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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

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Thursday, 26 March 2015

CATHOLIC ECUMENICAL VOICES - 1 THE MELKITE CHURCH: THE TROJAN HORSE!!

6 Things You Should Know about the Melkite Catholic Church
by SPL STAFF  • 

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Listers: as you know, the universal Catholic Church is comprised of 23 sui iuris (self-governing) ritual Churches united by their communion with each other and with the See of Rome. Though the Roman Church is the largest, the 22 Eastern Churches play a significant and necessary role in the universality of Catholicism. One of these Churches, the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church, is the ritual Church to which the author of this post belongs. Today, we will examine six historical and theological distinctives of the Melkite Church.

 1. Petrine and Patriarchal

The Melkite Church is historically associated with the See of Antioch. This See, established by the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 together with the Sees of Rome and Alexandria, traces its history and episcopal succession to St. Peter. Prior to journeying to Rome and establishing the bishopric there, we know that St. Peter travelled to Antioch and ordained a bishop for that city. St. Paul tells us of this trip in his epistle to the Galatians, and the mediaeval Liber Pontificalis claims that St. Peter served seven years as Antioch’s primate. Antioch was thus the first Petrine See, and to this day the Patriarchs of Antioch trace their apostolicity to the Prince of the Apostles. Antioch was also part of the original Patriarchal Pentarchy (together with Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Alexandria). Today, the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch is also titular Patriarch of Alexandria and Jerusalem.

2. First Called Christians

“So that at Antioch the disciples were first named Christians.” Thus writes the author of the Acts of the Apostles, 11:26. The Antiochean Church, already having been established by St. Peter, saw the origin of the term Christian applied to the followers of Christ. It was also here that the third Bishop of Antioch, St. Ignatios, provides us with the first written record of the term catholic used to describe the Church: “wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8).

3. The King’s Men

The origin of the word “Melkite” speaks to the steadfastness of this ancient see in maintaining the Orthodox faith. In the aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451), the Byzantine Emperor and many of his subjects readily accepted the decrees of the Council concerning the nature of Christ. The generally-provincial Eastern Christians who opposed these decrees pejoratively referred to those city-dwelling Christians loyal to the Emperor as “King’s men,” malko in Syriac. It was from this term that the Chalcedonian Christians of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem became known as “Melkites”. When the Church of Antioch restored full communion with Rome in 1729, it retained the name “Melkite,” whereas those Antiochean Orthodox Christians who did not embrace the communion dropped the term.

4. Quddûsun Allâh!

The Melkite Church, derived as it is from the original Greek-speaking inhabitants of Antioch, spent many hundreds of years under the yoke of Islam. Unlike the Constantinopolitan Church, the Church of Antioch never really adapted much imperial ritual into its early liturgy – preferring instead to retain more Rabbinic and Syrian traditions. As Islam began to subjugate the area, Mohammad and his followers adopted many of the liturgical traditions of the Melkites, as is most notably seen in the Islamic prostrations, which are identical to those of Byzantine Christian practice. In like manner, several Islamic customs influenced the development of the Antiochean Church. Among these is the adoption of the ritual use of Arabic in the Divine Liturgy. From about the middle of the seventh century, Arabic language and culture fused with that of the Greek Melkites, further establishing the uniqueness of this Church within Byzantine Christianity. To this day, the official ritual languages of the Church are Greek and Arabic, so it is not uncommon to hear the liturgical use of the word Allah in the Divine Liturgy of the Melkites.

5. Sisters in Faith

The Melkite Church, a sui iuris patriarchal Church, is not merely a subset of the Roman Church. Indeed, it is a Church with its own history, theology, spirituality, and liturgy. The Melkite Church, being of Eastern origin, thus zealously guards her Byzantine approach to the Faith, seeing herself as a sister of the Roman Church. In times past, this defense of her heritage put some strain on the Church’s relationship with Rome. For example, at the First Vatican Council, Melkite Patriarch Gregory II Youssef refused to sign the decree of Pastor Aeternus concerning the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. When questioned by Rome on the matter, the Patriarch determined that he would only sign the decree with this caveat added: “except the rights and privileges of Eastern patriarchs,” as he knew he must protect the prerogatives of the Eastern hierarchy. Though this action won him the enmity of Pope Pius IX, the Patriarch was vindicated by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Orientalium Dignitas, as well as in his expansion of the Melkite patriarchate’s jurisdiction in the Middle East. In the century that followed, relations with Rome improved considerably. Those Melkite parishes that previously had been forcefully Latinized saw the beginning of a return to their authentic traditions, and the Church expanded into North and South America. At the Second Vatican Council, Melkite Patriarch Maximos IV spoke on behalf of the “absent members” of the Council: the Orthodox Churches. He did this with the complete approbation of Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. Maximos argued against the Latinization of the Eastern Churches, and in favour of the use of vernacular languages in all the liturgies of the Catholic Church. For his outstanding work at the Council, he was awarded with the Cardinalate. Following the Council, the Roman Church returned to the more ancient ecclesiological perspective of viewing its relationship with the Eastern Churches as one of sisters, rather than of mother and daughters.

