Third Council of Constantinople

Third Council of Constantinople

Constantinople, Third Council of, 680, regarded by Roman Catholic and Orthodox Eastern churches as the sixth ecumenical council. It was convoked by Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV to deal with Monotheletism. The council was attended by more than 150 bishops from all over the world, and it was presided over by the papal legates. It condemned Monotheletism very clearly by defining the orthodox faith as the acceptance of a separate will and operation in each of the natures of Christ. It also condemned several churchmen as Monothelites, among them an earlier pope, Honorius I. The condemnation of Honorius is a much-discussed point in church history. The Orthodox Church accepts as an ecumenical part of the Third Council of Constantinople the Council of 692, summoned by Justinian II, son and successor of Constantine. It is called in the West the Trullan Synod because it met in the Trullo, i.e., in the dome of the palace at Constantinople, or the Quinisext Synod [Lat.,=fifth-sixth] because it is considered in the East to supplement the fifth and sixth ecumenical councils. The Trullan Synod was entirely legislative, and its principal work was the pronouncement of the obligation to observe the canons of the Apostolic Constitutions. There was apparently in the legislation an anti-Western tone, and certain practices of the West were condemned.
The Sixth Ecumenical Council met on November 7, 680 for its first session; it ended its meetings, said to have been eighteen in number, on September 16 of 681. The number of bishops present was under three hundred and the minutes of the last session have only 174 signatures attached to them.

The conclusion of the council was that Jesus has two wills as well as two natures (divine and human), and that those two wills did not conflict with or strive against each other. It thus refuted the heresy of monothelitism, which held that Jesus Christ had only one (divine) will. Further, it posthumuously restored Pope Martin I and Maximus the Confessor to communion with the church.

When the Emperor Constantine IV first summoned the council he had no intention that it would be ecumenical. From the Sacras it appears that he had summoned all the Metropolitans and bishops of the jurisdiction of Constantinople, and had also informed the Patriarch of Antioch that he might send Metropolitans and bishops. A long time before, he had written to Pope Agatho on the subject.

When the synod assembled however, it assumed at its first session the title "Ecumenical." All five patriarchs were represented, Alexandria and Jerusalem having sent deputies although they were at the time in the hands of the Muslims.

In this particular Council the Emperor presided in person surrounded by high court officials. On his right sat Patriarch George I of Constantinople and Macarius, Patriarch of Antioch and next to them the representative of the Patriarch of Alexandria. On the Emperor's left were seated the representatives of the Pope. In the midst were placed, as usual, the Holy Gospels. After the eleventh session however the Emperor was no longer able to be present, but returned and presided at the closing meeting.

The sessions of the council were held in the domed hall (or possibly chapel) in the imperial palace; which, the Acts tell us, was called Trullo (εν ώ σεκρετω του Θειου παλτιου τη ουτη λεγομενω Τρουλλω).

Of interest are the titles in the Sacras sent to the bishops of Rome and Constantinople, one to "The Most holy and Blessed Archbishop of Old Rome and Ecumenical Pope," and the other to "The Most holy and Blessed Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch." Some of the titles used by the signers of the "Prosphoneticus" are interesting: "George, an humble presbyter of the holy Roman Church, and holding the place of the most blessed Agatho, ecumenical Pope of the City of Rome ...," "John, an humble deacon of the holy Roman Church and holding the place of the most blessed Agatho, and ecumenical Pope of the City of Rome," "George, by the mercy of God bishop of Constantinople which is New Rome," "Peter a presbyter and holding the place of the Apostolic See of the great city Alexandria," "George, an humble presbyter of the Holy Resurrection of Christ our God, and holding the place of Theodore the presbyter, beloved of God, who holds the place of the Apostolic See of Jerusalem ...,""John, by the mercy of God bishop of the City of Thessalonica, and legate of the Apostolic See of Rome," "John, the unworthy bishop of Portus, legate of the whole Council of the holy Apostolic See of Rome," "Stephen, by the mercy of God, bishop of Corinth, and legate of the Apostolic See of Old Rome."

Original text taken from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at, which is in the public domain

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