Third Council of Nicaea

Third Council of Nicaea May 31, 2014

In remarkable news, Pope Francis and the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople are planning an ecumenical synod in Nicaea for 2025! The Patriarch said:

“[Pope Francis and I have] agreed to leave as a legacy to ourselves and our successors a gathering in Nicaea in 2025, to celebrate together, after 17 centuries, the first truly ecumenical synod, where the Creed was first promulgated.” The Council of Nicaea, held in 325, brought together over 300 bishops and approved the formula of faith now known as the Nicene Creed.

Whether it will be the “Third Council of Nicaea” remains to be seen. But even if it doesn’t quite have the status of previous ecumenical councils, it will still be a significant event.

Given the kinds of topics that were discussed at previous ecumenical councils, it is worth beginning to reflect now on what sorts of topics could and should be the focus of such a council. What would you hope or expect them to discuss and try to decide at such a gathering?

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  • I suspect that by 2025, under Francis, the Roman Catholics will be rethinking their claim that only males can be priests. They may also want to invite to the Council churches like the Anglican Communion which have women priests and bishops. I guess that will be a hot topic with the Orthodox. I hope it is not so hot that it torpedoes the Council.

    • On the other hand, the Orthodox have married priests, and so that could be a point of reconciliation if Catholics created a similar two-track system.

      • The difference is that Roman Catholics have never taken clerical celibacy as a matter of doctrine, but only of church order. They already allow married priests in certain cases e.g. Maronites and ex-Anglicans. The way things are going (and unless Francis gets removed in some kind of coup, as Andrew Dowling seems to suggest) I suspect that clerical celibacy will already be little more than an option by 2025.

        • Cody

          Peter, women can’t be ordained as Priest in the Catholic Church. This an infallible doctrine of the Church guided by the Holy Spirit, it can not be changed ever under any circumstances.

          • Well, Cody, the church may have been guided by some spirit, but in this case more likely the ancient and fallible spirit of patriarchy rather than God’s infallible Holy Spirit of freedom and equality. Anyway the matter is irrelevant because all true believers, male and female, have been ordained by the anointing of that same Holy Spirit into the royal priesthood of the new covenant (1 Peter 2:9 etc).

          • The interesting question now is what happens if an “infallible” pope agrees with my previous comment, or at least the first half of it.

          • Cody

            First off, no pope is “infallible”, the only thing that is “infallible” are teachings of that Pope, when made under some very specific scenarios.

            But to your question, it doesn’t matter if a Pope disagrees with it. Unlike Protestant Denominations, Doctrines of the Church (which that women can not be priests is) can not be changed, and are not up for vote. No person, even the Pope has the authority to change a doctrine of the Church.

          • Cody

            We are all part of the Royal Priesthood. That is not in doubt or in question. But there is a difference in being part of the Royal Priesthood, and being the Priest acting “in persona Christi”.

            But, I am not trying to get into a theological argument, there is never a winner when you get into those on message boards or online. All that I was saying is that in the Catholic Church there never will be and can’t be Female Priests. The Church has rules on this, and no Pope has the authority to change that.

          • Cody, I know the theory. I also know that previous Popes have promulgated novel “doctrines of the faith” on their own infallible authority alone. I also know that canon lawyers are experts at finding ways round matters like this if they want to. Is it currently an undisputed fact that women can never be priests as a doctrine of the faith, or is it merely a disputed legal opinion? Was the matter ever decided by an general council of the church?

          • Cody

            Not sure if there is such a think as an undisputed fact in the Catholic Church. There are people in the Catholic Church that dispute just about everything. But, for both Orthodox and Catholics, this has long been set as a close to a settled matter as you can get.

            Here are Pope John Paul II’s exact words on the subject:
            “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” (OrdinatioSacerdotalis 4)

          • Well, Cody, since John Paul II’s time is hardly “long” for the Catholic Church, and he clearly refers to debate over this in his time, which he sought to end. And even that saintly pope is not considered infallible except when speaking ex cathedra.

          • Also to quote your words earlier, Cody, “The Church has rules on this, and no Pope has the authority to change that.” That includes John Paul II, who had no authority to make a definite declaration on such a matter.

