The Blessed Tome from Rome: the Political and Theological Aspirations of Pope Leo I in the context of the Robber Synod of Ephesus and the Council of Chalcedon

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The Blessed Tome from Rome: the Political and Theological Aspirations of Pope Leo I in the context of the Robber Synod of Ephesus and the Council of Chalcedon

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2018

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“There is nothing more serious than the sacrilege of schism, because there is no just cause for severing the unity of the Church.”1 With these words, Augustine, the bishop of Hippo Regius, firmly opined that those who embraced theological and doctrinal tenets, incompatible with catholic and orthodox teaching, were culpable of severing the unity of the Church. This particular criticism was leveled against the Donatist factions of Northern Africa, a sect of rigorists who denied the validity of the sacraments when administered by traditores, literally ‘the one[s] who had handed over’ the Scriptures and the names of their fellow Christians during the Roman persecutions. However, by the time Augustine wrote these words, the church had already weathered several waves of divisive theological controversies and several additional schisms, specifically pertaining to the nature of Christ, loomed on the horizon. The First Council of Ephesus in AD 431, the so-called Latrocinium, or Robber Synod of 449, and the Council of Chalcedon in 451 would all attempt to resolve these controversies and the bishops and patriarchs of the major sees would play substantial roles in the attempted clarification of orthodox christology. However, beneath the veneer of theological debate, these bishops and patriarchs sought not only to implement their own christology but also to further the political power of the disparate episcopal sees. Leo I of Rome (c. AD 400-461) provides a prime example of these overlapping theological and ecclesio-political ambitions. Through numerous epistles, sermons, and his dogmatic Tome to Flavian, he strategically used political compromise and shrewd theological interpretation in an effort to resolve the fifth-century christological controversies, to mend the rift between the Antiochene and Alexandrian factions, and to establish papal primacy over the various ecumenical sees, bringing them into communion with Rome.

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Henke, Jacob. (2018). The Blessed Tome from Rome: the Political and Theological Aspirations of Pope Leo I in the context of the Robber Synod of Ephesus and the Council of Chalcedon. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/198742.

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