Ferrara-Florence, Council of

Ferrara-Florence, Council of,

1438–45, second part of the 17th ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church; the first part was the Council of Basel, canonically convened but after 1437 schismatic (see Basel, Council ofBasel, Council of,
1431–49, first part of the 17th ecumenical council in the Roman Catholic Church. It is generally considered to have been ecumenical until it fell into heresy in 1437; after that it is regarded as an anticouncil.
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). The chief goal at Ferrara was to end the schism of East and West; it was vigorously promoted by John VIII, Byzantine emperor, who, hard pressed by the Turks, hoped Christian union might save his empire. The council, consummation of years of negotiations, was opened by the papal legate at Ferrara as the legitimate successor of the Council of Basel. The representatives of the East arrived soon after the council's beginning (Jan., 1438); they included the emperor, the patriarch of Constantinople, canonical representatives of the other Orthodox patriarchs, and the metropolitan of Kiev, head of the Russian church. The points at issue between East and West were the Filioque clause of the creedcreed
[Lat. credo=I believe], summary of basic doctrines of faith. The following are historically important Christian creeds.

1 The Nicene Creed, beginning, "I believe in one God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and
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, the use of unleavened bread in the EucharistEucharist
[Gr.,=thanksgiving], Christian sacrament that repeats the action of Jesus at his last supper with his disciples, when he gave them bread, saying, "This is my body," and wine, saying, "This is my blood." (Mat. 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; 1 Cor. 11.
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, the definition of purgatory, and the nature of the papal jurisdiction. The discussions were generally conducted without acerbity, the leading figure being BessarionBessarion
, 1395?–1472, Byzantine humanist, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He was a leading figure at the Council of Ferrara-Florence, which he attended as metropolitan of Nicaea.
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, archbishop of Nicaea, leader of the moderates among the Orthodox. About a year after its commencement the council moved to Florence (Jan., 1439) because of the plague at Ferrara and the financial inducements of the Florentines. In July, 1439, the pope issued the bull Laetentur coeli, announcing the religious union of East and West. It had been ratified by both sides, except for a few Orthodox. On the questions at issue the Orthodox conceded that the Western Church might use the Filioque in the creed and unleavened bread at Mass without danger to faith or right custom; the Orthodox also accepted the Western definition of purgatory and the papal supremacy over the patriarchs, without prejudice to patriarchal jurisdiction in the patriarchates. With the departure of the Orthodox from Italy, the party opposed to union on the council's terms gained power, and, before any lasting strength could be given the union, Constantinople fell to the Turks, who controlled the patriarchate of Constantinople thereafter. After the union was announced, the council continued to sit until 1445, moving to the Lateran in 1443. Its principal business was then to bring back into union with the Holy See the smaller non-Orthodox churches, i.e., Armenian, Jacobite, Nestorian, and Maronite. Of these, as of the Orthodox, small groups entered the Roman communion, but there was no great reunion. The chief result of the council was probably the increase in prestige it lent to the Holy See. It was also important in bringing Bessarion and other Greeks to Italy, strengthening the cultural connection between East and West.


See studies by J. Gill (1959 and 1964).

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