Patriarchate vs Papal Primacy – Fr. Joseph Ratzinger

Something which I have observed constitutes a cause for confusion in the dialogue between East and West is the notion of Patriarch. The Eastern Orthodox are wont to be thinking of the primacy of the Roman see by the concept of this term. But this isn’t how Catholics see it, and it would serve the purpose of both our communions if we were to clarify the root and origin of that authority that we call Papal, and explain how it differs from Patriarch. Though, by this, I do not intend a force being applied to the Eastern side which would compel agreement. Having said that, this clarification aids in shining more light on what the Catholic position is, given her dogmatic teaching laid down at the councils of Lyons, Florence, and both councils of the Vatican.

Now, the fact that we have interpreters who descend from the Greco-Byzantine patrimony who think Patriarch when considering the primacy of Rome is not difficult to believe in light of the fact that the Christian church under and with the Byzantine Empire had accommodated much of its external structuring to suit the geographic and Ecclesio-political operations. Moreover, the 6th canon of one of our shared Concils, Nicaea AD 325, seems to indicate that the Roman bishopric had a sort of quasi-Patriarchal (whose full form sees flowering more than a few centuries after the founding of the church), but more akin to Metropolitical, oversight of a wider region of churches. Some have argued that this canon bears no hint in this direction. But even if it did, it would only be a referent to the growing mode of Metropolia for the church of Rome, which encompassed churches close to the Italian territories. This had already been called “ancient custom” by the early 4th century. Since the churches of Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and then Rome, held certain greater than average prominence, it was appropriate for administrative centralization to occur, bringing together many nearby churches, which were most likely daughter churches from the Mother-church.  This basic application is serves to reflect the practical rationale, and would  do the same for the upcoming 3rd canon of the Council of Constantinople held in 381 , as well as that of the 28th canon of Chalcedon held in 451. Now, Rome had never ratified these canons, and even when there is a final concession to  the inevitable Constantinopolitan primacy, it was not accepted on the logic of those two canons. In fact, n the year 381, no one could say that it is on the basis of “ancient custom” that Constantinople should rise in primacy. Rather, it proffered by the Byzantines that since her city was the new home of the Empire’s capital, it was due for elevation.  Further, it was said that since Rome had received her primacy from the same principle, it would only naturally follow that Constantinople is now Rome, though new. The Pope of Rome at the time, St. Leo I, had disallowed the canonization of that attempt, and emphasized the irreformability of the Nicaean canon which put the order at Alexandria first,  then Antioch, and after that, Jerusalem.

It helps to emphasize now that this level of primacy, that of Metropolitical, and which would turn into Patriarchs for the 5 greater Sees, is a creature of the Church. It was the “ancient custom” of the Fathers. This may or may not include a custom laid down by the Apostles, but I’m unaware of any positive or negative evidence. These Metropolitical centers only grew in light of circumstance, and not divine law. Secondly, they originated on the basis of a strategy to better manage the unity of nearby churches. The prerogatives were recognized by the Church, and originated by her.

On the other hand, Rome’s primacy was never stated to have been based off some conciliar or episcopal decision, but was rather something to have begun with the investiture of Jesus Christ in the Apostle Peter. Rome inherited the throne of Peter, and thus she receives, like a depository, his primatial authority for the universal Church. This is not extensive with Italy, or the West, but is universal. This was even held by the Eastern churches at Chalcedon. Their letter to Pope Leo represents the Eastern consensus just as much as the Council does. The novelty was, quite probably, the logic of the 3rd canon of Constantinople I and the 28th of Chalcedon. It is even more of a cause to wonder how the Easterners could say the things which they did about Leo in their epistle, and at the same time conceive of Rome’s primacy as entirely built off her being home of the elder Imperial capital. Some have argued that the Eastern bishops intended by  “fathers” in “the fathers gave Rome her primacy” (canon 28) on the basis of her being the home of the Imperial capital as the Apostles themselves. It seems like a fair explanation, though it leaves one still wondering.

Anyhow, I think it serves both sides best to realize that the Papal primacy is actually one and the same thing with Petrine primacy, and the latter was created by Christ in the Apostles, and was universal in scope. This is not just a matter of a distinction in the area of jurisdiction, but a whole different category of primacy than was conceived for Alexandria and the rest of the Patriarchs, especially Constantinople.

As a wrap, I give you hear the words of the younger Fr Joseph Ratzinger, who wrote an interesting article (now published in book form)  and which speaks directly to the inner logic of what I’ve tried to show:

“It is clear that the duality, set up by the earliest theology of succession with its emphasis on apostolic sees, has nothing to do with the later patriarchal theory. Confusion between the primitive claim of the apostolic see and the administrative claim of the patriarchal city characterizes the tragic beginning of conflict between Constantinople and Rome. The theory of patriarchal constitution, which especially since the council of Chalcedon, has been held up against the Roman claim and which has tried to force the latter into its own mould, mistakes the whole character of the Roman claim, which is based on an entirely different principle. The patriarchal principle is post-Constantinian, its instinct administrative, its application thus closely tied up with political and geographic data. The Roman claim, by contrast, must be understood in the light of the originally theological notion of the apostolic sees. The more new Rome (which could not dream of calling itself ‘apostolic’) obscured the old idea of the apostolic see in favor of the patriarchal concept, the more; the more Old Rome emphasized the completely different origin and nature of its authority. Indeed, this is something entirely different from a primacy of honor among patriarchs, since it exists on quite a different plane, wholly independent of such administrative schemes. The overshadowing of the old theological notion of the apostolic see – an original part, after all, of the Church’s understanding of her own nature – by the theory of five patriarchs must be understood as the real harm done in the quarrel between East and West. The mischief has had its effect on the West to the extent that, though the notion of apostolic authority has remained unharmed, nevertheless a far-reaching administrative-patriarchal conception of the importance of the Roman see has necessarily developed, making it no easier for those outside the fold to grasp the real hart of the Roman claim in contrast to other claims”
 (Fr Joseph Ratzinger, Primacy, Episcopate, and Apostolic Succession in The Episcopate and the Primacy , pg. 58-59)

The Rationale for Papal Infallibility in 4 Points


Above is a drawing of Pope Pius IX, the Pope who presided over the 1st Council of Vatican in 1870. Below is my attempt to give, very succinctly, the rationale or dialectical thought from where the idea of Papal infallibility comes from.

Christ promised us that the gates of hell should never prevail against the Church (Matt 16:18); likewise, that He would “be with” the Church “unto the end of the age” (ibid 28:18), and that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

(1) Thus, we have immediate grounds for inferring the *indefectibility* of the Church. In other words, she cannot defect from this function since it is rendered necessary (by way of supposition) in our Lord’s promise.

But, since the Church is a doctrinal missionary society *by nature* (i.e. go and preach the gospel to all creatures), her *indefectibility* must imply her *infallibility*, or more thoroughly put, the inability to teach something which would forfeit the soul’s ability to reach the destiny of salvation (i.e. a heresy so great to impugn the process of salvation)

(2) Thus, the 2nd inference would be that the society of the Church is *infallible*.

