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Archive for the ‘Rome’ Category

From Rocco Palmo’s Whispers in the Loggia:

As foreseen yesterday, this morning the Pope accepted the retirement of Cardinal Lubomyr Husar as major-archbishop of Kiev and head of the 5 million-member Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church worldwide.

With the departure of the 77 year-old hierarch on grounds of poor health, the leadership of the largest Eastern fold in communion with Rome is now up for grabs, and going into next month’s Synod to elect his successor, the stakes are high well beyond the ecclesial front.

For starters, the choice of the UGCC’s 26th head will, in all likelihood, mark a generational shift at the church’s helm. Each tipped to receive serious consideration to succeed to the (de facto) patriarch’s chair, three of the body’s four metropolitans — the Synod’s most senior figures after Husar, all likewise elected by it to their current posts — are 60 or younger, two of them having spent their whole lives in the diaspora.

In the meanwhile, the church’s second-ranking figure at home, Archeparch Ivor Vozniak, 58 — Husar’s onetime deputy in his former seat of Lviv — has been named the church’s temporary head pending the Synod of Election, which must convene within a month. Prior to his ascent, the now-retired cardinal was the lead aide to his predecessor, Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky, who led the church for 17 years until his death in 2001 at 86.

Above all, though, the selection of the next major-archbishop will be watched with considerable attention far outside Ukrainian and Catholic circles alike for the decision’s potential impact on the delicate relationship between the Vatican and the Kremlin — a slowly warming rapport whose continued improvement ranks atop Benedict XVI’s religious and geopolitical priorities all around.

For his part, Husar’s decade-long tenure has had its share of tensions with Ukraine’s predominant Orthodox church. The latter closely linked with the formidable Moscow patriarchate — that is, the ecumenical constituency to which Benedict has invested his most intense energies as Pope — the UGCC has long been accused of proselytism andinterference by its Orthodox counterparts, and the two groups havesparred over the construction of churches.

Along the way, the Greek-Catholics prominently inflamed pockets of Orthodox tensions with Husar’s 2005 move to Kiev (the traditional cradle of Russian Christianity and seat of the UOC), coupled with his push to build a grand cathedral there (above), the preliminary chapel of which was set ablaze in 2005 in an act immediately blamed on Orthodox aggression. (Dedicated to the Resurrection, the Kiev cathedral’s exterior was completed last fall.)

Most recently, in one of his last major statements in office, the cardinal — invariably a fierce advocate of his church’s fullest standing in society – blasted an enhanced state recognition for the UOC (one of three Orthodox branches in Ukraine).

Saying that the country’s constitution ensured equal status under the law for each religious body, Husar warned that “when we can witness a clearly biased, despite all the assurances to the contrary, attitude of the regime toward a specified church, this favoritism begins to create tensions.”

The development, he said, “is dangerous for the nation’s peace.”

In its relations with the Orthodox churches on post-Soviet turf, Rome has often found itself walking a delicate balance, and no more is that the case than in the sizable orbit of the Moscow patriarchate.

Even as its diaspora grew and the leaders of the persecuted fold were arrested before being scattered in exile, the Vatican has maintained a half-century reluctance to accord the patriarchal dignity to the head of the Ukrainian church, inventing the designation of major-archbishop in 1963 after Paul VI was petitioned to elevate the fold’s then-head, Cardinal Joseph Slipyj, to the full status of an Eastern chief. While John Paul II naturally enjoyed a particular bond with the faithful just across the border from his Polish homeland, even he declined the step. And given Benedict’s priority on improving relations with Orthodoxy’s most hard-line branch, not only would the question seem even less likely to be broached in the current pontificate (at least, barring a sudden, epic detente with Moscow), but a realm of thought on this front has seen the reigning Pope as having given more emphasis to external relations than that of the churches within his own care. Whether this mindset reflexively plays out in the choice of a successor from Husar’s mould of an unstinting, battle-ready defense of the church’s prerogatives, as opposed to a more diplomatic figure, hangs as a key variable in the run-up to the Synod — one which, again, could have ramifications far beyond Kiev.

Coincidentally, last week marked two years since Rome’s most significant recent triumph on the Orthodox front — the election of Metropolitan Kirill, the Russian church’s chief ecumenist, who became particularly well-regarded at the Holy See, as patriarch of Moscow following the death of the more strident Alexei II.

