Sunday, October 19, 2008

Interesting Tidbit from Patriarch Bartholomew

Patriarch Bartholomew is the Patriarch of the See of Constantinople. As such, he is supposed to be hailed by the Orthodox as the "Ecumenical Patriarch," which means he occupies the place of primacy (such as it is) among the Easterners not in communion with Rome. He is also a guy who gets routinely blasted by the people who are supposed to be his friends. He's always getting ripped for something, whether it's random claims of his trying to be "Pope of the East" or Russian encroachment on his canonical rights.

Anyways, Creative Minority Report has some very interesting comments from the Patriarch, which I think bear repeating, followed by serious thought. These are just snippets from a larger excerpt available at the link. He begins by talking about the factors that unify Orthodoxy. However, he then starts to address some hard facts.

Despite this, we must admit in all honesty that sometimes we present an image of incomplete unity, as if we were not one Church, but rather a confederation or a federation of churches. . .

So we have reached the perception that Orthodoxy comprises a federation of national Churches, frequently attributing priority to national interests in their relationship with one another. In light of this image, which somewhat recalls the situation in Corinth when the first letter to the Corinthians was written, the Apostle Paul would ask: has Orthodoxy been divided? This question is also posed by many observers of Orthodox affairs in our times.

Of course, the response commonly proffered to this question is that, despite administrational division, Orthodoxy remains united in faith, the Sacraments, etc. But is this sufficient? When before non-Orthodox we sometimes appear divided in theological dialogues and elsewhere; when we are unable to proceed to the realization of the long-heralded Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church; when we lack a unified voice on contemporary issues and, instead, convoke bilateral dialogues with non-Orthodox on these issues; when we fail to constitute a single Orthodox Church in the so-called Diaspora in accordance with the ecclesiological and canonical principles of our Church; how can we avoid the image of division in Orthodoxy, especially on the basis of non-theological, secular criteria?

These are some pretty amazing admissions coming from the guy who is supposed to be viewed as the guy who would fill at least some of the roles that he mentions. Granted, when he's tried to do that, he's been roundly criticized for doing so, which makes one wonder if there's anything to the polemical concept of Orthodox primacy other than just lip service.

We need, then, greater unity in order to appear to those outside not as a federation of Churches but as one unified Church. Through the centuries, and especially after the Schism, when the Church of Rome ceased to be in communion with the Orthodox, this Throne was called -- according to canonical order -- to serve the unity of the Orthodox Church as its first Throne.

Wow. This strikes me as pretty huge. I'd also like to point out the ecclesiology envisioned by Patriarch Bartholomew in contrast to what was brough up by Rev. Welsh at the Synod.

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