The “sorry affair” of the Formula of Pope Hormisdas[514-523]


My opponent calls the Formula of Pope Hormisdas a “sorry affair”, an “unclear document” signed by Eastern bishops “under duress” which carries “no Patristic weight.”


In A.D. 515 Constantinople was still embracing the Monophysite heresy. Persecution of the Orthodox faithful was intense and often resulted in bloodshed. The chief persecutor was the emperor Anastatius. In 515 Pope Hormisdas sent a delegation to Constantinople, to inform the Byzantines that for true unity they would have to sign a profession of faith known as the Formula of Pope Hormisdas.


The Formula states that, “... in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved immaculate.; it anathematizes Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Acacius and other heretics and, “... whoever embraces the communion of (such) individuals receives a similar judgment... ”; it says, “... we receive and approve all the letters of the blessed Pope Leo, which he wrote concerning the true faith.”; it states that it is necessary to follow, “... in all things the Apostolic See... ” and to preach, “... whatever has been decreed by it...”; it states that, “...  those who do not agree in every respect with the Apostolic See” are not to be cited, “... during the celebration of the sacred mysteries...”; and ends with, “This profession of faith I [bishop, emperor, priest, etc.] have signed with my own hand, and offered it to you, Hormisdas, holy and venerable pope of the city of Rome.” [CSEL 35: 520-22]


Justin I became emperor in A.D. 518. The Patriarch of Constantinople was John II. Upon entering the sanctuary on Sunday, July 16, 518 to celebrate the Divine Liturgy the people in the church demanded of John II:


Proclaim the holy Council [of Chalcedon]. Of whom are you afraid?... Proclaim the Council of Chalcedon... Proclaim the feast of the Council of Chalcedon! We won’t leave until you have proclaimed it!... Let synodical letters go to Rome! [Mansi 8: 1057-66]


The people knew that in order for the schism to end communion with Rome was necessary.


In March 519 Patriarch of Constantinople John II signed the formula and wrote to Pope Hormisdas. John’s letter contains the Formula of Pope Hormisdas and after it the letter ends this way:


This profession I have signed with my own hand, and sent it in writing to you, Hormisdas, holy and most blessed brother and Pope of great Rome... I John, by God’s mercy bishop of Constantinople, New Rome, adhering to everything said above by this my profession [of faith], have signed enjoying full liberty in the Lord. [CSEL 35: 607-10]


As I pointed out in my opening the Roman deacon Rusticus [c. 550] speaks of the libelli, or professions of faith, “of perhaps twenty-five hundred priests, under Emperor Justin, after the schism of Peter of Alexandria, and Acacius of Constantinople.” [PL 67, 1251-2]


Easter Sunday came just three days after John II signed. A solemn office was celebrated in the Cathedral at Constantinople. The Roman legates reported on this celebration:


...everything occurred through a miracle of Blessed Peter... Finally on Thursday, that is, on the Lord’s Supper, the bishop[John II] came into the palace in a general meeting, and after reading the libellus he was in agreement, and subscribed with the utmost devotion... We went from the palace into the church with the greatest solemnity, so that the pomp and circumstance would further strengthen the concord of faith and of hearts. It is hardly possible to believe what weeping for joy there was, and the immense extent of the crowd. The crowd itself bore witness to its joy, nor could it be doubted that a heavenly hand was present to confer such joy upon the world... only the enemy of the human race is mourning, having been bruised through the opposition of your prayers. [CSEL 35: 683-4]


The Formula had ended a 35 year schism. The only one who thought this was a “sorry affair” was the “enemy of the human race”.


Later in A.D. 536 the Monophysite Anthimus had snuck in as Patriarch of Constantinople right under the emperor Justinian’s nose. Pope Hormisdas was later succeeded by Pope St. Agapetus[535-536]. The Byzantine Menologion commemorates Pope Agapetus as a saint on April 17. [PG 117: 408-9]


While Pope St. Agapetus was in Constantinople in 536, at the request of Eastern clergy and monks, he deposed Anthimus and consecrated Menas as the new Patriarch of Constantinople. The Monophysite Patriarch Michael the Syrian [1166-1199] records that Agapetus deposed Anthimus “as if by his own authority, and established in his place a man from Alexandria named Menas.” [Bk IX, 22. Ed. J. Chabot, 2: 202]


The emperor Justinian and Menas signed the Formula of Pope Hormisdas. Justinian signed the Formula which includes this clause regarding the Pope:


...following in all things the Apostolic See, we preach whatever it has laid down, and profess that these things shall be observed inviolably, and shall compel all the bishops to act in accordance with the content of this libellus: the patriarchs to Your Holiness, and metropolitans to the patriarchs, and the rest to their own metropolitans, so that our Catholic Church may have her solidity in all respects. [CSEL 35: 340]


