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Catholic And Orthodox Find Common Ground In Their Understanding Of The Church In The First Millenium

Thursday, October 6, 2016 4:26
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Catholic and Orthodox find common ground in early Church understanding
Member of ecumenical panel explains why the dialogue's latest document is significant
 Shawn Neal  John Burger 
 October 3, 2016

His Beatitude Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria presides over the Divine Liturgy at the Annunciation Church in Kissamos, Crete, during the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, 2016
John Mindala/Ecumenical Patriarchate-cc


The group of scholars and Church leaders trying to forge a way towards the restoration of full communion between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches has come to a common understanding of the relationship between synodality and primacy in the Church in the first 1000 years of Christianity, with particular reference to the role of the Bishop of Rome. A document they agreed upon at a recent meeting in the Italian town of Chieti acknowledges the primacy of Rome among the original five patriarchal sees of the Church.

The Chieti document, “Synodality and Primacy During the First Millennium: Towards a Common Understanding in Service to the Unity of the Church,”also gives Catholic-Orthodox dialogue a common basis on which to build, says Msgr. Paul McPartlan, a member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church that hammered out the agreement.

Their document explores both the primacy of the bishop, the metropolitan or patriarch, and the pope, and “synodality”—the collegial relations among bishops rooted in the communion of all the faithful in the Church.

Msgr. McPartlan, professor of systematic theology and ecumenism at the Catholic University of America, spoke with Aleteia about the document and its significance in advancing the hoped-for unity of Catholic and Orthodox.

The meeting in Chieti, which was the commission’s 14th plenary session, released its document Sept. 22. Would you summarize its document?

I think the document is very significant because it’s nine years since the last Catholic-Orthodox agreed statement—agreed at Ravenna in 2007—and in that time we have been working on what everybody knows is the most difficult issue of all between us, which is the relationship between synodality and primacy at three levels in the Church’s life—local, regional and universal—but especially wanting to address the universal level, where, of course, the major difficulties between East and West have occurred in history, with regard to the role of the pope as universal primate.

Two previous draft documents failed, in Vienna (2010) and Amman (2014), so this present agreement, at the third attempt, is very important. It’s quite a short document, but I think it’s quite substantial. It establishes that the basis for synodality in the Church is the life of God, the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So we have a very theological core to the text, and it says that primacy and synodality are interrelated and complementary at all levels of the life of the Church. It treats the local level, with the local Church around its bishop, then the regional level, where you have the metropolitan or the patriarch with the bishops of a region or a territory.

And then it goes to the universal level, and acknowledges the ancient taxis (the canonical order of bishops) of the five patriarchal sees [Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem], with Rome in the first place. So Rome is acknowledged as having a universal primacy, but very much in the context of synodality, and it tries to indicate from the first millennium, which is the era that Catholics and Orthodox agree we are looking to for guidance, some very significant aspects of how the pope, as bishop of Rome, related to the wider Church. There are three things in particular that it mentions there:

  • It talks about the involvement of the pope in the ecumenical councils. The bishop of Rome never attended ecumenical councils in the first millennium, but it was always the case that either he had delegates at the council or he accepted the council’s teaching post-factum. The second Council of Nicaea in 787 gave some criteria for an ecumenical council and acknowledged that the involvement of the bishop of Rome was essential for a council to be recognized as ecumenical. So popes are always involved somehow in an ecumenical council.
  • Then it talks about the role of the pope that we find in the first millennium as a court of appeal, because appeals were made to the bishop of Rome even from the Church in the East in the first millennium (along with appeals to other major sees). The rules for that were very carefully clarified at the Council of Sardica in 343. It’s clear there was no recognition that the pope had direct jurisdiction in the East, but nevertheless bishops from the East could make an appeal to him, and so, what we say is that that practice manifested the communion of the Church. The bishop of Rome has a special role in the communion of the Church.
  • Finally, and perhaps of the greatest importance, is the recognition that the ordering, or taxis, of the patriarchal sees is deeply rooted in the Eucharist. So we go back to the very foundations of our dialogue, the very first document, the Munich document of 1982, which laid a Eucharistic foundation, and adopted a Eucharistic ecclesiology. The Chieti document recognizes that whenever the patriarchs of the Church would come together to celebrate the Eucharist, they would stand in the Eucharist in the order of the taxis, so the taxis is fundamentally related to the celebration which gives the Church its life, namely the Eucharist. Implicitly, therefore, the bishop of Rome as the universal primate, has a very particular link to the Church’s Eucharistic life, and I think that idea is enormously promising for future dialogue and discussion.

