Skip to comments.Peter and Andrew: Brother Pilgrims to Jerusalem
Posted on 03/22/2013 1:54:51 PM PDT by NYer
Pope Francis met with fraternal delegates of the Orthodox Churches, other Christian churches, and world religions on Wednesday, March 20. These representatives had come to Rome for Francis’ inauguration Mass on Tuesday. Prior to the Wednesday’s meeting, the Holy Father and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople had a 20-minute private conversation. Father Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said the discussion was both “beautiful and intense.” Over the past week, Francis and Bartholomew have set a foundation for further cooperation and dialogue by reaffirming their joint desire to cooperate as Christian brothers in promoting the stewardship of God’s creation, helping the poor and suffering, and witnessing to life in Christ.
Bridge-building between Catholic and Orthodox Christians has not missed a beat following the papal election. It is well known that Pope Francis served as the ordinary for Eastern Catholics in Argentina so he is very familiar with the liturgical traditions of the East. “He knows our Tradition very well,” says Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, “as well as our Liturgy.” Shevchuk was ordained a bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Buenos Aires in 2009 and has worked closely with the current pope.
When Pope Francis appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in simple regalia and humble manner, he used gestures and phrases that Eastern Church hierarchs could not fail to notice. He spoke of the Church of Rome as the church “which presides in love” and referred to himself as the bishop of Rome concerned for the Christians of the city of Rome. Referring to Roman primacy as a “primacy of love” harkens back to the famous second-century quote from St. Ignatius of Antioch in his letter to the Roman church. This choice of wording, which describes the Rome episcopate in terms of pre-schism ecclesiology, could not have been a coincidence.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s attendance at the events this week in Rome likely marks the first time ever that a patriarch of Constantinople has been present for the inauguration of a pope. “This is a profoundly bold step in ecumenical relations between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics,” says George E. Demacopoulos, Ph.D., historian for the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University. “One that could have lasting significance.”
Demacopoulos noted that for the first six centuries, the bishop of Rome was usually chosen from among the priests and deacons of the city. News spread slowly in the first millennium and travel was much more complicated than it is today. The distance between the two cities would have prevented the bishop of Constantinople from attending an inauguration ceremony in Rome. Following the Byzantine re-conquest of the Italian peninsula in the sixth century and until the eighth century, Demacopoulos tells us, “the election of a new Roman bishop [and a new Ecumenical Patriarch] required the approval of the Byzantine emperor.”
“Under such an arrangement,” explains Demacopoulos, “papal elections took longer but there still would be no reason for an Eastern Patriarch to travel to Rome for the installation.” As East and West grew apart culturally, the relationship between Rome and Constantinople was neglected. “Between the ninth and 15th century there are only one or two occasions where a Roman bishop and an Ecumenical Patriarch ever met in person.” The patriarchal sees of Rome and Constantinople have not been in union since 1054.
Considering the history of Rome-Constantinople relations, Demacopoulos sees this as a monumental event for both Christian history and unity:
It demonstrates in unprecedented fashion the extent to which the Ecumenical Patriarch considers the relationship with the Roman Catholic Church to be a priority. The Christian world has been divided for so long that the establishment of an authentic reunion will require courage, leadership, and humility. It will also require a foundation in common faith and concerns. It would appear as though the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic traditions have a renewed opportunity to work collectively on issues of mutual concern. With our Lord's assistance, that common cause can be transformed into more substantive theological work. But such work requires a first step and it would appear as though Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is willing to take such a step.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s visit
Pope Francis was very much aware of the presence of the fraternal delegates at the installation Mass on Tuesday. The themes of Christian love for the poor and protecting the environment are chords that resonate in the heart of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. As a sign of fraternal unity, the gospel was read in Greek, the language of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Following the Mass, Patriarch Bartholomew told members of the press that he was very impressed with Francis, whom he had met for the first time: “This pope is a good shepherd of his faithful… He has shown a real closeness to his people.” Holy Father Francis stated that during the liturgy he experienced “in an even more urgent way the prayer for unity among believers in Christ.” As the representatives of the Christian Churches gathered together to pray, Pope Francis said he could “see somehow foreshadowed that full realization [of unity], which depends on the plan of God and on our loyal collaboration.”
