"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, 25 October 2017


The Elephant in the Room

The basic problem between the Catholic and Orthodox churches is that, when the schism happened neither church was aware of any breach on its part with the tradition that it had faithfully received and lived since apostolic times, and neither believed that it was rejecting any doctrine it had previously taught. Each side blamed the other for any infidelity to the apostolic truth and have continued to do so

The other part of the problem was the complete inability of both sides to be able to see the point of view of the other side, the total absence of empathy.  This was also true with the Nestorians and Monophysites.   In our conversations with churches representing these "heresies", it has been found by both Catholic and Orthodox theologians that differences are often due to differences in vocabulary, perspective, and culture, rather than a real difference of faith.  I am not denying the existence of real heresy, but am suggesting that much misunderstanding has been caused by lack of true love on both sides and misunderstandings have sometimes hardened into heresies or support for real heretics because 'the enemy of my enemy must be my friend.' 

The Liturgy of the Orthodox East has an important insight when it puts the kiss of peace before the singing of the Creed, so that all may recite with one mind.  The basic reality of the Church, and hence the basic reality of our membership of it is communion in ecclesial love when the love that binds us together is a reflection of the unifying presence of the Holy Spirit.  Thus, our common understanding of the Faith is based on ecclesial love, as is the authority of those who make the rules and the obedience of those who obey them.

Lack of ecclesial love hides the nature of the Church and leads inevitably to injustice.  We must remember that St Isaac the Syrian, much admired by everybody nowadays, was a Nestorian by ecclesiastical allegiance.  It is also true now: the complete inability of Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev - one of my favourite theologians - to understand what it has felt like being a Greek Catholic in the Ukraine since 1945, nor to see what kind of image the Russian Orthodox Church has projected in the Ukraine during and since the fall of Communism, with priests divorcing their wives to become patriarchs, with clergy moonlighting as KGB agents, sending  back regular reports on each other as well as on other Christians to the atheist authorities, on collaborating with Russian political policy etc.

  It is impossible to put an exact date on the schism between East and West because of the piecemeal way that the schism took place.  The mutual excommunication of the patriarch of Constantinople and the pope in 1054 is only a date of convenience.  Russian Orthodoxy was in communion with Rome long after Rome's breach with Constantinople and, even after that, the Archbishop of Kiev took Rome's side at the Council of Florence.   Relations between Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy in Southern Italy varied from generation to generation; and even in Greece, Jesuit missionaries sometimes asked permission of the local bishops before hearing confessions.  In Syria, Egypt etc, lay people have habitually simply ignored the schism, while priests have helped each other out in an emergency.  There is a schism, but its theological meaning is not clear, and there is a difference of opinions on both sides of the divide as to its implications.

However, because there has been no sense of departure from the Apostolic
Tradition on either side of the schism, both churches went away from the schism believing that the other had fallen away; which means that both churches could agree with this note, added to the Ravenna Document (2007) by the Orthodox:

 Orthodox participants felt it important to emphasise that the use of the terms “the Church”, “the universal Church”, “the indivisible Church” and “the Body of Christ” in this document and in similar documents produced by the Joint Commission in no way undermines the self-understanding of the Orthodox Church as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, of which the Nicene Creed speaks. From the Catholic point of view, the same self-awareness applies: the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church “subsists in the Catholic Church” (Lumen Gentium, 8); this does not exclude acknowledgement that elements of the true Church are present outside the Catholic communion.

Both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church believe that their own communion is the "one, true, holy and Catholic Church", while the other is in schism.  This fact I am calling the "elephant in the room".

However, since Vatican II, there has been a new ecclesiology based on the theology of the Fathers which brings new light to this teaching: it is called eucharistic ecclesiology.   Its starting point is "Where the Eucharist is, there is the Church."

Those who argue in favour draw a conclusion:   The Catholic Church is centred on the Eucharist, as are the Orthodox Churches, therefore the Catholic and Orthodox Churches are Sister Churches that, by their very nature,should be one in loving communion because they beat with the same heart which is the Eucharist.

Those who are against it, like Father Peter Heers and many Russian Orthodox, argue that the doctrine of "sister churches" contradicts the note from the Ravenna Document which we have quoted above and is heretical, being a reformulation of the Anglican Branch Theory, rejected by both Orthodox and Catholics: instead of three branches there are now "two lungs".

