Joseph was a scion of the imperial house of Bulgaria and a Slavonic-speaker. His background led him to appreciate the importance of the Slav countries to the Orthodox cause. He saw a union council as a stage on which to demonstrate the ecumenical authority of a Byzantine patriarch.53
Once the emperor and patriarch arrived at Ferrara in 1438 their hopes of free and open discussion were not disappointed. The Latins invariably accepted their demands about the organisation of debates. Their forbearance offered the possibility of achieving a union of churches which respected Orthodox doctrine; so the Latins conceded that a number of differences, such as over Purgatory, were of secondary importance, and absolute agreement was unnecessary. But on the central issues of the addition of the filioque and the procession of the Holy Spirit there had to be agreement. The Byzantine spokesmen were able to hold their own intellectually. In any case, the debates in the end turned on a historical and even codicological analysis.54 Mark Eugenikos argued the traditional Byzantine line that the unilateral addition of the filioque to the creed violated the injunction that there should be no such additions. But he was increasingly isolated as another Byzantine spokesman, Bessarion, argued for a return to the pre-existing harmony between the churches, or 'Concord of the Saints', as it was called.
On arrival in the west Mark Eugenikos was not obviously either more pro-or more anti-Latin than Bessarion.55 It was the experience of the council that convinced Eugenikos that Latin theology and Orthodox piety were incompatible. He was famed for his mastery of scholastic methodology, but when urged to deploy his expertise he insisted that he preferred to speak as a simple monk. As the debates continued, he came to see the addition of the filioque as being opposed to the central dogma of Christianity. He was possibly in competition with Bessarion, but this was less important than the latter's willingness to revive arguments deployed by John Bekkos: to the effect that the patristic view of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father through the Son was the same as the Latin position represented by the filioque. It was on this basis that a compromise was reached with the Latins, who clarified their position by emphasising that behind the procession of the Holy Spirit was a single, not a double, principle. At the end of the debates the Byzantine emperor could be satisfied that he had gained as much as he could have expected. The patriarch had died on
53 Gill, Personalities, 15-34.
54 A. Alexakis, 'The Greek patristic testimonia presented at the council of Florence (1439) in support of the Filioque reconsidered', REB 58 (2000), 149-65.
55 C. Tsirpanlis, Mark Eugenicus and the Council of Florence: a historical reevaluation of his personality (Thessalonike: Patriarchal Institute, 1974).
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