Monday, December 17, 2007

The Orthodox Formally Recognize Papal Primacy in High Level Ecumenical Talks

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Here are some news reports about this important breakthrough:

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Cardinal Walter Kasper . . ., the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, told a Vatican Radio audience that "the real breakthrough is that for the first time the Orthodox were ready to speak about the universal level of the Church."

The 46-paragraph document approved at the Ravenna meeting-- which is due for release on November 15-- refers to the Bishop of Rome as the "first among the patriarchs," La Repubblica reported. The document recognizes the historical patriarchates of the united Church, in Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Among these, the Ravenna participants agreed, Rome has primacy.

. . . "While the fact of primacy at the universal level is accepted by both East and West," the Ravenna statement continued, "there are differences of understanding with regard to the manner in which it is to be exercised, and also with regard to its scriptural and theological foundations."

(Catholic World News: 11-14-07)
The article noted, however, that the Russian Orthodox contingent (the largest body of Orthodoxy) walked out at the beginning, due to a dispute about another participant. The talks in Ravenna, Italy, were between 30 top Catholic theologians and 30 Orthodox theologians from various Orthodox communions.

Emmanuel Clapsis, of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, responded:
It has become increasingly apparent in ecumenical circles that many non‑Roman theologians and churches are actually coming to regard some exercising of primacy by the Roman see as "normal", "desirable", ..useful", or (to some degree) "required". There is, however, a considerable difference between the official Roman Catholic view of primacy and the type of primacy that non‑Roman theologians, churches and communions would be ready to accept for the well‑being of the Church!

. . . Today, scriptural scholars of all traditions agree that we can discern in the New Testament an early tradition which attributes a special position to Peter among Christ's twelve apostles.

. . . In summary, Orthodoxy does not reject Roman primacy as such, but simply a particular way of understanding that primacy. Within a reintegrated Christendom the bishop of Rome will be considered primus inter pares serving the unity of God's Church in love. He cannot be accepted as set up over the Church as a ruler whose diakonia is conceived through legalistic categories of power of jurisdiction. His authority must be understood, not according to standards of earthly authority and domination, but according to terms of loving ministry and humble service (Matt. 20:25‑27).

Before the schism, in times of ecclesiastical discord and theological controversies, appeals for peaceful resolutions and mediation were made to the pope from all parts of the Christian world. For instance, in the course of the iconoclast controversy, St Theodore the Studite (759‑829) urged the emperor to consult the pope: "If there is anything in the patriarch's reply about which you feel doubt or disbelief... you may ask the chief elder in Rome for clarification, as has been the practice from the beginning according to inherited tradition."[45] From an Orthodox perspective, however, it is important to emphasize that these appeals to the bishop of Rome are not to be understood in juridical terms. The case was not closed when Rome had spoken, and the Byzantines felt free on occasion to reject a Roman ruling.
For a very helpful report on the state of Orthodox-Catholic ecumenical endeavors, generally speaking, see James Likoudis: The Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue: Light and Shadows.


Phil said...

While the reunification of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches is something devoutly to be wished, I see some problems. From a practical point of view, the Western world at this time needs strong, unified and clear Christian churches that can stand against the tide of secularism. Supposing a scenario in which the Patriarch of Constantinople accepts reunion, and some arrangement is made, I can imagine that the many extreme and disgruntled anti-ecumenical groups within the Church would break ties with Byzantium; possibly becoming the Greek equivalents of Sedevacantists or the SSPX. In that scenario, if there were enough of these people, then the Greek Orthodox Communion would be shattered into many pieces. Secularism and leftism would undoubtedly accelerate in Greece, perhaps even the Turks might look across the Aegean and think, "Why not step in? For old time's sake?"

Of course this hypothesis rests on there being lots of anti-ecumencal Orthodox clergy AND laypersons, the true number of which I am unaware of.

Loren Elifrits said...

Just bear in mind....even if the Ecumenical Patriarch accepts reunion, he would only be doing so for his own diocese. It would not mean that Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Moscow etc etc are obliged to follow him. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is NOT an Orthodox papacy....

Dave Armstrong said...

My impression was that these talks involved more than just Constantinople (?).