In getting to this point, what concessions did each side have to make?

I don’t think that there’s a sense of any concessions, to be honest. I think there’s a genuine effort to find common ground.

I think there’s another very significant aspect of this text. Everybody knows that the Russian Orthodox Church did not accept the Ravenna document from 2007, and ever since 2007 it’s been unclear as to what exactly the common ground between us, Catholics and Orthodox, therefore was. What this document I think does is to restate, without referring to the Ravenna document, some of the fundamental gains of that document: the idea that synodality and primacy are interrelated; the idea that there are three levels in the Church: local, regional, and universal; the idea that there is indeed a primacy in each of those levels and therefore a universal primacy, which Rome has because of occupying the first place in the taxis. And so effectively what we’re doing there is reestablishing the common basis of our dialogue and getting all of the Churches back on the same page. Moscow, of course, took part in the meeting in Chieti. So we now have a common basis, clearly, for all of us, as we move forward in the dialogue.

There was a very good spirit in Chieti; there was a good sense of collaboration and a desire to take a step forward in our discussion.

Will this agreement necessitate that the Catholic Church change Her teaching regarding the role of the Bishop of Rome?

No. We have no mandate as Catholic delegates to the dialogue to change Catholic doctrine and we cannot possibly go against Catholic doctrine. We have to be absolutely faithful to Catholic doctrine as the Orthodox have to be faithful to Orthodox teaching. That’s why the dialogue process is a very careful one, sometimes a very slow one, of listening to one another. And I think one of the points that we have recognized is that the language of jurisdiction, which Catholics often associate with the pope, is very much a terminology of the second millennium. So when we look at the first millennium it would be anachronistic to speak about the universal jurisdiction of the pope. What instead we have to do is look at the very significant role the pope played in the communion life of the Church, a role that was recognized in the East as well as the West. Although it is clear that the pope related rather differently to the Church in the West than to the Church in the East, nevertheless the bishop of Rome was recognized in the East as playing an important role in the Church as a whole.

What must yet be resolved before we can mutually say we are in full communion with each other?

Clearly we have to deal with the second millennium in some way. This needs to be discussed next year by the joint coordinating committee to decide exactly what we will do next. We have been looking at the first millennium and we have established a very good common basis. The Chieti document says that we must now build upon that common basis from the first millennium, but the Church’s life continues, there has been a second millennium, in which there were developments, good and not so good, on both sides. So we need somehow to address the second millennium. The Orthodox, and especially the Russian Orthodox, very much want to address the question of uniatism [Eastern Christians who entered into union with Rome at various points in the second millennium, but kept their liturgy and traditions, such as the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church]. The theological dialogue already produced an agreed statement on that important matter in 1993. There may well be more work we need to do on that. But the precise context in which to do that work has yet to be agreed.

Somehow we have to reckon with the second millennium, but I hope very much that we can do so in a positive spirit. We agree that the basis for our moving forward today is the witness and the life of the undivided Church in the first millennium, and we have clarified some important points from the first millennium in the new document. We mustn’t get too bogged down in the second millennium, which is a very complex era.



John Burger
John Burger is a news editor at Aleteia. He formerly worked at the National Catholic Register and Catholic New York in the Archdiocese of New York. He has also written for a wide variety of Catholic publications.
- See more at: http://aleteia.org/2016/10/03/catholic-and-orthodox-find-common-ground-in-early-church-understanding/#sthash.IcudzqZz.dpuf

THE VISIT OF POPE FRANCIS TO THE GEORGIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH

WHAT THE ORTHODOX EXPECTED
FROM THE VISIT OF POPE FRANCIS
my source: Pravmir.com

Hieromonk Mikhail, from the Communications Office of the Patriarchate, spoke of the Georgian Orthodox Church’s expectations for the Pope’s visit.

“Мы надеемся и верим, что такие визиты …

We hope and believe that the meeting of the leaders of our ancient Churches will always have a positive conclusion. As you know, at a certain point in history, the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches lost their unity in prayer and in the Eucharist; that unity that existed before the XI century, and with the Georgian Church until the XII century. Afterwards, internal differences within our confessions began to take shape: we have our Patriarch and the Catholics have their own, we have different beliefs. But these differences should not result in radical stances amongst believers. 

