Concilium Basiliense Documenta Omnia [Tanner Translation]




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In the name of the holy Trinity, Father, Son and holy Spirit, we define, with the approval of this holy universal council of Florence, that the following truth of faith shall be believed and accepted by all Christians and thus shall all profess it: that the holy Spirit is eternally from the Father and the Son, and has his essence and his subsistent being from the Father together with the Son, and proceeds from both eternally as from one principle and a single spiration. We declare that when holy doctors and fathers say that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, this bears the sense that thereby also the Son should be signified, according to the Greeks indeed as cause, and according to the Latins as principle of the subsistence of the holy Spirit, just like the Father.

And since the Father gave to his only-begotten Son in begetting him everything the Father has, except to be the Father, so the Son has eternally from the Father, by whom he was eternally begotten, this also, namely that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.

We define also that the explanation of those words "and from the Son" was licitly and reasonably added to the creed for the sake of declaring the truth and from imminent need.

Also, the body of Christ is truly confected in both unleavened and leavened wheat bread, and priests should confect the body of Christ in either, that is, each priest according to the custom of his western or eastern church. Also, if truly penitent people die in the love of God before they have made satisfaction for acts and omissions by worthy fruits of repentance, their souls are cleansed after death by cleansing pains; and the suffrages of the living faithful avail them in giving relief from such pains, that is, sacrifices of masses, prayers, almsgiving and other acts of devotion which have been customarily performed by some of the faithful for others of the faithful in accordance with the church's ordinances.

Also, the souls of those who have incurred no stain of sin whatsoever after baptism, as well as souls who after incurring the stain of sin have been cleansed whether in their bodies or outside their bodies, as was stated above, are straightaway received into heaven and clearly behold the triune God as he is, yet one person more perfectly than another according to the difference of their merits. But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains. We also define that the holy apostolic see and the Roman pontiff holds the primacy over the whole world and the Roman pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter prince of the apostles, and that he is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole church and the father and teacher of all Christians, and to him was committed in blessed Peter the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole church, as is contained also in the acts of ecumenical councils and in the sacred canons.

Also, renewing the order of the other patriarchs which has been handed down in the canons, the patriarch of Constantinople should be second after the most holy Roman pontiff, third should be the patriarch of Alexandria, fourth the patriarch of Antioch, and fifth the patriarch of Jerusalem, without prejudice to all their privileges and rights.

SESSION 7 4 September 1439

[Decree of the council of Florence against the synod at Basel]

Eugenius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, for an everlasting record. Moses, the man of God, was zealous for the well-being of the people entrusted to him. He feared that God's wrath would be roused against them if they followed Korah, Dathan and Abiram in their seditious schism. Therefore he said to the whole people, at the Lord's command: depart from the tents of these wicked men and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be involved in their sins. For he had perceived, under the Lord's inspiration, that those seditious and schismatic men would incur a grievous retribution, as was demonstrated afterwards when even the earth could not bear with them but by God's just judgment swallowed them up, so that they fell alive into hell.

Similarly we too to whom, though unworthy, the lord Jesus Christ has deigned to entrust his people, as we hear of the abominable crime that certain wicked men dwelling in Basel have plotted in these days so as to breach the unity of holy church, and since we fear that they may seduce some of the unwary by their deceits and inject them with their poisons, are forced to proclaim in like words to the people of our lord Jesus Christ entrusted to us, depart from the tents of these wicked men, particularly since the christian people is far more numerous than the Jewish people of those days, the church is holier than the synagogue, and the vicar of Christ is superior in authority and status even to Moses.

This impiety of those at Basel we began to foresee long ago, when we observed the council of Basel already lapsing into tyranny; when many, including those of lower status, were forced to go to it and to stay at the whim of that faction of agitators; when the votes and decisions of some of them were being extorted by various tricks and others were being suborned by lies and deceits, as they abandoned almost everything to conspiracies, cabals, monopolies and cliques, and from a long-standing rivalry with the papacy sought to prolong the duration of the council; when, finally, innumerable novelties, irregularities, deformities and ills were perpetrated, to which there concurred even clerics in lower orders, the ignorant and inexperienced, vagabonds, quarrellers, fugitives, apostates, condemned criminals, escapees from prison, those in rebellion against us and their own superiors, and other such human monsters, who brought with them every stain of corruption from those teachers of evil-doing.

We directed our attention also to that most holy work of union with the eastern church, which seemed to us to be greatly endangered by the deceit of certain factious persons, and we wished to provide as best we could for so many evils. For these and other just and necessary reasons which are stated in full in the decree of translation, with the advice of our venerable brothers the cardinals of the holy Roman church, and with the approval of very many venerable

brothers and sons, archbishops, bishops, elected persons, abbots and other prelates of churches, masters and doctors, we transferred the aforesaid council of Basel to this city of Ferrara, where we established with the Lord's help an ecumenical council of the western and the eastern church.

