The Filioque: a Church-Dividing Issue?

Table of contents

Share |

II. Historical Considerations

Throughout the early centuries of the Church, the Latin and Greek traditions witnessed to the same apostolic faith, but differed in their ways of describing the relationship among the persons of the Trinity. The difference generally reflected the various pastoral challenges facing the Church in the West and in the East. The Nicene Creed (325) bore witness to the faith of the Church as it was articulated in the face of the Arian heresy, which denied the full divinity of Christ. In the years following the Council of Nicaea, the Church continued to be challenged by views questioning both the full divinity and the full humanity of Christ, as well as the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Against these challenges, the fathers at the Council of Constantinople (381) affirmed the faith of Nicaea, and produced an expanded Creed, based on the Nicene but also adding significantly to it.

Of particular note was this Creed’s more extensive affirmation regarding the Holy Spirit, a passage clearly influenced by Basil of Caesaraea’s classic treatise On the Holy Spirit, which had probably been finished some six years earlier. The Creed of Constantinople affirmed the faith of the Church in the divinity of the Spirit by saying: “and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds (ekporeuetai) from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.” Although the text avoided directly calling the Spirit “God,” or affirming (as Athanasius and Gregory of Nazianzus had done) that the Spirit is “of the same substance” as the Father and the Son – statements that doubtless would have sounded extreme to some theologically cautious contemporaries - the Council clearly intended, by this text, to make a statement of the Church’s faith in the full divinity of the Holy Spirit, especially in opposition to those who viewed the Spirit as a creature. At the same time, it was not a concern of the Council to specify the manner of the Spirit’s origin, or to elaborate on the Spirit’s particular relationships to the Father and the Son.
The acts of the Council of Constantinople were lost, but the text of its Creed was quoted and formally acknowledged as binding, along with the Creed of Nicaea, in the dogmatic statement of the Council of Chalcedon (451). Within less than a century, this Creed of 381 had come to play a normative role in the definition of faith, and by the early sixth century was even proclaimed in the Eucharist in Antioch, Constantinople, and other regions in the East. In regions of the Western churches, the Creed was also introduced into the Eucharist, perhaps beginning with the third Council of Toledo in 589. It was not formally introduced into the Eucharistic liturgy at Rome, however, until the eleventh century – a point of some importance for the process of official Western acceptance of the Filioque.

No clear record exists of the process by which the word Filioque was inserted into the Creed of 381 in the Christian West before the sixth century. The idea that the Spirit came forth “from the Father through the Son” is asserted by a number of earlier Latin theologians, as part of their insistence on the ordered unity of all three persons within the single divine Mystery (e.g., Tertullian, Adversus Praxean 4 and 5). Tertullian, writing at the beginning of the third century, emphasizes that Father, Son and Holy Spirit all share a single divine substance, quality and power (ibid. 2), which he conceives of as flowing forth from the Father and being transmitted by the Son to the Spirit (ibid. 8). Hilary of Poitiers, in the mid-fourth century, in the same work speaks of the Spirit as ‘coming forth from the Father’ and being ‘sent by the Son’ (De Trinitate 12.55); as being ‘from the Father through the Son’ (ibid. 12.56); and as ‘having the Father and the Son as his source’ (ibid. 2.29); in another passage, Hilary points to John 16.15 (where Jesus says: “All things that the Father has are mine; therefore I said that [the Spirit] shall take from what is mine and declare it to you”), and wonders aloud whether “to receive from the Son is the same thing as to proceed from the Father” (ibid. 8.20). Ambrose of Milan, writing in the 380s, openly asserts that the Spirit “proceeds from (procedit a) the Father and the Son,” without ever being separated from either (On the Holy Spirit 1.11.20). None of these writers, however, makes the Spirit’s mode of origin the object of special reflection; all are concerned, rather, to emphasize the equality of status of all three divine persons as God, and all acknowledge that the Father alone is the source of God’s eternal being. [Note: This paragraph includes a stylistic revision in the reference to Hilary of Poitiers that the Consultation agreed to at its October 2004 meeting.]

