The Henotikon (the "act of union") was issued by Byzantine emperor Zeno in 482, in an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the differences between the supporters of the Council of Chalcedon and the miaphysites. It was followed by the Acacian schism.
In 482 the Greek Church of Alexandria passed to Peter III, who proved to be a miaphysite, despite the condemnation of this christological opinion at the Council of Chalcedon. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Acacius, devised an eirenic formula of unity called the Henotikon, which Zeno promulgated without the approval of the Bishop of Rome or of a Synod of bishops. By this act, Zeno hoped to placate the increasingly miaphysite provinces of Egypt, Palestine and Syria, which were under increasing attacks by the Persian Sassanid dynasty.
The items the Henotikon endorsed included:
- the condemnations of Eutyches and Nestorius made at Chalcedon;
- an explicit approval of the twelve anathemas of Cyril of Alexandria; and
- avoiding any statement whether Christ had one or two natures, in an attempt to appease both Non-Chalcedonian and Chalcedonian Orthodox Christians.
This act failed to satisfy either side. All sides took offence at the Emperor openly dictating church doctrine, although the Patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria were pressured into subscribing to the Henotikon. After two years of prevarication and temporizing by Acacius, Pope Felix III of Rome condemned the act and excommunicated Acacius (484), although this was largely ignored in Constantinople, even after the death of Acacius in 489.
Zeno died in 491. His successor Anastasius I was sympathetic to the monophysites, but he accepted the Henotikon. However, Anastasius was unpopular because of his monophysite beliefs, and Vitalian, a Chalcedonian general, attempted to overthrow him in 514. Anastasius then attempted to heal the schism with Pope Hormisdas, but this failed when Anastasius refused to recognize the excommunication of the now deceased Acacius. General Vitalian tried to overthrow the emperor for a second time, but he was defeated by loyal officers.
The schism caused by the Henotikon was officially settled in 519 when Emperor Justin I recognized the excommunication of Acacius and reunited the churches. However, the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem now embraced Miaphysitism (later to be known as the Oriental Orthodox Churches). In spite of the fact that the churches of the East (later to be known as the Eastern Orthodox Church) and West (later to be known as the Roman Catholic Church) were now reunited, in practice they were already diverging, and continued to separate further over the next 500 years.
- Cameron, Averil; Bryan Ward-Perkins, Michael Whitby (2000). Late Antiquity. ISBN 9780521325912.
- Bury, John B. (1958). History of the Later Roman Empire. ISBN 9780486203980.
- Richards, Jeffrey (1979). The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages, 476-752. ISBN 9780710000989.
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Henoticon
- Edward Walford, translator, The Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius: A History of the Church from AD 431 to AD 594, 1846. Reprinted 2008. Evolution Publishing, ISBN 978-1-889758-88-6 -- contains a complete English translation of the Henotikon.
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