The Council of Chalcedon

Hello Members,

Would anyone know why we do not mention this council in our liturgy? Our church was represented by St Dioscorus - if I'm not mistaken?
In the liturgy, we mention the 320 who assembled in Nicea and the 450 (or so) who assembled in Ephesus - why don't we mention those who assembled in Chalcedon?

This is a very very painful period for our Church, and for Christianity in general. I understand that. But the fact is, we were represented, and we were excommunicated as a result. 

Does anyone know the exact history of Chalcedon? what happened exactly?? 

Are we at fault in anyway?



  • edited April 2014
    It's best to read the countless threads on this site about this topic rather than start a new one. In short, the council isn't mentioned in the Liturgy because it does not constitute a part of our faith.
    We were not 'excommunicated' because that would imply a departure from the true church making us schismatics. We are the true church. The Christology of Ephesus and previous fathers was enough and no need to reformulate our faith was necessary. The faith does not grow old that it needs to be redefined in different ways.
    Councils represent different controversies, but what Chalcedon sought to do was redefine what has already been defined in succinct terms by St Cyril the Great but unfortunately departed from the definition that was safest from deviation and that which St Cyril himself has warned against.

    It's important to add that we accept the current Byzantine churches as Orthodox (EO) but accepting the council of Chalcedon would alter our understanding of the oneness and unity of Christ. Many post Chalcedonian fathers have condemned the council and for good reason. And leaving Christology aside, the council was dishonest, political and at times unchristian in its treatment of the Alexandrian and other parties not willing to accept a redefinition of the faith. The Holy Spirit could not have been present in such circumstances of politics, deception and hunger for power. EOs will of course deny this and so the cycle of debate and revisitionist history begins.

    There's no use arguing the council any longer. Even in unofficial meetings nowadays, this part of history is relatively left alone and what's focused on now is the EO's orthodox interpretation of Chalcedon, rather than what actually happened, because no one can travel to the past to truly assess the spirit and motivations of the different parties. Suffice it to say, both communions consider the other Orthodox to a certain extent with the exception of fringe elements in both camps (mostly from the EO side) insisting on still calling us heretics.

    In a nutshell that is the history. Of course, coming from me it's biased because I'm oriental Orthodox. Talking to an Eastern Orthodox brother or sister will get you different takes on what happened, thus the cycle repeats itself of both parties calling each other revisionists of history..There's simply no use to debate Chalcedon any longer but what's important is we move forward with our commonality which is Ephesus and bring any interpretation back to that Orthodox definition which we all accept..

    God bless and may the prayers of the holy fathers be with you

  • In my new book of polemic dialogues the last conversation is on this subject. It sheds light on why we do not recognize it as a council, the fact that St Dioscorous was ousted, not for heresy, then later branded a heretic is cause for concern. The fact that the council goes against the formula accepted in the 3rd council is cause for concern. The fact that leos tome is clearly nestorian is cause for concern as well. In fact Nestorius himself, in the Bazaar of Heracles, says that the tome is a "vindication of the truth." So yea, I reject the robber council, that is the council of chalcedon.
  • So yea, I reject the robber council, that is the council of chalcedon.

    Me too. The reason is simple: I regard it as a totally heretical council and unholy from A to Z, just like the council of Tyre that anathemized Athanasius and reinstated heretics and upheld the heresies. Whether it is the Nestorian Tome of Leo, the acceptance of the blasphemous three chapter, the anathema against Orthodox champions, the synod letter being written by the arch heretic Theodret, reinstitution of Theodret and confirmed heretics, the reason are too many to count now. 

    But I must concede that this position, upheld by the Church for 15 centuries, has been reversed since the common declaration with the Chalcedonians in the 90's. The non-Chalcedonians, Copts included, now accept that Chalcedon is purely a matter of misunderstanding and Chalcedon is Orthodox without question in dogma and in practice.

    I find this new position shameful and ridiculous, but this matters not. This is now the official position of the non-Chalcedonians as pronounced by almost every single hierarch.

    Given the above, the question remains: What prevents non-Chalcedonians now after they had the change of heart to confess the "Orthodoxy" of Chalcedon? It is a valid question and nobody is answering it.

    Are councils 4 to 7 Orthodox?

    If yes, then non-Chalcedonians should adhere by its definitions of the faith and mention it, honorably, in the liturgies next to the first three councils.

    If not, have some integrity is needed.

    If wishy-washy, welcome to the Coptic Church. Go sit next to the other 7'erfan.     



