both the Son and Spirit share the fullness of God's nature.
Ironically, a similar anti-Arian emphasis also strongly influenced the development of the liturgy in the East, for example, in promoting prayer to "Christ Our God", an expression which also came to find a place in the West. In this case, a common adversary, namely, Arianism, had profound, far-reaching effects, in the orthodox reaction in both East and West.
Church politics, authority conflicts, ethnic hostility, linguistic misunderstanding, personal rivalry, and secular motives all combined in various ways to divide East and West.
As regards the doctrine expressed by the phrase in Latin (in which the word "procedit" that is linked with "Filioque" does not have exactly the same meaning and overtones as the word used in Greek), any declaration by the West that it is heretical (something that not all Orthodox now insist on) would conflict with the Western doctrine of the infallibility of the Church, since it has been upheld by Councils recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as ecumenical and by even those Popes who, like Leo III, opposed insertion of the word into the Creed.