The Forced Union of Florence
Episode 1 – Ferrara
According to Siropoulos the discussions concerning unity in Ferrara and later in Florence took a very log time and were, especially for the easterners, exhausting and extremely difficult. They remained in Italy almost three entire years. For them this was for the most part a new and strange world. The Orthodox upon arrival requested from the Pope that they be given a church where they could hold their services: “Now, since we are here, we request to have our own place to hold own own customary services, our own Holy Liturgy and everything in accordance with our habits.” The Patriarch was particularly concerned that such a church be in one of the monasteries. There was a great deal of disagreement among the Greeks themselves concerning the subject. One of the elders, the monk Gregory, candidly expressed how he felt upon entering a Latin Church: “When I enter a Latin Church, I do not venerate any of the objects found there, nor am I able to find the same Christ, the one I am familiar with. I respect only the sign of the cross and that I make upon myself but nothing else I find there” (Memoir 250).
Some of the delegates who stayed in Italy actually died there. Dionysios Metropolitan of Sardis passed away in Florence and was, at the request of the Patriarch, buried in one of the churches. The funeral service was held in the church of St. Julian but not the Liturgy (Memoir 250).
The council of Ferrara was opened in the church of St. George although many of the gatherings were held in other churches. The work of this council dealt with the many vital questions of union and was delegated to a number of subcommittees which met under the presidency of the Patriarch, Pope or the Emperor.
One of the most notable western individuals in the Memoirs is Cardinal Julian Caesarini. Some time near the beginning of the council this cardinal, not without reason, held a supper attended by Mark Evgenicos, Metropolitan of Ephesus, who took advantage of the invitation to address a letter to the Pope in which he thanked the pontiff for the pains he had gone to in organizing the council. He also expressed hope that the council, having begun, would reach a successful conclusion. He mentioned also, that should the Pope so desire, unity could be realized considering the immense prestige that the Pope had in the West as well as the fact that all the western kings were subservient to him. In the same letter, St. Mark does not forget to mention the major difficulty in achieving union: the addition to the creed which should, under no circumstances, remain (Memoir 258).
The letter was uncompromisingly written. Having received it, Cardinal Caesarini delivered it to the Pope, but not before, being dissatisfied with its contents, showing it to the Emperor. The Emperor was upset with the position Mark of Ephesus had taken in his letter, going so far as to attempt to have him punished by the council. Cooler heads prevailed, one of them being that of Metropolitan Visarion of Nicea who pointed out that the council should not concern itself with such things, that it was nothing of a dogmatic nature, and that he was entitled to his own opinion (Memoir 260).
At the very start of the council it was determined that there were actually four major points of dispute which could not be shelved or ignored. These were enumerated by Cardinal Caesarini:
1. The teaching of the Church concerning the Procession of the Holy Spirit
2. The question of leavened or unleavened bread in the Liturgy
3. Papal primacy
4. and the purgatorial fire after death.
Of these four themes the question of purgatory was approached first since the Orthodox considered that the questions of the procession of the Holy Spirit and of Unleavened bread were of such importance that only a council of the entire Church could decide them. It was only after this decision to discuss the question of purgatory that the delegates were given money to buy food and other necessities. Perhaps here is the place to mention, as Siropoulos so very often does, that this mention of demeaning the Orthodox delegates became a standard feature of the proceedings. Often they were short of money and the most necessary items. Many were placed in a position where they were forced to sell necessary items of clothing in order to eat. The stipend that had been agreed upon before the arrival of the delegates was given to them grudgingly, irregularly and sometimes not at all. Often it was withheld for long periods of time in order to coerce the delegates into agreeing to the demands of the Latins in council. Often the monies were dispersed selectively, the recipients of larger amounts being the Orthodox who were willing to give way to the demands of the Latins.
To be continued.