Commission for Theological Dialogue with Roman Catholics
From: Diocese of Ras-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija (email@example.com)
Source: Diocese of Ras-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija
Commission for Theological Dialogue with Roman Catholics
The very first day of the meeting of the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics has ended in protests.
Monastery Stavrovunio monastics, the priests of the Cyprus Church and the faithful urged the Archbishop of the Cyprus Church, Hrisostom the Second to stop the meeting that was taking place in the St George hotel in Paphos.
The faithful from Greece and Cyprus were protesting claiming the objective of the Dialogue between two Churches was the final submission of the Orthodox Church to the Pope.
Immediately undertaking all the necessary measures, Archbishop Hrisostom the Second gave the instructions for the clergymen, having been involved in the protests, to visit him in his office on Monday.
Details of the session of the Joint Commission
The Cyprus news agency ikypros has reported - «The objective of the Joint International Commission for Dialogue, having both Orthodox and Roman Catholics representatives, is to reestablish the full communion between two Churches.»
«The crowd of the faithful protesting in front of the hotel, prevented from happening a part of the program consisting of an official opening of the session by joint worship in the St George chapel», the news agency further reports.
According to the Metropolitan of Paphos «we all are aware of great differences among us, a millennium-year break has enhanced the differences among us... However, modern times we live in urges for reconciliation. Both churches have experienced mutual hatred and animosity, nevertheless, we, modern times people, are aware of the need to cooperate.»
Protesters in front of the hotel where the meeting is taking place.
One on the panels says: There are three main falls in the history of mankind:
the fall of Adam, of Judah and of the Pope. (the quotation from father Justin Popovic)
The meeting is scheduled for the period up to and including October 23, the members meet in closed sessions.
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This year's meeting of the Commission for Dialogue in Cyprus, even before its beginning, provoked a state of agitation in the public and in the pious Ecclesiastic body, it is especially the case in Greece and Cyprus. We have witnessed many letters, official addresses, appeals, analyses - issued by Hierarchs, clergymen, the faithful - to Hierarchs, Primates and the pious Ecclesiastic body in general. As the day of this new gathering of the Commission was approaching, so the concern over the Dialogue main topic was growing. Also over the documents that had been adopted at past sessions, and especially over the Document content adopted at the last session in Ravenna, 2007.
The self-consciousness of the Church, the infallible criterion often issued when peril threatening to endanger the purity and correctness of the Faith is looming on the horizon, has asked million of times in the history of the Church hitherto. It has always protected the Orthodox against heterodoxy menaces, the Orthodox firmly committed to the Faith of the Apostles and to the decision of the Holy Ecumenical Synods of the Church. The awareness that only the Orthodox Churches been fostering the unmarred and unchanged Faith thus presenting One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, is an unconquered bulwark against any kind of heresy.
The Patriarch of Alexandria, Meletius Pigas (lived at the end of XVI century) on the occasion of introducing the new calendar and the change of the Paschal cycle by the Pope, wrote to a hieromonk Theodosius: «you are asking me what the Orthodox Christians are to do on the occasion of the change of calendar and of the Paschal cycle, but looks to me you are scared about it. You, "the chosen one", got scared when there is no reason for that, because one should not think much about the actions of those who are outside the Church** (officially excommunicated for their own guilt). Therefore, do not hesitate to be in step with the Holy fathers...»
During the last few days and weeks the conscience of the Orthodox did not remain silent on the occasion of the approaching Cyprus gathering, but also on the occasion of other similar gatherings like the recent one in Crete. Therefore, We are now going to analyse the reactions of the Orthodox during the last few days before the beginning of the Cyprus meeting.
The reaction of the Metropolitan of Peiraeus, Seraphim at the session of the Holy Assembly of the Greek Orthodox Church (that is still in course) on the eve of the Joint Commission Dialogue, was quite significant. While a letter by His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew addressed to the Archbishop of Athens, Mr. Hieronimous was being read at the Holy Assembly session (the letter had been written on the occasion of an essay «The Creed against Ecumenism», the essay many people have got interested in), Metropolitan Seraphim got to his feet and started strongly criticizing Patriarch Bartholomew's views, not hesitating to utter «The Patriarch is telling lies about the essay "The Creed against Ecumenism"»!
