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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Sunday, 28 June 2015

POPE FRANCIS AND THE ABSURDLY VEXED CALENDAR QUESTION

The notion of going into schism over a calendar is wholly without logic, but we are not in the realm of logic here.
June 25, 2015 
Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille 
Interior of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg,
 Russia (us.fotolia | Alexandr Blinov)
A graduate student of mine is currently writing a thesis on St. Irenaeus of Lyons, and she reminded me that he (who died c. 202) had to contend with a problem that still bedevils Christians in 2015. This great figure of the second century came from the East to minister in the West, where he was caught up in the debate over how and when to date the annual celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. This question was divisive even before Irenaeus was on the scene, and it remains so today, as Pope Francis has recently noted. It seems to evade all solutions.

I have been involved in the ecumenical movement for a quarter-century now, and the question of the dating Easter or Pascha has been discussed at every event I’ve ever attended, and has been discussed, moreover, for most of the century before that. I’ve lost count of the number of ecumenical conferences since where Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox all agree that we must find a common date for Easter—and even agree on one or more proposals to do that—and then we all go home and nothing happens. Consequently, when people ask me about when we will have a common date, I reply with disgust, “Never!”

Recently, however, in his inimitable fashion, Pope Francis has raised the question again with, reportedly, a novel solution that may be able to cut the Gordian knot. The pope has apparently raised the prospect of simply adopting the Julian paschalion. In other words, the Catholic Church would be open to calculating the date of Easter according to the pre-Gregorian formula still used in the Eastern Christian world today—both Byzantine and Oriental Orthodox, as well as most Eastern Catholics. This is a brilliant solution—not without paradoxes—and it seems very clear to me that this is in fact the only solution with any chance of success today. (The other proposed solution one sometimes hears, namely to fix Easter permanently on the first or second Sunday of April, is already dead in the water according to recent statements from the Russian Orthodox Church.)

We do not know yet if the pope will go ahead, but let me go on record strongly hoping that he will. If he does, it will be greatly to his credit for manifesting what we call “kenotic ecumenism” at its best. “Kenosis” is the Greek word St. Paul uses in his famous “hymn” in Philippians 2:5-7, describing Christ’s unfathomable humility: “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself [ἐκένωσεν], taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

All Christians are called to such kenosis, such self-denying service; but the pope of Rome has a long-standing and special role to play. In the famous formula going back to Pope St. Gregory the Great in the sixth century, which eloquently sums up the kenotic service demanded of the papacy, the bishop of Rome is the servus servorum Dei, the servant of the servants of God. In one of his letters, Gregory expanded what he meant by saying of his relationship with the Eastern patriarchs and the other bishops of the universal Church, “My honor is the honor of the whole Church. My honor is the firm strength of my brethren. I am truly honored when the honor due to each and all is not withheld.”

In adopting the Eastern or Julian dating for Pascha rather than insisting on the Gregorian (and thus papal—for the so-called Gregorian calendar, of course, gets its name from Pope Gregory XIII who adopted it), Pope Francis is showing a wonderful generosity and a noble giving way to others rather than insisting on his own way. His honor is the honor of the East, and when the East is honored, we are all honored. In the Christian economy of grace, honoring is not a zero-sum game where you win if I lose.

If the pope goes ahead with this, his decision will be not only kenotic, but also, frankly, smart politics. Absent adopting the Eastern calculations, we will not in fact have unity on this question any time soon. For it has been clear to me and other scholars for some time now that Orthodoxy in its post-1991 manifestations, especially in certain Athonite and East-Slavic contexts (as well as among some converts in North America) has been slowly poisoning itself with an anti-Western ideology. Thus to expect Orthodoxy today to adopt the Western/Gregorian dating for Pascha is a non-starter.

Such pessimism is confirmed when one considers recent history on this question. As the Orthodox scholar Patrick Viscuso has shown in his fascinating 2007 book A Quest For Reform of the Orthodox Church: The 1923 Pan-Orthodox Congress (InterOrthodox Press), many Orthodox leaders gathered in Constantinople in 1923 and debated the calendar question. Some Orthodox went on to adopt the Gregorian calendar but many resisted. And those who adopted the Gregorian calendar soon found that they had split their own people: some resisted so fiercely that they were willing to go into schism over this question, and they remain in schism today. Thus we have today the so-called Old Calendarists, small groups of which still exist in Greece, Romania, and other places.

I find the notion of going into schism over a calendar ineffably absurd and wholly without logic. But we are not in the realm of logic here, and on this matter Eastern Catholics have no reason to feel smug. For I have seen entire Ukrainian Greco-Catholic parishes divided into two, and sometimes three, different communities that just happen to share the same building. One group is Julian calendar and celebrates in Ukrainian at 8 am; one is Julian calendar and celebrates in Slavonic at 10 am; and one is Gregorian calendar and celebrates in English at noon. Calendar questions are thus real landmines in Eastern Christianity for reasons that have little if anything to do with scientific calculations of solar or lunar cycles, or other factors. These are neuralgic issues having to do with questions of identity.

If Pope Francis pursued this proposal, the identity of the papacy itself will be highlighted in a way Eastern Christians will surely find paradoxical. For among the most common criticisms of the papacy is that it has too much power. Indeed, in some rather silly Facebook pages of self-identified Orthodox “traditionalists” I frequent, they refuse any name to Catholics other than “papists,” a term my grandmother also heard regularly from Protestants while growing up in interwar Scotland. Among some Orthodox (and perhaps a few hardcore Calvinists) today, the papacy is merely the “advance embassy of an omnivorous ecclesial empire” (in the words of the Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart) set to impose itself on everyone through unimpeded power and a desire for universal domination. The pope’s power is not, of course, as vast as the fevered nightmares of anti-Catholics would have us believe. And yet, were the pope to use some of his power to adopt the Orthodox dating for Easter, would Eastern Christians really be so churlish as to complain?

Would Catholics complain instead? I do not expect much complaint from Catholics as it is not a live issue for most. And let us recall that Rome has for many years already encouraged Catholics in countries such as Greece, Egypt, or Russia with substantial Orthodox populations to adopt the Julian dating, and Catholics have done so without any complaint that I have encountered. Let us hope, then, that the pope goes ahead with this, if only for the simple reason that it will take what should be a non-issue off the table, freeing us to continue to devote our attention to other vastly more substantial issues.


Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille is Associate Professor and Chairman of the Department of Theology-Philosophy, University of Saint Francis (Fort Wayne, IN) and author of Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy (University of Notre Dame, 2011).


my source: Aleteia  by John Burger
It's only on rare occasions that Christians around the world celebrate Easter on the same day. More often, while Roman Catholics and some Protestants are singing "Jesus Christ is risen today!" Orthodox are still in the midst of lent or beginning a solemn Holy Week. While Orthodox Christians are keeping Good Friday in prayer and fasting, Western Christians have perhaps forgotten about the Crucifixion and making plans for Mother's Day. 

The idea of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches agreeing to a common date for Easter has been brought up in the past, but now Pope Francis, who has already shown an openness to greater ecumenical cooperation, has renewed that discussion. 

According to a report by Catholic News Agency, Pope Francis signaled an openness to changing the date of Easter in the West so that all Christians around the world could celebrate the feast on the same day. Speaking at the World Retreat of Priests at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome June 12, the Pontiff said, “We have to come to an agreement” for a common date on Easter.  

The Pope joked that Christians could say to one another: “When did Christ rise from the dead? My Christ rose today, and yours next week,” adding that this disunity is a scandal.

According to the Orthodoxwiki, Pascha—Easter—normally falls either one or five weeks later than the feast as observed by Christians who follow the Gregorian calendar.

The reason for the difference is that, though the two calendars use the same underlying formula to determine the festival, they compute from different starting points. The older Julian calendar's solar calendar is 13 days behind the Gregorian's and its lunar calendar is four to five days behind the Gregorian's. 

Some Orthodox leaders have reflected on the dating of Easter. In May, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II wrote to the papal nuncio in Egypt suggesting a common date for Easter.

And just a week after the retreat for priests, Pope Francis and Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch met at the Vatican and discussed their desire to work toward full communion of their Churches.

“We express our desire and readiness to look for new ways that will bring our Churches even closer to each other, paving the way for Antioch and Rome, the only two apostolic sees where St. Peter preached, to establish full communion,” Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem said.

According to Catholic News Service, the patriarch also expressed his Church’s readiness to come to an agreement to celebrate Easter on a common date. He said the Holy Synod of Antioch, motivated by the Second Vatican Council, adopted a resolution in 1981, expressing “the eagerness of our Church” to celebrate Easter “on a fixed Sunday in April” in common with other Christian churches.

The celebration of Easter “on two different dates is a source of great discomfort and weakens the common witness of the Church in the world,” he said, thanking Francis for recently “considering to take the initiative to lead the efforts on this matter.”

Historian Lucetta Scaraffia, writing in the Vatican daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, said the Pope is offering to change the date “as a gift of unity with the other Christian churches.” A common date, she said, would encourage “reconciliation between the Christian Churches and …a sort of making sense out of the calendar.”

She noted that the proposal could help reinforce the identity of persecuted Christians, particularly those in the Eastern Churches that are at risk of disappearing.

