Constantinople is a city founded by, and named after, Constantine the Great as a second capital of the Roman Empire. After the division of the Roman Empire, Constantinople became the capital of the Byzantine Empire and later served as the cap[ital of the Ottoman Empire. The city is currently known as Istanbul, Turkey.
Constantinople, once the imperial capital of the Byzantine Empire [Eastern Roman Empire] was the first city where Christianity was designated the capital religion.
Constantinople existed on the site of an ancient Greek settlement. The settlers had originally come from the Greek city-state of Megara around 667 BC and were ruled by the legendary King Byzas. It is from King Byzas that the city received its former name "Byzantium". Around 330 AD, Constantine I changed its name to Constantinople ["City of Constantine"] and transformed the Greek colony into a royal residence. Today, the city is called Istanbul, a name which it has retained since its changing in 1923. Phanar
Christianity made its debut in 38 AD, when Saint Andrew, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, was led by the Holy Spirit See Pentecost to visit the region. Once there, Saint Andrew laid the ecclesiastical [and no doubt, structural] foundation for the Christian Church, and founded the city's First Diocese. He later became the city's patron Saint. It is very likely that the Apostles Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and many others also visited Constantinople at some time, although currently, there is no historical documentation to support this. [Biblical evidence, however, proves that the apostles visited key regions in southwestern Turkey such as Ephesus, Antioch, Pergamum, Smyrna, etc., spreading the Word of Christ, and founding numerous Christian communities] (See "Seven Churches of Asia)" Seven Churches of Asia.
Before becoming a Christian city, Constantinople was pagan. As a result, the missionary efforts of the disciples met with great opposition. The inhabitants were worshipping Greco-Roman gods, namely Artemis. Present in the city were many Jews from the dispersion who were practicing Judaism. These oppositional groups and imperial persecution greatly hampered the missionary work. The Edict of Milan, issued by Emperor Constantine I, brought an end to the persecution of Christians; and from that point on, the religion began to spread more rapidly. A sign of Christianity's growing popularity was the government-sponsored construction of numerous Christian churches such as the Church of the Holy Apostles and the Hagia Sophia [Church of the Holy Wisdom].
Yet Constantinople, like all major cities, experienced many setbacks arising out of constant internal and external conflicts. The internal conflicts were usually church-related, centering on doctrinal issues, church authority, and imperial legislation of the church. The greatest conflict occurred in 1054AD over ecclesiastical differences in the eastern and western churches.This led to a breakdown in east and west church relations, resulting in a long-lasting east-west split, popularly known as "The Great Schism". Another conflict which had a devastating impact on the Church and on the Empire as a whole was a dispute over title. The Byzantine church refused to recognize western King Charlemagne as "Emperor of Rome." The Byzantines were then vilified by the West, and the subsequent, on-going battles and disputes eventually led to an invasion by the Latins [Western Christians] during the Fourth Crusade. A conflict between the Turks and the Byzantines led to yet another invasion, one that ended the Empire's 1,100-year reign. This last invasion of the Byzantine Empire occurred in 1453AD when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople.
Today, Turkey is a secular constitutional Republic. Christianity is a secondary religion in Turkey, and is centered in the Phanar [Fener] district, a heavily Greek-populated area in the old section of Istanbul/Constantinople, overseen by the leader of the Eastern Church, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, whose administrative office Bishop's Seat is also headquartered there.
Istanbul [Constantinople] is located in northwest Turkey, and lies on the Bosphorus [aka Bosphorus Strait]. [The Bosphorus is a narrow strait of water that forms the boundary between the European part of Turkey [Thrace] and the Asian part (Anatolia). This unique geographical position makes it the only metropolis in the world that is situated on two continents.
Constantinople Before Emperor Constantine
When Constantine was in line to become the next Roman Emperor, Constantinople was a province of the Roman Empire and was called Byzantium. Many historians say that the Byzantine Empire under Constantine was simply a continuation of the Roman Empire, and many have termed it, "the Eastern Roman Empire"; and others, the "Eastern half of the Roman Empire" following its division into East and West.
During early - late Roman rule, and immediately preceding the reign of Emperor Constantine I, the inhabitants of Byzantium were worshipping Greco-Roman gods. Christianity, a new religion with roots in ancient Judaism, was undergoing severe persecution but continued to make significant progress among the inhabitants.
The most notable and lasting change ever to occur in the Byzantine Empire was the change in religion. This came about when Christianity replaced paganism as the Empire's official religion.
Paganism involves the worship of idols or false gods/deities. In keeping with this Roman tradition, the city of Byzantium was dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis [667 BC]. Her symbol was the crescent moon which was used as the symbol of the city from 667 BC to 330 AD. Byzantium Artemis later became identified with Selene, a Titaness who was a Greek moon goddess, sometimes depicted with a crescent moon above her head. She was also identified with the Roman goddess Diana, the Etruscan goddess Artume, and the Greek or Carian goddess Hecate.
The symbol of the crescent moon currently appears on the nation's flag. According to legend, Hecate, is believed to have saved the city from attack by Philip II of Macedon in 340-339 BC. So, to honor her, the official added her symbol, the crescent [moon] to the flag emblem. This emblematic design, by the way, was also placed on the coins. Byzantium
Jesus Christ (c 4 BC – c 30 AD)
Jesus Christ [also, Jesus the Christ] is the founder and central figure of Christianity, and within most Christian denominations, he is venerated as the Son of God and as God incarnate. His lineage, according to the Gospel of Matthew, is of the Tribe of Judah in the nation of Israel and includes King David. His Hebrew-Aramaic name, Yeshua, means 'Yahweh saves,' and for Christians, He is the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. The principal sources of information regarding Jesus' life and teachings are the four canonical gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John]. Jesus Christ
"Jesus Christ… ruler of the kings of the earth." [Revelation 1:5]
It was a major part of Christ's earthly mission to establish his Church on earth so that all men could come to believe in Him and be saved, just as the Almighty God originally intended. Christ [or Messiah] sent forth the Holy Spirit that would, in turn, lead His disciples on their missionary journeys, thus fulfilling His divine purpose. [See Luke 9:1-6  [Also See Matthew 28:19, Acts 8:16; 19:5; Romans 6:3; 1 Corinthians 1:13; 10:2; Galatians 3:27]
Christian Missionary Work
The seeds of Christianity started to be planted throughout many regions of Asia and Europe [and even more distant regions] soon after the descent of the Holy Spirit [See Pentecost]. The apostles' missionary journeys specifically took them to places such as Byzantium, Ephesus, Smyrna, etc. The good news about Jesus Christ the Savior began to take root, despite opposition, and Jews as well as many people from the nations were brought into the faith. Western Anatolia Because of the relentless efforts of the apostles, Christianity would come to replace paganism as the capital religion of the Roman/Byzantine Empire. Early Christian
Saint Andrew the Apostle
We know for certain that Saint Andrew was led to Byzantium in 38 AD. The apostles Peter and Paul may have also visited the region, although there doesn't seem to be supporting evidence of this as yet. We do know, however, that all preaching work can be traced back to the Early Church at Jerusalem where all apostles were stationed, and spread outward from this point.