His Eminence the Metropolitan of Peiraeus, Seraphim
The Metropolitan of Kyrenia, Pavlos (the Cyprus Church), an extraordinary theologian firmly committed to Faith and the Holy Tradition of Orthodoxy, a participant in the official Theological Dialogue with anti-Chalcedonians (in view of what he wrote remarkable essays during the last few years), has written and published an official essay «The Christ is the One who is the Head of the Church, not the Pope». It is a precise and significant analysis of the results of the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics so far. Reading the essay and the facts expressed in it, we are fully clear about the justified and often severe reactions and apprehensions of the Orthodox in view of the meeting of the Joint Commission for Dialogue in Cyprus in October, 2009.
To begin with, His Eminence Metropolitan Pavlos conducts a review and evaluation of the Ravenna document in his essay: «The top failure of the Ravenna document is made by the Orthodox representatives of the Joint Commission in their considering their heterodox fellow representatives to be part of the same Church. That way they make an impression there is an ecclesiological unity between the Orthodox and the Catholics, though we do not find theological arguments for that. By trying to be silent about or neglect the doctrinal distinctions between the Orthodoxy and the heterodoxy, the Orthodox representatives are undermining the Orthodox awareness of being the only true Church, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, thus also making an impression that the Roman Catholic Church is one of the local Orthodox Churches. The schism happened because the Roman Catholics wanted to and did change the original common faith of the first millennium; nevertheless, the Ravenna document says that the faith of the Orthodox and the Catholics is the same. They work on themes like the Papal primacy, the managing and organisation of the Church, while theological doctrinal themes are left to wait.»
«It is necessary», His Eminence continues, «to work on doctrinal issues first of all. Only by being persistent about the correctness of the Orthodox dogma and Orthodox doctrinal tradition, we could be certain of our working on the return of the stray sheep to the fold of the Christ.»
The Coordinating Committee of the Preliminary Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church met in Elounda, Crete, 27 September - 4 October 2008. They officially started their work on 29 September discussing the theme «The role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Churches in the first millennium». 10 Orthodox and 10 Catholic representatives attended the meeting. Two Co-Presidents of the meeting were Metropolitan John of Pergamon (Zizioulas) and Cardinal Walter Casper. The work of the Coordinating Committee had to bee seen in continuity with the previous agreed statements of the Joint Theological Commission. On the basis of two preparatory documents, the Coordinating Committee now prepared a document draft which would be submitted to the next plenary in Cyprus, 2009.
The meeting of the Preliminary Joint Commission 27 September - 4 October 2008 (Elounda, Crete)
Metropolitan Pavlos, analysing the draft (saying he got and read it not until recently) specifies that explicit Roman Catholic stances be expressed in the draft document. The stance that «the motif of distinctions within the unity was explicitly accepted in the Council of Constantinople 879/80 (Crete, par. 32)... is a preparatory ground for the unity of churches.»
The Crete Document goes further on, Metropolitan Pavlos states: «The Pope, whose seat is considered to be "the principle of the Episcopal unity" (Crete, par. 10), appears to be all and everything, as the Pope Gelasy says "The first throne is judged by no one" (Ep. 4, PL 58, 28B, Ep. 13, PL 59, 64A), (v. Crete, par. 11). Beside the attempts to express the supreme power of the Pope, as the primacy of Celebration... (Crete, par. 14), serious dogmatic neglections and the wrong approach to the theme of the primacy of the Pope by Orthodox representatives, cannot be concealed.»
According to the Crete Document «the Pope is the successor of the unbreakable unity between the Christ and the apostle Peter» (Crete, par. 17). «How is that possible to accept the Pope as the unity of the Christ and Peter», His Eminence Metropolitan Pavlos wonders.
«It is clear and evident the striving of the Document composers to show the Pope as a supporter of conciliarity in order to dispel the fears of the Orthodox and so to prevent contradictions and protests», the Metropolitan of Kyrenia says.
«The Crete Document further says, "the unity of Episcopate and the Church is symbolised in Peter's personality" (Crete, par. 10) and "Peter speaks through the bishop of Rome" (Crete, par. 19). Why should the canon structure of the Church depend on its relations with the Pope? Why it is necessary for each local Church to be in accordance with the Church of Rome, instead of all of them being in accordance with each other within the same body?» the Metropolitan of Kyrenia firmly states.
However, it is not the end of surprises. «According to the Crete Document», the Metropolitan quotes «not a single Synod was ever recognised as Ecumenical without the permission of the Pope» (Crete, par. 12) The Metropolitan concludes: «The Old Church had the Ecumenical Synods, not the Pope, to be Its principle. The Ecumenical Synods were not called or presided by Popes. They were recognised by all local Churches. Nevertheless, when the pope's system was theoretically established for the first time, the Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) rejected it (v. Ἰ. Καρμίρη, Ὀρθοδοξία και Παλαιοκαθολικισμός, Β΄, Ἀθῆναι 1967, σ. 69).»
