Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr Johannes L. Jacobs

3/3/2010 (5 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The encyclical was well received in Christian circles outside of the Orthodox Church. The tone and message was meant to assure readers outside of Orthodoxy that Constantinople's claim to speak universally is valid and that its critics could be ignored. Inside the Orthodox Church however, many remain unpersuaded.

Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict XVI.

Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict XVI.

Highlights

By Fr Johannes L. Jacobs

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/3/2010 (5 years ago)

Published in Europe


NAPLES, FL (Catholic Online) - Last week Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew released an encyclical (Patriarch of Constantinople´s New Encyclical Defends Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue)  castigating what he called Orthodox "fanatics" who object to Orthodox ecumenical involvement. The encyclical was well received in Christian circles outside of the Orthodox Church, but raised eyebrows among those in the fold, not least for the strength of the language.

Here´s the background. The Orthodox Church is emerging out of a period of active persecution that lasted centuries for the Greeks and a generation for the Russians and other Eastern Europeans. Orthodoxy still flourishes in the Middle East although under considerable Muslim pressure. It is growing in Africa, Indonesia (where an indigenous Ortho-dox Church was started by several Moslem converts), America, Western Europe, and elsewhere in the world.

Two patriarchies dominate Orthodox affairs worldwide: Constantinople (Istanbul) and Moscow. Of the two patriarchies, Moscow is emerging as the leader. Constantinople on the other hand, still labors under the Islamic yoke. Muslim extremists have attacked the Patriarchate and the Turkish government has confiscated property and other resources.

With that history in mind, what is the reason for last Sunday´s encyclical?

All traditional Christian Churches understand that the Gospel is universal. "Go forth and preach the Gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit," Christ commanded His disciples. The Gospel transcends national, ethnic, and tribal boundaries. It is meant for all mankind.

The term "universal" comes from the Greek word katholikos (Catholic) which means "according to the whole." It is used in the Nicene Creed as "One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church."

Roman Catholics understand "according to the whole" to mean to mean the geographical dispersion of the Church united under the Pope of Rome. Orthodox understand the term to mean the unity of faith expressed through shared worship, doctrine, and manner of living that is the same in all places. Protestants understand it as the assembly of believers that transcend denominational boundaries.

In recent years, Constantinople has adopted the Roman definition but with a twist. It rightfully claims a primacy over all Orthodox patriarchies but now argues that the primacy includes a jurisdictional authority over areas of the world not directly under an established Patriarchate (America, for example).

The shifting definition creates a problem for Constantinople. Since Orthodox doctrine limits the Ecumenical Patriarch's jurisdictional authority to the geographical confines of the city of Constantinople, how can his claim of greater geographical authority be realized? It resolves the dilemma by elevating ethnic self-identity through an appeal to history.

It works like this: The Greeks gave the world both Hellenism and Christianity (from classical antiquity, to the hearing of St. Paul's gospel in pre-Christian Greece, to Byzantium). Secondly, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is the only living institution that embodies that rich historical legacy in the person of the Patriarch. Constantinople's primacy, in other words, also includes an ethnic component.

In Constantinople's view, the Greek in Greek Orthodoxy is as important as the Ortho-doxy. And since Greek Orthodox believers are geographically dispersed worldwide, Con-stantinople's authority extends worldwide as well, especially over lands with a poorly organized Orthodox presence. Moscow and most of the Orthodox dispute the claim.

Elevating ethnic self-identity first arose after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 when Christian world of Byzantium became subject to the Moslems and the Ecumenical Patri-arch became the unifying symbol of beleaguered Greeks. It may have been a necessary accommodation that saved them from Islamic assimilation.

All religious communions have believers who do not believe that the grace of God can exist outside the confines of their communion. Orthodoxy is no different. They make up some of the Ecumenical Patriarch's harshest critics and are probably the "fanatics" he had in mind in his encyclical. Others are more temperate but nevertheless alarmed by the re-cent hobnobbing with secular and marginally Christian organizations.

Either way, Constantinople invites the criticism. If the universality of the Church is defined first by ethnic identity and only secondarily by the Gospel command to preach to all nations, then participation in the Church is first a matter of pedigree and only second a matter of obedience to the Gospel.

Moreover, ethnic primacy also changes the manner by which Constantinople engages the culture. For example, in America we often see Constantinople lauding Greek Orthodox politicians who are fiercely pro-abortion with no corrective word about their violation of the moral tradition. St. Paul defines this as the salt losing its saltiness.

Both Catholicism and Orthodoxy have plenty of experience with getting too entangled in the affairs of this world. It mutes the Gospel and harms the Church. Rome tries to avoid these entanglements as does Moscow.

The Ecumenical Patriarch knows that his rebuke won't silence his critics. But then the encyclical was not really intended for an Orthodox audience. Rather, the tone and message was meant to assure readers outside of Orthodoxy that Constantinople's claim to speak universally is valid and that its critics could be ignored. Inside the Orthodox Church however, many remain unpersuaded.