In this essay which supports eucharistic ecclesiology and Orthodoxy and Catholicism being sister churches, I will argue that eucharistic ecclesiology is Orthodox in origin and not Anglican and first came to light in the Institut Saint-Serge, the Russian Orthodox theological institute in Paris and is associated with Nicolai Afanasiev; that doesn't contradict the note in the Ravenna Document but puts Catholic and Orthodox counter-claims in a new context where we can seek to reconcile them; that, on the contrary, the vision of the Church as being made up of a number of totally autocephalous patriarchates with no organisational connection between them is the closest thing there is to the Anglican Branch Theory; that eucharistic ecclesiology requires corrections to Catholicism and Orthodoxy and lights up the way to unity.

In order to give us an idea of eucharistic ecclesiology, here is a brilliant summary, taken from "Orthodox Ecclesiology in Outline", published by the Orthodox Christian Information Center.   This understanding of the Church is, since Vatican II, as much Catholic as Orthodox:

The grace of the Trinity is the starting point for understanding the nature of the Church, and especially for her unity in multiplicity, as the Holy Spirit shares one life and one being. The three distinct and unique Persons are one in life and in nature. Similarly, the Church exhibits a parallel multiplicity of persons in unity of life and being. The difference between God and the Church is that, in the former, multiplicity in unity is the truth, whereas in the latter, this is only a participation in the truth. In patristic language the former is ousia, while the latter is metousia. The unity of the three divine Persons in life and being is, therefore, the prototype of the unity of the Church’s persons in life and in being. As Christ Himself says in His prayer for the Church: "even as Thou O Father are in me and me in Thee, so they may be one, that the world may believe that Thou has sent me." The mark of unity is collegiality and love, and not subordination. Orthodox Triadology, based on the grace of the Trinity, supplies the basic ontological categories for Orthodox ecclesiology. The Church is an eikon of the Holy Trinity, a participation in the grace of God.
The Church of Christ

How does the Church participate in God’s mystery and grace? How is metousia Theou ("participation in the essence of God") achieved? How does the Church become an eikon of the Holy Trinity? The answer, in its simplest form, is contained in the phrase "in and through Christ." Christ has established the bond between the image of the Triune God, and that which is made after the image, namely, the Church, mankind. In Christ we have both the eikon and the kat eikon ("that which is according to the image"). Hence, we must say that the Church is the Church of the Triune God as the Church of Christ. The link between the Holy Trinity and Christology, that is, between theology and economy, demands a similar link in ecclesiology. The Church is in the image of the Triune God, and participates in the grace of the Trinity inasmuch as She is in Christ and partakes of His grace. The unity of persons in life and being cannot be achieved apart from this economy of Christ, and we here encounter what the New Testament calls the "Body of Christ."Christ is the Head of the Church and She is His Body. It is from this Christological angle that we better understand the multiplicity in unity which exists in the Church. This angle of the Body of Christ is normally connected with the divine Eucharist, because it is in the Eucharist that the Body is revealed and realized. In the divine Eucharist we have the whole Christ, the Head, and the Body, the Church. But the Eucharist is celebrated in many places and among many different groups of people. Does this then mean that there are many bodies of Christ? This is not the case because there is one Head, and one eucharistic Body (His very body which He took up in the Incarnation) into which all the groups of people in the different places are incorporated. It is the Lord Himself who is manifested in many places, as He gives His one Body to all, so that in partaking of it they may all become one with Him and with one another. "In that there is one bread, the many are one Body, for we all partake of the one bread." The many places and the many groups of people where the eucharistic Body of Christ is revealed do not constitute an obstacle to its unity. Indeed, to partake of this Body in one place is to be united with Him who is not bound by place and, therefore, to be mystically (or "mysterially," or "sacramentally") united with all. This is how St. Athanasius explains the prayer of our Lord that the apostles may be one. "... because I am Thy Word, and I am also in them because of the Body, and because of Thee the salvation of men is perfected in Me, therefore I ask that they may also become one, according to the Body that is Me and according to its perfection, that they, too, may become perfect having oneness with it, and having become one in it; that, as if all were carried by me, all may be one body and one spirit and may grow up into a perfect man." And St. Athanasius concludes: "For we all, partaking of the same, become one Body, having the one Lord in ourselves." What is given in one specific place is something which also transcends it, because of its particular perfection, that is, its being Christ’s risen body. The different eucharistic localities, with the eucharistic president (the bishop), the clergy, and the participants (the people) constitute or reveal the whole Church. It is a local church, and yet she reveals the catholic mystery of one Church. The one Church of Christ is equally and fully in all these localities because of the one, perfect Eucharist, the one Lord, and the one Body.

