Skip to comments.Orthodox Archbishop: We're Internally Divided on Question of 'Primacy'
Posted on 09/30/2011 7:59:14 AM PDT by marshmallow
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 30, 2011 / 12:51 am (CNA).- A leading Russian Orthodox official says the Eastern Orthodox churches have yet to resolve the question of authority among themselves, a condition for future progress on the issue of the papacy.
I would say that there are certain divergences, and there are different positions, of the Orthodox churches on the question of the primacy, said Metropolitan Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, in a Vatican Radio interview following his Sept. 29 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo.
As we discuss the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, within the framework of the next commission, we do not only discuss the primacy of Rome; but we have to touch the issue of the primacy in general, noted the Orthodox metropolitan, apparently referring to future proceedings of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
And here, of course, we have different traditions not only between the Catholics and the Orthodox, because we never had such a centralized system as the Catholics have but we also have some difference among the Orthodox, as to what should be the role of the 'first hierarch' in the Orthodox Church. The Patriarch of Constantinople occupies that role, but his prerogatives are not fully defined.
Metropolitan Hilarion was scheduled to participate in the last session of the Catholic-Orthodox commission, held in 2007 to discuss the question of papal primacy. But an internal dispute between Constantinople and Moscow, over an Orthodox group in Estonia, prompted the Russian representative to walk out. The two churches also dispute the status of the Orthodox Church in America.
On Thursday, the metropolitan made an apparent reference to these types of difficulties between the Patriarchs of Moscow and Constantinople, saying that if a particular Orthodox church will want to impose its own vision of this primacy on other churches, then of course we will encounter difficulties. And this is what is happening at the moment.
Meanwhile, the world's local self-governing Orthodox churches are also attempting to organize a historic Pan-Orthodox Council, comparable to the Church councils held in the Byzantine empire during the first millennium. The new gathering has been in preparation for 50 years, as the Orthodox world seeks to determine how the Patriarch of Constantinople should exercise his authority.
We believe that his role should be the primacy of honor, and also he is afforded some coordinating role: for example, he can convene the Pan-Orthodox Council, said Archbishop Hilarion. Of course, previously in the history of the ecumenical councils it was not the Patriarch of Constantinople, neither was it the Pope of Rome, but it was the (Byzantine) Emperor, who convened the councils.
So we have this model (of primacy), which is emerging in the Orthodox tradition. But generally, for centuries we had a very decentalized administration. Each autocephalous church is fully independent from other churches in its self-governance. And therefore we do not have a very clear picture as to what should be the role of the primate in the Orthodox tradition.
Without having this clear and unified vision, we cannot easily discuss the issue of how we see the role of the 'Primus Inter Pares' ('first among equals,' an Orthodox concept of the papacy) in the universal Church, Metropolitan Hilarion admitted.
The phrase first among equals signifies the typical Orthodox view of the Pope as having a primacy of honor but not jurisdiction. In his 2010 book Light of the World, Pope Benedict said the first among equals view of the Pope was not exactly the formula that we believe as Catholics, due to the Pope's specific functions and tasks.
Until Orthodoxy clarifies its own systems of authority, Archbishop Hilarion said, hopes for progress on the question of the papacy between Catholics and Orthodox are probably not too high.
But still, there is hope, because if there is willingness to accommodate different positions and to produce a paper or several papers, maybe which would clearly state the differences, which would outline the way forward, then we can progress.
The Moscow Patriarchate's ecumenical representative also expressed hesitation about a possible meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow, which has never occurred in the centuries since Moscow's elevation to patriarchal status in 1589.
There are hopes that such a meeting could take place in 2013, on the 1,700th anniversary of Christianity's legalization by the Emperor Constantine. But Archbishop Hilarion said Catholics and Russian Orthodox believers should not jump to conclusions about when a meeting may occur between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow.
We believe that such a meeting will take place at some time in the future. We are not yet ready to discuss the date, or the place, or the protocol of such a meeting because what matters for us, primarily, is the content of this meeting.
As soon as we agree on the content, on the points on which we still disagree or have divergent opinions, then I believe we can have this meeting. But it requires a very careful preparation, and we should not be hurrying up, and we should not be pressed to have this meeting at a particular point of time.
Despite his cautious attitude toward this meeting and other ecumenical matters, Metropolitan Hilarion spoke warmly of Pope Benedict XVI himself. During his recent trip to Germany, the Pope met with representatives of the Orthodox churches in the country, and spoke of a common engagement among Christians to ensure that the human person is given the respect which is his due.
His Holiness is a man of faith and whenever I meet with him Im encouraged by his spirit, his courage and his dedication to the life of the Church worldwide, Metropolitan Hilarion said after his meeting with the Pope on Thursday.
