One cannot expect the Orthodox to re-receive a form of the Petrine Ministry soon. Such a development, however, would not be entirely alien to the Orthodox experience. In the first millennium, the East recognized that the bishop of Rome held the first position in the church hierarchy, even if they questioned the implications of this authority. But some Orthodox have now come to believe that some form of primacy corresponds to the churchs very essence, and that it applies to the church at the universal level.
Metropolitan John of Pergamon insists that primacy must exist in order to preserve the synodality of the college of bishops. He points out that historically all councils and synods, in the East and the West, have always included a presider, or protos, whose role is to bring order and coherence.
It has become commonplace for Orthodox theologians who hold this view to cite the ancient 34th Apostolic Canon, which probably dates to the fourth century. According to a recent translation, the text reads:
The bishops of all peoples should know the first among them and recognize him as the head, and do nothing that exceeds their authority without his consideration. Each should carry out only that which relates to his own diocese and to areas belonging to it. But the first among them should also do nothing without the consideration of all.
The idea here is that the primate and the body of bishops in a region should work together, each of them having an essential role in decision-making. Thus, the bishops cannot act without the primate and the primate cannot act without the bishops.
Many theologians, Catholic and Orthodox, feel this principle could prove very fruitful in the effort to elaborate a theology of the papacy that would be acceptable to all the churches and respond to the increasing desire for a universally recognized head of the church. It could help to find a way in which the East and the West could embrace the ministry of a single pope to whom they would nevertheless relate in different ways.
When Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I of Constantinople visited Rome in 1987, Pope John Paul II told him that the Catholic Church was ready to respect fully the Orthodox tradition of self-government. Thus, many of the building blocks of a solution are in place. But the precise placing of those pieces into an overall structure acceptable to all these churches has only just begun.
It has been said that the Catholic and Orthodox churches are now separate because they are used to being apart. But there is an increasing awareness that our separation also hinders our witness at a time when the Christian faith is seriously challenged from various quarters. Above all, it is only with an awareness and appreciation of our different traditions that we can embrace the fullness of the Christian experience and attain that catholicity of which Pope John Paul II so eloquently spoke.
Post a Comment |
Paulist Father Ronald Roberson coordinates ecumenical and interreligious affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Tags: Christianity Unity Orthodox Church Eastern Christianity Multiculturalism