VATICAN MODALITY FOR INVOLVEMENT OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH INTO THE RIMOCATOLICISM

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” (John 10, 1)
“The institutional arrangements that the Holy See has with the Oriental Churches can serve as a model for further convergence between the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Church. In communion with the pope, the Oriental churches cling to the Byzantine rite and lead their own administration under the oversight of the Congregation of the Holy See on the Oriental Churches. This Congregation has no leading role in the dialogue between the Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians because it is aware of the sensitive situation in the Orthodox Church, especially in relation to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The Congregation for Oriental Churches is also responsible for the Roman Catholic issues in the Holy Land. Lately, its members have expressed their frustration over problems related to the Israeli visa and fiscal policy. The Oriental churches are the basic form of the efforts of the Holy See to spread the Roman Catholicism and to promote ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.”
THE ORIENTAL CHURCH: COMPLEX, BUT EFICIENT CONVENTION
A representative of the Vatican Embassy and Archbishop Antonio Vello, a Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and a member of the bilateral commission of the Holy See – Israel, met on 4th February.
“Turning to his responsibility as the second man of the Congregation (which is otherwise led by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri), Archbishop Vello commented:” Man is never bothered to deal with the Oriental churches.” (Most of the Oriental churches are located in the Middle East and in Eastern and Central Europe. Their name “Oriental” denotes their Byzantine – versus Roman – origin and heritage). Because of the historical heritage, these churches retain their rituals and enjoy wide autonomy, but belong to the Roman Catholic Church. There are five Oriental churches headed by patriarchs: the Coptic Church in Alexandria, the Syrian Church in Antioch, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Antioch, the Chaldean Babylonian Church, and the Armenian Church of Cilicia. Furthermore, four Oriental churches are headed by “supreme archbishops”: two in India, one in Romania and one in Ukraine. The supreme archbishops are similar to patriarchs when it comes to a great degree of independence, although they do not have titles of patriarchs. The patriarchs and supreme archbishops embrace the Roman Catholic theology and understand the special role of the Pope as Bishop of Rome and the heir to the apostle Peter and are in communion with the Holy See.”
INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE IN RAVENNA
In October 2007, the “Ravenna Declaration” was signed. The theme was: the power in the Church of Christ and the role of Rome and Constantinople as the first honor in the patriarchal order. The Delegation of the Russian Church, due to the claims of Constantinople, Orthodoxy of autocephalous Churches to be defined as communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, abandoned the council. The document in Ravenna, for the first time, mentions the possibility of the Pope in, for the now unfulfilled “united Church”, to be first again. Among the signatories of the “Ravenna Declaration” are the bishops of the SOC(SPC) Irinej (Bulatovic) and Ignatie (Midic).
“Archbishop Vello reminded that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic primate is the head of the largest Oriental church with about 3 to 5 million believers only in Ukraine (it is estimated that there are over 6 million people worldwide). Due to its numerous and institutional development, this church could be elevated to the level of the patriarchate. However, the Holy See does not want to do so in order not to offend the Orthodox Church, which the Oriental Churches see as competitors in Eastern and Central Europe, whose ritual is very similar to theirs (on February first, and for the first time since 1937, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops met with the Pope, who urged them to work with the Orthodox, in order to promote the ecumenical dialogue. The World Alliance, and later the Orthodox sensitivity on this issue, prevented the bishops from meeting the Pope periodically, as the canon law warned).
Vello said that, within the Holy See, the papal Congregation for promotion of the Christian unity is in charge of dialogue with the Orthodox.
However, he added, that the Congregation for the Oriental Churches also pays attention to this dialogue and takes into account the sensitivity of the Orthodox to this issue.”
HISTORICAL REVIEW: THE UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC CHURCH
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine recognized the Pope as supreme ecclesiastical head and broke off the relations with the Moscow Patriarch and Patriarch of Constantinople. After the creation of the Union, there was rioting and division of the church in Ukraine into a unified Greek Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church did not exist until 1595. In the Middle Ages there was a Kievan Russia that received Christianity from Orthodox Byzantium. After the Mongol incursions, the base of the church moved from Kiev to Vladimir in 1299. Kiev Metropolitanate in 1326 moved to Moscow, and two years later changed its name to the Moscow Metropolis. Western Ukraine became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Union. Poland was influenced by the counterformation, and thus strengthened the influence of the Roman Catholic pressure in Ukraine. The priesthood in Ukraine was under church authority of Moscow.
