Nicaea, Council of


Nicaea, Council of
(AD 325) First ecumenical council of the Christian Church, held at Nicaea (now Iznik, Turkey).

Called by Emperor Constantine I, the council condemned Arianism and drew up the Nicene Creed. It failed to set a uniform date for Easter.

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▪ 325, Christianity
 (325), the first ecumenical council of the Christian church, meeting in ancient Nicaea (now İznik, Tur.). It was called by the emperor Constantine I, an unbaptized catechumen, or neophyte, who presided over the opening session and took part in the discussions. He hoped a general council of the church would solve the problem created in the Eastern church by Arianism, a heresy first proposed by Arius of Alexandria that affirmed that Christ is not divine but a created being. Pope Sylvester I did not attend the council but was represented by legates.

      The council condemned Arius and, with reluctance on the part of some, incorporated the nonscriptural word homoousios (“of one substance”) into a creed (the Nicene Creed) to signify the absolute equality of the Son with the Father. The emperor then exiled Arius, an act that, while manifesting a solidarity of church and state, underscored the importance of secular patronage in ecclesiastical affairs.

      The council also attempted but failed to establish a uniform date for Easter. But it issued decrees on many other matters, including the proper method of consecrating bishops, a condemnation of lending money at interest by clerics, and a refusal to allow bishops, priests, and deacons to move from one church to another. Socrates Scholasticus, a 5th-century Byzantine historian, said that the council intended to make a canon enforcing celibacy of the clergy, but it failed to do so when some objected. It also confirmed the primacy of Alexandria and Jerusalem over other sees in their respective areas.

▪ 787, Christianity
      (787), the seventh ecumenical council of the Christian church, meeting in Nicaea (now İznik, Tur.). It attempted to resolve the Iconoclastic Controversy, initiated in 726 when Emperor Leo III issued a decree against the worship of icons (icon). The council declared that icons deserved reverence and veneration but not adoration. Convoked by the patriarch Tarasius, the council was attended by delegates of Pope Adrian I, and the pope confirmed the decrees of the council. Its authority was challenged in France as late as the 11th century, however, partly because certain doctrinal phrases had been incorrectly translated. But Rome's original verdict was eventually accepted, and the second Council of Nicaea was accepted as the seventh ecumenical council.

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Universalium. 2010.

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