Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr Johannes L. Jacobs

3/3/2010 (4 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 (4 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'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More Europe

Spiritual Ecumenism: Pope Francis Visits Evangelical/Pentecostal Church in Caserta Italy Watch

Image of Pope Francis took a trip to Caserta, Italy on Monday, June 28, 2014. He visited with a friend named Giovanni Traettino who pastors an evangelical, charismatic/Pentecostal protestant Church.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Pope Francis took a trip to Caserta, Italy on Monday, June 28, 2014. He visited with a friend named Giovanni Traettino who pastors an evangelical, charismatic/Pentecostal protestant Church. This friend of Francis oversees the growing evangelical Church of the ... continue reading


Spanish priest packs them into church - by dancing the flamenco Watch

Image of Father Pepe danced in front of the late Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1997. He says w he will retire this coming September.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Jose Planas Moreno, known as "Father Pepe," has revived interest in his church in Malaga, Spain. The priest has brought parishioners flocking back to the Nuestra SeƱora Del Carmen church in Campanilla, a district of Malaga, with his unusual style of worship. ... continue reading


LUNCH SURPRISE: Pope Francis eats with Vatican employees in surprise visit Watch

Image of The Pope spent about an hour dining at a table with around 10 other people.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A "lunch surprise" usually means an item that's not on the menu offered at a lower price. At the Vatican, employees got quite a "lunch surprise" on Friday when their "boss" and bishop, Pope Francis, turned up at their cafeteria. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) ... continue reading


Stop! I am asking you with all my heart. Stop! - Pope Urges End to Wars in Ukraine, Iraq and Gaza

Image of Brothers and sisters: never war.My thoughts go especially to the children, from whom we take away the hope for a decent life: dead children, injured children, maimed children, orphaned children, children who have war relics for toys, children who do not know how to smile.- Pope Francis

By Asia News

He mentions children, victims of war, "from whom we take away the hope for a decent life," urging the parties to address "every diatribe with the tenacity of dialogue and negotiation and the power of reconciliation". As tomorrow marks 100 years since the outbreak ... continue reading


Meriam Ibraham is Free! The Living God Has Heard the Cry of His People! Jesus Christ is Lord! Watch

Image of Meriam receives the blessing and the gratitude of the successor of Peter, Francis.- What should be front and center in every Christian news report on this remarkable story is that God intervened on behalf of Meriam and her family. The God whom we profess is real and His power is greater than any regime or any form of opposition. Yes, He used men and women, and even government leaders, to accomplish His deliverance. He often does. But it was His Love and Mercy which broke the shackles of evil. He deserves all the praise.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The photo of Pope Francis blessing Meriam Ibrahim and her little daughter Maya in the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday, July 24, 2014, reciving a blessing from a smiling Pope Francis, made millions of hearts leap for joy. The God of love answers the prayers of His ... continue reading


'A negative act necessarily must be condemned:' Vatican revising law on abuse penalties Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In regards to canonical law regarding acts of sexual misconduct, according to law ended up being too vague, Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta says, church sanctions were being applied so haphazardly that the church appeared to be divided. In response, the Vatican is ... continue reading


VILE: Somali girl smuggled into United Kingdom for organ harvesting Watch

Image of In perhaps the most horrific recent case, law enforcement learned that a Somali girl had been brought to England for the express purpose of harvesting her organs for transplant.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There has been a noticeable uptick of cases of human trafficking in the United Kingdom. In perhaps the most horrific recent case, law enforcement learned that a Somali girl had been brought to England for the express purpose of harvesting her organs for ... continue reading


HORRIFIC ABUSE: 18-year-old girl coerced into group sex while being recorded on cell phone Watch

Image of The incident is being called an example of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An 18-year-old girl performed explicit sex acts on 24 men on a dance floor with the promise of a holiday - which never arrived. Presented with a mixed drink for her acts of indecency, the sordid episode was recorded on a cell phone camera - for the world to ... continue reading


Female genital mutilation threatens young females in England, Wales Watch

Image of The Department of Health has ordered hospitals to report signs of genital mutilation. The first statistics aren't due until September.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Far away from Africa and parts of Asia, girls and young women are still at risk for female genital mutilation, or FGM within the United Kingdom. The barbaric practice, FGM, is still carried out among various immigrant females in both Great Britain and Wales. ... continue reading


Putin vs. the World: One plane crash may spell the end for Russian president's ambitious plan of conquest Watch

Image of Russian backed separatists stand around wreckage from the downed Malaysian Airlines plane.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

World opinion continues to oppose Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine being the most notable and recent example of Russian interference in Ukraine. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Time and evidence ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Gospel, John 11:19-27
19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 29th, 2014 Image

St. Martha
July 29: "Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus." This unique ... 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