Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Says ‘Nyet’ to Papacy

Russian Patriarch Says "Nyet" to Pope
Russian Patriarch Says "Nyet" to Pope
Position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the problem of primacy in the Universal Church

The Italian journalist Sandro Magister has published an article entitled The Russian Veto against Francis and Bartholomew, which essentially says “Nyet” to the famous “Ravenna Document”, which looked at how the church was governed in the early centuries”, “a path” which Bergoglio has said “we must continue along”.

In two subsequent meetings of the group that produced this Ravenna Document (the Russians were not present at the first one), held in Cyprus in 2009 and in Vienna in 2010 “the objections of the Russian Church were so many and of such a nature as to block any reconciliation between the two sides”.

Now, I view the notion of “bishops” and “apostolic succession” as second century developments that have no authority whatsoever on believers following that period (although history has created the illusion that these men had more importance than they actually had).

And I view this disagreement between Russia and Ravenna as simply another instance in church history in which “they argued among themselves as to who was greatest”. But I view this incident as illustrative of a problem that has been endemic to the “Cathodox” view of history for many centuries.

The Russian Patriarchate issued this statement about the issues discussed by Ravenna (edits by Magister):

The ecclesiological distortions ascribing to the "primus" on the universal level the functions of governance inherent in primates on other levels of church order are named in the polemical literature of the second millennium as “papism”.

3. Due to the fact that the nature of primacy which exists at various levels of church order (diocesan, local and universal) varies, the functions of the "primus" on various levels are not identical and cannot be transferred from one level to another.

To transfer the functions of the ministry of primacy from the level of an eparchy to the universal level means to recognize a special form of ministry, notably, that of a "universal hierarch" possessing the magisterial and administrative power in the whole Universal Church. By eliminating the sacramental equality of bishops, such recognition leads to the emergence of a jurisdiction of a universal first hierarch never mentioned either in holy canons or patristic tradition and resulting in the derogation or even elimination of the autocephaly of Local Churches. […]

4. […] The bishops of Rome, who enjoy the primacy of honour in the Universal Church, from the point of view of Eastern Churches, have always been patriarchs of the West, that is, primates of the Western Local Church. However, already in the first millennium of church history, a doctrine on a special divinely-originated magisterial and administrative power of the bishop of Roman as extending to the whole Universal Church began to be formed in the West.

The Orthodox Church rejected the doctrine of the Roman Church on papal primacy and the divine origin of the power of the first bishop in the Universal Church. Orthodox theologians have always insisted that the Church of Rome is one of the autocephalous Local Churches with no right to extend her jurisdiction to the territory of other Local Churches. They also believed that primacy in honour accorded to the bishops of Rome is instituted not by God but men.

Throughout the second millennium up to today, the Orthodox Church has preserved the administrative structure characteristic of the Eastern Church of the first millennium. Within this structure, each autocephalous Local Church, being in dogmatic, canonical and Eucharistic unity with other Local Churches, is independent in governance. In the Orthodox Church, there was no and has never been a single administrative center on the universal level.

In the West, on the contrary, the development of a doctrine on the special power of the bishop of Rome, whereby the supreme power in the Universal Church belongs to the bishop of Rome as successor to St. Peter and vicar of Christ on the earth, has led to the formation of a completely different administrative model of church order with a single universal center in Rome. […]

Joseph Ratzinger was very clear about where the “evil” lay in this type of dispute:

It is clear that the duality of the earliest theology of succession afforded by the emphasis on the sedes apostolicae has nothing to do with the later concept of patriarchates, to which it may well have supplied starting points. Confusion of the original claim of the sedes apostolic a with the administrative claim of the city that is a patriarchal see characterizes the tragedy of the dispute beginning between Constantinople and Rome. The concept of the patriarchate, which, especially from the Council of Chalcedon onward, was set in opposition to the Roman claim, and tried to contain it within the patriarchal way of thinking, misjudges the nature of this claim at its most profound level, since it is based on an entirely different principle.

The patriarchal principle is post-Constantinian; its significance is administrative; and hence its practice is closely linked with political and geographical realities; in contrast with that, the Roman claim is understood on the basis of the originally theological theme of the sedes apostolica. To the same degree that [new Rome] (which could not consider calling itself "apostolic") blurred the old idea of the sedes apostolica in favor [of] the patriarchal concept, old Rome reinforced its references to the completely different origin and character of its own authority.

This authority is in fact quite different from a primacy of honor among patriarchs, because it operates on a quite different level, independent of such administrative concepts. The concealing of the old theological idea of the sedes apostolica, which was after all from the outset a part of the Church's understanding of herself, by the idea of the five patriarchates must be regarded as the real evil in the dispute between East and West, an evil that also had its effect upon the West, inasmuch as--despite the retention of the concept of the sedes apostolica--a largely administrative and patriarchal concept of the importance of the Roman See developed that could hardly help any outsider to have a clear grasp of the real essence of the Roman claim, as distinct from any other claims. [from in his 1962 essay “Primacy, Episcopacy, and Successio Apostolica” in the work “God’s Word: Scripture-Tradition-Office (San Francisco: Ignatius Press ©2008; Libreria Editrice Vaticana edition ©2005). 33-35]

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