The earliest use of Filioque language in a credal context is in the profession of faith formulated for the Visigoth King Reccared at the local Council of Toledo in 589. This regional council anathematized those who did not accept the decrees of the first four Ecumenical Councils (canon 11), as well as those who did not profess that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (canon 3). It appears that the Spanish bishops and King Reccared believed at that time that the Greek equivalent of Filioque was part of the original creed of Constantinople, and apparently understood that its purpose was to oppose Arianism by affirming the intimate relationship of the Father and Son. On Reccared’s orders, the Creed began to be recited during the Eucharist, in imitation of the Eastern practice. From Spain, the use of the Creed with the Filioque spread throughout Gaul.

Nearly a century later, a council of English bishops was held at Hatfield in 680 under the presidency of Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury, a Byzantine asked to serve in England by Pope Vitalian. According to the Venerable Bede (Hist. Eccl. Gent. Angl. 4.15 [17]), this Council explicitly affirmed its faith as conforming to the five Ecumenical Councils, and also declared that the Holy Spirit proceeds “in an ineffable way (inenarrabiliter)” from the Father and the Son.

By the seventh century, three related factors may have contributed to a growing tendency to include the Filioque in the Creed of 381 in the West, and to the belief of some Westerners that it was, in fact, part of the original creed. First, a strong current in the patristic tradition of the West, summed up in the works of Augustine (354-430), spoke of the Spirit’s proceeding from the Father and the Son. (e.g., On the Trinity 4.29; 15.10, 12, 29, 37; the significance of this tradition and its terminology will be discussed below.) Second, throughout the fourth and fifth centuries a number of credal statements circulated in the Churches, often associated with baptism and catechesis. The formula of 381 was not considered the only binding expression of apostolic faith. Within the West, the most widespread of these was the Apostles’ Creed, an early baptismal creed, which contained a simple affirmation of belief in the Holy Spirit without elaboration. Third, however, and of particular significance for later Western theology, was the so-called Athanasian Creed (Quicunque). Thought by Westerners to be composed by Athanasius of Alexandria, this Creed probably originated in Gaul about 500, and is cited by Caesarius of Arles (+542). This text was unknown in the East, but had great influence in the West until modern times. Relying heavily on Augustine’s treatment of the Trinity, it clearly affirmed that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. A central emphasis of this Creed was its strong anti-Arian Christology: speaking of the Spirit as proceeding from the Father and the Son implied that the Son was not inferior to the Father in substance, as the Arians held. The influence of this Creed undoubtedly supported the use of the Filioque in the Latin version of the Creed of Constantinople in Western Europe, at least from the sixth century onwards.

The use of the Creed of 381 with the addition of the Filioque became a matter of controversy towards the end of the eighth century, both in discussions between the Frankish theologians and the see of Rome and in the growing rivalry between the Carolingian and Byzantine courts, which both now claimed to be the legitimate successors of the Roman Empire. In the wake of the iconoclastic struggle in Byzantium, the Carolingians took this opportunity to challenge the Orthodoxy of Constantinople, and put particular emphasis upon the significance of the term Filioque, which they now began to identify as a touchstone of right Trinitarian faith. An intense political and cultural rivalry between the Franks and the Byzantines provided the background for the Filioque debates throughout the eighth and ninth centuries.

