Saturday, October 18, 2008

Patriarch of Constantinople Addresses Synod with the Pope

(AP)In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, patriarch Bartholomew, at far right seated, prays with Pope Benedict XVI, at far left, in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, Saturday Oct. 18, 2008. During the historic first, Bartholomew urged Catholics and Orthodox to work together to combat fundamentalism and promote religious tolerance. Benedict praised his guest on the occasion of an Orthodox leader's first time at a service in the chapel, frescoed by Michelangelo, where pontiffs are elected. Bartholomew's participation in the Vespers service and speech is a 'joyous experience of unity, perhaps not perfect, but true and deep,' Pope Benedict said.
(Asia News) Benedict XVI said, "Your fathers are also our fathers, and ours are yours: if we have the same fathers, how can we not be brothers?" Behind the two of them, who were seated on chairs of equal size, the depiction of the last judgment in the Sistine Chapel.
It was in the most famous of the chapels in the apostolic palace, in fact, that this afternoon the first vespers for the 29th Sunday of ordinary time were celebrated, "on the occasion of the participation of ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I in the work of the 12th assembly of the synod of bishops." "At this moment, we have truly experienced the synod," the pope commented, speaking spontaneously at the end of the extensive address by the patriarch. "Hearing the word of God," he added, "also opens one's eyes to the realities of today," and the "fathers" of the synod "will continue their work illuminated by the words" of Bartholomew.
The patriarch of Constantinople, after speaking of the "historic event" because of his very presence at the synod, expressed his hope of arriving one day at "full unity" between Orthodox and Catholics, overcoming the current differences and agreeing "fully over the role of primacy and collegiality in the life of the Church." Bartholomew also indicated some concrete objectives: "as disciples of God," he added, "it is more imperative than ever to present a single perspective, beyond social, political, and economic views, on the need to uproot poverty, promote equilibrium in the globalized world, combat fundamentalism and racism, and develop religious tolerance in a world of conflict."


Physiocrat said...

Right sort of ecumenism.

Anonymous said...

Bartholomew I is not the spiritual leader of all Orthodox Christians. He is not an 'Orthodox Pope' though one suspects he would like to be.

Bartholomew has in practice a relatively small number of Orthodox under his jurdisdiction in the Middle East and in theory those in the Diaspora who are not attached to other jurisdictions. Even in Greece the Orthodox are under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Athens not Bartholomew.

In Orthodoxy patriarchates have an administrative and practical purpose; because on is more ancient than another should not mean, according to some scholars (e.g. Sherrard, 'Church, Papacy & Schism') that they have jurisdiction over others. The effective 'first' patriarhate in Orthodoxy today is that of Moscow having many times more Christians under its jurisdiction than any other.

As Constantinople continues to decline, and I understand there will come a time when the Turkish Goverment will claim the Phanar, it is interesting to see echoes of a similar process to that which occured in Rome after the loss of the Papal States.

Anonymous said...

Old believer,
That's the problem when you claim the first Rome has fallen, they continue to fall. I remember in the 70s, Orthodox saying Rome has fallen, Constantinople has fallen, Moscow has fallen, New York, the fourth Rome, alone stands.

PeterHWright said...

What Old Believer says is most interesting.

I would however suggest that there is a difference between the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch.

Even after the loss of the Papal States, the Vatican somehow maintained its sovereignty, which was of course recognised by the Italian state in the Lateran Treaty of 1929.

Thus, the Pope as head of the Vatican City State, is the subject of no man. The Patriarch of Constantinople, despite his continued occupation of the Phanar, is in practical terms a subject of the state of Turkey.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Use your real name, "Anonymous" comments are always rejected.

just reject two

Anonymous said...

Fr. Ray,

My apologies. I hit the wrong button.

Old Believer

Anonymous said...

Of course, Dr. Wright is correct whilst the pope is still Head of State of Vatican City Bartholomew is in the Phanar by 'kind' permission of the Turkish Government. I understand he actually has to ask to be let out of the country.