- Lays the Foundation of the Eastern Church
- From the moment that the Apostle Saint Andrew began preaching in Byzantium, Christianity began to take root. Andrew, as we recall, was the brother of the Apostle Peter and had traveled from Jerusalem to Byzantium/Constantinople to preach the word of Christ to the city's inhabitants, Jews and Gentiles alike. Because of his highly-esteemed accomplishments, Saint Andrew is revered as the city's patron Saint.
- Saint Andrew's Teaching
The apostolic treatise known as the Didache, contains the fundamental precepts for the Christian churches. These basic principles were laid down by the Apostle Andrew when he visited Byzantium [Constantinople]. Didache. (Also see Didascalia Apostolorum) This, and later treatises that contained the original principales taught by Jesus Christ, formed the basis for the Byzantine Rite as well as many other Christian liturgies that developed during the Byzantine era. These same principles are also found in liturgies of the Eastern and Western Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, liturgies which are still in use today. [See "Liturgy of Saint James", "Liturgy of John Chrystostom", "Liturgy of Saint Basil"]
- Founds the First Diocese in Byzantum
- It was, in fact, Saint Andrew who founded the city's First Diocese [aka Bishopric] in 38 AD. This diocese Diocese became the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Patriarch of Constantinople
- Installs the First Bishop of Constantinople
Early Christian Rites and Creeds
- The Eucharist
Since Jesus Christ is the central figure in Christianty, this celebration of His death and resurrection is the most sacred service performed throughout Christendom.The Eucharist, a symbolic representation of the Lord Jesus Christ, was first performed by Christ during His last meal which took place during the Passover celebration in Jerusalem on Nisan 14 in or about the year 33 AD. This Rite was carried out just before Christ's arrest and crucifixion.
The Eucharist celebration is given various names such as Holy Communion, Mass, The Last Supper, or The Lord's Evening Meal. Jesus Christ The consecration of bread and wine within the Rite recalls the moment at the Last Supper when Jesus gave his disciples bread, saying, "This is my body", and wine, saying, "This is my blood". In Byzantine tradition, the Eucharist is referred to as "The Divine Liturgy." Eucharist
Another extremely important celebration that began long before Emperor Constantine came to power was Pentecost. Observed as an annual Feast Day, Pentecost, although rooted in the ancient Jewish celebration of Shauvot Shavout, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ [See Acts, Chapter 2] after His Ascension.
The Holy Spirit empowers Christians to teach the Gospel and remain steadfast in their faith. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the driving force behind the Christian missionary work that is being done throughout the world! [Note: Pentecost is sometimes described as "the Church's birthday".] Pentecost Holy Spirit
- The Apostles' Creed
The Apostles' Creed is an early statement of Christian belief based on the teachings of Christ's twelve apostles. The theological statements found in this creed can be viewed as a refutation of Gnosticism, an early heresy.
The Creed states that Jesus Christ was born, suffered, and died on the cross. This statement goes against the heretical belief that Christ only appeared to become man and did not truly suffer and die, but only appeared to do so. The Apostles' Creed is thus viewed as a defense of the Gospel of Christ, and is widely used by a number of Christian denominations for both liturgical and catechetical purposes. [Also See, "The Nicene Creed"] Apostles' Creed Patriarch of Jerusalem#Bishops of Jerusalem
- The Liturgy of Saint James [c. 60 AD]
The Liturgy of Saint James [a portion of which is found below] is considered to be the oldest surviving liturgy developed for general use in the Church. It is said to have been composed around 60 AD. The Liturgy of St. James is commonly celebrated on the feast day of Saint James (October 23) and the first Sunday after Christmas. It is then almost exclusively celebrated on a daily basis in Jerusalem, in the Eastern Orthodox Church and in the Byzantine Catholic Churches.
A portion of this Liturgy reads:
[Priest:] "O Sovereign Lord our God, condemn me not, defiled with a multitude of sins: for, behold, I have come to this Thy divine and heavenly mystery, not as being worthy; but looking only to Thy goodness, I direct my voice to Thee: God be merciful to me, a sinner; I have sinned against Heaven, and before Thee, and am unworthy to come into the presence of this Thy holy and spiritual table, upon which Thy only-begotten Son, and our Lord Jesus Christ, is mystically set forth as a sacrifice for me, a sinner, and stained with every spot. Wherefore I present to Thee this supplication and thanksgiving, that Thy Spirit the Comforter may be sent down upon me, strengthening and fitting me for this service; and count me worthy to make known without condemnation the word, delivered from Thee by me to the people, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom Thou art blessed, together with Thy all-holy, and good, and quickening, and consubstantial Spirit, now and ever, and to all eternity. Amen." The Divine Liturgy of Saint James Liturgy of Saint James
The most noted rulers of Byzantium/Constantinople prior to Constantine were the Greeks and the Romans. Constantine I, being a member of the Roman Empire, rose to power while Byzantium was as yet a Roman province.
Before becoming Constantinople, Byzantium was ruled by the legendary Greek King Byzas. Byzas and his people formed a colony in Byzantium around 667 BC after leaving Megara [an ancient city in Attica, Greece], the city of their origin,. [The name "Byzantium" is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion.] Byzantium's attraction was its location which made it an important center for trade and commerce.
In 196 AD, the city of Byzantium, after siding with the Roman usurper, Pescennius Niger, against the Roman Septimius Severus, became a Roman province. Severus' forces besieged the city and caused it to suffer extensive damage, but he quickly rebuilt it, enabling it to regain it previous prosperity. The city remained a Roman province until 325 AD.
