Did the early Eastern Church recognize the primacy of the Pope?
We got an email that said:
Later though, didn't the Church in Rome, because of how far it was from the other Christian Churches begin to want their own authority (the Pope), but didn't the other Churches not agree on this
The Ancient East Speaks.
Contrary to Eastern Orthodox Ecclesiology (which tries to say that all bishops are equal), the forefathers of the Eastern Church (most of them Orthodox saints) had a very **Catholic** view of the Bishop of Rome.
Below, please find quotes from all of the Eastern patriarchates (with Cyprus) showing that Roman primacy was not only recognized by the ancient Eastern Church, but was also deemed to be essential.
St. Athanasius (362 A.D.):
Rome is called "the Apostolic throne." (Athanasius, Hist. Arian, ad Monach. n. 35).
The Council of Sardica (342 A.D.)
...A Council presided over by St. Athanasius of Alexandria:
"If any bishop looses the judgment in some case [decided by his fellow bishops] and still believes that he has not a bad but a good case, in order that the case may be judged anew ...***let us honor the memory of the Apostle Peter by having those who have given the judgment write to Julius, Bishop of Rome***, so that if it seem proper ***he may himself send arbiters*** and the judgment may be made again by the bishops of a neighboring province." (Council of Sardica, Canon 3, 342 A.D.)
Pope St. Julius I (342):
Writing to the Byzantine court after Athanasius had been deposed from the Alexandrian see by the Arians .....
"It behoved you to write to us that thus what is just might be decreed for all. For they who suffered were Bishops, and the Churches that suffered no common ones, over which the Apostles ruled in person. And why were we (the Pope) not written to concerning the Church, **especially Alexandria**? Or are they (the Arians) ignorant that this has been the Tradition first to write to us, and thus what is just be decreed from this place (Rome)? If therefore, any such suspicion fell upon the bishop there (Alexandria), it was benefitting to write to this Church (Rome)." (Julius, Ep. n. 6,21.)
St. Cyril of Alexandria (c. 431)
"He (Christ) promises to found the Church, assigning immovableness to it, as He is the Lord of strength, and over this He sets Peter as shepherd." (Cyril, Comm. on Matt., ad loc.)
"They (the Apostles) strove to learn through one, that preeminent one, Peter." (Cyril, Ib. 1. ix. p. 736).
The Council of Ephesus (431):
....a council presided over by St. Cyril of Alexandria, in which the Roman presbyter Philip declared:
"There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the Apostles, pillar of the faith and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the Keys of the Kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins; who down even to this day and forever both lives and judges in his successors. The holy and most blessed Pope Celestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place." (Acts of the Council of Ephesus, session 3).
Eulogius of Alexandria (581 A.D.):
"Neither to John, nor to any other of the disciples, did our Savior say, 'I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,' but only to Peter. (Eulogius, Lib. ii. Cont. Novatian. ap. Photium, Biblioth, cod. 280)
Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus in Syria (450):
"I therefore beseech your holiness to persuade the most holy and blessed bishop (Pope Leo) to use his Apostolic power, and to order me to hasten to your Council. For that most holy throne (Rome) has the sovereignty over the churches throughout the universe on many grounds." (Theodoret, Tom. iv. Epist. cxvi. Renato, p. 1197).
"It pertains to you (Pope Leo) to hold the primacy in all things, for your throne is adorned with many prerogatives." (Theodoret Ibid, Epist. Leoni)
"If Paul, the herald of the truth, the trumpet of the Holy Spirit, hastened to the great Peter, to convey from him the solution to those in Antioch, who were at issue about living under the law, how much more do we, poor and humble, run to the Apostolic Throne (Rome) to receive from you (Pope Leo) healing for wounds of the the Churches. For it pertains to you to have primacy in all things; for your throne is adorned with many prerogatives." (Theodoret Ibid, Epistle Leoni)
"For that all holy throne has the office of heading the Churches of the whole world, for many reasons; and, above all others, because it has remained free of the communion of heretical taint, and no one holding heterodox sentiments ever sat in it, but it has preserved the Apostolic grace unsullied." (Theodoret, Epist Renato)
"Hasten to your Apostolic See in order to receive from you a cure for the wounds of the Church. For every reason it is fitting for you to hold the first place, inasmuch as your see is adorned with many priviledges. I have been condemned without trial. But I await the sentence of your Apostolic See. I beseech and implore Your Holiness to succor me in my appeal to your fair and righteous tribunal. Bid me hasten to you and prove to you that my teaching follows in the footsteps of the Apostles." (Theodoret to Pope Leo, Ep. 113).
