VICTORY OVER PAPAL PRIMACY VOL.5 NO. 24

During the fourth and fifth century, we could recall that the bishops of Rome were defining their role as chief shepherds of the flock of Christ with growing consistency and precision. By this, the papacy set efforts on top gear in advancing its claims to a primacy over the whole church. Pope Damasus (366-384) at a council 382 seems to have claimed formally the possession of a primacy over all other churches in virtue of the Lord’s promise to St. Peter, the first bishop of Rome. Pope Siricius (384-399) extended the primacy to making decisions, with universal application in matters both doctrinal and disciplinary. Nevertheless, the attitude of the East seemed indifference to this claim. Even in the West, there was ambiguity especially from the African church.
One of the momentous turning points in the history of the papacy emerged during the reign of Pope Leo I (440-61), one of the greatest of ecclesiastical statement, and deservedly surnamed the Great. At a time when the world was cracking at the seams, Leo stood forth as a Pope of commanding character and genius who dramatically and successfully asserted the supreme authority of the papacy. In virtue of his office, the pope had the plenitude of power over the universal church. He was its supreme ruler, its supreme teacher and its supreme judge. He exercised authority in Spain and North Africa. All other bishops only shared in his responsibility for the whole church.
In 445, he secured an edict from the Western Emperor, Valentium III, who instructed the military commander in Gaul, the famous Aetius, that “the primacy of the Apostolic see as appropriate to St. Peter” must be observed.
Leo came to the papal office as twilight fell over the Roman Empire but he shrewdly secured the intergrity of the papacy. His contemporary Aetius the last effective Roman general in the West, strove valiantly to save Gaul and Italy from the universal doom, but he won his most notable victories only by using barbarians against barbarians. In 436, Aetius gained a resounding victory over the visigotha with the Huns in 451 with the help of the visigoths. Aetius himself was murdered later by the Emperor himself, the Valentinian III, who in a jealous pique cut him down with his sword six months later, Aetius guard returned the favour by assassinating Valentinian. In the vacuum of secular leadership, it was Leo who virtually took change of the city’s fate and saved Rome from the invasion of Affila and Gaiseric the vandal.
Leo’s most memorable exercise of authority however occurred in connection with an acute doctrinal crisis that faced the church during his pontificate. It began in Constantinople when an old monk there named Eutyches, a dabbler rather than a real theologian, was summoned before a synod on the charge of teaching heresy. The result of the synod brought a major crisis between two rivals; patriarch Flavian, who condemned Eutyches, and the ambitious patriarch of Alexandria, Dioscoros, who was searching for just such an incident to embarrass his rival Flavian.
The question that pitted Dioscoros and Eutyches against Flavian was the continuation of a long-standing controversy over the relation of the human to the divine in Christ that divided the two major schools of theology in the East; Antioch and Alexandria school. Antioch’s greatest authority, Theodore of Mopsuestia, was influential in shaping its theology, which insisted on the full and genuine manhood of Christ.
In describing how divinity and humanity were united in Christ, however, the Antichenes left themselves open to the charge that the union was only moral rather than essential. While Alexandria’s most revered theologian, Cyril, on the other hand, so emphasized the unity of manhood and divinity in Christ that he was accused of submerging the humanity in the divinity. Hence we shall discuss the intellectual battle between the two schools

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