ONE @ 50: At a Glance

In honor of ONE magazine’s 50th-anniversary year, the CNEWA blog series, ONE @ 50: From the Vault, aims to revive and explore the wealth of articles published in ONE magazine throughout its history. Today, the feast of Sts. Constantine and Helen on the Byzantine calendar, read about the origins of the Church of Constantinople in this article, originally published in Autumn 2016.

Read an excerpt from “At a Glance” below, then read the full story.

Perhaps as many as 200,000,000 Christians now scattered throughout the world — from the Greek Catholics of southern Italy to the Ukrainian Orthodox of Canada’s prairies — participate in the life of the Church of Constantinople, the existence of which is tied to the actions of one Roman emperor.

Constantine I moved his capital from Rome to Byzantium, a Greek port straddling Europe and Asia, after formally recognizing Christianity in the year 313. On 11 May 330, he solemnly christened his “new Rome” as a Christian capital. The emperor built elaborate churches, including a cathedral dedicated to Christ as Hagia Sophia, “the Wisdom of God,” that served as his personal chapel. These sanctuaries, which dominated Constantinople, or “Constantine’s city,” took on immense significance for the development of the church.

As Christianity grew and embraced converts from different cultures, debate raged regarding the nature of Jesus. While today understood to be largely compatible, these philosophical and theological nuances and variations disrupted the unity of the Roman Empire, which took on a Christian character. In the interests of peace, unity, catholicity in practice and consensus in governance, Constantine and his successors convoked ecumenical (from the Greek, oikoumene, meaning “of the inhabited world”) councils, bringing together bishops and theologians from throughout the empire and beyond.

At the first such council, held in Nicaea in 325, the fathers formulated the Christian creed that, with some modifications, is recited to this day in churches worldwide. The council fathers also recognized the “patriarchal” authority of the bishops of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch.

But as the city of Constantine increased in size and wealth, so did the prestige of its bishop. In 381, the fathers of the Council of Constantinople conferred primacy in the east to the bishop of Constantinople, stating that “the bishop of Constantinople shall have the prerogative of honor after the bishop of Rome since the city of Constantine is the New Rome.”

Read more.

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