Tuesday, March 4, 2014

“Christian Unity and the Council of Florence (1439)”, A Talk by Dr Charalambos Dendrinos

The Hellenic Society of Professional People and Scientists in Great Britain (Εταιρεία Ελλήνων Επιστημόνων Μεγάλης Βρετανίας) is organising a talk by Dr Charalambos Dendrinos (who is Senior Lecturer in Byzantine Literature and Greek Palaeography at the History Department of Royal Holloway, University of London). The talk, entitled “Christian Unity and the Council of Florence (1439)” will take place at The Hellenic Centre, (16-18 Paddington Street, London W1U 5AS) on Thursday 13 March 2014, at 19.00.

The lecture discusses the political, ecclesiastical, theological and psychological factors that led to the failure of the last great attempt to heal the rift between Eastern and Western Christendom at the Council of Florence (1439). The first section examines the negotiations and attempts for union between the papacy and the Byzantine Church and government prior to the Council of Ferrara-Florence, in the light of historical developments that shaped various attitudes which persisted and ultimately prevented the rapprochement of the two sides. The second deals with the political circumstances in which both the Eastern and Western Churches agreed to proceed with the convening of an ecumenical council which would put an end to the schism. This section concentrates on the use of the council by the Byzantine government as an instrument to secure military help from the West for the survival of the Empire in the face of the imminent Ottoman threat, and the rivalry between the papacy and the Council of Basel (1431-49) over the convening of a general council of union as part of their separate efforts to affirm their own authority over the Latin Church. This leads to an examination of different views and attitudes held by the three parties involved in so far the terms of union are concerned, and of the reasons why the Byzantine Emperor opted to negotiate with Pope Eugenius IV (1331-47) rather than with the Council of Basel. The third section presents the preliminaries to the convening of the council, before it examines the major theological, ecclesiastical and liturgical points of divergence discussed at the Council of Ferrara-Florence, the methodology and tone adopted in the debates by the two sides, the results of these discussions, together with the general ethos and atmosphere of the Council in the light of the evidence we possess. The final section assesses the reasons behind the reception and rejection of the Council in the Orthodox world considering the events that followed the Decree of union at Florence (6 July 1439), and evaluates the repercussions of the union in Byzantium. The paper closes with reflections on the deeper reasons for the failure of the union of Florence, which may serve as a basis for renewed joint efforts towards a deeper understanding and communion among different traditions within the Christian Church in the future.

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