The Metropolitan of Kyrenia underlines in the end of his analysis: «Dealing with Ecclesiastical issues, especially those concerning the Orthodox faith, cannot be left to some professors, or even some Bishops, who only formally represent the local Orthodox Church, but acting self-willingly and expressing their personal views.
Evading calling a Holy Assembly meeting, or disabling the fellow Assembly members to express their opinions freely and openly, failure to timely and relevant informing the Holy Assembly members by those responsible for that - are the violations of the conciliar system of managing the Church. The trial of the theologians representing the Orthodox Church to proclaim Roman Catholicism the Church - irritates the Orthodox senses.»
The reaction of the Pancyprian Union of Greek Theologians was also noted. They convened extraordinarily on the occasion of the General Assembly of the International Joint Commission yet to take place. On the eve of the Joint Commission meeting, they addressed their extraordinary session statement to the Chairman and the members of the Holy Assembly of Cyprus Church, the Orthodox Theologians and the pious Ecclesiastic body. «Having observed the historical framework of the activities of the said Commission, in which representatives of our Church (the Cyprus Church) are also participating, and bearing in mind the views and reactions that have been issued, we would like to express our valid and intense concern in the event that unfortunate stances appear during the resulting conclusions of this dialogue. We would also like to express our support to the Orthodox representatives who are called upon to correctly present the word of Truth» the Pancyprian Union of Greek Theologians said in the statement.
Metropolitan of Etolia, Kosmas addressed a letter to the Archbishop of Athens, Hieronymos on the occasion of the following Joint Commission Dialogue in Cyprus, expressing his fear that the Dialogue could bring us some unwanted surprise results. There are certain facts indicating that the Orthodox representatives in the Dialogue might acknowledge kind of a primacy to the Pope - for that reason Metropolitan Kosmas asks some questions in his letter: «Is that correct to consider a secular leader to be "the first" among the Bishops of the Church and in addition "infallible", as he openly and egoistically supports his heretical dogmatic teachings and his secular character? How so? No doubt about "the primacy of honour" becoming the primacy of power.»
Mentioning the Orthodox people's concern and uneasiness, Metropolitan of Etolia, Kosmas calls on the Archbishop to discuss in detail together with his fellow Hierarchs at the approaching Holy Assembly session the main theme of the Commission meeting in Cyprus, and to take a conciliar stance on the theme mentioned.
Some time before the Joint Commission for Dialogue took place in Cyprus, many people among clergymen, monastics, priests, Orthodox societies, the faithful delivered their official addresses, either individually or conciliarly, to the Primate of the Greek Church, the Primate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Holy Archieratical Assembly of the Greek Orthodox Church, with different purposes. Either they voiced their concern about the current developments of the Dialogue and fear for what the results of the Dialogue might be. Or appealed on the Orthodox representatives in the Dialogue to correctly present the word of Truth. Or they published essays in which they made a detailed and comprehensive analysis this complicated theme, working out each and every detail of it.
As a result, the Joint Commission meeting in Cyprus has provoked the air of tensity and suspense in the pious Ecclesiastic body, so for the time being all eyes are fixed on Paphos, awaiting the results of the Dialogue.
In that kind of an atmosphere full of tensity and disturbance dominating the Orthodox congregation, the Uniate bishop of Greece Dimitrios Salachas (a permanent member of the Joint Commission) gave an official address in view of the Catholic-Ortodox meeting in Cyprus, with a purpose to console the Orthodox congregation and assure them that «there is little intention to seek the signature of the union of Churches contract in Cyprus.»
The Uniate Bishop, Salachas dressed in Liturgical robes used in the Orthodox Church.
How to discern Filioque, recognition of the Papal primacy,
acknowledgement of created grace and all other evil teachings of Popery hiding behind this external piety?
Is there a greater reason for concern and worry the moment these voices start uttering and sending consoling messages? How the fold is to feel the moment not its shepherd comes but the one, in the robe of the shepherd, who wants to wreck it - and starts falsely assuring it that there is no need for concern, there are certain negotiations, just little patience is all you need, everything is going to be all right?
The website of the Uniate Exarchate of Greece has put an official consoling (narcotic?) address by Mr. Salachas and an interview he gave for the newspapers on the eve of the Joint Commission Dialogue in Cyprus.