- Diocletian [Last Western Roman Ruler]
Diocletian is noted for his brutal and insane persecution of Christians. Diocletian's Great Persecution was believed to have been based on the advice he had gotten after consulting the oracle of Apollo. He began to destroy the newly-constructed church at Nicomedia, burning its scriptures and seizing its treasures seized. He went on a rampage, destroying more and more and biblical scriptures. He deprived all Christians of official ranks and imprisoned the Christian bishops and priests, and had vast numbers of Christians murdered or mercilessly tortured. Emperor Constantine I Byzantine Empire
The Diocletianic Persecution (or Great Persecution) was the final and most severe persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Diocletian's persecution began in 303, after he and his colleagues Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius issued a series of edicts rescinding Christians' legal rights and demanding they comply with traditional religious practices. The issued other edicts later that targeted the Christian clergy, demanding universal sacrifices, ordering all inhabitants to sacrifice to the Greco-Roman gods.
- Flavius Valerius Constantius and Galerius [305-306 AD]
Flavius Valerius Constantius, also Constantius I, was an Emperor of the Western Roman Empire (305–306) and the father Constantine the Great. When Diocletian and Maximian stepped down as co-emperors of the Empire in 305, possibly due to Diocletian's poor health, the Caesars, Constantius and Galerius, became co-emperors. Constantius ruled the western half of the Empire, Galerius the eastern half. When Constantius died in Britain, at York, in 306, and his son, Constantine I, was declared Emperor by the army. Constantius Chlorus
It is worthwhile to note that Constantius and Maximian did not apply the later persecutionary edicts that Diocletian had issued earlier, and left the Christians of the West unharmed. Later persecutionary edicts, including the calls for universal sacrifice, were not applied in Constantius' domain.
Galerius ended the Diocletian persecution in the East in 311 by rescinding his Edict against the Christians, although it was resumed in Egypt, Palestine, and Asia Minor by his successor, Maximinus. Galerius asserted that the persecution of Diocletian had failed to bring Christians back to traditional religion.
Diocletian was demonized by his Christian successors. Lactantius hinted that Diocletian's ascendancy heralded the apocalypse. In Serbian mythology, Diocletian is remembered as Dukljan, the adversary of God. Diocletian#Great Persecution
The Reign of Constantine I [306-337 AD]
Constantine I was declared Roman Emperor in 306 AD, but officially held the office from 324 until his death in 337 AD. He change the city's former name, Byzantium to Constantinople, the "City of Constantine", on November 26 326 AD. It was after his death in 337, that Constantinople became the sole capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Constantine is best known, however, for making Christianity the capital religion of his Empire and of being the first Roman Emperor to become Christian.
Constantine is applauded for ending the persecutions of Christians by issuing (with his co-emperor Licinius) the Edict of Milan in 313 [see below], a document which proclaimed religious toleration throughout the Empire. Throughout the time of Constantine's rule he added significant monuments to the city and enlarged the first Christian church, the Hagia Eirene. Constantine also founded the Hagia Sophia and a large number of other churches in his Empire. Constantine is credited with building the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and Old Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. In addition, the Emperor founded two theatres, 160 baths, 50 pillared halls, 8 aqueducts, and 5000 houses.
The Edict of Milan was issued during the Diocletian Persecution. According to the Edict, the meeting places and other properties which had been confiscated from the Christians, and sold or granted out of the government treasury, were to be returned to them. Edict of Milan
According to Christian writers, Constantine was over 40 years old when he finally declared himself a Christian. He explained to the Christians that he believed he owed his successes to the protection of the Christian High God alone. Throughout his rule, Constantine supported the Church financially, built basilicas, granted privileges to clergy (e.g. exemption from certain taxes), promoted Christians to high office, and returned property confiscated during the Diocletianic persecution.
His Rise to Power [A Vision of the Cross]
Before coming to power, Constantine had received a vision in 312 AD, as he was about to fight against his opponent at the Milvian Bridge. It was a vision was of the Cross of Christ Jesus, and it prompted him to fight under the protection of the Christian God, thus ensuring him the victory. Lactantius explains that, the night before the battle, Constantine was commanded to "delineate the heavenly sign on the shields of his soldiers". He obeyed this directive and marked the shields with a sign "denoting Christ". Lactantius describes that sign as a "staurogram", or a Latin cross with its upper end rounded in a P-like fashion. Labarum Because Contantine obeyed the order to fight under the "Sign of the Cross", he was victorious over his opponent. At this point, he embraced Christianity and deemed himself Holy Roman Emperor. Constantine the Great
However, Constantine was not totally devoted to Christianity. After gaining victory in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge [See Below], Constantine built an arch [the Arch of Constantine] to celebrate the victory, decorating it with images of sacrifices that were made to gods like Apollo, Diana, or Hercules without any symbolic reference to Christianity. In 321 AD, Constantine maintained that Christians and non-Christians should be united in observing the "venerable day of the sun", referencing eastern sun-worship, and his coinage continued to carry symbols of the sun-cult until 324. Even after the pagan gods had disappeared from the coinage, Christian symbols appeared only as Constantine's personal attributes, between his hands or on his labarum, but never on the coin itself. Even when Constantine dedicated the new capital of Constantinople, which became the seat of Byzantine Christianity for a millennium, he did so wearing the Apollonian sun-rayed diadem [crown]. Constantine I
Christianity in the Byzantine Empire [391 AD]
Constantinople continued to practice the Roman religion until 391 at which time it was officially replaced by Nicene [or Byzantine] Christianity Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Because of the religious rites and liturgies that were formulated at the First Council of Nicaea [325 AD] and put into practice in the Church of Constantinople, Christianity in this region came to be referred to as "Nicaen" or "Byzantine" Christianity. At the council, the rites and liturgies were put into a uniform code that was meant to be adhered to by all churches, and particularly those in the East. This council of bishops convened on the express orders of Constantine I. Creed of Nicaea
The Byzantine Rite
The Byzantine Rite [aka Rite of Constantinople] was one of the rites developed during the council meeting. It is the second largest liturgical rite in Christendom, second only to the Western Roman Rite. [This Rite is currently used by all the Eastern Orthodox Churches as well as Greek-Catholic Churches (Eastern Catholic Churches which use the Byzantine Rite]. The major part of the Byzantine or other Christian Rite is the Divine Liturgy [aka The Eucharist, Mass, The Last Supper, etc.] The entire Byzantine Rite consists of the Divine Liturgy, Canonical Hours, forms for the administration of Sacred Mysteries (sacraments) and the numerous prayers, blessings, and exorcisms. Also includedd in the Rite are the specifics of architecture, icons, liturgical music, vestments and traditions which have evolved over the centuries. Byzantine Rite
The Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed, the primary expression of the unified basic belief of Christianity, is rooted in the teachings of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ. It was originally developed in the city of Nicaea [Turkey] where the First Ecumenical Council met in 325 AD and was then established as the basic creed of recitation/worship for Eastern and Western communities. [See Didascalia Apostolorum Didascalia Apostolorum, Apostles' Creed Apostles' Creed, the Didache Didache Nicene Christianity
The First Council of Nicaea [The Deity of Christ is Affirmed]
The First Council of Nicaea was the very first worldwide [ecumenical] council of the Christian church, and it convened in Nicaea [Turkey]. This council is credited with having formulated one of the most important statements in Christendom, a uniform Christian doctrine, known as the "Creed of Nicaea" or "The Nicene Creed."