Scaraffia wrote that a common date “would increase the importance of the central feast of the faith in a moment when changes seem to be suddenly coming throughout the world.”


But a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church expressed hope that the process of finding a common date would follow the tradition set by the Council of Nicaea in the Fourth Century, which established the feast at a time when the Church was united.

According to AsiaNews, Father Nikolai Balashov, deputy chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department of External Church Relations, acknowledged that the Pope "wanted to make a real step forward towards the Orthodox. It is a gesture of good will."

He was hesitant to comment on the Pope's proposal, as media reports did not include enough details on the specifics, he said, but he cautioned against any "radical change of our common traditions from the first millennium of Christianity."

"If the Church of Rome intends to abandon Easter according to the Gregorian calendar, introduced in the 16th century, and go back to the old one (Julian), used at a time when the Church of the East and West were united and used to date by the Orthodox, then this intention is welcome," he said. If, instead, the idea is to "have a fixed date for Easter and not tie it to the first full moon after the spring equinox, as established in the East and in the West by the Council of Nicaea in 325, then this proposal is totally unacceptable to the Orthodox Church.”

The Russian priest noted that the Patriarchate of Moscow is at odds over Easter also with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. He said that a pan-Orthodox council to be held next year is expected to debate a review of the date on which to celebrate Easter.


Saturday, 27 June 2015

THOUGHTS FOR THE FEAST OF SS .PETER & PAUL

. Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.ST IRENAEUS
Church Authority and the Petrine Element  
by Hans Urs von Balthasar

 From In The Fullness of Faith: On the Centrality of the Distinctively Catholic

Nothing is plainer, nothing is more evident, than that in the Catholic realm the authority exercised in the Church of the Word and Sacrament is both form and content. Indeed, it can only be "form" (the exercise of full official authority) because simultaneously it is "content" (Christ's authority, which comes from his Father, which he bequeaths to his disciples in clear words). Similarly, it can only be "content" (the proclaimed gospel) because at the same time it is the "form" of the Church, which authoritatively proclaims it.

Were this not the case, there would be an alienating gulf between the proclaimed content (Jesus Christ's message and the message concerning Jesus Christ) and the proclaiming Church. 

Either it would mean that what is proclaimed (redemption through the Son's perfect obedience unto death on the cross) is a historical, objectivized, archaeological fact people can "hold to be true" without inwardly participating in it, such that- his obedience long ago makes us "free Christian men" today. Or it means that we imagine ourselves (in a Pietistic sense) to be sharing directly in the event of the cross, and so reduce the primal act of Christian obedience to the miniscule proportions of an anthropological "honesty" that "does justice to the facts".

Church authority, the obedient exercise of the fullness of power imparted by Jesus Christ and handed on by the Apostles (cf. the Pastoral Epistles), preserves the necessary distance in order to join us to Christ's work in a valid way. 

Thus we do not imagine ourselves to coincide with Christ and his redemptive act, but all the same we are those who obey with his obedience and thus are followers of him. Obeying within the Church, we preserve the servant's distance from the Lord of the Church, and at the same time the Lord calls us "not servants, but friends", because we have been initiated into the mystery of his loving obedience, which is the key to all the mysteries of God in Heaven and on earth.

When we confess our sins, we obediently submit to the fullness of power he has imparted to the Church, which, for her part, responds in pure obedience to his command to loose and bind. The two interact, with the result that we not only participate in the continuing influence of the cross but are drawn into the primal obedience of Jesus' Catholic, all-embracing confession of sin on the cross and the Catholic, all-embracing absolution of Easter.

This is not blind obedience. As believers we know about the meaning and fruitfulness of the Lord's obedience, we know about his handing on of full authority and about its uninterrupted exercise down through the centuries. A person who believes in the fullness of Christ's power sees no problem in his handing it on. Indeed, the presence of this fullness of power in today's Church will be a guarantee to him of his Lord's living presence, even if he does not hear the echo, in the eternal realm, of what is done on earth with this full authority, and so remains one who "obeys" in the strict sense.

The Petrine Element

Notwithstanding all the problems connected with the papacy throughout the history of the Church, two things speak in favor of its recognition within the Communio Sanctorum and its apostolicity.

In the first place (and we have already touched upon this) the Petrine element is taken for granted, so to speak, right at the beginning, in the Petrine texts of the New Testament. And of these the most impressive is not the passage in Matthew but rather the overpowering apotheosis of Peter at the end of John's Gospel of love, which begins with the choosing of Peter in the first chapter and contains, at its center, the Apostle's great confession of faith in the Lord.

The Lukan text, in which Peter is commissioned to strengthen his brethren, is no less striking than the passage in Matthew. Then there are the very many other places in Gospels, letters, and in the Acts of the Apostles. How can anyone who claims to adhere to the Word-the Word alone-fail to be profoundly struck by these texts?

In addition there is the fact that, since the first and second centuries, an undisputed primacy of the Apostolic See has been attributed to the Bishop of the Roman community. Rome had no need to demand to be recognized; rather, it was unquestioningly acknowledged, as we can see from the Letter of Clement, the Letter of Ignatius, from Irenaeus, from the sober Admonition to Pope Victor, etc. The principle of primacy had long been established by the time Rome allegedly began to put forward exaggerated claims when starting to develop its own theology of primacy. There can be many differing views as to when these increasing claims began to be unevangelical and intolerable within the context of the Church–in the fourth or ninth or twelfth century–but the "unhappy fact" had already taken place. 

One can only try to restore an internal balance within the Church, as the Second Vatican Council saw its task to be; it is impossible to abolish the principle without truncating the gospel itself.

The second argument for the Petrine principle is the qualitative difference between the unity of life and doctrine within the "Roman" Catholic Church and the unity that exists within all other, Christian communions. For, if we begin with the Orthodox, no- ecumenical council has been able to unite them since their separation from Rome. And if we turn to the innumerable ecclesial communities that arose from the Reformation and subsequently, even though they are members of the World Council of Churches, they have scarcely managed to get any further than a "convergence" toward unity. And this unity, as we see ever more clearly, remains an eschatological ideal. Christ, however, wanted more for his Church than this.

If we look only from the outside, the Petrine principle is the sole or the decisive principle of unity in the Catholica. Above it is the principle of the pneumatic and eucharistic Christ and his everliving presence through the apostolic element, i.e., sacramental office, fully empowered to make Christ present, and tradition, actualizing what is testified to in Scripture. 

Above it, too, is the Sanctorum Communio, the Ecclesia immaculata, concretely symbolized by the Lord's handmaid who utters her Fiat. But these deeper principles could not exercise their unity-creating power right to the end without the external reference of the Roman bishop. And the more worldwide the Church becomes the more threatened she is in the modern states with their fascism of the right and of the left, the more she is called upon to incarnate herself in the most diverse, non-Mediterranean cultures, and the wider theological and episcopal pluralism she contains, the more indispensable this reference-point becomes. Anyone who denies this is either a fanatic or an irrational sentimentalist.


Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-88) was a Swiss theologian, considered to one of the most important Catholic intellectuals and writers of the twentieth century. 2005 marks the centennial celebration of his birth.

Incredibly prolific and diverse, he wrote over one hundred books and hundreds of articles. Read more about his life and work in the Author's Pages section of IgnatiusInsight.com.

Peter and Succession
by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger


From Called To Communion: Understanding the Church Today 

Editor's note: This is the second half of a chapter titled "The Primacy of Peter and Unity of the Church." The first half examines the status of Peter in the New Testament and the commission logion contained in Matthew 16:17-19.

The principle of succession in general

That the primacy of Peter is recognizable in all the major strands of the New Testament is incontestable. 

The real difficulty arises when we come to the second question: Can the idea of a Petrine succession be justified? Even more difficult is the third question that is bound up with it: Can the Petrine succession of Rome be credibly substantiated? 

Concerning the first question, we must first of all note that there is no explicit statement regarding the Petrine succession in the New Testament. This is not surprising, since neither the Gospels nor the chief Pauline epistles address the problem of a postapostolic Church—which, by the way, must be mentioned as a sign of the Gospels' fidelity to tradition. Indirectly, however, this problem can be detected in the Gospels once we admit the principle of form critical method according to which only what was considered in the respective spheres of tradition as somehow meaningful for the present was preserved in writing as such. This would mean, for example, that toward the end of the first century, when Peter was long dead, John regarded the former's primacy, not as a thing of the past, but as a present reality for the Church. 

For many even believe—though perhaps with a little too much imagination—that they have good grounds for interpreting the "competition" between Peter and the beloved disciple as an echo of the tensions between Rome's claim to primacy and the sense of dignity possessed by the Churches of Asia Minor. This would certainly be a very early and, in addition, inner-biblical proof that Rome was seen as continuing the Petrine line; but we should in no case rely on such uncertain hypotheses. The fundamental idea, however, does seem to me correct, namely, that the traditions of the New Testament never reflect an interest of purely historical curiosity but are bearers of present reality and in that sense constantly rescue things from the mere past, without blurring the special status of the origin.

