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“John Chrysostom's Letter to Pope Innocent I, appealing for support. Chrysystom is in exile from Constantinople for the second time.”

From Palladius, Dialogus De Vita S. Joannis Chrysostomi, chapter 2. Greek Text with Herbert Moore's translation.

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Click here to read at in the original Greek (with dictionary lookup links). The English translation below is by Herbert Moore.

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The Urgent Need for Action
To my Lord the reverend and most holy Bishop Innocent, John sends greetings in the Lord.
"Your piety has doubtless heard, before the receipt of this letter, of the daring illegalities committed here; for the magnitude of the crime has left no part of the world in ignorance of the cruel tragedy. Rumour has carried the news to the furthest bounds of the earth, and caused everywhere much grief and sorrow. But as the circumstances call not only for lamentation, but for remedial action, and consideration of the steps to be taken to stay this furious tempest raging within the Church, we thought it necessary to instruct my most honoured and devout lords, the Bishops Demetrius, Pansophius, Pappus, and Eugenius, to leave their own Churches, and to face the dangers of a long sea voyage, and set out for a lengthy absence from home; to fly to your love, and explain all the facts clearly, so as to arrange for the speediest possible redress. With them we have sent the most honoured and well-beloved deacons Paul and Cyriacus. These persons shall take the place of a letter, and quickly inform your love of what has happened.

Theophilus reveals his Hostility
The fact is, that Theophilus, to whose hands has been entrusted the bishopric of the Church of Alexandria, on representations made against him to our most pious king, was commanded to appear before him alone; but he arrived with a large company of Egyptians, as if anxious to show, from the very beginning, that he came for war and conflict. Next, on landing at the great and godly city of Constantinople, he did not go to Church, according to the rule which has prevailed from ancient times, or have any dealings with us, or join with us in conversation, in prayer, or in communion, but came off the ship, hurried past the porch of the Church, and went somewhere outside of the city to lodge. We repeatedly invited both him and his companions to make their stay with us (indeed, we had everything ready, including rooms and all proper accommodation); but both they and he refused the offer. We were much perplexed at this conduct, as we could not find any reason for such undeserved enmity; none the less, we did all that could be required of us, and acted correctly, continually inviting him to confer with us, and to say why he, at the very outset, kindled such a conflict, and caused offence to so important a city. But as he still persisted in refusing to state his reason, and his accusers were urgent, the most pious king commanded us to go across to his lodging, and hear his statement of his case; for he was charged with violence and murder, and countless other crimes.

Chrysostom’s Correct Attitude
We, however, had too much respect and honour for the laws laid down by the fathers, and for Theophilus himself; and we had in our possession his own letter, in which he said that cases ought not to be taken beyond the boundaries [of a province], but the affairs of each province should be dealt with in that province. We therefore declined to try the case, and even protested most vigorously.

Theophilus Secures his Expulsion
But Theophilus seemed to think he was dealing with his old enemies; he summoned my archdeacon in a very high-handed manner, as if the Church was already a widow, and had no bishop, and through him brought all the clergy over to his side. Thus the Churches were in a state of disorder; the clergy attached to them were led astray, and persuaded to present memorials against us, and egged on to become our accusers. Having succeeded so far, he sent and called us to come before him for judgment, although he had not cleared himself of the charges brought against him; a thing distinctly contrary to the canons and all the laws of the Church. But as we were aware that we were not to come before a judge (we would have appeared ten thousand times before a judge!), but before an enemy and a foe, as his actions before and afterwards showed, we sent to him the Bishops Demetrius of Pisinum, Eulysius of Apameia, and Luppicianus of Appiaria, and the priests Germanus and Serus; we answered with becoming moderation, and said that we raised no objection to a trial, but to trial by an open enemy and foe. Seeing that he had as yet received no charges against us, and had from the first acted as he had, and dissociated himself from Church, and communion, and prayer, and was bribing accusers, winning over our clergy, and leaving Churches without shepherds, how could he with justice mount the judge’s throne, which in no sense belonged to him? For it was out of order for an Egyptian bishop to act as judge in Thrace, when he himself was under accusation, and an enemy and foe of the accused. Yet he was unabashed by all these considerations, and persevered in his design; when we declared that we were ready to clear ourselves of the charges in the presence of a hundred or of a thousand bishops, and to prove our innocence, shown by the very fact of our offer, he would not allow it. In our absence, in spite of our appeal to a synod, and our request for a trial (it was not a fair hearing, but open hostility, that we wished to avoid), he admitted our accusers, and set free offenders whom I had placed in confinement, and without waiting for them to clear themselves of the charges against them, accepted their memorials, and drew up minutes. All this was contrary to rule, and canon, and order. In fact, to make a long story short, he left no stone unturned, until by sheer force and tyrannical action he drove us from the city and the Church.