  • Chalcedon was purely political. Leo wanted to oust Alexandria and was nearly exiled himself by the Roman emperor who sided with St Dioscorus, but since he died before that could happen, Leo went on a rampage. He is a theologically incompetent imbecile who, according to the catholic encyclopedia, is the first to teach the primacy of Rome, that being not first among equals but the first amongst inferiors, the head of all Christians. I will not accept Leo nor the veneration of Theodoret of Cyrus, both are nestorian heretics.
  • Thank you, Ioannes, for this post. It has been a while - actually decades - since somebody on the non-Chalcedonian side articulated his belief, and for ages the belief of the Orthodox Church, regarding Chalcedon, Leo and Theodret with such courage and force.

    I do not think it was only political, there was deep heresy involved and this is how the Church Fathers viewed it since 451 a.d. until the mid-90's of the last century. I am not trying to convince anybody nor get into debate about this. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

    But I think the issue I am trying to get at is the inconsistency in the position of the Coptic Church regarding Chalcedon. All of us can agree, and I will concede, that the non-Chalcedonians NOW do not see anything heretical with Chalcedon and the rest of the councils (7, 8 or 9 or whatever number the Chalcedonian have). Politics and tyranny is not grounds for excommunication.

    The only logical conclusion is to mention these councils in the liturgies and to accept the Chalcedonians into the faith unconditionally, even if from one side. But they are not doing it, showing that the whole matter with the union talks is just politics, and getting deeper into hypocrisy and inconsistency.


  • Stavro wrote:
    But I think the issue I am trying to get at is the inconsistency in the position of the Coptic Church regarding Chalcedon. All of us can agree, and I will concede, that the non-Chalcedonians NOW do not see anything heretical with Chalcedon and the rest of the councils (7, 8 or 9 or whatever number the Chalcedonian have). Politics and tyranny is not grounds for excommunication.

    Not really. Fr Shenouda Maher's book clearly and emphatically condemns Nestoriansim, Chalcedon, dyophysitism, Leo and Theodoret....And he is a member of the ecumenical dialogue committee. 

    Just because someone is sympathetic to Chalcedonians doesn't mean they agree or validate the heresies of Chalcedon. This is not inconsistency or hypocrisy. There is a clear line in the sand about what the Non-Chalcedonians will and will not accept. Any discussion that insists on accepting Chalcedon or Leo's Tome is unanimously rejected. Always. The only difference now is that some Chalcedonians are agreeable to deeper discussion, while others continue to play the "I don't care what you say now, you will always be my enemy" game. As do many Non-Chalcedonians.
  • To make sure we are all discussing the same issue, please refer to the link below with the official position of the Coptic Church regarding the faith of the Chalcedonians.

    The document is signed by the official delegates and representatives of the Coptic Church, Anba Bishoy, Bishop of Domiat and the Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Church (at that time), and Anba Sarapion, Bishop of LA and the most senior and prominent bishop outside Egypt. The document is also recognized by the entire Holy Synod as the official position of the Church, in fact of all non-Chalcedonian churches.

    I will copy two of the most obvious statements from the agreed statements that confirm that the non-Chalcedonians, Copts included, accept the history, theology, christology and the faith of the Chalcedonians without reservations:

    9. In the light of our agreed statements on Christology as well as of the above common affirmation, we have now clearly understood that both families have always loyally maintained the same authentic Orthodox Christological Faith, and the unbroken continuity of the Apostolic tradition, though they may have used Christological terms in different ways. It is this common faith and continuous loyality to the Apostolic Tradition that should be the basis of our unity and communion.

    10. Both families agree that all the anathemas and condemnations of the past which now divide us should be lifted by the Churches in order that the last obstacle to the full unity and communion can be removed by the grace and power of God. Both families agree that the lifitng of anathemas and condemnations will be consummated on the basis that the councils and Fathers previously anathemized or condemned are not heretical.


  • The text of the 9th statement is clear. The Coptic Church accepts the whole theology and history of the Chalcedonian as Orthodox. The Coptic Church regards the Chalcedonians as having always adhered to the faith and never ever lost their Apostolic succession. No need for further interpretation. This includes Chalcedon, which gave this particular group their name, and the rest of their councils (7, 8 or 9).<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

    The text of 10th statement is also clear. The Coptic church does not see a problem with Leo of Rome or his Tome, Theodret, and any Chalcedonian Father because they were not heretical. We will accept them without reservations.

    Then, the following question of the Chalcedonians is fully justified:

    If the Coptic Church, and the non-Chalcedonians in general, accepts our theology and history as Orthodox and Copts confess and recognize that we never departed from the faith at any point of time, then why does the Coptic Church contradict herself and resist confessing Chalcedon and the rest of the councils as binding and authoritive? There is no answer.