Moreover, even scholars who deny the principle itself have propounded hypotheses of succession. 0. Cullmann, for example, objects in a very clear-cut fashion to the idea of succession, yet he believes that he can Show that Peter was replaced by James and that this latter assumed the primacy of the erstwhile first apostle. Bultmann believes that he is correct in concluding from the mention of the three pillars in Galatians 2:9 that the course of development led away from a personal to a collegial leadership and that a college entered upon the succession of Peter. [1] 

We have no need to discuss these hypotheses and others like them; their foundation is weak enough. Nevertheless, they do show that it is impossible to avoid the idea of succession once the word transmitted in Scripture is considered to be a sphere open to the future. In those writings of the New Testament that stand on the cusp of the second generation or else already belong to it-especially in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Pastoral Letters—the principle of succession does in fact take on concrete shape. 

The Protestant notion that the "succession" consists solely in the word as such, but not in any "structures", is proved to be anachronistic in light of what in actual fact is the form of tradition in the New Testament. The word is tied to the witness, who guarantees it an unambiguous sense, which it does not possess as a mere word floating in isolation. But the witness is not an individual who stands independently on his own. He is no more a wit ness by virtue of himself and of his own powers of memory than Peter can be the rock by his own strength. He is not a witness as "flesh and blood" but as one who is linked to the Pneuma, the Paraclete who authenticates the truth and opens up the memory and, in his turn, binds the witness to Christ. For the Paraclete does not speak of himself, but he takes from "what is his" (that is, from what is Christ's: Jn 16: 13).

This binding of the witness to the Pneuma and to his mode of being-"not of himself, but what he hears" -is called "sacrament" in the language of the Church. Sacrament designates a threefold knot-word, witness, Holy Spirit and Christ-which describes the essential structure of succession in the New Testament. We can infer with certainty from the testimony of the Pastoral Letters and of the Acts of the Apostles that the apostolic generation already gave to this interconnection of person and word in the believed presence of the Spirit and of Christ the form of the laying on of hands.

The Petrine succession in Rome

In opposition to the New Testament pattern of succession described above, which withdraws the word from human manipulation precisely by binding witnesses into its service, there arose very early on an intellectual and anti-institutional model known historically by the name of Gnosis, which made the free interpretation and speculative development of the word its principle. Before long the appeal to individual witnesses no longer sufficed to counter the intellectual claim advanced by this tendency. It became necessary to have fixed points by which to orient the testimony itself, and these were found in the so-called apostolic sees, that is, in those where the apostles had been active. The apostolic sees became the reference point of true communio. But among these sees there was in turn–quite clearly in Irenaeus of Lyons–a decisive criterion that recapitulated all others: the Church of Rome, where Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom. It was with this Church that every community had to agree; Rome was the standard of the authentic apostolic tradition as a whole.

Moreover, Eusebius of Caesarea organized the first version of his ecclesiastical history in accord with the same principle. It was to be a written record of the continuity of apostolic succession, which was concentrated in the three Petrine sees Rome, Antioch and Alexandria-among which Rome, as the site of Peter's martyrdom, was in turn preeminent and truly normative. [2]

This leads us to a very fundamental observation. [3] The Roman primacy, or, rather, the acknowledgement of Rome as the criterion of the right apostolic faith, is older than the canon of the New Testament, than "Scripture". 

We must be on our guard here against an almost inevitable illusion. "Scripture" is more recent than "the scriptures" of which it is composed. It was still a long time before the existence of the individual writings resulted in the "New Testament" as Scripture, as the Bible. The assembling of the writings into a single Scripture is more properly speaking the work of tradition, a work that began in the second century but came to a kind of conclusion only in the fourth or fifth century. Harnack, a witness who cannot be suspected of pro-Roman bias, has remarked in this regard that it was only at the end of the second century, in Rome, that a canon of the "books of the New Testament" won recognition by the criterion of apostolicity-catholicity, a criterion to which the other Churches also gradually subscribed "for the sake of its intrinsic value and on the strength of the authority of the Roman Church". 

We can therefore say that Scripture became Scripture through the tradition, which precisely in this process included the potentior principalitas–the preeminent original authority–of the Roman see as a constitutive element.

Two points emerge clearly from what has just been First, the principle of tradition in its sacramental form-apostolic succession—played a constitutive role in the existence and continuance of the Church. Without this principle, it is impossible to conceive of a New Testament at all, so that we are caught in a contradiction when we affirm the one while wanting to deny the other. Furthermore, we have seen that in Rome the traditional series of bishops was from the very beginning recorded as a line of successors. 

We can add that Rome and Antioch were conscious of succeeding to the mission of Peter and that early on Alexandria was admitted into the circle of Petrine sees as the city where Peter's disciple Mark had been active. Having said all that, the site of Peter's martyrdom nonetheless appears clearly as the chief bearer of his supreme authority and plays a preeminent role in the formation of tradition which is constitutive of the Church-and thus in the genesis of the New Testament as Bible; Rome is one of the indispensable internal and external- conditions of its possibility. It would be exciting to trace the influence on this process of the idea that the mission of Jerusalem had passed over to Rome, which explains why at first Jerusalem was not only not a "patriarchal see" but not even a metropolis: Jerusalem was now located in Rome, and since Peter's departure from that city, its primacy had been transferred to the capital of the pagan world. [4]

But to consider this in detail would lead us too far afield for the moment. The essential point, in my opinion, has already become plain: the martyrdom of Peter in Rome fixes the place where his function continues. The awareness of this fact can be detected as early as the first century in the Letter of Clement, even though it developed but slowly in all its particulars.

Concluding reflections

We shall break off at this point, for the chief goal of our considerations has been attained. We have seen that the New Testament as a whole strikingly demonstrates the primacy of Peter; we have seen that the formative development of tradition and of the Church supposed the continuation of Peter's authority in Rome as an intrinsic condition. The Roman primacy is not an invention of the popes, but an essential element of ecclesial unity that goes back to the Lord and was developed faithfully in the nascent Church.

But the New Testament shows us more than the formal aspect of a structure; it also reveals to us the inward nature of this structure. It does not merely furnish proof texts, it is a permanent criterion and task. It depicts the tension between skandalon and rock; in the very disproportion between man's capacity and God's sovereign disposition, it reveals God to be the one who truly acts and is present. 

If in the course of history the attribution of such authority to men could repeatedly engender the not entirely unfounded suspicion of human arrogation of power, not only the promise of the New Testament but also the trajectory of that history itself prove the opposite. The men in question are so glaringly, so blatantly unequal to this function that the very empowerment of man to be the rock makes evident how little it is they who sustain the Church but God alone who does so, who does so more in spite of men than through them. 

The mystery of the Cross is perhaps nowhere so palpably present as in the primacy as a reality of Church history. That its center is forgiveness is both its intrinsic condition and the sign of the distinctive character of God's power. Every single biblical logion about the primacy thus remains from generation to generation a signpost and a norm, to which we must ceaselessly resubmit ourselves. When the Church adheres to these words in faith, she is not being triumphalistic but humbly recognizing in wonder and thanksgiving the victory of God over and through human weakness. Whoever deprives these words of their force for fear of triumphalism or of human usurpation of authority does not proclaim that God is greater but diminishes him, since God demonstrates the power of his love, and thus remains faithful to the law of the history of salvation, precisely in the paradox of human impotence. 

For with the same realism with which we declare today the sins of the popes and their disproportion to the magnitude of their commission, we must also acknowledge that Peter has repeatedly stood as the rock against ideologies, against the dissolution of the word into the plausibilities of a given time, against subjection to the powers of this world.

When we see this in the facts of history, we are not celebrating men but praising the Lord, who does not abandon the Church and who desired to manifest that he is the rock through Peter, the little stumbling stone: "flesh and blood" do not save, but the Lord saves through those who are of flesh and blood. To deny this truth is not a plus of faith, not a plus of humility, but is to shrink from the humility that recognizes God as he is. Therefore the Petrine promise and its historical embodiment in Rome remain at the deepest level an ever-renewed motive for joy: the powers of hell will not prevail against it . . . 


Endnotes:

[1] Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition, 2d ed. (198 1), 147- 51; cf. Gnilka, 56.

[2] For an exhaustive account of this point, see V. Twomey, Apostolikos Thronos (Münster, 1982).

[3] It is my hope that in the not-too-distant future I will have the opportunity to develop and substantiate in greater detail the view of the succession that I attempt to indicate in an extremely condensed form in what follows. I owe important suggestions to several works by 0. Karrer, especially: Um die Einheit der Christen. Die Petrusfrage (Frankfurt am Mainz, 1953); "Apostolische Nachfolge und Primat", in: Feiner, Trütsch and Böckle, Fragen in der Theologie heute (Freiburg im.Breisgau, 1957), 175-206; "Das Petrusamt in der Frühkirche", in Festgabe J. Lortz (Baden-Baden, 1958), 507-25; "Die biblische und altkirchliche Grundlage des Papsttums", in: Lebendiges Zeugnis (1958), 3-24. Also of importance are some of the papers in the festschrift for 0. Karrer: Begegnung der Christen, ed. by Roesle-Cullmann (Frankfurt am Mainz, 1959); in particular, K. Hofstetter, "Das Petrusamt in der Kirche des I. und 2. Jahrhunderts", 361-72.

[4] Cf. Hofstetter.


