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Adam de Ville, editor of LOGOS: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, and blogger at Eastern Christian Books, has provided a wonderful summary of points of interest for Eastern Christians in the Pope’s newest book-length interview with Peter Seewald, Light of the World.  Most of the points have to do with the nature of the Roman Papacy.

These points show, I think, that Benedict XVI truly understands Eastern Christian concerns about papal authority, and more than that, is sympathetic to them. I might even venture to say that this Holy Father appears to have a much “lower” (dare I say more Orthodox?) doctrine of the Roman Primacy than many of his ardent conservative and traditionalist Catholic supporters.

(Recently I had a discussion with a theology professor at one of the most “traditional” Roman Catholic seminaries in the States. He informed me that the Holy Father no longer believed the foolish things he wrote about the Orthodox as a young professor, i.e. “the Ratzinger Formula”. Not too long after this discussion, the Pope’s new man at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Koch, referred to this formula as a position, not just of young Professor Ratzinger, but of Benedict XVI.)

DeVille’s excellent post can be found here.

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Dr Adam deVille, at his blog Eastern Christian Books, raises the question of rethinking Eucharistic discipline between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, from the perspectives of two Orthodox authors: historian Antoine Arjakovsky, and philosopher/theologian David Bentley Hart.

As I said in my review in Logos (vol. 49 [2008]), Arjakovsky is someone who knows how to be at once faithfully Orthodox and fully ecumenical, not a common combination today, alas. In his essay “On Eucharistic Hospitality” [in Church, Culture, and Identity: Reflections on Orthodoxy in the Modern World (UCU Press, 2007), 231pp.], Arjakovsky proposes that the ban on eucharistic hospitality between Catholics and Orthodox be re-examined and changed where possible. I confess that prior to reading this essay, I was in favor of maintaining the traditional position, but after reading and considering the Arjakovsky’s arguments, I have changed my mind and can now see why eucharistic sharing between Catholics and Orthodox would be beneficial and could very well be justified. Arjakovsky is aware that some, perhaps most, of his fellow Orthodox will not agree with him, but he does cite as support the considered thought of such important figures as Olivier Clément and the Armenian Catholicos Aram of Cilicia, who in 1993 argued in favor of eucharistic sharing.

Perhaps the strongest argument Arjakovsky advances for revising the traditional ban on eucharistic sharing among Catholics and Orthodox is that first put forward by Nikos Nissiotis in 1968. To the usual argument that one cannot share the Eucharist because one is not fully united on each and every detail of each and every doctrine, Nissiotis retorted that such an argument is historically unsupportable (divisions in the early Church did not prevent eucharistic sharing in most instances) and, moreover, is currently belied by the fact that certain Orthodox Churches, who do enjoy a unity of faith on doctrinal questions, nonetheless do not practice eucharistic hospitality among themselves. Michael Plekon in his preface to this volume, and Arjakovsky in his antepenultimate essay “Porto Alegre’s Redefinition of Ecumenism and the Transformation of Orthodoxy,” both note that at a recent WCC gathering in Porto Alegere, the Orthodox were unable to come together to concelebrate the Eucharist, instead having two separate liturgies of the Moscow and Ecumenical patriarchs. How can these Churches turn around and maintain that doctrinal agreements are the sine qua non for eucharistic hospitality when plainly they are not among the Orthodox themselves, whose lack of eucharistic sharing must be explained by other reasons?

Nissiotis additionally notes that such an argument flies in the face of very traditional eucharistic theology and spirituality, which holds that the Eucharist is the medicine of immortality, the means of the healing of body and soul, the gift of the Divine Physician who binds all wounds and makes all whole. The Eucharist, according to Nissiotis, is not merely the fruit of unity but “also the God-given means of maintaining unity and of healing divisions if this unity is at stake or if the appropriate conditions for restoring it exist.” If that is the case, how much sense does it make to deny this most vital of all medicines to the most evangelically destructive of all diseases, viz., Christian disunity?

Such questions acquire even greater force when one considers the arguments of another Orthodox theologian, David Bentley Hart. In his “The Myth of Schism,” Hart asks pointedly: “not how we can possibly discover the doctrinal and theological resources that would enable or justify reunion, but howe we can possibly discover the doctrinal and theological resources that could justify or indeed make certain our division. This is not a moral question–how do we dare remain disunited?–but purely a canonical one: are we sure that we are? For, if not, then our division is simply sin, a habit of desire and thought that feeds upon nothing but its own perverse passions and immanent logic, a fiction of the will, and obedience to a lie.” Hart’s essay is in Francesca Aran Murphy and Christopher Asprey, eds., Ecumenism Today: the Universal Church in the 21st Century (Ashgate, 2008), viii+222pp.

