Council of Basel/Ferrara/Florence/Rome

Basilius Bessarion, metropolitan of Nicea and member of the Greek delegation to the Council, read the act of union between the Roman and Greek Churches in Florence and was later created a Cardinal of the Roman Church.

The Council of Constance called for frequent and regular holding of general councils as a pre-eminent means of cultivating the Lord’s vineyard. Under this principle, the Council of Basel first assembled (A.D. 1431). However, neither Pope Martin V nor Eugene IV demonstrated a strict observance of the Council of Constance’s dictates in regard to the holding of councils. Further, in its struggle to extinguish the Western Schism, the Council of Constance had declared that even the Pope was subject to the authority of a general council. Such a statement is no doubt true when it is unclear whom the true Pope is but otherwise seems a contradiction of Boniface VIII’s Bull Unam Sanctam and of Tradition. Thus, at Basel, a struggle soon ensued between those who espoused conciliar primacy and those who maintained papal predominance. In order to accommodate the participation of the Greeks, Eugene IV ordered the Council be transferred to Ferrara. Nevertheless, apparently, the two thirds majority assent needed (as per the Council of Constance) for such a transfer to take place was not attained. Hence, those opposed to the Pope remained at Basel and those loyal removed to Ferrara. At Ferrara and later at Florence, discussions and negotiations with the Greeks finally led to a decree of union between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches. Subsequently in Florence and later in Rome, decrees of union with the Armenian and Coptic Churches and with the Bosnians, Syrians, Chaldeans, and Maronites of Cypress were approved. Nonetheless, the decrees of union bore little fruit and were generally not embraced by the clergy and peoples of the various non-Latin communities involved. Those who remained in Basel went on to elect an antipope but were later reconciled to Rome during the pontificate of Nicholas V in 1449. Image above links to Tanner translation of the Council’s decrees. ISBN recommendation: 0-87840-490-2