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A.A. Vasiliev
History of the Byzantine empire

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The Sixth Ecumenical Council and religious peace.

Although Monotheletism had lost its political significance, it still continued to sow discord among the people even after the prohibition of the Type. Then the successor of Constans II, Constantine IV, desirous of establishing complete religious peace in the Empire, convoked in the year 680 in Constantinople the Sixth Ecumenical Council, which condemned Monotheletism and recognized two natures in Jesus Christ displayed in his one hypostasis, and “two natural wills and operations [energies] going together harmoniously for the salvation of the human race.”[81]

            Peace with Rome was definitely re-established. The communication sent by the sixth council to the pope addressed him as “the head of the first see of the Universal Church, standing on the firm rock of faith,” and declared that the pope’s message to the Emperor expounded the true principles of religion.[82]

            Thus, in the time of Constantine IV, the Byzantine government definitely expressed itself against Monophysitism and Monotheletism. The patriarchates of Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch, torn from the Empire by the Arabian conquest, nevertheless took part in the Sixth Ecumenical Council by sending their representatives. The patriarch of Antioch, Macarius, who apparently lived in Constantinople and exercised jurisdiction only in Cilicia and Isauria,[83] argued the case of Monotheletism at the council, and for this stand was deposed and excommunicated. The decisions of the sixth council proved to Syria, Palestine, and Egypt that Constantinople had abandoned the desire to find a path for religious reconciliation with the provinces which no longer formed part of the Byzantine Empire. Religious peace with Rome was reached by way of resolute alienation from the Monophysitic and Monotheletic population of the eastern provinces, a fact which aided greatly the further strengthening of the Arabian power in these provinces. Syria, Palestine, and Egypt became definitely separated from the Byzantine Empire.

            It cannot be said that the agreement reached with Rome on the Sixth Ecumenical Council lasted very long. Even in the reign of Justinian II, the successor of Constantine IV, relations between the Byzantine Empire and Rome became strained again. Desirous of completing the task of the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils, Justinian II summoned in 691 a synod in Constantinople, which was held in the Domed Hall. This council was called Trullan,[84] from the place of its meetings, or Quinisext (Quinisextum), because it completed the task of the two preceding ecumenical councils. This synod called itself ecumenical. Pope Sergius refused to sign the acts of the council by reason of certain clauses, such as the prohibition of fasting on Saturdays, and the permission to priests to marry. Following the example of Constans II, who had exiled Martin to the Crimea, Justinian ordered Sergius to be arrested and brought to Constantinople. But the army of Italy protected him against the imperial commissioner, who would have lost his life had it not been for the intercession of the pope.[85]

            During the second reign of Justinian II (705-11), Pope Constantine came at the invitation of the Emperor to Constantinople, the last pope to be summoned to the capital of the Byzantine Empire. He was treated with highest honors by Justinian, who, the papal biographer claims, prostrated himself before the pope with the imperial crown upon his head, and kissed his feet.[86] Justinian and the pope reached a satisfactory compromise, but there is no exact information on it. Pope Constantine, as the German church historian, Hefele, pointed out, had by this time undoubtedly attained the fair middle path which Pope John VIII (872-882) subsequently followed by declaring that “he accepted all those canons which did not contradict the true faith, good morals, and the decrees of Rome.”[87] Pope Constantine returned safely to Rome and was welcomed by the people with great joy. Religious peace seemed finally established within the greatly reduced boundaries of the Empire.



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