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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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3.

 Let the Bishop of Constantinople, however, have the priorities of honor after the Bishop of Rome, because of its being New Rome.

 

Interpretation.

The preceding Canon dealt with patriarchs as a group (and especially with those of Alexandria and of Antioch), whereas the present Canon deals with the Patriarch of Constantinople specially, and says that he is to share the prerogatives of honor after the Pope and Patriarch of Rome, since Constantinople itself is also called New Rome.

    The preposition after here does not denote being later in point of time, as some say in company with Aristenus, but neither does it denote any abasement and diminution, as Zonaras incorrectly interprets it (because, in view of the fact that the bishop of Alexandria is after the bishop of Constantinople, and the bishop of Antioch is after the bishop of Alexandria, and the bishop of Jerusalem is after the bishop of Antioch, according to c. XXXVI of the Sixth Ec. C., there would result four removes of honor, and consequently five different degrees of honor one higher than the other, which is contrary to all the catholic Church, and acceptable only to the Latins and the Latin-minded); but, on the contrary, it denotes equality of honor, and an order of disposition according to which one is first and another second. The fact that it denotes equality of honor is to be seen in the fact that the Fathers assembled in Chalcedon, in their c. XXVIII, assert that these 150 Bishops gave equal priorities to the Bishop of old Rome and to the Bishop of new Rome; and in the fact that the Bishops who convened in the Trullus (i.e. the First Trullan Council, herein designated the Sixth Ecumenical), in their c. XXXVI, say for the Bishop of Constantinople to enjoy equal priorities with the Bishop of Rome. That it refers to order of disposition is to be seen in the fact that both the former and the latter in the same Canons call the Bishop of Constantinople second after the Bishop of Rome, not the second in point of honor, but the second in order of honor. For in the very nature of things it is impossible for there to be any two equal beings called first and second with respect to one another, without any order. That is why Justinian, in Novel 130 to be found in Book V of the Basilica, Title III, calls the Bishop of Rome first, and the Bishop of Constantinople second, coming in order after the one of Rome. Note that inasmuch as Zonaras, however, in interpreting the Canon, prefixed this decree of Justinian, it is evident that as for the diminution and abasement which he ascribed above to the Bishop of Constantinople with respect to the one of Rome, was ascribed only with reference to the order of honor, and not with reference to the honor in general, according to which the one precedes and the other follows both in the matter of signatures and in the matter of seats as well as in the matter of mentioning their names. Some, it is true, assert that the present Canon grants only an honor to the Bishop of Constantinople, but that later urgent need gave him also the authority to ordain the Metropolitans in Asia and Pontus and Thrace. But the Council held in Chalcedon in its letter to Leo says that he held such authority to ordain them by virtue of an ancient custom; but its c. XXVIII (i.e., of the Fourth Ec. C). merely confirmed this.[51] Read also c. XXVIII of the Fourth.

 

 




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