Fisrt Council of Constantinople Canon 3


Hello all,

This question is more directed at Roman Catholics. What is the Roman interpretation of this third Canon?

The Canon assumes that Constantinople should take second in rank behind Rome because she is “New Rome”. More importantly the reasoning for this is because Old Rome is the ancient seat of the Roman Empire and NOT because it holds the succession of St. Peter.
I do know that this Canon was refused at Chalcedon but then acknowledged at Fourth Constantinople in 869, does this mean that Rome prescribes to the Eastern belief that Rome holds its primacy because of its location as the ancient capital of the Roman Empire? From what Ive read this is the exact reason Rome refused to acknowledge this Canon(along with the 28th of Chalcedon).


Yes if you look at History with The Ecumenical Councils it holds that The Bishop of Rome was first but first amongst equals. This is why there was such division later on. Because Rome tried to act like a King instead of a forman to a jury. First but the same voting rights.

End of Story


I didn’t know before that this was moved from ECF. It applies to those under Rome in the East, as their hierarchies (as Ukrainians at Rome I know complained bitterly about) are arranged according to it. It doesn’t apply to the Orthodox as Constantiople IV 879 annulled that of 869.

I might help to have the canons:

Constantinople “IV” (869):


The first, holy and universal synod of Nicaea orders that the ancient custom should be preserved throughout Egypt and the provinces subject to her, so that the bishop of Alexandria has them all under his authority; it declares, “Because such a custom has prevailed in the city of Rome”. Therefore this great and holy synod decrees that in old and new Rome and the sees of Antioch and Jerusalem the ancient custom must be preserved in all things, so that their prelates should have authority over all the metropolitans whom they promote or confirm in the episcopal dignity, either through the imposition of hands or the bestowal of the pallium; that is to say, the authority to summon them, in case of necessity, to a meeting in synod or even to reprimand and correct them, when a report about some wrongdoing leads to an accusation…


We believe that the saying of the Lord that Christ addressed to his holy apostles and disciples, Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever despises you despises me, was also addressed to all who were likewise made supreme pontiffs and chief pastors in succession to them in the catholic church. Therefore we declare that no secular powers should treat with disrespect any of those who hold the office of patriarch or seek to move them from their high positions, but rather they should esteem them as worthy of all honour and reverence. This applies in the first place to the most holy pope of old Rome, secondly to the patriarch of Constantinople, and then to the patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. Furthermore, nobody else should compose or edit writings or tracts against the most holy pope of old Rome, on the pretext of making incriminating charges, as Photius did recently and Dioscorus a long time ago. Whoever shows such great arrogance and audacity, after the manner of Photius and Dioscorus, and makes false accusations in writing or speech against the see of Peter, the chief of the apostles, let him receive a punishment equal to theirs.

If, then, any ruler or secular authority tries to expel the aforesaid pope of the apostolic see, or any of the other patriarchs, let him be anathema. Furthermore, if a universal synod is held and any question or controversy arises about the holy church of Rome, it should make inquiries with proper reverence and respect about the question raised and should find a profitable solution; it must on no account pronounce sentence rashly against the supreme pontiffs of old Rome.

Lateran IV
5. The dignity of the patriarchal sees

Renewing the ancient privileges of the patriarchal sees, we decree, with the approval of this sacred universal synod, that after the Roman church, which through the Lord’s disposition has a primacy of ordinary power over all other churches inasmuch as it is the mother and mistress of all Christ’s faithful, the church of Constantinople shall have the first place, the church of Alexandria the second place, the church of Antioch the third place, and the church of Jerusalem the fourth place, each maintaining its own rank. Thus after their pontiffs have received from the Roman pontiff the pallium, which is the sign of the fullness of the pontifical office, and have taken an oath of fidelity and obedience to him they may lawfully confer the pallium on their own suffragans, receiving from them for themselves canonical profession and for the Roman church the promise of obedience. They may have a standard of the Lord’s cross carried before them anywhere except in the city of Rome or wherever there is present the supreme pontiff or his legate wearing the insignia of the apostolic dignity. In all the provinces subject to their jurisdiction let appeal be made to them, when it is necessary, except for appeals made to the apostolic see, to which all must humbly defer.

as this doesn’t involve us, I’ll sit out, at least for a while.


Hello Stathios! It has been a while since I have seen your posts! Good to see you still here!

Prayers and petitions,


Thank You:thumbsup:


Thanks for posting those, IA. Reading them for the first time, it seems to me (a Protestant) that they support the Catholic interpretation more than the Orthodox one, though of course not conclusively. Just my impression.


