"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

Wednesday 9 September 2015


Pope Francis reforms Church law in marital nullity trials
Pope Francis with the judges of the Roman Rota, Jan 23, 2015 - ANSA

08/09/2015 12:27
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis issued two Apostolic Letters motu proprio on Tuesday, by which he introduced reforms to the legal structures of the Church, which deal with questions of marital nullity. One of the Letters motu proprio, known by its Latin title, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus – or “The Lord Jesus, Clement Judge” – reforms the Code of Canon Law (CIC) governing the Latin Church, while the other, Mitis et misericors Iesus or “Clement and merciful Jesus” – reforms the Code of Canon Law for Oriental Churches (CCEO).

According to the prefatory remarks attached to both Letters, the reforms are the result of an expert group appointed to study the current state of law and practice in the Church as far as marriage law is concerned. The Holy Father goes on in the preface to explain that the reforms are guided by seven specific criteria, ample excerpts of which Vatican Radio offers below in its own unofficial English translation:

That there be only one sentence in favor of executive nullity – It appeared opportune, in the first place, that there no longer be required a twofold decision in favor of marital nullity, in order that the parties be admitted to new canonically valid marriages: the moral certainty reached by the first judge according to law should be sufficient.

A single judge under the responsibility of the Bishop – The constitution of a single judge in the first instance, who shall always be a cleric, is placed under the responsibility of the Bishop, who, in the pastoral exercise of his own proper judicial power shall guarantee that no laxity be indulged in this matter.

The Bishop is judge – In order that the teaching of the II Vatican Council be finally translated into practice in an area of great importance, the decision was made to make evident the fact that the Bishop is, in his Church – of which he is constituted pastor and head – is by that same constitution judge among the faithful entrusted to him. It is desired that, in Dioceses both great and small, the Bishop himself should offer a sign of the conversion of ecclesiastical structures, and not leave the judicial function completely delegated to the offices of the diocesan curia, as far as matters pertaining to marriage are concerned.

Increased brevity in the legal process – In fact, beyond making the marriage annulment process more agile, a briefer form of trying nullity cases has been designed – in addition to the documentary process already approved and in use – which is to be applied in cases in which the accusation of marital nullity is supported by particularly evident arguments. In any case, the extent to which an abbreviated process of judgment might put the principle of the indissolubility of marriage at risk, did not escape me [writes Pope Francis – ed.]: thus, I have desired that, in such cases the Bishop himself shall be constituted judge, who, by force of his pastoral office is with Peter the greatest guarantor of Catholic unity in faith and in discipline.

Appeal to the Metropolitan See – It is fitting that the appeal to the Metropolitan See be re-introduced, since that office of headship of an Ecclesiastical province, stably in place through the centuries, is a distinctive sign of the synodality of the Church.

The proper role of the Bishops’ Conferences – The Bishops’ Conferences, which must be driven above all by the anxious apostolic desire to reach the far-off faithful, should formally recognise the duty to share the aforesaid conversion, and respect absolutely the right of the Bishops to organise judicial power each within his own particular Church.

There-establishment of vicinity between the judge and the faithful, in fact, shall not be successful if the stimulus does not come from the Conferences to the single Bishops, along with the necessary assistance, to put into practise the reform of the marital nullity process.
Appeal to the Apostolic See – It is fitting that the appeal to the ordinary Tribunal of the Apostolic See, i.e. the Roman Rota, be maintained: this, in respect of a most ancient juridical principle, so that the bond between the See of Peter and the particular Churches be reinforced – having care, in any case, in the discipline of the use of said appeal, to contain any and all abuse of right, in order that the salvation of souls be given no cause for harm.

Indeed, the prefatory remarks make clear from the very start, that the single most important principle guiding the Holy Father’s action and the work of reform undertaken, is that of salus animarum – the salvation of souls – which is the suprema Ecclesiae lex – the supreme law of the Church. 


 The single most important principle guiding the Holy Father’s action and the work of reform undertaken, is that of salus animarum – the salvation of souls – which is the suprema Ecclesiae lex – the supreme law of the Church. 

From the very beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has shown that he is very sensitive both to Orthodoxy and to early church history when it comes to the position of the papal ministry in the Church.   His own preferred titles for the pope are "Bishop of Rome" and "Servus servorum Dei", leaving aside the more exotic titles for the attention of historians.   However, it doesn't seem to be his plan to, somehow or other, imitate or follow the patterns of governance of the ancient Orthodox churches.   Instead, he is putting into practise the famous addage, "Salus animarum lex suprema Ecclesiae," and, by so doing, forming a pattern or model out of Roman Catholic tradition at its present stage of development. This will result in continuing the reforms of Vatican II that are true to the inner core of Catholic identity as well as being more acceptable to other Christians, especially to the churches that share with us the Apostolic Tradition.

Thus he does not separate the need to decentralise the Church from the pastoral task of evangelisation in the modern age.   He does not think in abstract, but in finding solutions to concrete pastoral problems, and the answers to these problems help to give a shape to the contemporary Church.