"Primacy in Love": The Chair Altar of Saint Peter's in Rome 
by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger | From Images of Hope 




Anyone who, after wandering through the massive nave of Saint Peter's Basilica, at last arrives at the final altar in the apse would probably expect here a triumphal depiction of Saint Peter, around whose tomb the church is built. But nothing of the kind is the case. The figure of the Apostle does not appear among the sculptures of this altar. Instead, we stand before an empty throne that almost seems to float but is supported by the four figures of the great Church teachers of the West and the East. The muted light over the throne emanates from the window surrounded by floating angels, who conduct the rays of light downward.

What is this whole composition trying to express? What does it tell us? It seems to me that a deep analysis of the essence of the Church lies hidden here, is contained here, an analysis of the office of Peter. Let us begin with the window, with its muted colors, which both gathers in to the center and opens outward and upward. It unites the Church with creation as a whole. It signifies through the dove of the Holy Spirit that God is the actual source of all light. But it tells us also something else) the Church herself is in essence, so to speak, a window, a place of contact between the other-worldly mystery of God and our world, the place where the world is permeable to the radiance of his light. The Church is not there for herself, she is not an end, but rather a point of departure beyond herself and us. The more transparent she becomes for the other, from whom she comes and to whom she leads, the more she fulfills her true essence. Through the window of her faith God enters this world and awakens in us the longing for what is greater. The Church is the place of encounter where God meets us and we find God. It is her task to open up a world closing in on itself, to give it the light without which it would be unlivable.

Let us look now at the next level of the altar: the empty cathedra made of gilded bronze, in which a wooden chair from the ninth century is embedded, held for a long time to be the cathedra of the Apostle Peter and for this reason placed in this location. The meaning of this part of the altar is thereby made clear. The teaching chair of Peter says more than a picture could say. It expresses the abiding presence of the Apostle, who as teacher remains present in his successors. The chair of the Apostle is a sign of nobility--it is the throne of truth, which in that hour at Caesarea became his and his successors' charge. The seat of the one who teaches reechoes, so to speak, for our memory the word of the Lord from the room of the Last Supper: "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Lk 22:32). But there is also another remembrance connected to the chair of the Apostle: the saying of Ignatius of Antioch, who in the year 110 in his Letter to the Romans called the Church of Rome "the primacy of love". Primacy in faith must be primacy in love. The two are not to be separated from each other. A faith without love would no longer be the faith of Jesus Christ. The idea of Saint Ignatius was however still more concrete: the word "love" is in the language of the early Church also an expression for the Eucharist. Eucharist originates in the love of Jesus Christ, who gave his life for us. In the Eucharist, he evermore shares himself with us; he places himself in our hands. Through the Eucharist he fulfills evermore his promise that from the Cross he will draw us into his open arms (see Jn 12:32). In Christ's embrace we are led to one another. We are taken into the one Christ, and thereby we now also belong reciprocally together. I can no longer consider anyone a stranger who stands in the same contact with Christ.

These are all, however, in no way remote mystical thoughts. Eucharist is the basic form of the Church. The Church is formed in the eucharistic assembly. And since all assemblies of all places and all times always belong only to the one Christ, it follows that they all form only one single Church. They lay, so to speak, a net of brotherhood across the world and join the near and the far to one another so that through Christ they are all near. Now we usually tend to think that love and order are opposites. Where there is love, order is no longer needed because all has become self-evident. But that is a misunderstanding of love as well as of order. True human order is something different from the bars one places before beasts of prey so that they are restrained. Order is respect for the other and for one's own, which is then most loved when it is taken in its correct sense. Thus order belongs to the Eucharist, and its order is the actual core of the order of the Church. The empty chair that points to the primacy in love speaks to us accordingly of the harmony between love and order. It points in its deepest aspect to Christ as the true primate, the true presider in love. It points to the fact that the Church has her center in the liturgy. It tells us that the Church can remain one only from communion with the crucified Christ. No organizational efficiency can guarantee her unity. She can be and remain world Church only when her unity is more than that of an organization--when she lives from Christ. Only the eucharistic faith, only the assembly around the present Lord can she keep for the long term. And from here she receives her order. The Church is not ruled by majority decisions but rather through the faith that matures in the encounter with Christ in the liturgy. 

The Petrine service is primacy in love, which means care for the fact that the Church takes her measure from the Eucharist. She becomes all the more united, the more she lives from the eucharistic dimension and the more she remains true in the Eucharist to the dimension of the tradition of faith. Love will also mature from unity, love that is directed to the world. The Eucharist is based on the act of love of Jesus Christ unto death. That means, too, that anyone who views pain as something that should be abolished or at least left to others is someone incapable of love. "Primacy in love": we spoke in the beginning about the empty throne, but now it is apparent that the "throne" of the Eucharist is not a throne of lordship but rather the hard chair of the one who serves.

Let us now look at the third level of the altar, at the Fathers who bear the throne of serving. The two teachers of the East, Chrysostom and Athanasius, embody together with the Latin Fathers Ambrose and Augustine the entirety of the tradition and thus the fullness of the faith of the one Church. Two considerations are important here: love stands on faith. It collapses when man lacks orientation. It falls apart when man can no longer perceive God. Like and with love, order and justice also stand on faith; authority in the Church stands on faith. The Church cannot conceive for herself how she wants to be ordered. She can only try ever more clearly to understand the inner call of faith and to live from faith. She does not need the majority principle, which always has something atrocious about it: the subordinated part must bend to the decision of the majority for the sake of peace even when this decision is perhaps misguided or even destructive. In human arrangements, there is perhaps no alternative. But in the Church the binding to faith protects all of us: each is bound to faith, and in this respect the sacramental order guarantees more freedom than could be given by those who would subject the Church to the majority principle.

A second consideration is needed here: the Church Fathers appear as the guarantors of loyalty to Sacred Scripture. The hypotheses of human interpretation waver. They cannot carry the throne. The life-sustaining power of the scriptural word is interpreted and applied in the faith that the Fathers and the great councils have learned from that word. The one who holds to this has found what gives secure ground in times of change.

Finally, now, we must not forget the whole for the parts. For the three levels of the altar take us into a movement that is ascent and descent at the same time. Faith leads to love. Here it becomes evident whether it is faith at all. A dark, complaining, egotistic faith is false faith. Whoever discovers Christ, whoever discovers the worldwide net of love that he has cast in the Eucharist, must be joyful and must become a giver himself. Faith leads to love, and only through love do we attain to the heights of the window, to the view to the living God, to contact with the streaming light of the Holy Spirit. Thus the two directions permeate each other. The light comes from God, flows downward awakening faith and love, in order then to take us up the ladder that leads from faith to love and to the light of the eternal.

The inner dynamic into which the altar draws us allows finally a last element to become understandable. The window of the Holy Spirit does not stand there on its own. It is surrounded by the overflowing fullness of angels, by a choir of joy. That is to say, God is never alone. That would contradict his essence. Love is participation, community, joy. This perception allows still another thought to emerge. Sound joins the light. We think we hear them singing, these angels, for we cannot imagine these streams of joy to be silent or as talking idly or shouting. They can be perceived only as praise in which harmony and diversity unite. "Yet you are... enthroned on the praises of Israel", we read in the psalm (22:3). Praise is likewise the cloud of joy through which God comes and which bears him as its companion into this world. Liturgy is therefore the eternal light shining into our world. It is God's joy, sounding into our world. And it is at the same time our feeling about the consoling glow of this light out of the depth of our questions and confusion, climbing up the ladder that leads from faith to love, thereby opening the view to hope. 


HOMILY ON THE FEAST OF SS PETER AND PAUL
given at Belmont by Dom David Bird o.s.b.


As we are celebrating the feast of St Peter and Paul, we shall be using the Roman Canon (or Eucharistic Prayer I) which, in its general structure, is one of the very oldest anaphoras in existence.  St Ambrose wrote a commentary on it in his Catechesis on the sacraments in the second half of the 4th century, but it must have been composed before the development of tthe Church's teaching on the Holy Spirit, which takes us back to the 3rd century.  However, it has its roots in Jewish prayer. 

The Roman Canon is focused on heaven, where Christ is,    As in the Letter to the Hebrews, we approach the heavenly Jerusalem; as in the Apocalypse, we see a door by which we can enter heaven (the altar). Later, in the words of Hebrews, we shall pass through the veil, which is the flesh of Christ, into the presence of the Father.


  The Roman Canon looks ever upwards: there is no reference to the Holy Spirit coming down to transform the bread and wine, no remembering of the Second Coming. In the recitation of the words of institution, Jesus 'looking up to heaven' takes the bread; and, later, in a prayer that might well be one of the oldest in any liturgy, God is asked that his angel may take the bread and wine up to the heavenly altar so that we may receive his body and blood from this altar.   The heavenly altar and our altar become one, because, according to the words of Christ, the bread and wine, which are of this world, become the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the truth of his death, resurrection and ascension, which is the sacrifice of the liturgy offered for all eternity in heaven.

