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Re: [SORForum] A primacy of Love and service

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  • Brian Ingram
    ... Dear Thomas In discussing this issue with Greek Orthodox I would agree that they have a similar veiw point. However is it an objective one? In my reading
    Message 1 of 6 , Jul 6, 2003
      >Dear Brian, St. Cyprian is asking a question here. I do not want to
      >engage in a prolonged debate on this topic, but try to summarise my
      >understanding. We need to acknowledge that there is difference between
      >fathers attached to Rome and fathers of the East regarding this aspect
      >of faith. Some western fathers write about "unity under successors of
      >Peter" (or whatever we prefer to call it). But in Orthodox churches,
      >it is accepted by all of them that unity of the Catholic church means
      >a "unity in faith". This is why the faith is called Universal
      >(Catholic) faith.

      Dear Thomas
      In discussing this issue with Greek Orthodox I would agree that they have a
      similar veiw point. However is it an objective one?
      In my reading of the Fathers, both East and West there is a high degree of
      unamity amongst them in regards Peter as being the safeguard for that faith
      and unity of the Church.

      In regards the Eastern Fathers, below are some quotes which supports this
      position. Please excuse me for the number of and the legnth of the quotes

      St. Peter, Bishop of Alexandria (306-311 A.D.):
      Head of the catechetical school in Alexandria, he became bishop around A.D.
      "Peter, set above the Apostles". (Peter of Alexandria, Canon. ix, Galland,
      iv. p. 98)

      St. Anthony of Egypt (330 A.D.):
      "Peter, the Prince of the Apostles "(Anthony, Epist. xvii. Galland, iv p.

      St. Athanasius (362 A.D.):
      Rome is called the Apostolic throne. (Athanasius, Hist. Arian, ad Monach. n.
      The Chief, Peter. (Athan, In Ps. xv. 8, tom. iii. p. 106, Migne)

      St. Macarius of Egypt (371 A.D.):
      The Chief, Peter. (Macarius, De Patientia, n. 3, p. 180)
      Moses was succeeded by Peter, who had committed to his hands the new Church
      of Christ, and the true priesthood. (Macarius, Hom. xxvi. n. 23, p. 101)

      St. Cyril of Alexandria (c. 424):
      He (Christ) promises to found the Church, assigning immovableness to it, as
      He is the Lord of strength, and over this He sets Peter as shepherd. (Cyril,
      Comm. on Matt., ad loc.)
      Therefore, when the Lord had hinted at the disciple's denial in the words
      that He used, 'I have prayed for thee that thy faith not fail,' He at once
      introduced a word

      Eulogius of Alexandria (581 A.D.):
      Born in Syria, he became the abbot of the Mother of God monastery at
      Antioch. In 579, he was made Patriarch of Alexandria; and became an
      associate of St. Gregory the Great while visiting Constantinople. Much of
      their subsequent correspondence is still extant.
      "Neither to John, nor to any other of the disciples, did our Savior say, 'I
      will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,' but only to Peter.
      (Eulogius, Lib. ii. Cont. Novatian. ap. Photium, Biblioth, cod. 280)

      Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus in Syria (450):
      A native of Antioch, Theodoret ruled under the Antiochean Patriarch.
      The great foundation of the Church was shaken, and confirmed by the Divine
      grace. And the Lord commanded him to apply that same care to the brethren.
      'And thou,' He says, 'converted, confirm thy brethren.' (Theodoret, Tom. iv.
      Haeret. Fab. lib. v.c. 28)
      I therefore beseech your holiness to persuade the most holy and blessed
      bishop (Pope Leo) to use his Apostolic power, and to order me to hasten to
      your Council. For that most holy throne (Rome) has the sovereignty over the
      churches throughout the universe on many grounds. (Theodoret, Tom. iv.
      Epist. cxvi. Renato, p. 1197).

      St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople (c. 387):
      Peter himself the Head or Crown of the Apostles, the First in the Church,
      the Friend of Christ, who received a revelation, not from man, but from the
      Father, as the Lord bears witness to him, saying, 'Blessed art thou, &c.'
      This very Peter and when I name Peter I name that unbroken Rock, that firm
      Foundation, the Great Apostle, First of the disciples, the First called, and
      the First who obeyed he was guilty ...even denying the Lord." (Chrysostom,
      T. ii. Hom)
      Peter, the Leader of the choir of Apostles, the Mouth of the disciples, the
      Pillar of the Church, the Buttress of the faith, the Foundation of the
      confession, the Fisherman of the universe. (Chrysostom, T. iii Hom).
      Peter, that Leader of the choir, that Mouth of the rest of the Apostles,
      that Head of the brotherhood, that one set over the entire universe, that
      Foundation of the Church. (Chrys. In illud hoc Scitote)
      (Peter), the foundation of the Church, the Coryphaeus of the choir of the
      Apostles, the vehement lover of Christ ...he who ran throughout the whole
      world, who , In Joan. Hom. 1xxxviii. n. 1, tom. viii)

