02 October 2006, 13:41
Moscow Patriarchate’s representative urges Vatican not to impose the Patriarch of Constantinople as an “Eastern Pope’ on the Orthodox world
Moscow, October 2, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate’s representative to the European Institutions Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria urged the Catholics not to impose the model of their church order on the Orthodox.
‘Whether the two ecclesiological models, namely, the Catholic one oriented at Rome as the centre of the universal church unity and the Orthodox one that is not oriented at any single centre are compatible, only a full dialogue on the primacy between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches could reveal,’ Bishop Hilarion’s statement says.
However, this dialogue would be possible only if ‘an ecclesiological model in which the Patriarch of Constantinople occupies the place of an ‘Eastern Pope’ is not imposed on the Orthodox Church,’ the Bishop underscored.
According to him, there has been no such a model in the Orthodox Church, and for instituting it at least the Pan-Orthodox Council is required and the consent of all local Orthodox Churches.
‘Until a convocation of this Council, and as long as the Orthodox teaching on the Church remains as it has been for many centuries, no delegate is entitled to make alterations. The position of the Moscow Patriarchate will remain hard-line,’ the hierarch of the Russian Church remarked.
Earlier he voiced his protest to the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity Cardinal Walter Kasper who put a document on the authority of the Ecumenical Council to the vote at the 9th session of the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church held in Belgrade.
The document said inter alia that after the severance of communion between the East and the West in the 11th century, a convocation of an ‘Ecumenical Council’ in the strong sense of the word became impossible, but ‘both Churches continued to hold ‘general’ councils gathering together the bishops of local Churches in communion with the See of Rome and the See of Constantinople.’
Bishop Hilarion raised some principal objections on this issue. He said that in the Orthodox tradition ‘communion with the See of Constantinople’ has been never perceived as a binding term of conciliarity like ‘communion with the See of Rome’ was perceived by the Western Churches.
Cardinal Kasper expressed his surprise at the fact that representative of the Russian Church ‘dwelt on only one issue under discussion which is assumed to include many other issues of great importance and difficulty.’
Bishop Hilarion thinks that Cardinal Kasper ‘is absolutely right in that it was an issue on which the Orthodox participants in the dialogue are not unanimous.’ However, it is even more amazing that the Catholic Cardinal put this issue to the vote and that ‘the Orthodox had to vote in the presence of the Catholics.’
‘The problems of Orthodox ecclesiology (the teaching on the Church), its dogmatic teaching and canonical order cannot be resolved by voting. The only way is to seek consensus within Orthodoxy and after it, if possible, between Orthodoxy and Catholicism,’ the Moscow Patriarchate’s representative said further.
The Orthodox Church has no universal primate, or ‘supreme pontiff’ (pontifex maximus). There is a bishop primus inter pares, the position held before the schism of 1054 by the bishop of Rome, and afterwards de facto kept by the Patriarch of Constantinople. However, the Orthodox Churches vary in their understanding of the Patriarch of Constantinople’s role and primacy. ‘Some rather regard this primacy as purely honourable, while others give certain coordinating functions to the patriarch of Constantinople and see him as highest court’, the bishop said.
The recent case of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Diocese of Sourozh’s former administrator, who was received in Constantinople’s jurisdiction without a canonical release, is ‘a visual illustration of the dilemma.’ It shows that Constantinople probably ‘thinks it has a right to be the supreme authority to which all clergy who do not like their Local Churches may appeal,’ bishop Hilarion added.
However, the Moscow Patriarchate believes ‘on the solid basis of the canons of the Early Church’ that no Patriarchate, including that of Constantinople, has a right to receive in its jurisdiction clergy from other Local Churches without canonical release, he said.