Update on Catholic — Orthodox Talks in Vienna

H/T: Byzantine, TX

From the official website of the Russian Orthodox Church:

As has been stressed by the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the working document of the Joint International Commission for Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue, publicized so widely by some media, does not reflect the attitude of the Orthodox side to the problem of primacy of the bishop of Rome and can be viewed only as a purely auxiliary paper for further work.

Contrary to allegations in the press, the Orthodox-Catholic Commission meeting in Vienna has made no ‘breakthrough’ whatsoever. The entire meeting was devoted to a discussion on the role of the bishop of Rome in the first millennium. The Commission’s coordinating committee had drafted a document on this issue, which was discussed last year in Cyprus. A rough draft of this document ‘leaked’ into the mass media and was published.

It was planned to finalize the discussion on this draft in Vienna. However, something different happened as the discussion on the status of this draft took too much time. The Orthodox participants, from the very beginning of the meeting, insisted that ‘Crete Document’ could not be officially published on behalf of the Commission, nor could it be signed by its members. From our point of view, this draft has to be considerably revised, but even after the revision it only could have the status of ‘working document’, that is, auxiliary material (instrumentum laboris) which could be used in preparing subsequent documents and could have no official status.

‘The Crete Document’ is purely historical and, speaking of the role of the bishop of Rome, it makes almost no mention of bishops of other Local Churches in the first millennium, thus creating a wrong impression of how powers were distributed in the Early Church. Besides, the document is lacking any clear statement that the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome did not extend to the East in the first millennium. It is hoped that these gaps and omissions will be made up in revising the text.

After a long discussion, the Commission agreed that this document should be improved and that a final decision on its status should be made at the next plenary session of the Commission, that is, presumably in two-year’s time. By this time a new draft document will have been elaborated to deal with the same problem but from the theological perspective.

For the Orthodox participants, it is clear that in the first millennium the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome was exercised only in the West, while in the East, the territories were divided between four Patriarchs – those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. The bishop of Rome did not exercise any direct jurisdiction in the East in spite of the fact that in some cases Eastern hierarchs appealed to him as arbiter in theological disputes. These appeals were not systematic and can in no way be interpreted in the sense that the bishop of Rome was seen in the East as the supreme authority in the whole Universal Church.

It is hoped that at the next meetings of the Commission, the Catholic side will agree with this position which is confirmed by numerous historical evidence.

6 Responses to Update on Catholic — Orthodox Talks in Vienna

  1. James says:

    I think you’re incorrect in your assessment of Rome’s influence and jurisdiction in the Early Church. As you know the Pope is St. Peter’s successor. St. Peter was the head of the Apostles and the symbol and protector of unity within the Apostolic College. Why should this change after the spread of Christendom? It shouldn’t nor has it. We see from St. Clement of Rome the scope of his authority when he makes final decisions for other churches from his letters. They appeal to the Pope and what he says goes, just as St. Peter did in Acts regarding circumcision of gentiles. In fact, many of the early Popes were not Italian, but Eastern in origin from Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Carthage. Same can be said for the Fathers who taught universal papal jurisdiction.

    I think this whole issue has to do with humility. We all need to look outside our own interests and seek what God wants for his Universal Church.

    • orthocath says:

      This is a news piece from the Russian Orthodox Church website. I did not write it.

      As Metropolitan Hilarion wrote above the Pope did serve on occasion as an “arbiter in theological disputes.” The question is, as I see it, did the Pope exercise full jurisdictional authority in the East during the first Millennium? I don’t think it’s a slam-dunk for the papacy as some Catholic apologists portray it. A more balanced approach from the Catholic position is, I believe, Fr. J. Michael Miller’s The Shepherd and the Rock, published by Our Sunday Visitor Press.

    • Ric Ballard says:

      @ James. As his His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos (Aghiorgoussis) once asked ‘how does one become a successor to Peter”. Is it because Peter preached in Rome, or canonical appointment, laying on of hands. Where is the bridge James from Scripture to the {developed} practice? The fact is that all the apostles and their successors had a voice in leading the Church. It is a historical fact that Rome got involved in theological disputes. However, this does not mean that pope was developing the theology of the East, picking their bishops, and telling them how to run things. There was even a heretical Pope, Honorius I, who was anathematized by the Eastern bishops. This fact clearly demonstrated the Pope was not running the show alone.

      • James says:

        Ric,
        Of course the Pope does not run the show by himself. That is not what we mean when we say Supreme Pontiff or H.H. has universal jurisdiction. His role is to unite the brother bishops and settle disputes, theological or otherwise, when they arise. That is what he does today and it’s what he did in the 1st century, you admitted it. He listens to his advisors and makes judgments based on Tradition. St. Peter settled the circumcision dispute, the Pope today settles disputes of our time. He is not a one man band, but the conductor who leads in unison with the orchestra (Church).
        Are you familiar with the Eastern Catholic Rites? The Metropolitans pick their own bishops to lead the respective eparchies. The Pope approves or disapproves of the appointments, as is his job to do so. No respectable Catholic will ever claim the Pope runs things alone. He’s merely St. Peter.

  2. Ric Ballard says:

    James, Yes I am familiar. I am a Byzantine Catholic in the US. The Pope has no right to approve or disapprove our appointments. There is no Historical justification for this. I regret to say this is a latinization. The pope does more then settles disputes. Historically he has acted like a one man show, acting in many ways as if the papacy was above the church, considered himself “God on Earth” “Ceaser” “above the apostles” “all princes should kiss his toe”ext.

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