However, the Council's first and primay objective was to find a formula from Holy Scripture that would express the full deity of the Son, equally with the Father. Another very important goal was to define a unity of beliefs for the whole of Christendom.
Prior to the convention, Christians were divided on the subject of Jesus Christ's Deity, and a heated controversy ensued. The two opposing sides were the Arians who believed that Christ was a creation of God and therefore was not a Deity, and those who believed that Christ was begotten by God and not created, and for this reason, Christ was Divine.
After much debate, the Greek word "homo-ousios" (meaning "of the same substance, or nature, or essence") was introduced, mainly because it was one word that could not be misinterpreted to mean something that the Arians wanted it to. Some of the bishops present, although in complete disagreement with Arius, were still reluctant to use a term not found in the Scriptures; but eventually saw that the alternative would be a creed that both sides would sign, each understanding it in its own way, leaving the question of whether the Son is truly God or simply a creation of God (the Arians said "a god") undecided. The Church could not afford to have such an important issue as Christ's deity become a two-sided doctrine, so the Council adopted a creed declaring the Son to be "of one substance [or "homo-ousios"] with the Father." At the end of the convention, there were only two holdouts.
Also, with the creation of the Creed, a precedent was established for subsequent (ecumenical) councils of Bishops (Synods) to create later statements of belief as well as canons of doctrinal orthodoxy. First Council of Nicaea
Second Council of Nicaea [787 AD] (Restoration of Religious Icons)
In 787 AD, a Second Council of Nicaea met. This was called the seventh ecumenical council of Christianity, and the last to be accepted by both Eastern and Western churches. It's objective was to restore the honoring of icons (or, holy images), which had been suppressed by imperial edict, during the reign of Leo III (717 - 741).
When, in 784, the imperial secretary Patriarch Tarasius was appointed successor to the Patriarch Paul IV, he accepted on the condition that intercommunion with the other churches should be reestablished; that is, that the images should be restored. However, a council, claiming to be ecumenical, had abolished the veneration of icons, so another ecumenical council was necessary for its restoration.
In 786, the council met in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. However, soldiers in collusion with the opposition entered the church, and broke up the assembly. In response, the government had them disarmed, disbanded, then sent away.
The council was again summoned to meet, but in Nicaea. Proof of the lawfulness of the veneration of icons was drawn from Exodus 25:19 sqq.; Numbers 7:89; Hebrews 9:5 sqq.; Ezekiel 41:18, and Genesis 31:34 [34 Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel's saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing.
It was determined that "As the sacred and life-giving cross is everywhere set up as a symbol, so also should the images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the holy angels, as well as those of the saints, etc., and exhibited on the walls of churches, in the homes, and in all conspicuous places, by the roadside and everywhere, to be revered by all who might see them. For the more they are contemplated, the more they move to fervent memory of their prototypes. Therefore, it is proper to accord to them a fervent and reverent adoration, not, however, the veritable worship which, according to our faith, belongs to the Divine Being alone…" The papal legates voiced their approval of the restoration of the veneration of icons in no uncertain terms,
Imperial Control over the Byzantine Church
After its adoption by Emperor Constantine I as the capital religion of the Empire, Christianity came under the protection and control of imperial authorities. These imperial leaders had a strong say in who ran the Church and how it was run. This policy, which came to be known as "caesaropapism," created much tension and conflict. Some church leaders who opposed the rulings of the Kings in ecclesiastical matters risked losing their positions in the church or faced possible banishment. There were also cases where opposers were conspired against and even imprisoned.
At its extreme, the Emperor was the supreme head of the Church ("Pontifex Maximus") and exercised absolute control over it.
Caesaropapism operated within the Empire from the fifth to eleventh century. The Byzantine Emperor protected the Eastern Church and managed its administration by presiding over councils and appointing patriarchs. He also set territorial boundaries for their jurisdiction. The Patriarch of Constantinople could not hold office if he did not have the Emperor's approval. Eastern church leaders such as Saint John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople and St. Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria, strongly opposed imperial control over the Church, as did Western theologians like St. Hilary and Hosius, Bishop of Cordóba. [ Emperors such as Basiliscus, Zeno, Justinian I, Heraclius, and Constans II published several edicts either without the mediation of church councils, or exercised their own political influence on the councils to issue the edicts.] Caesaropapism [Also See "John Chrysostom"] John Chrysostom
Christian Leadership in the Byzantine Church
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople [currently, Bartholomew I]
Origin of the Role of Ecumenical Patriarch
It should be noted that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is the Archbishop of Constantinople, and that this office has had a continuous history since the founding of the city in 330 AD by Constantine the Great. Also note that the city's first installed [non-ecumenical] Bishop, as mentioned previously, was Saint Stachys.
After Constantine the Great had enlarged Byzantium to make it into a new city in 330, it was thought appropriate that its bishop, traditionally a successor of St Andrew the Apostle, Andrew the Apostle brother of Saint Peter, should become second only to the Bishop of Old Rome. Soon after the transfer of the Roman capital, the bishopric was elevated to an archbishopric. [For many decades the heads of the church of Rome opposed this ambition, because they adhered to the 'Petrine principle' by which all Patriarchates were derived from Saint Peter and were unwilling to violate the old order of the hierarchy for what they felt were political reasons.]
Because of its importance at the center of the Byzantine Empire, the Church at Constantinople was where cases involving churches ouside Constantinople's direct authority were discussed, with the Emperor intervening. Therefore, the Bishop of Constantinople became a liaison between the Emperor and bishops traveling to the capital, making him responsible for the unity of the whole Church, particularly in the East. As the hierarchical structure of the Church developed, the Bishop of Constantinople came to be styled as exarch (a position superior to metropolitan), and then later, Patriarch, having administrative jurisdiction over all the bishops within his patriarchate.