Charlemagne received a translation of the decisions of the Second Council of Nicaea (787). The Council had given definitive approval to the ancient practice of venerating icons. The translation proved to be defective. On the basis of this defective translation, Charlemagne sent a delegation to Pope Hadrian I (772-795), to present his concerns. Among the points of objection, Charlemagne’s legates claimed that Patriarch Tarasius of Constantinople, at his installation, did not follow the Nicene faith and profess that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, but confessed rather his procession from the Father through the Son (Mansi 13.760). The Pope strongly rejected Charlemagne’s protest, showing at length that Tarasius and the Council, on this and other points, maintained the faith of the Fathers (ibid. 759-810). Following this exchange of letters, Charlemagne commissioned the so called Libri Carolini (791-794), a work written to challenge the positions both of the iconoclast council of 754 and of the Council of Nicaea of 787 on the veneration of icons. Again because of poor translations, the Carolingians misunderstood the actual decision of the latter Council. Within this text, the Carolingian view of the Filioque also was emphasized again. Arguing that the word Filioque was part of the Creed of 381, the Libri Carolini reaffirmed the Latin tradition that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, and rejected as inadequate the teaching that the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son.

While the acts of the local synod of Frankfurt in 794 are not extant, other records indicate that it was called mainly to counter a form of the heresy of “Adoptionism” then thought to be on the rise in Spain. The emphasis of a number of Spanish theologians on the integral humanity of Christ seemed, to the court theologian Alcuin and others, to imply that the man Jesus was “adopted” by the Father at his baptism. In the presence of Charlemagne, this council – which Charlemagne seems to have promoted as “ecumenical” (see Mansi 13.899-906) - approved the Libri Carolini, affirming, in the context of maintaining the full divinity of the person of Christ, that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. As in the late sixth century, the Latin formulation of the Creed, stating that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, was enlisted to combat a perceived Christological heresy.

Within a few years, another local council, also directed against “Spanish Adoptionism,” was held in Fréjus (Friuli) (796 or 797). At this meeting, Paulinus of Aquileia (+802), an associate of Alcuin in Charlemagne’s court, defended the use of the Creed with the Filioque as a way of opposing Adoptionism. Paulinus, in fact, recognized that the Filioque was an addition to the Creed of 381 but defended the interpolation, claiming that it contradicted neither the meaning of the creed nor the intention of the Fathers. The authority in the West of the Council of Fréjus, together with that of Frankfurt, ensured that the Creed of 381 with the Filioque would be used in teaching and in the celebration of the Eucharist in churches throughout much of Europe.

The different liturgical traditions with regard to the Creed came into contact with each other in early-ninth-century Jerusalem. Western monks, using the Latin Creed with the added Filioque, were denounced by their Eastern brethren. Writing to Pope Leo III for guidance, in 808, the Western monks referred to the practice in Charlemagne’s chapel in Aachen as their model. Pope Leo responded with a letter to “all the churches of the East” in which he declared his personal belief that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son. In that response, the Pope did not distinguish between his personal understanding and the issue of the legitimacy of the addition to the Creed, although he would later resist the addition in liturgies celebrated at Rome.

Taking up the issue of the Jerusalem controversy, Charlemagne asked Theodulf of Orleans, the principal author of the Libri Carolini, to write a defense of the use of the word Filioque. Appearing in 809, De Spiritu Sancto of Theodulf was essentially a compilation of patristic citations supporting the theology of the Filioque. With this text in hand, Charlemagne convened a council in Aachen in 809-810 to affirm the doctrine of the Spirit’s proceeding from the Father and the Son, which had been questioned by Greek theologians. Following this council, Charlemagne sought Pope Leo’s approval of the use of the creed with the Filioque (Mansi 14.23-76). A meeting between the Pope and a delegation from Charlemagne’s council took place in Rome in 810. While Leo III affirmed the orthodoxy of the term Filioque, and approved its use in catechesis and personal professions of faith, he explicitly disapproved its inclusion in the text of the Creed of 381, since the Fathers of that Council - who were, he observes, no less inspired by the Holy Spirit than the bishops who had gathered at Aachen - had chosen not to include it. Pope Leo stipulated that the use of the Creed in the celebration of the Eucharist was permissible, but not required, and urged that in the interest of preventing scandal it would be better if the Carolingian court refrained from including it in the liturgy. Around this time, according to the Liber Pontificalis, the Pope had two heavy silver shields made and displayed in St. Peter’s, containing the original text of the Creed of 381 in both Greek and Latin. Despite his directives and this symbolic action, however, the Carolingians continued to use the Creed with the Filioque during the Eucharist in their own dioceses.

