Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The ‘Forced’ Union of Florence

The following memoirs are worth studying and provide a historical example of what happens when human pride tries to force something which can only be achieved by cooperation with divine grace and unconditional obedience to the word of Jesus.

According to the memoirs of Sylvester Siropoulos, a participant in all of the sessions.*

Sylvester Siropoulos, the Great Ecclesiarch of the Church of Constantinople, is a rare and extremely valuable source, witness and participant of the events that took place in the Italian cities of Ferrara and Florence, related to the attempted union of the Church with the Vatican. Not much is known about the high functionary of the Byzantine Empire. What is known for certain is that Sylvester Siropoulos was in the service of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and reached the high office of Great Ecclesiarch. He came from a clerical family of that city, and was the recipient of a rich and varied theological education, and as such rapidly received promotion in the service of the Patriarch.

The most notable and important of his works is his “Memoirs”, the critical edition of which, prepared by V. Laurent, was published in 1971 in Paris. In older manuscripts one finds this work under the title “History” or “Practica”. These Memoirs are a work of some twelve volumes. Volumes 1-3 describe the events which took place between the two sides and their positions before, as well as the dialogue which took place right up to the beginning of the council itself. Volumes 4-10 are the most important part of the work since they are concerned with the council itself and its deliberations. The final two volumes deal with the return of the delegates from Italy to Constantinople, and to the East in general, as well as with events which resulted from the false union itself in the five or so years it following it. This final section is of great importance since it reveals the reasons why it was impossible to enact the provisions of this infamous gathering in the life of the Church.

The Memoirs have great importance as a valuable and precious primary source especially for the Orthodox. The Great Ecclesiarch of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who from start to finish was intimately informed concerning everything that took place involving this attempt at union, is someone we are to a great extent able to believe. The author, as a theologically prepared and competent witness and participant in the dialogue that took place, is in a position to differentiate between the essential and the peripheral subjects of discussion. He was himself personally involved and highly motivated and interested in most of the discussions, and had the ear of both Patriarch and Emperor.

Following his well-documented exposition even the lay reader will have a clear picture of the events, conditions and atmosphere of this council. This atmosphere was in many ways similar to that of previous attempts, where the Church is forced into a union with Rome. For this very reason Siropoulos’ Memoirs are of great importance to Orthodox Christians as tangible evidence of the experience of the Holy Church with the ongoing attempts of the Papacy at forced and false union.

The Memoirs are concerned primarily with personalities, their positions and opinions. An entire gallery of faces parades itself before us, one of them being Siropoulos himself. The writer has captured in his work, in connection with these events, the most notable personalities of the era, not only in the ecclesiastical sphere, but in the political as well. These individuals, in the final days of Byzantium, were attempting to accomplish the Church’s union with the Vatican, which they did not honestly believe to be possible or desirable under such circumstances. One is under the impression that everyone involved in this futile attempt was each in his own way given over to a certain lack of inspiration. That this was indeed the case was soon to be demonstrated. For it is a well established fact that subjects concerning faith as well as life, can be dealt with only in an atmosphere that is devoid of all pressure, and which is conducive to the peaceful and prudent resolution of its object. Needless to say, nothing of this, not the personal good will or interests of the participants, existed at the time of the council. The unrealistic and, in all honesty, misguided and insincere attempt at union at Ferrara-Florence, which took place in the years 1438-39, clearly supports such a conclusion.

The central theme of Siropoulos’ work is, of course, the council. Everything he writes about in the Memoirs exists only to give flesh to the skeleton of that theme. The author is complete and all encompassing in his approach. First of all he concerns himself with the background. What was it that caused the representatives of East and West to even attempt such a union? Four hundred years had passed since the Church had been anathematised by the Pope of Rome (1054-1438), who had continued to build up layer upon layer of innovation and change. Four hundred years of division, and even more of disagreement, were placed on the table to be rectified, perhaps, by the participants of the council. The delegates, however, were the children of the past, and Rome had changed much since 1054.