The Patriarch of Constantinople now ranks as "first among equals" in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. He has been historically known as the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople as distinct from the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. The current holder of the office is Bartholomew I. His title is not recognized by the Turkish government, who only recognize him as the spiritual leader of the Greek minority in Turkey, and refer to him only as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Phanar (or "Christian area" or as "Constantinople") district. Phanar
See "The U.S. Visit of his all Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholome" http://www.goarch.org/special/usvisit2004/index_html/
The Holy See (of the Ecumenical Patriarch) [aka The Great Church of Christ]
As the Roman Empire stabilized and grew, so did the influence of the patriarchate at its capital. The Ecumenical Patriarchate came to be called "the Great Church of Christ," and it was the touchstone and reference point for ecclesiastical affairs in the East. The patriarchate came to have in canon law "equal prerogatives [presveia] to Old Rome" (Canon 3 of Constantinople I, Canon 28 of Chalcedon, and Canon 36 of Trullo).
Outstanding Christian Saints
John Chrysostom, Bishop, [Preacher, Theologian, Liturgist] [407 AD]
- The Divine Liturgy
John was called "Chrysostom" [meaning "Golden Mouth") because of his eloquence. He was a priest of Antioch, and an outstanding preacher. (Audiences were warned not to carry large sums of money when they went to hear him speak, since pickpockets found it very easy to rob his hearers -- they were too intent on his words to notice what was happening.) His sermons are mostly straightforward expositions of Holy Scripture (he has extensive commentaries on both Testaments, with special attention to the Epistles of Paul), and he emphasizes the literal meaning, whereas the style popular at Alexandria tended to read allegorical meanings into the text. Saint Basil's liturgical work was continued by John Chrysostom (died c. 407), Patriarch of Constantinople. He wrote new (and shorter) prayers for the Divine Liturgy, as well as other prayers. The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is the most common form of the Liturgy used in the Constantinopolitan Rite, and his Catechetical Homily is an important part of the Byzantine Paschal Vigil. Byzantine Rite
Conflict with the Byzantine Imperial Court and Others
Saint Chrysostom loved the city and people of Antioch, and they loved him. However, he became so famous that the Empress Eudoxia [in Constantinople], decided that she must have him for her court preacher. She therefore had him kidnapped and brought to Constantinople, and there he was made Bishop. [In 398, John was requested, against his will, to take the position of Archbishop of Constantinople. He, however, deplored the fact that Imperial court protocol would now assign to him access to privileges greater than the highest state officials. But during his time as Archbishop John refused to host extravagant social gatherings. This made him popular with the common people, but unpopular with the wealthy citizens and the clergy.
His reforms of the clergy were also unpopular with the more privileged groups. John told visiting preachers in the Byzantine regions to return to the churches they were meant to be serving—without any payout. In 401, Chrysostom even led a mob to finally destroy the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (one of the constantly rebuilt Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.)
An alliance was soon formed against him by Eudoxia, Theophilus and others of his enemies. [Theophilus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, wanted to bring Constantinople under his sway and opposed John's appointment to Constantinople. Being an opponent of Origen's teachings, he accused John of being too partial to the teachings of that theologian.] They held a synod in 403 (the Synod of the Oak) to charge John, in which his connection to Origen was used against him. It resulted in his deposition and banishment. He was called back by Arcadius almost immediately, as the people became "tumultuous" over his departure. There was also an earthquake the night of his arrest, which Eudoxia took for a sign of God's anger, prompting her to ask Arcadius for John's reinstatement. Peace was short-lived. A silver statue of Eudoxia was erected near his cathedral. John denounced the dedication ceremonies. He spoke against her in harsh terms: "Again Herodias raves; again she is troubled; she dances again; and again desires to receive John's head in a charger," an allusion to the events surrounding the death of John the Baptist. Once again he was banished, this time to the Caucasus in Armenia.
Pope Innocent I protested this banishment, but to no avail. Innocent sent a delegation to intercede on behalf of John in 405. It encountered many difficulties and never reached their goal of entering Constantinople. That same year, Chrysostom sent gangs of monks, armed with iron bars and clubs, to destroy all the idols they could find in Palestine. A year later, he appealed for funds to pay for the demolition of non-Christian temples.
John wrote letters which still held great influence in Constantinople. As a result of this, he was further exiled to Pitiunt (Abkhazia region of Georgia) where his tomb is the shrine for pilgrims. He never reached this destination, as he died during the journey. His last words are said to have been, "δόξα τῷ θεῷ πάντων ἕνεκεν" (Glory be to God for all things).
Saint Basil the Great
His Opposition to Heresy
Basil made it his policy to try to unite the so-called semi-Arians [who claimed that the Son, Jesus Christ was not "fully God"] with the Nicene party, against the outright Arians, by making use of the formula "three persons (hypostases) in one substance (ousia)," thus explicitly acknowledging a distinction between the Father and the Son (a distinction that the Nicene party had been accused of blurring), and at the same time insisting on their essential unity.
His "Against Eunomius," defends the deity of Christ against an Arian writer, and his "On the Holy Spirit" speaks of the deity of the Third Person of the Trinity, and the rightness of worshipping Him together with the Father and the Son. In his Address "To Young Men" (originally written for his nephews), he urges Christians to make themselves acquainted with pagan philosophy and literature, arguing that this will often lead to a deeper understanding of Christian truth. 
The most important work attributed to Saint Basil is the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil. He took as his basis the Liturgy of St. James as it was celerated at his time in the region of Cappadocia, as well as some liturgical elements recorded in the Apostolic Constitutions. Apostolic Constitutions Over time, the Liturgy of Saint Basil gained wide usage in Asia Minor and Syria. Peter the Deacon mentions that Basil's Liturgy was "used by nearly the whole East". Byzantine Rite
In 328, Athanasius became Bishop of Alexandria. He refused to participate in the negotiations arising out of the Nicene controversy, suspecting (correctly as it turned out) that once the orthodox party showed a willingness to make reaching an agreement their highest priority, they would end up "giving away the store". He defended the full deity of Christ against emperors, magistrates, bishops, and theologians. For this, he was regarded as a trouble-maker by Constantine and his successors, and was banished from Alexandria a total of five times by various emperors. (Hence the expression "Athanasius contra mundum," or, "Athanasius against the world.")
Eventually, Christians who believed in the Deity of Christ came to see that once they were prepared to abandon the Nicene formulation, they were on a slippery slope that led to regarding the Logos as simply a high-ranking angel. The more they experimented with other formulations, the clearer it became that only the Nicene formulation would preserve the Christian faith in any meaningful sense, and so they re-affirmed the Nicene Creed at the Council of Constantinople in 381, a final triumph that Athanasius did not live to see. 
