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 March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


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


Comments


More Europe

Terrorist attack plans AGAINST THE VATICAN unveiled during police raids in Italy Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An al-Qaeda-linked terror cell, who once had direct contact with Osama bin Laden and planned an attack on the Vatican, has been uncovered and broken up during raids by the Italian police this week. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The group in question is believed ... continue reading


North African immigrants flooding Italy - as many as 200,000 could be there in a year Watch

Image of Arrivals of migrants usually spike in the spring and summer months due to more inclement weather in the Mediterranean.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Italy has become a gateway for many African and Middle Easterners fleeing their war-torn lands for peace and prosperity. It is estimated that as many as 5,000 migrants a week arrive in Italy by sea from North African ports. This is leading to a crisis, with ... continue reading


Pope urges Christians and Jews to UNITE to defeat persecution in Europe Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Meeting with a 30-member delegation of the Conference of European Rabbis, Pope Francis said that European Christians and Jews must stand together to defend one another from discrimination and persecution around the world. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The ... continue reading


Money running out, Greek government orders raid on government coffers Watch

Image of Hopes of securing a deal by the end of the month have faded, following a fraught week in which debt drama moved temporarily to Washington for the IMF's spring conference.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Greek government has ordered a mandatory transfer of cash reserves from state-owned enterprises to the central bank. The action is a frantic bid to gather enough cash to remain solvent. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Citing "extremely urgent and ... continue reading


HISTORIC MEETING: Pope Francis meets with rabbis to decry growing anti-Semitism in Europe Watch

Image of In the face of rampant secularism in Europe and other parts of the world, Pope Francis suggested that Jews and Christians have a co-responsibility to keep faith in God alive.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis met in the Vatican with a delegation from the Conference of European Rabbis, the first time a pope has ever met with the Conference. Foremost in the meeting were the troubling "anti-Semitic trends in Europe." The Pope called it a cause for worry, ... continue reading


Muslim migrants threw Nigerian and Ghana Christians overboard, police say Watch

Image of More than 10,000 people have arrived on Italian shores from Libya since last weekend alone.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Muslims among migrants trying to get from Libya to Italy in a boat killed 12 fellow passengers by throwing them overboard because they were Christians, Italian police say. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - At least 15 people have been arrested on suspicion of ... continue reading


Rare phenomenon 'worm rainfall' observed in Norway, scientists still baffled Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Thousands of earthworms were observed falling from the sky across the southern part of Norway, which still baffles the scientists. The rare phenomenon was sighted by a Biology teacher Karstein Erstad, as he was skiing in the mountains near Bergen last weekend. ... continue reading


Pope Francis is part of 'evil front' against Turkey, prime minister declares Watch

Image of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has accused Pope Francis of being part of an

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has accused Pope Francis of being part of an "evil front" plotting against his country. The Pope used the term "genocide" in describing the massacre of one million Armenians during the Ottoman Empire in 1915. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Vatican-backed exorcism course warns of 'beautiful young vampires' Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"Beautiful young vampires," in vitro fertilization and gay rights were among the warnings for possession presented during a Vatican-backed exorcism course. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Vampires from pop culture Hollywood films, like Twilight and True Blood, were ... continue reading


Pope Francis' talk about Satan increases worldwide interest in exorcism Watch

Image of A week-long exorcism conference, held this week at the Pontifical University of Regina Apostolorum in Rome and endorsed by the Vatican, is being attended by around 160 Catholic priests from around the world.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The world is now in the throes of an increased awareness of Satan and the "dark arts" of exorcism. Pope Francis' fire-and-brimstone language, coupled with his frequent references to the Devil has raised awareness of the Evil One once again into the mainstream of ... 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, Acts 11:1-18
1 The apostles and the brothers in Judaea heard that ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 42:2-3; 43:3, 4
2 I thirst for God, the living God; when shall I go ... Read More

Gospel, John 10:1-10
1 'In all truth I tell you, anyone who does not enter ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 27th, 2015 Image

St. Zita
April 27: St. Zita was born into a poor but holy Christian family. Her ... 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