      St. Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople (434):
      A disciple of St. John Chrysostom,...
      Peter, the coryphaeus of the disciples, and the one set over (or chief of)
      the Apostles. Art not thou he that didst say, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son
      of the living God'? Thou Bar-Jonas (son of the dove) hast thou seen so many
      miracles, and art thou still but Simon (a hearer)? He appointed thee the
      key-bearer of Heaven, and has though not yet layed aside thy fisherman's
      clothing? (Proclus, Or. viii In Dom. Transfig. t. ix. Galland)
      John Cassian, Monk (c. 430):
      That great man, the disciple of disciples, that master among masters, who
      wielding the government of the Roman Church possessed the principle
      authority in faith and in priesthood. Tell us, therefore, we beg of you,
      Peter, prince of Apostles, tell us how the Churches must believe in God
      (Cassian, Contra Nestorium, III, 12, CSEL, vol. 17, p. 276).

      St. Nilus of Constantinople (448):
      A disciple of St. John Chrysostom, ....
      Peter, Head of the choir of Apostles. (Nilus, Lib. ii Epistl.)
      Peter, who was foremost in the choir of Apostles and always ruled amongst
      them. (Nilus, Tract. ad. Magnam.)

      Macedonius, Patriarch of Constantinople (466-516)
      Macedonius declared, when desired by the Emperor Anastasius to condemn the
      Council of Chalcedon, that 'such a step without an Ecumenical Synod presided
      over by the Pope of Rome is impossible.' (Macedonius, Patr. Graec. 108: 360a
      (Theophan. Chronogr. pp. 234-346 seq.)

      St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Patriarch (363):
      Our Lord Jesus Christ then became a man, but by the many He was not known.
      But wishing to teach that which was not known, having assembled the
      disciples, He asked, 'Whom do men say that the Son of man is?' ...And all
      being silent (for it was beyond man to learn) Peter, the Foremost of the
      Apostles, the Chief Herald of the Church, not using the language of his own
      finding, nor persuaded by human reasoning, but having his mind enlightened
      by the Father, says to Him, 'Thou art the Christ,' not simply that, but 'the
      Son of the living God.' (Cyril, Catech. xi. n. 3)
      For Peter was there, who carrieth the keys of heaven. (Cyril, Catechetical
      Lectures A.D. 350).
      Peter, the chief and foremost leader of the Apostles, before a little maid
      thrice denied the Lord, but moved to penitence, he wept bitterly. (Cyril,
      Catech ii. n. 15)
      In the power of the same Holy Spirit, Peter, also the foremost of the
      Apostles and the key-bearer of the Kingdom of Heaven, healed Aeneas the
      paralytic in the name of Christ. (Cyril, Catech. xviii. n. 27)
      O Holy Head, Christ our God hath destined thy Apostolic See to be an
      immovable foundation and a pillar of the Faith. For thou art, as the Divine
      Word truly saith, Peter, and on thee as a foundation-stone have the pillars
      of the Church been fixed. (Sergius Ep. ad Theod. lecta in Sess. ii. Concil.
      Lat. anno 649)


      >The problem with unity based on primacy is that it can lead to one
      >church ruling over other churches (concept of uniates etc.) and other
      >complications, as we have already seen in history. It leads mostly to
      >divisions in local churches, thus contradicting the original purpose
      >of the teaching, i.e. achieving unity.

      The uniates are self governing churches in union with Rome. Take for example
      the Ukranian Catholic church. They were forced to break ties with Rome and
      join the Russian Orthodox church.. However after the fall of comminism they
      freely came back into union with Rome, they do see union with Peters
      sucessor as oppressive. That there is division in local churches, is not the
      fault of unity based on primacy. That firstly happened after the council of
      Chalcedon, when those local Churches that broke union with the rest of the
      Church had splits within their own ranks with those who agreed with that

      >All Oriental Orthodox churches honor Peter and Paul as first among
      >Apostles. But Apostles are a different category. Their successors in
      >different nations are just bishops. In this sense, a successor of
      >Peter or Paul is equal to a successor of another Apostle. They are all
      >bishops. How can these bishops claim same firstness as Peter or Paul,
      >the Apostles? There is nothing in the Bible which suggests that
      >Church should be united under successors of Peter. Or am I wrong? But
      >the unity is understood as a unity of one confession.

      The Fathers clealry acknowledged that the Bishops of Rome were Peters
      sucessor and such the authority that Peter had of chief shepherd over the
      the church carried on. It would make little sense for Christ to give that
      authority to a person only to have it authority not to carry on in the
      church after that person death.
      You say the apostles are a different category, yes they are they are the
      foundation of the Church, on which their successors the bishops build up the
      The Apostles were firstly Eye witlessness to Christ ministry and to His
      death and resurrection, that is why we do not have an official position of
      apostle in today's church.. Secondly the word Apostle primary means 'to go
      forth as emissaries to a King (Christ in this case)into a foreign land' .
      That is what they did set up and oversaw the church in foreign lands.
      However all authority that they had given to them by Christ was not for them
      personally but for the church as a whole. All the authority that was given
      to them exists in the church today, and is exercised by their sucessors..