To the degree that the Russian Synod was looking outside, its choice of the moderate, media-savvy dialogue chief was likely aided by the Vatican’s 2007 appointment of a more collaborative cleric — the Italian priest of Communion and Liberation Paolo Pezzi — as the capital’s Catholic archbishop, replacing a prelate whose departure the Orthodox had ardently sought.

Though Kirill and Benedict have built a history of warm relations from the former’s prior assignment, to date, no meeting between a Roman pontiff and incumbent Russian patriarch has ever taken place… and to say that the historic encounter is high on B16′s “bucket list” reaches the realm of understatement.

While the Moscow chief is thought to be just as personally disposed for the moment to happen, as patriarch, Kirill first has to assuage his hard-liners. And it’s likewise on Benedict’s radar that his hierarchs refrain from presenting any obstacles that would galvanize the significant resistance in both churches to better relations, largely thanks to the concessions each would have to make along the way.

To be sure, in a December address, Husar lamented the “stereotype” that “Greek Catholics are the problem for reaching agreements between the Moscow Patriarchate and Roman Pope.”

“The pope and the Patriarch of Moscow cannot reach an agreement on many other things,” the cardinal said.

“You see, we are the unfortunate Greek Catholics on the border between the two great cultures – the Byzantine and Latin ones, between Roman Catholicism and confessional Orthodoxy – as we consider ourselves the Orthodox in unity with the Apostolic See.”

Still, the truth remains the Vatican’s prized path to Moscow could well be affected by what happens in Kiev. So on multiple points of the map, get ready for an interesting month.

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I’ve long been fascinated by the figure of Kyr Elias Zoghby, the late Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Baalbek (1912-2008). Readers of this blog may be familiar with his controversial proposal for the establishment of “dual communion” of the Melkites with both the See of Rome and the Antiochian Orthodox Patriarchate, on the basis of a two point declaration of faith:

  1. I believe everything which Eastern Orthodoxy teaches.
  2. I am in communion with the Bishop of Rome as the first among the bishops, according to the limits recognized by the Holy Fathers of the East during the first millennium, before the separation.

DTBrown, of the blog Orthocath, has posted a PDF file of interesting documents relating to the Zoghby Initiative. DTBrown explains, in a post to the Byzcath forum:

Recently, I came across the copy I had of the original French text of the 1997 Letter from Rome (written by Cardinals Silvestrini, Ratzinger and Cassidy) to Melkite Patriarch Maximus V Hakim discussing the “Zoghby Initiative.” I had obtained this text directly from the Melkite Eparchy back in late 1997 after reading an initial report about it in the Catholic press. With the help of a friend, I posted a translation into English on the old CINEAST discussion list back in early 1998 …

I thought it would be good to make the original French text available for those who might be interested. After taking a look at it, one friend spoke highly of the nuances behind the French text: “The tone of the French is deliberately neutral and restrained… The text almost defies translation because of this… The letter is truly a masterpiece in measured precision.”

As far as I know there is no official translation of this letter. I don’t believe any of the published translations into English claim to convey fully the nuances of the sophisticated French. The 1998 translation mentioned above strived to be a literal rendering of the document.

Along with this file of the original French text I am also making available a new English translation made with the help of a couple of friends. This translation does not claim any special merit but serves simply as a reference point for those researching this document. This newer translation is less literal and tries to render the French into more idiomatic English. Perhaps someday an official translation into English can be provided or someone might attempt a polished professional translation.

Further, this file also contains a 1997 article on this letter from Eastern Catholic Life, which contains a partial translation and summary of the letter by Bishop Nicholas Samra. Finally, some historical background is also appended to the file.

This new file (original French text, new English translation, 1997 news article and background information) is in PDF format and can be downloaded here. The file is about 3.5 MB. Depending on your connection speed, it may take a bit to download. It might be best to right click on the link to download it directly to your computer instead of trying to read it online.

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The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation
Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Saturday, October 2, 2010

[Emphasis and a few comments added]

1.  Prologue. For almost forty-five years, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation has been meeting regularly to discuss some of the major pastoral and doctrinal issues that prevent our Churches from sharing a single life of faith, sacraments, and witness before the world.  Our goal has been to pave the way towards sharing fully in Eucharistic communion through recognizing and accepting each other as integral parts of the Church founded by Jesus Christ.

