When the Byzantines returned to Constantinople in 1261, after the city's 57-year Latin occupation, church and empire were both in turmoil. Yet late Byzantium also witnessed the rise of a dynamic patriarch who vigorously pursued reform and renewal at all levels of society. Athanasios I denounced the corruption then rampant among public officials and church authorities, advocated for the poor and the neglected Anatolian refugees, and promoted the return to a state-run economy to ensure the city's food supply. He stressed the need to return to traditional Christian morality and imposed more stringent rules on marriage and prostitution, promoted more rigorous observances for monastics, and corrected glaring injustices in the inheritance laws. His ascetic and abrasive personality alienated many of his contemporaries, yet his popular veneration began even before his death and eventual sainthood. This well-constructed history of Athanasios's reign contrasts his programs with the very different kinds of social reforms underway in the medieval West and identifies him as a key forerunner of Palamism: 'Athanasios' writings and career so brilliantly represented Byzantine ethical and social thinking that he must be seen as one of the sources of the hesychast movement...[while] his strong, ethical leadership and independence from the basiliea prepared the Orthodox Church for life as a disenfranchised minority' under Ottomans rule after 1453.
An Eighth Day View:
The Church and Social Reform studies the nature and extent of Athanasios' social reforms and political involvement during his two tenures on the patriarchal throne of Constantiople. The traditional influence, power, and authority that resided in the patriarchate of Constantinople made the involvement of an aggressive patriarch in the social affairs of the empire virtually inevitable.