Chrysostom’s Expulsion and Return
Late one evening, when I was being escorted through the streets by the whole of the populace, I was arrested by the city governor’s agent in the middle of the city, dragged away by force, and put on board a ship, which set sail by night; when I was summoning a synod for a just trial. Who could hear of these doings without shedding tears, though he had a heart of stone? But, as I said before, they call not only for lamentation, but for redress; I therefore appeal to your love, to arise and grieve with me, and do all you can to stay these evils. For there is more yet. Even after my departure, Theophilus did not put a stop to the lawless doings of his party, but girded himself for further action. Our most pious king expelled those who had so shamelessly and unrighteously intruded themselves upon the Church, and many of the bishops, when they observed the lawlessness of my opponents, retired to their own homes, so as to avoid their attacks, as they would an universal conflagration; while we were recalled to the city and to the Church, from which we had been unrighteously expelled, thirty bishops introducing us, and our most reverent king sending a notary for the purpose. Then Theophilus, for no rhyme or reason known to us, at once went off like a runaway slave.

The Emperor summons a Synod
Upon our re-entry into the city, we petitioned the most reverent king to summon a synod to exact retribution for all that had been done. Conscious of his guilt, and afraid of conviction, when the royal letters had been issued throughout the realm and gathered the whole episcopate from every quarter, at dead of night he secretly flung himself into a boat, and so made off, taking all his party with him. Even so, we could not let the matter drop, in the confidence our good conscience gave us, but renewed our request to the most pious king. He did as became his piety, sending a despatch to Theophilus, requiring him to return at once from Egypt, with all his followers, to give an account of what had taken place, and not to think that his unrighteous proceedings, conducted in our absence, with one side only heard, and contrary to so many canons, were sufficient to exculpate him.

Chrysostom’s Second Expulsion
But he paid no attention even to the royal letters, but stayed at home, pleading in excuse a possible uprising of the people and an unfortunate outburst of zeal, on the part, presumably, of some of his supporters; although before the king’s letter was issued this same people had loaded him with abuse. But we will not labour this point now; we only mention it to show that his actions proved his guilt. However, even after this we did not rest, but persisted in our claim for a trial, with proper inquiry and response; for we were ready to prove our innocence, and their outrageous lawlessness. Now he had left behind some Syrians, who had accompanied him, his fellow-actors in the whole drama. We were ready to face these before a judge, and repeatedly pressed our application, claiming that either minutes of the proceedings should be given us, or the memorials of our accusers, or at least that the nature of the charges, or the accusers themselves, should be made known to us; we were granted none of these requests, but were again expelled from the city.

Acts of Sacrilege at Constantinople
How can I tell you what followed, a tale more harrowing than any tragedy? What words can express it? What ears can hear it without a shudder? While we were pressing the requests I have mentioned, a strong body of soldiers invaded the Church, on the Great Sabbath, when evening was fast closing in, forcibly expelled all the clergy who were with us, and surrounded the chancel with arms. Women who were in the houses of prayer, unrobed in readiness for baptism on that day, fled naked in face of this savage attack, not even allowed to clothe themselves as womanly decency requires. Many of these were even thrown outside injured, and the fonts were filled with blood, and the holy water dyed red from their wounds. Even this was not the end of the horror; the soldiers then entered the chamber in which the sacred vessels were kept, some of them, we know, being unbaptized, and saw all that was within; in the turmoil the most holy blood of Christ was poured out upon the garments of the women of whom I spoke. It was exactly like a barbarian man-hunting raid. The people were driven out into the country, and all the laity fled from the city; high festival though it was, the churches were emptied of their congregations, and more than forty bishops, in communion with us, were driven out, with the laity, for no possible reason. Everywhere, in the marketplaces, the houses, the country districts, were cries, groans, wailings, lamentations, and streams of tears; no part of the city escaped these calamities. Lawlessness reached such a pitch, that not only the actual victims, but even those who had not actually suffered as we did, were distressed in sympathy with us, including not only our fellow-believers, but heretics, Jews, and Greeks, as well; everything was in a state of disturbance, and confusion, and lamentation, as if the city had been captured by force of arms. And all this wickedness was done against the wishes of the most pious king, under cover of night, at the instigation of bishops, who were not ashamed to have corporals marching in front of them, instead of deacons.