In addition, we know that the Church is, in principle, a visible society, not least because the holy fathers of the 4th century added into the Creed that the Church has four marks, one of which is Apostolicity. This does not merely mean her doctrine is the same as that of the Apostles, but also that her very being is an “Apostle”, which means her successive growth in the world is done by way of “sending”, a prior “sender” that is. This is kept by what the New Testament called the “laying on of hands by the presbyerate” , and what was later understood as the sacramental succession from the Apostles;  hand-to-body.

But since this visible Church, as doctrinal missionary society, is also hierarchically ordered with a Papal head as holding supreme authority (see here – here – and here ) in all matters pertaining to that very doctrine which she is entrusted to preach to all men, both her *indefectibility* and her *infallibility*, as well as her *visibility*,  must imply Papal infallibility – – – at least in some sense, and under some condition.

(3) Thus, the 3rd inference is Papal infallibility.

But since the tradition has never posited that a Pope is generally immune from making an error, or even negating a dogma in his ordinary teaching, it must be implied that his infallibility has special and extraordinary conditions.

(4) Thus, the 4th inference is a conditional Papal infallibility.

But since a conditional Papal infallibility would be defined by an  intention on teaching the whole church, since it is she who cannot be destroyed, it is implied by that fact that Papal infallibility is invoked and operative only under this specific condition.

Thus, you have the rationale for the teaching of Vatican I – An indefectible & infallible Church whose doctrinal voice is concentrated in the person of the Pope when she defines the Apostolic faith to be held by the whole Church.

3 Eastern Saints & Byzantine Liturgy say “Purgatory” ?


Though, on the ground, the Eastern Orthodox might sound as if they are not of one mind on the subject of post-mortam purgation , it can’t be easily dismissed that there lies in their Patrimony a great deal of evidence for its reality. We have here no less than 4 of the Greats who bear pristine mentioning of the basic concept. Now, we aren’t going to tease out the inevitable question that might arise from St. Gregeory of Nyssa, since he may have held to some sort of universal salvation post-purgatorial process (apokatastasis), thereby discrediting whatever commentary on it. Suffice it to say that it was still confessed in his writing. And likewise, I don’t intend on fleshing out the distinction between post-mortam sanctifying process which is devoid of juridicial satisfaction or the forensic aquitting from temporal punishment and the Latin satispassio. I think the goal here is to show evidence for what could be either one.
(1) St. John Chrysostom (+409) wrote: “It is not in vain that we have received this tradition from the apostles, that we pray for the deceased during the revered and awe-inspiring mysteries.

Will not God be appeased for them, when all the people and priests raise their hands in supplication in this tremendous sacrifice“? (PG 62, 203)

(2) St. Cyril of Jerusalem (+386) in his 23rd Catechetical lecture describes the various prayers offered during the sacred liturgy. He comments on that which is for the dead: ” If a King sent a subject into exile for his offence and then friends of the exile came with a beautiful diadem to placate the king, wouldn’t his displeasure disappear? So, too, we pray to God for the dead, not offering Him a diadem, but Christ himself slain for our sins [on the altar]” (PG 33, 1116)

(3) St. Gregory of Nyssa (+394) wrote “Man will not be able to be a partaker of divinity Gregor-Chora (1)until a purgatorian fire will have cleansed away any stain found on his soul” (PG 46, 525).

(4) The Eastern rite Catholics , also used by the Orthodox, have revealing purgatorial prayers on behalf of the dead in heir панvхида Vigil  (in Greek παννυχίς and μνημόσυνον for Vigil or memorial) services wherein it is petitioned: “Again let us pray for the repose of the soul of the departed servant of God X…and that every transgression both willful and involuntary be forgiven him…that the Lord God may establish his soul in the place where the just find rest . Let us ask for him the peace of God, the kingdom of heaven, and the forgiveness of his sins from Christ, our deathless King and God…Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison…” 

Church Fathers & Papal Infallibility

Here is a list of citations from Church Fathers from both East and West which speak either implicitly or plainly of the doctrine of Papal infallibility. The key hints are the note of promise and permanency from Jesus Christ to Peter, and then from Peter to the Roman episcopate. Also, of special note here is the amount of saints who are today venerated by the Eastern Orthodox, or perhaps the high-Church Anglican tradition. And lastly, this *is not* an attempt to prove Papal infallibility, since more study would have to be done in order to show that. Rather, this is merely to inspire readers to look more into the characters of the Patristics and their historical contexts. Happy reading!




St. Irenaeus of Lyons (A.D. 130-202)                                                             

“But since it would be very long in a volume of this sort to give the successions of all the churches, we will point to that of the exceedingly great and ancient church which was founded and established at Rome by the most glorious apostles Peter and Paul. By its tradition and by its faith announced to men, which has been transmitted to us by the succession of bishops, we confound all those who in any way, by caprice or vain glory, or by blindness and perversity of will, gather where they ought not….For to this [Roman] church…on account of its more powerful principality (propter potentiorem principalitatem), it is necessary that every church , that is, the faithful from all sides [of the world], should come be in agreement, in which the tradition from the Apostles has always been preserved by those that are from all parts” ( St. Irenaeus, 180 AD, Against Heresies – Book III, chapter III)

 St. Jerome (A.D. 347-420)                                                      

“Since the East, shattered as it is by the long-standing feuds [Araianism], subsisting between its peoples, is bit by bit tearing into shreds the seamless vest of the Lord, woven from the top throughout, since the foxes are destroying the vineyard of Christ, and since among the broken cisterns that hold no water it is hard to discover the sealed fountain and the garden enclosed, I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter…My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, to the disciple of the cross. As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the church is built..If you think fit enact a decree; and then I shall not hesitate to speak of three hypostases. Order a new creed to supersede the Nicene; and then, whether we are Arians or orthodox, one confession will do for us all….I implore your blessedness, therefore, by the crucified Saviour of the world, and by the consubstantial trinity, to authorize me by letter either to use or to refuse this formula of three hypostases.”
(St. Jerome, Letter to Pope St. Damasus I, 367 A.D., Epistle #15) – picture from

St. Damasus, Pope of Rome (A.D. 304-384)                                                           

“Although the catholic churches diffused throughout the world are one bridal chamber of Christ, yet the holy Roman church has been preferred to all other churches, not by any synodical decrees, but has obtained the primacy by the voice of our Lord and Savior in the gospel, saying: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell will never prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven…..Therefore, the first see of Peter the Apostles is that of the Roman church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Decree of Damasus, Roman Synod 382. Patrologia Latina 13.374; Jalland, T.G. (1944). Church and Papacy. London:  Morehouse-Gorham Co. p. 255-57)

 St. Sircius, Pope of Rome (384-392)                                                               

[In his commenting on the rise of the Papacy in the mid-4th century and in particular this below letter of Pope St. Siricius to the Bishop of Tarragona, Patristics historian Robert Eno writes the following: “It is only from the mid-fourth century that we begin to have abundant and unambiguous evidence from the letters of the bishops of Rome. This evidence plainly shows the Roman view of itself as the supreme arbiter for the Church. In this letter, sometimes referred to as the first papal decretal, Pope Siricius (384-399) answers the questions sent to his predecessor Damasus (366-384) by a Spanish bishop” (Teaching Authority in the Early Church, Robert B. Eno, SS, page 153)

“For in view of our office there is no freedom for us, on whom a zeal for the Christian religion is incumbent greater than on all others, to dissimulate or to be silent. We bear the burdens of all who are oppressed, or rather the blessed apostle Peter, who in all things protects and preserves us, the heirs, as we trust, of his administration, bears them in us…[proceeds to list a number of errors being promoted in Tarragona (Spain)]… it is also inappropriate henceforth for you to deviate from that path, if you do not wish to be separated from our company by synodal sentence….Enough error on this matter! All priests who do not wish to be torn from the solidity of the apostolic rock, upon which Christ built the universal Church, should now hold the aforementioned rule…[lists more errors]…let them know that they have been expelled by the authority of the apostolic see from every ecclesiastical office, which they used unworthily…[lists more errors]… there is freedom for no priest of the Lord to be ignorant of the statutes of the apostolic see and the venerable decrees of the canons…” (Pope Siricius to Bishop Himerius of Tarragona 385 AD, Epistle 1, Directa Ad Decessorem. Patrologia Latina 13.1132; Ed. Pierre Coustant, Epistolae Romanorum pontificum (Paris, 1721; reprint Farnborough, 1967), 623-638.)


