First Ecumenical Council: Nicaea I (325). To
this council we owe The Nicene Creed , defining
against Arius the true Divinity of the Son of God,
and the fixing of the date for keeping Easter.
Second Ecumenical Council: Constantinople I (381).
It was directed against the followers of Macedonius,
who denied the Divinity of the Holy Spirit. To the
above-mentioned Nicene Creed it added the clauses
referring to the Holy Spirit.
Third Ecumenical Council: Ephesus (431). It
defined the true personal unity of Christ, declared
Mary the Mother of God ( theotokos ) against
Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, and renewed the
condemnation of Pelagius.
Fourth Ecumenical Council: Chalcedon (451).
It defined the two natures (Divine and human) in
Christ against Eutyches, who was excommunicated.
Fifth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople II (553).
It condemned the errors of Origen and certain
writings ( The Three Chapters ) of Theodoret, of
Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia and of Ibas, Bishop
of Edessa ; it further confirmed the first four
general councils, especially that of Chalcedon whose
authority was contested by some heretics.
Sixth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople III
(680-681). It put an end to Monothelitism by
defining two wills in Christ, the Divine and the
human, as two distinct principles of operation. It
anathematized Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul,
Macarius, and all their followers.
Seventh Ecumenical Council: Nicaea II (787).
It regulated the veneration of holy images.
Eighth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople IV
(869). It consigned to the flames the
Acts of an irregular council ( conciliabulum )
brought together by Photius against Pope Nicholas
and Ignatius the legitimate Patriarch of
Constantinople; it condemned Photius who had
unlawfully seized the patriarchal dignity. The
Photian Schism, however, triumphed in the Greek
Church, and no other general council took place in
Ninth Ecumenical Council: Lateran I (1123).
It abolished the right claimed by lay princes, of
investiture with ring and crosier to ecclesiastical
benefices and dealt with church discipline and the
recovery of the Holy Land from the infidels.
Tenth Ecumenical Council: Lateran II (1139).
Its object was to put an end to the errors of Arnold
Eleventh Ecumenical Council: Lateran III (1179).
It condemned the Albigenses and Waldenses and
issued numerous decrees for the reformation of
Twelfth Ecumenical Council: Lateran IV (1215).
It issued an enlarged creed against the Albigenses,
condemned the Trinitarian errors of Abbot Joachim,
and published 70 important reformatory decrees. This
is the most important council of the Middle Ages,
and it marks the culminating point of ecclesiastical
life and papal power.
Thirteenth Ecumenical Council: Lyons I (1245).
It excommunicated and deposed Emperor Frederick
II and directed a new crusade, under the command of
St. Louis, against the Saracens and Mongols.
Fourteenth Ecumenical Council: Lyons II (1274).
It effected a temporary reunion of the Greek Church
with Rome. The word filioque was added to the symbol
of Constantinople and means were sought for
recovering Palestine from the Turks. It also laid
down the rules for papal elections.
Fifteenth Ecumenical Council: Vienne (1311-1313).
The synod dealt with the crimes and errors
imputed to the Knights Templars, the Fraticelli, the
Beghards, and the Beguines, with projects of a new
crusade, the reformation of the clergy, and the
teaching of Oriental languages in the universities.
Sixteenth Ecumenical Council: Constance
(1414-1418). The Council of Constance was held
during the great Schism of the West, with the object
of ending the divisions in the Church. It became
legitimate only when Gregory XI had formally
convoked it. Owing to this circumstance it succeeded
in putting an end to the schism by the election of
Pope Martin V, which the Council of Pisa (1403) had
failed to accomplish on account of its illegality.
The rightful pope confirmed the former decrees of
the synod against Wyclif and Hus. This council is
thus ecumenical only in its last sessions (XLII-XLV
inclusive) and with respect to the decrees of
earlier sessions approved by Martin V.
Seventeenth Ecumenical Council:
Basle/Ferrara/Florence (1431-1439). The Council
of Basle met first in that town, Eugene IV being
pope, and Sigismund Emperor of the Holy Roman
Empire. Its object was the religious pacification of
Bohemia. Quarrels with the pope having arisen, the
council was transferred first to Ferrara (1438),
then to Florence (1439), where a short-lived union
with the Greek Church was effected, the Greeks
accepting the council's definition of controverted
points. The Council of Basle is only ecumenical till
the end of the twenty-fifth session, and of its
decrees Eugene IV approved only such as dealt with
the extirpation of heresy, the peace of Christendom,
and the reform of the Church, and which at the same
time did not derogate from the rights of the Holy
See. (See also the Council of Florence.)
Eighteenth Ecumenical Council: Lateran V
(1512-1517). Its decrees are chiefly
disciplinary. A new crusade against the Turks was
also planned, but came to naught, owing to the
religious upheaval in Germany caused by Luther.
Nineteenth Ecumenical Council: Trent (1545-1563).
It was convoked to examine and condemn the
errors promulgated by Luther and other Reformers,
and to reform the discipline of the Church. Of all
councils it lasted longest, issued the largest
number of dogmatic and reformatory decrees, and
produced the most beneficial results.
Twentieth Ecumenical Council: Vatican I
(1869-1870). Besides important canons relating
to the Faith and the constitution of the Church, the
council decreed the infallibility of the pope when
speaking ex cathedra , i.e. when as shepherd and
teacher of all Christians, he defines a doctrine
concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole
Twenty-first Ecumenical Council: Vatican II
(1962-1965). It was convened by Pope John XXIII to spiritually renew the church and examine its position
in the modern world. Up to this point in the Twentieth Century the Church was
living under the structure and rules of the Council of Trent. The seminaries and
convents were bursting with record crops of new priests and nuns. The Church
appeared to be both healthy and vibrant in Europe, the United States, and
throughout the world. The missions were producing record numbers of converts.
Pope Paul VI took over the chair of St. Peter in 1963,
reconvening the Council. Soon after the Council ended, the
masterful Documents of Vatican II was published. Poorly implemented in
many countries, they became an excuse for widespread
experimentation with the liturgy of the Mass and for
reworking the constitutions and regulations of the
religious orders. Less than ten years later began an
enormous exodus from the priesthood and religious
life. See also:
Vatican II questioned.