Some of theses supported in Mr. Salachas' addresses are as following. Both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church have their self-consciousness that is the Church of Christ, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, and the consciousness that there is separation, division, break of joint sacramental communication, schism, a millennium between their doctrinal differences. Condition of the union is the unity of faith. However, neither the Orthodox Church requires and seeks to return the Catholics to Orthodoxy and the recognition of doctrines, nor the Catholic Church requires and seeks to return the Orthodox to Catholicism and the recognition of doctrines.
How to achieve «the unity of faith»? Being in truth? Being in love? Telling the truth with love?
«I should say, as a member of the Joint Commission that the participants in the Theological Dialogue, Orthodox Archierarchs and theologians are firmly committed to Faith and the Holy Tradition of Orthodoxy. In this discussion, namely "the primacy of the Bishop of Rome".... the Orthodox members of the Joint Commission certainly remain immovably fixed in their positions on the conciliar structure of the Church...»
In common theological texts issued by the Joint Commission «is known per common knowledge they are not "decisions", but just text study, therefore, not binding the Churches represented in the Dialogue...»
There are serious concerns from various reputable Orthodox churches and theological circles for Dialogue, and Mr. Dimitrios thinks the concerns are reasonable and assures us there is little desire to sign the «union» of two Churches contract... These concerns are reasonable because the work of the Joint Commission held behind closed doors and the Minutes are not published, except for some official Press and common theological texts. «Those responsible for the Churches represented in the Dialogue (Primates and Archiepiscopal Assemblies) should disclose promptly and responsibly the christeponymo crew, clergy, monks, Orthodox Seminaries and people for what was said in the Dialogue.» Failure to timely, responsible and relevant information raises legitimate suspicions, fears about possible concessions by the Orthodox members of the Dialogue.
Asked about the problem of Unia and Uniate churches, Mr. Salachas answered the following: «These Churches owe their existence to the recognition of the existence of church by the Pope of Rome. Created after the failure of the Synod of Florence and the then the signed union (1434). Rome since developed in Eastern Europe and the countries of East unifying attachment activity of the Orthodox with the prospect of recovery in global society. With this method, it classified as proselytism, in XVI century and further on Orthodox individuals and communities came to Catholicism maintaining their Liturgical Sacred Tradition and regular canonical structures, recognising the primacy of the Pope in the Catholic Church.» Mr. Salachas mentions the Balamand Document, which official proceedings say «the Eastern Catholic Churches, which during the second millennium wanted to join the seat of Rome remained loyal to the society, have the rights and obligations arising from this Society of which they form part. They have the right to exist and the pastoral duty to act to meet the spiritual needs of the faithful.»
The existence of Eastern Catholic Churches is an ecclesiological anomaly between East and West relations, Mr. Salachas confirms, but the anomaly is more a result of another disorder i.e. of the schism of East and West. «If removal of the split, if and when achieved, the Churches will be included automatically in the East Church.»
The Uniate Churches will be embodied automatically in the Orthodox Church? How is that to be achieved? The Uniates will stop recognising the primacy of the Pope and the Pope will gladly accept that? Or rather the Orthodox Churches will recognise the primacy of the Pope since it is impossible for the Pope to accept the Uniates' rejection of the recognition of his primacy and conversion into the Orthodox faith?
Is that the method for achieving our association with the Catholics and the method for achieving joint Eucharistic Communion? Two goals are actually the main plans and goals of the Holy See. That fact has been noted for years by many pastors, theologians, and the faithful.
That provokes concerns among the Orthodox while observing the flow of the Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics. The Orthodox self-consciousness itself is a major hindrance to the change and loss of the Orthodox faith.
However, there he is, Mr. Salachas himself, trying to console us, to tell us we should not be worried at all, and to assure us «that the participants in the Theological Dialogue, Orthodox Archierarchs and theologians are firmly committed to faith and the Holy Tradition of Orthodoxy.» Now we are left to wonder if their authorities of being firmly committed to faith and the Holy Tradition could be justified by words of a Uniate bishop.
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Lately, we have been witnessing many points of view, statements and reactions expressed concerning the Papal primacy theme. Among them We should mention the Patriarchate of Constantinople's views. Secretary General of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, archimandrite Elpidophoros Lambriniadis delivered a speech in the chapel of Holy Cross of the Greek Orthodox Seminary in America in March 2009. Amid many things, he spoke about the primacy topic. «The refusal to recognise primacy within the Orthodox Church, a primacy that necessarily cannot but be embodied by a primus - that is by a bishop who has a prerogative of being the first among his fellow bishops - constitutes nothing less than heresy. It cannot be accepted, as often it is said, that the unity among the Orthodox Churches is safeguarded by either a common norm of faith and worship or by the Ecumenical Council as an institution. Both of these factors are impersonal while in our Orthodox theology the principle of unity is always a person... So to in the Pan-Orthodox level, the principle of unity cannot be an idea nor an institution but it needs to be, if we are to be consistent with our theology, a person.»