2. A Central Point of Disagreement.  In the course of our discussions, it has become increasingly clear to us that the most divisive element in our traditions has been a growing diversity, since the late patristic centuries, in the ways we understand the structure of the Church itself, particularly our understanding of the forms of headship that seem essential to the Church’s being at the local, regional and worldwide levels.  At the heart of our differences stands the way each of our traditions understands the proper exercise of primacy in the leadership of the Church, both within the various regions of the Christian world and within Christianity as a whole.  In order to be the Body of Christ in its fullness — to be both “Orthodox” and “Catholic” — does a local community, gathered to celebrate the Eucharist, have to be united with the other Churches that share the Apostolic faith, not only through Scripture, doctrine, and tradition, but also through common worldwide structures of authority — particularly through the practice of a universal synodality in union with the bishop of Rome?

[There is no question here of one side or the other returning to some pure, patristic, first millennium standard. It's unfair for each side to reproach the other for departing from such a mythic standard. Church history is full of both "Orthodox" and "Catholic" moments (and even a few "Protestant" ones!), and apologists for each side will use the bits that best fit their case. The problems which arose between the Churches in the second millennium arose because there was no consensus about the relationship between primacy and conciliarity in the first! There must, then, be a model of Orthodox-Catholic communion for the third millennium.]

It seems to be no exaggeration, in fact, to say that the root obstacle preventing the Orthodox and Catholic Churches from growing steadily towards sacramental and practical unity has been, and continues to be, the role that the bishop of Rome plays in the worldwide Catholic communion. While for Catholics, maintaining communion in faith and sacraments with the bishop of Rome is considered a necessary criterion for being considered Church in the full sense, for Orthodox, as well as for Protestants, it is precisely the pope’s historic claims to authority in teaching and Church life that are most at variance with the image of the Church presented to us in the New Testament and in early Christian writings.  In the carefully understated words of Pope John Paul II, “the Catholic Church’s conviction that in the ministry of the bishop of Rome she has preserved, in fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition and the faith of the Fathers, the visible sign and guarantor of unity, constitutes a difficulty for most other Christians, whose memory is marked by certain painful recollections” (Ut Unum Sint 88).

(more…)

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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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The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation recently held its annual meeting and has just released the text of two statements: one on the date of Easter, and the other entitled “Steps Towards a Reunited Church: A Sketch of an Orthodox-Catholic Vision for the Future”.  The latter statement is reproduced below (emphasis added).

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STEPS TOWARDS A REUNITED CHURCH: A SKETCH OF AN ORTHODOX-CATHOLIC VISION FOR THE FUTURE

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation
Georgetown University, Washington, DC
October 2, 2010

1.  Prologue. For almost forty-five years, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation has been meeting regularly to discuss some of the major pastoral and doctrinal issues that prevent our Churches from sharing a single life of faith, sacraments, and witness before the world.  Our goal has been to pave the way towards sharing fully in Eucharistic communion through recognizing and accepting each other as integral parts of the Church founded by Jesus Christ.

2. A Central Point of Disagreement.  In the course of our discussions, it has become increasingly clear to us that the most divisive element in our traditions has been a growing diversity, since the late patristic centuries, in the ways we understand the structure of the Church itself, particularly our understanding of the forms of headship that seem essential to the Church’s being at the local, regional and worldwide levels.  At the heart of our differences stands the way each of our traditions understands the proper exercise of primacy in the leadership of the Church, both within the various regions of the Christian world and within Christianity as a whole.  In order to be the Body of Christ in its fullness — to be both “Orthodox” and “Catholic” — does a local community, gathered to celebrate the Eucharist, have to be united with the other Churches that share the Apostolic faith, not only through Scripture, doctrine, and tradition, but also through common worldwide structures of authority — particularly through the practice of a universal synodality in union with the bishop of Rome?

It seems to be no exaggeration, in fact, to say that the root obstacle preventing the Orthodox and Catholic Churches from growing steadily towards sacramental and practical unity has been, and continues to be, the role that the bishop of Rome plays in the worldwide Catholic communion. While for Catholics, maintaining communion in faith and sacraments with the bishop of Rome is considered a necessary criterion for being considered Church in the full sense, for Orthodox, as well as for Protestants, it is precisely the pope’s historic claims to authority in teaching and Church life that are most at variance with the image of the Church presented to us in the New Testament and in early Christian writings.  In the carefully understated words of Pope John Paul II, “the Catholic Church’s conviction that in the ministry of the bishop of Rome she has preserved, in fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition and the faith of the Fathers, the visible sign and guarantor of unity, constitutes a difficulty for most other Christians, whose memory is marked by certain painful recollections” (Ut Unum Sint 88).