 St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430) 

“‘You know what the Catholic Church is, and what it is to be cut off from the vine? Come, if you desire to be engrafted on the vine. It is a pain to see you thus lopped off from the tree. Number the bishops from the very see of Peter, and observe the succession of every father in that order: it is the rock against which the proud gates of hell prevail not” (Augustine, Psalmus Contra Partem Donati, 43)

This is a Synodical letter from 61 Bishops in Council from Milevis (Numidia) , North Africa to Pope St. Innocent I (401-417), and it concerns the heresy of Pelagius. What is important here is that St. Augustine was a participant:

“In insinuating these things to your Apostolic breast we have no need to say much, and heap up words about this impiety, since doubtless they will move you in such wise that you will be altogether unable to refrain from correcting them, that they may creep no further….The authors of this most pernicious heresy are said to be Pelagius and Celestius, whom, indeed, we should prefer to be cured with the Church, rather than that they should be cut off from the Church, if no necessity compels this. One of them, Celestius, is even said to have arrived at the priesthood in Asia. Your Holiness is better informed by the Council of Carthage as to what was done against him a few years back. Pelagius, as the letters of some of our brethren say, is in Jerusalem, and is said to have deceived many there. Many more, however, who have been able to examine his views more closely, are fighting him on behalf of the Catholic Faith, but especially your holy son, our brother and fellow-priest, Jerome. But we consider that with the help of the mercy of our God, whom we pray to direct your counsels and to hear your prayers, those who hold such perverse and baneful opinions will more easily yield to the authority of your Holiness, which has been taken from the authority of the Holy Scriptures (auctoritati sanctitatis tuae, de sanctarum scripturarum auctoritate depromptae facilius….esse cessuros), so that we may be rather rejoiced by their correction than saddened by their destruction. But whatever they themselves may choose, your Reverence perceives that at least those many must be cared for whom they may entangle in their nets if they should not submit straightforwardly. We write this to your Holiness from the Council of Numidia, imitating our fellow bishops of the Church and province of Carthage, whom we understand to have written of this affair to the Apostolic See which your Blessedness adorns.”
(Council of Mileve to Pope Innocent, June 416 – Patrologia Latina 33.763)

Another episcopal letter to Pope Innocent concerning Pelagius, and is signed by 5 North African bishops ( Aurelius the Primate, Augustine, Alypius, Evodius and Possidius)

“Of the rest of the accusations against him doubtless your beatitude will judge in the same way as the acts of the two Councils. Doubtless your kindness of heart will pardon us for having sent to your Holiness a longer letter than you might perhaps have wished. For we do not pour back our little stream for the purpose of replenishing your great fountain (non enim riuulum nostrum tuo largo fonti augendo refundimus); but in the great temptation of these times (from which may He deliver us to whom we say, ‘and lead us not into temptation’) we wish it to be approved by you whether our stream, though small, flows from the same head of water as your abundant river, and to be consoled by your answer in the common participation of the same grace.”
(Aurelius, Alypius, Evodius, & Possidius to Pope Innocent. Patrologia 33.764)

St. Innocent, Pope of Rome (401-417)

The reply of Pope St. Innocent in 417 to the Africans concerning their appeal on the controversy of Pelagius/Celestius goes like this:

“In making inquiry with respect to those things that should be treated with all solicitude by bishops, and especially by a true and just and Catholic Council, by preserving, as you have done, the example of ancient tradition, and by being mindful of ecclesiastical discipline, you have truly strengthened the vigour of our Faith, no less now in consulting us than before in passing sentence. For you decided that it was proper to refer to our judgement, knowing what is due to the Apostolic See, since all we who are set in this place, desire to follow the Apostle (Peter) from whom the very episcopate and whole authority of this name is derived. Following in his steps, we know how to condemn the evil and to approve the good. So also, you have by your sacerdotal office preserved the customs of the Fathers, and have not spurned that which they decreed by a divine and not human sentence, that whatsoever is done, even though it be in distant provinces, should not be ended without being brought to the knowledge of this See, [39] that by its authority the whole just pronouncement should be strengthened, and that from it all other Churches (like waters flowing from their natal source and flowing through the different regions of the world, the pure streams of one incorrupt head), should receive what they ought to enjoin, whom they ought to wash, and whom that water, worthy of pure bodies, should avoid as defiled with uncleansable filth. I congratulate you, therefore, dearest brethren, that you have directed letters to us by our brother and fellow-bishop Julius, and that, while caring for the Churches which you rule, you also show your solicitude for the well-being of all, and that you ask for a decree that shall profit all the Churches of the world at once; [40] so that the Church being established in her rules and confirmed by this decree of just pronouncement against such errors, may be unable to fear those men, etc.” (Pope Innocent I, Epistle 29, to the Council of Carthage (In requirendis). Jan 27, 417 AD. Patrologia Latina 33.780)

Pope St. Zosimus (AD 417)                                                               

Innocent’s successor, Pope Zosimus, continued to write letters to Africa concerning the same Pelagian issue:

“Although the tradition of the Fathers has attributed such great authority to the Apostolic See that no one would dare to disagree wholly with its judgment, and it has always preserved this [judgment] by canons and rules, and current ecclesiastical discipline up to this time by its laws pays the reverence which is due to the name of Peter, from whom it has itself descended …; since therefore Peter the head is of such great authority and he has confirmed the subsequent endeavors of all our ancestors, so that the Roman Church is fortified … by human as well as by divine laws, and it does not escape you that we rule its place and also hold power of the name itself, nevertheless you know, dearest brethren, and as priests you ought to know, although we have such great authority that no one can dare to retract from our decision, yet we have done nothing which we have not voluntarily referred to your notice by letters … not because we did not know what ought to be done, or would do anything which by going against the advantage of the Church, would be displeasing.…(From the epistle (12) “Quamvis Patrum traditio” to the African bishops, March 21, 418. Patrologia Latina 20. 676; Denzinger, H., & Rahner, K. (Eds.). (1954). The sources of Catholic dogma. (R. J. Deferrari, Trans.) (p. 47). St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co.)