Of course, there are differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy; otherwise, a union would have already taken place; but, in the above quotation, there is no difference.

Now, let us look at what is meant by "sister churches" by attending to a quotation from Archimandrite Robert Taft:

The new Catholic “Sister Churches” ecclesiology describes not only how the Catholic Church views the Orthodox Churches. It also represents a startling revolution in how the Catholic Church views itself: we are no longer the only kid on the block, the whole Church of Christ, but one Sister Church among others. Previously, the Catholic Church saw itself as the original one and only true Church of Christ from which all other Christians had separated for one reason or another in the course of history, and Catholics held, simplistically, that the solution to divided Christendom consisted in all other Christians returning to Rome’s maternal bosom.Vatican II, with an assist from those Council Fathers with a less naïve Disney-World view of their own Church’s past, managed to put aside this historically ludicrous, self-centered, self-congratulatory perception of reality. In doing so they had a strong assist from the Council Fathers of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church whose concrete experience of the realities of the Christian East made them spokesmen and defenders of that reality.
The argument is this:

Where the Eucharist is, there is the Church. In the words of Cardinal Ratzinger, "‘The Church is the celebration of the Eucharist: The Eucharist is the Church; they do not simply stand side by side; they are one and the same."  As the Orthodox summary of eucharistic ecclesiology states:
In the divine Eucharist we have the whole Christ, the Head, and the Body, the Church. But the Eucharist is celebrated in many places and among many different groups of people. Does this then mean that there are many bodies of Christ? This is not the case because there is one Head and one eucharistic Body (His very body which He took up in the Incarnation) into which all the groups of people in the different places are incorporated. It is the Lord Himself who is manifested in many places, as He gives His one Body to all, so that in partaking of it they may all become one with Him and with one another. "In that there is one bread, the many are one Body, for we all partake of the one bread." The many places and the many groups of people where the eucharistic Body of Christ is revealed do not constitute an obstacle to its unity. Indeed, to partake of this Body in one place is to be united with Him who is not bound by place and, therefore, to be mystically (or "mysterially," or "sacramentally") united with all.
The whole Church is in Christ, and Christ is present in each Eucharist; therefore, to partake of this Body in one place is to be united to Christ in all.   Whatever the schism has done, it remains true that the Eucharist is the central reality in the Catholic Church as well as in the Orthodox Church; therefore, in both churches it is the Lord Himself who is manifested in many places, as He gives His one Body to all, so that in partaking of it they may all become one with Him and with one another. "In that there is one bread, the many are one Body, for we all partake of the one bread."  For this reason, the schism does not stop us from being sister churches.

In eucharistic ecclesiology, the local church that celebrates the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, is the source of Tradition which was first preached by the Apostles and disciples who were sent by Christ.  Although Tradition has a single source in Christ, it has been formed by the synergy of the Holy Spirit and the Church in different places, within churches with different cultures, languages, and histories.  Tradition at its most basic is, therefore, pluriform in its cultural expression, languages, and history.  At the same time, in every place, culture, language and diverse historical experiences, authentic Tradition manifests the same Christ. Thus, Christian unity is a unity in diversity.

In eucharistic ecclesiology, the unity that Christians enjoy with one another is a Unity of identity.  Each Eucharist makes the eucharistic assembly the body of Christ; but although Mass is celebrated in many places, there are not many bodies of Christ but only one. Just as hundreds of consecrated hosts can be placed in one ciborium, and each is the body of Christ and all of them together are the body of Christ; so it is with the Church: every eucharistic assembly is body of Christ and the church on a diocesan, regional and universal level is body of Christ based on our dwelling in Christ through the Eucharist.

Our unity in Christ is a reflection of the Holy Trinity, "even as Thou O Father are in me and me in Thee so they may be one, that the world may believe that Thou has sent me." (Jn 17, 21)   We are brought up into the presence of the Father through the veil which is the flesh and blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is our participation in the life of the Trinity as a Eucharistic community that gives shape to the Church as an institution at a local, regional and universal level.

When Pope Francis said that the only authority that exists in the Church is service and the only power is the power of the Cross, he implies the enormous difference between civil authority based on power to enforce it and ecclesial authority based on love that reflects the presence of the Holy Spirit that transforms relationships through participation in the Eucharist.   The Civil and ecclesiastical law may use the same language, but they are very different, as Jesus himself taught.

