The Dialogos Institute is particularly devoted to the reintegration of the Byzantine and Latin traditions in theology, liturgy and spirituality. This is a delicate task in which it is important to preserve the distinction between the two traditions while allowing today’s faithful to drink deep from both streams in their purity. In St Gregory’s time Rome remained within the frontiers of the empire. St Gregory’s Dialogues and Pastoral Rule were translated into Greek in his own life-time and he was the most read of all the Latin Fathers in the East. St Gregory served as Papal Ambassador in Constantinople and would have seen the glories of the Byzantine capital so recently adorned by the Emperor Justinian (himself a Latin speaker). As well as codifying the Roman Liturgy, St Gregory Dialogos is also said to have arranged the Byzantine Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified.
After the schism, which came about in part because of a cultural estrangement engendering mutual incomprehension, the writing of St Thomas Aquinas became vital in once more drawing together east and west Rome. After the union of Lyons II in 1274 the great Patriarch John Bekkos had developed a more sophisticated understanding of the Fathers which helped him to see that the Latins and the Greeks were often speaking at cross purposes on the procession of the Holy Spirit. The Dominicans who established themselves in Galata opposite Constantinople became a crucial conduit for the wisdom of St Thomas: his clarity and reverence for the Fathers exposed the unity of belief between the faithful of East and West.
In the 14th century, the brothers Demetrios and Prochoros Kydones, first minister (μεσάζων) and monk respectively, translated many vital Latin works into Greek. After learning Latin from the Dominicans at the request of the Emperor, Demetrios’s own reconciliation with the elder Rome came through his translation of St Thomas’s Summa contra Gentiles into Greek. The Mesazon helped to bring about the reconciliation of the Emperor John V Palaiologos with the Holy See. In 1369 the Emperor and Mesazon travelled to Rome in person and professed the common faith of east and west in St Peter’s Basilica. Prochoros, a monk of Mount Athos, would later suffer persecution for his witness to the simplicity of the Godhead.
Demetrios Kydones wrote his own Defensio Sancti Thomae while is brother based his De essentia et operatione Dei upon St Thomas’s teachings. Even those who opposed reunion came to appreciate the greatness of the Angelic Doctor. Ultimately, Aquinas’s reputation reached a pitch in Byzantium, before the tragedy of 1453, that it would not attain in the west until the late nineteenth century. All of this bore fruit in the great reunion Council of Florence (1431–1445) under Pope Eugenius IV where the seven hundred Byzantine delegates led by Patriarch Joseph II and Emperor John VIII accomplished the reunion of the Churches. The great bull of reunion Laetentur Coeli was proclaimed in the presence of Pope and Emperor from the Duomo in Florence.
Greatest among the Byzantine theologians at the Council were Bessarion of Nicaea and Isidore of Kiev both of whom would later serve as Catholic Patriarchs of Constantinople. Isidore of Kiev remained in Constantinople until the end as Papal Legate and escaped from Turkish slavery in disguise. For most of the history of Byzantium under its final dynasty, the Palaiologoi, unionist Emperors reigned over Constantinople. Cardinal Caesarini, chief Latin negotiator at the Council of Florence, gave his life with the king of Poland on the field Varna in a last desperate attempt to save Byzantium. When the city fell, the Catholic Emperor Blessed Constantine XI was last seen in hand to hand combat at the St Romanos Gate.
These are the heroes of Byzantine Catholicism who bore witness to the one faith of Christendom in Byzantium’s darkest hour. It is to their tradition and heritage that the Dialogos Institute seeks to remain faithful empowering others to breath as they did with both lungs of Christ’s mystical body.
- Bl. Constantine XI Palaiologos, Emperor of the Romans
- Demetrios Kydones