After Pelagius had been condemned , St. Augustine wrote the following recap of the history of the Pelagian condemnation:

“After letters had come to us from the East, discussing the case in the clearest manner, we were bound not to fail in assisting the Church’s need with such episcopal authority as we possess (nullo modo jam qualicumque episcopali auctoritate deesse Ecclesiae debueramus). In consequence, relations as to this matter were sent from two Councils — those of Carthage and of Milevis — to the Apostolic See, before the ecclesiastical acts by which Pelagius is said to have been acquitted had come into our hands or into Africa at all. We also wrote to Pope Innocent, of blessed memory a private letter, besides the relations of the Councils, wherein we described the case at greater length, to all of these he [Pope Innocent] answered in the manner which was the right and duty of the bishop of the Apostolic See (Ad omnia nobis ille rescripsit eo modo quo fas erat atque oportebat Apostolicae sedis Antistitem). All of which you may now read, if perchance none of them or not all of them have yet received you; in them you will see that, while he has preserved the moderation which was right, so that the heretic should not be condemned if he condemns his errors, yet the new and pernicious error is so restrained by ecclesiastical authority that we much wonder that there should be any still remaining who, by any error whatsoever, try to fight against the grace of God….” (Augustine, Epistle 186: Alypius and Augustine to Paulinus – Bishop of Nola near Naples. AD 417. Patrologia Latina 33.816)


“Refute those [Pelagians] who contrdict, and those who resist bring to us. For already two councils on this question have been sent to the Apostolic see and replies have also come from there. The cause is finished; would that the error might sometime be finished also!” (Augustine, Sermo 131. Sept 23, 417. Patrologia Latina 38. 734)


Pope St. Boniface (422 AD)

“”For it has never been allowed to discuss again what has once been decided by the Apostolic See.” (Letter 13 to Bishop Rufus of Thessalonica – PL 20:776A)


The Council of Ephesus (431 AD)

“No one doubts, but rather it has been known to all generations, that the holy and most blessed Peter, chief and head of the Apostles, the pillar of the faith, the foundation stone of the Catholic church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that the power of binding and loosing sins was given to him, who up to this moment and always lives in his successors, and judges.”
(From the speech of Philip the Roman legate in action III of the Ecumenical Council in Ephesus 431; Denzinger, H., & Rahner, K. (Eds.). (1954). The sources of Catholic dogma. (R. J. Deferrari, Trans.) (p. 49). St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co.) – Picture

Pope St. Simplicius  (468-483)

In the post-Chalcedonian crisis of 453 onward, the Eastern Emperor Basiliscus (a usurper to the throne, and a fierce combatant against Chalcedon) had enacted to obliterate the Council of Chalcedon from the list of general Councils. Pope St. Simplicius (venerated by the Eastern Orthodox, Feb 10th), wrote a letter stating the divine state of affairs as seen from Rome:
“Those genuine and clear [truths] which flow from the very pure fountains of the Scriptures cannot be disturbed by any arguments of misty subtlety. For this same norm of apostolic doctrine endures in the successors of him upon whom the Lord imposed the care of the whole sheepfold , whom [He promised] He would not fail even to the end of the world , against whom He promised that the gates of hell would never prevail, by whose judgment He testified that what was bound on earth could not be loosed in heaven  … Let whoever, as the Apostle proclaimed, attempts to disseminate something other, than what we have received, be anathema. Let no approach to your ears be thrown open to the pernicious plans of undermining, let no pledge of revising any of the old definitions be granted, because, as it must be repeated very often, what has deserved to be cut away with the sharp edge of the evangelical pruning-hook by apostolic hands with the approval of the universal Church, cannot acquire the strength for a rebirth nor is it able to return to the fruitful shoot of the master’s vine, because it is evident that it has been destined to eternal fire. Thus, finally, the machinations of all heresies laid down by decrees of the Church are never allowed to renew the struggles of their crushed attack.”
(From the epistle “Cuperem quidem” to Basiliscus Augustus January 10, 476; Denzinger, H., & Rahner, K. (Eds.). (1954). The sources of Catholic dogma. (R. J. Deferrari, Trans.) (p. 64). St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co.)


Pope St. Gelasius I (492-496)

In the midst of the fall out from Chalcedon in Constantinople and Alexandria, Pope St. Gelasius (for some Orthodox, a venerated saint) wrote the following to an Eastern christian named Faustus, and in this letter, Gelasius implied infallibility by way of positing a supremacy to Papal authoritative teaching:

“It is nothing to wonder at — that they presume to blaspheme the see of the blessed Apostle Peter… And on top of this, they call us proud when the first see has never ceased offering them whatever there is of piety. They with their utter shamelessness trust they will be able to subjugate it.. I will ask them this: the trial which they call for, where can it be held? With them (in the East), so that they may be the plaintiff, witnesses, and judges all in one? Neither human affairs nor the integrity of the divine faith must be entrusted to such a tribunal. It matters of religion (faith/morals), the canons say that the ultimate judgement must come only from the apostolic see. The powers of this world? It is not for them to judge — rather they are to learn from the bishops — and above all, from the vicar of blessed Peter about divine things. No ruler of this world, however powerful, whether Christian or not, can presume to claim this for himself, unless of course, he is a persecutor” (Pope Gelasius, Epistle 10 to Faustus – Thiel, A., Epistolae Romanorum Pontificum, p. 347)



Pope Hormisdas (514-523)

The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith and in no way to deviate from the established doctrine of the Fathers. For it is impossible that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,” [Matthew 16:18], should not be verified. And their truth has been proved by the course of history, for in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept unsullied. From this hope and faith we by no means desire to be separated and, following the doctrine of the Fathers, we declare anathema all heresies, and, especially, the heretic Nestorius, former bishop of Constantinople, who was condemned by the Council of Ephesus, by Blessed Celestine, bishop of Rome, and by the venerable Cyril, bishop of Alexandria. We likewise condemn and declare to be anathema Eutyches and Dioscoros of Alexandria, who were condemned in the holy Council of Chalcedon, which we follow and endorse. This Council followed the holy Council of Nicaea and preached the apostolic faith. And we condemn the assassin Timothy, surnamed Aelurus [“the Cat”] and also Peter [Mongos] of Alexandria, his disciple and follower in everything. We also declare anathema their helper and follower, Acacius of Constantinople, a bishop once condemned by the Apostolic See, and all those who remain in contact and company with them. Because this Acacius joined himself to their communion, he deserved to receive a judgment of condemnation similar to theirs. Furthermore, we condemn Peter [“the Fuller”] of Antioch with all his followers together together with the followers of all those mentioned above.

Following, as we have said before, the Apostolic See in all things and proclaiming all its decisions, we endorse and approve all the letters which Pope St Leo wrote concerning the Christian religion. And so I hope I may deserve to be associated with you in the one communion which the Apostolic See proclaims, in which the whole, true, and perfect security of the Christian religion resides. I promise that from now on those who are separated from the communion of the Catholic Church, that is, who are not in agreement with the Apostolic See, will not have their names read during the sacred mysteries. But if I attempt even the least deviation from my profession, I admit that, according to my own declaration, I am an accomplice to those whom I have condemned. I have signed this, my profession, with my own hand, and I have directed it to you, Hormisdas, the holy and venerable pope of Rome.” (“Libellus professionis fidei” added to the epistle “Inter ea quae” to the bishops of Spain, April 2, 518; Denzinger, H., & Rahner, K. (Eds.). (1954). The sources of Catholic dogma. (R. J. Deferrari, Trans.) (p. 73). St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co.)