I want you to imagine it as a ritual being celebrated in three dimensions, not as a two-dimensional text.   There have been petitions, perhaps lists of people for whom prayers are said for people in this world.   There are also two lists of saints, representatives of all the saints who are now our companions in the celebration, just as we sing, "Holy, Holy, Holy..." with the angels.   The one who presides in the earthly liturgy is both voice of Christ and voice of the Church in Christ.   It is Christ's prayer, asking the Father for consecration, voiced by the bishop or by the priest in the bishop's name. Christ presides by giving himself, by serving, by loving.  All the angels and saints are also involved in giving, serving and loving because God never does alone what he can do in collaboration.  To be an icon of Christ, the bishop and priest must also preside by giving, serving and loving.

The great liturgist, Father Alexandr Schmemann writes:
the original eucharistic experience, to which the every order of the Eucharist witnesses, speaks of our ascent to that place where Christ ascended, of the heavenly nature of the eucharistic celebration.
The Eucharist is always a going out from "this world" and an ascent to heaven, and the altar is a symbol of the reality of that ascent, of its very "possibility."   For Christ has ascended to heaven, and his altar is "sacred and spiritual." 

It is this view of liturgy in which heaven and earth are dimensions of the same reality that St Peter exercises his function of head of the apostles.   In St Peter's, there is an altar, the altar of the chair of Peter, designed by Bernini, under the window depicting the Holy Spirit as a dove.  Four fathers of the Church, SS Athanasius and John chrysostom from the East and SS Ambrose and Augustine hold a bronze chair in which a wooden chair, probably used by the ancient popes, has been set. The bishops of Rome preside over the liturgy in the local church where St Peter died by martyrdom. Because the Eucharist is a celebration of both heaven and earth, SS Peter and Paul have a very special relationship with this local Church, and Peter shares his primacy with the pope.  The pope is supported and is servant of Tradition, symbolised by the four saints.   As the episcopal chair is where the bishop presided, in order to be an icon of Christ, the pope must give himself to the humble service of the whole Church throughout the world; and the power by which he does so is the ecclesial love manifested in the Eucharist.  Only where faith and love are present, is there Christ: only then can the papacy "work".

By this, I do not mean that we forget the world and only remember heaven.  On the contrary, if we become united intimately with Christ in heaven, we can look at this world from a new perspective.   We have a foretaste of the "new heaven and a new earth" in which heaven and earth are simply dimensions of the same creation.   Earth becomes an icon of heaven, as in the sacraments; matter becomes holy because it is seen as full of divine activity.   Holiness of the world can only be experienced by our practising a certain asceticism.   This liturgical view of creation lies behind the encyclical Laudato si' of Pope Francis.   

By being brought up into communion with Christ in heaven, we understand that heaven is a dimension of our life on earth, that the earth finds its ultimate meaning in heaven, that "the world is charged with the grandeur of God."   By the Incarnation, by his death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, Christ began the process of uniting in himself heaven and earth, making them a single reality.  Through our participation in Christ's death, resurrection and ascension in the Mass, we gain a new perspective; and we are sent out to be his witnesses that Christ is all in all in a world that has closed in on itself. No wonder our morality is different, because we see God's purposes written into the ordinary circumstances of our lives.


The liturgy is the source of all the Church's powers and the goal of all its activity.   The Roman Canon shows us how it gathers us up in Christ where heaven and earth are one, where God's will is done on earth as in heaven, where Christ in heaven communicates with people through readings in the earthly liturgy, where priests on earth pray the consecrating prayer with Christ in heaven, where Christ in heaven shares our prayers and hymns on earth, and where popes bind and loose on earth, confident that God is actively engaged in that process with them   For us Catholics, this is a great feast because, through the papacy, God enables us to act as one family, one organism, not only at a local level and at a regional level but also at a universal level: at all levels, we are bound together by the Holy Spirit who only seeks our humble obedience to manifest Christ., thus becoming instruments of his purpose.


The world is charged with the grandeur of God.    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oilCrushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soilIs bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.


And for all this, nature is never spent;There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;And though the last lights off the black West went 

 Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.










Friday, 26 June 2015

NEW TEXT ON THE NEW ECCLESIOLOGY OF PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW (plus) MY COMMENTARY



SYNAXIS OF ORTHODOX
CLERGY AND MONASTICS

Thessaloniki, November 19, 2014

Beloved Brethren,

Attached you will find a text prepared by the Synaxis of Orthodox Clergy and Monastics and signed by all its members which presents and examines the novel ecclesiological views recently expressed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  You will note that six of the Church of Greece’s hierarchs – Andrew of Dryinoupolis, Seraphim of Piraeus, Paul of Glyfada, Seraphim of Kythira, Kosmas of Aetolia and Akarnanias, and Jeremiah of Gortynos – have already added their signatures to this document and it will certainly be signed by a broader segment of the clergy and laity in the coming days

[2400 have signed the document as of Nov. 28th]​.

The effect of this text will be greatly increased if you, and any other clergyman, monastic or layman whom you may know, add your signatures to the following document and then return it to us electronically at the following e-mail address: synaxisorthkm@gmail.com

With all due respect and honor,

On behalf of the Synaxis of Orthodox Clergy and Monastics

Archimandrite Athanasios Anastasiou
Former Abbot of Great Meteora Monastery

Archimandrite Sarantis Sarantos
Rector of the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos, Marousi, Attica, Greece

Archimandrite Gregory Hadjinicolaou
Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery, Ano Gatzeas, Volos, Greece

Elder Efstratios, Priestmonk
Great Lavra Monastery, Mount Athos

Protopresbyter. George Metallinos
Professor Emeritus of the Theological Academy at the University of Athens, Greece

Protopresbyter. Theodore Zissis
Professor Emeritus of the Theological Academy at the University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Table of Contents

The new Ecclesiology of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew… 1

1. Various formulations of  ‘Divided Church’ ecclesiology. 1
2. Historical instances where this new ecclesiology has been applied. 3
3. Denial of the Creed, faith “in One Church”. 3
4. The Church is eternally indissoluble, the unity of Christ and the is faithful unbreakable. 4
5. Since Christ “cannot be divided”, it is self-evident that unity is a mark of the Church. 5
6. The cutting off of the heretics does not affect the Church. 6
7. Has the Priesthood of the Bishops been abolished?. 7
8. Past resistence by ceasing the commemoration of Patriarch Athenagoras. 8

APPENDIX 1 – Petition Signature List. 10

The New Ecclesiology of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

It was with great sorrow that we all witnessed the events which unfolded in the Holy Land, now a few months ago.  Within the context of his meeting with Pope Francis in Jerusalem on 25 May of the present year, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew expressed, amongst other things, a novel ecclesiology, entirely foreign to Orthodoxy.  The culmination of years of deviation within the sphere of ecclesiology, and indeed its worst manifestation, this new ecclesiology denies the indissolubility and incorruptibility of the Church, despite the fact that it is, according to the Fathers, “…the Theanthropos (the God-Man) Christ, extended through that ages and unto all eternity.  It is for this reason that the Church is without, “…spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.”[1]  Conversely, according to the Patriarch, the Church has been divided, contrary to the will of the Almighty Christ:

1. Various formulations of ‘Divided Church’ ecclesiology.

“The One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded by the “Word who was in the beginning,” who was “truly with God,” and who “truly was God”, according to the Evangelist of Love, sadly, on account of the dominance of human weakness and of impermanence of the will of the human intellect, was divided in time in the course of her earthly campaign.  This brought about a variety of conditions and groups, each of which claiming “authenticity” and “truth” for itself. The Truth is One, however; Christ, and the One Church founded by Him”.

“Unfortunately, the human element prevailed, as a result of a build up of “theological,” “practical,” and “social” additions, the Local Churches were led into a division of the unity of the Faith, into isolation, which at times gave rise to hostile polemics”[2].

This position is not entirely new: much earlier, the Ecumenical Patriarch expressed his view in favour of the equality of the Orthodox Church and the Papal heresy:

“A common sacramental conception of the Church has emerged, sustained and passed on in time by the apostolic succession…the Joint Commission has been able to declare that our Churches recognize one another as Sister Churches, jointly responsible for safeguarding the one Church of God, in faithfulness to the divine plan, and in an altogether special way with regard to unity… In this perspective we urge our faithful, Catholics and Orthodox, to reinforce the spirit of brotherhood which stems from the one Baptism and from participation in the sacramental life.”[3]

“Dialogue is most beneficial, for by means of it we come to recognize the harmful elements of the old leaven, which is a presupposition of true and salvific repentance…Inasmuch as one Church recognizes another Church to be a storehouse of holy grace and a guide leading to salvation, efforts aimed at tearing faithful away from one church in order that they may join another are unacceptable, being inconsistent with the aforementioned recognition. Each local Church is not a competitor of the other local Churches, but rather is one body with them and desires the life of unity in Christ, the restoration of what was disturbed in the past, and not the absorption of the other.”[4]

This strange broadening of the Church did not leave the heretical Protestants outside of its bounds.  Patriarch Bartholomew had the following to say in 2008 about the 9th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches which took place in Porto Alegre of Brazil in February of 2006:

“And so, freed from the tensions of the past and determined to stay together and act together, two years ago at the Ninth Assembly at Porto Alegre, Brazil, we laid down markers for a new stage in the life of the Council, taking account of the present situation in inter-church relations and the changes that are gradually taking place in ecumenical life”[5].