(more…)

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Via Byzantine Texas, a “robo-translation” of this news article from the of the Moscow Patriarchate [a few comments in blue]:

As the President of the Department for External Church Relations of Moscow Patriarchate popular idea several media working document of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church does not reflect the position of the Orthodox parties on the issue of primacy of the Roman bishop, and can only be seen as merely auxiliary material for further work. [Compare this judgment of Met. Hilarion with the words of Met. John Zizioulas, that "On the whole the basic ideas of Ravenna are accepted by all the orthodox churches." Met. Hilarion, on behalf of the Russian Church, also voiced his disagreement with Ravenna as well.]
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Contrary to the assertions of the press, at the meeting of the Orthodox-Catholic Theological Commission in Vienna, there were no “breakthroughs” made. ["The press", of course, were following the lead of both Met. John Zizioulas and Archbishop Kurt Koch. Met. Hilarion is suggesting, I think, that Met. John shouldn't be speaking for the Orthodox.] All the session was devoted to discussion of the role of the bishop of Rome in the first millennium. On this subject the steering committee of the Commission had earlier prepared a document discussed in the last year in Cyprus . A draft version of the document “flowed” ["leaked"?] in the media and has been published.
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It was assumed that Vienna will be able to finish the discussion of this document. But nothing happened: It took a lot of time discussion of the status of the text. Orthodox members from the very beginning of the meeting insisted that “the Cyprus document” can neither be formally issued on behalf of the Commission, nor signed by its members. From our perspective, this paper needs substantial revision, but after treatment he may have only the status of “working document” that is merely auxiliary material (instrumentum laboris), which can be used to prepare the following documents, but he will not have any official status.
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“The Cyprus paper has strictly historical in nature and, speaking about the role of the bishop of Rome, almost no mention of the bishops of other Local Churches of the first millennium, creating misconceptions about how to distribute power in the early Church. In addition, the document is not clear and precise allegations that the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome in the first millennium did not extend to the East. It is hoped that these gaps and omissions will be filled in the finalization of the text.
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After a lengthy discussion, the Commission decided that the document needed more work and that a final decision on his status will be made at the next plenary meeting of the committee, ie expected in two years. By this time, will be drafted a new document, which will consider the same issues, but only from the theological point of view.
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For the Orthodox participants [All of them? Who is speaking for them, Met. Hilarion or Met. John Zizioulas?] is obvious that the first millennium jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome was distributed solely to the West, whereas in the East territories were divided between the four Patriarchy – Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. The Bishop of Rome had no direct jurisdiction of the East [would very many Catholic theologians and historians argue that he did?], despite the fact that in some cases Eastern hierarchs spoke to him as an arbiter in theological disputes. Data treatment did not have a systematic character and in no way be interpreted in the sense that the bishop of Rome was seen in the East as the holder of the supreme authority throughout the universal Church.
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I hope that in subsequent meetings of the commission the Catholic side would agree with this position, as evidenced by numerous historical evidence. [Met. Hilarion is certainly right in wanting to have his Church's ecclesiological views reflected in the work of the Commission, especially since his Church is by far the largest Orthodox Church: its views are those of the Orthodox majority!  At the same time, I do think Met. Hilarion's words are as much about the continued ecclesiological spats with Constantinople, as they are about old ecclesiological spats with Rome.]

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The blog of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (also known as the Transalpine Redemptorists), of Papa Stronsay, Orkney, Scotland, features an interesting document: a 1908 letter from Pope Pius X (not exactly an “ecumaniac” or champion of “indifferentism”) to Andrei Sheptyts’kyi (1865–1944), the saintly Greek Catholic Metropolitan of Kiev, explicitly permitting communicatio in sacris with Orthodox Christians.

N.B. I post this merely for informational purposes; the Catholic and Orthodox faithful should always respect the eucharistic disciplines imposed by the hierarchy of their respective communions.

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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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We continue with the second part of Michaël de Verteuil’s report on the recent “Orthodox Constructions of the West” conference at Fordham University (June 28-30).  Part one may be found here.
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Update – Dr Peter Gilbert, of De unione ecclesiarum, has posted the first part of his reflections on the Conference.

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Dr. Kolbaba is a secular historian for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect. I relied in large part and on whose work on the background to the 1054 dispute in drafting my article on Patriarch Michael Cerularius.