Patriarch of Jerusalem, John IV (575-593)



“Pere Salaville has drawn attention to the same point in an article in the Echos d’Orient, 1910 (p. 171), in which he deals with a letter written by John, Patriarch of Jerusalem (575-593) to the Catholicos of the Gregorian monks who had a colony in his see-city. The letter, probably published first in Greek, and an Armenian version of which was in recent times discovered and published (1896) in Etchmiadzin, contains the following indepedent testimony to Eastern belief in the prerogative and function of the Apostolic See:

“As for us, that is to say, the Holy Church, we have the word of the Lord, who said to Peter, chief of the Apostles, when giving him the primacy of the faith for the strengthening of the churches, “You are Peter, etc….”. To this same Peter he has given the keys of heaven and earth; it is in following his faith that to this day his disciples and the doctors of the Catholic Church bind and loose; they bind the wicked and loose from their chaints those who do penance. Such is, above all, the privilege of those who, on the first most holy and venerable see, are the successors of Peter, sound in the faith, and according to the word of the Lord, infallible’

Here is not simple primacy, but primacy connoting ‘infallibility'”

(S. Herbert Scott (2015). The Eastern Church and the Papacy. Mysterium Co. p. 359)


Pope Pelagius II (579-590)

” (For) you know that the Lord proclaims in the Gospel: Simon, Simon, behold Satan has desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I have asked the Father for thee, that thy faith fail not; and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren [Luke 22:31 f.].
Consider, most dear ones, that the Truth could not have lied, nor will the faith of PETER be able to be shaken or changed forever. For although the devil desired to sift all the disciples, the Lord testifies that He Himself asked for PETER alone and wished the others to be confirmed by him; and to him also, in consideration of a greater love which he showed the Lord before the rest, was committed the care of feeding the sheep [cf. John 21:15 ff.]; and to him also He handed over the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and upon him He promised to build his Church, and He testified that the gates of hell would not prevail against it [cf. Matt. 16:16 ff.]. But, because the enemy of the human race even until the end of the world does not abstain from sowing cockle [Matt. 13:25] over the good seed in the Church of the Lord, and therefore, lest perchance anyone with malignant zeal should by the instigation of the devil presume to make some alterations in and to draw conclusions regarding the integrity of the faith; and (lest) by reason of this your minds perhaps may seem to be disturbed, we have judged it necessary through our present epistle to exhort with tears that you should return to the heart of your mother the Church, and to send you satisfaction with regard to the integrity of faith.…” (From epistle (1) “Quod ad dilectionem” to the schismatic bishops of Istria, about 585; Denzinger, H., & Rahner, K. (Eds.). (1954). The sources of Catholic dogma. (R. J. Deferrari, Trans.) (p. 94). St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co.)


St. Sophronius of Jerusalem (560-638)



Stephen, Bishop of Dora, was commissioned by St. Sophronius of Jerusalem to appeal to the Roman see for the condemnation of the Monothelites [Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch]. When Rome assembled in the Council of Lateran 649, this Stephen read aloud at the council in the presence of Pope St. Martin and St. Maximos the Confessor:

“Who shall give us the wings of a dove, that we may fly and report this to your supreme See, which rules and is set over all, that the wound [Monothelitism] may be entirely healed? For this great Peter, the Head of the Apostles, has been wont to do with power from of old, by his Apostolical or canonical authority; since manifestly not only was he alone beside all thought worthy to be entrusted with the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to open and to shut these, worthily to the believing, but justly to those unbelieving the gospel of grace. Not to say that he first was set in charge to feed the sheep of the whole Catholic Church; for He says, ‘Peter, lovest thou me? Feed My Sheep’. And again, in a manner special and peculiar to himself, having a stronger faith than all in our Lord, and unchangeable, to convert and confirm his spiritual partners and brethren, when tossed by doubt, having had power and sacerdotal authority providentially committed to him by very God for our sakes Incarnate. Which, knowing Sophronius, of blessed memory, Patriarch of the holy city of Christ our God , — places me on Holy Calvary — and there bound me with indissoluble bonds, saying, ‘Thou shalt give account to our God who on this sacred spot was willingly sacrificed in the flesh for us, at His glorious and dreadful appearing, when He shall judge the living and the dead, if thou delay and neglect His faith endangered: though I, as thou know, cannot do this personally, for the inroad of the Saracens, which has burst on us for our sins. Go then with all speed from one and of the earth to the other, till thou come to the Apostolic See, where the foundations of the truth faith are laid. Not once, not twice, but many times accurately made known to the holy men there what has been stirred up among us, and cease not earnestly entreating and requesting, till out of their Apostolic wisdom they bring judgment to victory’ ” (Mansi, X. 894)


     Saint Maximos the Confessor (580-662)

“In this regard the wretches have not conformed to the sense of the Apostolic See, and, what is laughable, or rather lamentable, as proving their ignorance, they have not hesitated to lie against the Apostolic See itself; but as though they were in its counsel, and as if they had received a decree from it, in the acts they have composed in defence of the impious ecthesis, they have claimed the great Honorius on their side….. What did the divine Honorius do, and after him the aged [Pope] Severinus, and [Pope] John who followed him? Yet further, what supplication has the blessed Pope, who now sits, not made? Have not the whole East and West brought their tears, laments, obsecrations, deprecations, both before God in prayer and before men in their letters?…..


“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, 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. I beseech you, therefore, blessed Lord, to order that no one should speak of Pyrrhus as sanctissimus or almificus, for the holy canon does not allow him to be so styled….

“….For he who has willfully separated from the Catholic Church has fallen from all holiness. For it is not right that one who has already been condemned and cast out by the Apostolic See of the city of Rome for his wrong opinions should be named with any king of honor , until he be received by her [Rome], having returned to her, nay, to our Lord, by a pious confession and orthodox faith, by which he can receives holiness and the name of holy. Therefore, if he wishes neither to be a heretic nor to be accounted one, let him not make satisfaction to this or that person, for this is superfluous and unreasonable. For just as all are scandalized at him when one is scandalized, so also, when satisfaction has been made to one, all without doubt are satisfied. 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 persuade or entrap persons like myself, and does not satisfy and implore the blessed Pope of the most holy Church of the Romans, that is, the Apostolic See, which from the incarnate Son of God himself, and also by all holy synods, according to the holy canons and definitions, has received universal and supreme dominion, authority, and power of binding and loosing over all the holy churches of God which are in the whole world. For with it the Word who is above the celestial powers binds and looses in heaven also. For if he thinks he
must satisfy others, and fails to implore the most blessed Roman Pope, he is acting like a man who, when accused of murder or some other crime, does not hasten to prove his innocence to the judge appointed by law, but only uselessly and without profit does his best to demonstrate his innocence to private individuals, who have no power to acquit him from the accusation
. Wherefore, my blessed Lord, extend yet further the precept which it is known that you have made well and according to God’s will, by which Pyrrhus is not allowed to speak or misspeak with regard to dogma. But discover clearly his intention by further inquiry , whether he will altogether agree to the truth. And if he is careful to do this, exhort him to make a becoming statement to the Roman Pope, so that by his command the matter concerning Pyrrhus may be canonically and suitably ordered for the glory of God and the praise of your sublimity…”
(Epistle of Maximos to Peter the Illustrious, Opuscula 12 – This text is debated as authentic since only fragments are preserved, and then, only in Latin, whereas Maximos wrote in Greek. However, plenty of scholars accept it as authentic. Secondly, even if we were to remove this text, there is the letter from Maximos to Anastasius which is preserved in the Greek and which connect the promise of Christ to Peter with the faith of the Roman church)