St. Eusebius of Doryleum (450): ...writing to Pope Leo:
"The Apostolic throne has been wont from the beginning to defend those who are suffering injustice. I entreat Your Blessedness, give me back the dignity of my episcopate and communion with yourself, by letters from you to my lowliness bestowing on me my rank and communion." (Eusebius of Doryleum to Pope Leo)
St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem (c. 638):
"Teaching us all orthodoxy and destroying all heresy and driving it away from the God-protected halls of our holy Catholic Church. And together with these inspired syllables and characters, I accept all his (the Pope's) letters and teachings as proceeding from the mouth of Peter the Coryphaeus, and I kiss them and salute them and embrace them with all my soul ... I recognize the latter as definitions of Peter and the former as those of Mark, and besides, all the heaven-taught teachings of all the chosen mystagogues of our Catholic Church." (Sophronius, Mansi, xi. 461)
"Transverse quickly all the world from one end to the other until you come to the Apostolic See (Rome), where are the foundations of the orthodox doctrine. Make clearly known to the most holy personages of that throne the questions agitated among us. Cease not to pray and to beg them until their apostolic and Divine wisdom shall have pronounced the victorious judgment and destroyed from the foundation ...the new heresy." (Sophronius,[quoted by Bishop Stephen of Dora to Pope Martin I at the Lateran Council], Mansi, x., 893)
Stephen, Bishop of Dora in Palestine (645):
The disciple of Patriarch Sophronius, ....
"And for this cause, sometimes we ask for water to our head and to our eyes a fountain of tears, sometimes the wings of a dove, according to holy Hugh, that we might fly away and announce these things to the Chair (the Chair of Peter at Rome) which rules and presides over all, I mean to yours, the head and highest, for the healing of the whole wound. For this it has been accustomed to do from old and from the beginning with power by its canonical or apostolic authority, because the truly great Peter, head of the Apostles, was clearly thought worthy not only to be trusted with the keys of heaven, alone apart from the rest, to open it worthily to believers, or to close it justly to those who disbelieve the Gospel of grace, but because he was also commissioned to feed the sheep of the whole Catholic Church; for 'Peter,' saith He, 'lovest thou Me? Feed My sheep.' And again, because he had in a manner peculiar and special, a faith in the Lord stronger than all and unchangeable, to be converted and to confirm his fellows and spiritual brethren when tossed about, as having been adorned by God Himself incarnate for us with power and sacerdotal authority .....And Sophronius of blessed memory, who was Patriarch of the holy city of Christ our God, and under whom I was bishop, conferring not with flesh and blood, but caring only for the things of Christ with respect to your Holiness, hastened to send my nothingness without delay about this matter alone to this Apostolic see, where are the foundations of holy doctrine." (Sophronius, to Pope Martin I at the Lateran Council, Mansi, x., 893)
Sergius, Metropolitain of Cyprus (649 A.D.)
He writes to Pope Theodore, ....
"O Holy Head, Christ our God hath destined thy Apostolic See to be an immovable foundation and a pillar of the Faith. For thou art, as the Divine Word truly saith, Peter, and on thee as a foundation-stone have the pillars of the Church been fixed." (Sergius Ep. ad Theod. lecta in Sess. ii. Concil. Lat. anno 649)
St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople (c. 387):
"For this is the one great privilege of our city, Antioch, that it received the leader of the Apostles (Peter) as its teacher in the beginning. For it was right that she who was first adorned with the name of Christians, before the whole world, should receive the first of the apostles as her pastor. But though we received him as teacher, we did not retain him to the end, but gave him up to royal Rome." (Chrysostom, On the Inscription of the Acts, II. Taken from Documents Illustrating Papal Authority (London: SPCK, 1952), E. Giles, Ed., p. 168. Cf. Chapman, Studies on the Early Papacy, p. 96).