Byzantine Emperors after Constantine
Julian the Apostate, Emperor [361-363 AD] [Last Non-Christian Ruler of the Roman Empire]
"Julian attempted to restore paganism as the religion of the Empire." Roman Emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus, [aka Julian the Apostate], was the last of the Constantinian Dynasty. He was born in 332 or 331 in Constantinople and was the son of Julius Constantius and the half brother of Emperor Constantine I.
Julian was the last non-Christian ruler of the Roman Empire, and made it his major goal to return the Empire to its former practices, thus saving it from dissolution. He purged the top-heavy state bureaucracy [that had apparently changed from its former ways and habits], and tried to restore old Roman religious practices at a high to Christianity. His rejection of Christianity in favour of Neo-Platonic paganism Paganism caused him to be called Julian the Apostate by the church. Julian the Apostate Apostacy
In 363, after a reign of only 19 months as absolute ruler of the Roman Empire, Julian died in Persia during a campaign against the Sassanid Empire.
Flavius Theodosius (408-450 AD)
Theodosius II reigned as Emperor from 408-450AD. He is best remembered for the law code, Codex Theodosianus, and for the building of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople. The Theodosian Walls Theodosius also created the University of Constantinople. In 425 AD, he ordered he ordered the execution of Gamaliel VI, the Nasi of the Jewish Sanhedrin and abolished the office. He died in 450 as the result of a riding accident.
Justinian [527-565 AD]
Emperor Justinian, Emperor from 527-565 AD, was one of the greatest of all Byzantine rulers. There was a rapid growth of Christianity during his reign and this led to the construction of large buildings for worship. He is credited for the rebuilding the magnificent Hagia Sophia that had been totally destroyed in the Nika Riot. In addition, Justinian was founder of the largest underground cistern in the Empire.
Emperor Justinian made Greek an official language of state along with Latin, although later, Greek became the Empire's only official language. Some historians base the switch from Roman Empire to Byzantine during the reign of Justinian because he was the one who codified the laws that had previously existed only in decrees.
The Plague of Justinian
During Justinian's reign there was a pandemic that afflicted the Byzantine Empire, including its capital Constantinople, in the years 541–542. The most commonly accepted cause of the pandemic is bubonic plague, which later became infamous for either causing or contributing to the Black Death of the 14th century. The plague would return with each generation throughout the Mediterranean basin until about 750 AD. Modern historians named it after the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I, who was in power at the time and himself contracted the disease. Plague of Justinian
Heraclius [610-641 AD]
When the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius ejected the Persians from Palestine in 630 AD, he singled out Nazareth for special punishment and imposed forced exile upon the Jewish families. It was at this time that the town ceased to be Jewish.
Leo VI [886-912 AD]
Emperor Leo VI [aka Leo the Wise or the Philosopher] reigned from 886-912 AD. He is best remembered for translating the relics of Saint Lazarus to Constantinople in the year 890. There are several hymns attributed to him which are chanted on Lazarus Saturday in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Constantine VII [908-912 AD]
Constantine VII was the son of Leo VI. Born at Constantinople, Constantine was born before an uncanonical marriage. To help legitimize him, his mother gave birth to him in the Purple Room of the imperial palace, hence his nickname Porphyrogennetos. He was symbolically elevated to the throne as a two-year-old child by his father and uncle on May 15, 908. He succeeded to the throne in 913 at the age of seven, following the death of his uncle, Alexander. Constantine VII
Constantine XI (Last Byzantine Emperor) [1449-1453 AD]
Constantine XI Palaiologos was the last reigning Roman Emperor. A member of the Palaiologos dynasty, he ruled the Roman Empire from 1449 until his death in 1453 defending the capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople. He spent most of his childhood in Constantinople under the supervision of his parents. Roman Emperor [Also See
"Byzantine Emperors" Byzantine Emperors
Latin Invasion [- 1261 AD]
In the Byzantine Empire, "Latins" was a synonym of "Western Europeans", referring to all people of the Latin Rite, who were of the Roman Catholic faith (which at the time included northern Europe as well). Latins#Middle Ages
When the Byzantines refused to recognize King Charlemagne of France as "Emperor of the Romans" their name began to be vilified by Carolingian officials. Many on-going disputes and misunderstandings ensued. This caused increased antagonism between the two sides and wars soon ensued. This reached a climax in the Crusades. The fourth Crusade was the death-blow to the Empire, and the final breakdown of relations between East and West. During the Fourth Crusade, knights and soldiers from the West, attacked and took the city of Constantinople and occupied it until 1261, establishing a Latin Empire until 1261 when the Byzantines reoccupied it. 
Byzantine Re-Occupation of Constantinople [1261-1453]
Constantinople would remain under Byzantine control and possession until 1453 when Ottoman Sultan Mehmet conquered the city. They were able to hold off a sustained attack in the late 13th century, by another Ottoman leader known as Beyazit I. 
The Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople occurred after a siege during which the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Sultan Mehmed II, captured the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople, which was defended by the army of Emperor Constantine XI. The siege lasted from Thursday, 5 April 1453 until Tuesday, 29 May 1453 (according to the Julian Calendar), when the city fell to the Ottomans. This battle marked the end of the Byzantine Empire, an empire which had lasted for over 1,100 years. Istanbul
The city's fall was a massive blow for Christendom. Pope Nicholas V ordered an immediate counter-attack, but his death soon after marked the end of the plan. Mehmed made Constantinople his capital and proceeded to conquer the last two Byzantine states. Many Greeks fled the city and migrated to other parts of Europe, in particular Italy. This move is thought to have helped fuel the Renaissance. The Fall of Constantinople is also viewed as a main event leading up to the end of the Middle Ages, and to others, one of the major events that marked the end of the Middle Ages.
Churches of Constantinople [History]
When the extraordinary Christian Churches began to be built in Constantinople, it was usually under the auspices of the reigning Emperor. The Emperor was the financial supporter and adviser in the construction of the Churches, and this was where the Emperor was laid to rest following his death.
The [First] "Church of the Holy Apostles" [330 AD]
Church construction was started by Emperor Constantine I. He constructed the first "Church of the Holy Apostles," and dedicated it around 330 AD. The church was unfinished when Constantine died in 337, but was brought to completion by his son and successor Constantius II, who buried his father's remains there. The church was dedicated to the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and it was the Emperor's intention to gather relics of all the Apostles in the Church. Only relics of Saint Andrew, Saint Luke and Saint Timothy (the latter two not strictly apostles) were acquired, so it was later assumed that the church was dedicated to these three only.