The Injury to the whole Church
When day came, the whole city moved outside the walls, and kept the feast under trees and thickets, like sheep scattered abroad. I leave you to imagine all that followed; for, as I said, it is impossible to go into all the details in words. It is especially hard, that even now we have not seen the end of all this long series of crying evils, or even any prospect of it; on the contrary, the evil spreads every day, and we are a laughing-stock to every one----though it would be more true to say that no one, even the most hardened offender against law, laughs----but, as I said, every one laments this new form of lawlessness, the very crown of evils. Who can tell the disorders of the other Churches? For the trouble has not been confined to Constantinople, but has extended into the east. When some evil matter discharges from the head, all the limbs are corrupted; in the same way, now that the evil has begun in this great city, disorder has made its way everywhere, like water from a spring. Everywhere clergy are in revolt against bishops, and as for the lay congregations, some are split up into factions, others arc likely to be so; everywhere we find the throes of evil, and the undoing of the whole world.

An Appeal for Help
With the whole of the facts before you, my most learned and reverent lords, show, we pray you, the courage and zeal which we expect of you, so as to check this flood of lawlessness which has burst upon the Churches. For if these proceedings become a precedent; if it come to be within the powers of all who wish, to invade other provinces, however distant from their own, and expel whom they will, and to do on their own authority whatever they will; be sure that everything will go by the board, and implacable war will overrun the whole world. Every one will expel his neighbour, and be expelled in turn. To prevent such universal confusion, I beg you to declare in writing, that these lawless proceedings, transacted in our absence, and with only one side heard, while we raised no objections to a fair trial, have no force (as indeed, from their very nature, they cannot), and that those who have been guilty of such lawlessness lie under penalty for breach of ecclesiastical law; while to us, "who have not been arrested, nor convicted, nor shown to be guilty, grant that we may have the benefit of your customary good services, and of your love, and your help in every way, as heretofore.

Request for a Trial
But if these grievous law-breakers, even now, are willing to declare the charges on the strength of which they undeservedly expelled us, let the documents be presented to us, the memorials of our accusers be produced, and an unprejudiced court sit; so let us be tried, and make our defence, and let us show ourselves guiltless, as indeed we are, of the allegations brought against us. For their present proceedings are beyond all order, and all ecclesiastical law and canon. Such outrages have never been known even in heathen courts of justice, or even in a barbarian court. Scythians and Sarmatians would never have decided a case after hearing one side only, in the absence of the accused, when he raised no objections to a trial, but only to personal hatred, and when he asked for judges to any number, declaring himself to be innocent, and was ready in the presence of the whole world to clear himself of the charges, and to show himself to be absolutely guiltless. Take all these points, I pray you, into consideration, and make full inquiries of our most reverent brother lord bishops; and take such steps as commend themselves to you. In so doing you will render service not only to us, but to the general welfare of the Churches, and you will receive your due reward from God, Who unceasingly works for the good of the Churches. I address this letter also to Venerius, Bishop of Milan, and to Chromatius, Bishop of Aquileia. Farewell in the Lord.


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original Greek text
John Chrysostom
Pope Innocent I
Oak Tree Synod
Oak-Tree Synod
Synod of the Oak
Synodus Ad Quercum
Theophilus of Alexandria
Eudoxia Empress
Eudoxia Wife of Arcadius
Opposition to Chrysostom
Exile from Constantinople
Dialogus De Vita S Joannis Chrysostomi
The Dialogue of Palladius concerning the Life of St. John Chrysostom
The Dialogue concerning the Life of St. John Chrysostom
Herbert Moore
Migne Greek Text
Patrologiae Graecae Cursus Completus
Patrologia Graeca


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