Nicene Creed Question


Just a quick question…

My Eastern Orthodox friend told me that the Catholic Church is basically under anathema because we added the word filioque–and the son–to the Nicene Creed. From what I understand the bishops composited it to declare that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. But to many E.O, including my friend, it was illicit, because the Council of Ephesus condemned anyone who composes a new creed. How should I reply to this?

Thanks and God bless,


So the entire Catholic Church was excommunicated? And when did God come down and tell your friend this?

Before the creation of earth, there was already The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. The filioque controversy is indeed a mystery, but to make such a claim as above, and confusing it will lead billions of souls to hell is quite harsh and over the top in my opinion.

The Church is perfect, the people in it are not. Pope infallibility is something I have to trust in and believe in as a Catholic. But in my opinion, we won’t be held accountable if something was wrongly interpreted or misunderstood…not the filioque or Pope Infallibility anyway ( I’m not speaking about the original protestants not being held accountable as they have a lot to answer for splintering Christ’s Church).


While I understand the historical reasons for adding the “filioque” I agree that adding it without an Ecumenical Council was a serious error. As much as I love Pope Pius IX his dogmatic assertion that the Pope is infallible makes life very difficult. Major decisions should not have taken place without the entire Church involved. But they were. A thousand years have elapsed. To extricate ourselves from this is certainly a difficult problem. Yet, Popes throughout the twentieth century and some Patriarchs as well have made great efforts in this area. I pray that this wound will be healed.



This might help:


Excellent link elvisman.

If we believe that The Holy Spirit comes from The Father through The Son, what is the controversy? I see none.


Thank you so much for the link!!


Let’s just say that the “filoque” was but one straw that broke the camel’s back. The relationship between the East and West was rocky and on and off for many years before the final schism. Not the least of the problems was the interference of the Roman Emperor in Constantinople in church affairs. While the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantanople were on and off with accepting the Primacy of the Pope in Rome they usually reconciled until the final break abour 1050 A.D.


The problem here is that the Eastern Orthodox, just like the modern RCC, believes that IT is the true Catholic Church.

They believe that it was the West that left the Catholic Church (them) and not the other way around.


Ephesus may have declared that no changes to the creeds were to be made. Since Ephesus was after Nicea and Constantinople where the filioque was incorporated. It basically says that the filioque was not to be removed.

The Patriarch was excommunicated by the Pope and the Patriarch responded by excommunicating the Pope. These excommunications were lifted by John Paul II and the then Patriarch several years ago.


Which canon? Could you give a link?



This was exactly what I was looking for. Thanks Br. Rich!!


I ask again, where in the Council of Ephesus is “filioque” used in the Creed? Where?



**Canon 7 of the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus:

When these things had been read, the holy Synod decreed that 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 in like manner, if any, whether bishops, clergymen, or laymen, should be discovered to hold or teach the doctrines contained in the Exposition introduced by the Presbyter Charisius concerning the Incarnation of the Only-Begotten Son of God, or the abominable and profane doctrines of Nestorius, which are subjoined, they shall be subjected to the sentence of this holy and ecumenical Synod. So that, if it be a bishop, he shall be removed from his bishopric and degraded; if it be a clergyman, he shall likewise be stricken from the clergy; and if it be a layman, he shall be anathematized, as has been afore said.

Canon 7 is referring to altering the faith, not to clarifying the Creed. The West clarified the Creed in the West under Western theology. It did not altar the fundamental truths of the creed. At the Council of Florence held in the 14th century where the East and West were temporarily re-united the Greek and Latin Fathers agreed that the filioque was no issue. They both agreed that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father through the Son.


Thank you, but it doesn’t clarify the central issue that Br. raised. It is true that Ephesus forbade changing the Nicene Creed but where does the Council of Ephesus use filioque in the creed that they used? I’ve done a little searching but can find no such usage until Spain in later centuries and then insisted upon by St. Isidore of Seville and then by Charlemagne…

It seems that “clarifying” or “altering” is in the eye of the beholder.



under anethema from whom?
since the Easter Orthodox churches are governed by their various patriarchs, with no central authority comparable to that of the Pope in the west, who claims authority to issue such a decree?


I would reply by quoting an Eastern Orthodox bishop…

Bishop Kallistos Ware: "the [filioque controversy] is more in the area of semantics and different emphases than in any basic doctrinal differences" (Speech to a symposium on the Trinity; Rose Hill College, Aiken, South Carolina).

Likewise, Eastern Orthodox Metropolitan Damaskinos of Switzerland, in a letter to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 30 October 2000, stated (apart from the continuing issue of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff):

***…the variance in theologies [of East and West] can be understood as compatible within one and the same faith… ***our differences are to be understood in the sense of varying legitimate developments of one and the same apostolic faith in East and West, and not as divisions in the tradition of the faith itself.

I would also quote from the joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration from Pope Paul VI and Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I:

Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I with his synod, in common agreement, declare that:

[LEFT]A. They regret the offensive words, the reproaches without foundation, and the reprehensible gestures which, on both sides, have marked or accompanied the sad events [which preceded the mutal excommuncations of AD 1054].[/LEFT]

[LEFT]B. They likewise regret and remove both from memory and from the midst of the Church the sentences of excommunication which followed these events, the memory of which has influenced actions up to our day and has hindered closer relations in charity; and they commit these excommunications to oblivion.[/LEFT]

[LEFT]C. Finally, they deplore the preceding and later vexing events which, under the influence of various factors—among which, lack of understanding and mutual trust—eventually led to the effective rupture of ecclesiastical communion.[/LEFT]

[LEFT]5. Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I with his synod realize that this gesture of justice and mutual pardon is not sufficient to end both old and more recent differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.[/LEFT]

While I agree there are still doctrinal barriers that keep us from full communion, I disagree that the filioque issue is necessarily among these barriers.


Exactly! Semantics is exactly what this non-controversy is [was] about.


I said in response to what the original poster said:
“Ephesus may have declared that no changes to the creeds were to be made. Since Ephesus was after Nicea and Constantinople where the filioque was incorporated. It basically says that the filioque was not to be removed.”

In other words IF Ephesus (431) declared that no changes were to be made to the Creed. It was to protect the Creeds as stated in Nicea (325) and Constantinople (381) where the filioque was added.

Does that make it clearer.


Correction it was Pope Paul VI not JPII.


Br. Rich, I don’t think the Filioque was part of Nicene’s Creed, nor Constantinople’s modification of that Creed. It was asserted apart from these counciles in the East and West, but not included in the acts or canons of these councils, as I understand it.

Yet, the argument that one cannot, without authority of an Ecumenical Council, modify the Nicene Creed is unconvincing, since between Nicea and Constantinople, Nicea’s creed was indeed modified apart from authority of the Ecumenical Council. The modifications were well in use by faithful Christians before Constantinople affirmed them. In other words, Constantinople adopted a creedal formula already in use. How could such a formula be legitimately in use if only an Ecumenical Council had the authority to modify are prior Creed?

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