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Fourth Council of Constantinople

It is uncertain which fourth Council of Constantinople was in fact the eighth ecumenical council. The Eastern Church recognizes only seven ecumenical councils, but they do sometimes recognize an eighth council as that which took place in 879 under the leadership of Patriarch Photius* of Constantinople. The Latin West, however, recognizes the eighth ecumenical council as being the one which took place in 869 under Patriarch Ignatius. The latter had decided to rebuke the immorality of Emperor Caesar Bardas. Ignatius was arrested and the layman Photius was promptly nominated in his place. Ignatius was exiled, then voluntarily resigned. The supporters of Ignatius, however, who considered Photius to be illegitimate, were able to convince Pope Nicholas I that he should intervene. He convoked a synod at Rome which at once voted to excommunicate Photius and to reinstate Ignatius. Photius in turn held a counter synod and deposed the Roman pope.

Photius's greatest support came from Emperor Michael III. But the emperor was murdered in 867, and his successor, Basil, decided to restore Ignatius as patriarch. Basil convened the 869 council which voted against Photius and in favor of Ignatius. Another action of the council was to condemn the Monothelites and the Iconoclasts as had been done in past councils. Photius, however, was reappointed to the patriarchal see shortly after the death of Ignatius in 877. He then convened his own Council of Constantinople in 879. It annulled the council of 869, branding it as fraudulent, and it readopted the Nicene Creed. The council specifically spoke against the Filioque, the phrase “and from the Son” which was added to the Nicene Creed by the Western Church to show that the Holy Spirit came from the Father and from the Son. The council ended by praising the virtues of Photius.