In her lead presentation at the conference, “The Tenth Century: Orthodox Constructions of the West in the Golden Age of Byzantium”, she set out to explain not so much why the schism occurred, but why it occurred when it did in the latter half of the 11th century. Specifically, she sought to answer this question in such a way as to avoid a deterministic view of history which treats critical events in retrospect as if they were somehow inevitable. What made the timing of the schism so difficult to explain, in her view, was that it followed on a long period of generally good relations between East and West. The 9th century dust-up between Rome on one hand, and Constantinople in the person of Photius on the other was widely seen in retrospect in the 10th century as an aberration.

Nevertheless, Dr. Kolbaba noted that this earlier dispute had not occurred in a vacuum.

All the factors that were later offered up to justify the schism (the papal claims, the filioque, as well as liturgical and disciplinary differences) were of long standing and were known in the 10th century, though they were not yet seen at the time as obstacles to communion. Both East and West had gone through a period of missionary expansion early in the 10th century with their evangelization efforts overlapping notably in Moravia and Bulgaria. Differences in ritual practice had been noted in these shared missionary areas, but without the “other side” necessarily being seen as “wrong” as a result. Differing liturgical practices had also been a minor factor in the political and ecclesial rivalry between the Lombard duchies and the Byzantine empire in Southern Italy, though not one that had attracted much notice in Constantinople prior to the 11th century.

In essence, Rome was still viewed positively in the 10th century for its earlier role in resisting iconoclasm, and the West was correspondingly not then perceived as a source of heresy. Despite the 9th century controversy over the filioque, Dr. Kolbaba noted that a comprehensive review of extant documents has yielded not a single Greek treatise against the interpolation that can be traced unambiguously to the 10th century, a lacuna all the more remarkable as one would in later times be expected (she observed half jokingly) to write at least two before being taken seriously as an Orthodox theologian.  Furthermore, works condemning typically Western liturgical practices which would characterize Orthodox polemics in later centuries had yet to be written. So what changed in the 11th century?

Some early developments in the West were to have a latent impact on relations and on the way in which it would be perceived in the East. Dr. Kolbaba noted, for example, to the differing way in which Rome and the Frankish court were to receive the decisions of the 7th ecumenical council (albeit the Frankish reaction being based on a seriously flawed translation of the canons). The Gregorian reforms in the 11th century were to  usher in a harder Western line on clerical celibacy and independence from secular authorities, as well as on the Papal claims; but Dr. Kolbaba argued that it was the East rather than the West that was ultimately to pick fault with the other, and that it was in the East that we should look for the key developments that would leading to a change in attitude that in turn would make the schism possible. Specifically and perhaps surprisingly she pointed to the substantial improvement in the Byzantine military situation along the empire’s eastern and southeastern frontier in the late 10th and early 11th centuries as the key underlying game changer.

Territorial contraction in earlier centuries and the struggle against iconoclasm had resulted in a more homogenous Greek-speaking and liturgically Byzantine empire. These features were to become, for courtly and religious elites based in Constantinople, the empire’s defining attributes any weakening of which could be seen as posing an existential threat to its survival. The later reestablishment of Byzantine control in Armenia and northern Syria, however, was to significantly alter the political and cultural balance of power in the empire in ways that would prove threatening to these self-described “Guardians of Orthodoxy.”

The reversal of the empire’s fortunes was to occur under a successful string of emperors from military families with allegedly non-Greek antecedents. Non-Greek populations, most notably Armenians, were resettled in the reconquered areas, forming a client and martial recruitment base for these new military elites. In order to facilitate the incorporation of populations that had largely broken with the official Church over Chalcedon, emperors such as Basil II tended to adopt a policy of de facto religious toleration that was bitterly contested by the more “purist” traditional elites in the capital. For the Guardians of Orthodoxy, the policy of tolerance pursued by emperors themselves of allegedly Armenian descent became increasingly reminiscent of the heretical proclivities of the earlier non-Greek (“Isaurian”) iconoclast emperors. This led to fears that the new military elites now based in the reconquered east were poised to link up politically with the new non-Greek “other” increasingly associated with heresy, in a way that threatened the empire’s unity, purity and thus divine protection.