6. Voice for Orthodoxy

As one of the oldest Sees in Christendom, the Antiochean Church has inherited a long and rich theological tradition distinct from (though complementary to) that of the Latin Churches.  Because of the unfortunate events of the eleventh century, the Melkites were for a period out of communion with Rome, and as such continued to develop their ecclesial life within the Greek/Arabic tradition. When this communion was restored in the 18th century, the Melkites took great pains to ensure that their particular Byzantine theological and spiritual structures remained relatively free of Latin influences. Thanks to the efforts of the Patriarchs and Popes Benedict XIV, Leo XIII, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, the Melkite Church has come to be an outspoken voice of Eastern Orthodoxy in the midst of the Catholic communion. In 1995, through the tireless work of Archbishop Elias Zoghby, a two-point profession of faith was presented to the Melkite Synod of Bishops. Known as the “Zoghby Initiative,” it states the following:

I believe in everything which Eastern Orthodoxy teaches.
I am in communion with the Bishop of Rome, in the limits recognized as the first among the bishops by the holy fathers of the East during the first millennium, before the separation.

The initiative was put up for vote, and all but two bishops supported its application and provided their signatures. Furthermore, the initiative was embraced by Melkite Patriarch Maximos V and Orthodox Antiochean Patriarch Ignatius IV. While there is still much to be done in re-establishing full intercommunion with the Antiochean Orthodox Church, the acceptance of this initiative demonstrates the degree to which the Melkite Church intends to remain true to her Orthodox heritage. This is a gift of untold treasure for the larger Catholic Church, and one which Rome has in recent times taken great care to ensure is protected and made to flourish. The Melkite patriarchs, striving to be truly “Orthodox in communion with Rome,” hope to one day re-establish sacramental participation with the Antiochean Orthodox Church, thus creating a bridge to help restore full union between East and West. Ut unim sint.


MELKITE HISTORY IN MORE DETAIL


A defining moment in Melkite history was the election of Cyril VI Tanas, in 1724, by the Melkite bishops of Syria as the new Patriarch of Antioch. As Cyril was considered to be pro-Western, the Patriarch Jeremias III of Constantinople feared that his authority would be compromised. Therefore, Jeremias declared Cyril's election to be invalid, excommunicated him, and ordained the deacon Sylvester of Antioch, a Greek monk a priest and bishop, then appointed him to the patriarchal See of Antioch.

Sylvester exacerbated divisions with his heavy-handed rule of the church as many Melkites acknowledged Cyril's claim to the patriarchal throne. It was obvious to all that Cyril had been legitimately elected and consecrated, and that Jeremias had attempted to remove him only to bolster his own authority over the Antiochian Patriarchate. (This Greek domination over the Byzantine Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch lasted until 1899.) Jeremias and Sylvester began a five year campaign of persecution against Cyril and the Melkite faithful who supported him, enforced by Ottoman Turkish troops.

Five years after the election of Cyril VI, in 1729, Pope Benedict XIII recognized Cyril as the legitimate Patriarch of Antioch and recognized his followers as being in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.[15] From this time onwards, the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church has existed separately from and in parallel to the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch in Western Asia; the latter is no longer referred to as Melkite.

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church has played an important role in the leadership of Arabic Christianity. It has always been led by Arabic-speaking Christians, whereas its Orthodox counterpart had Greek patriarchs until 1899. Indeed, at the very beginning of her separate existence, around 1725, one of her most illustrious lay leaders, the savant and theologian, Abdallah Zakher of Aleppo (1684–1748) set up the first printing press in the Arab world. In 1835, Maximos III Mazloum, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, was recognized by the Ottoman Empire as the leader of a millet, a distinctive religious community within the Empire. Pope Gregory XVI gave Maximos III Mazloum the triple-patriarchate of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem, a title that is still held by the leader of the Melkite Catholic Church.