    Remnkemi: Just because someone is sympathetic to Chalcedonians doesn't mean they agree or validate the heresies of Chalcedon.

    I agree. Chalcedon is heretical, but the discussion is not about the Orthodoxy of Chalcedon. This matter is already sealed. Our most holy hierarchs have another opinion about what happened 1563 years ago. It is official, signed and sealed. 

    The discussion is about the synod accepting Chalcedon as Orthodox, as well as the whole history of the Leonites as Apostolic, and expressing their appreciation of their dogmas and faith as continuously Orthodox. This position demands the confession of all the Chalcedonian councils as orthodox and binding, the same as Nicea 325 a.d.

    Remnkemi: The only difference now is that some Chalcedonians are agreeable to deeper discussion, while others continue to play the "I don't care what you say now, you will always be my enemy" game

    Not true.

    Chalcedonians are defending the faith of their heretical fathers, and see a great error in unity with a group on the same grounds that their Fathers rejected, which I call integrity and loyality to their heritage. Compared to the shameful position of other churches who sold out their Fathers, the same Fathers who paid with their blood to defend the faith, the Chalcedonians are to be admired.

    One can always appreciate the virtues of his opponents, even if they are heretics and criminals like the Chalcedonians. 

    They are pointing out the inconsistencies and hypocrisies on our side that no one addressed till now.   

    The greater hypocrisy is rejecting a union the Assyrian Church after the Copts have accepted the Chalcedonians, when they are one and the same with different labels. But this is another story.

    Remnkemi: Not really. Fr Shenouda Maher's book clearly and emphatically condemns Nestoriansim, Chalcedon, dyophysitism, Leo and Theodoret....And he is a member of the ecumenical dialogue committee     

    His book suggests that Chalcedon is heretical, in fact criminal, and yet the expressed position of the committee he is a member of is that Chalcedon is totally Orthodox. Not the best example to bring up to fend the accusation of inconsistency.

  • I think Chalcedon can be interpret in both an Orthodox and a Nestorian way.  What the Coptic Church is conserned now is what the E.O believe do they see and understand the council on who Christ really is in an Orthodox manner or not; and in fact they do.

    This heretic game can go on with anything. One can view St. Cyrils writing as Monophasite too.. For Example the Title Theotokos is understood in an Orthodox manner... but it can also be understood in a Monophasite; Example:

    St. Mary is the Mother of God?  So Christ is not Human since she is only the Mother of His Divine Nature...?? But of course St. Cyril or the Church did not interpret it that way. Same goes with the Trinity one can understand God as One and another can see it as 3 gods. 
  • You have a kind heart, but St. Cyril was much clearer than Chalcedon. This needs to be admitted. Can one excuse Chalcedon based on today's theologians? Actually, even more so than today's are the theologians of 6th century, the "Neo-Chalcedonians". Those are fascinating to study, considering the amount of agreement in essential theology they seem to have with our OO fathers at the time. It can be said that Constantinople 553 was because of OOs. It went far, but obviously not far enough.
  • Stavro, you bring up some excellent points. 

    First I would like to say that the Chalcedonians are just as inconsistent in their position of the Orientals as we are to them. I have seen many, many EO who are split on the proper way to deal with Orientals. You have many who whole heartedly feel we share the same faith and those who insist we are so heretical that we shouldn't even be called Oriental Orthodox. In fact, history shows us that their 5th and 6th century fathers clearly illustrated inconsistency and hypocrisy by switching side and then claiming we coerced them into signatures. There are many examples and accusations of inconsistency from both sides but this is not relevant to the discussion.

    I think what Pharaoh 714 has said illustrates or at least partially explains the apparent inconsistency on our stand with Chalcedonians. I, however, do not think it has anything to do with misunderstanding the other's position. I think it has more to do with a practical solution to a polemically driven hatred.

    Let's put it this way. After 1500 years of polemic hatred, one has to step back and say, even if what you say about me is true, it is not worth the division and hatred it has produced. My God is not a god of division and hatred. What will it take for us to stop the hatred and division. It begins by acknowledging the negative effects of polemics and letting go of all polemics in order to come to a viable solution. This doesn't mean the crimes committed 1500 years have miraculously disappeared from history.

    The crimes of Chalcedon and Leo's Tome are all clear to us. But it is seen completely different among the Chalcedonians; not because they are defending their fathers but they genuinely understand theology in a different framework that is incompatible with ours. Mina is correct that St Cyril was much clearer than Chalcedon. But event the clearest person or belief is clouded in subjective interpretation. 