Afterwards, when the plague came and continued unabated, under the inspiration of grace and with the approval of the same holy council, we transferred the council to this city of Florence. Here the most gracious and merciful God showed his wonders. For, the most disastrous schism, which had endured in God's church for almost five hundred years to the immense harm of the whole of Christianity, and for the elimination of which very many of our predecessors as Roman pontiffs and many kings and princes and other Christians in past times had laboured very hard, at last, after public and private discussions in both places and many other labours, was removed and the most holy union of the Greeks and the Latins was happily achieved, as is described more fully in the decree about this which was drawn up and solemnly promulgated.

Returning fervent thanks for this to the eternal God and sharing our joy with all the faithful, we offered to God a sacrifice of jubilation and praise. For we saw that not just one nation like the Hebrew people was being summoned to the promised land, but peoples of many races, nations and tongues were hastening to the one utterance and merit of the divine truth. Through this, great hope is forthcoming that the sun of justice, rising in the east, will spread the beams of its light to pierce the darkness of many other races, even of infidels, and the salvation of the Lord may reach to the ends of the earth.

Already indeed, by God's providence, we have excellent pledges of this. For almighty God has granted that, by our means, representatives of the Armenians with full powers have recently come from most distant northern parts to us and the apostolic see and to this holy council. They regard and venerate us as no other than blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, they recognize the holy see as mother and mistress of all the faithful, and they profess that they have come to the holy see and to the aforesaid council for spiritual food and the truth of sound doctrine. For this too we have given many thanks to our God.

But the mind recoils from recording what troubles, attacks and persecutions we have suffered in the course of this divine undertaking until now, not indeed from Turks or Saracens but from those who call themselves Christians. Blessed Jerome reports that from the time of Hadrian until the reign of Constantine there was set up and worshipped by the pagans at the place of the Lord's resurrection an image of Jupiter and on the rock of the crucifixion a marble statue of Venus, since the authors of persecution thought that they could take away from us our faith in the resurrection and the cross if they polluted the holy places with their idols.

Much the same has happened in these days against us and the church of God, at the hands of those desperate men at Basel, except that what was then done by pagans ignorant of the true God is now the work of men who have known him and hated him Their pride, then, according to the prophet, is ever rising, all the more dangerously in that it is under the cloak of reform, which in truth they have always abhorred, that they spread their poisons.

In the first place, those who were the authors of all the scandals in Basel have failed in their promises to the Greeks. For they knew from the envoys of the Greeks and the eastern church that our most dear son in Christ John Palaeologus, illustrious emperor of the Romans, and Joseph, patriarch of Constantinople of happy memory, and the other prelates and persons of the eastern church wished to proceed to the place which had been legally chosen for the ecumenical council by our legates and presidents and other notable persons present there, whose right it was to choose the site in accordance with the agreement which had been approved by the common consent of the council after serious disagreements among its members. Whereupon we, for our part, confirmed the choice of place in a general consistory at Bologna and we sent to Constantinople, at great labour and expense, the galleys and other things necessary for this holy work of union.

When they learnt of this, they dared to decree against us and the aforesaid cardinals a detestable admonition or citation, so as to block the holy work, [and to send it to the aforesaid emperor and patriarch of Constantinople, so that they and all others] might be deterred from coming. Yet they knew full well that there was no chance of them going to any place other than the one which had been chosen for the site, as stated above.

Then, when they realized that the aforesaid emperor and patriarch and others were already on their way to us for this work of holy union, they tried to lay another wicked snare to catch this divine project. That is, they produced against us a sacrilegious sentence of suspension from the administration of the papacy. Finally, those leaders of scandal, very few in number, most of them of the lowest rank and reputation, in their intense hatred of true peace, piling iniquity on top of iniquity lest they should enter into the justice of the Lord, when they saw that the grace of the holy Spirit was working in us towards union with the Greeks, swerving away from the straight line into paths of error, held a so-called session on 16 May last asserting that they were obeying certain decrees, although these were passed at Constance by only one of the three obediences after the flight of John XXIII, as he was called in that one obedience, at a time of schism.

Alleging obedience to those decrees, they proclaimed three propositions which they term truths of the faith, seemingly to make heretics of us and all princes and prelates and other faithful and devout adherents of the apostolic see. The propositions are the following.

"The truth about the authority of a general council, representing the universal church, over a pope and anyone else whatsoever, declared by the general councils of Constance and this one of Basel, is a truth of the catholic faith. The truth that a pope cannot by any authority, without its consent, dissolve a general council representing the universal church, legitimately assembled for the reasons given in the above-mentioned truth or for any of them, or prorogue it to another time or transfer it from place to place, is a truth of the catholic faith. Anyone who persists in opposing the aforesaid truths is to be considered a heretic."

