GRATSIANSKIY M.V. The Fourth Ecumenical Council and the Issue of the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome


Mikhail V. Gratsianskiy

Candidate of Sciences (History), PhD, Leading Researcher,

Laboratory for Investigation of Church Institutions, St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University,

Likhov Lane, 6, Office 418, 127051 Moscow, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. Despite multiple references and partial treatment of the proposed topic in scholarly literature, the necessity of its full-scaled analysis on the basis of the Acts of the Fourth Ecumenical Council held in Chalcedon in 451 still remains.

Methods. The paper analyzes the entire published Acts and determines all relevant passages concerning the characteristics of the Pope’s pretensions to the universal primacy in the Church and the limits of their acceptability by the participants of the Council.

Analysis. The author undertakes the research of the consequent sessions of the Council and analyzes relevant data comparing the declarations and claims of the papal legates and their actual perception by the imperial dignitaries, who were presiding over the Council, and the bishops.

Results. The presented research demonstrates that Pope’s claims to the universal power within the Church were actually discarded by the Council and the representatives of the emperor in multiple ways. Firstly, the legates (vicarii) of the Pope were not trusted with the actual presidency over the Council (except in one session). Secondly, pope’s decisions, which had been taken before the Council and which the legates had been instructed to implement, were put under reexamination through the Council and were passed as conciliar decisions, often with no reference to the pope as their initiator. Thirdly, the Council didn’t accept certain elements of the pope’s title, which reflected his universal claims. In general, the Council of Chalcedon was the first to promote the principle of the primacy of honour that was bestowed on Rome and Constantinople equally.

Key words: Council of Chalcedon, Ecumenical Councils, pope Leo the Great, emperor Marcianus, patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople, pimacy of the pope, primacy of honour.

Citation. Gratsianskiy M.V. The Fourth Ecumenical Council and the Issue of the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2019, vol. 24, no. 6, pp. 255-271. (in Russian). DOI:

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The Fourth Ecumenical Council and the Issue of the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome by Gratsianskiy M.V. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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