Hart argues that the so-called East-West Schism no longer exists, if it ever did. Hence he can ask: are we really sure that we are really and truly divided? He’s not being flippant, either, but notes the serious canonical questions in support of his position: first, it was a “local” issue insofar as it was 2 hierarchs (Cardinal Humbert and Patriarch Cerulerius) excommunicating each other, not formally confecting a division between two churches. Second, there is extensive evidence of communicatio in sacris down through the ages, including into the 20th century. Third, the mutual liftings, in 1965, of the excommunications by the pope of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch should have resolved any lingering question. In the end, then, Catholics and Orthodox are (to use a Freudian heuristic) divided on a manifest level, but not at a latent level. And if that is so–and I think it is–then there is nothing to stop each from sharing the Eucharist with the other. One of the reasons Florence failed was that it did not have the people onside. Perhaps it is time for the people to push the hierarchs towards finally healing this division, and to do so by simply disregarding any sacramental-eucharistic distinction between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and instead receiving the sacraments in both. This is what I would call the Lev Gillet solution, and I think Orthodox and Catholics who are serious about unity should start availing themselves of this whenever and wherever possible. In a rebarbative world we can no longer afford the luxury of division.

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Dr. Adam de Ville informs us of his new blog, Eastern Christian Books: “I hope to feature brief notices of new books in Eastern Christian Studies, with links to their publisher; short reviews of my own of new books; long reviews of my own; and then links to long reviews published in LOGOS: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, of which I am editor.”

De Ville is a professor at St Francis University (Fort Wayne, IN), and author of The Roman Papacy and the Orthodox Churches: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity (to be published by the University of Notre Dame Press in early 2011). He received his doctorate from Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, St Paul University, Ottawa.

On this blog’s former incarnation, we featured a review by de Ville of Michael Whelton’s Popes and Patriarchs: An Orthodox Perspective on Roman Catholic Claims.

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Notes from the Fordham Conference

Dr Peter Gilbert, of De unione ecclesiarum, has posted the second part of his notes on the “Orthodox Constructions of the West” conference.  The first part may be found here.

Also, somehow I missed this report on the recent Orientale Lumen conference on the Councils of the Church, by Eric Sammons of The Divine Life.

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An interesting post from The Anglo-Catholic, an excellent blog by Anglicans seeking unity with the See of Rome:

Fr. John Guy Winfrey*, the parish priest of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Grand Rapids, MI, and a former parishioner of the Anglo-Catholic St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Ft. Worth, has written to offer the following piece on promising developments in Eastern Orthodoxy and his thoughts regarding their place in the larger drama of reconciliation between the “two lungs” of the Church, East and West.

Fr. Winfrey posits that the Holy Father’s recent Apostolic Constitution providing for the corporate reconciliation of Anglican groups, Anglicanorum Coetibus, is a sign to Orthodox Christians that the Roman Pontiff is truly committed to the pursuit of a genuine unity in diversity.

* Fr Winfrey also blogs here (on general topics) and here (on the specific topic of Western Rite Orthodoxy).  A previous essay of his, on the topic of the “Anglican Patrimony”, may be found here.

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George E. Demacopoulos, Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Fordham University and Co-Founding Director of Fordham’s Orthodox Christian Studies Program, has sent me the following flyer about the Program’s upcoming June conference, Orthodox Constructions of the West (detailed information about the conference, including registration, may be found here).

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Dr Peter Gilbert, of De unione ecclesiarum (one of a few blogs by an Orthodox Christian I can bear to read) has just posted the text of a lecture he recently gave to the Youngstown, Ohio chapter of the Society of St John Chrysostom. Please leave any comments you have at Dr Gilbert’s blog.

I will only reproduce here a quote of St Gregory the Theologian, which seems to sum up so well the history of theological wrangling between Greek and Latin Christianity:

Others, mutually divided, drive East and West
into confusion, and God has abandoned them to their flesh,
for which they make war, giving their name and their allegiance to others:
my god’s Paul, yours is Peter, his is Apollos.
But Christ is pierced with nails to no purpose.
For it’s not from Christ that we’re called, but from men,
we who possess his honor by hands and by blood.
So much have our eyes been clouded over by a love
of vain glory, or gain, or by bitter envy,
pining away, rejoicing in evil: these have a well-earned misery.
And the pretext is the Trinity, but the reality is faithless hate.
Each is two-faced, a wolf concealed against the sheep,
and a brass pot hiding a nasty food for the children.

[Poem 2.1.13, To the Bishops, vv. 151-163; PG 37, 1239-1240]

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