Essay: Third Ecumenical Nicene Council 2025

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The Third Ecumenical Nicene Council 2025 is an ecumenical gathering proposed by Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew[1], inviting all Christians to send representatives to meet together in 2025, to commemorate the 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea. The Catholic Star Herald reported: "Back in June, Pope Francis met with a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople who came to Rome to celebrate the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Pope Francis has a close tie with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, who he has met with several times since becoming pope in 2013. In fact, he was the first Patriarch of Constantinople to ever attend an installation of a pope of Rome. Francis often invites the patriarch to join him on historical occasions and has visited the Holy Phanar in Constantinople for a Divine Liturgy celebrated by Bartholomew." [2] The Scottish Catholic Observer confirmed: "The intention is to hold a gathering to commemorate the Council of Nicaea, which took place in 325AD. Seventeen centuries later, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew (above) will come together in 2025 to celebrate the historic meeting."[3] “I wish good things for ecumenism,” Vatican spokesman Fr Lombardi added.

Bartholomew I is the 270th and current archbishop of Constantinople and ecumenical patriarch. As his title suggests, he is widely regarded as the primus inter pares (first among equals) in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and as the spiritual leader of the 300 million+ Orthodox Christians worldwide. Nicole Winfried, Associated Press correspondent based in Rome, covering Vatican, Italy, tweeted on May 31, 2014: "FYI #Vatican's Fr Lombardi says Bartholomew's idea for 2025 Nicea is for a common commemoration, NOT an ecumenical council. Tranquilli…"[4]

Gerard O'Connell wrote at the America: Jesuit Review website:

The Vatican has not issued a formal statement on the patriarch’s revelation, presumably because it emerged in a private conversation between him and the pope. But, pressed for clarification by journalists, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., described Bartholomew’s idea as “very beautiful and significant”; he presented it as an agreement “to hold a joint commemoration of the first ecumenical council held in Nicea in 325 AD.” He recalled that Bartholomew was the first to propose the idea for the recent meeting in Jerusalem commemorating the historic encounter Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI in 1964. He emphasized, however, that the patriarch actually spoke about “a gathering” at Nicea, and did not characterize it as an ecumenical council.[5]

The National Catholic Reporter indicated in 2014 the tentative nature of the proposed meeting in an article entitled Vatican: Too early to confirm 2025 Orthodox-Catholic summit.[6]


The two Church leaders first announced the plan for a future meeting of all Christians in Nicaea in 2014: "On his return from Jerusalem , where he met with Pope Francis at the Holy Sepulchre, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, has revealed an important appointment for unity between Catholics and Orthodox: a gathering at Nicaea in 2025, where the first real ecumenical council of the undivided Church was celebrated.

Speaking exclusively with AsiaNews, Bartholomew says that together with Pope Francis "we agreed to leave as a legacy to ourselves and our successors a gathering in Nicaea in 2025, to celebrate together, after 17 centuries , the first truly ecumenical synod, where the Creed was first promulgated"

The Council of Nicaea, the first truly Ecumenical Council representing the entire Universal Church of Christ in the days after the Apostles, brought together over 300 Bishops from all Christianity: "Nicaea—now known as Iznik—brought together over 300 bishops from the Eastern and Western traditions in 325AD." [7]


A Third Nicene Council could have a great legacy upon the whole world as visibly demonstrating the Unity of Christendom, something Jesus Christ said would serve as a calling to unbelievers to convert. "20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; 21 That they all may be One; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be One in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. 22And the glory which thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be One, even as we are One:" (Jn 17:20-22, KJV).

"With the unpredictability of Pope Francis, some Catholics have wondered if he would call another council -- a Vatican III. It appears not.

Something that big won't do for Francis. He's thinking even bigger: the church universal will be getting a Nicea III." [8]

Vision for Nicaea III

Fr. Mark White wrote: "I went ahead and took my own advice–to think about how to celebrate the 1700th anniversary of the Creed. Your Holiness, I humbly suggest…

An Ecumenical Council, held on the shores of Lake Iznik, Turkey. World Youth Day and the World Meeting of Families would occur simultaneously, in the same place ...