    Suppose there are two color blind people. Mr. Blue sees everything with a blue hue and Mr. Red sees everything with a red hue. Neither can see it any other way. 1500 years ago when Mr Blue said the sky is blue, Mr Red committed the most atrocious violence on Mr Blue. Mr Blue has a choice. Either he can continue hating Mr Red and polemically argue the sky is blue. Or he can acknowledge that both Mr Blue and Mr Red see a sky God built in the way God wants them to see it. In this sense, claiming the sky is blue - while entirely accurate based on modern science - is not the solution. Denying the sky is blue is also not the solution. So Mr Blue enters deep discussion with Mr Red and they agree they both see the sky and both have maintained that God built the sky how God wants them to see it. Put another way, Mr Blue acknowledges that the sky is red if seen through Mr Red's eyes and the sky is blue if seen through Mr Blue's. This seems like a contradiction or an inconsistency or hypocrisy, but it is theologically sound because Mr Blue did not deny the sky is blue, even if Mr Red's friends insist that Mr Blue says this. 

    So while Orientals will see the doctrine and events of Chalcedon as heretic; and rightly so, we also understand that we need to stop the polemic hatred and worship God together. And if we look or understand dyophysitism as the Chalcedonians understand it, then we will acknowledge that they have kept the faith and not become Nestorian. But if we continue to see the Chalcedonians exclusively in our Oriental framework, disregard any attempt at reconciliation (even if it requires a paradigm shift on our part as I described above) and adjudicate that such attempts are nothing more than hypocrisy and inconsistency, then we will be the ones perpetrating the crimes against God (Matthew 25). This, I believe, was the reason why St Cyril reconciled with John of Antioch. 
  • edited April 2014
    But Stavro does mention a good point.  Suppose the Assyrian Church of the East professes Orthodox Christology "sufficiently" (perhaps through their church fathers like Babai or Narsai) while still commemorating Nestorius, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Diodore of Tarsus as saints.  Is this grounds for union?  Heck, there are some Assyrians who are willing to admit St. Cyril was Orthodox.  What does that mean?

    These are scary questions, and they need some consistency.  Is it okay for the sake of peace and with unquestionable clarity of official beliefs to unite based solely on faith regardless of persons or councils, no matter who they are?
  • Guys,

    Can someone just summarise this for me:

    How does the Coptic Orth. Church view Chalcedonian Churches? What differences are there? Do they see us as heretics??

    Do Catholics see us heretics? or do they see us schismatics?

  • I'm not sure about other Orthodox Churches, but I know that the Catholics think we are monophysites. Of course, both Churches label monophysitism as a heresy.
  • Depends on who you talk to. A majority of bishops/priests I think see the Chalcedonians are Orthodox and that we should do all we can to forgive and unite.

    A minority, which may grow depending on influence, do believe Chalcedonians must repent from Chalcedon and the rest of their councils.

    You see similarities with Chalcedonians on viewing us, although it is sometimes unclear who's the majority and who's the minority.

    Catholics I think see us as schismatics that hold to heresies that are of less concern than other heresies.
  • edited April 2014

     I recall an American Orthodox (it is called Orthodox Church of American which was under the Russian Church at one time) wrote something denouncing the Coptic pope as not valid and a heretic and that we MUST REPENT because we were wrong. I found later this was a young man from the Southern US. I'm not sure what his church taught him, but he has no position to say such a harsh comment.

     I often listen to Ancient Faith Radio and The Anchor Radio (Orthodox Church Network) and they largely just gloss over the Coptic church like it isn't even there. Like the only Patriarch in Egypt is Greek.

    Although their messages are almost identical I have noticed a large number of converts from the Protestant church who has made the Orthodox churches (EO that is) very evangelical and only do liturgy in English. It may just be that some Eastern Orthodox do not even know about the Coptic church.

    I remember seeing a movie of Father Lazarus who was in a Serbian monastery when he first was in the process of becoming a monk and he didn't realize there were Christians in Egypt. It may be the case that the Eastern Orthodox continually tell themselves all that they are the, "Only True Church" yet are extremely ignorant of anyone outside that they can't bash on unlike the Catholics and Protestant churches. 

    A vast majority of priests and bishops, as Mina said, are open to us becoming one church. And most are very welcoming of Copts, especially the Greek church in recent years. 

    I have even heard people call us "Un-Orthodox" because we do the sign of the cross like the Catholics.  It just depends. 

    I come from the Catholic church and have had my mother come to Liturgy with me to experience it. We are actually very close to the Catholic church liturgically (in structure that is) and I have found that most Roman Catholic priests are more knowledgable of the Coptic church than many Eastern Orthodox priests. It may just be a case of denial in the some of the EO churches. 