To general astonishment, the final text of that Assembly proclaims about the “churches” of the W.C.C:

“Each church is the Church catholic, but not the whole of it. Each church fulfils its catholicity when it is in communion with the other churches…apart from one another we are impoverished”[6].

The Patriarch’s theological advisor, Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, also considers any heretical or schismatic group that employs “baptism” of any kind to be within the church.

“Baptism creates a limit to the Church. Now, within this baptismal limit it is conceivable that there may be divisions, but any division within those limits is not the same as the division between the Church and those outside the baptismal limit … within baptism, even if there is a division, one may still speak of the Church”[7].

By arbitrarily widening the boundaries of the Church, Metropolitan John limits the field of heresy. According to him, every heresy that does not expressly contradict Symbol of Faith [the Creed], such as Monophysitism-Monothelitsm (the so-called Pre-Chalcedonians), Iconoclasm, anti-hesychasm, nationalism, etc. is part of the church

“Heresy, meaning the divergence from that which is believed and confessed in the Creed by the Church, automatically sets one outside of the Church.  The problem arises, however, from the moment this point of view becomes absolute”[8].

All the above seem to be the extension of an earlier suggestion of Patriarch Athenagoras, the mentor of the subsequent leaders of the pan-heresy of Ecumenism, who said:

“The movement toward unity it is not a matter of one Church moving toward the other, but rather let us all re-found the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church together, coexisting in the East and the West as we lived up to 1054 in spite of the theological differences that existed then”[9].

2. Historical instanced where this new ecclesiology has been applied.

The views of the Ecumenical Patriarch set forth above have been confirmed in practice over time at various ecumenical events.  They are confirmed, for example, by the Ecumenical Patriarch’s presence or prayer at Vespers for the patronal feast of Rome (June 1995), at the funeral of Pope John Paul II (April 2005), at a papal liturgy in the Vatican (June 2008), at a meeting of the Council of Catholic Bishops (October 2008), at the first formal liturgy of Pope Francis (March 2013), when he blessed the orthodox faithful together with Cardinal Cassidy (at the Phanar in 1992), when Pope Benedict XVI was permitted to participate in a Patriarchal Liturgy in Constantinople (November 2006), during which the Pope, wearing a pallium, recited the Lord’s prayer and was honoured with the singing of “Many Years”.  These views were also confirmed more recently (May 2014) by means of joint prayer in front of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, as well, through the giving of a Holy Chalice to the newly elected Uniate bishop, Demetrios Salachas of Carcabia in Athens (May 2008), with the Papal bishop Louis Pelatre participation in the Vespers of Love in Constantinople (Pascha 2009), a custom that has continued in subsequent years, and with the allowing of heterodox to enter into the Altar through the Beautiful Gate.  Patriarch Bartholomew’s participation in the Anglican Synod at Lambeth Palace (November 1993) offers further confirmation of these views.  All these instances – and many more besides these – were filled with joint prayer, addresses or even common ecclesiological statements. In the context of his ecumenist plans, Patriarch Bartholomew did not forget to encourage the new Bulgarian Patriarch, Neophyte to return the Patriarchate of Bulgaria to the ecumenical movement, from which it had withdrawn in 1998.[10]

3. Denial of the Creed, faith “in One Church”

The above mentioned statements and events make manifest the Ecumenical Patriarch’s consistent ecclesiological mindset. His recent statement in Jerusalem clearly shows the obvious contradictory or double-minded character of this ecclesiology, a common characteristic of Ecumenism, as it projects the One Church, but as “divided in time”.  In this case, the patriarchal text creates confusion and is clearly not inspired by the Holy Spirit, which is a “right” [straightforward] Spirit.[11] It should be understood that this view constitutes a conscious denial, at the very least, of the unity of the “One Church” as an attribute and ontological certainty of the Church. The inclusion of this attribute in the ecclesiological article of the Creed is the expression of the Church’s self-consciousness [αὐτοσυνειδησία] and of its experience in the Holy Spirit. Consequently, whoever consciously doubts or rejects the faith of the Church as it has been set down with exactness by the Decrees of the Ecumenical Synods, especially in the unambiguous articles of the Symbol of Faith, whether he is clergy or laity, self-evidently falls away from the Body of the Church, and according to the Ecumenical Councils is subject to deposition or excommunication.[12]

4. The Church is eternally indissoluble, the unity of Christ with the faithful is unbreakable.

The Lord’s clear promise that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against”[13] the Church, and even more, the assertion that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men”[14], trump the Patriarch’s assertion that “the human factor prevailed” in the second millennium of the Church’s history. In this case, the findings of the Fathers are clear: for Basil the Great, Christ “was begotten in the midst” of the Church, “and gave Her the gift of being unshakeable”[15]; St. Gregory the Theologian calls the Church “the great heritage of Christ which will never cease, but which will advance ever further”, whereas St. John Chrysostom proclaims that Scripture calls the Church “a mountain, because of It being immovable, and a rock, because It is incorruptible.”[16] St. Nektarios of Aegina, in agreement with the confession of all the Holy Fathers, verifies that the Church alone is “the pillar and the ground of the truth[17], because the comforting Spirit stays in her until the end of ages”[18]. The continuous presence of the Spirit safeguards the Church, and that is why the work of Christ is complete and whole, for He “has accomplished His work, He has gladdened his friends”[19].

We believe in the Church as in an eternal theanthropic establishment that “will not only be extended everywhere in the universe, but throughout all time, as well”[20] and consequently cannot be defeated or pass away. It is clear that this space-time extension is not speaking of some noetic Church “outside of time”, but of the militant Church “in time”, which is historically visible as a unity-communion of faithful[21], because It is “a city that is set on a hill” and “a house of God that is admired by all”[22].

The extraordinary unity of the Church as the Body of Christ is a fact, absolutely and irrevocably secured by Christ, the Head of the Church[23], through the continuous presence of the Holy Spirit within It[24], from the day of Pentecost until the end of time.  The faithful, as the body of the Head, which is Christ, are a necessary complement of the Church, “the fullness of Him who fills all in all”[25] and the reason why a Church “outside of time”, without faithful on earth, is inconceivable.  Saint John Chrysostom writes: “for where the Head is, there is the body also. There is no interval to separate between the Head and the body; for were there a separation, then were it no longer a body, then were it no longer a head… and he introduces Him as having need of each single one and not only of all in common and together…then is the head filled up, then is the body rendered perfect, when we are all knit together and united”[26].  That is why God is glorified both in Christ and in the Body of Christ, the Church, whose only saviour is the God-man[27], He who “nourishes and cherishes the church”[28]. Whoever does not believe in the continuation of the Incarnation, the Church, does not believe in Christ. “The Church is the continuation of the Incarnation in time. And just as our Lord was seen and touched and venerated in the flesh, in time, so too does His Body, the Church, continue—united and holy—in time. If we were to accept the division of the Church, we would be accepting the nullification of the Incarnation and the salvation of the world[29].

5. Since Christ “cannot be divided” it is self-evident that unity is a mark of the Church

The Church does not chase after unity, but rather, possessing it as an ontological attribute, simply maintains it, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”[30]. It is an essential characteristic of the Church, since “the Church’s name is not a name of separation, but of unity and concord”[31].  A divided and broken apart Church is a monstrosity and mere imagination. St. Nektarios of Aegina, while targeting the Protestant theory of an “invisible Church”, seems to be asking the Patriarch: “Why the name Ecclesia, when the members are isolated and unknown to each other, and do not constitute an organic system or an unbreakable unity in the true sense of the word?”[32]

Therefore, the unity of dogmatic faith is also the given reality of the Church; because, just as Christ, the Head of the Church cannot be broken apart – Christ is not divided[33] – so too in the Church there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”[34] and not dogmatic polyphony. The Church forms a single faith in the Christ-believing flock, so that “for all the faithful, the grace and calling of faith joins each one to the other in a single form”[35].

6. The cutting off of the heretics does not harm the Church

Whoever falls away from the unanimous theological confession, becoming like a dried vine that has been cut off from the Vineyard[36], is himself responsible, as St. John Chrysostom clearly warns: “the Church did not abandon him but he abandoned the Church  […] Abide in the Church and you will not be betrayed by the Church. If you flee from the Church, the Church is not the cause of your capture […] if you go outside, you are liable to be the wild beast’s prey: yet this is not the fault of the fold, but of your own faintheartedness […] the Church is not walls and roofs, but faith and life”[37].

In agreement with the above, the cutting off of the heretical Latins and the absence of the Protestants from the One and Catholic Church did not harm Her (“you will not be betrayed by the Church”) nor would they be able to harm Her.  At an 18th century synod, the Orthodox Patriarchs clearly profess the incorruptible theanthropic nature of the Church and that the Latins fell away from this on account of the Pope’s pride: “After many years of being under the evil one’s influence, the Pope of Rome, having been led astray into innovations and strange teachings, was separated from among the members of the Body of the pious Church and fell away […] If the four parts of the sail have been maintained in place, attached and woven together, we do now sail with ease through the waves of this life’s sea without suffering shipwreck […]. Thus it is, for us, that Christ’s pious Church stands upon four pillars, that is, the four Patriarchs, and remains unassailable and unshaken”[38].