*This article is taken from Living Water, the publication of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, South Africa, under the jurisdiction of the Old Calendar Church of Greece

Ferrara on the eve of the Council

The head of the Vatican, at that time Pope Eugenius IV, called the East into unity with Rome. The Orthodox East, at that time personified by the Emperor John VIII Paleologus (1425-38) responded by saying that the idea was a good one which could, however, be actualized only by the summoning of an Ecumenical Council. Such a council should be held in the East, where indeed all previous Ecumenical Council have been held. Of course, such a council could be called only by the authority of the Emperor and no one else, as had always been the case in the past (Memoir 110). The Latins, however, at this time (15th century), considered that the calling of a council was an exclusively papal prerogative. Since the Roman Church was the Mother Church and the Eastern Church the daughter, it is the East which must be obedient to its mother (Memoir 114).

The easterners were acutely aware that the prevailing conditions surrounding the proposed dialogue with the Latins were not in their favor. This unequal status accorded them was obvious from the beginning. Knowing this, however, they were still willing to proceed.

They agreed to the prevailing Latin position that the council be held in the West, in Italy. This very fact tells us much. It is of no little importance that all all of the Ecumenical Councils were held in the East and not one in the West. This time, however, it became obvious that it was the westerners, taking advantage of the difficulties that the East was experiencing, that would dictate many important, and indeed fateful conditions for the work of the council. There were naturally many who were opposed to the entire idea. One of them, Hieromonk Joseph Bryennios, who was to travel with the delegation, stood up in the council meeting at the Patriarchate and stated that he firmly believed that nothing good would come of this. He was not alone. Even the Patriarch himself forced into participation by circumstances completely out of his control, was well aware of the possible negative results of holding the council in Italy. Theological truth and the Faith itself were compromised by the very fact that the entire cost of the journey to the West, as well as maintenance and lodging of the numerous eastern delegates (700 persons), were paid for by the Latins. The Patriarch openly stated, having in mind these in no way insignificant details, that upon arrival in the West they would be treated as servants and hirelings, and as such would fulfill everything Latins sought from them. He reiterated his belief that the council should be held in the East since the conditions there made it much easier for them to travel and to support themselves (Memoirs 120).

At the same time in Constantinople, the possibility of covering the expenses for the council, should it be held in the East, was being seriously considered. Material assistance was expected from each of the Local Orthodox Churches. Siropoulos informs us that the Metropolitans of Kiev, Georgia and Serbia would donate substantial amounts (Memoir 122).

Ferrara

The delegates of the Eastern Churches were taken to Italy in papal ships and housed in the city of Ferrara. Siropoulos speaks in detail about the journey. He mentions earthquakes that happened on the way as a bad omen for the Orthodox. Of particular interest to us are the details dealing with the first meeting of the delegates with the Pope. Siropoulos says, for example, that at the meeting with Eugenius IV, the archons kissed the papal feet while the bishops did not (Memoir 226). The Patriarch himself, Joseph II conducted himself with Christian courtesy. For example, before his meeting with the Pope the Patriarch said: “If the Pope is older than I in years I shall treat him as my own father, if my age, then as a brother, and if younger than I then as a son” (Memoir 230). Siropoulos says that there were a number of discussions held before the meeting of the Pope and the Patriarch. The Latins were particularly insistent that the Patriarch should kiss the Pope’s feet. The Patriarch responded by saying: “We are brothers, we shall embrace one another.” One of the official delegates which came with such papal demands received the following response from the Patriarch: “Who gave the Pope such a right a right? Which of the councils granted this to him? The Pope claims to be the successor of St. Peter, and we are the successors of the other apostles…this is a total novelty. I cannot and will not accept such a thing, never! If, however, the Pope agrees that we should embrace, as is the ancient custom in the Church, then I will go to him” (Memoir 234).

Ferrara convened

According to Siropoulos the discussions concerning unity in Ferrara and later in Florence took a very long time and were, especially for the easterners, exhausting and extremely difficult. They remained in Italy almost three entire years. For them this was for the most part a new and strange world. The Orthodox upon arrival requested from the Pope that they be given a church where they could hold their services: “Now, since we are here, we request to have our own place to hold own own customary services, our own Holy Liturgy and everything in accordance with our habits.” The Patriarch was particularly concerned that such a church be in one of the monasteries. There was a great deal of disagreement among the Greeks themselves concerning the subject. One of the elders, the monk Gregory, candidly expressed how he felt upon entering a Latin Church: “When I enter a Latin Church, I do not venerate any of the objects found there, nor am I able to find the same Christ, the one I am familiar with. I respect only the sign of the cross and that I make upon myself but nothing else I find there” (Memoir 250).

