Now going back to the Council of Florence, this is from the Encyclopedia Britannica.
¨Scholarios was an imperial judge and lay preacher at the court of the Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaeologus. He was then named a theological consultant to the general Council of Florence (1439) when the Greek Byzantine Church reluctantly consented to a union with the West in order to win military support against the advance of the Ottoman Turks.¨
That is what the Encyclopedia Britannica says, not Green_Umbrella. It is what a lot of other sources say too it seems.
There are obviously differences of opinion regarding this matter; what is important in the first instance is to gain an appreciation for why this is so, and what aspects of our Orthodox perspective lead Orthodox Christians to a different conclusion about this matter of Florence (and other matters) as opposed to, for example, what Roman Catholics might typically hold.
The first puzzle piece which from your posts it seems to me might be of aid to your understanding the Orthodox perspective on Florence is an appreciation of the Orthodox view of authority more generally; please understand that whether or not you actually end up personally agreeing with the Orthodox point of view is for the purpose of this post less important than providing some pointers to facilitate greater appreciation for *why* we Orthodox think as we do (again, agreeing or disagreeing). I will cover this quickly in just enough partial detail enough that you should be able to see how it applies *in our thinking* to the council of Florence. I will then provide quotes from various Orthodox writers on that council so you will be able to see how this works out in practice.
First, from Ernst Benz, The Eastern Orthodox Church: Its Thought and Life:
2. Orthodox and Roman-Catholic Ideas of Dogma.
"Because dogma has this practical function within the spiritual organism of the Orthodox Church, it has not undergone so much theoretical elaboration as the dogma of Roman Catholicism or Protestantism. The various elements of the Creed have not been defined with precision. Hence there is much greater freedom in the interpretation of the dogma. Even the formulation of a dogma by an ecumenical council is not eo ipso necessarily binding under canon law. To be binding, a dogma must also be accepted by the general consensus of the Church, what the theologians call the "ecumenical conscience."
The Orthodox Church acknowledges the monarchical principle as far as the whole Church is concerned, this concept embracing both the visible Church on earth and the invisible celestial Church. The master, lord and sole head of the Church is Christ. But the monarchical principle does not in practice rule the organization of the visible Church. Here purely democratic principles prevail. No single member of the Church is considered to have a legal position fundamentally superior to that of the other members. Even the clergy, aside from the sacramental powers accorded to them by their consecration, have no special rights that would set them above the laity. The Orthodox Church prizes this "democratic" (sobornost’) principle as one of its oldest traditions. Just as all the apostles were equal in rank and authority, so their successors, the bishops, are all equal.
It is true that the principle of the so-called monarchical episcopate became established quite early in the primitive Church. That is to say, the bishop was recognized as holding the leading position within the Church. But this did not mean that he alone represented the entire spiritual power of the Church. Not even the bishops as a body constituted the highest authority of the Church. This was vested in the ecumenical consensus or conscience of the Church, which meant the general opinion of clergy and laymen taken together. Even the decision of an ecumenical council acquires validity only if it is accepted by this general consensus of the whole Church. Although the bishop represents the unity of the Christian community and exercises full spiritual powers, he is no autocrat; he and all the clergy subordinate to him are regarded as parts of the entire ecclesia, the living organism of which Christ is the head.
At the present time the government of the Orthodox churches is markedly synodal in character. Laymen as well as priests may take part in Orthodox synods. Election to ecclesiastical offices also takes place at synods, and the laity participate. This election rule holds true for parish priests as well as for bishops and patriarchs. The constitutions of the various national Orthodox churches differ in the degree to which the state intervenes in ecclesiastical government. Thus the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, which Peter the Great set up, was less an ecclesiastical council than an organ of the state directed by an absolutistic ruler. In the constitution of the Greek Orthodox Church certain rights are accorded to the King of Greece. In general the synodal or council system has gained more importance during the past several centuries. "The tendency for the collaboration of clergy and people in the administration of the Church, which has become characteristic of the Orthodox Church during the past hundred years, cannot be regarded as a product of modern democracy; rather, it represents a revival of the primitive Christian principle that bishops, clergy and people form an indissoluble vital unit" (Heiler).
Major questions of faith, rites and canon law are theoretically put before an ecumenical council. This is an assemblage of all the Orthodox bishops who decide these questions by majority vote. There have been seven great ecumenical councils: Nicaea in 325, Constantinople in 381, Ephesus in 431, Chalcedon in 451, Constantinople II in 553, Constantinople III in 680 and Nicaea II in 787. No ecumenical councils have taken place since, though many questions of faith, dogma and ritual have arisen since the eighth century which theologians feel urgently require regulation. But the breakup of Eastern Orthodoxy into various old and new types of ecclesiastical patriarchates and independent churches, and the tragic involvement of Orthodoxy in the political disasters of past centuries, have so far diminished hopes for a new ecumenical council. Only recently, fresh efforts have been made to organize such a council.
