Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pope Silvester and Nicea I

Disclaimer: The following is 100% NOT my own work. It is a reproduction of an article made by John Collorafi, on his now defunct website Ancient Papacy. 

Pope St. Silvester (314-335)

Pope Saint Silvester [314-335] led the church through a critical period of her existence. During his lifetime Constantine, the first emperor who openly fought under the standard of the cross, changed the character of the Roman empire forever.

During the era of Pope Silvester, the Arian heresy, which denied that the Son of God was truly divine, first appeared. Arianism was condemned at the Council of Nicea, the first ecumenical council [325].

Pope Silvester is venerated as a saint not only in the Catholic Church, but also in the Greek Church. The Menaion, or monthly liturgy of the Greek Church, celebrates his feast on January 2. The liturgical prayers, which speak of his “unerring teachings,” also include these words:

God-bearing Father Silvester, you appeared as a pillar of fire leading the sacred college in a sacred manner, and as an overshadowing cloud, delivering the faithful from the Egyptian [Arian] error and on every occasion leading them with unerring teachings to divine land... Enriched with the chair of the coryphaeus of the apostles... you appeared as the coryphaeus, initiating the sacred college into divine things, and you graced the... throne of the coryphaeus of the disciples... [Menaion Ianouariou, Athens 1979: 17, 22, 24]

Coryphaeus is a Greek work that means the leader. Its use here means that Pope Silvester was the successor of Saint Peter-- the coryphaeus [chief or leader] of the apostles.

The Coptic Church also has a commemoration of “Silvester, pope of Rome,” on January 2. The commemoration is found in the Synaxarion or book of saints of the Coptic Church. [PO 11: 552]

The Armenian Synaxarion or Book of Saints is known as the Yaysmavurk in Armenian. The Armenian book of saints also commemorates St. Silvester on January 2. The Armenian book of saints praises Saint Silvester’s holiness and even commemorates certain orders which he inscribed into canon law. The Yaysmavurk also says that the Council of Nicea met in accordance with the faith professed by Saint Silvester.

Copyright 2003, John Collorafi

Original translations by John Collorafi


  1. One major Eastern Orthodox Saint, St Symeon of Thessaloniki (I don't think he's the same as St Symeon the New Theologian), said this around the year 1300:

    We should not contradict the Latins when they say that the Bishop of Rome is the first. This primacy is not harmful to the Church. But only let them show that he is true to the faith of Peter and his successors; then let him have all the privileges of Peter, let him be first, the head of all and the supreme hierarch. Only let him be faithful to the Orthodoxy of **Sylvester** and Agathon, Leo, Liberius, Martin and Gregory, then we too shall call him apostolic father and the first among hierarchs; then we will be under his authority not only as under Peter, but the very Saviour Himself. (PG 145, 120 AC)

    This quote appears to be authentic, as it's quoted on EO websites. Notice the names of Catholic Popes that are mentioned. This is no accident, these were Popes of the Ecumenical Councils. The only reason for mentioning Sylvester here is because it was understood by tradition that he played a key role in Nicaea.

    1. There's also a fascinating quote by a Church of the East theologian around the same era that claimed the Pope of Rome was the Patriarch of Patriarch, this was the reason the Bishop of San Jose, CA converted to Catholicism.

  2. Who was the Bishop of San Jose that converted?

  3. This was years ago:

    Bishop Mar Bawai Soho

    He went on to note the genuine tradition of his ancient Eastern Church concerning the Petrine Primacy in the Church:

    “The Church of the East attributes a prominent role to Saint Peter and a significant place for the Church of Rome in her liturgical, canonical and Patristic thoughts. There are more than 50 liturgical, canonical and Patristic citations that explicitly express such a conviction. The question before us therefore is, why there must be a primacy attributed to Saint Peter in the Church? If there is no primacy in the Universal Church, we shall not be able to legitimize a primacy of all the patriarchs in the other apostolic churches. If the patriarchs of the apostolic churches have legitimate authority over their own respective bishops, it is so because there is a principle of primacy in the Universal Church. If the principle of primacy is valid for a local Church (for example, the Assyrian Church of the East), it is so because it is already valid for the Universal Church. If there is no Peter for the Universal Church, there could not be Peter for the local Church. If all the apostles are equal in authority by virtue of the gift of the Spirit, and if the bishops are the successors of the Apostles, based on what, then, can one of these bishops (i.e., [our own] Catholicos-Patriarchs) have authority over the other bishops?

    The Church of the East possesses a theological, liturgical and canonical tradition in which she clearly values the primacy of Peter among the rest of the Apostles and their churches and the relationship Peter has with his successors in the Church of Rome. The official organ of our Church of the East, Mar Abdisho of Soba, the last theologian in our Church before its fall [he is referring to the 14th century canonist who was the last prominent theologian before the Mongol invasion], based himself on such an understanding when he collected his famous Nomocanon in which he clearly states the following: “To the great Rome [authority] was given because the two pillars are laid in the grave there, Peter, I say, the head of the Apostles, and Paul, the teacher of the nations. [Rome] is the first see and the head of the patriarchs” (Memra; Risha 1). Futhermore, Abdisho asserts “...And as the patriarch has authority to do all he wishes in a fitting manner in such things as are beneath his authority, so the patriarch of Rome has authority over all patriarchs, like the blessed Peter over all the community, for he who is in Rome also keeps the office of Peter in all the Church. He who transgresses against these things the ecumenical synod places under anathema” (Memra 9; Risha 8). I would like to ask here the following: who among us would dare to think that he or she is more learned than Abdisho of Soba, or that they are more sincere to the Church of our forefathers than Mar Abdisho himself?” http://credo.stormloader.com/Ecumenic/assyrians.htm

  4. This site has the better detail on his conversion around 2008 http://www.kaldaya.net/2008/DailyNews/06/June06_08_E1_MARBAWAI.html