Some of the delegates who stayed in Italy actually died there. Dionysios Metropolitan of Sardis passed away in Florence and was, at the request of the Patriarch, buried in one of the churches. The funeral service was held in the church of St. Julian but not the Liturgy (Memoir 250).

The council of Ferrara was opened in the church of St. George although many of the gatherings were held in other churches. The work of this council dealt with the many vital questions of union and was delegated to a number of subcommittees which met under the presidency of the Patriarch, Pope or the Emperor.

One of the most notable western individuals in the Memoirs is Cardinal Julian Caesarini. Some time near the beginning of the council this cardinal, not without reason, held a supper attended by Mark Evgenicos, Metropolitan of Ephesus, who took advantage of the invitation to address a letter to the Pope in which he thanked the pontiff for the pains he had gone to in organizing the council. He also expressed hope that the council, having begun, would reach a successful conclusion. He mentioned also, that should the Pope so desire, unity could be realized considering the immense prestige that the Pope had in the West as well as the fact that all the western kings were subservient to him. In the same letter, St. Mark does not forget to mention the major difficulty in achieving union: the addition to the creed which should, under no circumstances, remain (Memoir 258).

The letter was uncompromisingly written. Having received it, Cardinal Caesarini delivered it to the Pope, but not before, being dissatisfied with its contents, showing it to the Emperor. The Emperor was upset with the position Mark of Ephesus had taken in his letter, going so far as to attempt to have him punished by the council. Cooler heads prevailed, one of them being that of Metropolitan Visarion of Nicaea who pointed out that the council should not concern itself with such things, that it was nothing of a dogmatic nature, and that he was entitled to his own opinion (Memoir 260).

At the very start of the council it was determined that there were actually four major points of dispute which could not be shelved or ignored. These were enumerated by Cardinal Caesarini:

1. The teaching of the Church concerning the Procession of the Holy Spirit
2. The question of leavened or unleavened bread in the Liturgy
3. Papal primacy
4. The purgatorial fire after death.

Of these four themes the question of purgatory was approached first since the Orthodox considered that the questions of the procession of the Holy Spirit and of Unleavened bread were of such importance that only a council of the entire Church could decide them. It was only after this decision to discuss the question of purgatory that the delegates were given money to buy food and other necessities. Perhaps here is the place to mention, as Siropoulos so very often does, that this mention of demeaning the Orthodox delegates became a standard feature of the proceedings. Often they were short of money and the most necessary items. Many were placed in a position where they were forced to sell necessary items of clothing in order to eat. The stipend that had been agreed upon before the arrival of the delegates was given to them grudgingly, irregularly and sometimes not at all. Often it was withheld for long periods of time in order to coerce the delegates into agreeing to the demands of the Latins in council. Often the monies were dispersed selectively, the recipients of larger amounts being the Orthodox who were willing to give way to the demands of the Latins.

Taking the Church captive

The fact of the matter is that many of the delegates, under the circumstances, were forced to leave the council and to literally flee. From Ferrara alone three priests returned to Constantinople at the onset of the plague in that city (Memoir 296). The delegates were under the strict control of the Emperor John VIII himself, who among the Orthodox was the main motivation for the entire idea of union with the Latins in order to politically and militarily salvage his empire from the Turks. Everything was made to serve that purpose. It would seem that no small number of the delegates, even the clergy, who were directly accountable to the throne for their positions, also shared this union with their sovereign. They were able to convince themselves of the desirability of compromise from the standpoint of economy. Their prime motivation, of course, was the preservation of the state, of the fatherland. Thus it is that Siropoulos in his memoirs often has reason to remark: “Without the will and decision of the Emperor nothing was done which concerned the Church” (Memoir 270). Some of the meetings of the council were suspended indefinitely without reason. There was open opposition to this. The Emperor, the main instigator of such suspensions, repeated often to the bishops, that they were there for the good of the Empire and that good could not be achieved easily but only through great labor and agony (Memoir 300).