Little is known of the appearance of this church except that it was cross-shaped. The historian Eusebius says that it was a tall building, with porticoes along the four sides, marble walls and a golden roof.
By the time Justinian I began reigning, the church was no longer considered grand enough, so a new Church of the Holy Apostles was built on the same site. The historian Procopius attributes the rebuilding to Justinian, while the writer known as Pseudo-Codinus attributes it to the Empress Theodora. The second Holy Apostles was consecrated on 28 June 550.
The Second "Church of the Holy Apostles" [550 AD]
The second "Church of the Holy Apostles" was among the great churches of the Eastern Empire. [For more than 700 years the Holy Apostles was the second-most important church in Constantinople, after the basilica of the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia). But whereas the Holy Wisdom was in the oldest part of the city, the Holy Apostles stood in the centre of the newer part of the enlarged city, on the great thoroughfare called Mese or Centre Street.]
Justinian had Anthemius and Isidore demolish and replace the original Church of the Holy Apostles built by Constantine under the same dedication and designed in the form of an equal-armed cross with five domes, and ornamented with beautiful mosaics.
The most treasured possession of the church were the skulls of Saints Andrew, Luke and Timothy, but the church also held the relics of Saint John Chrysostom and other Church Fathers, saints and martyrs. The church held what was believed to be part of the "Column of Flagellation", to which Jesus had been bound and flogged. A mausoleum was built for Justinian and his family at the end of the northern arm of the church, and throughout the years it acquired huge amounts of gold, silver and gems as donations from the faithful.
This church was to remain the burial place of the emperors until the eleventh century. When Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453, the Church of the Holy Apostles briefly became the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church. In 1461, however, it was taken over by the Ottomans and rather than convert the Holy Apostles into a mosque, Ottoman Sultan Mehmet decided to demolish it and build his own mosque on the site. The result was the Fatih Cami (Mosque of the Conqueror), which still occupies the site and houses Mehmed's tomb. Church of the Holy Apostles Pammakaristos Church
The Hagia Irene/The Hagia Sophia
- The Hagia Irene
The Hagia Irene or Hagia Eirene was also built by Emperor Constantine I, and later burned down during the Nika revolt in 532 AD. It served as the Church of the Patriarchate in 537 AD. Emperor Justinian I had the Church restored in 548 AD.The Church was heavily damaged by an earthquake in the 8th century, and the Emperor Constantine V ordered the restorations. Hagia Irene is the only example of a Byzantine church in Constantinople which retains its original atrium. A great cross in the half-dome above the main narthex, where the image of the Pantocrator or Theotokos was usually placed in Byzantine tradition, is a unique vestige of the Iconoclastic art; presumably it replaced earlier decoration. The church was enlarged during the 11th and 12th centuries.
- The Hagia Sophia
After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by Mehmed II, the Church was enclosed inside the Sultan's Walls and was used as an armoury and a warehouse for war booty. In 1453, Mehmed ordered the building to be converted into a mosque. The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed, and many of the mosaics were eventually plastered over. The Islamic features — such as the mihrab, the minbar, and the four minarets outside — were added over the course of its history under the Ottomans. It remained as a mosque until 1935, when it was converted into a museum by the Republic of Turkey.
[In 2007 the US businessman and politician Chris Spirou started the movement "Free Agia Sophia Council" championing the cause of restoring the building to its original function] Hagia Sophia
Church of the Holy Saviour in the Country
The Church of Holy Savior in Chora (Turkish Kariye Müzesi, Kariye Camii, or Kariye Kilisesi — the Chora Museum, Mosque or Church) is considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of a Byzantine church. It is situated in the western, Edirnekapı district of Istanbul. In the 16th century, the church was converted into a mosque by the Ottoman rulers, and it became a museum in 1948. The interior of the building is covered with fine mosaics and frescoes.
The Chora Church was originally built outside the walls of Constantinople, to the south of the Golden Horn. However, when Theodosius II built his land walls in 413 AD, the Church became incorporated within the city's defences, but retained the name Chora. The name must have carried symbolic meaning, as the mosaics in the narthex describe Christ as the Land of the Living (ἡ Χώρα των ζώντων, hē Chōra tōn zōntōn) and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as the Container of the Uncontainable (ἡ Χώρα του Ἀχώρητου, hē Chōra tou Achōrētou). Chora Church
Church of Saint George
The Church of St. George (Greek: Καθεδρικός ναός του Αγίου Γεωργίου, Kathedrikós Naós tou Agíou Geōrgíou, Turkish: Aya Yorgi) is the principal Greek Orthodox cathedral still in use in Istanbul. Since about 1600 it has been the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
The Church is dedicated to the Christian martyr, Saint George and the site of many important services conducted by the Patriarch such as the consecration of the chrism (myron) on Holy and Great Thursday. For this reason, the Church is also known as the "Patriarchal Church of the Great Myrrh".It is located in the Fener (more traditionally Phanar) ("fener" means Lighthouse in Turkish) district of Istanbul, north-west of the historic centre of old Constantinople. (Its address is Fener Rum Patrikhanesi, Sadrazam Ali Pasa Cadesi, Fener 34220, Istanbul.) Since Islamic law states that all non-Islamic buildings must be smaller and humbler than their Islamic counterparts, the Church Saint George in spite of its important function, is small. Church of St George, Istanbul
About the Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, [aka Orthodox Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church] is the world's second largest Christian communion with an estimated 225-300 million members. It is also considered to be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church established by Jesus Christ and his Apostles almost 2,000 years ago. All Orthodox Bishops trace their lineage back to the Apostles through the process of Apostolic Succession, in the same manner as the Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and some other churches.Orthodox Christians believe that the ultimate goal of every Christian is to become like God, to love perfectly, to become “Little Christs” within Jesus Christ. The Biblical text used by the Orthodox includes the Greek Septuagint and the New Testament. Orthodox accept scripture as the inspired Word of God, believing scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit to its authors, speakers and editors. Eastern Orthodox Church
"Phanar" The Christian District [Constantinople]
Phanar, (aka Fener, Fanar) is a neighborhood in Istanbul (Constantinople), Turkey. It is located halfway up the Golden Horn [an Inlet of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, forming a sheltering harbor for ships]. The streets are filled with historic wooden houses, churches, and synagogues that date back to the Byzantine era.
After the Fall of Constantinople, the Fener district was home to most of the Greeks who remained in the city. The Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople who had moved to the region during the Ottoman takeover of Constantinople, is located there as well. As mentioned earlier, Phanar is often used as shorthand for the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the East just as Vatican is used for the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in the West.
