The Death of the Patriarch
For the delegates from the East the death of their Patriarch was no small loss. The Patriarch Joseph II died in Florence on 10 June, 1439, and was buried in the Church of St. Mary the New. Although Siropoulos has very little to say about the incident it is clear that the Patriarch’s death helped only to weaken the position of the eastern delegates coming as it was near the end of the dialogue.
Somehow or other the discussions finally came to their conclusion. The final details were attended to. The easterners, more now than ever, felt the Latin pressure. The Emperor John VIII, in keeping with Tradition, requested of the Latins that his signature be the first one on the document. The Latins categorically opposed this request (Memoir 478). As a matter of fact, even the Greek text of the final document of union was edited by the Latin monk Ambrose who knew both Latin and Greek. Towards the end the Latins even used bribery to make certain that all of the eastern bishops would sign the union. Siropoulos mentions two Latin bishops, Christopher and Ambrose, who engaged in bribery with the Pope’s approval.
St. Mark of Ephesus, as a witness to these events observed that he was completely powerless to do anything about them. For that reason he addressed the Emperor in the following words: “Your Imperial Majesty knows that I desired neither to become a bishop not to come to this council. From the beginning I have sought only the life of silence according to my abilities. It is Your Majesty that has insisted that I assume both. It is not in accordance with my own will that I obey Your Majesty. I have taken upon myself a duty which I find it above my ability to perform….I ask, at this time, since things are not developing as was agreed previously, that Your Imperial Majesty not force me to sign the document (of union) since that is something I will never do, no matter what happens” (Memoir 482).
The Divine Liturgy was celebrated in Florence on Sunday the 5th of July, 1439. After the Liturgy, immediately before the signing of the act of union, the Emperor called a meeting of all the eastern delegates at the residence of the Great Chartofilax. When they had gathered, that official simply informed them that the Emperor had commanded that all of them must sign the act of union, and furthermore be prepared to celebrate Liturgy on the following day together with the Latins at which time the official act of union would be announced. This imperial pronouncement came as a shock to all of the delegates since there had been no previous consultations or warning and there was great opposition. Nevertheless, the actual act of signing went ahead and was, as far as the Latins were concerned, quite successful. Among the last to sign the document was Pope Eugenius IV. Siropoulos mentions that the Pope at that moment asked if Ephesus (Metropolitan Mark) had signed the agreement. Upon hearing that he had not the Pope was heard to say: “Then we have accomplished nothing.” The next day at the Liturgy the Latin text of the union was read by Cardinal Julian Caesarini and the Greek text by Metropolitan Visarion of Nicea.
Not failing to notice the steadfastness and uncompromising position of St. Mark the Pope attempted to put pressure on him through the eastern bishops and especially through the Emperor. Actually the Pope demanded that the synod of eastern bishops condemn St. Mark. The Emperor responded correctly by saying: “Mark of Ephesus is one of our archpastors and we ourselves will deal with him,” showing in effect what the Emperor really thought of universal papal jurisdiction. That the Pope approached St. Mark through the Emperor and that he conceded on this very point, is itself a demonstration that if there was any common faith in Florence, it was not in universal jurisdiction with the Pope. Thus in no uncertain terms did the Emperor reject the papal counsel. The Pope has no right to demand the deposition of of Mark of Ephesus even though he wishes the synod of eastern bishops to do so (Memoir 504). Despite such rebuttal, the Pope, again through the Emperor, sought to meet personally with St. Mark. On the advice of the Emperor St. Mark agreed. Siropoulos tells us that at the meeting, which was most interesting, the Pope went to great lengths to convince the Saint to agree to “unity”, since if he did not he would be deposed as a heretic. In response to the Pope’s words St. Mark responded by saying that the Councils had already passed judgment on those who failed to submit to the Church and who incorrectly confessed the Faith: “I do not confess my own teachings, nor do I propose any innovations, neither do I rise up in defense of any false and foreign teaching, but rather I hold to the pure faith which the Church has received directly from our Savior Christ and which it has preserved. The Roman Church has also, until the schism, preserved this same faith together with the Holy Church…Are there men of healthy and pious mind who will do the same today together with me? First of all you have to condemn the teachings which I preach. If, however, they have been demonstrated to be Orthodox, how can I be condemned?” (Memoir 508-510).
To be continued: The Aftermath