One important attempt at escape from Ferrara was foiled. The brother of St. Mark of Ephesus who was the nomofilax (legal expert), Anthony the Metropolitan of Heraclia, and St. Mark himself had secretly left Ferrara and reached the town of Froncolino, from whence they were forcibly returned. From that point in time both the Emperor and the Patriarch sought a way to move the council from Ferrara to a place further inland away from the sea. The intention was, of course, to isolate the easterners, making flight impossible. Thus, secret negotiations were entered into with the Pope with the goal of moving the council to Florence (Memoir 309).

Concerning the dispute over the questions of the Faith, the first discussions dealt with the innovations of the Latins, one of which was the teaching about the so-called purgatorial fire, which was supposedly experienced by some people after death. Caesarini’s explanation of this is interesting. This belief, he claimed, had existed in the Church from ancient times, being handed down by the Apostles themselves. The souls of the righteous, those free of filth and sin, such as the saints, after their death proceed immediately to heaven. If, however, after baptism Christians fell into sin and had not produced the fruits of repentance through penance they would be cleansed through fire, some slowly, other quickly. Those who died in mortal sin and those unbaptized would proceed to the judgment (Memoir 280).

Siropoulos continues his narrative by returning to the beginning of the Council. The first sitting of the council was held on the 6th of October 1438. The opening address was given by Andrew, Latin Bishop from Rhodes, in Latin. There followed an address by Metropolitan Visarion of Nicaea in Greek. Both of these were translated by Sekundinos who was knowledgeable in both languages. Siropoulos gives us the text of the address by St. Mark of Ephesus which stressed the importance of love and peace, which must be re-established.

“It is impossible,” says St. Mark, “to establish peace, unless the cause of the schism is removed” (Memoir 326). He states categorically that the proof of the present teachings of the council must be shown by its agreement with the Ecumenical Councils, whose decisions must first be read so that: “We may demonstrate our concord with the Fathers and the agreement of this council with those” (Memoir 326). The Latins with their innovations, who had undermined the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, refused to have the Conciliar decisions read at this council. Nevertheless it was conceded that they should be read, and this was done by St. Mark of Ephesus himself, who did so with commentary. During the reading the Latins did not pay close attention claiming that the decisions could not obligate them in any way. During the reading of the decisions of the Seventh Council the Latins presented in written form a document which stated: “From the Father and Son proceedeth (the Holy Spirit).” This took place at the third sitting of the Council held on 16th of October 1438. This fabricated document, totally unknown to the Greeks, was defended by the Latins who pointed to the original signatures and the antiquity of it. Cardinal Caesarini himself claimed that the document was very old and there could be no doubt as to its authenticity. “We have,” he continued, “an historian who has written much about it” (Memoir 330). He did not, however, mention the name of the historian, nor his work on the subject.

It might be of some interest to note that Siropoulos states that some Latin monks converted to Orthodoxy in Ferrara upon hearing the reading of the Ecumenical Councils together with the commentary. They made it at the time the following statement: “We have never known nor have we heard about any of this. Our teachers taught us nothing about it. Now we see that the Greeks speak more truthfully than we do” (Memoir 332). We can believe that Siropoulos did not exaggerate this particular incident.

Of course, one of the main dogmatic points in the discussion was the Latin teaching of the “Filioque” (and from the Son). Siropoulos gives the major portion of his space to this subject: the procession of God the Holy Spirit. Already at the fourth sitting on October 20th discussion was held on that theme. The first to speak on the subject was the Roman Bishop of Rhodes Andrew. This false teaching had been accepted at the Synod of Toledo in Spain as an addition to the Nicene Creed. As a matter of fact that Arian council anathematized all who refused to accept it (Memoir 334). In further defense of their filioque teaching the Latins quoted a letter to St. Maximos the Confessor which includes the addition. The Latins also said that the addition caused no response from the Eastern Church at the time it was adopted. Furthermore, it was said at the fifth sitting of the council that the schism was not the result of the Filioque but rather other causes (Memoir 334).

As was the case in other disputes Cardinal Caesarini was in the forefront of this one. He stated that he was in complete agreement with the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils which state that it is not allowed to make any additions to the Creed which are opposed to the teachings of the Church. On the other hand it was allowed to add things that were true or things that were of an explanatory nature. He goes on to say that the addition of the Filioque clause in the creed by the West was not an addition at all but an explanation, a clarification (Memoir 331).