In their private meeting on Wednesday morning, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew invited Pope Francis to travel as a pilgrim to Jerusalem with him in 2014an event that would mark the 50th anniversary of Orthodox-Catholic dialogue in the modern era. This dialogue began in 1964 when Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras made a similar journey to Jerusalem, which led to a renewed effort between these two ancient patriarchal sees to restore communion.
Bartholomew also invited Francis to the Phanar in Istanbul this year for the feast of St. Andrew (November 30). The Phanar is the neighborhood where the cathedral and residence of the Ecumenical Patriarch are found in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople). Benedict XVI met Bartholomew there for the feast of St. Andrew in 2006.
At the official gathering on Wednesday, Bartholomew greeted Holy Father Francis on behalf of all the fraternal delegates: “We wholeheartedly congratulate you on the inspired election and deserved assumption of your new high duties.” And if there were any doubt as to whether or not the Ecumenical Patriarch noticed the Pope’s words on election night, Bartholomew went on to address Francis as, “First Bishop of the venerable Church of Senior Rome, defined by the primacy of love.”
Bartholomew recalled Francis’s predecessor and honored Benedict XVI as a man of “meekness, theology, and love.” He spoke of the “task and responsibility” of building Christian unity that Bartholomew had shared with Benedict and would now share with the Holy Father:
The unity of the Christian Churches is surely our foremost concern as one of the fundamental prerequisites for the credibility of our Christian witness in the eyes of those near and afar. In order to achieve this unity, we must continue the inaugurated theological dialogue so that we may jointly appreciate and approach the truth of faith, the experience of the saints, and the tradition of the first Christian millennium shared by East and West alike. It should be a dialogue of love and truth, in a spirit of humility, meekness, and honesty.
In light of the economic crisis, Bartholomew spoke of his desire to cooperate in a joint effort to alleviate the sufferings of others. He expressed admiration for the model already given by Pope Francis and the witness of his “long and fruitful ministry as a Good Samaritan in Latin America, where [he] pastorally witnessed…the bitterness of human pain and suffering.” He spoke of securing peace through justice and, in the spirit of the Holy Father’s inauguration homily, the Patriarch of Constantinople quoted the gospel mandate to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, treat the suffering, and generally care for the needy so that we may hear from our Lord: ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.’ (Matt. 25.34)”
Likewise, Patriarch Bartholomew praised the “lifestyle of simplicity” lived by the Pope: “This fills the hearts of everyoneyour faithful and all people in generalwith a sense of hope.” Bartholomew implied that such a lifestyle inspires Christians to live generously with love and mercy toward their fellow man.
Patriarch Bartholomew bemoaned the fact that Christian unity has been historically separated by geo-politics and secular ideas: “Throughout the 2,000-year history of the Church of Christ, certain truths of the sacred Gospel were misinterpreted by some Christian groups, resulting in secular misconceptions that have unfortunately spread in Christian circles today.”
Most importantly, the Patriarch focused on the need to help others encounter the person of Christ and become holy. Future unity among Christians will be the fruit of sharing the common missionary mandateto tell the good news of Jesus to all of creation:
Thus, the burden of our obligation and responsibility is to remind ourselves, each other, and the entire world that God became human in Jesus Christ in order that we may lead a divine way of life. Indeed, “God is the Lord and has appeared to us.” The one who created all things in the beginning, who guides and provides for all things, descended to the depths of death on the cross in order that, through His resurrection, He may demonstrate that “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,” and in His name alone, to serve His people, so that we may all be united, and that Christ may be all things and in all things.
Both the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches share a common heritage in the sacramental life: baptism, Eucharist, chrismation, repentance, anointing, marriage, and holy orders. The Ecumenical Patriarch pointed to the sacramental way of salvation as the primary mission of the earthly Church:
This world is the domain where we realize this spiritual way of life, where we achieve our integration into the body of Christ, and where we are brought through Him into eternal life. The Church consecrates this earthly life, although it does not consummate its mission in this earthly life. We all realize and recognize this truth, which is whyas pastors and faithful alikewe travel this way of truth, acquiring the heavenly through the earthly.