Expansion of the Church and participation at the First Vatican Council


In 1847, Pope Pius IX (1846–1878), reinstituted the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in the person of the young, 34 year old, zealous Giuseppe Valerga (1813–1872), whom the indigenous hierarchs nicknamed "The Butcher" because of his fierce opposition to the Eastern Orthodox churches of the Holy Land. When he arrived in Jerusalem in 1847, there were 4,200 Latin Catholics and when he died in 1872, the number had doubled.

Under pressure from the Roman curia to adopt Latin Church practices, Patriarch Clement Bahouth introduced the Gregorian calendar used by the Latin and Maronite Churches in 1857; that act caused serious problems within the Melkite church, resulting in a short-lived schism. Conflicts in the Melkite church escalated to the point where Clement abdicated his position as patriarch.

Clement's successor, Patriarch Gregory II Youssef (1864–1897) worked to restore peace within the community, successfully healing the lingering schism. He also focused on improving church institutions. During his reign Gregory founded both the Patriarchal College in Beirut in 1865 and the Patriarchal College in Damascus in 1875 and re-opened the Melkite seminary of Ain Traz in 1866.[16][17] He also promoted the establishment of Saint Ann's Seminary, Jerusalem, in 1882 by the White Fathers for the training of the Melkite clergy.[18]

Following the Hatt-ı Hümayun of 1856, decreed by Sultan Abdülmecid I, the situation of Christians in the Near East improved. This allowed Gregory to successfully encourage greater participation by the Melkite laity in both church administration as well as public affairs.[16] Gregory also took an interest in ministering to the growing number of Melkites who had emigrated to the Americas. In 1889 he dispatched Father Ibrahim Beshawate of the Basilian Salvatorian Order in Saida, Lebanon to New York in order to minister to the growing Syrian community there. According to historian Philip Hitte, Beshawate was the first permanent priest in the United States from the Near East from among the Melkite, Maronite, and Antiochian Orthodox Churches.

Gregory was also a prominent proponent of Eastern ecclesiology at the First Vatican Council. In the two discourses he gave at the Council on May 19 and June 14, 1870 he insisted on the importance of conforming to the decisions of the Council of Florence, of not creating innovations such as papal infallibility, but accepting what had been decided by common agreement between the Greeks and the Latins at the Council of Florence, especially with regard to the issue of papal primacy.[20] He was keenly aware of the disastrous impact that the dogmatic definition of papal infallibility would have on relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church and emerged as a prominent opponent of the dogma at the Council.[21] He also defended the rights and privileges of the patriarchs according to the canons promulgated by earlier ecumenical councils. Speaking at the Council on May 19, 1870, Patriarch Gregory asserted:

The Eastern Church attributes to the pope the most complete and highest power, however in a manner where the fullness and primacy are in harmony with the rights of the patriarchal sees. This is why, in virtue of and ancient right founded on customs, the Roman Pontiffs did not, except in very significant cases, exercise over these sees the ordinary and immediate jurisdiction that we are asked now to define without any exception. This definition would completely destroy the constitution of the entire Greek church. That is why my conscience as a pastor refuses to accept this constitution.

Patriarch Gregory refused to sign the Council's dogmatic declaration on papal infallibility. He and the seven other Melkite bishops present voted non placet at the general congregation and left Rome prior to the adoption of the dogmatic constitution Pastor Aeternus on papal infallibility. Other members of the anti-infallibilist minority, both from the Latin church and from other Eastern Catholic churches, also left the city.

After the First Vatican Council concluded an emissary of the Roman Curia was dispatched to secure the signatures of the patriarch and the Melkite delegation. Patriarch Gregory and the Melkite bishops subscribed to it, but with the qualifying clause used at the Council of Florence attached: "except the rights and privileges of Eastern patriarchs.". He earned the emnity of Pius IX for this; during his next visit to the pontiff Gregory was cast to the floor at Pius' feet by the papal guard while the pope placed his foot on the patriarch's head. Despite this, Patriarch Gregory and the Melkite Catholic Church remained committed to their union with the Church of Rome. Relationships with the Vatican improved following the death of Pius IX and the subsequent election of Leo XIII as pontiff. Leo's encyclical Orientalium dignitas addressed some of the Eastern Catholic Churches' concerns on latinization and the centralizing tendencies of Rome. Leo also confirmed that the limitations placed on the Armenian Catholic patriarch by Pius IX's 1867 letter Reversurus would not apply to the Melkite Church; further, Leo formally recognized an expansion of Patriarch Gregory's jurisdiction to include all Melkites throughout the Ottoman Empire.