The autumn session of the council in Ferrara ended at the close of November 1438. The council was interrupted without any explanation. Any further attempt at discussion, says Siropoulos, was terminated. Nothing at all was done. The representatives of the Orthodox Church found themselves in a very difficult position. They were running low on bare necessities and were not being provided with the promised funds. Many of the bishops were of the opinion that these new pressures were a deliberate attempt by their Latin hosts to motivate them to new concessions. For this reason they begged the Patriarch to approach the Emperor for permission for them to return home, “Since we are certain,” they said, “that we shall not be able to achieve a single ecclesiastical object here” (Memoir 348). To these objective difficulties must be added the pressure and prestige of the Emperor himself who had before him only the political and military interests of his now tiny state.

The Emperor was supported, for the most part, by the Patriarch who on one occasion was to state: “We cannot decide anything without the presence of the Emperor since it would seem that there is a difference of opinion between him and us” (Memoir 346). Of course, at the same time, there was always to be found among the Greeks those who shared the opinion of Gregory the elder who argued that “The Church must deliberate and decide on that which interests the Church” (Memoir 346).

Florence convened

The council at the beginning of 1439 was transferred deeper into Italy to the city of Florence. The first gathering took place there on the 26th of February the second week of Lent. From the 2nd to the 24th of March ten sessions were held. The position of the Orthodox in the new surroundings was much worse than it had been even in Ferrara. The Emperor even forbade them to leave the city on horseback, for fear that they would run away from the council. It is not surprising that under such circumstances many of the eastern delegates succumbed to the unyielding pressure of the Latins to conform to their wishes. The situation was such that the majority was forced into the realization that they would indeed be required to sign the document of union no matter what, and that under the circumstances there was nothing else for them to do. The small number who did not feel this was was branded by their fellows as traitors both to Church and Empire. They were, aside from that, the objects of intense pressure, not only from the Latins but from the Emperor and those of the easterners who had come to look upon the creation of the union as a patriotic gesture.

It is worth noting that at that particular time theological questions played no real part in the politics of the council. The Emperor began to consult more and more with those delegates who were in favor of the union, such as Visarion of Nicaea and Isidore of Kiev. The Emperor on one occasion inconsistently said: “I am a defender of the Church,” meaning, as he went on to explain, one who defends the purity of doctrine as well as the internal unity of the universal Church (Memoir 400).

In Florence the Orthodox continued to insist that further dialogue with the Latins was impossible unless they removed the “addition” to the Creed. This was also the position of the Patriarch himself. In the beginning this was opposed only by Visarion of Nicea, the Emperor agreed with him and being moved by pragmatic interests asked the question: Why did they come here then if not to dispute questions of the Faith?

The Latins took full advantage of the opportunities given to them by having the council held in their own territory. In defense of the “addition” they called upon western writers and their works. For the easterners such proofs were totally unknown and for the most part unacceptable since it was impossible to verify their authenticity. To such arguments the Orthodox could only answer: “We will respond when we see the original” (Memoir 394). St. Mark of Ephesus also told them, “I don’t know if the quotes they have quoted are in actuality the quotes of the saints quoted. If I must answer I would have to say that they are forgeries. I have no desire to demean the saints but we have no writings in which these quotes are to be found, and we are totally ignorant of them, having never, until today, heard of them.” Not only that but concerning the “proofs” of the Latins St. Mark had this to say: “They do not conform to the teaching that the Church held to be true when it was yet undivided” (Memoir 396). The Latin use of the above mentioned letter by St. Maximos the Confessor was, according to St. Mark, highly disputable and unacceptable, while for the Emperor, Visarion of Nicaea and others it was a means for union with the Latins. St. Mark of Ephesus answers as follows: “The Latins teach the exact opposite of what St. Maximos believed: They [the Latins] should first of all confess our faith without double-mindedness and only then to unite with us,” and continues, “If we have differences of opinion concerning the faith it is not possible to unite us” (Memoir 400).

