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Nicea III in 2025?

With the unpredictability of Pope Francis, some Catholics have wondered if he would call another council -- a Vatican III. It appears not.

Something that big won't do for Francis. He's thinking even bigger: the church universal will be getting a Nicea III.

According to reporting from AsiaNews, His All Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, has announced that an ecumenical "gathering" will be held in Nicea in 2025.

Speaking exclusively with AsiaNews, Bartholomew says that together with Pope Francis "we agreed to leave as a legacy to ourselves and our successors a gathering in Nicaea in 2025, to celebrate together, after 17 centuries, the first truly ecumenical synod, where the Creed was first promulgated."

The exact nature of the planned meeting at Nicea (now Iznik, Turkey) is not known. But how could it be, over a decade in the future?

The ongoing Catholic-Orthodox dialogue will be intensified in preparation for the event. What began in Jerusalem in 1964 and was celebrated last week at the Holy Sepulchre will continue in the holy city this fall, when, in Bartholomew's words, "a meeting of the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Commission  will be held hosted by the Greek Orthodox patriarch Theophilos III. It is a long journey in which we all must be committed without hypocrisy."

In all the attention to the Pope's gestures toward political peace in the Holy Land last week, the joint event with the Orthodox got a bit lost in the mix.

But Francis and Bartholomew didn't lose focus. And they've got a date on the calendar to prove it.

About the Author

Michael Peppard is associate professor of theology at Fordham University, author of The World's Oldest Church and The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard.



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"the church universal will be getting a Nicea III."

As wonderfully epic as that sounds, I don't think the church would be getting that. Or at least that's  not how I read Patriarch Bartholomew I's comments.

More likely (and realistically), the gathering, if it happens, will be similar to the one we just had in Jerusalem: a commemoration of the Second Council of Nicaea.

Which will be just as wonderful. Maybe by then, we'll even have agreed on a common date for Easter!




"the church universal will be getting a Nicea III."

So Protestants will be there too?

The schism just shows how screwed up the church eaders of both East and West were. The devolved into formulas and liturgies and deemed the Sermon on the Mount optional. The Beatitudes are a way of life for Francis. That is the difference. (Along with the discarding of Ermine and the discarding of Empire.)

So Protestants will be there too?

Or just the original participating groups?

Meletius of Lycopolis will be redeemed!


Thanks, Jim.  I had to go look it up  :)

We are certainly living in wonderfully historic times in the history of these the two "Catholic Sister Churches". Let us pray that the Holy Spirit may guide the Churches of the Orthodox East and the West with His grace.   "I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one--as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me" Jn. 17:21.

Typo in my previous comment... The word "catholic" as in "catholic Sister Churches" was accidentally capitalized. My apologies.

Will all of the Orthodox Churches be participating? The Russian?

As the centers of Christianity shift and the Muslim-Christian questions multiply in the most volatile countries with booming populations (saying little about China), I can't imagine projecting the value and dimensions and meaning of such an encounter ten years into the future.

As the coordinator for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations for the Archdiocese of Detroit, this news sent me into a soaring sense of gratitude and awe to be living in this time in history!  The questions above about whether Protestants or the Russian Orthodox will participate in Nicaea III, I believe, are questions that -- along with many others - we will just have to wait to see what wonders the Holy Spirit works over the next 10 years.  It is not inconceivable to me that, as time goes on, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the Lutheran World Federation, along with a number of other Christian representatives (World Council of Churches?) will either ask or be asked to be participants or observers at the "gathering" -- no agenda has been set at this early date.  And with Pope Francis' outreach, on the recent visit to the Holy Land, to Jews and Muslims (bringing his old friends along from Argentina), it is not too much to envision Jewish and Muslim observers in attendance at this "ecumenical council" in the 21st century.  My advice:  Let's hang onto our hats...the Spirit blows where it wills!!

It sounds exciting, but 10 years is a long time.  In 2025 we're not sure who will be around. We wouldn't be so excited if they had announced a gathering for the year 2325. Very nice idea in any case - it sets a goal, of sorts, for the ecumenical workers.


Michael Hovey

"...we will just have to wait to see what wonders the Holy Spirit works over the next 10 years."


I am, once again, reminded of these great words of Pope John 23 which he said to his beloved secretary about Vatican II: "You think I am old... You think I'll make a mess out of this enormous task, that I don't have time. ... But that's not how you think with faith. ... If one can only begin with the preparatory commission, that will be of great merit. If one dies, another will come. It is a great honor even to begin."

Indeed, it is a great honor and a wonder to just begin and to begin walking and talking and dreaming together again.

I'm also quite sure that sooner or later, we'll get some kind of statement/clarification from Fr. Lombardi. 


I should add to my comments above that, in view of the positive relations that have grown between the Oriental Orthodox Churches and Rome, particularly with the Armenian Catholicos and the Coptic Pope, it is certainly likely that both the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches will be involved in the gathering.  We will have to rely on the Holy Spirit (and some very active ecumenical diplomacy) to see if the Russian Orthodox join in...and pray "that all may be one" as Jesus calls for us to do!

Perhaps if we have anying remotely resembling a Nicea III, we of the Roman Church could restore the original wording of the Creed to We believe (pisteuomen) in One God, rather than I believe (credo). (Greek's not a language I've tangled with for many decades, so I hope I'm accurate). Of course even i the Roman Church we got it right for a while after Vatican II, but then a few years ago returned to the inaccurate version.

Credo (I, singular, believe) of course reflects certain Enlightenment, individualist, and capitalist values, but why the Vatican should be encouraging them remains one the Mysteries of Faith. Perhaps Piketty (whom I haven't read) suggests an answer.