Heresy is certainly not only the damage done in relation to the fundamental faith of the Church, but also that done in the lesser matters of the faith, which invariably worsens over time. Together with many other Saints, the Patriarch of Constantinople St. Tarasios, observes: “As far as dogmas are concerned it is all the same to err to a small degree or to a great degree, because in one case and the other the law of God is broken”[39].  The great Patriarch Gennadios Scholarios II agrees with this, stating: “Whether one sins in great matters or lesser matters against the truth of the Faith, he is a heretic”[40].

7. Has the Priesthood of the Bishops been abolished?

A consistent/honest interpretation of this new ecclesiology renders the Patriarch and all the Bishops as “deficient” in regards to the true Priesthood of Christ and consequently deputies or locum tenens, but not successors of their Throne, supervisors and not perfecters (or finishers) of the Divine Mysteries of the Church. If Patriarch Bartholomew is right, the Bishops do not partake in the fullness of the Priesthood of the Church. If over time, the One Church, the Body of Christ, was broken up, then the ecclesiastical Hierarchy (Priesthood) which is in communion in Spirit with the heavenly Hierarchy according to St. Maximos,[41] retains the enlightenment of the Priesthood only in a “fragmented” state, since, “…through divine vision the hierarch is illumined first, and afterwards he imparts to those under him and guides to perfection those whom he brought to illumination.”[42]

From the above dogmatic findings, brief yet comprehensive (as far as space permits), the distance of the Patriarchal declarations from Orthodoxy has become as clear as day.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew believes in a “broadened and divided” Church; broadened because he thinks that the heretics belong to the Church by the power of any “baptism”, regardless of their heretical dogmas and their being in schism and not in communion with the Church; divided because there does not exist “inter-communion” between the Orthodox and heretics. According to the Patriarch, even though divided “in history” the One Church continues to exist “somehow – someway”.

It is easy to see, however, in the Faith of the Church, that the Church’s Oneness (Unity – state of being Undivided) is an ontological and inalienable characteristic, because She is the Body of the Indivisible and Almighty Christ our God. As the Body of Christ and the completion of His work, the Church cannot be divided because that would mean Her destruction and the “defeat” of [Christ’s] Divinity. Nor can the Church cease to exist because the Church Herself is the fulfillment of the promises of eternal salvation on earth.

The unity of the Body of the Church is also expressed in her unique dogmatic faith. Calling this faith into doubt constitutes heresy, for it is the doubting of the presuppositions our salvation. Christ revealed that whoever is separated from the Vineyard, i.e. from Himself, is as a withered branch and is lost[43].  Patriarch Bartholomew believes that the Living and blessed Vineyard of our Lord’s Body is deficient without these dried out branches, those who through their own responsibility cut themselves off, who are “broken up”, and we must therefore “graft” these branches, though they be dead, in Her anew, into the ecclesiastical Body of true Life, the Living Christ.

8. Past Resistance by ceasing the commemoration of Patriarch Athenagoras

The innovative ecclesiology of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has seen Ecumenism advance from the devaluation of dogma, carried out by Patriarch Athenagoras, to the present, horrific distortion of orthodox faith; apparently the declaration of the “dissolution” of the One Church is necessary for Ecumenism, so that the “new church” can be “re-established” in harmony with ecumenistic specifications.

In the days of Patriarch Athenagoras, the entire Holy Mountain of Athos resisted the Patriarch’s ecumenist overtures. Three Metropolitans of the Church in Greece, invoking the 31st Apostolic Canon and the 15th Canon of the First-Second Council, ceased commemoration [of the Patriarch], which is the lawful, ecclesiastical resistance foreseen by the Holy Fathers. The same response was issued by eight Monasteries on Mount Athos: “from the decision of the extraordinary 52nd Double Holy Synaxis Meeting of November 13th, 1971, […] each Holy Monastery, as self-governed, is free to practice according to its conscience regarding this issue”[44]. The discontinuing of commemoration without further separation [“walling-off”] or full break in communion [with other Orthodox] always constituted of a praiseworthy stance, because, as set down by the 15th Holy Canon of the First-Second Council[45] (861 A.D.), those who thus react “have not sundered the union of the Church with any schism, but, on the contrary, have been sedulous to rescue the Church from schisms and divisions.” Those who, with such good intentions, cease commemoration of heretical-minded Bishops “have defied, not Bishops, but pseudo-bishops and pseudo-teachers” and this is why “not only are [they] not subject to any canonical penalty, […] but shall be deemed worthy to enjoy the honor which befits them among Orthodox Christians”[46].

We are saddened, for the way things are developing it does not seem that there is hope for a change of direction by Patriarch Bartholomew. With the imminent visit of Pope Francis to the Phanar for the Patronal Feast of St. Andrew, on November 30, 2014, once again there arises on gloomy horizon increased liturgical participation of the Pope in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy:  his wearing an omoforion [bishop’s vestment], his exchange of the liturgical kiss of peace with the Patriarch (which is reserved for only those who liturgize), his recital of the “Lord’s Prayer” [from the place of the one presiding (προεστώς)], a prayer with a clear Eucharistic reference (“give us this day our daily [super-essential] bread”) and which is to be recited by the one presiding [o προεστώς] on behalf of the Orthodox people, even with the sensing of the Pope and his being granted the pulpit (άμβωνος), for him to preach.

All this is not just a form of simple prayer, because obviously the Divine Liturgy does not begin with “with fear of God, faith and love draw ye near”, but from “Blessed be the Kingdom”[47]. According to Fr. Alexander Schmemann “From the standpoint of Tradition the sacramental character of the Eucharist cannot be artificially narrowed to one act, to one moment of the whole rite. We have an “ordo” in which all parts and all elements are essential, are organically linked together in one sacramental structure. In other words, the Eucharist is a sacrament from the beginning to the end and its fulfillment or consummation is “made possible” by the entire liturgy”[48].

We pray that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will come to realize his great responsibility for those he is leading into deception and for the stripping the Church of the “robe of truth, the fabric of theology from above”[49]. Nothing of Orthodox dogma shall ever be lost. Nothing will ever be altered. No new, additional decisions will ever be reached which will alter older judgements. It is not possible for dogmatic evolution to exist in any way, shape or form[50].

“The one who is throwing you into confusion, will bear his judgment, whosoever he may be”[51].

At the time of its initial publication, the preceding text had already been signed by some 2000 Orthodox Christians, including six Metropolitans of the Church of Greece, many abbots, clergy, monastics and laity.  Those who wish to participate in this humble confession of the Orthodox faith may do so by signing the document which follows below under the heading, “I agree with this document against The New Ecclesiology of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and endorse it,” adding your signature, your name, your clerical, monastic, or professional status and your city of residence in the spaces provided.  It is requested that you then send this document to us at the offices of the Orthodox Journal Theodromia, by mail (Timiski 128, 546 21, Thesslaloniki, Greece), by fax (2310 276 590), or by e-mail (synaxisorthkm@gmail.com)


COMMENTARY

I am publishing this to show my Catholic readers that there is a lot of opposition to ever-closer ties between Catholicism and Orthodoxy.  You must remember that the Orthodox have not yet had the equivalent of Vatican II; and that, before Vatican II, much of the "official" Catholic theology would have used the same arguments to discount any possibility of ecumenical contacts between the Catholic hurch and the "schismatic" Orthodox churches.

As Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev has said, about a thousand years ago, both sides decided they could do without the other; and we must get used to the idea that we need each other before theological dialogue can bear fruit.  Let us concentrate on those areas where we so obviously need each other and in areas where we can collaborate without arousing controversy, like the re-conversion of Europe and the defence of traditional values before a secular world, and leave the more controversial steps, like sacramental sharing, till later.  Perhaps, once we get used to needing each other, the rest will follow naturally.   Perhaps we shall see the old problems with new eyes.  In a sense, we Catholics and some Orthodox already do. 

