council, ecumenical ĕk˝yo͞omĕn´ĭkəl [key] [Gr.,=universal], in Christendom, council of church leaders, the decisions of which are accepted by some segment of the church as authoritative, also called general council. Although councils can declare themselves ecumenical, this designation has often been applied retrospectively; even the Roman Catholic Church has no formal decree on the number of ecumenical councils. As with all councils, its canons usually begin with a detailed statement of the common faith. The acceptance of the canons is unequal; thus, Roman Catholics regard them as binding (canonical) only when a pope has subsequently ratified them, and many canons of several councils have never been accepted.
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