Eucharistic Ecclesiology does not contradict the Ravenna Document, even when both churches agree on its basic tenets.   It puts the counter-claims in a new context.  It does extend recognition of local and regional churches as participators in the fullness of Catholicism which is the eucharistic Christ; but, at a universal level there is disagreement.  Catholics would say that the reality of universal Christian unity cannot be adequately expressed by a group of autocephalous churches that jostle with one another for power like nation states and live their Christian lives as parallel but relatively isolated institutions. Catholic unity in its engagement with each other reflects the life of the Trinity; and, as an expression of God's reign,  it must transcend nationality and all other divisions and limitations that, when not transcended, keep fallen humanity locked up in the Tower of Babel.  Thus, the Letter to Diognetus says of members of the Church:
"Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric lifestyle....While they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one's lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign."
While Orthodox reject the papacy, they present nothing really credible to take its place, only a loosely knit group of patriarchs, often representing different national traditions who often squabble among themselves.  I don't think the writer of the Letter to Diognetus would have recognized them!

On the other hand, in the past we Catholics have projected the papacy as a kind of divine right monarchy; and Orthodox have rightly considered this to be a kind of ecclesiastical worldliness. Catholics did not distinguish between civil law and ecclesiastical law sufficiently, even though Jesus in his teaching was very clear about the difference, and it often acted as one world power among others, although with special privileges.  Also, everything was centralized in the Vatican: unity was stressed at the expense of diversity.
On the Ravenna Document
by Met. Kallistos Ware (Orth)

On the Ravenna Document
by Mgr. Paul McPartlan (Cath.)

Eucharistic ecclesiology requires corrections to Catholicism and Orthodoxy, but corrections that are more faithful to the core of their traditions than their customary practice. The key word for change is "communion", in Greek, "koinonia," in Russian, "Sobornost".  The Church is communion, koinonia, sobornost.  The implications of communion as a basis for understanding primacy and the Church at a universal level are worked out in the Ravenna : Document (2007) and the most recent "SYNODALITY AND PRIMACY DURING THE FIRST MILLENNIUM" published at Chieti in 2016.

Both sides, Catholic and Orthodox, advocate a regular synod to best express Catholic communion, called to exercise universal authority under the direction of a protos or presiding primate.  Pope Francis called the "Synod on the Family."  He said in October 2015,
“The journey of synodality is the journey that God wants from his church in the third millennium,” the pope said Oct. 17:
 “A synodal church is a listening church, aware that listening is more than hearing. It is a reciprocal listening in which each one has something to learn.”
Francis, members of the Synod of Bishops on the family, theologians and other guests dedicated a morning to marking the anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s institution in 1965 of the synod as a forum for sharing the faith and concerns of the world’s Catholics, reflecting together and offering counsel to the pope.
Referring to the Greek roots of the word “synod,” Francis said: 
“walking together -- laity, pastors, the bishop of Rome -- is an easy concept to express in words but is not so easy to put into practice.”
In fact, before Francis spoke, five cardinals, an archbishop and the patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church spoke about the blessings and challenges of the synod process over the past 50 years. They agreed that while the synod’s methodology has improved over the past five decades, there still is work to do.

“We must continue on this path,” Francis told them. “The world in which we live and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, requires from the church the strengthening of synergies in all areas of its mission.”
The Orthodox had their "Holy and Great Council" in Crete in 2016.  At its ending, the bishops said the following:
"The Orthodox church, faithful to the unanimous apostolic tradition and her sacramental experience, is the authentic continuation of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church as confessed in the Creed and confirmed by the teaching of the Church Fathers," the Orthodox representatives said in a final message.
"The Orthodox church expresses her unity and catholicity in council -- conciliarity pervades her organization, the way decisions are taken and determines her path," the message continued."The church does not involve herself in politics -- her voice remains distinct, but also prophetic, as a beneficial intervention for the sake of man. Human rights today are at the center of politics as a response to social and political crises and upheavals, and seek to protect the citizen from the arbitrary power of the state. Our church adds to this the obligations and responsibilities of citizens and the need for constant self-criticism."

Both the Catholic and Orthodox synods met with opposition: Catholic prelates who expected the synod to act just like the Vatican and Orthodox prelates wary of handing over any authority from their autocephalous, independent selves.  Both synods plan to hold further ones, even though the Orthodox one became caught up in the usual Moscow-Constantinople rivalry.   Both Catholic and Orthodox hope to improve in the future.

Lastly, we must demonstrate the ecclesiology that starts with, "Where the Eucharist is, there is the Church" is very different from the Anglican Branch Theory.