In this, those utterly pernicious men, masking their malice with the rosy colour of a truth of the faith, gave to the council of Constance an evil and mischievous meaning completely opposed to its true teaching, imitating in this the teaching of other schismatics and heretics who always amass for their support fabricated errors and impious dogmas drawn from their perverse interpretation of the divine scriptures and the holy fathers.

Finally, completely perverting their mind and turning away their eyes from looking to heaven or remembering righteous judgments, after the manner of Dioscorus and the infamous synod of Ephesus, they proceeded to a declaratory sentence of deprivation, as they claimed, from the dignity and office of the supreme apostolate, a poisonous and execrable pronouncement involving an unforgivable crime. Here we will take the tenor of that sentence, abhorrent to every pious mind, as sufficiently expressed. They omitted nothing, as far as was in their power, that might overthrow this incomparable good of union.

O miserable and degenerate sons! O wicked and adulterous generation! What could be more cruel than this impiety and iniquity? Can anything more detestable, more dreadful and more mad be imagined? Earlier on they were the ones who said that nothing better, nothing more glorious and fruitful had ever been seen or heard of in the christian people, from the very birth of the church, than this most holy union, and that to further it there should be no contention about the place, but rather to achieve it the wealth of this world as well as body and soul should be hazarded, proclaiming this aloud to the whole world and urging the christian people to it, as their decrees and letters fully state. But now they persecute exactly this as furiously and as impiously as they can, so that the devils of the entire world seem to have flocked together to that conventicle of brigands at Basel.

So far almighty God has not allowed their iniquity and its lying inconsistencies to prevail. But seeing that they are striving with all their strength to bring it to success, even to the point of setting up the abomination of desolation in God's church, we can in no way pretend to ignore these things without most serious offence to God and imminent danger of confusion and abomination in God's church. In keeping with our pastoral office, at the urging of many who are fired with zeal for God, we wish to put a stop to such evils and, as far as we can, to take appropriate and salutary measures to eliminate from God's church this execrable impiety and most destructive pestilence.

Following in the steps of our predecessors who, as Pope Nicholas of holy memory writes, were accustomed to annul councils which had been conducted improperly, even those of universal pontiffs, as occurred at the second universal synod at Ephesus, inasmuch as the blessed pope Leo summoned it but later established the council of Chalcedon.

We renew by our apostolic authority, with the approval of this holy council of Florence, the solemn and salutary decree against those sacrilegious men, which was issued by us in the sacred general council of Ferrara on 15 February. By that decree we declared among other things, with the approval of the said sacred council of Ferrara, that each and every person at Basel who, in the name of a pretended council which we called more accurately a conventicle, dared to perpetrate those scandalous and wicked deeds in contravention of our translation and declaration, whether they are cardinals, patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, abbots or of some other ecclesiastical or secular dignity, has incurred the penalties of excommunication, privation of dignities, benefices and offices and disqualification for the future, which are instanced in our letter of translation.

Now we decree and declare again that all the things done or attempted by those impious men presently in Basel, which were mentioned in our said decree of Ferrara, and each and all of the things done, performed or attempted by the same men since then, especially in the two so-called sessions or rather conspiracies which have just been mentioned, and whatever may have followed from these things or from any of them, or may follow in the future, as coming from impious men who have no authority and have been rejected and reprobated by God, were and are null, quashed, invalid, presumptuous and of no effect, force or moment.

With the approval of the sacred council we condemn and reject, and we proclaim as condemned and rejected, those propositions quoted above as understood in the perverse sense of the men at Basel, which they demonstrate by their deeds, as contrary to the sound sense of sacred scripture, the holy fathers and the council of Constance itself; and likewise the aforesaid so-called sentence of declaration or deprivation, with all its present and future consequences, as impious and scandalous and tending to open schism in God's church and to the confusion of all ecclesiastical order and christian government. Also, we decree and declare that all of the aforesaid persons have been and are schismatics and heretics, And that as such they are assuredly to be punished with suitable penalties over and above the penalties imposed at the aforesaid council of Ferrara, together with all their supporters and abettors, of whatever ecclesiastical or secular status, condition or rank they may be, even cardinals, patriarchs, archbishops, bishops or abbots or those of any other dignity, so that they may receive their deserts with the aforesaid Korah, Dathan and Abiram Let nobody therefore ... If anyone however ...

