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Ecclesiastical Models of the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church are Essentially Different

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    Europaica 131 24 November 2007 Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: The Ecclesiastical Models of the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church are Essentially
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 29, 2007
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      Europaica 131 24 November 2007

      Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: The Ecclesiastical Models of the Orthodox
      Church and the Roman Catholic Church are Essentially Different

      The 10th meeting of the Joint International Commission for the
      Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic
      Churches recently ended its plenary assembly held in Ravenna, Italy.
      The delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate withdrew from the meeting
      in protest against the participation in the event of members of the
      so-called Estonian Apostolic Church, a Church set up by the
      Constantinople Patriarchate in 1996 in Estonia, which the Moscow
      church considers part of its territory. This drew strong criticism
      from Constantinople.

      One critical issue of the meeting was a discussion of primacy in the
      Universal Church and final study of the document entitled The
      Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature
      of the Church which was addressed by the participants of the dialogue
      at the meeting held in Belgrade in September 2006. The meeting raised
      a controversy over the wording contained in one paragraph of the
      document relative to the authority of Ecumenical Councils, in
      particular, parallelism of "communion with Rome" for the Local
      Churches in the West and "communion with Constantinople" for the
      Orthodox Churches. This parallelism was strongly opposed by the
      delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate.

      In his interview with the Interfax, the Russian Orthodox Church
      representative to the European international organizations Bishop
      Hilarion of Vienna and Austria discussed the issues of who was
      responsible for the derailed meeting in Ravenna and why
      Constantinople was interested to address the primacy in the Orthodox world.

      Your Eminence, Metropolitan John of Pergamon [of the Patriarchate of
      Constantinople] accused the Russian Orthodox Church of
      authoritarianism after its decision to walk out of the meeting in
      Ravenna. What was your reaction to his words?

      Metropolitan John of Pergamon as co-president of the joint commission
      for Orthodox-Catholic dialogue is responsible for derailing the
      dialogue. His comments and the final text of the document work on
      which has finished in Ravenna without the participation of the Moscow
      Patriarchate may produce the impression that Patriarchate of
      Constantinople deliberately pushed the Moscow Patriarchate to
      withdraw from the dialogue so that decisions should be passed that
      would have been impossible with the participation of the Moscow Patriarchate.

      What do you mean in particular?

      As an example I may give Paragraph 39 of the document which states
      that convening Ecumenical Council in the strict sense of this word
      became impossible after the schism between the East and the West in
      the 11th century, however, "both Churches continued to hold councils
      whenever serious crises arose. These councils gathered together the
      bishops of local Churches in communion with the See of Rome or,
      although understood in a different way, with the See of
      Constantinople, respectively". Back at the Belgrade meeting of the
      Joint International Commission in 2006, I raised several critical
      objections to this issue. According to the Orthodox tradition,
      communion with the See of Constantinople is not considered a
      prerequisite of unity to the same extend as "communion with the See
      of Rome" is considered a prerequisite for Western Churches.

      The ecclesiastical models of the Orthodox Church and the Roman
      Catholic Church are essentially different, and the Patriarch of
      Constantinople has never played the same role as the bishop of Rome
      plays in the Catholic Church. One criterion of collegiality in the
      Orthodox Church has always been Eucharistic and canonical communion
      between Local Churches, and not just communion with the See of
      Constantinople. Besides, in certain historic periods one or another
      Local Church had no communion with the See of Constantinople, and
      that did not affect its full collegiality. In particular, the Russian
      Church suspended de facto its communion with Constantinople after the
      Council of Florence in the 15th century when the Patriarch of
      Constantinople signed the union with Rome. However, it continued to
      be in communion with other Local Churches.

      In Belgrade, the update of the document was entrusted to the
      editorial committee of the Joint International Commission. In
      February 2007, the Committee proposed the wording which could satisfy
      the Moscow Patriarchate. However, the Patriarchate of Constantinople
      objected to this wording, since it did not mention "communion with
      the See of Constantinople". In the absence of the Moscow Patriarchate
      representatives the version of the editorial committee was rejected,
      and the text objected by the Russian Church was included back into
      the final document.

      Why is Constantinople so interested in discussing the primacy in the
      Church which actually turns into imposing the Patriarchate of
      Constantinople as the "Eastern Pope"?

      The Patriarchate of Constantinople is extremely interested in
      discussing the issue of primacy in the Universal Church, because
      within the framework of the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue it hopes to
      force Local Churches to interpret the primacy in a way that could
      extend its historical rights. Until now, Orthodox Churches have
      acknowledged only the primacy of honour of the Patriarch of
      Constantinople. However, Metropolitan John Zizioulas expresses in his
      interviews the point of view according to which the notion of
      "primacy of honour" is inconsistent with the Orthodox canon law.

      Constantinople wants to force on us a model of church organization
      that has never existed in Orthodox tradition and that is closer to
      the centralized model existing in the Roman Catholic Church. In that
      model, the patriarch of Constantinople would have the role of the
      "Eastern pope".

      But will other Local Churches agree to that?

      The next round of talks, to start in 2009, would show whether other
      Orthodox Churches would accept the alleged model. However, it is
      already clear that the absence of the Moscow Patriarchate will make
      the work to develop such a model much easier.
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