THE MELKITE CHURCH IN MODERN TIMES 
Conflicts over Latin and Melkite traditions in the Church
Patriarch Maximos IV Sayegh took part in the Second Vatican Council where he championed the Eastern tradition of Christianity, and won a great deal of respect from Orthodox observers at the council as well as the approbation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I.

Following the Second Vatican Council the Melkites moved to restoring traditional worship. This involved both the restoration of Melkite practices such as administering the Eucharist to infants following post-baptismal chrismation as well as removal of Latin-rite elements such as communion rails and confessionals. In the pre-conciliar days, the leaders of this trend were members of "The Cairo Circle", a group of young priests centered around the Patriarchal College in Cairo. This group included Fathers George Selim Hakim, Joseph Tawil, Elias Zoghby and former Jesuit Oreste Kerame; they later became bishops and participated in the Second Vatican Council, and saw their efforts vindicated.

These reforms led to protests by some Melkite churches that the de-latinisation had gone too far. During the Patriarchate of Maximos IV (Sayegh), some Melkites in the United States objected to the use of the vernacular in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, a movement that was spearheaded by the future archbishop of Nazareth, Father Joseph Raya of Birmingham, Alabama. The issue garnered national news coverage after Bishop Fulton Sheen celebrated a Pontifical Divine Liturgy in English at the Melkite National convention in Birmingham in 1958, parts of which were televised on the national news.

In 1960, the issue was resolved by Pope John XXIII at the request of Patriarch Maximos IV in favour of the use of vernacular languages in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Pope John also consecrated a Melkite priest, Father Gabriel Acacius Coussa, as a bishop, using the Byzantine Rite and the papal tiara as a crown. Bishop Coussa was almost immediately elevated to the cardinalate, but died two years later. His cause for canonization was introduced by his religious order, the Basilian Alepian Order.

Further protests against the de-latinisation of the church occurred during the patriarchate of Maximos V Hakim (1967–2000) when some church officials who supported Latin traditions protested against allowing the ordination of married men as priests. Today the church sees itself as an authentic Orthodox church in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. As such it has a role as a voice of the east within the western church, a bridge between faiths and peoples.[27]




THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MELKITE CHURCH

The Melkite Church is not the largest "uniate" church - that distinction belongs to the Ukrainians - but it is certainly the most important from an ecumenical point of view.   For one thing, nobody can accuse it of being the result of western imperialism, nor are its members poached from Orthodox patriarchates.  It came into existence because a patriarch of Constantinople deposed his brother patriarch of Antioch for his pro-Roman tendencies - I don't know if the present patriarch of Moscow would approve of that - and the deposed patriarch appealed to Rome - there have been precedents for this in Eastern Church history.   It split the Antiochean patriarchate, the pope backed the deposed patriarch, and the sui juris Melkite Church, claiming continuity with its past, became an entity in communion with Rome.  Perhaps because its existence was not due to western pressure - it was a home grown schism in the Antiochean Church - relations with their Orthodox neighbours are, on the whole, good, and communicatio in sacris, at least among the laity and among the lower clergy, has always been a fact of daily life.   Moreover, unlike many other Eastern churches in communion with Rome, they have not adopted western Catholic theology.  They are much more at home with Orthodox theology.   The only thing that distinguishes them from their Orthodox brothers is the importance to them of communion with the See of Peter in Rome, something they have held on to in spite of great provocation at times from ignorant Latins, including Pius IX; hence the unique place they have in the ecumenical dialogue.