Bartholomew ended his remarks by expressing confidence in Pope Francis’ ability to provide leadership to the Christian community, “together with all those who are willing and able,” for the effective reversal of “secular trends” so that humanity may “be restored to its ‘original beauty’ of love.”
Pope Francis: The way of unity
The delegates met in Clementine Hall, where they were received by Pope Francis, who sat in an armchair rather than the usual papal throne. The Holy Father thanked Bartholomew and greeted him with the words, “My brother Andrew.” This off-the-cuff fraternal greeting was ecumenically significant because St. Andrew, the brother of Peter, is the patron of Constantinople. The patriarch is recognized as Andrew’s successor in the same way the pope is recognized as the successor of Peter.
Pope Francis recalled the fact that he has entered his “apostolic ministry” during the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI. “With this initiative, which I wish to continue and which I hope serves as a stimulus for each of us in our journey of faith, [Benedict] wanted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, proposing a type of pilgrimage to what is essential for every Christian: a personal and transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died and rose again for our salvation. The heart of the Council’s message lies precisely in the desire to proclaim this ever-valid treasure of the faith to the persons of our time.”
Pope Francis then recalled the words of Pope John XXIII at the opening of Vatican II: “The Catholic Church considers it her duty to actively work so as to bring about the great mystery of that unity for which Jesus Christ prayed so ardently to His Father in heaven on the eve of his sacrifice. Yes, dear brothers and sisters in Christ,” continued Francis, “we all feel intimately joined in our Saviour’s prayer at the Last Supper, to his call: ‘that they may be one’.”
Then, echoing the words of the Ecumenical Patriarch and his own namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, the Pope encouraged his listeners to preach the gospel by living it: “Let us call on our merciful Father that we may fully live that faith that we received as a gift on the day of our baptism and to be able to witness to it freely, joyfully, and courageously. This will be the best way we can serve the cause of unity among Christians, a service of hope for a world that is still marked by divisions, differences, and rivalries.”
“For my part,” the Holy Father continued, “I wish to assure you, following in the path of my predecessors, of my firm will to continue on the path of ecumenical dialogue.”
The Pope then addressed the Jewish delegates, the Muslims, and representatives of other religions: “I really appreciate your presence. In it I see a tangible sign of the desire to grow in mutual respect and cooperation for the common good of humanity.”
Again Pope Francis touched on themes from his Tuesday homily about being responsible for all of creation, especially the protection of the most vulnerable in the worldthe poor, the weak, and the suffering. “But, above all, we must keep alive the thirst for the Absolute in the world, not allowing a one-dimensional vision of the human person, in which humanity is reduced to that which it produces and consumes, to prevail. This is one of the most dangerous pitfalls of our times.”
We know how, in recent times, violence has produced an attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity, and we feel the value of witnessing in our societies to the original openness to the transcendent that is inscribed in the human heart. In this, we also feel close to all men and women who, although not claiming to belong to any religious tradition, still feel themselves to be in search of truth, goodness, and beauty, God’s Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, and who are our precious allies in the effort to defend human dignity, in building a peaceful coexistence between peoples, and in carefully protecting creation.
The common Christian vision of environmental stewardship, peace, justice, loving evangelization, and the pursuit of holiness through encounter with Christ and the sacramental life of the Church shared and articulated by Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis this past week was a huge step toward unity between these brother Churches. Although there was nothing wholly unique about the vision that was expressed, it is certainly clear that both patriarchs desire to further the dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics begun in 1964 and continue to cooperate as Christian brothers for the common good of humanity according to the gospel. It is also notable that the Holy Father also received Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who came representing the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill. Father Lombardi stated that Pope Francis and Metropolitan Hilarion spent some time discussing their mutual love for icons and that the Metropolitan delivered a personal message from the Patriarch to Pope Francis, as well as an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
This, by the way, is an unmistakable dig at the Russian Patriarch Kirill who consorts with the Federal Security Bureau of the Russian Federation, the KGB successor, and is scandalously known for lavish lifestyle.