      >Since bishops are understood as ordained to shepherd and rule over the
      >church (Apostolic Canons), primacy of successors implies ruling also.
      >So, we cannot exclude the administrative implications and only one
      >church enjoying such administrative previleges.
      Scriptures clearly implies that all the bishops rule over the church. In the
      Catholic Church the Bishop of Rome does not have direct administrative
      control over all of it. He only does in the Latin part of the Church of
      which he is Patriarch. In for example the Ukrainian catholic church their
      Patriarch has direct authority over that church. It is only in matters of
      faith and morals has he primacy over all the Catholic Church
      This was made clear In the reign of Pope Hormisdas (514-23) the Eastern
      Bishops signed the so-called 'Libellus Hormisdae' which contained a clear
      definition of the Roman primacy in matters of faith. This was only affirming
      what had been always understood .

      >There is also another aspect of this I want to mention in this
      >context. I read an article which elevated Apostle Peter to the level
      >of Christ, accordingly the name of Christ was given to Peter in a
      >special way. The error is this, the author knows that there is only
      >one Rock, Christ the Rock. Now, to explain that Peter is Rock, the
      >author had no choice, but to suggest that the name of Christ was given
      >to Peter. Apostles are image (Icon) of Christ, not Christ.
      when he made the confession, «Thou art Christ, the Son of the living
      >God», «Thou art Cephas, and upon this rock will I build my church, and
      >The gates of Sheol shall not prevail against it»; and he called the
      >firmness and fixity of such a confession a rock." - St. Severus,
      >Letter to the Holy Convents of Virgins of Christ.

      >"Peter and John were equal in dignity and honor. Christ is the
      >foundation of all - the unshakeable Rock upon which we are all built
      >as a spiritual edifice."
      [St. Cyril, Letter to Nestorius]

      This article appears to be typical of some Protestant polemics against the
      Catholic church.
      Christ is the rock of our faith. Christ made Peter the rock on which he
      built his church on.
      The term rock is used in two different contexts here. It is offensive to
      Catholics to imply that Christ is somehow supplanted by Peter.
      Christ lives he is the head of the Church.
      Furthermore the quotes I have given above from the Eastern Fathers
      (including St Cyprian) also what you have quoted testify that it not
      some Roman Catholic invention, but the opinion of the early church.

      Also I concur that Pater and John were equal in dignity and honour. John
      probably was diserving of higher honour than Peter because he was the only
      apostle who was at the crusifiction. All bishops of the Church both Orthodox
      and Catholic are equal in dignity and honour.

      . Orthodox church does not believe that church fathers are
      >infallible (that all they wrote is truth in an infallible way), but
      >there is a general concensus in the church, which the church believes
      >is inspired by the Spirit of God. It is in this consensus that some
      >fathers are called "pillar of faith".

      The Catholic Church has the same position on this.

      There is no end to this discussion. This is not a topic that affects
      our understanding of salvation in any way. For all Eastern fathers,
      the focus was Christ.

      I would suggest also the Western Fathers focus

      >It is through Christ that we know the Church.

      Is it not more correct to say 'it is through the Church we know Christ'?.

      >long as Orthodox church does not consider this model of primacy (under
      >one line of succession) important, there is no need for us to assert a
      ">unity under successors of Peter". What are the merits of accepting
      >uch a faith? Also, does the Orthodox understanding lead to errors in

      I go back to what you posted on the 24/6 and I quote you "There is no doubt
      about Peter's Primacy. It is not a primacy of
      power, but a primacy of Love and service that Jesus leaves him in John's
      While I disagree with you that Peters primacy has no power, (clearly the
      Keys gives him power to bind on earth and in heaven) I agree with you that
      this power is to exercised in a collegial manner and in a manner which is
      one of love and service. In regards errors in faith, there are between
      Orthodoxy and Roman Catholic differences in expressing our common faith,
      which can appear to each side as errors in faith. However with mutual
      dialogue and respect we can over come.these , a perfect example is the
      Christlogical dispute that arose after the Council of Chalcedon which has no
      been resolved..

      >If the end result is the unity of the Church, why the Orthodox
      >position is wrong, given that explaining the person of Peter as Rock
      >leads to equating the Apostle to Christ, which is a Christological error?

      Firstly you must ask yourself why did Christ re-name Simon, 'Cephas' which
      means rock
      Secondly it was the understanding of the early Church both East and West
      that Peter was the rock that Christ built his Church on.
      Thirdly scholarly opinion even Protestant confirm that Christ refers to
      Peter as the Rock in Mathew 16

      >Please do not feel offended about my words. Both sides are hoping for
      >the same end result - the unity of the Universal Church. So, let us
      >honor a position which puts Christ at the center.

      I am not offended at all Thomas. The fact that we dialoguing in itself
      speaks of the Holy Spirit working in the Church.

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