Reception of Ecumenical Councils in the Early Church

by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk

Introduction

One of the stumbling blocks in the dialogue between Orthodox and Oriental-Orthodox Churches is a disagreement on the question of the recognition of the Ecumenical Councils. The Orthodox recognise seven Ecumenical Councils while the Oriental Orthodox recognise only three: the Council of Nicea (325), the Council of Constantinople (381) and the Council of Ephesus (431). This situation leaves us with two questions. The first is whether the restoration of eucharistic communion between Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches means that the latter have to recognise the last four Councils. The second is whether it is possible to have an alternate understanding of the Ecumenical Councils in the united Church. To address this question we will try to define what Ecumenical Councils are and what role they played in the fourth to eighth centuries.

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Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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