I believe that this meeting will solve these issues. People can clearly see there is no hostility between us, as between other believers who do not understand the tragedy of the schism and the complexity of reunification. Therefore, we expect this to take us a step further towards the future… 

Each time, that during the liturgy we pray the first ‘ektenia’, we always pray “for peace in the world, for the good of the holy Churches of God and for the unity for all”. Our prayer is always that the moment may arrive in which the problems that exist between us be resolved, and that – by the grace of God – we may be totally united in Christ. Therefore, this visit is a firm step forward to get closer and to resolve the radical impulses hidden in some faithful. We trust in this.”

Pope Francis embraced by Orthodox leader on visit to Georgia. 30/09/2016
my source: Breaking News

Pope Francis issued a vague rebuke to Russia on Friday and received an unexpectedly warm welcome from the leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church as he mixed geopolitics with religion on the first day of a three-day trip to the Caucasus. During a speech with the Georgian president at his side, Francis insisted on Georgia's “sovereign rights” in a veiled reference to two breakaway regions over which Russia has effective control. Francis backed Georgia's demand that residents who fled during a brief 2008 war with Russia be allowed to return home. But the appeal was in some ways dwarfed by the surprisingly heartfelt welcome Francis received from Patriarch Ilia II, the ailing Orthodox leader who is the most respected figure in Georgia.

 Crouched over his cane, Ilia welcomed Francis as “my dear brother”. “May the Lord bless the Catholic Church of Rome,” Ilia said in toasting the pope at the Orthodox patriarchate in Tbilisi. “May the Lord give a long life to Your Holiness, Pope Francis.” 

It was a vastly different welcome than in 1999, when St John Paul II visited Georgia. At that time, Catholic-Orthodox tensions were so high that the Georgian Orthodox Church urged its faithful to stay away from the pope's Mass. Ilia, who has been patriarch since 1977, referred to John Paul as a head of state, not a religious figure, and declined to share his call for improved ecumenical relations. 

This time around, Ilia is sending an official delegation to Francis' Mass on Saturday. And on Friday, he stressed the ancient ties of their churches. “We have lived in brotherly love for 20 centuries. I must say that we also had many problems, but we have overcome those problems with prayers and God's blessing,” Ilia said. 

Georgian analysts say the turn-around in attitude has nothing to do with personalities but is based on Georgia's geopolitical ambitions. Georgia is anxious to join Nato and is pursuing an eventual membership in the 28-nation European Union. The papal visit is being seen in Georgia as the government's attempt to win allies among Europe's Catholic nations. 

Not all in the Georgian church shared Ilia's view, however. A few dozen hard-line Orthodox faithful opposed to Francis' visit demonstrated outside the airport and also outside the Chaldean church where Francis held a peace prayer for the people of Syria and Iraq. The demonstrators carried banners that read: “The Vatican is a spiritual aggressor”, and “Death of papism”. 

But in another sign of warm ties, the Georgian Church defended its decision to host the pope and criticised the protests. “We would like to stress that we view as unacceptable the negative statements made in public by some men of the cloth of the Georgian Orthodox Church regarding this official visit, and we urge them and everyone to be calm,” the Georgian Orthodox Church said in a statement. “The pope is definitely conducting the mass for Catholics, and we cannot consider this an act of proselytism.” 

Francis has made a point of engaging as many Orthodox patriarchs as possible, seeking to mount a common Christian front in the face of attacks against Christians by Islamic extremists in the Middle East. In his remarks upon arrival Friday, Francis never once mentioned Russia or the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s. Russia effectively gained complete control over both regions after a brief war with Georgia in 2008. Georgia considers the territories “occupied” and has demanded that the more than 200,000 people displaced by the fighting be allowed to return home. Francis backed Georgia's call, saying the region's different ethnic, religious and linguistic groups should be allowed to “coexist peacefully in their homeland, or to freely return to that land if for some reason they have been forced to leave it”. “I hope that civil authorities will continue to show concern for the situation of these persons, and that they will fully commit themselves to seeking tangible solutions in spite of any unresolved political questions,” he added. 