"And why, then, passing by the others, does He converse with Peter on these things? (John 21:15). He was the chosen one of the Apostles, and the mouth of the disciples, and the leader of the choir. On this account, Paul also went up on a time to see him rather than the others (Galatians 1:18). And withal, to show him that he must thenceforward have confidence, as the denial was done away with, He puts into his hands the presidency over the brethren. And He brings not forward the denial, nor reproches him with what had past, but says, 'If you love me, preside over the brethren, ...and the third time He gives him the same injunction, showing what a price He sets the presidency over His own sheep. And if one should say, 'How then did James receive the throne of Jerusalem?,' this I would answer that He appointed this man (Peter) teacher, not of that throne, but of the whole world." (Chrysostom, In Joan. Hom. 1xxxviii. n. 1, tom. viii)
Eutyches the Monophysite (448): ....writing to Pope Leo the Great:
"I take refuge, therefore, with you, the defender of religion and abhorrer of such factions. ...I beseech you not to be prejudiced against me by their insidious designs about me, but to pronounce the sentence which shall seem to you right upon the Faith." (Eutyches to Pope Leo, Ep. 21. )
Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople (449): ...writing to Pope Leo:
"When I began to appeal to the throne of the Apostolic See of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and to the whole sacred synod, which is obedient to Your Holiness, at once a crowd of soldiers surrounded me and barred my way when I wished to take refuge at the holy altar. ...Therefore, I beseech Your Holiness not to permit these things to be treated with indifference ...but to rise up first on behalf of the cause of our orthodox Faith, now destroyed by unlawful acts. ...Further to issue an authoritative instruction ...so that a like faith may everywhere be preached by the assembly of an united synod of fathers, both Eastern and Western. Thus the laws of the fathers may prevail and all that has been done amiss be rendered null and void. Bring healing to this ghastly wound. (Patriarch Flavian of Constantinople to Pope Leo, 449).
The Council of Chalcedon (451) --composed of 600 Eastern bishops, to Pope Leo:
"For if 'where two or three are gathered together in His name' He has said that 'there He is in the midst of them," must He not have been much more particularly present with 520 priests, who preferred the spread of knowledge concerning Him ...Of whom you were Chief, as Head to the members, showing your good will." ---Chalcedon to Pope Leo (Repletum est Gaudio), November 451.
"You are set as an interpreter to all of the voice of blessed Peter, and to all you impart the blessings of that Faith." ---Chalcedon to Pope Leo, Ep. 98
"Besides all this, he extended his fury even against him who had been charged with the custody of the vine by the Savior. We refer to Your Holiness." ---Chalcedon to Pope Leo, Ep. 98.
"You have often extended your Apostolic radiance even to the Church of Constantinople." --Chalcedon to Pope Leo, Ep. 98.
"Knowing that every success of the children rebounds to the parents, we therefore beg you to honor our decision by your assent, and as we have yielded agreement to the Head in noble things, so may the Head also fulfill what is fitting for the children." --Chalcedon to Pope Leo, Ep. 98.
Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople (453):
...writing to Pope Leo to apologize for the Council of Chalcedon trying to make Constantinople the 2nd See after Rome. He defers to Rome's ruling:
"As for those things which the universal Council of Chalcedon recently ordained in favor of the Church of Constantinople, let Your Holiness be sure that there was no fault in me, who from my youth have always loved peace and quiet, keeping myself in humility. It was the most reverend clergy of the Church of Constantinople who were eager about it, and they were equally supported by the most reverend priests of those parts, who agreed about it. Even so, the whole force of confirmation of the acts was reserved for the authority of Your Blessedness. Therefore, let Your Holiness know for certain that I did nothing to further the matter, knowing always that I held myself bound to avoid the lusts of pride and covetousness." ---Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople to Pope Leo, Ep 132 (on the subject of canon 28 of Chalcedon).
Macedonius, Patriarch of Constantinople (466-516):
"Macedonius declared, when desired by the Emperor Anastasius to condemn the Council of Chalcedon, that 'such a step without an Ecumenical Synod presided over by the Pope of Rome is impossible.'" (Macedonius, Patr. Graec. 108: 360a (Theophan. Chronogr. pp. 234-346 seq.)