And the Moscow Patriarchy is the Orthodox Church to recon with as it is by far the most numerous. Yes, there is an interest among the Russian top hierarchs in some rapprochement, just like there is noticeable desire on the part of the Putin regime to appear a part of the respectable Western international power system. There is very little of that in the Russian population though, which rightly considers the Papacy a decisive factor in bringing down the USSR -- which, remember, many in Russia consider a national tragedy. Rank and file Russian Orthodox blogosphere bristles with hostility to anything Catholic: St. Francis, for example, is often described as a possessed by a demonic lure schismatic. One friendly voice comes from the former ROCOR, Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, a church in organizational disarray, struggling to resist "reunification" with Moscow Sergianists, who gave this pope an honest and sympathetic assessment. However, it is precisely ROCOR that considers ecumenism a complete anathema. I don't think the stars are aligned for reunification of the Western Church with the Moscow Patriarchy at this point: Patr. Kirill may go for some act of showmanship in an effort to revive his flagging popularity in Russia, but the Church should not seek union with the Moscow Patriarchy as it is currently configured. In my humble and solitary opinion, that is.
Thank you for posting some insightful information regarding the Russian Orthodox Church. Just as the Catholic Church is comprised of 22 churches, I understand the Orthodox are similarly organized. Do you happen to know how many churches make up the Orthodox Church and which patriarch serves as the guardian of unity, assuming they are united? Thanks for shedding any additional insight.
No, they are not. There are a few historical patriarchies, but most of them are near-extinct in practical terms due to the Muslim occupation. There are also significant divisions and sub-hierarchies inside the individual Orthodox Churches, and between them, so that even intercommunion is not at all common. The primacy of honor is recognized in the Bishop of Rome and of Constantinople, but in practical terms it means little, even if we forget of the Great Eastern schism that put the Bishop of Rome outside of the orthodox orbit.
The Patriarch of Constantinople is not at all like an Eastern Pope. Local churches almost certainly will chart their own course the moment he does anything the rest of the Orthodox worlds would consider problematic. For example, he has no power to put reunification in effect.
The practical primacy belongs to the Russian Church, as by far most populous. The Church in Russia (Moscow Patriarchy) is, however, stained by its historical collaboration with the militant atheist communist regime. They lost a chance to rehabilitate themselves when the Soviet Union collapsed and are perceived, correctly, I think, as collaborators with whatever civil authority happens to sit in the Kremlin. This is why it will be dangerous for our own souls to get too close to the Moscow Patriarchy, no matter what political games Patriarch Kirill may play.
Again ... most insightful. I would never have guessed the Russian Orthodox was the most populous. Here in the US, correct me if I am wrong, but it seems the Greek Orthodox Church is larger.
This is why it will be dangerous for our own souls to get too close to the Moscow Patriarchy, no matter what political games Patriarch Kirill may play.
It was the constant prayer of both Popes JPII and Benedict XVI that Patriarch Kirill would visit Rome. Given that Pope Francis has already picked up the reins where his predecessors left off, do you expect he will pursue a visit to or from the Russian Orthodox Patriarch?
Country Population Russia 109,795.176 Ukraine 37,856.492 Ethiopia 22,380.143 Romania 15,634.018 Greece 10,492.990 Belarus 8,321.427 Bulgaria 7,457.242 Kazakhstan 7,402.923 Serbia & Mont. 7,284.450 Moldova 4,393.925 Egypt 4,036.434 Armenia 3,204.679 Georgia 2,829.664 Uzbekistan 2,169.222 Macedonia 1,355.144 Bosnia & Herz. 1,079.573
The rest are less than 1 mil. Source.
Regarding the leadership structure:
The Orthodox Church considers Jesus Christ to be the head of the Church and the Church to be His body. Thus, despite widely held popular belief outside the Orthodox cultures, there is not one bishop at the head of the Orthodox Church; references to the Patriarch of Constantinople as a leader equivalent or comparable to a pope in the Roman Catholic Church are mistaken. It is believed that authority and the grace of God is directly passed down to Orthodox bishops and clergy through the laying on of handsa practice started by the apostles, and that this unbroken historical and physical link is an essential element of the true church (Acts 8:17, 1 Tim 4:14, Heb 6:2). However, the church asserts that Apostolic Succession also requires Apostolic Faith, and bishops without Apostolic Faith, who are in heresy, forfeit their claim to Apostolic Succession.