In Florence the Latins came up with some sort of Confession of Faith which they presented to the Emperor John VIII and which contained the concept of union. At one time in Ferrara the Latins published a small list of no less than 54 heresies which they attributed to the Orthodox. This small pamphlet was sold openly on the streets and in all public places. Siropoulos does not quote the Confession in its entirety but makes it clear that it was the sum total of all the Latin aberrations and innovations. In response to this the Emperor consulted with his people and said to them, “The Latins have presented us with a Confession. If we agree to it we will have union, if you need to, change any words so as to make it acceptable to you… Or rather produce a Confession of your own which would be acceptable to us and to them” (Memoir 416).

In the Confession it was all the same to the Latins whether the Creed stated “from the Son” or “through the Son.” Isidore, the Metropolitan of Kiev, was of the same opinion. This position was rejected by St. Mark who referred to the opinion of St. Gregory the Theologian who preferred expressions like “dia” and “meta” (“through” and “with”). Gregory Scholaris, at this point in time, suggested the phrase, “…we confess the Holy Spirit who proceeds eternally from the Father and is peculiar to the Son proceeding essentially from both, from the Father through the Son.”

Starving the delegates

It had by this time become obvious that the Emperor was determined to sing the act of union at all costs. Metropolitan Dositheos of Monemvasia pointed out to him that he was well on the road to making the same mistake as his predecessor the founder of the Paleologus dynasty: “I beseech my most holy Lord not to do now what the Lord Emperor Michael the Latinophile did previously.” He was thinking of the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII who, motivated entirely by secular interests, agreed to the ill-fated union with the Latins which was signed in the French city of Lyons in 1274.

It is interesting here to note the questions put to the Orthodox by the Latins, which required answers and which dealt with central issues of the faith. Siropoulos mentions twelve of these questions. Among others the Latins requested a more clear explanation of the phrase: “The Holy Spirit…is peculiar to the Son” (fourth question). “We ask you to tell us what is it that you mean by the word ‘peculiar’ [idion]. Do you mean simply of one essence only [homousion monon], or perhaps that He eternally receives his being from the Son as from the Father?” (Memoir 430). Further questions, five and six, deal with the phrase “from Him”, [ex aftou]. “To whom does this refer, the Father or the Son? If the Son then does this mean that the Holy Spirit is from Him eternally, essentially and personally [aidios, ousiodos, prosopikos] or not?”

The amount of time spent by the delegates in Italy was long and difficult. Siropoulos talks about this a great deal often mentioning specific incidents. They made themselves believe that this extraordinary sacrifice was for the good of the Empire. At the same time they felt strongly that in all of this they should guard against losing their souls. The bishops were often to point out that although they respected the immense effort expended by the Emperor for the sake of the union, nevertheless: “This is no reason for us to sell our souls.”

Siropoulos mentions here an incident that took place on May 22, 1439. On that day the Latins paid out the stipends to the delegates in order for them to buy food for the next two months. They did this selectively. St. Mark of Ephesus, for example, received nothing at all. At the time a certain Cardinal Christopher was heard to say, “Give nothing to Ephesus who has eaten the Pope’s bread and like Judas opposed him as an adversary…he should be given a rope with which to hang himself” (Memoir 436). Despite the treatment St. Mark remained steadfast and uncompromising in the Faith. “Many people,” he said, “believe that there is little difference between us an the Latins. The difference, however, is great.” On the question whether the Latins were heretics, there was a general feeling that they could not be considered as such, and St. Mark was told: “It is not heresy, nor can it be called by that name since none of the Holy Fathers who preceded you called it by that name.” The Saint responded: “It is indeed a heresy, and those who proceeded us considered it to be so. They, however, did not wish to condemn the Latins as heretics in expectation that they would repent of their error. If you wish I can prove to you that they did indeed consider them heretics” (Memoir 444).

When it was stated that St. Mark of Ephesus should moderate his position, to compromise, for the sake of “economy”, he responded by saying: “It is not allowed to compromise in questions of Faith.” After much pressure to compromise the Saint remained firm. The zealots for union said: “The differences are small, and small the compromise that would achieve union, if only you would agree to it.” To this he answered: “That is exactly what the exarch told St. Theodore [Graptos]. He said to him: “Just this once accept our community, we ask nothing else of you, after that you can go where you wish.” The Saint answered him and said: ‘That which you have said is the same as if you were to say, let me cut your head off just this once and then you can go wherever you like!’ Things are not as small as they sometimes appear” (Memoir 447).

