The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

By Henry Chadwick | Go to book overview
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50 Innocent I and John Chrysostom's Honour: Alaric and the Fall of Rome

Without Excommunicating Theophilus, Innocent Opposes Him

Theophilus tersely and belatedly notified Pope Innocent I of the decision taken by the synod at the Oak deposing John. John's appeal was taken to the west by four bishops; already John had a representative at Rome supportive of his cause. The harassment of Johnites at Constantinople soon led to a flood of refugees travelling to Italy, among whom Palladius of Helenopolis (author of the Lausiac History and chronicler of John's troubles) was one. Theophilus realized that Innocent was listening to adverse reports on his goings-on, and accordingly sent a longer statement with a copy of the synodical acts of the Oak; these thereby became available to Palladius for his account of the tragedy. In reply to John's appeal to the canon of Constantinople (381) forbidding bishops to interfere outside their own diocese, Theophilus cited a canon of Antioch to persuade Innocent to excommunicate John, and was to receive the sharp reply that the Roman see recognized no canons other than those of Nicaea. (No doubt he thought the canons of Serdica had Nicene authority; in fact Innocent rejects any authority in canons labelled Serdican, ep. 7.3). Theophilus also composed a defence of his conduct, clearly convinced that in judging John he had been upholding the right and the good and that John would go to hell. Jerome put it into Latin for him (epp. 113-14). A Latin citation survives in Facundus in the sixth century. In Egypt Isidore of Pelusium estimated Theophilus as a worshipper of gold, whose faults were seen in the tragedy of John (ep. 1. 152, PG 78. 285a).

The persecution of the Johnites abated after a damaging storm with hail, thunder, and earthquake at Constantinople, taken by the populace to indicate celestial disapproval of the harassment (Chronicon Paschale. a. 408).

In a letter now lost Innocent wrote to Theophilus expressing dissatisfaction about the treatment of John, and repeated this in a second letter inviting Theophilus to a 'canonical' synod held under the Nicene canons which

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