Menas signed the Formula which says:


...following in all things the Apostolic See, we preach whatever has been laid down by it... I Menas, by the mercy of God a priest... receive... the four holy synods, and whatever is contained in them, [and] the teachings and letters of Pope Leo, which he wrote for the faith... [CSEL 35: 342]


In 536 Menas held a council at Constantinople in which sentence was passed against Anthimus:


...he promised to do whatever the pontiff of the great apostolic see would decide, and wrote to the most holy patriarchs that he would follow the Apostolic See in every respect. But our great God and Savior Jesus Christ did not allow such things to go on; to this royal city Agapetus, the most blessed pope of holy and blessed memory was sent, who... deposed him from a see which did not belong to him... we consider him... to be cut off from the body of God’s holy churches... in accordance with the sentence of the most blessed pope himself... [Mansi 8: 963-6]


Menas in his own sentence against Anthimus said:


Indeed Agapetus of holy memory, pope of Old Rome, giving him time for repentance until he should receive whatever the holy fathers defined, did not allow him to be called either a priest or a Catholic... as Your Love is aware, we follow and obey the apostolic throne; we are in communion with those with whom it is in communion, and we condemn those whom it condemns. [Mansi 8: 968-70]


The Byzantine Church commemorated Menas as a saint on August 24. A Byzantine Menologion recorded how he had been ordained by Pope Agapetus, who had driven out and anathematized the heretic Anthimus. [PG 117: 604]


The Formula of Pope Hormisdas is far from being “unclear“, was signed to the great joy of the Orthodox faithful in the Eastern Church, and carries much “Patristic weight.”


Pope St. Celestine


My opponent seems to imply that Pope St. Celestine did not speak on behalf of Rome alone.


Pope Celestine[422-431] received a letter from St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria. Cyril expressed his need to let Pope Celestine know “about dangers to the faith”, i.e. Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople. Cyril added:


... the ancient custom of the churches persuades us to communicate these things to Your Holiness, I write again of necessity. [PG 77: 80]


Deign therefore to put in writing what seems proper to you. Is it necessary to remain in communion with him, or should it be proclaimed boldly that nobody is in communion with one who believes and teaches such things? It is also necessary that Your Piety’s opinion be manifested by letter to the bishops of Macedonia and all the east. [PG 77: 84-5]


Pope Celestine wrote back to Cyril in August of 430 telling him what he must do if Nestorius persisted in his error:


Wherefore, having assumed unto yourself the authority of our See, and using our stead and our place with authority, you shall execute this sentence with the utmost strictness... [PL 50: 463]


Pope Celestine wrote to the Eastern Bishops in August of 430 as well saying:


we have separated from our communion... Bishop Nestorius... [PL 50: 467]


Sentence has been passed against Nestorius by us, or rather by Christ our God... [PL 50: 467-9]


In a letter to the clergy and faithful of Constantinople Pope Celestine urged them that Nestorius had to be resisted saying:


...because our presence seemed necessary in such a matter, we have delegated our place to my holy brother Cyril. [PL 50: 485 sq.]


Nestorius, upon receiving his admonition to repent, had ten days to retract or be excommunicated.


The third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus began in June of 431. Nestorius was condemned in the first session. The bishops sent the sentence to Nestorius who then complained to the emperor. The Council defended itself to the emperor stating that:


Celestine, the most holy and God-beloved bishop of Great Rome... had condemned the heretical teachings of Nestorius before our sentence, and had previously informed us in passing sentence on him... [Mansi 4: 1227 sq.]


The Papal legates arrived in time for the second session in July. The legate Philip spoke first saying:


Indeed some time ago our most holy and most blessed Pope Celestine, bishop of the Apostolic See, defined with regard to this present case and business, through his letters to the holy man Cyril... letters which were read to your holy council. [Mansi 4: 1282. ACO I: Vol. 1: Pt. 3: 53]


After Pope Celestine’s letter was read Papal legate Projectus said to the council:


so that you[the Council] may order a conclusion to be put to what he[Celestine] both defined long ago, and has deigned to call to mind now... [Mansi 4: 1287; ACO I: 1: 3: 57]


The Byzantine Menologion commemorated St. Celestine on April 8.


