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 November 2014
Lonely people:
That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.



Comments


More Europe

Evangelical, Missionary Pope Francis Calls Europe to Return to Jesus Christ and Christian Roots Watch

Image of The European Parliament building

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

I believe that Europe has many resources for going forward. It's like a sickness that Europe has today. A wound. And the greatest resource is the person of Jesus. Europe, return to Jesus! Return to that Jesus whom you have said was not in your roots! And this is ... continue reading


Father William Nolan appointed by Pope Francis as Bishop of Galloway Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has appointed Father William Nolan, vicar general of Motherwell, as Bishop of Galloway. Father Nolan says he is "over-awed" by the appointment. He has served in the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes, East Kilbride, for 20 years. Nolan will replace ... continue reading


Rome's Colosseum to host cultural events again Watch

Image of Occasional concerts are held inside the Colosseum but the rebuilding of the arena's wooden flooring would allow more frequent events.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It once hosted bloody sports galore, with gladiators fighting to the death as well as Christians being thrown to the lions. Now, Rome, Colosseum will begin hosting less blood-soaked events. Italy's culture minister has given the green light for special events ... continue reading


Pope Francis appoints Robert Sarah to head the Vatican's congregation of liturgical practices Watch

Image of Robert Sarah, the 46-year-old president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, has been named by Pope Francis to head a congregation on liturgical practices.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea has been appointed the new head for the Vatican congregation that oversees and determines the liturgical practices of the Catholic Church world wide. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis made the appointment on November ... continue reading


SCARY VIDEO! What the heck blew up in Russia's sky? Was it a meteor or something stranger?! Watch

Image of A still taken from footage of the phenomena that took place in Russia on November 14.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What was the mysterious phenomena that occurred in Russia and was witnessed and captured on camera by dozens of motorists? It appears that nobody knows for sure, and even experts are left scratching their heads while they struggle to find reasonable explanations. ... continue reading


Who really was Jack the Ripper? New evidence points to one man Watch

Image of A criminologist from England may have new evidence that points towards the real identity of Jack the Ripper.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A new theory about the identity of infamous 19th century London serial killer Jack the Ripper may explain why the murderer was able to elude contemporary and modern authorities for so long and escape justice. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Dr. Gareth Norris, a ... continue reading


Which countries drink the most beer? Our list may surprise you! Watch

Image of Beer is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Who still drinks beer?  Beer is one of the most widely consumed beverages, behind water and tea.  Beer is also a Catholic tradition, alongside wine-making, and has been widely practiced in monasteries, especially in Europe. Now, a list has emerged detailing ... continue reading


To raise money for the poor, Pope Francis to raffle gifts Watch

Image of The tickets are only a modest €10, but this includes a new Fiat Panda 4x4, with all optional extras.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Talking the talk, walking the walk: Pope Francis has done it again. The pontiff is raffling gifts that have been given to him in order to raise money for the poor. Posters announcing the raffle have gone up all over Vatican City. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Russia could destabilize Eastern Europe if Ukraine left unchecked, Merkel warns Watch

Image of It's exceedingly tough talk from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She says that Russia's annexation of Crimea and subsequent destabilization of eastern Ukraine

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's exceedingly tough talk from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She says that Russia's annexation of Crimea and subsequent destabilization of eastern Ukraine "called the whole of the European peaceful order into question." Adding to the gloomy outlook was a ... continue reading


The Pope Who Builds Showers for the Poor under St Peters Rattles our Comfort Zones Watch

Image of Pope Francis embracing Jesus in the face of the poor

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Those who love the poor - like Jesus loved the poor- are an instruction manual for the rest of us. They are a sign of the kingdom, making it present in their wake. We have such a man in this Pope named Francis. He recognizes that poverty is more than a lack 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, Revelation 15:1-4
1 And I saw in heaven another sign, great and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 7-8, 9
1 [Psalm] Sing a new song to Yahweh, for he has ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:12-19
12 'But before all this happens, you will be seized ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 26th, 2014 Image

St. John Berchmans
November 26: Eldest son of a shoemaker, John was born at Diest, Brabant. He ... 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