The Fourth Lateran Council was held under Innocent III. There were present the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Jerusalem, 71 archbishops, 412 bishops, and 800 abbots the Primate of the Maronites, and St. Dominic. It issued an enlarged creed (symbol) against the Albigenses (Firmiter credimus), condemned the Trinitarian errors of Abbot Joachim, and published 70 important reformatory decrees. This is the most important council of the Middle Ages, and it marks the culminating point of ecclesiastical life and papal power.Preview This Lesson
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The Fourth Lateran Council began on November 11, 1215 — the feast of St. Martin of Tours. This Council had been meticulously planned. Letters were sent as early as April 1213 to request the presence of Cardinals, Bishops, Abbots and the heads of religious orders. Rulers were asked to send representatives. The Pope dispatched legates to investigate abuses that could be discussed and reformed at the Council. Bishops were asked what reforms were needed in their dioceses. As a pre-dawn Mass opened the Council, 19 Cardinals, 412 Bishops and 800 religious superiors listened to Pope Innocent himself intone Veni Creator Spiritus. The sermon during the Mass was partially quoted in the Introduction and was intended to inspire the participants for the hard work ahead. Pope Innocent III stressed the need for reform — both personal reform and reform for the Church. Pope St. John XXIII speaks of Pope Innocent’s words in his encyclical Paenitentiam Agere, on July 1, 1962:
Can we wonder, then, that Our predecessors, when they were preparing the ground for an Ecumenical Council, made a point of exhorting the faithful to perform salutary acts of penance?
Consider, for example, the words of Innocent III before the Fourth Lateran Council: "To your praying add fasting and almsgiving. It is on these wings that our prayers fly the more swiftly and effortlessly to the holy ears of God, that He may mercifully hear us in the time of need.*
* Epist. ad Council Later. IV spectantes, Epist. 28 ad fideles per Moguntinas provincias constitutos, Mansi, Amplissimi Coll. Concil. 22, Paris and Leipzig, 1903, Col.959
After Mass, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Raoul of Merencourt, and the Bishop of Agde (in Southwest France) talked about the problems in the Holy Land and the Albigensian heresy respectively.
There were only three official sessions for the Council — November 11, 20 and 30 — although there were undoubtedly many unofficial meetings. The Council was drawn into political disagreements in the second session. The advocates of both Frederick II and Otho became so disruptive that Innocent III actually left the basilica leaving the Council to confirm Frederick II as king of Germany.
The deputies sent by King John’s barons were less argumentative. On June 15, 1215, the barons of England had forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. Pope Innocent III, reminding the barons that England was a vassal of the Holy See, had urged them to state their problems before the Lateran Council. It was only when they to... Please purchase this lesson to continue learning.
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