However, St Dositheus, a XVII century Patriarch of Jerusalem, well-known for his fight against Protestant missionaries' assaults, as well as against Catholic assaults who wanted to conquer Orthodox East, says about the primacy issue: «Since not a single mortal person can be the eternal head of the Catholic Orthodox Church, our Lord Jesus Christ is the head and He, holding the helm of guiding the Church, guides It through our Holy Fathers.»
The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)
St Meletius Pigas, the Patriarch of Alexandria teaches: «Yet, they say, one of and among bishops, should be the leader and he is to be called "the head of the Celebration". However, the Christ is the only principle and head over all the bishops.»
The pious Ecclesiastic body is concerned about the meeting of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics in Cyprus, and is awaiting the results of the Dialogue hoping that our Orthodox representatives will not exceed «the limits set by our Holy Fathers.»
The Abbot of Banjska Monastery
 Many Orthodox theologians asked an argumentative question: How is that possible for the Orthodox representatives of the Dialogue to have signed the Ravenna document?
** Highlighted by protosyncellus Simeon
 In regard to the Roman Catholics and the Protestants
 Μελετίου του Πηγά, Επιστολή προς Σίλβεστρον Πατριάρχην περι πασχαλίου, published by του εν Καρυαίς βιβλιοπωλείου Σάββα Ιερομονάχου, Аthens 1924, p. 7.
 His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew opened the 7-14 October meeting of the Faith and Order Plenary Commission in Crete, 2009. The Commission on behalf of the World Council of Churches meets every 7 years and has 120 regular members. In his address, His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew mentioned, among other things, the crucial need for the unity of churches saying that «being humble means to be ready to learn from others and to learn the things that have already been experienced over time.» His All Holiness added «it is understood that trying to impose our way (of life, of thinking) upon others - is intrusive and hypocritical! Opposite to that, true humility means we should be open enough to accept the past as well as the future. In other words, like the ancient god Janos in the old times, we are called upon showing our respect toward past experiences, at the same time giving our attention to the future, to the age to come, toward the heavenly kingdom.» This «turning» both toward the past and the future must be a sign of somebody's endeavor to change the religion.
 See the website http://www.amen.gr/index.php?mod=news&op=article&aid=769
 See http://www.imis.gr/iera-mhtropolh/news/epitroph-dialogou.html
 The analysis by the Metropolitan of Kyrenia, Pavlos, published in the newspapers Ορθόδοξος Τύπος, Аthens, 16.10.2009.
 See http://www.elcathex.com
 The Roman Catholic news agency CWNEWS reported a suggestion by the Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in 2008: «The Orthodox leader suggests "dual unity" for Eastern Catholics!» «The Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople has responded favorably to a suggestion by the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church for a system of "dual unity" in which Byzantine Catholic Churches would be in full communion with both Constantinople and Rome. Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople welcomed the proposal in an interview with the magazine Cyril and Methodius... Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Kiev, the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the largest of the Eastern Catholic churches, has offered the possibility that Byzantine Catholics might seek communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, without giving up their communion with the Holy See. Patriarch Bartholomew expressed distinct interest in the idea, saying "the mother Church in Constantinople holds the door open for the return of all her formal sons and daughters". Patriarch Bartholomew also said that a restoration of unity would require important differences to be overcome; yet "the major steps have already been taken to resolve the discrepancies..." While Catholic and Orthodox theologians continue their efforts to reach an agreement on doctrinal questions, Patriarch Bartholomew underlines "the ordinary people have to come together again". He pointed to the "dual unity" idea as a possible step toward practical unity.»
 See the magazine of the Patriarchate of Constantinople ΕΠΙΣΚΕΨΙΣ, No. 698, the date of publishing 31.3.2009.
 See Ι. Καρμίρη, Δογματικά και Συμβολικά μνημεία της Ορθοδόξου Καθολικής Εκκλησίας, Аthens 1953, p. 752.
 See Μελετίου Πηγά, Κατά της αρχής του Πάπα, у Τόμος Χαράς, Thessaloniki 1985, pp 493-497.
10 November 2009
Commission for Theological Dialogue with Roman Catholics