The ire of these traditional elites in Constantinople came to be focused on the main distinguishing features of the Armenian liturgy, namely the use of azymes (unleavened bread) in the eucharist portrayed as a deliberate downplaying of the Resurrection and thus of Christ’s humanity, i.e. of monophysite heresy made liturgically manifest. Dr. Kolbaba concluded that it is in the context of the resulting anti-Armenian polemics (in which difference in liturgical practice was linked conceptually with religious dissent, and in which non-Greekness came to be increasingly identified with heterodoxy) that previously low-level tensions over rite and jurisdiction in Southern Italy came to be seen in Constantinople in a new light, and in which the orthodoxy of the non-Greek, “azymite” West first came to be questioned.

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Good friend of the blog and frequent commenter, Michaël de Verteuil, attended the recent “Orthodox Constructions of the West” conference at Fordham University (June 28-30), and sent the following first installment of a report about the conference to Eirenikon readers:

Update – The official press release from Fordham can be read here.  Michael Liccione, of Sacramentum Vitae, discusses the conference here.  An interesting combox discussion can be read over at John’s Ad Orientem.

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The Conference was amazingly rich both in content and participants. I felt it was money well spent for several reasons that should come out in our discussion. As it covered two and a half days and involved the presentation and discussion of about a dozen papers, a single report would not do it justice. On the other hand, offering a dozen reports at one go would just lead to a confused and scattered discussion, so I have proposed to our kind host that we offer offer no more than one or two a day, perhaps holding off on the next one until comments trickle to a stop. I should also note that the proceedings will eventually be published, and this approved and more comprehensive version should ultimately be given primacy over the notes I offer here.
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One major disappointment for me was the limited time I was able to spend with Dr. Tighe, Dr. Peter Gilbert (of “Bekkos” fame) and Fr. Paul [frequent commenter on Eirenikon – Ed.] (who managed to make his way from Greece for the Conference). It was wonderful to see them and chat with them in the flesh, however, no matter how briefly. Unfortunately, Dr. Michael Liccione who had planned to attend doesn’t seem to have been able to make it.
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From what I could tell, about half the participants appeared to be Orthodox, perhaps a quarter to a third were Catholic with teh remainder a smattering of secular historians and Protestants. I am told that attendance was just under 180 at its highest, and that seems about right though I didn’t take a count myself.
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Anti-ecumenists were notably absent, perhaps understandably, though as you will see in subsequent reports, their flag bearers were present in spirit and their works discussed, in some cases not altogether unsympathetically.
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I will begin with this report of Fr. Taft’s opening address. It proved hard to bear for some of the Orthodox attendees but, as one of them put at lunch to the agreement of his fellow Orthodox at the table, Fr. Taft has pretty well earned to right to say whatever he wants. ;-)
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Monday, keynote address, Fr. Robert F. Taft, SJ:
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“Perceptions and Realities in Orthodox-Catholic Relations Today: Reflections on the Past, Prospects for the Future”
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In the opening keynote address, Fr. Taft, introduced as the world’s foremost expert on the history of the Byzantine liturgy with over 800 publications to his credit, noted that the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue remained on track (which he found encouraging), but offered two grounds for disillusion: the field remained the preserve of theologians and hierarchs and needed to be pursued more at the grassroots level, and the process continued to be plagued by failure to accept and confront respective responsibility for “a dolorous past.”
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In the spirit of openness, Fr. Taft began by acknowledging the responsibility of his own (Jesuit) order, describing its relentless 16th and 17th century proselytism against Eastern Christians in the Ottoman Empire, India, Ethiopia and the Polish Commonwealth as a form of ecclesial imperialism. Uniatism pursued in this way had resulted in merely partial unions while dividing Eastern Churches as lay people loyally followed their bishops without clearly appreciating the underlying issues in dispute. As a result, the consequences of uniatism posed the greatest obstacles to wider reunion.
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Ironically, only full reunion would resolve the resulting problems, but there was still a role for interim solutions. As examples, Fr. Taft pointed to the need for steps like abandoning “selective histories” and adopting “shared history” that would be based on common hermeneutic principles. Each side should also be clearer on what was required of the other as a basis for reunion. (By this I understood him to mean more than the restatement of simplistic, insulting and empty exhortations to “repent” and “return to the true faith,” but he didn’t specify.)
