02 December 2006

Popes and Patriarchs, oh my!

chHey, since I seem to have started a trend of topic suggestions, let's write about the Bishop of Old Rome visiting the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His All Holiness Bartholomew.

There isn't much info out there. Lots and lots of press coverage of Pope Benedict XVI making nice to that Mufti and showing how much he 'respects' Islam (although I don't buy it) in the Blue Mosque, which is your typical Muslim inferiority complex in stone and tile (and still doesn't hold a candle to the Hagia Sophia).

AP does say this:

"The divisions which exist among Christians are a scandal to the world," the pope said after joining Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to mark the feast day of St. Andrew, who preached across Asia Minor and who, tradition says, ordained the first bishop of Constantinople.

Reuters gives the quote as continuing "and an obstacle to the proclamation of the gospel."

There were apparently a series of events intended to rebuild ties. This is a good thing in my opinion. Notice that while the Pope's show of Politically Correct respect to Islam has been trumpted world-wide, there is, buried in the bottom paragraphs of the story, just a little bit about how he would really like it if Turkey would ease restrictions on religious minorities, most especially the Orthodox community which looks to the Patriarch.

Or, from the joint declaration of both the Pope and Patriarch,

"4. We have viewed positively the process that has led to the formation of the European Union. Those engaged in this great project should not fail to take into consideration all aspects affecting the inalienable rights of the human person, especially religious freedom, a witness and guarantor of respect for all other freedoms. In every step towards unification, minorities must be protected, with their cultural traditions and the distinguishing features of their religion. In Europe, while remaining open to other religions and to their cultural contributions, we must unite our efforts to preserve Christian roots, traditions and values, to ensure respect for history, and thus to contribute to the European culture of the future and to the quality of human relations at every level. In this context, how could we not evoke the very ancient witnesses and the illustrious Christian heritage of the land in which our meeting is taking place, beginning with what the Acts of the Apostles tells us concerning the figure of Saint Paul, Apostle of the Gentiles? In this land, the Gospel message and the ancient cultural tradition met. This link, which has contributed so much to the Christian heritage that we share, remains timely and will bear more fruit in the future for evangelization and for our unity."

Translation: You Turks forget that Anatolia has always been a part of Europe because of the Christians living there. Stop abusing them. They were here first.

His Holiness Benedict XVI is apparently looking to heal the rift between the East and West on his watch. I'm not sure how that can be done short of a full, proper Ecumenical Council. Certaintly rump Councils consisting of Western bishops and a handful of Eastern delegates under heavy pressure to achieve unity have been tried in the past. Unfortunately, they tended to be held under conditions such that there was no debate, and the result was essentially a demand that the Orthodox Church meekly knuckle under to the Bishop of Old Rome. The pseudo-unions were rejected out of hand by the vast majority of the faithful, the monastic communities, and a majority of the hierarchy of the time and have as their only legacies further bitterness on both sides and a tiny community of Uniates who get static from both sides.

What would be required? First, a full council would have several hundred delegates from both sides. You couldn't have a handful of theologians sitting around making these decisions. You'd need a broad base of support for the Council's decisions.

The theological talks that are laying a basis for this Council have recently resumed.

"In treating the topic “Conciliarity and Authority in the Church” at local, regional and universal levels, the Commission undertook a phase of study on the ecclesiological and canonical consequences of the sacramental nature of the Church. This will permit us to address some of the principal questions that are still unresolved. "

Let me be blunt--as His All Holiness is far to diplomatic to be. The question of authority underlies every single issue between East and West and must be addressed. When a mutually satisfactory formula which soothes the Papal ego yet permits the East to retain our autocephaly as it has been historically understood and practiced, and which reconfirmed the principal of conciliarity as the final arbiter of disputes (vice the Latin practice of trusting in the 'infallible' authority of one bishop), then all other differences in practice can be settled in (relatively) short order. By this I mean, no more than a generation or two. Anyone betting on reuninion in my lifetime is making a sucker bet.

Anyone wanting to read the official statements and declarations in full can wander on over to The Patriarchal website (of COURSE His All Holiness can be found at www.patriarchate.org. I love the 21st Century) where the speeches of welcome are the featured presentation, but the good bit is the Common Declaration at the top of the "Orthodox-Catholic Relations" category.

2 Comments:

Blogger sophia said...

Thanks so much, John. This was helpful. I was getting impatient and doubtful that you were going to grant my request to write an article about this. So, I wrote a post myself.

However, I was missing your insight and historical knowledge of the background of the situation.

I agree with your assessment about what would need to happen for the two could unify.

Thanks again!

3:27 AM  
Anonymous nerdasaaurus said...

Anyone betting on reuninion in my lifetime is making a sucker bet.

20 years ago, I would have thought it impossible for the two church heads to even be within 500 miles of each other. Since Vatican II (and Karol Wojytla--JP2) I am amazed at the changes within the catholic faiths (and I use the plural of that word deliberately).

If the current and subsequent popes are as significant as was JP2--or even half as significant--then I will take NO BETS on what Christianity will look like in 50 years.

I am convinced that if the RC church were able to produce oh---2 or 300 years worth of guys like JP2, I would be a Catholic.....and so would you.

Now, if you want to write a dificult alternative history....lets write one about the world 200 years after the Eastern and Western churches reunite.

8:56 AM  

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