 The difference has been made by eucharistic ecclesiology, an ecclesiology first formulated by N. Afanassieff, an Orthodox theologian in Paris, which has been adopted by Vatican II.   Using the Eucharistic assembly as a paradigm, it affirms the old ecclesiological principles by seeing them in a new context which has been formed by going back to the understanding of the Church of St Ignatius of Antioch and the early fathers. 
Let us look, for instance, on this statement in this document with which both Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis agree, "The Truth is One, however; Christ, and the One Church founded by Him”
The truth is one and the Church is one. If we did not believe that, there would be no need for ecumenical dialogue. However, when "eucharistic ecclesiology" looks at the Church, it first looks at the eucharistic assembly in which the bishop presides or a priest in the bishop's name; because the eucharistic assembly is the Church at its most visible: each eucharistic assembly is the body of Christ because all partake of the same bread and the same cup.  Each eucharistic assembly is like the tip of an iceberg because it is united to all who are "in Christ" at all times and everywhere, as well as being the visible part of a community that embraces heaven and earth.   It is an act of the whole Church because it is linked to every other eucharistic assembly by the Holy Spirit, whether we know each other, acknowledge each other, like each other or want to be associated with each other: it is an act of God.   There are not two kinds of Eucharist, one Catholic and the other non-Catholic, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, there is only one Eucharist; and there are not two kinds of eucharistic assembly because each and every assembly takes its nature from this single eucharistic source and receives its faith expressed in a liturgy that has its origins in Apostolic preaching and is the fruit of the continual activity of the Holy Spirit in Word and Sacrament.  In the words of Vatican II, the liturgy is the source of all the Church's powers and the goal of all its activity.   (Sacrosanctum Concilium 1, 10)
Hence, the unity between local churches is one of identity, because each church is the body of Christ.  It also follows that the one Truth by which each local church lives springs out of its own ecclesial life and is identical to that of other local churches, not because it is imposed from above or granted from outside, but because of the identity of each church with all the others.  It is brought about by the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the humble obedience of a church in a process that has its origins in apostolic mission and preaching and is expressed in a liturgy with roots in that apostolic preaching, and the celebration of which makes the church the body of Christ.   Communion with other churches is, even before it is a legal act, an act of witness of their common identity as Christ's body and an act of ecclesial love which manifests the presence of the Holy Spirit.  But this act of communion doesn't confer on the local church its catholicity: that is conferred by its eucharistic nature.
Recognising the identity of one church by another is not always easy. As Tradition in each church is centred on the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the local community, it takes diverse forms as it roots itself in different cultures, with different vocabularies and philosophies, as well as having to experience different problems in one region rather than another where solutions have to be found, where to find a solution was important in one region but not in another.

   One great divider was the Byzantine Empire which resulted in a three-fold division of the Church.  In the East was the Persian Empire which regarded the Byzantine Empire as an enemy. Also, there were the people of Syria and Eqypt who wanted independence from Byzantium.  In the middle was the Byzantine Empire where the emperor claimed to be and was regarded as the civil ruler of the entire Church on earth - it was he who called the ecumenical councils and was left to unite the universal Church.  Then there was the Latin Church which, in the first centuries after the conversion of Constantine, acknowledged the emperor; but the emperor was totally incapable of fulfilling the functions of emperor.   he couldn't keep order within his western borders nor defend them from without from barbarian attacks.  The legend of King Arthur belongs to that time, when order in Britain was kept by a small band of Roman cavalry that had been abandoned by a Roman Empire in retreat.  The Church had to step into the gap, and this marked its ecclesiology for ever.   

Thus, how do we keep order and unity when these are protected by the emperor was an Orthodox question.   How do we keep order and unity when everything is going to collapse into chaos was a Latin Catholic question.  Both sides looked into Tradition to find an answer; but, since they were different questions, they came up with different answers.

A good example of a church that has preserved its Tradition down the centuries to the present day, without being in communion with either Orthodoxy or Catholicism since the fifth century is the Assyrian Church of the East.   Christ would have understood its liturgy which is in Christ's native language. Unfortunately, it belonged to the Persian Empire, rather than the Byzantine Empire, and did not receive an invitation to the Council of Ephesus. However, it was told, after the council, that it had to assent to the council's decrees.  It refused and, therfore, was labelled as Nestorian.   I have no means of knowing whether the Assyrian Church was heretical or no; but I do know that one of its most illustrious sons, St Isaac the Syrian in the seventh century, was completely orthodox, and that theological investigations by both the Catholic and Orthodox churches have found no traces of heresy in its faith.

  It has always been extremely conservative, and one of its anaphoras (eucharistic prayers) in common use, that of St Addai and Mari, dates from the second century.   This anaphora does not have the words of institution, "This is my body...this is the chalice of my blood."   During the first Gulph War, Assyrians and Catholics of the same rite - the latter have inserted the words of institution in that anaphora - closed ranks and began to go to one another's churches.   The Catholic patriarch had scruples and wrote to Rome, asking if the Eucharist which is celebrated using the anaphora of St Addai and Mari.

This set the cat among the pigeons!   We all know the normal Catholic teaching as formulated by St Thomas: that the matter of the sacrament is bread and wine, and the words of consecration are, "This is my body... this is the chalice of my blood."  This is the ordinary teaching of the Catholic Church, presumed in all kinds of official documents.   Hence the flurry of activity when the Catholic patriarch's letter arrived in Rome.

The Congregation for the Defence of the Faith under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent a copy of the letter to a number of the most prestigious liturgists and asked for their comments.   Their reply was unanimous.  They said, firstly, that the anaphora of St Addai and St Mari was only one of the many anaphoras in the early Church that did not include the words of institution, including St Cyril of Jerusalem's "Mystagogical Catechesis; secondly, the whole eucharistic prayer consecrates, although the point at which this takes place may be different in different rites; thirdly, that the teaching of the Assyrian Church on the Eucharist is identical to that of the Roman Church and is clearly expressed in the rite; and, fourthly, the Roman See has always recognised the validity of Assyrian sacraments.  The Sacred Congregation for the Defence of the Faith issued a document with these conclusions, and it was signed by some of the most important Vatican cardinals and initialled by Pope John Paul II, because of its enormous implications.

The document recognised the apostolic authenticity of the Assyrian Church, in spite of the schism - an earlier theological investigation had found that the Assyrian Church's faith in the Incarnation is completely orthodox, even if it did reject Ephesus - and also recognised that the normal Catholic teaching on the Eucharist ( and, by implication, anything else) must be placed within the context of diversity within a wider apostolic Tradition as witnessed in the liturgy handed down in the Assyrian Church.  In spite of having been separated from both Catholicism and Orthodoxy since the 5th Century, the document says,  "the Catholic Church recognises the Assyrian Church of the East as a true particular Church, built upon orthodox faith and apostolic succession."


Where does the universal Church fit into all this?  The SYNAXIS OF ORTHODOX CLERGY AND MONASTICS is only giving voice to a doctrine held both in the East and the West that the universal Church, the Church spread throughout the world is a visible body expressing in itself the essential unity of the human race under Christ's universal lordship. 

Using eucharistic ecclesiology, we would say that the universal brotherhood of Christians is based on our sacramental identity as body of Christ.  As there is only one Truth, one Baptism, one Eucharist where we offer to the Father all honour and glory in Christ in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, any division between us is a lie, a denial of what we are as Christians.   We look across the divide and say with St Augustine:
Those then who tell us: You are not our brothers, are saying that we are pagans. That is why they want to baptize us again, claiming that we do not have what they can give. Hence their error of denying that we are their brothers. Why then did the prophet tell us: Say to them: You are our brothers? It is because we acknowledge in them that which we do not repeat. By not recognizing our baptism, they deny that we are their brothers; on the other hand, when we do not repeat their baptism but acknowledge it to be our own, we are saying to them: You are our brothers. I they say, "Why do you seek us? What do you want of us?" we should reply: You are our brothers. They may say, "Leave us alone. We have nothing to do with you." But we have everything to do with you, for we are one in our belief in Christ; and so we should be in one body, under one head. And so, dear brothers, we entreat you on their behalf, in the name of the very source of our love, by whose milk we are nourished, and whose bread is our strength, in the name of Christ our Lord and his gentle love. For it is time now for us to show them great love and abundant compassion by praying to God for them. May he one day give them a clear mind to repent and to realize that they have nothing whatever to say against the truth; they have nothing now but the sickness of their hatred, and the stronger they think they are, the weaker they become. We entreat you then to pray for them, for they are weak, given to the wisdom of the flesh, to fleshly and carnal things, but yet they are our brothers. They celebrate the same sacraments as we, not indeed with us, but still the same. They respond with the same Amen, not with us, but still the same. And so pour out your hearts for them in prayer to God.
However, ecumenism is a new thing, an inspiration of the Holy Spirit in our day; and we do not just look across the divide to note just the faults of others, the blindness of others, the historical crimes committed by others, the mistakes of others.   We look across the divide and see the miracles of grace that take place among the others, the holiness of others, the good intentions of others, the fervour of others, the presence of Christ in others.  It began in the gulags where Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants suffered together for their faith in the same Christ; it continues in what Pope Francis calls "the ecumenism of blood" in Syria and Iraq, where people die for Christ, victims of people who do not ask what church they belong to; it is discovered in friendship where love penetrates the appearances, ignorances, defences and prejudices that have been constructed over the centuries to discover the Christian soul within.   In our pain at suffering the divisions and our delight at finding a common life behind them, we strive to uncover the underlying common ground that lies at the root of our differences.  Yet we know that our mutual loyalty to the Truth as we see it will not allow us to take anything for granted, and know that progress will be slow and sometimes painful.

The truth is that, once you leave behind the teaching that the fullness of Catholicism is present wherever the Eucharist is celebrated, that this fullness requires communion with all other churches and, for us Catholics, especially with the Church of Rome, then we find ourselves with a theory of the Church that does not hold water.

We have to ignore the strong evidence of sanctity in the different churches.  People who live in Greece or in the depths of Russia whose only knowledge of Catholicism is through their own propaganda may ignore that evidence. Only ignorant Catholics can deny the holiness of Orthodox saints.  How did St Isaac the Syrian become a saint and a church father while not being in canonical communion either with Constantinople or Rome? How are Christians of every shape and size willing to die for Christ humbly and patiently?   Who gave any of us power to judge our neighbour by fixing labels on them, as in this synaxis?  My case rests.



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