A great pressure followed, so that parts of the church hierarchy of the Kiev-Khalich metropolis and all Ukraine began negotiations with the “Roman Catholic Church” and the Roman Pope Clement VIII during 1595. They agreed to keep the majority of Orthodox customs so that the union can be accepted more easily. This was how the Julian calendar was kept. The Union was proclaimed in 1596 at the church council in the Belarusian city of Brest. The union supported Polish King Sigismund III Vasa, but some bishops, prominent nobles in Ukraine and the Cossacks opposed the union.
As soon as the Union was declared, villagers and Cossacks, parts of the clergy and parts of the feudal lords started protests. The purpose of the union was to prevent the Orthodoxy in the regeon of the Polish-Lithuanian Union and to break the cultural and religious ties between the Ukrainians and Russians. As a result of the opposition of the union there was a division, so that the Orthodox Church in Ukraine and parts of Belarus split into an Orthodox and Greek Catholic, known as the Union.
THE BALAMAND CONVENTION
In Balamand, Lebanon in 1993, a treaty was signed between the Roman Catholics and Orthodox. The most important conclusion of this convention is the Orthodox Church and the Vatican to recognize each other as sister churches. “The Catholics and Orthodox are again revealed as Sister Churches” (Article 12) and “recognize each other as Sister Churches” (Article 14). The Declaration on mutual recognition was signed by 9 representatives from 15 autocephalous Orthodox churches.
MODEL FOR POTENTIAL CONVENTION WITH THE ORTHODOX
The relations between the Holy See and the Oriental Churches can serve as a model for the eventual reunification of Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians. In a presentation published in the Vatican newspaper (Osservatore Romano), Cardinal Peter Erdo, the chairman of the Congregation of the European Bishop Conference, claimed that the “Constitutional treaty” between the Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, made according to the model of the Treaty of the Holy See and the Oriental churches, could serve for mutual recognition and reconciliation of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic canon law.
“The Oriental churches are an essential part of the universal Roman Catholic church. In the Middle East, they maintain a constant presence in the ever-endangered Biblical lands. In Eastern and Central Europe, they coexist, perhaps not perfectly, with Greek-Orthodox patriarchates. From the Second Vatican Council, the Holy See redefined the propagation of the Roman Catholic faith, expressing evangelism by means of testimony (asking from the Roman Catholics to live decently and thus to display the Roman Catholicism in the best light) rather than preaching to go to Roman Catholicism. The ecumenism (unification of all Christian religions) and the interreligious dialogue (correcting the relationships with non-Christian religions and promoting tolerance and religious freedom) are also key elements in relationships with non-Roman Catholics. For the evangelization to progress through witnessing, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, the Holy See realizes that the basis for this Roman Catholic presence is in places where other faiths are majority. As the ecumenical dialogue is gaining momentum, the Holy See is optimistic about the future of the Oriental churches in eastern and central Europe. However, in the Middle East, the persecution of the Christians continues and that trend is worrying and distressing the Holy See.”
DIALOGUE WITH THE ASIRIAN CHURCH ON EAST AND THE ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES
“The Assyrian Church on East was the first large church that parted with Rome. This happened in the fifth century due to theological differences. Its seat was transferred from Persia to Baghdad, where it remained. In 1553 part of the Assyrian church renewed the community with Rome, which was the beginning of the creation of the Chaldean Catholic Church. The Vatican is closer in uniting with the Assyrian Church than with the other Eastern churches. Pope John Paul II and the Assyrian Patriarch in 1994 signed a declaration that practically represented the end of all theological differences. The dialogue for complete unification continues.
The Pope John Paul II confirmed the “unheard suffering” and “massacres” that Armenians suffered at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, which culminated in a kind of “tragic events” in 1915. The statement was made in the context of the celebration of 17 centuries of Christianity in Armenia. The Vatican hosted the Armenian Patriarch – Catholicos and hosted the religious and state leaders during the celebration of the jubilee on 18th February. The Pope used the opportunity to express his desire to visit Armenia and to have good ecumenical relations with the Orthodox community of that country (Commentary: The Vatican and the Apostolic Church of Armenia have excellent relations. The Pope and the previous Catholicos (the primate) of that country had friendly relations. The theological disputes between the Roman Catholics and the apostolic Armenians were resolved in 1996. The complete unification of the two churches would be a great move for the Vatican and what the Vatican would encourage to show pro-Armenian political views. The other Orthodox Churches will closely monitor the outcome of this “test” on their own occasion. End of the comment).
