For example, the common declaration of Pope John Paul II and the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, Mar Ignatius Zakka I, signed in June 1984 stated, The confusions and schisms that occurred between their churches in the later centuries, they realize today, in no way affect or touch the substance of their faith, since these arose only because of differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted by different theological schools to express the same matter. In addition, the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches in 1993 made a proposal to lift the condemnations between their churches because we have understood that both families have loyally maintained the authentic Orthodox Christological doctrine and the unbroken continuity of the apostolic tradition, though they may have used Christological terms in different ways.
These understandings have prompted criticism, particularly among traditionalists, Catholic and Orthodox, who see such statements as compromises of truth and manifestations of the heresy of ecumenism.
Dignity of tradition. To understand Pope John Paul IIs apostolic letter, one must recognize what preceded it: Pope Leo XIIIs Orientalium Dignitas Ecclesiarum (1895) and Vatican IIs Orientalium Ecclesiarum (1964), or the Decree on the Eastern Churches.
Leos apostolic letter affirmed the dignity of the Eastern Catholic churches and forbade the proselytizing of Eastern Catholics by Latin missionaries. He hoped that Eastern Catholics would be more faithful to their traditions so that they may then commend to others their own bright example of integral knowledge, and our dissident brethren [the Orthodox] may seek out more readily the embrace of their mother, the church.
Orientalium Ecclesiarum defined the Catholic Church as a communion of churches of equal dignity, so that none of them is superior to the others as regards rite and they enjoy the same rights and are under the same obligations
under the guidance of the Roman Pontiff.
In Orientale Lumen past perceptions especially the bridge theory of unity have been abandoned, but the principle of the dignity of the Eastern tradition remains.
The Eastern churches are often praised for their traditionalism, their venerable antiquity, their preservation of past forms, their unchanging worship. In Orientale Lumen John Paul II recognized, however, that the Eastern churches are living churches: Tradition is never pure nostalgia for things or forms past, nor regret for lost privileges, but the living memory of the bride, kept eternally youthful by the love that dwells within her.
Tradition is not something dead, but the living faith of the church that keeps the reality of Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) before us in a changing world.
In his The Vindication of Tradition, Jaroslav Pelikan made the distinction: Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.
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