 For Pope Francis, we cannot treat as a separate project giving the Catholic Church a new system of government that gives adequate roles both to the petrine ministry and to sobornost or synodality, as has been discussed with the Orthodox. Instead, he tells the synod to find solutions to family problems without imposing any restrictions on the bishops' thinking as the previous popes have done, fully respecting their role as representing diversity in the Church.   This has shown that, in general, there is general agreement that sacramental marriage is indissoluble, but disagreement about the pastoral implications of that doctrine; and, on the whole, this disagreement follows geographical lines, with the African bishops more "conservative" and the European bishops more "progressive".   (Using words like "conservative" and "progressive", taken as they are from secular politics, only falsifies the debate which has nothing to do with political parties and puts those using the words in a false frame of mind.) In fact, Pope Francis believes, as he recently said in one of his talks, that Catholicism is different in different parts of the world, with diverse problems, ways of looking at things, cultures, and solutions.   The different solutions must be understood each within its own context, while the Holy Spirit must be trusted to guide each part of the Church to the common truth embodied in different practices, and it is the pope's function to give that common truth a voice.   This confidence is only justified within a community that is guided by the Holy Spirit.

The process of decentralisation is being carried a stage further by these two letters motu proprio by placing into the hands of the local bishops the process by which marriages are annulled.   This means that there is no longer one universal authority to solve a universal problem.   Full recognition is being given to the claims of diversity, represented by the local bishops.   Little by little, this recognition of diversity will be extended according to pastoral need and will help to re-shape the Church.

Things are also moving in the Orthodox churches, as the next article shows.   It is written by the Archdeacon and theological advisor to His Beatitude Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.   We must constantly pray for its success. 

At Last, A Council for the Ages?
September 7, 2015/ 
my source: Orthodox Post

by John Chryssavgis

A Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church has been scheduled for 2016. In March of 2014, the leaders of all the autocephalous (independent) Orthodox Churches met in Istanbul, the sacred see of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which historically (since at least the fifth century) coordinates such assemblies, facilitating unity while serving as a center of appeal among these churches. Arguably the foremost decision unanimously agreed upon at that assembly of church heads was the convocation of a Great Council in 2016, tentatively planned to be held in the Church of Haghia Irene—the site of the second ecumenical council of 381, which completed the “creed” recited by most Christians today. Haghia Irene is now a museum in Istanbul, never having been converted into a mosque since the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

The council of 2016, which has been on the table for discussion and preparation since at least 1961 (although there were earlier proposals for such a council in the 1920s and 1930s), will for the first time ever gather representatives from all fourteen independent Orthodox Churches. The very conception, let alone the convocation of such a great or general council, is entirely unprecedented. It will be attended by patriarchs, archbishops, and bishops from the fourteen autocephalous Orthodox Churches, including those from all of the ancient patriarchates, with the exception of Rome.

Theological commentators and historical analysts should bear in mind that the process in the Orthodox Church may undoubtedly not appear as orderly or organized as that in some Western churches precisely because it involves a consensus among all churches, rather than the imposition of one church or leader. However, it is naïve to dismiss disagreements among various churches sweepingly, implying that these merely result from rivalries of power. While such a perception may not be entirely erroneous, and while such a process may be frustrating to those inside as to those outside the Orthodox Church, it is in some ways a profoundly—even if often painful—democratic method than frequently perceived.

The issues for discussion and decision at the Great Council have been painstakingly determined since the early 1970s, with some of them going back to the early 1960s. The topics and texts include some esoteric items, such as the ranking of churches and discussion about a common calendar; but they also include problems that emerge from adapting an ancient faith to a modern reality—like precepts of fasting and, in particular, regulations of marriage in a multicultural and interreligious world.

Most importantly, the documents tackle sensitive matters, such as relations of the Orthodox Church with the other Christian confessions, the role and response of the Orthodox Church to the contemporary challenges of our age, as well as “unorthodox” (or uncanonical) governance issues facing the Orthodox Church in the Western world.

While the last three issues may seem uncomplicated or unsophisticated to the outsider, they are vital to the growth of the Orthodox Church. For instance, the ecumenical openness of an otherwise profoundly traditional church is of crucial importance, especially in light of conservative and traditionalist circles in the Greek and Slavic worlds. The way that the Orthodox Church handles modernity is of profound relevance for the resonance of its teaching in the public sphere.

The third item concerns the role of the Orthodox Church in non-Orthodox countries (often referred to as Orthodoxy in the “diaspora”). This relates to the manner of achieving the proper canonical status of one bishop per diocese (or city) when an existing diocese currently has a number of ethnic Orthodox Churches and, therefore, more than one bishop. Will church leaders grant some standing of autonomy? More importantly, will leaders in countries such as the United States of America be interested in a unified, collaborative organization? Or will they remain obsessed with narrowly nationalistic interests?

Certain commentators are quick to criticize the forthcoming council as being of little significance or consequence. Detractors are fond of claiming that no doctrinal issue will be discussed or defined. I’m not quite sure that bishops attending earlier councils were themselves aware that they were about to settle theological disputes and ecclesiastical controversies in an inspired way; they simply dealt with the issues at hand.