The Christianity penetrated in Armenia in the time of the Apostles, and as a formal religion it became in the 4th century thanks to St. Gregory the Enlightener. In the 5th century, it accepted the Monophysitism to become independent from the Cappadocian Caesarea and Antioch, which were under Byzantine influence. The Monophysites were condemned in the Council in Chalcedon in 451 for the sake of confessing only one (divine) nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although the Armenians do not confess Orthodoxy, they retained the name “Orthodox” for themselves, and therefore often because of ignorance people identify them with the members of the Orthodox Church. In the heresy of the Monophysitism, besides the “Armenian Apostolic Church”, there is also the so-called “Coptic Orthodox Church” in Egypt, the “Ethiopian Orthodox Church”, the “Syrian Orthodox Church”, the “Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church” in India and the “Eritrean Orthodox Church”.
“It is unnatural and unreasonable to speak of some unification of “churches”, a dialogue of love, for intercommunion without repentance and going into the True Church of Christ. More important from the most important thing is to become an associate of the God-man’s body of Christ’s Church and thus a communion in the soul of the Church-with the Holy Spirit, and the successor to all immortal God-man’s treasures”- St. Justin Popovic.
APPENDIX: THE UNION IS THE PURPOSE OF ECUMENISM
“The upcoming visit of the Canterbury archbishop to Rome on 21st November in the background contains far-reaching decisions of the Vatican to facilitate the converting of the disappointed Anglicans in the Catholicism. The contacts of the Vatican embassy, endorsing these intentions, interpret them as a courageous and appropriate response to the legitimate demand of the conservative Anglicans. The skeptics are concerned that this will weaken and change the tone of the dialogue between Catholics and other Christian denominations and will put emphasis on the tradition to the detriment of the calming of the relations. Critics see this as an opportunistic observation of the internally divided Anglican community. As the Archbishop Williams stated, this decision of the Vatican is a consequence of the Anglican-Catholic dialogue, however the Vatican notified the Archbishop, but did not seek his consent before the announcement of the decision.
The officials of the Vatican Embassy on the 22nd October discussed with an unnamed source who told them that the Congregation for promoting the Christian Unity, which is in charge of ecumenical dialogue, i.e. for relations with the Christian churches that are not Catholic, is worried about the effect of the announcement of the upcoming dialogue with the Anglican Church and that it is resisting the pressure with its statement to support the decision to receive Anglicans in the Roman Catholicism.
During the press conference, talking about the upcoming presentation of the “apostolic constitution” which has to regulate the mechanisms of the implementation among certain groups of Anglicans, the Cardinal Levada (Prefect of the Congregation for the doctrine of the Faith) reported that the Archbishop Rowan Williams was already aware of the decision to the Vatican a month before. However, a source said that probably the Anglican church was only informed on the 19th October when Levada and Williams met. Another source told embassy officials that when Williams expressed concern about the consequences of this announcement, Levada said the Vatican has already made a decision and will continue to implement it.
An unnamed professor of theology, a member of the “Opus Dei” movement, said that the Pope’s position on this issue is very progressive because it allows a large variety of rites within the Roman Catholic Church and allows individuals who already have a community to approach “The church” together (as the Roman Catholics call it “joint” address), instead of asking them to have a discouraging process of individual addressing (annex: as for the variety of rituals, another embassy contact said that on some Anglican rites the apostolic constitution allows for the use and many traditional rituals, such as the use of the Latin language). According to the professor, the Pope redefines ecumenism (a process of unification of once a Christian unity), transforming from “all known” ecumenical dialogue towards some specific ecumenical activities, in order to implement measures that make it easier for the Union to achieve even the union which is not entirely complete.
The professor also announced that the apostolic constitution does not contain any relief after the question of the celibacy of the clergy. Currently, those Roman Catholic priests who have migrated to Anglicanism to be married, already have a ban, in accordance with the canon law, to return to Roman Catholicism as priests. He also noted that even if the number of married (converted) priests is higher, there will be no bishops married to the Roman Catholics, as priests are married in Oriental Catholic churches, but the bishops do not marry.”
“With the dogma of infallibility, appropriating it to himself, a man, all authority and all the rights that belong only to the Godman – Lord Christ – the Pope actually declared himself a church in the Papal church and became all and everything in it.” His own kind of supporter. Therefore, the dogma of the infallibility of the pope became an all-dogma of the Papism. And the Pope cannot give up this at any price, as long as he is the Pope of the humanitarian Papism “- St. Justin Popovic.
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