    I don't believe the Catholic church thinks we are schismatics, we actually have a good working relationship with the current Roman pope and have never had anyone in the Catholic church tell me my Pope was a heretic. 

    The major differences between us and the EO churches are just that most of the EO churches that are away from their native lands have assimilated into other cultures and have lost a vast majority of their ethnic heritage. I was watching something how the EO church was thinking of how to unite into one church in the US.

    So the main difference is that the Coptic church is far better organized with a much better structure, but it would be the same as the EO if we tried to build a united structure with the other OO churches. 

    I just don't feel the same fullness when I go to see an EO liturgy that I see in a Coptic or Ethiopian church. That may just be a personal bias. But really, there is little difference between us and the EO church. We both have an almost identical message and belief system and we should be united in some capacity. 
  • edited May 2014

    Ancient Faith Radio gloss over OO because this is a controversial topic for EOs and AFR don't want to inflame the argument.

    Of course the Catholic Church thinks we're schismatics, and vice versa, otherwise we'd be in communion.

    And there's nothing wrong with being away from one's native lands. The EO are doing the right thing by trying to unite their churches in America, and OO should be doing the same.
  • edited May 2014
    Yes the Catholic church does believe we are schematics, I apologize I should have used better wording. I suppose they are not as outward about it as the EO church.

    If it weren't for the Coptic church being in the United States I would have not become Coptic Orthodox as I am not ethically Coptic.

    True and Ancient Faith.
  • edited May 2014
    what baffled me with my church is that they have more activities with the Catholics rather then the EO! every couple months some deacons and my priest would go to a Catholic Church and exchange info and present hynms to one another... and we don't make efforts to have any activity with the EO churches (which are closer to us) in our area! its sad that we are practically one in theology and practice yet we are so laggard at uniting the true Orthodox church again! The OO and EO met already to reunite but nothing happened yet idk why... Bishop Yousef of the SUS Diocese said "soon we will reunite" i wonder how soon that will be. 

    Bishop Yousef sent me a link of the outcome of these meetings (it looks promising)
  • I remember 10 years ago, I heard the same thing:  "soon we'll reunite".  I think that's the "eternal soon".  So in a 1000 years, I hope this will occur. ;)
  • Haha were all going to reunite in heaven one day if we are worthy inshallah lol
  • The catholics are hung up on us being under their pope : to them, being Catholic, or being labelled "catholic" is what saves you. They behave as if they have a monopoly on salvation and on God. 

    This is worrying as they seem to go to great lengths, even resorting to lying, to either vilify our Church, or make us look as if we are heretics. 

    I don't believe we have changed anything.

    I do not subscribe to Purgatory - nor do I subscribe to their dogmas on original sin or immaculate conception. 

    I've been accused a great deal of being a heretic for being Coptic Orthodox by Catholics, and frankly, I know my Church isn't perfect, but we are ancient and orthodoxy isn't a religion, its a practice in preserving the apostolic faith and traditions: something the Roman Catholics have failed in terribly.
  • Where do you get accused of all this stuff, @Zoxsasi?
    Lol... I know many Catholics and very few of them have this attitude.
  • I do not agree with Roman Catholic church's position on purgatory, dogmas and the immaculate conception.

    Although, I stand with Ifahmy; I have rarely heard any Catholic member of clergy speak badly of the Coptic church. They want EVERYONE to look up their Pope, not just the Copts. 

    But at least they acknowledge the existence of the Coptic pope unlike the EO churches. Even when I went back to the church with my family when my father passed away they requested I take communion, which I didn't, but it was very thoughtful of them. My mother comes to the Coptic church with me and the priests have been more than respectful. 

    I don't think there will ever be any kind of union because we are so different. But everyone's interpretation is different, that's what makes our forum interesting.
  • its a good thing they acknowledge the Coptic pope! the title "pope" came from the Coptic church and the Catholics adopted it! and your totally right! i don't see union with Catholics in the horizon... maybe with the EO though
  • @markmarcos
    Are you sure about that, man? Pope come from a Latin word...
  • @lfahmy

    i normally don't cite Wikipedia ..but why not this time:
  • edited May 2014
    im very sure :D ifahmy coptic is a mix of Latin, Greek and ancient egyptian
  • edited May 2014
    There's a very good possibility...just maybe...the root word of "Papa" is one of a toddler's "first words" lay human daddies had the first privilege to be called "Pope" ;)
  • Wow. That is actually an awesome new fact. Thank you, guys.
    Akhtit samehni for doubting you
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