“For the extremities of the earth and all in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the most holy Roman Church and its confession and faith, as it were to a sun of unfailing light, awaiting from it the bright radiance of the sacred dogmas of our fathers, according to what the six inspired and holy councils have purely and piously decreed , declaring most expressly the symbol of faith. For from the coming down of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the Churches in every part of the world have possessed that greatest Church alone as their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ our Saviour, the gates of Hell do never prevail against it, that it possesses the keys of a right confession and faith in Him, that it opens the true and only religion to such as approach with piety, and shuts up and locks every heretical mouth that speaks injustice against the most High”. 

“[After telling his monk-disciple Anastasios that the Byzantines had told him that Rome was not in communion with the Monothelites & is ordering the whole church to subscribe to that doctrine, he continues in this letter with instructions to inquire into whether this was true]…Anasatios [a different one than Maximos’ monk-disciple to whom he writes this letter] ordered me to transcribe these things and to make them known to you most holy people, in order that, when you have found out about the trial from these, you might all bring a common prayer to the Lord on behalf of our common mother, that is the Catholic church, and on behalf of us your unworthy servants, for strengthening everyone and us also, persevering with you in it, according to the orthodox faith rightly preached in it by the holy fathers. For there is great fear in the whole world because this [Church] endures persecution by everyone at the same time, unless He [God] offers aid by his customary grace, He who always comes to aid, leaving the seed of piety at least in older Rome, confirming His promise he made to the prince of the Apostles, which does not deceive us(Letter of Maximos to Anastasius his disciple – CPG 7701, Clauis Patrum Graecorum, vols. 1-5, Corpus Christainorum. Gerhard, M.)


Now, lest I prove to be the only one who sees this in Maximos, I give you a quote from a Lutheran Scholar on Maximos, Dr. Lars Thunberg,  and he explains our Saints view of Roman primacy:

“In a somewhat fragmentary letter to Peter the Illustrious (from 643 or 644), which is preserved only in a Latin version, we find some explicit expressions of a very advanced theology about the position of the bishop of Rome. Maximus simply identified the see of Rome with the Catholic Church and he spoke of ‘the very holy Church of Rome, the apostolic see, which God the Word [Jesus] Himself and likewise all the holy Synods, according to the holy canons and the sacred definitions, have received, and which owns the power in all things and for all, over all the saints who are there for the whole inhabited earth, and likewise the power to unite and to dissolve….’
(Patr. Gr. 91, 144 C). Finally, in a letter written later in Rome, he made himself even more clear in the following maner: ‘...she [the Church of Rome] has the keys of the faith and of the orthodox confession; whoever approaches her humbly, to him is opened the real and unique piety, but she closes her moouth to any heretic who speaks against [divine] justice’ (Patr Gr 91, 140). This invites us to evaluate what Maximus had to say about the primacy of the pope. As Fr Garrigues has clearly shown (in an article in Istina, 1976), Maximus was convinced that Rome would never give way to the pressures of Constantinople. Once more forced to consider the possibility that in the case of Monotheletism the Romans might accept a union with the Byzantines, he answered through the paradoxical words of St. Paul, and said: ‘The Holy Spirit condemns… even the angels that would proclaim anything which is contrary to the Gospel’. (Patr Gr 90, 121). This implies that he did not want to discuss an improbable hypothesis, but would rather declare that he was prepared to die for the truth. This statement is a good starting point for a clarification of his own attitude. His personal experience of the doctrinal position of Rome confirmed his conviction that the promises of our Lord to Peter were applicable to the Church that preserved his relics. Thus, for him the communion of the Churches expressed itself as ‘a Roman communion’, a communion with the bishop of Rome. One must remember that for Maximus there existed only one alternative, represented by Imperial policy with its linke between Church and State, and that alternative could not enjoy the same promises. Even sacramental signs were missing in the latter case.”
(The Vision of St Maximus the Confessor: Man and the Cosmos- Lars Thunberg, Page 25-26)


 Pope St. Agatho (678-681)


“Resting on Peter’s protection, this Apostolic Church of his has never turned aside from the way of truth to any part of error, and her authority has always been faithfully followed and embraced as that of the prince of the Apostles by the whole Catholic Church and all Councils, and by all the venerable Fathers who embraced her doctrine…..and she [the Roman church], by the grace of almighty God, will be proved never to have wandered from the path of apostolic tradition, nor to have succumbed to the novelties of heretics; but even as in the beginning of the Christian faith she received it from her founders, the princes of the Apostles of Christ, so she remains unspotted to the end, according to the divine promise of our Lord and Savior Himself…which He spoke to the prince of His apostles in the holy Gospels: ‘Peter, Peter, says He, behold Satan has desired to have you, that he might sift you as he who sifts wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that they faith fail not, and thou one day being converted, strengthen thy brethren’. Let your clemency [Emperor Constantine] therefore consider that the Lord and Savior of all, to whom faith belongs, who promised that the faith of Peter should not fail, admonished him to confirm his brethren; and it is known to all men that the Apostolic Pontiffs [of Rome], predecessors of my littleness, have always done this with confidence…” (Letter of Pope St. Agatho to the Byzantine Emperor & Council of Constantinople III – AD 681)



Pope Hadrian I (787 AD)


“Let that false assembly, which without the Apostolic See … was held contrary to the traditions of the venerable fathers against the divine images, be declared anathema in the presence of our delegates, and let the word of our Lord Jesus Christ be fulfilled, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her” (Matt. 16:18); and again: ‘Thou art Peter …’ (Matt. 16:18–19), whose throne holding the first place in all the world shines forth and holds its place as the head of the whole Church of God.”  – This was read at the 7th Ecumenical Council of Nicaea II (787).
(From epistle (1) “Quod ad dilectionem” to the schismatic bishops of Istria, about 585; Denzinger, H., & Rahner, K. (Eds.). (1954). The sources of Catholic dogma. (R. J. Deferrari, Trans.) (p. 94). St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co.)


Theodore Abu Qurrah,  approximately 820 AD- Arabic Chalcedonian Bishop


“You should understand that the head of the Apostles was Saint Peter, to whom Christ said, “You are the rock; and on this rock I shall build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” After his resurrection, he also said to him three times, while on the shore of the sea of Tiberius, “Simon, do you love me? Feed my lambs, rams and ewes.” In another passage, he said to him, “Simon, Satan will ask to sift you like wheat, and I prayed that you not lose your faith; but you, at that time, have compassion on your brethren and strengthen them.” Do you not see that Saint Peter is the foundation of the Church, selected to shepherd it, that those who believe in his faith will never lose their faith, and that he was ordered to have compassion on his brethren and to strengthen them?