Of course Im very impressed by his knowledge of the Orthodox tradition and the attention he pays to the dialogue between the Catholics and the Orthodox
I believe that this attitude of the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church will greatly help us in our way towards better mutual understanding.
incredible...they continue to squabble amongst themselves, as ‘equals’, thus accomplishing nothing of note.....
I will stick with the historicity of papal supremacy, i.e. not revisionist ‘first among equals’ crap.....
Reconciliation between Catholicism and Orthodoxy depends on resolving the definition of papal primacy to everyone’s satisfaction. The Orthodox will never swim the Tiber.
Do you think they will swim, if the primacy issue gets resolved to their satisfaction?
So here we go, you aren't a very educated Roman Catholic are you. Question for you. When is the feast of St. Peter? Another one. Where is your icon of the Church? When you figure out those answers you can have an intelligent discussion with the Orthodox.
Looking only at the structural differences, both have advantages and disadvantages. I don't think there is such a thing a 'perfect' in this matter.
The way I read this is that the Orthodox would need some type of more hierarchical structure in order to speak with one voice about reconciliation with the West.
I believe, and pray, a way will be found.
We don't view or define "church" in the same way, so there's a communications problem here.
For us, Church is the Body of Christ, the pillar and foundation of all Truth, established by Our Saviour, and through which His Sacraments are given. The head of the Church is Christ's representative on earth. Being in communion is very important to us. It is being One in Christ by living a Sacramental Life.
Non-Catholics see church much differently. I'm posting this not to argue the differences, but to explain them.
So here we go, you aren’t a very educated Roman Catholic are you. Question for you. When is the feast of St. Peter? Another one. Where is your icon of the Church? When you figure out those answers you can have an intelligent discussion with the Orthodox.
ME: so here we go, you arent a very educated orthodox are
you? Question for you. Where was the orthodox church and their patriarchs during the first few centuries, while Rome had the papacy? When squabbles and heresies broke out, who straightened them out, the patriarchs or the successor’s of Peter in rome? when you figure out those answers you can have an intelligent discussion with the roman catholics
JMO but how far apart could the two be on issues? ...perhaps three marriages issue is the bugger? As an RC I think that is more appropriate as the Jews have the same deal. So why doesn’t the RC just agree to everything the Orthodox espouse and they then have one church. The Pope can always change things slowly over the next century or so until things are as they are in the RC church today. Again JMO
They won’t “swim” if swimming needs to be on Rome’s terms entirely (conversion). That is, going to Rome. They need to believe they are meeting Rome halfway.
Who is the "neck" that connects the head to the body, in your church?
Yes that is correct for us as well. As we view Church, Christ is the head, the Church, more specifically the Communion of Saints, is the Mystical Body of Christ. The head of the Church is Christ’s representative on earth.
Concerning the neck question, I’ve seen other analogies discussed; however, for this purpose, concerning Church, the neck is part of the Body.
There are no official church teachings on the matter of who is the “neck”?
Not to my knowledge, although I recall some using it in an analogy.
Christ as Head, the Church, the Communion of Saints, the Body of Christ are the big and important teachings.
Catholics and Orthodox agree on far more despite their schism than Lutheran and Baptists do.
There is only one Peter.
I still hope and pray for unity, and will continue to do so. Brick by brick.
Didn’t think you’d be able to answer my questions but I thought you might try. I guess you are admitting you have no idea.
You ask where the Orthodox Patriarchs were in the first few centuries... Are you even aware that Peter founded the Patriarchate of Antioch BEFORE he went to Rome? Are you even aware that Peter AND PAUL founded Rome, not just Peter?
So there, I answered your question and you haven’t even attempted to answer mine. Good try at changing the subject though.
Here is Metropolitan Hilarion site.
A good article from earlier this year
Catholic and Orthodox Unity: Close Enough to Imagine
“Therefore, dearly beloved brother, have humility with all your heart. It is that which inspires peace among the brethren...What will you say to Christ, Who is the Head of the universal Church - what will you say to Him at the last judgment - you, who by your title of universal, would bring all His members into subjection to yourself? Whom I pray you tell me, whom do you imitate by this perverse title if not Lucifer who, despising the legions of angels, his companions, endeavored to mount to the highest?...But if anyone usurp in the Church a title which embraces all the faithful, the universal Church - O blasphemy! - will then fall with him, since he makes himself to be called the universal. May all Christians reject this blasphemous title - this title which takes the sacerdotal honor from every priest the moment it is insanely usurped by one.”
—Pope St. Gregory The Great, 590-604 AD
“Question for you. When is the feast of St. Peter?”
Peters chief feast day is June 29. He is also honored on February 22 and November 18.
“Where is your icon of the Church?”
In heaven with her Son - MARY - ESCHATOLOGICAL ICON OF THE CHURCH (CCC 972)
And we will retain the historic ‘first among equals’ ideal and reject the revisionism of papal supremacy.
Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev composed and wrote music for the choir and orchestra for the “The Passion according to St Matthew”
Here is some of it on youtube,it’s wonderful
I really can appreciate the gift he has because my oldest daughter is a vocalist with a music degree who has sang in opera’s in europe.
The communists seized them and gave them to the Orthodox, and after the fall of communism, they were rightfully returned to the Ukrainian Catholics.
To demand they be given back to the Orthodox as a prerequisite for a meeting between the Pope and the Russian Patriarch is simply untenable, especially considering The Holodomor, the "terror-famine" carried out against Ukrainian Catholics by the Russians in the 1930s.
Met. Hilarion is both right and wrong on this question of primacy, for reasons I discuss in detail here: http://easternchristianbooks.blogspot.com/2011/09/orthodox-diversity-on-problem-of.html
Don’t trust the spin of the Moscow Times Press. This like trusting what the NY Times plus 10 has to say regarding anything
I've been following Metropolitan Hilarion's career very closely for several years, because of his overtures to Rome.
In the past, I've been troubled by his defense of apokatastasis, but this statement about the Ukrainian church eclipses those concerns.
I’m not sure what point your trying to make here?
Are you saying Bishop Hilarion and Pope Benedict XVI can never work together towards unity?
I'm not sure either. I guess I just had high hopes for Hilarion, and his recent comments about the Ukraine indicate he's just another Russian politician-cleric.
Perhaps this detailed article will help you see there is hope and good intentions between the Russian Orthodox and us.
Time heals many wounds,my friend.
Even among the Russian Orthodox. There are deep divisions between those like Archbishop Illarion with benign attitude toward the Western Church and then there are those who call him, o horrors, a crypto-Catholic and crypto-Jew. There are division between the Russion Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (the one that collaborated with the God-hating Soviet regime) and the remnant of the Russian Catacomb Church that primarily looks to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, -- which itself is divided over the union with, -- no, not Rome, -- with Moscow.
At times I regret I read Russian.
Excellent commentary, thank you for the link!
Of course they don't need to -- the Orthodox are, just like us Catholics (all 22 rites), fully part of the Apostolic Church.
These are the two lungs of the One Holy Apostolic Catholic Church.
The more important point which is what we are doing now is working and praying together. We face common foes and we must stand together. Unity on practical matters (like standing back to back against secularism and Islam) is doable and we should do it -- the rest is up to God.
The central focus of Christendom is Christ, as always. however, day-to-day practicalities have to be met, decisions made etc.
do note Genoa that that is a known anti-orthodoxy (Catholic and Orthodox) baiter. That kind doesn’t really care about us as they hate all of orthodoxy and only seek to exacerbate differences. While their own club (the PCUSA) crumbles, that group wishes to claw down others
Hence Rome had to have a stronger organizational structure, a stronger administration as it could not rely on the Imperial structure that the East could
the bishop of rome was always the spiritual first among equals. During the first few centuries the Patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria played an important role too as did the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Patriarch of Rome did provide the primus inter pares role as a deciding factor thanks to God's grace in many ways
If you mean the main Orthodox Churches today, with the exception of Constantinople and Greece, the rest are offshoots of Greece.
When squabbles and disputes broke out in the first few centuries the decisions were taken in council -- yes the Bishop of Rome played a "most respected" role.
to the point of today -- this dispute that we are discussing here is really about administration. I argue that the de-centralized form of Orthodoxy is good when the entire country is united -- then to be Russian you must be Orthodox, ditto for the Serbs, Romanians etc. and I argue centralised form of Catholicism makes sense when the government is against Christianity -- as we compare the state of the Church in Poland compared to say Estonia or Belarus (Lutheran and Orthodox respectively).
Both administration methods had their uses, but this is a new era and we need to remember the case of our Coptic brethren -- in the early years of the Islamic conquest of Egypt, to be Egyptian meant to be Christian. But the Moslems slowly Arabized the land. Then it became, to be Arabic, you must be Moslem. Hence the method of tying religion to a cultural domain failed unless you change that person's culture (incidently the Catholics in India until recently rejected Hindu culture, making them almost aliens in their own land, but now it is changing).
Coincidentally, did you know that Patriarch Alexei of Russia is of Baltic German extraction?
The eastern half of Ukraine, east of the Dnieper is Russian in ethnicity and the western half is mostly ukrainian. But you go to a village near Lwów for example and ask them if they feel Russian or Ukrainian or Polish and they say "none, we are from here only".
This is technically "open land" and for Hilarion to be seen to "give up" would immediately turn Russian people, devout or otherwise against him.
little baby steps have to be taken, we cannot expect a sudden movement to undo a millenia of misunderstandings.