-----

Fr Johannes L. Jacobse is an Orthodox priest serving in Naples, FL. He is the editor of Orthodoxy Today  and President of the American Orthodox Institute.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for June 2015
Universal:
That immigrants and refugees may find welcome and respect in the countries to which they come.
Evangelization: That the personal encounter with Jesus may arouse in many young people the desire to offer their own lives in priesthood or consecrated life.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Europe

The new 'Iron Curtain': Hungary plans massive border fence to keep migrants out Watch

Image of Border fence between United States and Mexico.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Critics are not happy with the Hungarian government's plan to construct a 13-foot high border fence to narrow down the influx of illegal migrants coming to their country. The planned border is being compared to the historically terrifying Auschwitz and Iron Curtain ... continue reading


Horrific terrorist attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait unleashed simultaneously Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Three different terrorist attacks occurred in three different areas, leaving a bloody line of death across three continents. The recent and horrific attacks reawaken the fear that ISIS' influence knows no boundaries. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The attacks took ... continue reading


Mystery surrounds disappearance of American woman on ancient Catholic pilgrimage in Spain Watch

Image of Denise Thiem mysteriously disappears during her Catholic Pilgrimage in Spain.

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Denise Thiem, an American woman who quit her job to go around the world, disappeared while in a Catholic Pilgrimage in Astorga, Spain and has been missing for more than three months  Thiem's family is continuously searching for answers from the Spanish authorities ... continue reading


Riots and protests prompt the banning of the Uber taxi service in France Watch

Image of The taxi protests in Paris have shined yet another unflattering spotlight on the world's most popular tourist destination. Politicians on both sides of the spectrum condemned the violence.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Denied their livelihood by the cyber-taxi service Uber, which pairs up paying passengers with unlicensed drivers, cab drivers overturned cars and blocked roads in Paris. The Uber service is already illegal in France, and the French government reiterated this ... continue reading


ZOMBIE PARANOIA: Gravesites suggest that fear of reanimated dead stretches back to ancient Greece Watch

Image of The head and feet of one skeleton were covered with a

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Modern man enjoys movies and TV shows involving the recently reanimated dead - "zombies," but in antiquity, the fear of the deceased suddenly coming back to life to wreak havoc with the living was at one time a real one. Skeletons have been unearthed and found ... continue reading


Ukraine's fragile ceasefire nearing collapse as rebels pound government positions Watch

Image of Fighters in Russian military uniforms and equipped with Russian military gear, though lacking insignias, have been spotted in Ukraine since early last year, part of a destabilizing effort to overthrow the Kiev government.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The abundance of evidence that Russia is covertly and overtly assisting Ukrainian rebels in their fight against Kiev continues to grow, and now the commander of U.S. forces in Europe said that there is "clear and irrefutable evidence" that Russia is actively ... continue reading


Panicked Greeks withdraw $1 billion from banks in a single day Watch

Image of Expressing a mood of panic, and a resignation that no further help from Europe is forthcoming, Greeks withdrew over $1.1 billion dollars from their bank accounts last week.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Expressing a mood of panic, and a resignation that no further help from Europe is forthcoming, Greeks withdrew over $1.1 billion dollars from their bank accounts last week. This pushes the beleaguered European nation closer towards a default. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Doctors found euthanizing patients without knowledge -- or consent in Belgium Watch

Image of Belgium became the first nation in the world in 2014 to eliminate age limits for euthanasia, allowing terminally-ill children to end their lives.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In the "forward-thinking" European nation of Belgium, it has been discovered that many doctors there - pun intended. - have been "jumping the gun." Raphael Cohen-Almagor, a professor of philosophy and ethics at the United Kingdom's Hull University, has ... continue reading


Pope Francis' environmental encyclical will be published this Thursday Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis' long awaited environmental encyclical, entitled Laudato Si, on the care of our common home will be published this Thursday. The encyclical tackles issues such as climate change. It is expected to be met with controversy. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Pope's former ambassador to the Dominican Republic faces child sexual abuse charges Watch

Image of Jozef Wesolowski served as nuncio to Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The Vatican said it was investigating Wesolowski in August of 2013 and removing him from his post.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope's former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Jozef Wesolowski will be tried at the Vatican on child sexual abuse charges beginning next month, the Vatican says. The 66-year-old Wesoloswki is the highest-ranking former Vatican official to be arrested for ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Genesis 21:5, 8-20
5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 34:7-8, 10-11, 12-13
7 The angel of Yahweh encamps around those who fear ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 8:28-34
28 When he reached the territory of the Gadarenes on ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 1st, 2015 Image

Bl. Junipero Serra
July 1: Miguel Jose Serra was born on the island of Majorca on November ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter