Ecumenical Councils in the Bible

First_Ecumenical_Council

  • Acts 15:6-30 records the events surrounding the Jerusalem Council, in which the apostles and other leaders of the Church gathered together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make binding decisions regarding pressing matters of faith and morals within the universal Church.  The Catholic Church has followed this Biblical pattern across the ages for a current total of 21 Ecumenical Councils.

“. . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor [the pope], they exercise the supreme Magisterium [Official Teaching Office],” above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,”419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.” -Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 891

Eastern Orthodox Christians also acknowledge that the first 7 ecumenical councils of the Church of the first Millennium ‘infallibly’ teach the truth of the Christian faith.  They place the authority of Ecumenical Councils as greater than that of the Pope, but for Catholics there is no conflict between the authority of the Pope and the Ecumenical Council since a Council cannot be considered Ecumenical in the first place without the Pope’s confirmation and ratification of the teaching contained (there are recorded cases of Popes refusing to acknowledge certain portions of the Ecumenical Councils which convened in the Christian east at the emperor’s request):

“The college of bishops exercises power over the universal Church in a solemn manner in an ecumenical council. But there never is an ecumenical council which is not confirmed or at least recognized as such by Peter’s successor.” -Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 884

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