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The ' Primacy of Equals' : A Response

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  • Very Rev. Kuriakose Corepiscopa Moolayil
    The Protocol of primacy between the Patriarch and the Catholicose in the Syrian Orthodox Church is the next issue dealt by our friend Georgy. He defines first
    Message 1 of 40 , Dec 29, 2005
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      The Protocol of primacy between the Patriarch and the Catholicose in the Syrian Orthodox Church is the next issue dealt by our friend Georgy. He defines first his 'myth' as follows. I quote,

      "Myth: The demand for co-equal status between the Catholicos and the Patriarch cannot be entertained because it is an exclusively Byzantine concept."

      This myth raised by Georgy is self created and self explained against his own fancy in the conclusion as follows. I quote again from his conclusion of the same article,

      "Conclusion: The concept of first among equals is generally associated with the Byzantine Church"

      He claims in his Myth that 'someone' says that this concept of 'co equality' is 'exclusively' Byzantine and after his detailed explanations, he concludes by saying that it is 'generally' associated with the Byzantine Church. Here his own difference of concept is identifiable in his two words, 'exclusively and generally'.

      Let us see the facts of the concept of 'equality' of the Patriarch and the Catholicose in the Syrian Orthodox Church. Before entering into the details I invite you all to read again the fact reported by Georgy on the concept of terms 'primacy of honor and first among equals'.

      "Fact: The Byzantine Church is composed of the four ancient sees of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, and 11 other autocephalous churches.(Source:<link>http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761572657_2/Orthodox_Church.html<link>). The heads of all these churches are considered equals with only the primacy of honor granted to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul)*. In other words, he is considered the first among equals and exercises only moral authority over the 14 other autocephalous churches in the Byzantine communion. The Metran faction of the Malankara Orthodox Church wants the same concept adopted in the relationship between the Syriac Patriarch and the Catholicose of Malankara."

      He acknowledges these features as exclusively a Byzantine concept and also demands by himself for the MOC the same to be adopted in the relations between the Patriarch and Catholicose of Malankara.

      My observations are as follows:

      1.The protocol of primacy in the Syrian Orthodox Church should be discussed in the light of the historical settings of facts in the Syrian Church. The Patriarch of Antioch is the spiritual Supreme of the Church of Antioch and all the East by virtue of the canonical decision of the General Council of Nicea. This was really a canonization on the basis of the prevailing factual situation in the Church. There also was another dignitary in the Syrian Church titled 'Great Metropolitan of the East', created for the smooth functioning of the Eastern part of the church in the 3rd century. This Great Metropolitan was given the title of the 'Catholicose' by another canonical decision of the Council of Nicea. It is again mentioned there about the protocol of seating and mentioning of his name etc. This is the basis of all concepts of the protocol and primacy of the Patriarch and Catholicose in the SOC. If we are thinking about these posts outside the Syrian Church there we can see many other models like that of the Byzantines or the Armenians where they have a Patriarch(titular) under their Catholicose or there are double titled posts as among the Georgians, known as Cathicose-Patriarch.

      2.When this Catholicose embraced Nestorianism they proclaimed themselves autocephalous and equalled him to the supreme head of any other Church. So they claimed equality with the Patriarch. Because their immediate rival was the Patriarch of Antioch and so they equalled the Catholicose with him. Again this situation arose outside the Syrian Orthodox Church. The former post of the Catholicose as per the protocol of the Nicean canon was continuing there in the East as the Maphrian. So here the protocol of primacy should be judged on the basis of the Nicean canon and the ecclesial relations as seen between the Patriarch and the Maphrian. This can be seen in the History of Bar Ebroyo.

      3.Now let us see what happened in Malankara: The unchallenged catholicate in Malankara was established in 1964. What was the protocol then? The famous statement by Augen Bava to Vettikkunnel achan,Manarcadu, explains by itself. When Achan invited Augen Bava to Manarcadu to participate in the reception along with Yacoob 111 bava, Augen Bava replied, 'Thalayullidathu Valum Undu'( Where the head is there will be the tail). The pledge of Augen Bava at the time of his installation is also another pointer to this. Every act and word of Augen Bava from 64-70 disproves the claims of Georgy. I request here to read the documents I have collected and compiled in my book, 'Perumpilly Thirumeni:Malankara Sabhayude Kal Noottandu' to know more about this.

      4.What happened in 1912? What was Mor Abdul Messiah doing in 1912? was he creating a new post equal in rank to him in Malankara? His circular says that he was transferring the Maphrianate of Tigris to Malankara.(I am not going here into the inaccuracies of his act here. Those interested can read my book ' Pourathya Catholica Sthapanathinte Yadhartha Nila')We are all told that the Catholicate in Malankara is the continuation of the Catholicate/Maphriante in the Syrian Orthodox Church. The installation and related issues of the 1912 catholicate prove to this effect. Then where comes the status of equality or primacy of honor, etc.? Georgie's ideas are really a misfit to the history of the Catholicate of the SOC and the documents related to the transferring of it to Malankara where it be in 1912 or in 1964.