The Byzantines had little appreciation of the various developments regarding the Filioque in the West between the sixth and ninth centuries. Communication grew steadily worse, and their own struggles with monothelitism, iconoclasm, and the rise of Islam left little time to follow closely theological developments in the West. However, their interest in the Filioque became more pronounced in the middle of the 9th century, when it came to be combined with jurisdictional disputes between Rome and Constantinople, as well as with the activities of Frankish missionaries in Bulgaria. When Byzantine missionaries were expelled from Bulgaria by King Boris, under Western influence, they returned to Constantinople and reported on Western practices, including the use of the Creed with the Filioque. Patriarch Photios of Constantinople, in 867, addressed a strongly worded encyclical to the other Eastern patriarchs, commenting on the political and ecclesiastical crisis in Bulgaria as well as on the tensions between Constantinople and Rome. In this letter, Photios denounced the Western missionaries in Bulgaria and criticized Western liturgical practices.

Most significantly, Patriarch Photios called the addition of the Filioque in the West a blasphemy, and presented a substantial theological argument against the view of the Trinity which he believed it depicted. Photios’s opposition to the Filioque was based upon his view that it signifies two causes in the Trinity, and diminishes the monarchy of the Father. Thus, the Filioque seemed to him to detract from the distinctive character of each person of the Trinity, and to confuse their relationships, paradoxically bearing in itself the seeds of both pagan polytheism and Sabellian modalism (Mystagogy 9, 11). In his letter of 867, Photios does not, however, demonstrate any knowledge of the Latin patristic tradition behind the use of the Filioque in the West. His opposition to the Filioque would subsequently receive further elaboration in his Letter to the Patriarch of Aquileia in 883 or 884, as well as in his famous Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, written about 886.

In concluding his letter of 867, Photios called for an ecumenical council that would resolve the issue of the interpolation of the Filioque, as well as illuminating its theological foundation. A local council was held in Constantinople in 867, which deposed Pope Nicholas I - an action which increased tensions between the two sees. In 863, Nicholas himself had refused to recognize Photios as Patriarch because of his allegedly uncanonical appointment. With changes in the imperial government, Photios was forced to resign in 867, and was replaced by Patriarch Ignatius, whom he himself had replaced in 858. A new council was convened in Constantinople later in 869. With papal representatives present and with imperial support, this Council excommunicated Photios, and was subsequently recognized in the Medieval West, for reasons unrelated to the Filioque or Photios, as the Eighth Ecumenical Council, although it was never recognized as such in the East.

The relationship between Rome and Constantinople changed when Photios again became patriarch in 877, following the death of Ignatius. In Rome, Pope Nicholas had died in 867, and was succeeded by Pope Hadrian II (867-872), who himself anathematized Photios in 869. His successor, Pope John VIII (872-882), was willing to recognize Photios as the legitimate Patriarch in Constantinople under certain conditions, thus clearing the way for a restoration of better relations. A Council was held in Constantinople in 879-880, in the presence of representatives from Rome and the other Eastern Patriarchates. This Council, considered by some modern Orthodox theologians to be ecumenical, suppressed the decisions of the earlier Council of 869-870, and recognized the status of Photios as patriarch. It affirmed the ecumenical character of the Council of 787 and its decisions against iconoclasm. There was no extensive discussion of the Filioque, which was not yet a part of the Creed professed in Rome itself, and no statement was made by the Council about its theological justification; yet this Council formally reaffirmed the original text of the Creed of 381, without the Filioque, and anathematized anyone who would compose another confession of faith. The Council also spoke of the Roman see in terms of great respect, and allowed the Papal legates the traditional prerogatives of presidency, recognizing their right to begin and to close discussions and to sign documents first. Nevertheless, the documents give no indication that the bishops present formally recognized any priority of jurisdiction for the see of Rome, outside of the framework of the Patristic understanding of the communion of Churches and the sixth-century canonical theory of the Pentarchy. The difficult question of the competing claims of the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople to jurisdiction in Bulgaria was left to be decided by the Emperor. After the Council, the Filioque continued to be used in the Creed in parts of Western Europe, despite the intentions of Pope John VIII, who, like his predecessors, maintained the text sanctioned by the Council of 381.