However, the point I was trying to make is that with the loss of the papal states the pope acted with an increased spiritual authority e.g. the number of bishops appointed by the pope before 1850 was minimal, and of course the solemn definitions of dogmas. It is not a coincidence that this increase in the excercise of spiritual authority coincided with a significant loss of temporal power.

Bartholomew I is constantly seeking to increase the flagging status of Constantinople. Recently he has upset other patriarchs, particularly Moscow, with attempts to gain control over particular churches notably in Estonia, the Ukraine and even the Russian Church here in the UK with the unfortunate turmoil caused by Bishop Basil (Osborne). Invariably, Bartholomew always backs down when challenged by other patriarchates.

If Pope Benedict were to offer Bartholomew, the purely hypothetical, Office of 'Deputy Pope' the latter would almost certainly grab the chance. He would in doing so be renounced by 99.99% of his followers and the patriarchs. There would be a repeat of events after the Council of Florence.

In Orthodoxy the fullness of the Church is found in the Bishop celebrating the liturgy in the local church. The whole idea of unity is very different to a modern Roman understanding. In Orthodoxy it is an intrinsic unity created by being in communion with what the church believes rather than being in communion with a certain heirarch. Sherrard's book to which I refered earlier is an excellent study for those who are seriously interested in East-West relations. Trying to reconcile two entirely different models of church authority is a seemingly impossible task unless one side reforms its model into conformity with the other.

Anonymous said...

As an Estonian Orthodox, I am sick of how the Moscow Patriarch tries to interfere. Moscow can't understand that the Russian Imperium is no more.

Anonymous said...

Marc Datz(Ukrainian Greek Catholic)
I fully support Patriarch Bartholomew's work toward unity. Old believers should stay in the past. We are all new believers in Christ! We need Bartholomew's ecumenism, not Russia's imperialism to bring the churchs together after 1000 years of schism. Our priority is to bring the two apostolic churchs together and then we could worry about the rest of the protestant churches, who have been in schism for 500 years with Rome, but technically not in schism with Eastern Orthodoxy, because the Reformation did not effect the Eastern world.

Anonymous said...


Whilst Russia no longer, sadly, has a Tsar I think it would be wrong not to consider that it has an 'empire' by whatever name one chooses to call it. Russia is growing in terms of both its political power and religious authority, the latter greatly helped by the healing of the division between the Patriarchate and ROCOR.

The opposite view to your own is expressed by writers such as ROCOR's Fr. Andrew (Phillips) on his 'Orthodox England' website -"..the uncanonical ‘Autonomous Estonian Orthodox Church’. This is a collection of small, modernist parishes in Estonia, recently set up by the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the canonical territory of the Russian Church with the political backing and meddling of the Estonian government."

Anonymous said...

Marc Datz says:
"Old believers should stay in the past."

A value of the study of history is surely to learn from the mistakes of the past. The Old Believer reaction to the imposition by the highly authoritarian Patriarch Nikon has strong parallels with what most posts on this blog are about in one way or another i.e. ritual modernity and the issues in Roman Catholicism today.

Nikon imposed tranlations of contemporary Greek service books believing them to be a purer source than the books which had developed, organically, in Russia. From our modern perspective we can see that in fact it was the Greeks who had 'modernised' whilst the old Russian books were very close indeed to the rites they had recieved several hundred years earlier.

The effect of even, to modern Catholics, slight changes in the liturgy like how the Sign of the Cross is made or the number of prostrations in the Prayer of St. Ephraem resulted in riots and ultimately executions.

Whilst reaction to the twentieth century Roman reforms was far less dramatic, I suspect that supressed anger and the sense of grief of losing something which was in reality not just 'liturgical law' but a complex liturgical-sociological matrix, it is a strong contributory factor in why most Western Catholics do not bother with regular church attendance.

Liturgy is far more than an extension of canon law. It has deep sociological and ritual dimensions the reformers did not even consider.