As for Christ’s words, “I have prayed for you, that you not lose your faith; but you, have compassion on your brethren, at that time, and strengthen them”, we do not think that he meant Saint Peter himself. Rather, he meant nothing more than the holders of the seat of Saint Peter, that is, Rome. Just as when he said to the apostles, “I am with you always, until the end of the age”, he did not mean just the apostles themselves, but also those who would be in charge of their seats and their flocks; in the same way, when he spoke his last words to Saint Peter, “Have compassion, at that time, and strengthen your brethren; and your faith will not be lost”, he meant by this nothing other than the holders of his seat.

Yet another indication of this is the fact that among the Apostles it was Saint Peter alone who lost his faith and denied Christ, which Christ may have allowed to happen to Peter so as to teach us that it was not Peter that he meant by these words. Moreover, we know of no Apostle who fell and needed Saint Peter to strengthen him. If someone says that Christ meant by these words only Saint Peter himself, this person causes the Church to lack someone to strengthen it after the death of Saint Peter. How could this happen, especially when we see all the sifting of the Church that came from Satan after the Apostles’ death? All of this indicates that Christ did not mean them by these words. Indeed, everyone knows that the heretics attacked the Church only after the death of the Apostles – Paul of Samosata, Arius, Macedonius, Eunomius, Sabelllius, Apollinaris, Origen, and others. If he meant by these words in the Gospel only Saint Peter, the Church would have been deprived of comfort and would have had no one to deliver her from those heretics, whose heresies are truly “the gates of hell”, which Christ said would not overcome the Church. Accordingly, there is no doubt that he meant by these words nothing other than the holders of the seat of Saint Peter, who have continually strengthened their brethren and will not cease to do so as long as this present age lasts.”

– From On the Councils by Theodore Abu Qurrah, Bishop of Haran, Syria (+820)

Source: Theodore Abu Qurrah. John C. Lamoreaux, translator. (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 2005), pp. 68-69; 128.

“As for us, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, our sole goal is to build ourselves on the foundation of Saint Peter, he who directed the six holy councils. These councils were gathered by command of the Bishop of Rome, the city of the world. Whoever sits on that city’s throne is authorized by Christ to have compassion on the people of the Church, by summoning the ecumenical council, and to strengthen them, even as we have demonstrated in other places. We ask Christ to confirm us in this forever, that we might inherit through it his kingdom, in that we have joined with it the doing of his commandments. To him be praise, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, forever and forever.”

– From On the Death of Christ by the same author

Source: Theodore Abu Qurrah. John C. Lamoreaux, translator. (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 2005), pp. 68-69; 128.


  St. Theodore the Studite Monk (759-826)


“I witness now before God and men, they have torn themselves away from the body of Christ, from the supreme see, in which Christ placed the keys of the faith, against which the gates of hell (I mean the mouths of heretics) have not prevailed, and never will until the consummation, according to the promise of Him who cannot lie. Let the most blessed and apostolic Pope Paschal rejoice therefore, for he has fulfilled the work of Peter” (PG 99, 1281)


“We venerate images….not because we are assured that we are right by the second holy synod of Nicaea or by that which earlier decided divinely, but from the very coming of our lord and God in writing and without writing we have been made firm and rest securely upon that [Roman] See to which Christ say – you are Peter , and upon this rock I will build my church , and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it(PG 99, 1117)


Pope Nicholas I (800-867)


“…Furthermore, if you do not listen to us [Rome], it remains that you be held by us as our Lord Jesus Christ enjoins us to hold those who refuse to hear the Church of God; especially since the privileges of the Roman Church confirmed in St. peter by the words of Christ, ordained in the Church itself, observed from of old, proclaimed by the holy universal synods and ever venerated by the whole Church, can by no means be diminished, infringed, or altered, since no effort of man has power to remove a foundation which God has laid, and what God has established stands firm and unshakable….These privileges, then, were bestowed on this holy Church by Christ: they were not bestowed by the Synod but were merely proclaimed and held in veneration by them….it is immediately clear that the judgments of the Apostolic See, than which there is no greater authority, cannot be handled by any other tribunal, nor is it permissible for any to sit in judgement upon its decision…..”
(Pope Nicholas, Preposueramus Quidem, 865 AD, to the Emperor Michael, Epistle 8; Mansi xv. 196)


 Councils of Constantinople (869-879)


Just before the Synod of Constantinople 879-80, Pope John VIII had written a letter to Emperor Basil I concerning the re-instating of Photius upon the death of St. Ignatius, who occupied the episcopal throne prior to. Photius had actually been reconciled to St. Ignatius, and actually canonized him after his death. This letter from John VIII contained clear indication of some of the basic elements of the definitions @ Vatican 1 on the founding and prerogatives of Papal power, and that in both Latin & Greek versions. Here is the passage I am referring to:

“Since it has seemed desirable to us to bring peace to the Church of God, we have sent our legates so that they might execute our will, even though, in your charity, you have already anticipated us, in reinstating Photius. We accept this action, which was done not by our own authority, even though we have the power to do it, but in obedience to the apostolic teachings. Since in fact we have received the keys of the kingdom of heaven from the High Priest, Jesus Christ, by the intermediary of the First of the Apostles to whom the Lord said: ‘I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; everything which you will bind upon earth will be found to be bound in heaven and everything which you will loose upon earth, will be found to be loosed in heaven’; therefore this apostolic throne [Roman bishop] has the power to bind and loose, and this according to the words of Jeremiah, to uproot and to plant. This is why, by the authority of Peter, the prince of the Apostles, we announce to you in union with the whole Church and through you as intermediary, we announce to our dear confreres and concelebrants, the patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem and to the other bishops and priests and to all the Church of Constantinople, that we are in agreement with you, or rather in agreement with God, and that we consent to your reques…Accept this man without any hesitation” (Mansi 17, 400)

The Greek version of this part of John’s letter was retained, and it shows us that Constantinople knew of the Papal claims to universal jurisdiction by year 9th century. Now, you will notice the reference to the Jeremiah passage (1:10) by the words “to uproot and to plant”. This allusion was actually used by Pope Nicholas I to describe the Imperial power of the Emperor Michael [predecessor to Basil]. So it is most probable that both Photius and Basil knew that this language of uprooting and planting was referring to jurisdiction-power.