A 2014 UN report said authorities in control of South Ossetia and areas around it still do not let ethnic Georgians return to their former homes, apart from one district. The report also spoke of South Ossetia's de-facto authorities detaining Georgians crossing into the areas of their control, such as when farmers go to retrieve stray cattle. Francis has been outspoken in denouncing the plight of refugees and insisting on their rights to both seek asylum abroad or to return home when security conditions permit. He has used many of his trips to press the point, praying for dead migrants at the US-Mexico border and bringing home with him a dozen Syrian refugees from Lesbos, Greece. Georgian president Giorgi Margvelashvili thanked the Holy See for refusing to recognise what he called Russia's “occupation”. 

Georgia is overwhelmingly Orthodox, and Catholics represent less than 3% of the population. But residents – both Catholic and Orthodox – seemed pleased that Francis' visit showed a united Christian front against Islamic religious extremism. “I think in the 21st century, when such things are happening in the world, when in many regions Christians face the threat of almost complete annihilation, we should all get united in order to protect peace,” said Lali Sadatierashvili, a Catholic who was raised in western Georgia, where she had to hide her beliefs during Soviet times. “Pope Francis' visit to Georgia is a call for peace, a call to overcome our differences.” Bachuka Gelashvili, a 50-year-old engineer, waited on Friday outside the Kashveti church for the pope's visit, saying: “Yes, there are people among us Orthodox who are against (the visit) but this is all church internal politics. “I am and will remain Orthodox but it should not stop our contacts. We share the same God.”


POPE FRANCIS' VISIT TO THE ASSYRIAN
CHALDEAN (EASTERN CATHOLIC) CHURCH
TO PRAY FOR PEACE

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis flew into the  nation's capital Tbilisi on Friday 30th of September and his third and last appointment of the day took place at  the Chaldean Catholic Church of Simon 'Bar Sabbae', dedicated to a tenth century Coptic Saint. There he met with representatives of the Assyrian Chaldean community.




Upon his arrival at the Church the Pope was greeted by the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and the local parish priest. Together they entered the Church in procession, making their  way towards the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament therein. .
Among those present were around three hundred faithful from the Assyrian Chaldean 'Diaspora'. Not just from the nation's capital but also from nearby towns and villages. For the record the Catholic Assyrian Chaldean mission in Georgia was instituted in 1995 under Vatican jurisdiction and from that year on the Chaldean rite was celebrated in the nation. But it was only in 2004 that the growing number of Chaldean parishioners prompted the construction of the Church of Saint Simon. 
So it was in this Church on Friday that celebrations took place, beginning with sacred music and prayers in Aramaic. That's before Pope Francis himself prayed for peace in the world.
Speaking in Italian he implored  the Lord to save the victims of injustice and maltreatment from their suffering, to confound the culture of death and make the triumph of life shine forth, to unite to His Cross the sufferings of the many innocent victims: the children, the elderly, and the persecuted Christians. Envelop in Paschal light, he went on to implore, those who are deeply wounded, those who are abused and deprived of freedom and dignity. May those who live in uncertainty experience the enduring constancy of Your kingdom, be they exiles, refugees or those who have lost the joy of living.  Lord Jesus, he continued,  cast forth the shadow of Your Cross over peoples at war, may they learn the way of reconciliation, dialogue and forgiveness. May peoples, so wearied by bombing, experience the joy of Your Resurrection and raise up Iraq and Syria from devastation, reunite your dispersed children under Your gentle kingship. 
Finally before asking Our Lady to intercede in faith and hope Pope Francis asked the Lord to sustain Christians in the 'Diaspora' and grant them unity of faith and love. Only then at the end of his first day in Georgia after praying for peace, in a symbolic gesture he released a dove into the evening air.

The “Our Father” in Aramaic, sung by an Assyrian priest and choir
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MY COMMENT:  ”Orthodoxy without love is the religion of the devil,” said St Gregory the Theologian – I think it was St Gregory the Theologian – and the truth of the next article is valid at every level, including ecumenism.  The Dominican Scripture scholar, Pere C. Spicq, used to say that where there is love, the Church as presence of Christ is visible: without love, the Church becomes invisible, just one institution among others.   The Pope without love becomes an obstacle to unity; patriarchs without love appear simply as politicians; bishops and priests without love disguise their vocation beyond recognition; when Christians are without love, Christ disappears from the world.