The death of the Patriarch

For the delegates from the East the death of their Patriarch was no small loss. The Patriarch Joseph II died in Florence on 10 June, 1439, and was buried in the Church of St. Mary the New. Although Siropoulos has very little to say about the incident it is clear that the Patriarch’s death helped only to weaken the position of the eastern delegates coming as it was near the end of the dialogue.

Somehow or other the discussions finally came to their conclusion. The final details were attended to. The easterners, more now than ever, felt the Latin pressure. The Emperor John VIII, in keeping with Tradition, requested of the Latins that his signature be the first one on the document. The Latins categorically opposed this request (Memoir 478). As a matter of fact, even the Greek text of the final document of union was edited by the Latin monk Ambrose who knew both Latin and Greek. Towards the end the Latins even used bribery to make certain that all of the eastern bishops would sign the union. Siropoulos mentions two Latin bishops, Christopher and Ambrose, who engaged in bribery with the Pope’s approval.

St. Mark of Ephesus, as a witness to these events observed that he was completely powerless to do anything about them. For that reason he addressed the Emperor in the following words: “Your Imperial Majesty knows that I desired neither to become a bishop not to come to this council. From the beginning I have sought only the life of silence according to my abilities. It is Your Majesty that has insisted that I assume both. It is not in accordance with my own will that I obey Your Majesty. I have taken upon myself a duty which I find it above my ability to perform….I ask, at this time, since things are not developing as was agreed previously, that Your Imperial Majesty not force me to sign the document (of union) since that is something I will never do, no matter what happens” (Memoir 482).

The Signing

The Divine Liturgy was celebrated in Florence on Sunday the 5th of July, 1439. After the Liturgy, immediately before the signing of the act of union, the Emperor called a meeting of all the eastern delegates at the residence of the Great Chartofilax. When they had gathered, that official simply informed them that the Emperor had commanded that all of them must sign the act of union, and furthermore be prepared to celebrate Liturgy on the following day together with the Latins at which time the official act of union would be announced. This imperial pronouncement came as a shock to all of the delegates since there had been no previous consultations or warning and there was great opposition. Nevertheless, the actual act of signing went ahead and was, as far as the Latins were concerned, quite successful. Among the last to sign the document was Pope Eugenius IV. Siropoulos mentions that the Pope at that moment asked if Ephesus (Metropolitan Mark) had signed the agreement. Upon hearing that he had not the Pope was heard to say: “Then we have accomplished nothing.” The next day at the Liturgy the Latin text of the union was read by Cardinal Julian Caesarini and the Greek text by Metropolitan Visarion of Nicaea.

Not failing to notice the steadfastness and uncompromising position of St. Mark the Pope attempted to put pressure on him through the eastern bishops and especially through the Emperor. Actually the Pope demanded that the synod of eastern bishops condemn St. Mark. The Emperor responded correctly by saying: “Mark of Ephesus is one of our archpastors and we ourselves will deal with him,” showing in effect what the Emperor really thought of universal papal jurisdiction. That the Pope approached St. Mark through the Emperor and that he conceded on this very point, is itself a demonstration that if there was any common faith in Florence, it was not in universal jurisdiction with the Pope. Thus in no uncertain terms did the Emperor reject the papal counsel. The Pope has no right to demand the deposition of of Mark of Ephesus even though he wishes the synod of eastern bishops to do so (Memoir 504). Despite such rebuttal, the Pope, again through the Emperor, sought to meet personally with St. Mark. On the advice of the Emperor St. Mark agreed. Siropoulos tells us that at the meeting, which was most interesting, the Pope went to great lengths to convince the Saint to agree to “unity”, since if he did not he would be deposed as a heretic. In response to the Pope’s words St. Mark responded by saying that the Councils had already passed judgment on those who failed to submit to the Church and who incorrectly confessed the Faith: “I do not confess my own teachings, nor do I propose any innovations, neither do I rise up in defense of any false and foreign teaching, but rather I hold to the pure faith which the Church has received directly from our Savior Christ and which it has preserved. The Roman Church has also, until the schism, preserved this same faith together with the Holy Church…Are there men of healthy and pious mind who will do the same today together with me? First of all you have to condemn the teachings which I preach. If, however, they have been demonstrated to be Orthodox, how can I be condemned?” (Memoir 508-510).