If you mean the Latin interpretation, they should. The Latin church did not consider Constantinople IV 869 ecumenical until after 1054. The Orthodox never recognized it. Lateran IV was a Latin council, and the Crusaders had put a Latin on each of the thrones except Alexandria (Fifth Crusade did not succeed).


Perhaps should post the canons of the Ecumenical Councils themselves:

Constantinople I

Because it is new Rome, the bishop of Constantinople is to enjoy the privileges of honour after the bishop of Rome.

Following in every way the decrees of the holy fathers and recognising the canon which has recently been read out—the canon of the 150 most devout bishops who assembled in the time of the great Theodosius of pious memory, then emperor, in imperial Constantinople, new Rome — we issue the same decree and resolution concerning the prerogatives of the most holy church of the same Constantinople, new Rome. The fathers rightly accorded prerogatives to the see of older Rome, since that is an imperial city; and moved by the same purpose the 150 most devout bishops apportioned equal prerogatives to the most holy see of new Rome, reasonably judging that the city which is honoured by the imperial power and senate and enjoying privileges equalling older imperial Rome, should also be elevated to her level in ecclesiastical affairs and take second place after her. The metropolitans of the dioceses of Pontus, Asia and Thrace, but only these, as well as the bishops of these dioceses who work among non-Greeks, are to be ordained by the aforesaid most holy see of the most holy church in Constantinople. That is, each metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses along with the bishops of the province ordain the bishops of the province, as has been declared in the divine canons; but the metropolitans of the aforesaid dioceses, as has been said, are to be ordained by the archbishop of Constantinople, once agreement has been reached by vote in the usual way and has been reported to him.


Canon 3 states: Because it is new Rome, the bishop of Constantinople is to enjoy the privileges of honour after the bishop of Rome

if you want the roman catholic interpretation of the Canon. I’ll say it. this clearly changes the ancient tradition specifically defined at Nicea that “Let the ancient custom prevail” in the ancient times the Popes of Rome did not accept it , and because of this, the whole church did not, until only lately. The Popes of Rome, clearly teaches that the Primacy it had was due to being the successor of Peter. Long before Constantine legalized christianity, the Bishop of Rome was always sought help, advised, and showed primacy over the whole church. i suggest you reading the early christian writings before the time of constantine.


it also must be noted that official Eastern church documents ( before the schism) did not include this canon for every official ecumenical council documents it had.


it might also interest you, the letter of the bishop of New Rome to the Bishop of Rome regarding the legality of these canons

“As for those things which the universal council of Chalcedon recently ordained in favor of the Church of Constantinople (…) it was the most reverend clergy of the Church of Constantinople who were eager about it (…). Even so the whole force and confirmation of the acts was reserved for the authority of your blessedness.”


Thats exactly why I started the OP. With the refusal of the Bishop of Rome the entire Church did not recognize it. The latter Councils in which Rome eventually recognizes Constantinople is because the other Patriarchs had fallen to Muslim hands and their Christian prestige had fallen into subtleness. But Constantinople, as it would seem, made a power play when the Council of Nicea was still very much fresh in the Church’s mind in a time when over stepping Alexandria and Antioch would have seemed absurd. Also, wasnt the large percentage of Bishops that were in volume(I Council of Constantinope) among Bishops of the Imperial City and for the ones that werent they were Bishops in close proximity to Constantinople? After Pope Leo refused the 28th Canon The Patriarch of Constantinople wrote out a letter to Leo that spelled out his regret for the Bishops of Constantinople in their eagerness for trying to reorder the rank of the Patriarchs


Hello Marlo!

It seems you have beat me to the punch, but that is the letter reffered to in my previous post


Like the paschal controversy under Pope Victor (186 or 189 to 197 or 201), when the whole Church rebuked him?

I [Polycrates], therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ‘We ought to obey God rather than man.’”
Thereupon Victor, who presided over the church at Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia, with the churches that agreed with them, as heterodox; and he wrote letters and declared all the brethren there wholly excommunicate.
10. But this did not please all the bishops. And they besought him to consider the things of peace, and of neighborly unity and love. Words of theirs are extant, sharply rebuking Victor.

The whole Church accepted this (including Rome), because except for C I c. 3, Nestorius would not have been a patriarch, and no one questioned that at Ephesus (the reason why a council had to depose him, otherwise the metropolitan of Heracleia could have seen to it).