Major Historical Events
The Iconoclast Constroversy [730-787 AD, 814-842 AD]
In the eighth and ninth centuries, the iconoclast movement caused serious political unrest throughout the Empire. Emperor Leo III issued a decree in 726 AD against images, and ordered the destruction of a statue of Christ over one of the doors of the Chalke. This act was fiercely resisted by the citizens. Constantine V convoked a church council in 754 AD which also condemned the worship of images, after which many treasures were broken, burned, or painted over. One source refers to the church of the Holy Virgin at Blachernae as having been transformed into a "fruit store and aviary". Following the death of Constantine V's son Leo IV, the Empress Irene restored the veneration of images through the agency of the Second Council of Nicaea in 787.
The iconoclast controversy returned in the early 9th century, only to be resolved once more in 843 during the regency of Empress Theodora, who restored the icons. These controversies contributed to the deterioration of relations between the Western and the Eastern Churches. [An iconoclast is someone who performs iconoclasm — destruction of religious symbols, or, by extension, established dogma or conventions.] Iconoclasm Constantinople#Divided Empire 395 - 527
To this day, in obedience to the commandment not to make "graven images", Orthodox icons may never be more than three-quarter bas relief. Iconoclasm
The Great Schism [1054 AD]
The East-West Schism, or the Great Schism, divided medieval Christendom into Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) branches, which later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, respectively.
Relations between East and West had long been embittered by political and ecclesiastical differences and theological disputes. Pope Leo IX and Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius heightened the conflict by suppressing Greek and Latin in their respective domains. In 1054, Roman legates traveled to Cerularius to deny him the title Ecumenical Patriarch and to insist that he recognize the Church of Rome's claim to be the head and mother of the churches. Cerularius refused. The leader of the Latin contingent, Cardinal Humbert, excommunicated Cerularius, while Cerularius in return excommunicated Cardinal Humbert and other legates.
In 1965, the Pope [Pope Paul VI] and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople nullified the anathemas of 1054. Contacts between the two sides continue: every year a delegation from each joins in the other's celebration of its patronal feast, Saints Peter and Paul (29 June) for Rome and Saint Andrew (30 November) for Constantinople, and there have been a number of visits by the head of each to the other. East-West Schism
Pope Benedict XVI's Visit to Istanbul, Turkey 
The apostolic journey of His Holiness Benedict XVI to Turkey was from November 28 - December 1, 2006. Upon meeting with His Holiness Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople, the Pope gave his address at the Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint George in the Phanar, Istanbul, Wednesday, 29 November 2006.
Below are some excerpts from that address.
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity” (Ps 133:1) Your Holiness,I am deeply grateful for the fraternal welcome extended to me by you personally, and by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. I will treasure its memory forever. I thank the Lord for the grace of this encounter, so filled with authentic goodwill and ecclesial significance. It gives me great joy to be among you, my brothers in Christ, in this Cathedral Church, as we pray together to the Lord and call to mind the momentous events that have sustained our commitment to work for the full unity of Catholics and Orthodox. I wish above all to recall the courageous decision to remove the memory of the anathemas of 1054. The joint declaration of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, written in a spirit of rediscovered love, was solemnly read in a celebration held simultaneously in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome and in this Patriarchal Cathedral. The Tomos of the Patriarch was based on the Johannine profession of faith: “Ho Theós agapé estin” (1 Jn 4:9), Deus caritas est! In perfect agreement, Pope Paul VI chose to begin his own Brief with the Pauline exhortation: “Ambulate in dilectione” (Eph 5:2), “Walk in love”. It is on this foundation of mutual love that new relations between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople have developed. 
Words from Pope Benedict XVI regarding John Chrysostom
Benedict XVI continued, "Having served the Church in Antioch as a priest and preacher for 12 years, John was consecrated bishop of Constantinople in 398, remaining there for five and a half years. In that role, he concerned himself with the reform of the clergy, encouraging priests by word and example to live in conformity with the Gospel."
St. John Chrysostom "tirelessly denounced the contrast that existed in the city between the extravagant wastefulness of the rich and the indigence of the poor," the papal letter affirmed. At the same time, he encouraged the wealthy "to welcome homeless people into their own houses." He also "stood out for his missionary zeal" and built hospitals for the sick.
Benedict XVI recalled how "since the fifth century, John Chrysostom has been venerated by the entire Church, Eastern and Western, for his courageous witness in defense of ecclesial faith and for his generous dedication to pastoral ministry."
He added, "Special mention must also be made of the extraordinary efforts undertaken by St. John Chrysostom to promote reconciliation and full communion between Christians of East and West. In particular, his contribution proved decisive in putting an end to the schism separating the See of Antioch from the See of Rome and from other Western Churches."
Words from Pope Benedict XVI regarding the Goal of the Ecumenical Council
The words of the Honorable Pope Benedict XVI, from a speech to the Orthodox community in Turkey in 2006 serve to explain the ultimate goal of the Ecumenical Council.
The Pope stated, "In this part of the Eastern world were also held the seven Ecumenical Councils which Orthodox and Catholics alike acknowledge as authoritative for the faith and discipline of the Church. They are enduring milestones and guides along our path towards full unity."  "Today, in this Patriarchal Church of Saint George, we are able to experience once again the communion and call of the two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew, in the meeting of the Successor of Peter and his Brother in the episcopal ministry, the head of this Church traditionally founded by the Apostle Andrew. Our fraternal encounter highlights the special relationship uniting the Churches of Rome and Constantinople as Sister Churches.
With heartfelt joy we thank God for granting new vitality to the relationship that has developed since the memorable meeting in Jerusalem in January 1964 between our predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. Their exchange of letters, published in the volume entitled Tomos Agapis, testifies to the depth of the bonds that grew between them, bonds mirrored in the relationship between the Sister Churches of Rome and Constantinople."  
Constantinople, once a province of the Roman Empire in the West, became the major city of the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine I. It's strategic location made it a fast-growing industrial city of great prosperity.The city was the target of many foreign powers, including Western Christians [Latins] who invaded it in 1253 AD during the Fourth Crusade. An invasion of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453 AD brought about the city's downfall and brought the Byzantine Empire to an end. Nevertheless, the Byzantine Empire was a major historical power that lasted for 1100 years.
The country in which Constantinople is located, Turkey, is no longer predominantly Christian but is a secular republic with a majority Muslim population. Christianity is practiced in the Greek-populated Phanar district [old Constantinople], where the Patriarchate of Constantinople, a robust and thriving institution under the supervision of the Ecumenical Patriarch, is also located.
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