Monthly Archives

February 2006

2006, Articles, Raiati

Christian Unity: Where to? / 12.02.2006

The mutual committee for the dialogue between our Churches and the Western Churches has stopped working few years ago. Recently, two meetings were held between the two teams in Istanbul and Rome. They decided to restart the dialogues and maybe try to face the big problem which is the presidency of the Roman Pope and his immaculacy. This surely needs a lot of time. It doesn’t seem that the two Churches are interested today in assigning a common date for celebrating Pascha.

Supposedly we solved this issue quickly; this doesn’t change anything in the main difficulties. The Armenians celebrate with the West, but this didn’t lead to a rapprochement in doctrine. Celebrating at the same day between Catholics and Protestants also didn’t lead to a rapprochement. The solution needs patience.

I don’t feel that the unity will come soon. The difficulty of forming one Church with one administration lies in the fact that the Orthodox do not accept, theologically, to be subjected to the Roman Pope because this has never happened before. The Pope has never interfered in the issues of the East. If they accepted the leadership of the Roman Pope over the whole world they would be leaving their heritage and fixating something that they have never known in the past. The doctrine of Orthodox Christians is based on the seven Ecumenical Councils and their Holy Fathers didn’t consider that Peter’s priority over the apostles has been transferred to the Popes or Rome. They do not accept that someone other than Christ could be considered as a head for all the Church through a delegation from Christ. The pastoral care performed by the apostles over the early Church was a communal care in which Peter appeared as a premier. However, this prominence didn’t continue in the form of a sequence.

We believe that every bishop is the head of his local Church and that a group of Churches or archdioceses is led by what we call a Patriarch or Archbishop who would be a premier among equal people. The relationship between the Patriarch and the Bishops is lived in the Holy Synod in a visible form in addition to the life of communion. However, the Patriarch is not a president over any bishop or over all bishops when they meet, but he could interfere or give suggestions if the ecclesiastic life in an archdiocese was ruined. The Patriarchs are also brothers, and the one that is considered as the premier among them after the schism is the Patriarch of Constantinople; if a conciliation was fulfilled then this kind of leadership will be given back to the Pope.

If this Papal presidency stayed as a doctrine, as it was declared by the Vatican Council in 1870, then conciliation is not possible because Eastern Christians would be deviating from their ancient faith. Is there any way out?

Scholars from both Churches have thought about this issue and noticed that the West differentiates between the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the General Councils that they held alone in the second millennium, i.e. after the Great Schism in 1054. The Seven Ecumenical Councils are mandatory and this is our clear statement. As for the Western councils, we cannot force Eastern Christians that didn’t attend and didn’t acknowledge the councils to accept them. However, after discussing we might accept some issues from them and refuse others.

Among these general western councils (non-ecumenical) we mention the First Vatican Council that acknowledged the presidency and immaculacy of the Pope. The Western Church has met in this council as a local or regional Church.

If the West accepted this characteristic to be given to the Vatican Council, then the presidency and immaculacy of the Roman People would not be mandatory for the East. Then, the Pope and the Eastern Patriarchs would communicate by considering the Pope as the bigger brother exactly as the Orthodox Patriarch and his bishops communicate today i.e. he cannot command or decide but they all consult each other.

This is the image of the united Church in the future as it appears to me. This is based on the first millennium without changing anything from it. May God inspire all Christians not to deviate from this mutual heritage.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الوحدة المسيحية إلى أين؟” –Raiati 7- 12.02.2006

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2006, Articles, Raiati

Rapprochement among Christians / 05.02.2006

In this bad time that we are living in, people can approach each other through love because no one can add anything to love. Love requires two things: The first is to stick to the righteous faith and not deviate from it in order to satisfy human beings; and the second, to love all those who believe in Jesus regardless of their doctrine because this shows mutual respect and that no one feels that he is better than the other or disparages the other but we all try to be better in honoring. Those who have good knowledge in our doctrine must clarify this doctrine to whoever wants to learn it. Explaining it is a must, yet it is also a must to avoid controversy and to stay calm.

Participating in each other’s joys and sorrows is a well-known habit among the Lebanese. But we should add to it charity towards the poor from another Church. We are not allowed to ask a poor person to go back to his Church if that Church couldn’t help him. By this, I am not talking about individual giving that you might be practicing but about a giving from our Church as a whole if it was available.

As for worshiping, it is not our habit to participate with others except in exceptional conditions. The important thing is for every one of us to be sanctified and to love his rituals and participate in the Divine service with those who have the same belief as him. Rapprochement doesn’t happen through admixture but through practical love. To stand next to each other and to exchange visits among Churches isn’t our way to get to know each other deeply. Meeting the other happens in the depth of the soul and not visibly. As for when we should appear together, this needs more organization and should be done by those who are responsible.

I feel sorry when I see some of our children not praying in their Churches on Sundays because they have to drive their cars for extra five or ten minutes to reach an Orthodox Church. They say that we are all the same. This is my hope, in God’s grace. However, now we are not united in what we say and what they say. We are in front of a scene of two divided Churches that we hope for their unity after dialogues between Churches and overcoming difficulties that exist to this day. These are theological issues and cannot be overcome easily.

Saying that we want to become united today whatever it takes is rejected because Church issues are serious issues and problems cannot be solved without the opinions of Patriarchs, bishops and scholars. Those who know and those who don’t are not the same. In this sense, nothing is impossible to agree on. Agreeing requires us to be all according to the faith “that was delivered once to the saints”.

The journey is long and hard and needs lots of endurance. The expression that I always hear – “We, lay people want unity now” – can only be replied by saying “guide me to the solution of the problem”.

There also exists the issue of celebrating Pascha. Churches are seeking to do that and have established a global committee to solve the dilemma. While following this issue, I say that the delay isn’t from the loitering of spiritual authorities. There are nations that still refuse this agreement and in an inveterate Orthodox country, a great number of believers split from the Church when some Churches adopted the western calendar for fixed feasts (Christmas, Annunciation).

Uniting the fixed feasts didn’t let us take a step closer to rapprochement. Theological difficulties are still there. Also, the Latins and evangelicals celebrate Pascha in one day yet they didn’t get closer to each other.

The only thing that could be done on the regional level, and not on the global level, is for others to adopt the Orthodox date for Pascha because the global solution didn’t come yet and because we cannot be divided from our Orthodox brothers, while Catholics who live with us in Lebanon were allowed by the Pope to celebrate with us.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “قربى المسيحيين بعضهم لبعض” –Raiati 6- 05.02.2006

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