But what is more to the point is that the Papal legates most probably had already at this very council recognized the right of Constantinople to rank immediately after Rome. For at the very first session when the Acts of the Latrocinium were read, it was found that to Flavian, the Archbishop of Constantinople, was given only the fifth place. Against this the bishop protested and asked, “Why did not Flavian receive his position?” and the papal legate Paschasinus answered: “We will, please God, recognize the present bishop Anatolius of Constantinople as the first *, but Dioscorus made Flavian the fifth.”


It would be the height of absurdity for any one to attempt to deny that the canon of Constantinople was entirely in force and practical execution, as far of those most interested were concerned, long before the meeting of the council of Chalcedon, and in 394, only thirteen years after the adoption of the canon, we find the bishop of Constantinople presiding at a synod at which both the bishop of Alexandria and the bishop of Antioch were present.

St. Leo made, in connexion with this matter, some statements which perhaps need not be commented upon, but should certainly not be forgotten. In his epistle to Anatolius (no. cvi.) in speaking of the third canon of Constantinople he says: “That document of certain bishops has never been brought by your predecessors to the knowledge of the Apostolic See.” And in writing to the Empress (Ep. cv., ad Pulch.) he makes the following statement, strangely contrary to what she at least knew to be the fact, “To this concession a long course of years has given no effect!”

So the Popes of Rome both didn’t know the canon, but were rejecting it at the same time. Interesting.

The papal annulling does not appear to have been of much force, for Leo himself confesses, in a letter written about a year later to the Empress Pulcheria (Ep. cxvi.), that the Illyrian bishops [who had been part of Rome’s patriarchate] had since the council subscribed the xxviiith canon.

Justinian acknowledged the Constantinopolitan and Chalcedonian rank of Constantinople in his CXXXIst Novel. (cap. j.), and the Synod in Trullo in canon xxxvi. renewed exactly canon xxviij. of Chalcedon. Moreover the Seventh Ecumenical with the approval of the Papal Legates gave a general sanction to all the canons accepted by the Trullan Synod.

Trullo (692) Canon XXXVI.

Renewing the enactments by the 150 Fathers assembled at the God-protected and imperial city, and those of the 630 who met at Chalcedon; we decree that the see of Constantinople shall have equal privileges with the see of Old Rome, and shall be highly regarded in ecclesiastical matters as that is, and shall be second after it. After Constantinople shall be ranked the See of Alexandria, then that of Antioch, and afterwards the See of Jerusalem.

On the Seventh Council Nicea II (787) ratifying Quintsext at Trullo

692 and 787 predate 1054 by a few centuries.

So much for your claim.*


So basically you have no answer to why Constantinople was vying for power that was not yet known to her infancy??


If you are directing this to me, you’re going to have to thresh it out a bit, because I’m not sure I know what you are asking.


It was directed at you. However, youll have to forgive me, my post was posted probably only seconds after yours.

Im not sure I understand when you say Rome rejected it but didnt even really know of it?? Ive read the letter from St. Leo but isnt it clear when the Pope’s Legates rejected it at Chalcedon along with the 28th of Chalcedon? When this took place the Legates were to stand and make their arguement in which they quoted the 6th Canon of Nicea and the arguements for the 28th, well they quoted the 3rd Canon of Constantinople that was obviously not widely recognized. Their arguement for its legitimacy was resting on unstable limbs.


I was talking of his comments on C I canon 3.

Ive read the letter from St. Leo but isnt it clear when the Pope’s Legates rejected it at Chalcedon along with the 28th of Chalcedon? When this took place the Legates were to stand and make their arguement in which they quoted the 6th Canon of Nicea and the arguements for the 28th, well they quoted the 3rd Canon of Constantinople that was obviously not widely recognized.

As posted above, it was widely recognized.

Their arguement for its legitimacy was resting on unstable limbs.

Unlike the Pope’s objection, it’s legitimacy stood, and had legs.


As my posts above show, even Leo had to admit his protest was for naught, as the Illyiran bishops acceptance of it showed.

btw Chalcedon canons also made Constantinople a court of appeal, and ennunciated the general principle at the basis of c. 28.

17 Rural or country parishes belonging to a church are to stay firmly tied to the bishops who have possession of them, and especially if they have continually and peacefully administered them over a thirty-year period. If, however, within the thirty years any dispute about them has arisen, or should arise, those who are claiming to be wronged are permitted to bring the case before the provincial synod. If there are any who are wronged by their own metropolitan, let their case be judged either by the exarch of the diocese or by the see of Constantinople, as has already been said. If any city has been newly erected, or is erected hereafter, by imperial decree, let the arrangement of ecclesiastical parishes conform to the civil and public regulations.

This seems to have escaped the notice of Leo (and modern Latin apologists).

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