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Council of Pisa

1409. Convoked by cardinals in an effort to end the Great Schism.* Eight of Gregory XII's* cardinals deserted him and joined the Avignonese cardinals to summon this general council in June 1409. The assembly was attended by approximately 500 members, representative of much of the Western Church. England, France, Portugal, Poland, Bohemia, and Sicily were represented, but there was no approval given by Scotland, Scandinavia, Hungary, Castile, Aragon, Ladislas of Naples, or the emperor Rupert in Germany. The council claimed authority and legitimacy on the basis of arguments developed by Cardinal P. d'Ailly* (who had deserted Benedict XIII*), F. Zabarella (created cardinal in 1411), and Jean Gerson.* They declared that the assembly-although not called together by a pope-fully expressed the unity of the church and had power to end the Schism. Peace was maintained because of the presence of Cardinal Cossa (later John XXIII*). The council deposed the existing popes (Gregory XII and Benedict XIII) as heretics and schismatics, and authorized the cardinals to elect a new pope. They elected the Greek cardinal, Peter Philargi, who became Alexander V.* The council also made an effort to deal with Wycliffism and the Bohemian movement.

There has been much criticism of this council. It is not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as being ecumenical, because of the irregularity of its convocation. It did not end the Schism, which was now further complicated by having three rival popes. It was unable to enforce its decrees because it lacked sufficient support from the secular rulers in the Christian world. It is, however, agreed that this council prepared the way for the final healing of the Schism, which took place at the Council of Constance* in 1415.