          • Cody

            Are you saying that Pope John Paul II didn’t have the ability to speak excathedra? Although in this case he isn’t actually speaking ExCathedra, because he is restating the tradition that had been set long ago. Which is and has been for a while a doctrine of the Church.

            But, if you want to keep arguing about it, fine. I was only TRYING to set the record straight. But if you want to keep thinking that the Catholic Church will eventually ordain women fine, go ahead….

          • Cody, I don’t know exactly what the Roman Catholic Church will do. I just know that they will do what they and their leaders want to do, not what someone from outside says they are obliged to do because of past popes’ words. Where there is a will, there is a way. At the moment there is not a will to ordain women, but that may change.

          • Cody

            All that I am saying is despite what you want to believe is that this IS settled. It is a doctrine of the Church and can not be changed.

            Keep believing where there is a will there is a way. In the end, there can never be a will for the Church to undo teachings of truth from the Holy Spirit.

      • Cody

        James, actually the Catholic Church does allow married priests. There are 23 rites in the Catholic Church, and only one of them, the Latin or Roman Rite does not allow Priests to marry. But that is purely practice and is open to change at any time.

    • Gary

      According to the third council of Cincinnati, the Catholic schools have both man and female ministers, also moonlighting as teachers.

    • Transgay

      What about transgender priests? Or redefining marriage? 🙂

  • Andrew Dowling

    Hmmm, does anyone really think Francis will still be here in 2025?

    • Gary

      Does it really matter? It’s the anniversary date that counts.

      • Andrew Dowling

        My remark was in response to comments that inferred that under Francis there will be a liberalizing strain and that this Council will possibly enable for priests to get married. Whereas for all we know the Pope in 2025 will be some Nigerian who makes Benedict look like John A T Robinson.

        • Maybe, Andrew, but he may be someone as liberal as John Robinson. But Francis is quite likely to be still alive, and 89. In the USA the life expectancy for a man of his age (from would currently be 10.2 years. For Francis it is probably longer than average because he most likely has a healthy lifestyle and certainly has access to the best health care.

          • Andrew Dowling

            “Maybe, Andrew, but he may be someone as liberal as John Robinson.”

            Given the highly conservative makeup of the Cardinals that’s extremely unlikely

            “But Francis is quite likely to be still alive, and 89.”

            The unfortunate reality is most people don’t live until 89 years old, especially with the type of travel schedule someone like Francis has.

        • Cody

          Allowing Priests to be married already happens in ALL rites of the Catholic Church. It is just the Roman Rite (one of only 23 Rites) that it takes special cases, AKA coming in under the Episcopal Outreach. And could be changed, in a heart beat if wanted, and certainly wouldn’t require a Synod. If priests can be married isn’t affecting the Orthodox/Catholic “reunion” in any way. As there are currently 22 other Rites that are all as much Catholic as those who are part of the Latin or Roman Rite of the Catholic Church that have married priests.

          • Andrew Dowling

            “If priests can be married isn’t affecting the Orthodox/Catholic “reunion” in any way”

            I never said it did.

          • Cody

            My misunderstanding sorry….

    • You have to get these things on everyone’s calendar early…

      • Gary

        Otherwise, the official party might have to stay at the Marriott Istanbul, which might prove uncomfortable.

  • Sean Garrigan

    How about the rejection of the doctrine of eternal torment and subsequent adopting of a doctrine of conditional immortality? Or, how about the reversal of the very doctrine that the original meeting at Nicaea is famous for, which I consider both un-biblical and singularly unhelpful?

    • Cody

      The Catholic Church can not reject any doctrine of the faith. All doctrines of faith are guided and set by the Holy Spirit and are eternal truth, and no truth can ever become false.

    • Tim

      I’m all for the rejection of the doctrine of eternal torment, but frankly conditional immortality (annihilationism) isn’t a lot better. I’d much rather they move toward Universal Reconciliation (Apokatastasis), a position held by many of the best and brightest early church fathers. (See Catholic professor Illara Ramelli’s Apokatastasis project.)

  • John A. Cancienne

    This meeting is planed for 2025?! Seriously folks, considering the ages of these two, isn’t planning an event for the two of them to meet in 2025 ranging just a tad too far into the future?