Far from saying Old Believers belong in the past I believe understanding what went wrong then has many highly apposite and relevant lessons for today.

I am not denigrating the idea of Unity at all. I merely pointed out that Bartholomew I is not the spiritual leader of all Orthodox. I am sure I will not be popular for saying it but I do suspect the dialogue between Pope Benedict and the Ecumenical Patriarch had its parameters set by modern 'ecumenical correctness' (if I may use such a phrase) rather than theologiclal exploration of what, appear to be, substantial differences.

Anonymous said...

At least 'Old Believer' is not against unity. The Patriarch Of Constantinople(the See of Andrew)is historically the first among orthodox patriarchs and in most times is given that respect! He should set the tone for unification between east and west. In regards to learning from the past, totally in agreement. The eastern liturgy is more original and apostolically linked with the past and present. It keeps us going to church, whereas the western liturgy(Roman rite)has been chopped down so much that people don't attend church anymore. You are right on the money there, old believer!

I implore you again to recognize the value of the See of Andrew, the First Called, in leading the ecumenical dialog for the orthodox side!

Anonymous said...

In Christ Marc,

The ancient first See was Jerusalem not Constantinople. Constantinople got elevated to the position of Second See after the first Council of Constantinople, reflecting of course the political transfer of power from 'Old Rome' to 'New Rome' i.e. Constaninople. In any future re-ranking of the importance of patriarchates Constantinople would, probably, disappear.

I believe you are applying second millenium Latin model of jurisdiction and hierarchy which is alien to Eastern Church government.

I heartily agree with you about the spirit of the Eastern Liturgies. What the West needs is to redisover that spirit of celebration found in the East with its own rites. (A suggestion: start by getting rid of pews, except for the elderly and infirm and said services).

I am sure the Successor of St. Andrew, the First Called, could play make a valuable contribution, but what matters most is Truth. Rome has always said it has the fulless of Unity and Faith; Orthodoxy has said the same. To reach agreement clearly some positions have to be moved away from by both parties which would not be easy as to do so would call into question positions and respective teachings of the past.

Anonymous said...

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory Forever!

Dearest Old Believer,

We are making progress in our ecumenical discourse and getting closer of being on the same page. Rome should take a cue from us! We need much more one-on-one sharing, like we are doing, among regular faithful orthodox and catholics!

In regards to primacy among the ancient sees, Jerusalem was number one, because Christ established the Church there and the Apostles Council and all other firsts go back to Jerusalem. In regards to patriarchates, Jerusalem was number five after Rome, Constantinople, Antioch and Alexandria.(According to Bishop Kallistos/Timothy Ware's book THE ORTHODOX CHURCH and other sources) After the first four ancient sees were elevated to patriarchates, Jerusalem, as the urban birthplace of our Church, was also bestowed that honor.

In second Millenium Latin church authority structure, the Pope of Rome is the supreme pontiff. He is more than the old concept of 'first among equals', which is recognized by both east and west. I believe patriarchs are to be on an equal footing when the churches unify. The mistakes of Vatican One, Papal Infallability most of all,are to be cast aside and the concept of infallability is to be applied to the Church Synod or Council, whichever title is to be bestowed on the Church's highest governing body, once unification is complete. An office of pope or patriarch should not enjoy individual infallability, as ancient church Tradition dictates! I am sure we agree on this point!!

The west needs to review its liturgical traditions for sure. The Romans need to look at what happened to its liturgy since Vatican Two and return it to a more spiritual, mysterious and sanctifying experience. As you know this is going on in many places! Remember the 'rock-n-roll mass' of the 1970's with Coca-Cola and Wonder Bread eucharist!?! That was Vatican Two out of control and out of proper interpretation and implementation!!!

TRUTH, TRUTH and TRUTH!!! We must pray to the Holy Spirit to get around Orthodox and Catholic truth on the ecumenical discussion table. Your points on TRUTH are relevant and food for thought!

Peace to you!

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