      5. Eritrean example of the protocol signed with the Alexandrean church is not a model to the historical settings of the establishment in the SOC for 17 plus centuries. It is a very new establishment and as I mentioned earlier it is the aftermath of an autocephalous declaration of a church on 'national'spirit. If the MOC catholicate is accepted as a Catholicate similar to the Eritrean hierarchy formed by the separation from its mother church, then we will have to think of such a protocol to be made to differentiate with the lineage of the Catholicate/Maphrianate that was in existence in the SOC. In my opinion it is not the model for the canonically bound Catholicate , but it may be useful for the peaceful coexistence of the 'national' Catholicate with the Catholicate of SOC lineage. I am only happy to accept such a catholicate in India because it is a fact and none could revert it. Just as the formation of the independent Ethiopian or the Eritrean church and its autocephalous hierarchy, the IOC autocephalous Catholicate is a reality. It should be accepted as its with its own claims. I think we must jointly work to get it accepted among both factions and should try to get it accepted mutually. My humble plea in this context will be to invite my IO friends also to reciprocate by trying to uphold our views and concepts of the lineage of the Catholicate in the traditions and history of the SOC. Respecting our views and allowing our people and parishes to continue in their concepts will evolve new 'protocols' in the Eritrean model and it will settle all litigations and strives at parish levels.

      Next:'Autocephaly for Self Assertion and Conceptual Clarity'

    • Jose Kurian Puliyeril.
      Devotional thoughts for the Sunday of the circumcision of our Lord ����� Feast of St. Basil and St. Gregory, the Great, New Year -2006 Reading: From the Gospel
      Message 40 of 40 , Dec 31, 2005
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        Devotional thoughts for the Sunday of the circumcision of our Lord � Feast
        of St. Basil and St. Gregory, the Great, New Year -2006

        Reading: From the Gospel according to St. John 15: 5-19

        Dear and Respected Brethren,
        Today is the remembrance day of two great Orthodox Church Fathers, St. Basil
        the great and St. Gregory the great. More over it is the New Year day. All
        must be in the thrill of the blessed Christmas celebrations and must be
        waiting forward to welcome the New Year. The holy reading arranged for today
        by the Holy Fathers is so significant and relevant. Our Lord and Redeemer is
        explaining in very simple words, how a faithful could and must maintain his
        or her relationship with Lord God. When we realize the inner meaning of the
        given text, we will wonder how solemn is the tradition and faith of our
        Church. Our relation with our Lord is not for a day or a few days, whereas
        it is till eternity. Our Lord who introduces himself as the vine says that
        we are the branches. Our Lord�s promise is that we could have more fruits,
        if we would stay in Him. We all know very well that the branches which are
        cut from the main stem lose the life immediately. It is true that we must
        have a connection with the main stem to retain our lives. The life could be
        provided by the main stem of the grape vine. We might wonder why our Lord
        identified himself as the real vine. We all know that the wine is taken from
        the grapes, the fruit produced on the branches of the vine. Our Lord took
        the wine and converted it as the life giving blood of our Lord. He said
        �this is my blood�. The blood of our Lord sanctifies the faithful and
        retains the life eternal. Here our Lord is telling that the branches, which
        produces the grapes, have been kept alive while abiding in our Lord. We the
        faithful have to maintain real faith, true repentance, and loving obedience
        to keep up our link with our Lord. If we keep these things in our personal
        lives, we could have a solid life with our Lord God, who is the real vine.
        King Solomon the wise advises, �The
        fruit of the righteous is a tree of life�.(Proverbs 11: 30) So let us try to
        obey the commandments of our Lord God and be righteous. In Hosea 14:8 we
        read, I am like a green fig tree: From me is thy fruit found�. We read about
        the tree which do not produce fruits in St. Luke 13: 6-9. Grace of God
        enables the trees to bear fruits. The fruits of the Spirit are also
        depending the Grace and will of God. It is because of our Lord�s own words
        that we cannot do anything with him. Kindly see St. Matthew 5: 16 and
        Philippians 1: 11.

        In the 9th verse it is said that how much our Lord God loves us. How much
        love was granted to the son by God the Father, the same amount of love is
        granted to us by God the Son. Our Lord said �if you will obey my
        commandments I will abide with you.� Our Lord has limited his commandments
        to two. He wants us to love God and love our own brethren. It is His command
        to love each other. St. Paul also stresses the need to love one another in I
        Thessalonians 4:9. St. Peter also insists us to have mutual love. (I Peter
        4:8) See the 16th verse of today�s reading. We all are entrusted to bear
        fruits and to keep them for ever. Is it a hard job to love one another?
        Kindly think. Our Lord wants us to love whom we don�t know and who doesn�t
        love us. If our pride and stubbornness are not allowing us to love our
        brethren, are we not breaking our link with our Lord God? Let us put an end
        to our selfish thoughts and desires. Let us take a decision to obey our
        Lord�s commands to love God and love our brethren. Let us take a decision on
        this New Year day. May God strengthen us to do His will, rather than our own
        wishes and desires. Let us try not to forget that we are not for this world.
        Our citizenship is in the Kingdom of God. Let the Holy Spirit guide us and
        lead us through the virtuous paths which are pleasing to our Lord God. May
        the intercessions of the Great Church Fathers, St. Basil the great and St.
        Gregory the great be a fort of protection for us. Let us try to imitate the
        life style of these two Patron Saints. May God bless us.


        With prayers and regards,

        Jose Kurian Puliyeril.
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