The synodal system of the Orthodox Church has undergone many strains in the course of history. Holders of one or another prominent see have sought to dominate the Church. The rivalry among the various Orthodox patriarchates sprang partly from this struggle for hegemony within the Church. When the Orthodox Church became the official Church of the Byzantine Empire, it was only in the nature of things that the Patriarch of Constantinople should find himself in a special role. In terms of the synodal government of the Church this primacy was only an honorary one, but for centuries the patriarchs of Constantinople repeatedly tried to transform their honorary primacy into a legal one and to secure papal privileges for themselves. Their claims, however, were never generally recognized. To this day the patriarch is regarded only as primus inter pares. That is, he is first among the holders of the old and new patriarchates of the East, but he is not head of the entire Orthodox Church with any legal title to primacy."
Because some of the above language may be confusing to a beginner, I'll include a simpler quote which should help to clarify. If this isn't clear, let me or others know and we'll try to explain further.
"The method was collegial, not authoritarian; disputes were settled in church councils, whose decisions were not valid unless “received” by the whole community. The Faith was indeed common: what was believed by all people, in all times, in all places. The degree of unity won this way was amazing. Though there was some local liturgical variation, the Church was strikingly uniform in faith and practice across vast distances, and at a time when communication was far from easy. This unity was so consistent that I could attribute it to nothing but the Holy Spirit." -F. Matthews-Green, Facing East
An Orthodox bishop, then, cannot act unilaterally —that very principle is why we reject Roman Catholic ecclesiology. Our hierarchs -even patriarchs -even bishops in councils -lack the authority to proclaim doctrine in the Orthodox church unilaterally. This perspective is not shared with Roman Catholics, but please keep in mind this is the Orthodox p.o.v.
With the Orthodox perspective on authority of hierarchs and councils now in mind, let's look once again at Florence -not to argue "The" point of view which is "True with a capital T" (which only results in endless argument), but with a view to investigate for what it is the perspective which is uniquely Orthodox and which differs from the Roman Catholic perspective because of difference in ecclesiology.
From an Orthodox perspective there was no re-establishment of communion at Lyons or Florence. Historically the representation at Florence was "rigged" by the Byzantine Emperor in a desperate attempt to get help from the Latins against the Muslim invaders who were approaching Constantinople. This can be further seen by looking at the manner in which the proceedings were viewed throughout the Orthodox world:
"The first official repudiation Florence, of April 1443 (Florence ended in 1442), by the three Patriarchs Joachim of Jerusalem, Philotheos of Alexandria, and Dorotheos of Antioch, called the Council "vile." Notice these are mot just "Greeks" (none of them were), and they weren't just monastics and laity." Not that that wouldn't be enough according to Orthodox ecclesiology (cf. St. Mark of Ephesus and Isodore were deputised as representatives of the Pope of Alexandria Egypt])" http://www.ephesus.com/Orthodox/St.Mark-of-Ephesus.txt
Just a few reoresentative quotations should now serve to illustrate Orthodox feeling, ancient and modern, about Florence.
"...the representative character of the Byzantine delegation was only formal -the delegation, in fact, had been selected from among the tiny elite of Constantinople, which by then as moribund city of fewer than 50,000 inhabitants." -Fr. John Meyendorff
"Many of those who signed at Florence revoked their signatures when they reached home. The decrees of the Council were never accepted by more than a minute fraction of the Byzantine clergy and people. The Grand Duke Lucas Notaras, echoing the words of the Emperor’s sister after Lyons, remarked: 'I would rather see the Moslem turban in the midst of the city than the Latin miter.'" -Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
"Negotiations concerning the union between the Greek and Roman churches at Florence in 1439 had, in the eyes of the Russians, deprived Constantinople of its moral authority, and consequently the Russian church became independent of Constantinople in 1448. Then in 1589 Moscow was made a patriarchate by Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremias II (1572-79, 1580-84, 1587-95), which was confirmed by synods in 1590 and 1593. All these developments were the logical outcome of the shift of power in the Orthodox world..." -Anastasios Kallis
"Submission to the Franco-Latin Papacy was the price that the Roman Emperor of New Rome was required to pay for Franco-Latin help against the Turks. This union was supposed to have been consummated at the union Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1438-1442. This Council was condemned by the three Roman Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem at their Council of Jerusalem (1443). These three Roman Patriarchates were within Moslem held territories. Then in 1453 New Rome fell to the Ottoman Turks putting all four Roman Patriarchates within the Moslem world, putting an end to the need for asking for help from the Franco-Latin [Roman Catholic] royalties and nobilities of Western Europe and their Pope. The reality of the matter was that the three Roman Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem had opted to continue their tradition and were re-joined in this work by the Patriarchate of New Rome in 1453 after the Ottoman takeover of the capital of the Roman Empire." -Fr. John Romanidies
"Other blows dealt repeatedly to the Orthodox were the numerous attempts to bring them under the jurisdiction of Rome by means of 'union'. The first such attempt, made in Lyon in the 13th century, was followed the Union of Ferrara-Florence in 1439, on the eve of the fall of the Byzantine Empire. Nothing has remained of these two 'unions.'" -Metropolitan Hilarion
"No union of the Roman Church with us is possible until it renounces its new doctrines, and no communion can be restored with it without a decision of all churches." -Metropolitan Philaret
"The union signed at Florence, even down to the present, has never been accepted by the Eastern churches." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Florence