Pope St. Gregory the Great[590-604]


Pope Gregory proclaims that the Apostolic See is “head of all the churches.” [Epp. XIII, 45. PL 77, 1298]


Pope Gregory also said:


As to what he [the primate of Byzacena in Africa] says about being subject to the Apostolic See: if any fault be found in the bishops, I know not what bishop is not subject to it. [Epp. IX, 59. PL 77, 996]


Pope Gregory also said:


For with regard to what they say about the Church of Constantinople, who doubts that it is subject to the Apostolic See? The most pious lord, the emperor, and our brother, the bishop of the same city, also profess this assiduously. [Epp. IX, 12. PL 77, 957-8]


When a bishop in Illyricum disobeyed his decisions Pope Gregory wrote:


... if any of the four patriarchs had done so, in no way could such contumacy have passed without the gravest scandal.” [Epp. II, 52. PL 77, 595-8]


The Papal Vicariate


My opponent states: “the ‘Vicariate of Rome’ my opponent contrives... “


I already pointed out that the Vicariate of Thessalonica functioned under Pope St. Celestine and Pope St. Leo, who are both Eastern Saints. The Orthodox Eastern Church commemorates Pope St. Leo on February 18.


Pope Celestine wrote a letter to several bishops of Illyricum which reviewed some powers of the vicar at Thessalonica. Pope Celestine concluded:


... let it be known that whoever believes that our authority, or [the vicar’s] command is to be resisted, must be separated from the episcopal college. [PL 50: 428-9]


A man named Perigenes had been chosen by his colleagues as bishop of Patras but the people did not want him. A council had likewise nominated Perigenes as bishop of Corinth where the people did want him. Pope Boniface[418-422] told the Papal vicar Rufus to confirm Perigenes bishop of Corinth.


The Byzantine historian Socrates[c. 440] wrote that when the people of Patras did not accept Perigenes:


 ... the bishop of Rome commanded him to be enthroned in the metropolis of Corinth. [HE VII, 36]


The medieval Chronicle of Michael the Syrian, a Monophysite Patriarch notes:


Perigenes of Patras, who had not been accepted by the people of the diocese, went to Corinth... on the order of the bishop of Rome. [Bk VIII, 6. ed. Chabot, 2: 24]


If anyone contrived the Vicariate it would have to be the Popes, some of whom are Eastern Saints.


Pope St. Silvester


The text I provided in my opening is on Pope St. Silvester and his presiding over the Nicene Council[325]. The text states that Pope Silvester led “the sacred college”; “delivered the faithful from the Egyptian[Arian] error”; and led the faithful:


with unerring teachings[Menaion, Athens 1979, January, 17, 22, 24]


Coryphaeus appears four times in the text I quoted. Twice to show that Pope Silvester has the chair or throne of the coryphaeus. Twice it compares Pope Silvester himself to the coryphaeus.  According to Liddell and Scott, a standard Greek lexicon, koruphaios, refers to the leader of the chorus, and means “foremost man, leader, chief.” [Oxford University Press 1993, s.v.]


The text my opponent offered on Gregory Palamas is hardly ancient considering he comes from the 14th century.


Pope St. Julius


My opponent charges me with historical inaccuracy: “My opponent discusses Pope Julius... Again, historically inaccurate.”


If  anyone is inaccurate it would be Sozomen[c. 440]:


... they[the Eusebians] were critical that Julius appeared to be in communion with the followers of Athanasius; they considered this an insult to their synod, unjust, and contrary to ecclesiastical law... they [the Arians] added that if Julius would accept their condemnation [of Athanasius and his orthodox colleagues], they would have peace and communion with him. If, however, [Julius] resisted them, they would oppose him, since the eastern bishops had not resisted when the West deposed Novatian... [HE III, 8]


Theodoret[c. 450], a bishop and Greek historian, wrote that Julius, “following the law of the Church,”  had summoned Athanasius to Rome, for judgment. [HE II, 4] This is prior to the Council of Sardica[343]. If Pope Julius was not “quite within his rights yet“ as my opponent asserted, why are there no Eastern sources saying so?


If my opponent says that Pope St. Julius’ prerogative was not divine in origin he is contradicting Pope St. Julius. Julius stated that his prerogative had come from Peter and were the ordinances of Paul and the Fathers. My opponent contradicts Sozomen who says Julius’ consent was needed because it is a law and “he had the care of all, owing to the dignity of his see.“ Socrates said, “... by virtue of the prerogative of the church of Rome,” he “... restored to them[the Orthodox bishops] their sees.”




My opponent says, “I give no credence to the appeals of the heretics following Dioscorus.” In my opening statement I quoted Theodoret[c. 379-466] who at the Council of Chalcedon[451] sat on the Orthodox side. I quoted Eusebius of Dorylaeum who is considered a hero in the East and given the credit for exposing the Eutychian heresy. I am not sure what heretics my opponent is referring to.