SESSION 8 22 November 1439 [Bull of union with the Armenians]

Eugenius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, for an everlasting record. All people everywhere who go by the name of Christian: Exult in God our helper, rejoice in the God of Jacob. Behold the Lord once again, mindful of his mercy had deigned to remove from his church another stumbling block which has endured for more than nine centuries. He who makes peace in the heavens and is peace on earth for people of good will, has granted in his inexpressible mercy that most desired union with the Armenians. Blessed be the God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ, the father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation. For the most merciful Lord, seeing his church buffeted about by strong whirlwinds, some times at the hands of those who are outside, at other times at the hands of those within, deigns in many ways every day to console and strengthen her so that she may be able to breathe freely in the midst of her troubles and to rise more robust to resist.

Some time ago God established that great union with the Greeks, who include many races and tongues spread far and wide. Today God has confirmed in the same bond of faith and charity with the apostolic see this union with the Armenians, who are a very numerous people spread over the north and east. These indeed are such great and wondrous benefactions of divine providence that the human mind cannot render worthy thanks for either of them, still less for both together. Who would not be overwhelmed with admiration at the achievement in this council, within so short a time, of two such brilliant feats which have been longed for over centuries ? Truly this is the Lord's doing and it is wonderful in our eyes. For how could human prudence or diligence have brought to completion such great exploits as these are, unless the favour of God had given them their beginning and end? Let us, then, together and with all our hearts bless the Lord who alone does great wonders, let us sing with the spirit, let us sing with our minds and our mouths and let us give thanks in deeds, as far as human weakness allows, for such great gifts. Let us pray and beseech that, as the Greeks and the Armenians have been made one with the Roman church, so also may other nations be, especially those signed with the seal of Christ, and that finally the whole christian people, after all hatreds and wars have been extinguished, may rest and rejoice together in mutual peace and brotherly love. Rightly we hold that the Armenians deserve great praise. As soon as they were invited by us to this synod, in their eagerness for ecclesiastical unity, at the cost of many labours and much toil and perils at sea, they sent to us and this council from very distant parts, their notable, dedicated and learned envoys with sufficient powers to accept, namely whatever the holy Spirit should inspire this holy synod to achieve.

We, for our part, with all our attention as befits our pastoral office and desiring to bring this holy work to a successful conclusion, frequently conversed with their envoys about this holy union. To avoid even the slightest delay in this holy project, we nominated from every rank of this sacred council experts in divine and human law to treat of the matter with the envoys with all care, study and diligence, closely inquiring of them about their faith in respect of the unity of the divine essence and the Trinity of divine persons, also about the humanity of our lord Jesus Christ, the seven sacraments of the church and other points concerning the orthodox faith and the rites of the universal church.

So, after many debates, conferences and disputations, after a thorough examination of the written authorities which were produced from fathers and doctors of the church, and after discussion of the questions at issue, at length, so that in future there could be no doubt about the truth of the faith of the Armenians and that they should think in every way like the apostolic see and that the union should be stable and lasting with no cause for hesitation whatsoever we judged it advantageous, with the approval of this sacred council of Florence and the agreement of the said envoys, to give in this decree a summary of the truth of the orthodox faith that the Roman church professes about the above.

In the first place, then, we give them the holy creed issued by the hundred and fifty bishops in the ecumenical council of Constantinople, with the added phrase and the Son, which for the sake of declaring the truth and from urgent necessity was licitly and reasonably added to that creed, which runs as follows: I believe . . . I We decree that this holy creed should be sung or read within the mass at least on Sundays and greater feasts, as is the Latin custom, in all Armenian churches.

In the second place, we give them the definition of the fourth council of Chalcedon about two natures in the one person of Christ, which was later renewed in the fifth and sixth universal councils. It runs as follows: This wise and saving creed ... Thirdly, the definition about the two wills and two principles of action of Christ promulgated in the above-mentioned sixth council, the tenor of which is This pious and orthodox creed, and the rest which follows in the above-mentioned definition of the council of Chalcedon until the end, after which it continues thus: And we proclaim

Fourth, apart from the three synods of Nicaea, Constantinople and the first of Ephesus, the Armenians have accepted no other later universal synods nor the most blessed Leo, bishop of this holy see, by whose authority the council of Chalcedon met. For they claim that it was proposed to them that both the synod of Chalcedon and the said Leo had made the definition in accordance with the condemned heresy of Nestorius. So we instructed them and declared that such a suggestion was false and that the synod of Chalcedon and blessed Leo holily and rightly defined the truth of two natures in the one person of Christ, described above, against the impious tenets of Nestorius and Eutyches. We commanded that for the future they should hold and venerate the most blessed Leo, who was a veritable pillar of the faith and replete with all sanctity and doctrine, as a saint deservedly inscribed in the calendar of the saints; and that they should reverence and respect, like the rest of the faithful, not only the three above-mentioned synods but also all other universal synods legitimately celebrated by the authority of the Roman pontiff.

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