A new stage in the history of the controversy was reached in the early eleventh century. During the synod following the coronation of King Henry II as Holy Roman Emperor at Rome in 1014, the Creed, including the Filioque, was sung for the first time at a papal Mass. Because of this action, the liturgical use of the Creed, with the Filioque, now was generally assumed in the Latin Church to have the sanction of the papacy. Its inclusion in the Eucharist, after two centuries of papal resistance of the practice, reflected a new dominance of the German Emperors over the papacy, as well as the papacy’s growing sense of its own authority, under imperial protection, within the entire Church, both western and eastern.

The Filioque figured prominently in the tumultuous events of 1054, when excommunications were exchanged by representatives of the Eastern and Western Churches meeting in Constantinople. Within the context of his anathemas against Patriarch Michael I Cerularios of Constantinople and certain of his advisers, Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida, the legate of Pope Leo IX, accused the Byzantines of improperly deleting the Filioque from the Creed, and criticized other Eastern liturgical practices. In responding to these accusations, Patriarch Michael recognized that the anathemas of Humbert did not originate with Leo IX, and cast his own anathemas simply upon the papal delegation. Leo, in fact, was already dead and his successor had not been elected. At the same time, Michael condemned the Western use of the Filioque in the Creed, as well as other Western liturgical practices. This exchange of limited excommunications did not lead, by itself, to a formal schism between Rome and Constantinople, despite the views of later historians; it did, however, deepen the growing estrangement between Constantinople and Rome.

The relationship between the Church of Rome and the Churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem were seriously damaged during the period of the crusades, and especially in the wake of the infamous Fourth Crusade. In 1204, Western Crusaders sacked the city of Constantinople, long the commercial and political rival of Venice, and Western politicians and clergy dominated the life of the city until it was reclaimed by Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos in 1261. The installation of Western bishops in the territories of Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem, who were loyal to Rome and to the political powers of Western Europe, became a tragically visible new expression of schism. Even after 1261, Rome supported Latin patriarchs in these three ancient Eastern sees. For most Eastern Christians, this was a clear sign that the papacy and its political supporters had little regard for the legitimacy of their ancient churches.

Despite this growing estrangement, a number of notable attempts were made to address the issue of the Filioque between the early twelfth and mid-thirteenth century. The German Emperor Lothair III sent bishop Anselm of Havelberg to Constantinople in 1136, to negotiate a military alliance with Emperor John II Comnenos. While he was there, Anselm and Metropolitan Nicetas of Nicomedia held a series of public discussions about subjects dividing the Churches, including the Filioque, and concluded that the differences between the two traditions were not as great as they had thought (PL 188.1206B – 1210 B). A letter from Orthodox Patriarch Germanos II (1222-1240) to Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241) led to further discussions between Eastern and Western theologians on the Filioque at Nicaea in 1234. Subsequent discussions were held in 1253-54, at the initiative of Emperor John III Vatatzes (1222-1254) and Pope Innocent IV (1243-1254). In spite of these efforts, the continuing effects of the Fourth Crusade and the threat of the Turks, along with the jurisdictional claims of the papacy in the East, meant that these well intentioned efforts came to no conclusion.

