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First Council of Constantinople

381. Summoned by Theodosius I, it was attended by bishops from the civil dioceses of Oriens, Asia, Pontus, and Thrace at first, and later by Timothy of Alexandria and Ascholius of Thessalonica. Mainly it confirmed earlier decisions: the appointment of Melitius* to Antioch and Gregory Nazianzus* to Constantinople; acceptance of the Creed of Nicea and the homoousia of the Holy Spirit by Damasus of Rome (372), by the Council of Antioch under Melitius (379), and by Theodosius (380), whose condemnation of heretics is reflected in canon 1. The authority of this local Eastern council, entitled “ecumenical” in 382, was recognized at Chalcedon.

When Melitius died and Gregory retired, attacked for his appointment to a second see (Constantinople), the council appointed Flavian to Antioch and Nectarius, a government official, to Constantinople. The council presented six canons (the seventh is spurious) to Theodosius for ratification. Canon 1 confirms the Nicene faith and anathematizes all heretics, mentioning Anomoeans, Eudoxians (“Homoeans”), Pneumatomachi, Sabellians, Photinians, and Apollinarians. Canon 2 forbids bishops functioning outside the civil diocese of their see, although founding churches may still regulate mission churches among barbarians. The controversial third canon gives Constantinople primacy of honor next to Rome “because Constantinople is new Rome.” Alexandria resented this relegation, and Rome rejected political prominence as a ground of her ecclesiastical supremacy. Canon 4 cancels the Acta of Maximus, while 5 and 6 (probably promulgated in 382) accepted Roman and Antiochene “tomes” and regulated accusations against bishops. The Acta of Chalcedon (451) attribute the “Nicene” creed to this council. Possibly known to Epiphanius of Salamis in 374, it was based probably on a local creed used at the baptism of Nectarius.

J.D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum Nova et Amplissima Collectio, III (1759), cols. 521-600; W. Bright, Notes on the Canons of the First Four General Councils (2nd ed., 1892); J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds (1960).