The Emperor Justinian (520-533):
Writing to the Pope, ...
"Yielding honor to the Apostolic See and to Your Holiness, and honoring your Holiness, as one ought to honor a father, we have hastened to subject all the priests of the whole Eastern district, and to unite them to the See of your Holiness, for we do not allow of any point, however manifest and indisputable it be, which relates to the state of the Churches, not being brought to the cognizance of your Holiness, since you are the Head of all the holy Churches." (Justinian Epist. ad. Pap. Joan. ii. Cod. Justin. lib. I. tit. 1).
"Let your Apostleship show that you have worthily succeeded to the Apostle Peter, since the Lord will work through you, as Surpreme Pastor, the salvation of all." (Coll. Avell. Ep. 196, July 9th, 520, Justinian to Pope Hormisdas).
St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 650):
A celebrated theologian and a native of Constantinople, ...
"The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High." (Maximus, Opuscula theologica et polemica, Migne, Patr. Graec. vol. 90)
"How much more in the case of the clergy and Church of the Romans, which from old until now presides over all the churches which are under the sun? Having surely received this canonically, as well as from councils and the apostles, as from the princes of the latter (Peter & Paul), and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues in synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her pontificate .....even as in all these things all are equally subject to her (the Church of Rome) according to sacerodotal law. And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers (the Popes) are of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic Church of Rome." (Maximus, in J.B. Mansi, ed. Amplissima Collectio Conciliorum, vol. 10)
"If the Roman See recognizes Pyrrhus to be not only a reprobate but a heretic, it is certainly plain that everyone who anathematizes those who have rejected Pyrrhus also anathematizes the See of Rome, that is, he anathematizes the Catholic Church. I need hardly add that he excommunicates himself also, if indeed he is in communion with the Roman See and the Catholic Church of God ...Let him hasten before all things to satisfy the Roman See, for if it is satisfied, all will agree in calling him pious and orthodox. For he only speaks in vain who thinks he ought to pursuade or entrap persons like myself, and does not satisfy and implore the blessed Pope of the most holy Catholic Church of the Romans, that is, the Apostolic See, which is from the incarnate of the Son of God Himself, and also all the holy synods, accodring to the holy canons and definitions has received universal and surpreme dominion, authority, and power of binding and loosing over all the holy churches of God throughout the whole world." (Maximus, Letter to Peter, in Mansi x, 692).
John VI, Patriarch of Constantinople (715):
"The Pope of Rome, the head of the Christian priesthood, whom in Peter, the Lord commanded to confirm his brethren." (John VI, Epist. ad Constantin. Pap. ad. Combefis, Auctuar. Bibl. P.P. Graec.tom. ii. p. 211, seq.)
St. Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople (758-828):
"Without whom (the Romans presiding in the seventh Council) a doctrine brought forward in the Church could not, even though confirmed by canonical decrees and by ecclesiastical usuage, ever obtain full approval or currency. For it is they (the Popes of Rome) who have had assigned to them the rule in sacred things, and who have received into their hands the dignity of headship among the Apostles." (Nicephorus, Niceph. Cpl. pro. s. imag. c 25 [Mai N. Bibl. pp. ii. 30]).
St. Theodore the Studite of Constantinople (759-826):
Writing to Pope Leo III ....
Since to great Peter Christ our Lord gave the office of Chief Shepherd after entrusting him with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, to Peter or his successor must of necessity every novelty in the Catholic Church be referred. [Therefore], save us, oh most divine Head of Heads, Chief Shepherd of the Church of Heaven." (Theodore, Bk. I. Ep. 23)
Writing to Pope Paschal, ...
"Hear, O Apostolic Head, divinely-appointed Shepherd of Christ's sheep, keybearer of the Kingdom of Heaven, Rock of the Faith upon whom the Catholic Church is built. For Peter art thou, who adornest and governest the Chair of Peter. Hither, then, from the West, imitator of Christ, arise and repel not for ever (Ps. xliii. 23). To thee spake Christ our Lord: 'And thou being one day converted, shalt strengthen thy brethren.' Behold the hour and the place. Help us, thou that art set by God for this. Stretch forth thy hand so far as thou canst. Thou hast strength with God, through being the first of all. (Letter of St. Theodore and four other Abbots to Pope Paschal, Bk. ii Ep. 12, Patr. Graec. 99, 1152-3)
Writing to Emperor Michael, ...