Photius not only understood the claims of Rome then, but he writes in a letter to John the following:

“we may well ask who is the master who has taught you to act in this fashion? – surely, above all, it is Peter, the leaders of the Apostles whom the Lord has placed at the head of all the churches, when he said to him ‘Feed My sheep’. Nor is it only Peter, but also the holy synods and constitutions. And besides, it was the holy and orthodox decrees established by the fathers, as is clear from your divine and holy letters”
(Francis Dvornik , Byzantium and the Roman Primacy, pg. 107-118)


Photius the Great (810-891)


At the Council of C’ople (869), the Papal legates require that every Bishop should sign and deliver to them for transmission to the Pope a profession of faith which says the following:

“Because the sentence of our Lord Jesus Christ cannot be past by , who ways, ‘Thou art Peter, and aupon this rock I will build my Church’, these words are proved by the real effect which has followed; because in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has ever been kept immaculate, and holy doctrine celebrated there. Wherefore, by no mens desiring to be separated from its faith and doctrine, and following in all things the constitutions of the Fathers, and chiefly of the holy Prelates of the Apostolic See, we anathematize all heresies…Condemning particularly, Photius and Gregory of Syracuse, parricides, that is, who have not feared to put out their tongue against their Spiritual father [Pope Nicholas of Rome]. Since, following in all things the Apostolic See, and observing in all things the Apostolic See, and observing in all things its constitutions, we hope that we may be worthy to be in one communion which the Apostolic See sets forth, in which is the complete and true solidity of the Christian religion. But this my profession I have written with my own hand, and delivered to thee, most holy Hadrian [the Pope current] Supreme Pontiff and Universal Pope” (Mansi XVI , 27)

Also, at this very Council in 869 was read a letter from Patriarch Ignatius of C’ople to Pope Nicholas, and it was approved….and it said:

Of the wounds and sores of human members, art has produced many physicians; of whom one has treated this disease, and another tha, using in their experience amputation or cure. But of these, which are in the members of our Saviour Christ and God, the Head of us all, and of His spouse the Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Supreme Chief and most powerful Word, Orderer, and Healer, and Master, the God of all, hath produced one singular pre-eminent and most Catholic physician, your fraternal Holiness, and paternal goodness. Wherefore He said to Peter, the great and supreme Apostle, ‘Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church’, and again, ‘I will give to you the keys of the kingdom, and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven’. For such blessed words He did not, surely, according to a sort of lot, circumscribe and define to the prince of the Apostles alone [to exclusively Peter], but transmitted by him [Peter] to all , who, after him, according to him, were to be made supreme pastors, and most divine and sacred Pontiffs of OLDEN ROME. And, therefore, from of old, and the ancient times, when heresies and contradictions have arisen, many of those who preceded there your Holiness and supreme Paternity, have many times been made the pluckers-up and destroyers of evil tares, and of sick members, plague-struck and incurable: being, that is, successors of the prince of the Apostles, and imitating his zeal in the faith, according to Christ: and now in our times, your Holiness hath worthily exercised the power given to you by Christ” (Mansi, XVI, 47)

Another letter was read and approved from Pope Nicholas to the Emperor Michael :

“That headship of divine power, which the Maker of all things has bestowed on his elect Apostles, he hath, by establishing its solidity on the unshaken faith of Peter, prince of the Apostles, made his see pre-eminent, yea, the First. For, by the word of the Lord it was said to him, ‘Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church’. Moreover, Peter so entirely ceases not to maintain for his own people the structure of the Universal Church unshaken and rooted in the strength of faith, from the firmness of the Rock, which is Christ, that he hastens to reform by the rule of right faith the madness of the wandering. For, according to the faithful maintenance of the Apostolical tradition, as yourselves know, the holy Fathers have often met, by whom it has both been resolved and observed, that without the consent of the Roman See and the Roman Pontiff no emergent deliberation should be terminated” (Mansi XVI, 59)

To Photius himself Pope Nicholas says, as read in the same Council:

“Because the whole number of believers seeks doctrine, asks for the integrity of the faith, and those who are worthy the deliverance from crimes — from this holy Roman Church, which is the head of all churches, it behoves us, to whom it is entrusted, to be anxious, and the more fervently to be set on watch over the Lord’s flock…” (Mansi XVI, 69)

Also, another letter is read @ the Council of 869, and approved…from Pope Nicholas to all Archbishops, Metropolitans, and Bishops subject to C’ople:

“Wherefore, because, as your wisdom knows, we are bound by the care of all Christ’s sheep, holding through the abundance of heavenly grace, his place, to whom is especially said by God, ‘Feed My sheep’, and again ‘And thou, when thou are converted, confirm they brethren’ we could not dissimulate or reglect, but that we should visit our sheep dispersed and scattered, and confirm in the faith and good conduct our brethren and neighbors” (Mansi XVI , 101)

And in the 2nd Canon of the same Council, it states

“Obey those set over you, and be subject to them, for they watch for your souls, as those that shall give account: thus Paul the great Apostle commands. Therefore, holding the most blessed Pope Nicholas for the organ of the Holy Spirit, as too, most holy Pope Hadrian, his successor, we decree and approve that all things, which by them at different times have been set forth and promulged synodically, as well for the defense of the Church of Constantinople, as for the expulsion of the Photius, be kept and maintained” (Mansi XVI, 160)

And in the 21st canon it forbids an Ecumenical Council “boldly to give sentence against the supreme Pontiffs of elder Rome” (Mansi XVI, 174)



Pope Leo IX (1053 AD)



“…The Holy Church has been built upon a rock, that is, upon Christ, and upon Peter, the son of John, who was first called Simon. It was so built because it never was to be conquered by the gates of hell, that is, by heretical opinions which lead the unwary to destruction. This is the promise of truth itself who is the cause of all that is true: ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against it’. The same Son of God bears witness that by his prayers he obtained the fulfillment of this promise from the Father, for he said to Peter, ‘Simon , Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you…but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail’. Will there be anyone whose will is power to do, can be devoid of effect? Is it not by the see of the prince of the Apostles, namely, by this Roman church, both by this same Peter and by his successors, that all the inventions of heretics stand condemned, exposed, and overcome? Are not the hears of the brethren strengthened in the faith of Peter which has not failed thus far and will not fail till the end of time?” (Letter from Pope Nicholas to Michael Cerularius 1053; The Church Teaches: Documents of the Church in English Translation, Page 71)
“… You are said to have condemned publicly in a strange presumption and incredible boldness the Apostolic and Latin Church, neither heard nor refuted, for the reason chiefly that it dared to celebrate the commemoration of the passion of the Lord from the Azymes. Behold your incautious reprehension, behold your evil boasting, when “you put your mouth into heaven. When your tongue passing on to the earth” [Ps. 72:9], by human arguments and conjectures attempts to uproot and overturn the ancient faith.…
… The holy Church built upon a rock, that is Christ, and upon Peter or Cephas, the son of John who first was called Simon, because by the gates of Hell, that is, by the disputations of heretics which lead the vain to destruction, it would never be overcome; thus Truth itself promises, through whom are true, whatsoever things are true: “The gates of hell will not prevail against it” [Matt. 16:18]. The same Son declares that He obtained the effect of this promise from the Father by prayers, by saying to Peter: “Simon, behold Satan etc.” [Luke 23:31]. Therefore, will there be anyone so foolish as to dare to regard His prayer as in anyway vain whose being willing is being able? By the See of the chief of the Apostles, namely by the Roman Church, through the same Peter, as well as through his successors, have not the comments of all the heretics been disapproved, rejected, and overcome, and the hearts of the brethren in the faith of Peter which so far neither has failed, nor up to the end will fail, been strengthened?… By passing a preceding judgment on the great See, concerning which it is not permitted any man to pass judgment, you have received anathema from all the Fathers of all the venerable Councils… As the hinge while remaining immovable opens and closes the door, so Peter and his successors have free judgment over all the Church, since no one should remove their status because “the highest See is judged by no one.”
(From the epistle “In terra pax hominibus” to Michael Cerularius and to Leo of Achrida, September 2, 1053 ; Denzinger, H., & Rahner, K. (Eds.). (1954). The sources of Catholic dogma. (R. J. Deferrari, Trans.) (p. 142). St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co.)