Pope Francis has said that his universal jurisdiction only indicates how many feet he must wash, that the only authority in the Church is service and the only power that of the Cross.   It is known that the Georgian Church is one of those who has difficulty with ecumenism; and this became evident on the occasion of the Holy and Great Council.  Both Pope Francis and Patriarch Ilia II have reacted to this as Christians should.  The priest spokesman for the Patriarch points out that disagreement has not given way to hostility because the Pope, like the Patriarch, know how complex the whole question is.  Instead, they have put aside the arguments and have concentrated on strengthening their love, not because they regard the arguments as unimportant, but because they will only be resolved within the context of mutual love.   This is indicated in the Divine Liturgy by the kiss of peace before all recite the Creed with one heart and one mind.
For this, we terminate this post with the following article.

THREE CHRISTIAN VIRTUES: LOVE

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The Divine love is one of the main and most important notions of Christianity. It is inalienable from the notion of freedom. God, the Creator of the universe, made all the living creatures free and let them have their own will. Our freedom is a Divine gift from the Lord to the creatures, who are allowed to live free, but at the same in the union with God. This very form of union is what we call the Divine Love. It is a desire to live and serve not just for one’s own sake, but for our close ones as well.

“No one can say what God’s love is, if the Holy Spirit does not reveal it. But in our Church God’s love is known by the Holy Spirit, and this is why we can talk about it.” (St. Silouan the Athonite)

“The Lord teaches us to believe just like a mother teaches her child to walk. She sets him down, turns aside and tells him to go in her direction.  The child cries without her support and fears to make a step. He tries to go but falls on the ground. This is how God teaches us to believe. Our faith is weak like a child who cannot yet walk. Sometimes God leaves a Christian and make him suffer, but then, when there is a need, He saves him. God is near and He is ready to take a weak Christian in His arms. This is why we should learn to turn our heart to God in case of any grief or devil’s schemes. Pray wholeheartedly and ask Him for help, and then you will get what you want. You just need to know God with your heart and hope for Him, to believe that He is all-merciful. This is how God teaches us to accept our weakness and to hope for Him.” (St. John of Kronstadt).


The life of the heart is love, while rancor and enmity are its death. God makes us live on earth so that love can penetrate and fill our hearts. This is the aim of our temporal world. God’s love arises in us and acts, when we begin to love other people just like we love ourselves; when we do our best to serve other people, our close ones, and are ready to share with them everything we have; when we try to please God instead of pleasing ourselves; when we submit our material mind to God’s mind… In the Holy Scriptures it is said: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John, 4:20) and “And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians, 5:24).

Remember that God is in every Christian. When a person comes to you, have respect for him, as God is in him. The Lord expresses His will through people quite often: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians, 2:13). Be sincere with everyone and be kind towards other people. Remember that sometimes God makes the hearts of the unfaithful turn to us, just like it happened with Joseph: “But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (Genesis, 39:21).

Remember that a human being is a greatest creation of God. But after the fall this creature(human beings) became infirm and subject to many weaknesses. Do love him and respect him, as he is the bearer of the Lord’s image, and carry his weaknesses. It was said: “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans, 15:1), “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians, 6:2).

Do love every human being despite all his faults. In spite of the sins, remember that the image of God is the only basis of a human being. Sometimes peoples’ weaknesses are evident, for example, when they are angry, proud, envious, and mean. However, remember that evil lives in your soul as well. At least, all people are equal in their sins: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans, 3:23). We are all guilty in the face of God and we all need His mercy. That is why we should put up with and forgive each other, so that our Heavenly Father could forgive us for all our sins as well: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew, 6:14). Can you see that God loves us very much, that He has done and has been doing so much for us, that He punishes mercifully and forgives generously? If you want to heal someone from his sins and flaws, then do not try to do it by your own means. In such a way we rather harm than help, for example, because of our pride and impatience. But lay your sorrow upon God and pray wholeheartedly that He enlighten the heart and mind of the person.  And if He sees that your prayer is full of love, He will fulfill your wish. Soon you will notice that the person you have been praying for is going to change.

Being a true Christian who strives to do good and preserve the treasure of love, be happy for every opportunity and be kind towards other people. Do not seek kindness and love, but consider yourself to be unworthy of them. Rejoice best when you have a possibility to help someone. Show your love without any ulterior and mercenary thoughts, and remember that God is love, a Simple Being. Remember that He knows all your thoughts and wishes. Be brave and determined for every good deed, kind words and concern, and especially for sympathy and help. Always say: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians, 4:13), “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark, 9:23). 

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