Well, that didn't take long. From Nicole Winfield of AP (per her twitter @nwinfield):


"FYI 's Fr Lombardi says Bartholomew's idea for 2025 Nicea is for a common commemoration, NOT an ecumenical council... Fr Lombardi adds, though, that things can happen in 11 years."



Any step toward breaching the silly but tragic ancient divide between Orthodox and Roman Chrisitains is certainly welcome.  In my view, it's all about politics anyway.  It will be very difficult, yet historic to throw-off centuries of enmity and embrace true respect for all traditions.

The reality is that the Orthodox churches aren't fairing any better than the Roman and Western churches in the relentless march of time, with human and scientific development.  When you are stranded precariously on a leaking raft with just each other to rely-on for survival surrounded by turbulent and stormy seas, it's a good idea to make nice with your "brothers and sisters."

The fly in the ointment for me is that Nicea is arguably that point in Christian history when things really started to go off the rails for us.  Emperor Constantine forced those ancient patriarchs to gather in his  vacation resort across the Bosphorus from his resplendid capital Constantinople.  

As I read it, Constantine engineered, then imposed on the then hierarchy a codification of Christian belief and uniformity that had never existed previously - essentially sealing the canon of the New Testament -  all so that he could politically exploit the church in his drive to solidify his political hegemony over the empire.

Nicea's greatest accomplishment - if you can call it that - was the declaration that Jesus became the God-man:  something that will bedevil a post-Copernican world to this day.

In the process, the church essentially traded its charismatic heritage for political power, wealth and status - in medieval terms, the First Estate.  To our regret, we are still living with the consequences of that choice to this day:  crusades, Inquisition, pogroms, Vatican City State, Vatican Bank, feudal oligarchy, papal monarchy, patriarchy ...  

Christians were no longer the counter-cultural band of believers in The Way who practiced radical pacifism and engendered miraculous healings on the ruins of pagan cults.  Christianity became part of the ruling elite power structure - in a sense we turned our backs on the radical message of the kerygma for a place in the celestial firmament of heaven.  

[Notice that conservative traditionalist are more than a little concerned - some near apoplexy - when Papa Francesco eschews the Apostolic Palace overlooking the adoring crowds of tourists in the piazza for his simple digs at the guesthouse.]

Years ago at ND, I went to a lecture by Morton Kelsey [great book: Healing and Christianity] where he traced that the historical record was full, replete with charismatic healings celebrated by the primitive churches - all but stopped under Constantine when Christianity became the state religion.  

A.D. 313 emerges as the pivotal point in our history:  Ten years before Constantine's Edit of Milan - establishing Christianity as the state religion - no Christian could be a member of the imperial armies; ten years later you couldn't be a member of the imperial armies without first being baptized.  How's that for really fast cultural change?

For me, Nicea represents the moment when the church lost its ties that bound us to our primitive charismatic and evangelical moorings that  we received from the hands of the first apostles and followers of Jesus.

Perhaps it is fitting that Orthodox and Roman Chrisitian leaders return to the scene of the crime - in the words of my sainted sixth-grade teacher, Sister Mary Adelaide - to "make a sincere confession with a firm resolve to make restitution."

Professor Clifford:

Even more important is whether the Filioque will be part of the Creed recited. That's very unlikely. Rome has already dropped it in important documents.

I doubt that the use of the singular Credo indulges "certain Enlightenment, individualist, and capitalist values." The singular was used in the earliest western creed, the so-called Apostles' Creed, and it was rather naturally used given the origins of the Creed in the questions asked of the person about to be baptized: "Credis"--"Do you [singular] believe?" 

One might just as easily say that using the plural runs the danger of the individual person being lost in the collectivity. 

It would, however, be interesting to know when the West began starting the Nicene Creed with the singular when the original Greek uses the plural.  I have a hunch that it was before the Enlightenment.

Robert Moynihan points out that if the meeting were a Council that included attendees from more than the Orthodox and Roman Churches, there would be a theological problem of who could vote.  A "gathering" would not present this problem.

The greatest thing about this is that East and West will meet and look to working together. Another ecucational point  might be that we get away from attaching or blaming the Holy Spirit for the Councils. Nicea was the first Council (one of the first seven called by the Emperor) and flawed. Just look at these canons.

Seeing the Councils with their problem with errors can help us to focus on the real Christianity which is living the gospel. All these dogmas and pompous liturgy was brought into the church while the Beatitudes were declared optional. A great schism occurred but few were alarmed while the church fell into regionalism and nationalism.  Augustine declared the age of martyrs was over without realizing that the age of hypocrisy was beginning anf Empire became more important.

I have just now come from the Greek Orthodox Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The Creed began with the singular: "I believe"--Pisteuo.

If the assembly has mixed preferences and each person says what they want, we hear

"We believe" + "I believe" = "Why believe?"


While we're at it, we Romans might also drop "and from the Son" from the Creed -- a phrase added by the Spaniards at a regional council.  As I recall, the Council of Florence reached some sort of accommodation about the phrase, but the compromise was never accepted in the East.

Jim Jenkins,

Constantine did not make Christianity the state religion; he merely legalized (and favored)  it.  Christianity did not become the state religion until Theodosius at the end of the century. 

This notion about Constantine is part of the trope that establishes Constantine as the founder of the Roman Catholic Church, a thoroughly anti-Catholic notion.  It is rhetoric, not history.  So we should be careful about informing our view of Niceae in rhetoric created to discredit Catholicism.

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