or of the difficulties which are presented

From Fr Christopher

It is quite clear that many Catholics are unaware of the goals of ecumenical dialogue or of the difficulties which are presented. I thought that over these next few weeks I would use the opportunity to outline some of these difficulties. I will Begin with the Orthodox and Catholic dialogue because clearly this will be the most important even though Catholic dialogue with the communities which grew out of the protestant reformation in the sixteenth century sometimes appear to be of more immediate relevance. What are some of the factors that separate Catholics from their sister Churches in the east?

The main ecclesiological issue of disagreement concerns the development of the  primacy of the Bishop of Rome and church government  and the main elements of dogmatic disagreement  concern in the first place  Trinitarian teaching. Difficulties also exists over the Immaculate Conception,

Purgatory and other doctrines.

There are of course some political as well as theological considerations. For 1,000 years, the Churches of east and west were in communion with one another, holding seven ecumenical councils between 325 and 787 to define Christian belief.

But over time, the cultures of the Latin-speaking west and Greek-speaking east grew more and more estranged, and there was increasing distrust and hostility between them. Occasional schisms occurred but were healed – such as the Acacian schism of the late fifth century and the Photian schism of the 860s.

Primacy of the Bishop of Rome

After 1009, the Bishop of Rome did not appear in the diptychs – the list of bishops in communion with the local Church – of Constantinople, traditionally considered “first among equals” in the Orthodox world.

In 1054, a papal delegation to the Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicated the patriarch and was in turn excommunicated by him. Though this schism was as much an issue of personal animosity and misunderstanding as anything else, the schism was never healed as the earlier schisms had been.

At least as important as the Schism of 1054 was the Sack of Constantinople in 1204. Crusaders from the West, who were supposed to have continued on to Jerusalem to release it from Muslim control, spent three days looting and vandalising the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The sack cemented eastern distrust of and resentment toward the west, preventing any healing of the schism.

The foremost theological-ecclesiological division between Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism is the role of the Bishop of Rome, or the Pope. In the west, Church unity was expressed through being in communion with the Bishop of Rome, as the successor of St. Peter.

Papal primacy was defined for the Catholic Church at the First Vatican Council, held in 1870. That council, held to be ecumenical by Catholics, taught that the Bishop of Rome has immediate and direct jurisdiction over the whole Church, and that when he speaks ex cathedra he possesses infallibility.

The Eastern Orthodox Christians , on the other hand, have a conciliar model of the Church. For them, unity is through the common faith and communion in the sacraments, rather than a centralized authority. They do not recognize the authority of the Bishop of Rome over all Christians, but rather consider him equal to other bishops, though with a primacy of honour.

Eastern Orthodoxy favours various forms of conciliarism: classically, this was found in “pentarchy,” the sense of five patriarchates: those of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Pentarchy has been challenged, however, by the rise of new patriarchates outside the classical Christian world, and their challenges to the historical patriarchates.

Constantinople came to regard itself as a “Second Rome” after the fall of the Roman Empire in the west, but after the city’s fall to the Ottomans in 1453, Moscow came to see itself as a “Third Rome.” The theory is attributed to the Russian abbot Philotheus of Pskov, who included it in a letter written in 1510.

It was bolstered by Russian Orthodox claims that the Patriarchate of Constantinople had fallen into heresy by accepting the Council of Florence in the fifteenth century, and (albeit briefly) coming into union with the Bishop of Rome. Conciliarism is known in Russian Orthodoxy as sobornost, a term which denotes the Church as a community of individual diversity in free unity.(Continued next week)

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