God's providence works in strange ways, and nobody thought in Vatican I that  these strange bishops with beards and funny clothes were of any importance at all.  They were outnumbered and were considered by many to be only doubtfully Catholic. Their theological importance, quite of of proportion to their numbers, is that they refused to sign the two Vatican I dogmas without adding a clause taken from the Council of Florence,“except the rights and privileges of Eastern patriarchs.”   Fairly harmless, you may say; but what it is really saying is that there are two versions of Catholic Tradition, the Eastern and the Western.  Both are equally Catholic but have been functioning apart for centuries.   The papal dogmas are expressed in terms formed entirely within the context of the Latin Tradition.  They simply cannot be assented to (or denied) by people in the Eastern Tradition because they do not address the chief concerns of the Eastern Tradition.   As they stand, they are alien to the Eastern Tradition; and much work must be done to achieve a balance between the two traditions.  Of course, to Orthodox who regard Catholics as heretics, the solution is simple: the Catholics are wrong.  But the Melkites really believe in the importance of communion with Rome.   What makes this decision by the Melkites so important is that they were not excommunicated.   The fact is that they could not give assent to the dogmas as they stand because they could not see how they fit in to Eastern ecclesiology, and this didn't end with excommunication. Pope Pius IX probably pretended that it wasn't happening, while others probably became more convinced that Eastern Catholics aren't really Catholics at all.  However, when Patriarch Maximos IV stood up in Vatican II and, speaking French - he refused to speak Latin, he told the assembled council fathers that he and his sixteen bishops were few, but that, together, they represented all the Orthodox patriarchs and bishops whom history has denied a seat, the Catholic Church woke up to appreciate the treasure it had in its midst.
In the late sixties or early seventies, I went to a conference hosted by Father Robert Murray S.J. in which Archbishop Zoghby was the chief speaker.  He spoke of the difficulty that two churches with different histories and different categories of thought and priorities have in understanding each other.

  believe that the presence of especially the Melkites in the two Vatican councils was providential. If there was not already a community within the Catholic communion a church that suspended unconditional consent to the dogmas of 1870 because they could not see their coherence with eastern Orthodox theology, would this "Ratzinger Proposal" have been possible?  It could be argued that, by not excommunicating the Melkites, whether it was meant or not, Pope Pius IX legitimised their presence and the presence of the Orthodox tradition within Catholic communion!

THE RATZINGER PROPOSAL




Certainly, no one who claims allegiance to Catholic theology can simply declare the doctrine of primacy null and void, especially not if he seeks to understand the objections and evaluates with an open mind the relative weight of what can be determined historically. Nor is it possible, on the other hand, for him to regard as the only possible form and, consequently, as binding on all Christians the form this primacy has taken in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The symbolic gestures of Pope Paul VI and, in particular, his kneeling before the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch were an attempt to express precisely this and, by such signs, to point the way out of the historical impasse. Although it is not given us to halt the flight of history, to change the course of centuries, we may say, nevertheless, that what was possible for a thousand years is not impossible for Christians today. After all, Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida, in the same bull in which he excommunicated the Patriarch Michael Cerularius and thus inaugurated the schism between East and West, designated the Emperor and people of Constantinople as “very Christian and orthodox”, although their concept of the Roman primacy was certainly far less different from that of Cerularius than from that, let us say, of the First Vatican Council. In other words, Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium. When the Patriarch Athenagoras, on July 25, 1967, on the occasion of the Pope’s visit to Phanar, designated him as the successor of St. Peter, as the most esteemed among us, as one also presides in charity, this great Church leader was expressing the essential content of the doctrine of primacy as it was known in the first millennium. Rome need not ask for more. Reunion could take place in this context if, on the one hand, the East would cease to oppose as heretical the developments that took place in the West in the second millennium and would accept the Catholic Church as legitimate and orthodox in the form she had acquired in the course of that development, while, on the other hand, the West would recognize the Church of the East as orthodox and legitimate in the form she has always had.
Such a mutual act of acceptance and recognition, in the Catholicity that is common to and still possessed by each side, is assuredly no light matter. It is an act of self-conquest, of self-denunciation and, certainly, also of self-discovery. It is an act that cannot be brought about by diplomacy but must be a spiritual undertaking of the whole Church in both East and West. If what is theologically possible is also to be actually possible in the Church, the theological aspect must be spiritually prepared and spiritually accepted. My diagnosis of the relationship between East and West in the Church is as follows: from a theological perspective, the union of the Churches of East and West is fundamentally possible, but the spiritual preparation is not yet sufficiently far advanced and, therefore, not yet ready in practice. When I say it is fundamentally possible from a theological perspective, I do not overlook the fact that, on closer inspection, a number of obstacles still exist with respect to the theological possibility: from the Filioque to the question of the indissolubility of marriage. Despite these difficulties, some of which are present more strongly in the West, some in the East, we must learn that unity, for its part, is a Christian truth, an essentially Christian concept, of so high a rank that it can be sacrificed only to safeguard what is most fundamental, not where the way to it is obstructed by formulations and practices that, however important they may be, do not destroy community in the faith of the Fathers and in the basic form of the Church as they saw her.
– Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1987), pp. 198-199. (source)

If you haven't already read the following article by Archimandrite Robert Taft, please click the title.  It is very interesting and important:

Pray for the peace of Syria.
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