Against this background, a Western council was held in Lyons in 1274 (Lyons II), after the restoration of Constantinople to Eastern imperial control. Despite the consequences of the crusades, many Byzantines sought to heal the wounds of division and looked to the West for support against the growing advances of the Turks, and Pope Gregory X (1271-1276) enthusiastically hoped for reunion. Among the topics agreed upon for discussion at the council was the Filioque. Yet the two Byzantine bishops who were sent as delegates had no real opportunity to present the Eastern perspective at the Council. The Filioque was formally approved by the delegates in the final session on July17, in a brief constitution which also explicitly condemned those holding other views on the origin of the Holy Spirit. Already on July 6, in accord with an agreement previously reached between papal delegates and the Emperor in Constantinople, the reunion of the Eastern and Western Churches was proclaimed, but it was never received by the Eastern clergy and faithful, or vigorously promoted by the Popes in the West. In this context it should be noted that in his letter commemorating the 700th anniversary of this council (1974), Pope Paul VI recognized this and added that “the Latins chose texts and formulae expressing an ecclesiology which had been conceived and developed in the West. It is understandable […] that a unity achieved in this way could not be accepted completely by the Eastern Christian mind.” A little further on, the Pope, speaking of the future Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, observed: “…it will take up again other controverted points which Gregory X and the Fathers of Lyons thought were resolved.”

At the Eastern Council of Blachernae (Constantinople) in 1285, in fact, the decisions of the Council of Lyons and the pro-Latin theology of former Patriarch John XI Bekkos (1275-1282) were soundly rejected, under the leadership of Patriarch Gregory II, also known as Gregory of Cyprus (1282-1289). At the same time, this council produced a significant statement addressing the theological issue of the Filioque. While firmly rejecting the “double procession” of the Spirit from the Father and the Son, the statement spoke of an “eternal manifestation” of the Spirit through the Son. Patriarch Gregory’s language opened the way, at least, towards a deeper, more complex understanding of the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in both the East and the West. (see below) This approach was developed further by Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), in the context of his distinction between the essence and the energies of the divine persons. Unfortunately, these openings had little effect on later medieval discussions of the origin of the Spirit, in either the Eastern or the Western Church. Despite the concern shown by Byzantine theologians, from the time of Photios, to oppose both the idea of the Filioque and its addition to the Latin creed, there is no reference to it in the Synodikon of Orthodoxy, a collection containing more than sixty anathemas representing the doctrinal decisions of Eastern councils through the fourteenth century.

One more attempt was made, however, to deal with the subject authoritatively on an ecumenical scale. The Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-1445) again brought together representatives from the Church of Rome and the Churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, to discuss a wide range of controversial issues, including papal authority and the Filioque. This Council took place at a time when the Byzantine Empire was gravely threatened by the Ottomans, and when many in the Greek world regarded military aid from the West as Constantinople’s only hope. Following extensive discussions by experts from both sides, often centered on the interpretation of patristic texts, the union of the Churches was declared on July 6, 1439. The Council’s decree of reunion, Laetentur caeli, recognized the legitimacy of the Western view of the Spirit’s eternal procession from the Father and the Son, as from a single principle and in a single spiration. The Filioque was presented here as having the same meaning as the position of some early Eastern Fathers that the Spirit exists or proceeds “through the Son.” The Council also approved a text which spoke of the Pope as having “primacy over the whole world,” as “head of the whole church and father and teacher of all Christians.” Despite Orthodox participation in these discussions, the decisions of Florence – like the union decree of Lyons II - were never received by a representative body of bishops or faithful in the East, and were formally rejected in Constantinople in 1484.

The Fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the fracturing effect of the Protestant Reformation in the West, as well as subsequent Latin missions in the former Byzantine world and the establishment of Eastern Churches in communion with Rome, led to a deepening of the schism, accompanied by much polemical literature on each side. For more than five hundred years, few opportunities were offered to the Catholic and Orthodox sides for serious discussion of the Filioque, and of the related issue of the primacy and teaching authority of the bishop of Rome. Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism entered into a period of formal isolation from each other, in which each developed a sense of being the only ecclesiastical body authentically representing the apostolic faith. For example, this is expressed in Pius IX’s encyclical In Suprema Petri Sede of January 6, 1848, and in Leo XIII’s encyclical Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae of June 20, 1894, as well as the encyclical of the Orthodox Patriarchs in 1848 and the encyclical of the Patriarchate of Constantinople of 1895, each reacting to the prior papal documents. Ecumenical discussions of the Filioque between the Orthodox Churches and representatives of the Old Catholics and Anglicans were held in Germany in 1874-75, and were occasionally revived during the century that followed, but in general little substantial progress was made in moving beyond the hardened opposition of traditional Eastern and Western views.