Firstly, after Pope Francis attended the Armenian Orthodox Mass during his visit to Armenia, he said,
We have met, we have embraced as brothers, we have prayed together and shared the gifts, hopes and concerns of the Church of Christ,” 
Francis told Karekin on Sunday, after taking part in an Orthodox Divine Liturgy staged at the headquarters of the Apostolic Church in Etchmiadzin:
“We have felt as one her beating heart, and we believe and experience that the Church is one,” he said.

He said that, even though he could not communicate, he felt the beating heart of the Catholic Church in the Eucharist, and that, in that experience, Catholics and Armenians together, "We believe and experience that the Church is one."

It is an assertion of absolute unity in Christ through the Eucharist that is contradicted by the schism.  It is an urgent challenge to Catholics, Armenians and anyone else who finds themselves in this position, like Fr Peter Heers and the Greek Orthodox, to try to solve the problems that keep us apart.  It doesn't justify the schism but shares out both the blame and the responsibility and obligation to love one another that the Eucharist implies and, within the context of ecclesial love, to jointly seek the solution.  Schism contradicts the deepest self of every church that is involved.  Schism must be tackled because it makes the Church invisible to the world.  Only unity in love makes it visible to  ordinary people (Jn 17, 21)

The Dogmas of Vatican I & Eucharistic Ecclesiology
Pope Pius IX
This is the ecclesiology, basically, of Vatican I:
a) that Christ founded His Church as a visible and perfect society;

b) that He intended it to be absolutely universal and imposed upon all men a solemn obligation actually to belong to it, unless inculpable ignorance should excuse them;

c) that He wished this Church to be one, with a visible corporate unity of faith, government, and worship; and that

d) in order to secure this threefold unity, He bestowed on the Apostles and their legitimate successors in the hierarchy — and on them exclusively — the plenitude of teaching, governing, and liturgical powers with which He wished this Church to be endowed.

It is the Gospel as seen and interpreted by lawyers, all about laws, powers, rights, and obligations.  True enough, but, because it is all about law, it cannot get to the very heart of the Gospel about a love which is away above anything that can be codified in any law, whether we are talking about God's love for us or about our answering love for him.  This legal approach, therefore, leaves us with so many unanswered questions that it is better to choose another approach.

We have seen the feeble attempts to explain our salvation in terms the cultural attitudes and man-made feudal laws of the Middle Ages, and we have put these explanations besides the love of the Father and how He meets humankind in the midst of all its sin, not as an accomplice but as a victim in Jesus Christ, and, like the father of the prodigal son, how he holds out his arms to embrace us.  Again, how do we codify the two commandments that sum up all the law and the prophets, to love God with all our heart and all our mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves, without damaging them?   How often should we forgive our neighbour?  Seven times?  No, important as the Law is, the Gospel goes beyond the exigencies of Law as it does with God's offer of salvation!

  If the legal approach cannot get to the heart of the Gospel, it cannot get to the heart of the Church, which Vatican II identifies as the Eucharist.

What, then, is the status of the two dogmas?

Here is the dogma on the universal jurisdiction of the pope:
2. Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman Church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world. 
It is important to note that the Council states that, even though "by divine ordinance, the Roman Church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both episcopal and immediate," it takes nothing away from the power of the local bishops who also rule as successors of the apostles, having been appointed by the Holy Spirit:
   This power of the Supreme Pontiff by no means detracts from that ordinary and immediate power of episcopal jurisdiction, by which bishops, who have succeeded to the place of the apostles by appointment of the Holy Spirit, tend and govern individually the particular flocks which have been assigned to them. On the contrary, this power of theirs is asserted, supported and defended by the Supreme and Universal Pastor; for St. Gregory the Great says: "My honor is the honor of the whole Church. My honor is the steadfast strength of my brethren. Then do I receive true honor, when it is denied to none of those to whom honor is due." 
 The Dogma of Papal Infallibility says this:

9. Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.
So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema.

I am not going to defend or refute these dogmas, merely to discuss their status in a Catholic Church which is made up of sister churches.  These apostolic churches belong to each other by their very nature because the whole Christ has manifested himself in the Eucharist of each from apostolic times to the present day, even though they have become separated by human weakness and sin.  This has led each church to look at itself and to see the whole Church, which is true because Christ is present, and then to misjudge the others, failing to see Christ there too.
"Where the Eucharist is, there is the Church."

Hence, as Catholics in full communion with Rome, we look at Vatican I and accept it as an authoritative expression of the apostolic faith as we have received and lived it. It is a product of Tradition which is our ecclesial life as Catholics down the ages and is formed by the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church.