However, there are at least two issues up for discussion at the Great Council that encompass universal and unparalleled authority. The first is the way in which the Orthodox Churches will respond to religious fundamentalism and fanaticism. A united and unequivocal response to extremist and subversive elements and factions—sometimes within circles influenced by rigid or reactionary monastics—would be a compelling and committed emphasis on the “royal way” of discernment and moderation adopted by the classic teachers of the early church. Will we see a condemnation of separatist groups and a new commitment to ecumenical openness?

Perhaps the most consequential and enduring pronouncement of the great council will be its deliberation and determination regarding the organization and administration of the Orthodox Church throughout the world. The question is whether churches abroad, such as in the United States, Western Europe, and Australasia—comprised of Orthodox immigrants and converts long established in their new homelands, miles away and cultures apart from the “mother Churches, where they originated—have reached the maturity or acquired the single-mindedness and commitment to minister to their people and manage their affairs in unity. Regrettably, however, most Orthodox Churches seem to be retreating into a stifling, sheltered and safe provincialism, which they explain—or excuse—as attending to internal affairs, which in turn are reckoned as more important pastorally than concerns for collaboration or collegiality. What is more unfortunate is that contemporary bishops, who have been exposed to and educated in the modern world and its global challenges—at least by comparison with their predecessors, who were restricted by the “iron curtain” or oppressive xenophobia—appear less interested in transcending any prejudice and parochialism.

Time will show just how much the Orthodox want to realize the Great Council of 2016 and how the status of this council will be received by the Orthodox Churches themselves. It will be telling indeed to observe just how much each independent church is willing to lay aside trends of supremacist nationalism and the temptations of secular power.


I am convinced of one thing: even if the Patriarch of Moscow and his assistent, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, succeed in throwing a spanner in the works of Catholic-Orthodox unity, even if the talks were to come to nothing - I am sure they won't - but even if, then the Catholic-Orthodox talks on the petrine ministry are of the utmost importance to Catholic understanding of the pope's position.   Vatican I was the fruit of a long development in the Latin Church, but there was little or no contribution from the Christian East.  Vatican II, in Sacrosanctum Concilium, ch. 1, says that the liturgy is the source of all the Church's powers.   The Orthodox churches have the Apostolic Tradition embedded in its liturgy too, and the Holy Spirit is active in the confection of its sacraments and in the faith and understanding of those who participate; but their tradition is absent from Vatican I.   

Hence, the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, if prayerfully undertaken, will lead to a much richer, much fuller, much more Catholic understanding of the petrine ministry than were the Fathers of the Council capable of in their isolation from the East.   I suspect the Orthodox will learn a few things too.  In fact, it is already happening.
1)   The adoption of eucharistic ecclesiology by Vatican II, itself the product of dialogue between the French ressourcement theologians with their Russian Orthodox emigre counterparts before the Council, means that we are now aware that the Church, in the first place, is a sacramental organism in which the parts are each a manifestation of the whole, through the Eucharist.   In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, the Mass is the Church's constitution.  Bishops receive their role in the Church from their relationship to the eucharistic assembly: so does the pope who is pope because he is bishop of Rome, not the other way round. 

2)  Without the eucharistic ecclesiology, without awareness of the Mass as the Church's constitution, universal papal jurisdiction seems to make him an absolute monarch.   With eucharistic ecclesiology, papal jurisdiction must adapt itself to work in and through the sacramental organism in which each part is presided over by a successor of the apostles and itself has the fullness of Catholicity which is Christ.  

3)   In fact, it is precisely because each local church is identical to all the others, each church being the body of Christ, that the bishop of Rome, as successor of St Peter, can express in his single voice the voice of all the churches, and can exercise a universal ministry without threatening the authority of the local bishops or regional leaders.  The major difference between jurisdiction exercised within the context of a sacramental organism and jurisdiction exercised by the state, is that the latter is based on physical force, while the former is based on love.  The pope presides in love, and love permits two or more authorities, the local, the regional and the universal to operate in synergy while respecting each other's role which is Spirit-given.  At the same time, union with Rome would help the Patriarch of Moscow to look at Christianity and the world around him from a wider perspective than Russian interests.

4)There is already wide acceptance among Orthodox that, if reunion should take place, the pope has a unique universal role in the Church, as Metropolitan Kallistos says in the video.  Hence the disagreement is now between the Orthodox, and not just between West and East.  However, those in favour of this universal role would place it at a deeper level than that of law and jurisdiction, at the level of communion in love and service.  I suspect that this is the direction of Catholic thought too.

5)  As for Patriarch Kiril and Metropolitan Hilarion, I suggest that one motive for their blocking action is to put a break on things so that we won't come to theological agreement before we come to know and love each other.  Any moves towards Rome would cause grave disunity and could deflect the Church's essential task of evangelising the Russian people.  Such an outcome would be wanted neither by East nor West.

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