First, to send invitations to the Council, the Pope would gather as many patriarchs as possible–Patriarch Bartholomew and all other willing parties–to issue the invitation. I don’t think anyone needs to stand on particular prerogatives to convoke and confirm ecumenical councils. At this point in Christian history, the centenary of Nicaea itself can convoke the world’s bishops. All will come as pilgrims to the place where the 318 met at Emperor Constantine’s invitation, seventeen centuries–and countless saints and martyrs–ago.

Second, the invitation would include the following: Holy Father Francis proposes that the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers the best existing instrument for fostering union. But the Catechism could conceivably be improved. We will have a process by which any invitee could submit proposed amendments to the Catechism."[9]

Re-Union of Christendom

Doubtless one of the primary purposes the Council will be occupied with will concern the Re-Union of Christendom: "The Catholic Church is by far the largest, the most widespread, and the most ancient of Christian communions in the world, and is moreover the mighty trunk from which the other communions claiming to be Christian have broken off at one time or another ... As these separated communities when massed together, indeed in some cases even of themselves, count a vast number of souls, among whom many are conspicuous for their religious earnestness, this extension of the term Christendom to include them all has its solid justification. On the other hand, if it is accepted, it becomes no longer possible to speak of the unity of Christendom but rather of a Christendom torn by divisions and offering the saddest spectacle to the eyes. And then the question arises: Is this scandal always to continue? The Holy See has never tired of appealing in season and out of season for its removal but without meeting with much response from a world which had learnt to live contentedly within its sectarian enclosures. Happily a new spirit has lately come over these dissentient Christians, numbers of whom are becoming keenly sensitive to the paralyzing effects of division and an active reunion movement has arisen which, If far from being as widespread and solid as one could wish, is at least cherished on all sides by devout minds ... We may safely leave to the Providence of God to determine what course the present reunion movement shall ultimately take, and meanwhile we may emphasize the substantial point that Catholics and other reunionists have in common: their mutual desire to see the barriers that separate them removed."[10]

Eastern Orthodox view of the Third Ecumenical Nicene Council 2025

The East-West Schism of 1054 (commonly called the Great Schism) was the separation of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Western, Roman Catholic branches of the Christian Church.

The Eastern Orthodox website indicates:

Obviously, there is the issue of the pope striving to find a way to tweak Rome’s claim for absolute, total primacy over all of the world’s ancient churches, a claim that the other ancient patriarchates cannot accept. However, we have already heard more papal references to the pope being the Bishop of Rome, a title that warms the heart of the Eastern Orthodox. We have also heard papal references to the pope as the patriarch of the West, a title that implies there could still be — as in the first millennium — patriarchs of the East, with the pope seen as the first among equals. And what’s up with the steady drumbeat of “synod” language from Pope Francis?

And wouldn’t it be fitting if, in an event marking the Nicean Council, East and West made progress on the ultimate issue of the 1054 schism, as in the infamous, from an Eastern Orthodox point of view, Roman insertion of the filioque clause into its version of the creed? As Father Alexander Webster, an Orthodox historian, once noted in Crisis Magazine, a conservative Catholic publication:

The real dogmatic difference revolves around the insertion of the Latin compound word filioque into the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed originally formulated in Greek by the bishops assembled at the first and second ecumenical councils (325 and 381). The Latin addition has the Holy Spirit “proceed from the Father and the Son” (filioque) instead of proceeding from the Father alone, as in the original Greek. There is no room here to rehearse the arguments for and against that pesky term. Let it suffice to note that the Orthodox are convinced that the insertion radically, albeit unintentionally, changes the meaning of the Creed (by demeaning the Personal dignity of the Holy Spirit) and remain adamant that the filioque must be disavowed by Rome.

And so forth and so on, world without end. Amen.[11]