Chalcedon: The Triumph of Cyril, not Leo

Over at John Sanidopoulos’s Mystagogy website, we read the following regarding the Fourth Ecumenical Council, a quotation from the late Fr. John Romanides:

Theologians of the Vatican have been supporting their position that Leo of Rome and his Tome became the basis of the decisions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council of 451 which, according to them, supposedly corrected the monophysitic and theopassion tendencies of Cyril of Alexandria. But the reality of the matter was that some 50 bishops refused to sign Leo’s Tome claiming that it did not agree with the Synodical Letters of Cyril against Nestorius which were the basis of the decision of the Third Ecumenical Council in 381 [sic, should be 431 -O&H ed.]. They were given five days to examine the Tome of Leo with the said letters of Cyril. They all agreed that Leo indeed agrees with Cyril. Their statements to this effect are individually recorded in the minutes.

How one sees the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) is a major tessera in the mosaic of the history of Church polity. If St. Leo’s Tome were simply accepted as an infallible pronouncement from the papacy at Chalcedon, then of course there would have been no need for debate by the assembled fathers. But debate there was, and Leo was ultimately judged by the theology of St. Cyril of Alexandra, the hero of the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus.

Read the read of the Mystagogy post or the full Romanides paper from which it’s taken.


  1. The triumph of Cyril at Chalcedon is also a triumph of Leo, because Leo is demonstrating a way in which two subject Christology (the universal expression of Latin Christology: Tertullian, Ambrose, Jerome, Hillary and Augustine) can be held to agree with Cyril. This of course gets worked out in the next two councils. However, to say that Cyril is the only champion of Chalcedon is to reject our hymns for Pope St Leo:

    Troparion (Tone 8)
    O Champion of Orthodoxy, and teacher of holiness,
    The enlightenment of the universe and the inspired glory of true believers.
    O most wise Father Leo, your teachings are as music of the Holy Spirit for us!
    Pray that Christ our God may save our souls!

    Kontakion (Tone 3)
    O glorious Leo, when you rose to the Bishop’s throne,
    You shut the lions’ mouths with the true doctrine of the Holy Trinity:
    You enlightened your flock with the knowledge of God.
    Therefore you are glorified, O seer of things divine!

    The key point that needs to be made against later Roman interpretations is that the council did not merely accept the tome without review. But we ought not dismiss the import of Pope St Leo.

    1. Indeed, no, and neither I nor Romanides were suggesting that St. Leo was anything less than correct in the Tome.

      The point of the title of this post, though, was to show what Romanides did, that Leo’s work was judged by Cyril’s, not that Leo’s was simply accepted as papal fiat.

      1. Agreed. I was mostly responding to the title of this post: “The Triumph of Cyril, not Leo”. Chalcedon is the triumph of Leo via Cyril, not Leo qua infallible pope.

  2. I just came across this post from last year. FYI, unfortunately St. Leo fell victim to Fr. Romanides’ virulently anti-western theological program. He wrote an article arguing for union with the Non-Chalcedonians based on their alleged preservation of a proper (read: eastern) theology against the heretical opinions of Theodoret and Leo. The latter was allegedly tainted by his Augustinian theology which allegedly denied the uncreated energies. About ten years ago it was on a website devoted to union between the Orthodox and the Non-Chalcedonians, but I can’t find it now with a quick Google search.

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