On the other hand, there are other traditions, other versions of the common Tradition, that do not accept these dogmas and consider the papacy and its claims to be the biggest hindrance to unity.  They too have an orthodox Christian faith, with beliefs forged in the synergy of the Holy Spirit and the Church which is centred on the Eucharist.  Why do they differ from us, and what are we going to do about the difference?

Truths about living the faith, whether on a personal or ecclesial level, never come into existence as abstract propositions.  They all arise out of concrete experience lived in a particular set of circumstances.   Thus, when we live our lives separately and our experiences diverge, then it is likely that our insights into living the Christian Mystery will also diverge, not completely because we share in the same Mystery, but in those areas that reflect the differences.  The papacy is one of these areas.I am not going to support the papacy in this article.  It is simply sufficient to quote from the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue at Chieti in 2016:
6. In the West, the primacy of the see of Rome was understood, particularly from the fourth century onwards, with reference to Peter’s role among the Apostles. The primacy of the bishop of Rome among the bishops was gradually interpreted as a prerogative that was his because he was the successor of Peter, the first of the apostles.(12) This understanding was not adopted in the East, which had a different interpretation of the Scriptures and the Fathers on this point. Our dialogue may return to this matter in the future.
The meeting in Chieti of Catholic and Orthodox experts agreed that the dogmas on the papacy reflect a western and not an eastern tradition.  I think it is because the East relied on the emperors to foment the unity of the Church worldwide and thus could concentrate on other things, while the emperor had little or no effective authority in the West and the chaos that replaced Roman rule made it imperative for Rome to accentuate its authority as successor of St Peter for the sake of the unity and reform of the Church in the West.  Those who opposed this authority were largely against reform and were defending their own corruption.   When the reforming popes turned their attention to the East, they assumed the same corrupt reasons among the Eastern bishops, while the Eastern bishops assumed the popes were being arrogant.

Pope Francis: Reunion without pre-conditions

For those of us who really believe that the western tradition is correct and that the papal ministry really is part of God's plan for the Church, we must also accept the validity of the Orthodox objections as the fruit of the eastern tradition.  For us, the Orthodox- Catholic dialogue between the two traditions is of the utmost importance, especially the balance between primacy and synodality.
 Metropolitan Kallistos Ware (Orth.)
on Papal Primacy

Already this dialogue is changing the way the Catholic Church is doing things.   We hope that one day, it may change the way the Orthodox do things because they have no real and credible alternative to the papacy in place at a universal level.  This has been admitted by some Orthodox theologians.  The squabbling between Moscow and Constantinople is hardly edifying and looks squalid when compared with recent popes.

For the moment, we must recognize that according to the wider Catholic Tradition, a papacy or any other kind of primacy is unacceptable without a corresponding synod.  Pope Francis said:
.It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.A synodal Church is a Church which listens, which realizes that listening “is more than simply hearing”.(12) It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The faithful people, the college of bishops, the Bishop of Rome: all listening to each other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:17), in order to know what he “says to the Churches” (Rev 2:7).The Synod of Bishops is the point of convergence of this listening process conducted at every level of the Church’s life. The Synod process begins by listening to the people of God, which “shares also in Christ’s prophetic office”,(13) according to a principle dear to the Church of the first millennium: “Quod omnes tangit ab omnibus tractari debet”. The Synod process then continues by listening to the pastors. Through the Synod Fathers, the bishops act as authentic guardians, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church, which they need to discern carefully from the changing currents of public opinion. On the eve of last year’s Synod I stated: “For the Synod Fathers we ask the Holy Spirit first of all for the gift of listening: to listen to God, so that with him we may hear the cry of his people; to listen to his people until we are in harmony with the will to which God calls us”.(14) The Synod process culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, who is called to speak as “pastor and teacher of all Christians”,(15) not on the basis of his personal convictions but as the supreme witness to the fides totius Ecclesiae, “the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church”.(16)

All this is at least in part the fruit of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue which is helping us to see our own tradition in the light of that of the East.

As the popes and orthodox have decided to base their dialogue and, we hope, eventual reunion on the position of the papacy's relationship with Orthodoxy in the first millennium, we must remember that, until Vatican I, the popes could fulfill their Petrine functions without universal agreement on the meaning of the papacy and without the Vatican I dogmas to support them.  This was why Cardinal J.H. Newman believed the papal dogmas were unnecessary and were likely to cause problems which were also unnecessary.  If reunion occurs between the Orthodox and Catholic churches, the situation of the first thousand years is likely to happen again.

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