Each bishop has a territory (see) over which he governs. His main duty is to make sure the traditions and practices of the Church are preserved. Bishops are equal in authority and cannot interfere in the jurisdiction of another bishop. Administratively, these bishops and their territories are organized into various autocephalous groups or synods of bishops who gather together at least twice a year to discuss the state of affairs within their respective sees. While bishops and their autocephalous synods have the ability to administer guidance in individual cases, their actions do not usually set precedents that affect the entire Church. Bishops are almost always chosen from the monastic ranks and must remain unmarried.
There have been a number of times when alternative theological ideas arose to challenge the Orthodox faith. At such times the Church deemed it necessary to convene a general or "Great" council of all available bishops throughout the world. The Church considers the first seven Ecumenical Councils (held between the 4th and the 8th century) to be the most important; however, there have been more, specifically the Synods of Constantinople, 879880, 1341, 1347, 1351, 1583, 1819, and 1872, the Synod of Iaşi (Jassy), 1642, and the Pan-Orthodox Synod of Jerusalem, 1672, all of which helped to define the Orthodox position. The ecumenical councils followed a democratic form; with each bishop having one vote. Though present and allowed to speak before the council, members of the Imperial Roman/Byzantine court, abbots, priests, monks and laymen were not allowed to vote. The primary goal of these Great Synods was to verify and confirm the fundamental beliefs of the Church as truth, and to remove as heresy any false teachings that would threaten the Church. The Pope of Rome, at that time, held the position of first among equals. And while he was not present at any of the councils he continued to hold this title until the East-West Schism of 1054 AD.
According to Orthodox teaching the position of First Among Equals gives no additional power or authority to the bishop that holds it, but rather that this person sits as organizational head of a council of equals (like a president). His words and opinions carry no more insight or wisdom than any other bishop. It is believed that the Holy Spirit guides the Church through the decisions of the entire council, not one individual. Additionally it is understood that even the councils decisions must be accepted by the entire Church in order for them to be valid.
One of the decisions made by the First Council of Constantinople (the second ecumenical council, meeting in 381) and supported by later such councils was that the Patriarch of Constantinople should be given equal honor to the Pope of Rome since Constantinople was considered to be the "New Rome". According to the third Canon of the second ecumenical council: "Because it is new Rome, the bishop of Constantinople is to enjoy the privileges of honor after the bishop of Rome." This means that both enjoy the same privileges because they are both bishops of the imperial capitals, but the bishop of Rome will precede the bishop of Constantinople since Old Rome precedes New Rome. The 28th canon of the fourth ecumenical council clarified this point by stating: "For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of Old Rome because it was the royal city. And the One Hundred and Fifty most religious Bishops (i.e. the second ecumenical council in 381) actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honored with the Sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is."
The Pope of Rome would still have honorary primacy before Constantinople if the East-West Schism had not occurred. Because of that schism the Orthodox no longer recognize the primacy of the pope. The Patriarch therefore, like the Pope before him, now enjoys the title of first among equals. This is not, however, meant to imply that he is the leader of the Orthodox Church. Also, this is not an official title of any sort, just a way of describing the seniority of the "imperial" bishops with respect to all other bishops.
Wiki; the footnotes are at source.
Of course, the Catholic episcopacy and generally Catholic ecclesiology is very similar to the Orthodox system as both come from the common unified Church of the early Middle Ages. Also, there was a sincere effort done recently by both sides to discuss the historical role of papacy prior to the Great Schism; the rumor in Russia has it that the document they produced at the meeting in Crete largely favored the Catholic view of papacy having primacy also in matters of universal administration, and not merely primacy of honor. Accordingly, the document was never released by the Orthodox bishops and remains without an official status; this naturally blocks its release also by Rome.
I realized that I never answered the question.
In my estimation, the Moscow Patriarchy at this point is a religious-affairs branch of the government of the Russian Federation. If Mr. Putin finds it beneficial to his dictatorship, a visit will occur and if not, -- it will not occur. When I am pope I would not touch MP with a ten foot pole; there is a good pun in there somewhere. A part of Putinism is interest in various European and worldwide organizations, such as the WTO, which he joined; another part is striking socially-conservative poses vis-a-vis rotten-liberal Europe. So yes, Putin has such interest, and the Pope has an interest in a good and cautious advice on that one.