A new phase in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church began formally with the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the Pan-Orthodox Conferences (1961-1968), which renewed contacts and dialogue. From that time, a number of theological issues and historical events contributing to the schism between the churches have begun to receive new attention. In this context, our own North American Orthodox-Catholic Consultation was established in 1965, and the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches was established in 1979. Although a committee of theologians from many different Churches, sponsored by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, studied the Filioque question in depth in 1978 and 1979, and concluded by issuing the “Klingenthal Memorandum” (1979), no thorough new joint discussion of the issue has been undertaken by representatives of our two Churches until our own study. The first statement of the Joint International Commission (1982), entitled “The Mystery of the Church and of the Eucharist in the Light of the Mystery of the Trinity,” does briefly address the issue of the Filioque, within the context of an extensive discussion of the relationship of the persons of the Holy Trinity. The Statement says: “Without wishing to resolve yet the difficulties which have arisen between the East and the West concerning the relationship between the Son and the Spirit, we can already say together that this Spirit, which proceeds from the Father (Jn. 15:26) as the sole source of the Trinity, and which has become the Spirit of our sonship (Rom. 8:15) since he is already the Spirit of the Son (Gal.4:6), is communicated to us, particularly in the Eucharist, by this Son upon whom he reposes in time and eternity (Jn. 1:32).” (No. 6).

Several other events in recent decades point to a greater willingness on the part of Rome to recognize the normative character of the original creed of Constantinople. When Patriarch Dimitrios I visited Rome on December 7, 1987, and again during the visit of Patriarch Bartholomew I to Rome in June 1995, both patriarchs attended a Eucharist celebrated by Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica. On both occasions the Pope and Patriarch proclaimed the Creed in Greek (i.e., without the Filioque). Pope John Paul II and Romanian Patriarch Teoctist did the same in Romanian at a papal Mass in Rome on October 13, 2002. The document Dominus Iesus: On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on August 6, 2000, begins its theological considerations on the Church’s central teaching with the text of the creed of 381, again without the addition of the Filioque. While no interpretation of these uses of the Creed was offered, these developments suggest a new awareness on the Catholic side of the unique character of the original Greek text of the Creed as the most authentic formulation of the faith that unifies Eastern and Western Christianity.

Not long after the meeting in Rome between Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Vatican published the document “The Greek and Latin Traditions Regarding the Procession of the Holy Spirit” (September 13, 1995). This text was intended to be a new contribution to the dialogue between our churches on this controversial issue. Among the many observations it makes, the text says: “The Catholic Church acknowledges the conciliar, ecumenical, normative and irrevocable value, as the expression of one common faith of the Church and of all Christians, of the Symbol professed in Greek at Constantinople in 381 by the Second Ecumenical Council. No confession of faith peculiar to a particular liturgical tradition can contradict this expression of faith taught and professed by the undivided Church.” Although the Catholic Church obviously does not consider the Filioque to be a contradiction of the creed of 381, the significance of this passage in the 1995 Vatican statement should not be minimized. It is in response to this important document that our own study of the Filioque began in 1999, and we hope that this present statement will serve to carry further the positive discussions between our communions that we have experienced ourselves.

Search site

See also other pages on our website:

Articles - Orthodox Church Articles - Saints and Icons Articles - Worship Church History Prayers Readings - Apostolic Readings - Gospel Readings - Old Testament Readings - Psalter Salvation History Terminology Videos
Loading ...