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He noted progress on the Roman side with recognition that the 9th century had seen a problematic evolution of the exercise of its primacy in the East, and the fact that Catholic scholarship no longer referred to the “Eastern schism” preferring instead to a more neutral and less judgmental “East-West schism.” He contrasted this Roman movement, however, with an Orthodox failure to acknowledge that Papal primacy in the West had played a critical role in keeping the Western Church united as a bulwark against rising secularism, and that the absence of the exercise of this Petrine function in the East left chaos, usurpation and local schism there as the only responses to intra-Orthodox ecclesiological quarrels.
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Fr. Taft also stressed that the Jesuits/Catholic side was not solely responsible for uniatism. Whatever its flaws, it had been proposed initially by Eastern bishops bashed by the Reformation on one side, by the Poles and Jesuits on another clamoring for absorption of their Orthodox flocks into the Latin rite, and finally by Russian imperialism treating this same flock as ripe for military conquest and incorporation. Uniatism had in fact been offered as a compromise by five of the seven Orthodox bishops under Polish rule and only secured after lengthy negotiations with the aim of respecting Eastern faith, worship and autonomy.
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Orthodoxy needed to undertake its own examination of conscience and adopt a less polemic view of history. Fr. Taft noted, for example, that the Catholic apology for past sins against the unity of the Church was met largely with indifference, with Russian and Greek bishops even averring that Orthodoxy, for its part, had nothing to apologize for never having resorted to uniatism or used the secular arm to impose its will or oppress the conscience of others (this elicited some nervous chuckling from a largely scholarly audience). Orthodox forms of “uniatism” had been manifest with respect to an Assyrian “Orthodox” Church under Russian auspices in the interwar period and could be found even today in the existence of “Western rite Orthodoxy”. Historically, the East had often resorted to the civil power in imposing its jurisdiction and oppressing minorities, and Fr. Taft cited as examples instances in Southern Italy and Sicily as well as amongst Armenians, Syriacs and Copts at the hands of Byzantines, and against the Georgian Church, Old Believers and Polish Catholics by Orthodox Russians.
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It was important to avoid anachronistic impositions of current standards and rules on ages past, as all powers, not just Western ones, had sought to impose religious conformity by force. It was, Fr. Taft brutally argued, time for Orthodox polemicists to “grow up.” Behaviour, not doctrine remained the main obstacle to reunion in his view. Ecumenical scholarship was in need of the application of Christian principles to unite faithful rather than stress and highlight often superficial differences; to be realistic and truthful while applying the same standards with consistency to both sides. Fairness required recognition that differences that were already in play in the first millennium should be accepted as valid, as the magisterium would otherwise be contradicting itself in having once accepted what to some was now unacceptable. Both the Western and Eastern fathers had to be incorporated in any review of our respective theologies. Misrepresentation had to be avoided, and he offered two examples. Orthodox critics still tended to treat scholastic theology as “the” rather than “a” Western theological framework. Similarly, Neo-Palamite efforts to treat existing differences as having been dogmatized should be resisted. It was false, for example, to claim that Palamism had been condemned by the Catholic side and ignore the fact St Gregory figured on the calendar of Eastern Catholic Churches and was thus considered a Saint by Catholics as well as by Orthodox.
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Concluding, Fr. Taft argued that the discourse was sorely in need of increased “common human decency.” He pointed to the dialogue with Anglicanism as a model to follow (though it was unclear to me whether he meant the Anglican dialogue with Catholicism, the one with Orthodoxy, or both), at least in terms of courtesy and temper.
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During the subsequent question period, Fr. Taft acknowledged that the autocratic model of Roman primacy had never been accepted in the East. He also noted, however, that there was no evidence the West had ever for its part recognized the Pentarchy and thus autocephally as the Church’s organizing principle. The way forward thus probably lay in a synthesis rather than in the imposition of one or the other model. Fr. Taft also stressed the primacy of saving souls over the strict application of abstract ecclesiological principles that were, in any case, not universally respected by either side. Overlapping episcopal jurisdictions, for example, could be accepted as legitimate pastoral responses to local cultural diversity so long as the communities concerned felt a genuine need for them.
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The Conference was amazingly rich both in content and participants. I felt it was money well spent for several reasons that should come out in our discussion. As it covered two and a half days and involved the presentation and discussion of about a dozen papers, a single report would not do it justice. On the other hand, offering a dozen reports at one go would just lead to a confused and scattered discussion, so I have proposed to our kind host that we offer offer no more than one or two a day, perhaps holding off on the next one until comments trickle to a stop. I should also note that the proceedings will eventually be published, and this approved and more comprehensive version should ultimately be given primacy over the notes I offer here.

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