"Order that the declaration from old Rome be received, as was the custom by Tradition of our Fathers from of old and from the beginning. For this, O Emperor, is the highests of the Churches of God, in which first Peter held the Chair, to whom the Lord said: "Thou art Peter ...and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Theodore, Bk. II. Ep. 86)
"I witness now before God and men, they have torn themselves away from the Body of Christ, from the Surpreme See (Rome), in which Christ placed the keys of the Faith, against which the gates of hell (I mean the mouth of heretics) have not prevailed, and never will until the Consummation, according to the promise of Him Who cannot lie. Let the blessed and Apostolic Paschal (Pope St. Paschal I) rejoice therefore, for he has fulfilled the work of Peter." (Theodore Bk. II. Ep. 63).
"In truth we have seen that a manifest successor of the prince of the Apostles presides over the Roman Church. We truly believe that Christ has not deserted the Church here (Constantinople), for assistance from you has been our one and only aid from of old and from the beginning by the providence of God in the critical times. You are, indeed the untroubled and pure fount of orthodoxy from the beginning, you the calm harbor of the whole Church, far removed from the waves of heresy, you the God-chosen city of refuge." (Letter of St. Theodor & Four Abbots to Pope Paschal).
"Let him (Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople) assemble a synod of those with whom he has been at variance, if it is impossible that representatives of the other Patriarchs should be present, a thing which might certainly be if the Emperor should wish the Western Patriarch (the Roman Pope) to be present, to whom is given authority over an ecumenical synod; but let him make peace and union by sending his synodical letters to the prelate of the First See." (Theodore the Studite, Patr. Graec. 99, 1420)
Sts. Cyril & Methodius (c. 865):
"It is not true, as this Canon states, that the holy Fathers gave the primacy to old Rome because it was the capital of the Empire; it is from on high, from divine grace, that this primacy drew its origin. Because of the intensity of his faith Peter, the first of the Apostles, was addressed in these words by our Lord Jesus Christ himself 'Peter, lovest thou me? Feed my sheep'. That is why in hierarchical order Rome holds the pre-eminent place and is the first See. That is why the leges of old Rome are eternally immovable, and that is the view of all the Churches" (Methodius ---N. Brianchaninov, The Russian Church (1931), 46; cited by Butler, Church and Infallibility, 210) (Upon This Rock (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999), p. 177).
"Because of his primacy, the Pontiff of Rome is not required to attend an Ecumenical Council; but without his participation, manifested by sending some subordinates, every Ecumenical Council is as non-existent, for it is he who presides over the Council." (Ibid.)
St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022): "One should not contradict the Latins when they say that the Bishop of Rome is the first. This primacy is not harmful to the Church. Let them only prove his faithfulness to the faith of Peter and to that of the successors of Peter. If it is so, let him enjoy all the privileges of Pontiff. Let the Bishop of Rome be successor of the orthodoxy of Sylvester and Agatho, of Leo, Liberius, Martin and Gregory, then we also will call him Apostolic and the first among the other bishops; then we also will obey him, not only as Peter, but as the Savior Himself." (Symeon the New Theologian, Dialogue Against Heresies 23, PG 155:120 AC; cited in Meyendorff, The Primacy of Peter).
"Since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the bishops' successions of all the city-churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness or wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper (i.e., renegade heretics), by pointing out here the succession of the bishops of the GREATEST and most ancient (i.e., established) church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the Tradition and the Faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For it is A MATTER OF NECESSITY that all other city-churches agree with this church (Rome) because of its PREEMINENT AUTHORITY." (Against the Heresies, 3, 3:2).
This is the testimony of the fathers, and there's much more where that came from. We encourage you to read the fathers and see. Even Orthodox scholars like Ware and Meyendorff are forced to admit that Roman primacy was a reality in the Eastern Church. It is only mindless Protestants who deny this historical fact.
Charis kai eirene / Slava Isusu Christu!