Russian prelate disputes role of Ecumenical Patriarch
- Russian prelate disputes role of Ecumenical Patriarch
Oct. 02 (CWNews.com) - The Russian Orthodox Church has lodged a serious
objection to the notion that the Patriarch of Constantinople is the
worldwide leader of the Orthodox faith.
Following up on a protest that he had lodged during meetings of the joint
Catholic-Orthodox theological commission earlier this month, the Russian
Orthodox Bishop Hilarion of Vienna told the Interfax news service that
Catholics must not impose their model upon the Orthodox world.
Bishop Hilarion said that the Moscow patriarchate welcomes further
discussion on the question of whether the Catholic model-- with Church
centered in Rome-- could be compatible with the Orthodox model of autonomous
churches. However, he said, that discussion can continue only if "an
ecclesiological model in which the Patriarch of Constantinople occupies the
place of an ‘Eastern Pope’ is not imposed on the Orthodox Church."
The Russian Orthodox prelate was reacting to a statement put forward during
the 9th meeting of the Catholic-Orthodox theological commission. That
statement said that after the schism of the 11th century it became
impossible to hold an ecumenical council including all Christian leaders,
but the separated churches "continued to hold ‘general’ councils, gathering
together the bishops of local churches in communion with the See of Rome and
the See of Constantinople."
In the Orthodox world, Bishop Hilarion argued forcefully, the requirement of
maintaining "communion with Constantinople" was never regarded as essential,
as it is in the Catholic Church. While the Ecumenical Patriarch is
recognized as the "first among equals," he said, the autocephalous Orthodox
churches have different understandings of the nature of that role. "Some
rather regard this primacy as purely honorary, while others give certain
coordinating functions to the Patriarch of Constantinople and see him as
The Orthodox understanding of primacy cannot be changed, the Moscow
representative said, without a worldwide meeting of Orthodox leaders. He
expressed resentment that Cardinal Walter Kasper (bio - news), the leading
Catholic representative at meetings of the joint theological commission, had
pressed for a vote on the disputed statement. Matters of doctrine, the
Orthodox prelate said, should not be tested by majority vote.
Cardinal Kasper has said that he was surprised by the Russian Orthodox
objection to the proposed statement-- to which the Patriarchate of
Constantinople had given its full support. But Bishop Hilarion told Interfax
that the Moscow patriarchate would remain "hard-line" on the question.