July 25, 2014

Pope and Patriarch meet in Jerusalem

Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit today to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilus III. The pope, according to the Catholic News Agency, “spoke with the patriarch of his gratitude for efforts to achieve greater unity between their Churches and asked the Christians of Jerusalem to raise a generation dedicated to the faith.”

Pope Benedict began his speech to those assembled by calling to mind the past meetings between his two predecessors and the Orthodox patriarchs of their time.

“These encounters, including my visit today,” he said, “are of great symbolic significance. They recall that the light of the East has illumined the entire world from the very moment when a ‘rising sun’ came to visit us and they remind us too that from here the Gospel was preached to all nations.”

Here is the full text of the speech from Vatican Radio:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is with profound gratitude and joy that I make this visit to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem; a moment to which I have much looked forward. I thank His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilus III for his kind words of fraternal greeting, which I warmly reciprocate. I also express to all of you my heartfelt gratitude for providing me with this opportunity to meet once again the many leaders of Churches and ecclesial communities present.

This morning I am mindful of the historic meetings that have taken place here in Jerusalem between my predecessor Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, and also between Pope John Paul II and His Beatitude Patriarch Diodoros. These encounters, including my visit today, are of great symbolic significance. They recall that the light of the East (cf. Is 60:1; Rev 21:10) has illumined the entire world from the very moment when a “rising sun” came to visit us (Lk 1:78) and they remind us too that from here the Gospel was preached to all nations.

Standing in this hallowed place, alongside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which marks the site where our crucified Lord rose from the dead for all humanity, and near the cenacle, where on the day of Pentecost “they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1), who could not feel impelled to bring the fullness of goodwill, sound scholarship and spiritual desire to our ecumenical endeavors? I pray that our gathering today will give new impetus to the work of theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, adding to the recent fruits of study documents and other joint initiatives.

Of particular joy for our Churches has been the participation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew I, at the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome dedicated to the theme: The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. The warm welcome he received and his moving intervention were sincere expressions of the deep spiritual joy that arises from the extent to which communion is already present between our Churches. Such ecumenical experience bears clear witness to the link between the unity of the Church and her mission. Extending his arms on the Cross, Jesus revealed the fullness of his desire to draw all people to himself, uniting them together as one (cf. Jn 12:32). Breathing his Spirit upon us he revealed his power to enable us to participate in his mission of reconciliation (cf. Jn 19:30; 20:22-23). In that breath, through the redemption that unites, stands our mission! Little wonder, then, that it is precisely in our burning desire to bring Christ to others, to make known his message of reconciliation (cf. 2 Cor 5:19), that we experience the shame of our division. Yet, sent out into the world (cf. Jn 20:21), empowered by the unifying force of the Holy Spirit (ibid. v. 22), proclaiming the reconciliation that draws all to believe that Jesus is the Son of God (ibid. v. 31), we shall find the strength to redouble our efforts to perfect our communion, to make it complete, to bear united witness to the love of the Father who sends the Son so that the world may know his love for us (cf. Jn 17:23).

Some two thousand years ago, along these same streets, a group of Greeks put this request to Philip: “Sir, we should like to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). It is a request made again of us today, here in Jerusalem, in the Holy Land, in the region and throughout the world. How do we respond? Is our response heard? Saint Paul alerts us to the gravity of our response: our mission to teach and preach. He says: “faith comes from hearing, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Rm 10:17). It is imperative therefore that Christian leaders and their communities bear vibrant testimony to what our faith proclaims: the eternal Word, who entered space and time in this land, Jesus of Nazareth, who walked these streets, through his words and actions calls people of every age to his life of truth and love.

Dear friends, while encouraging you to proclaim joyfully the Risen Lord, I wish also to recognize the work to this end of the Heads of Christian communities, who meet together regularly in this city. It seems to me that the greatest service the Christians of Jerusalem can offer their fellow citizens is the upbringing and education of a further generation of well-formed and committed Christians, earnest in their desire to contribute generously to the religious and civic life of this unique and holy city. The fundamental priority of every Christian leader is the nurturing of the faith of the individuals and families entrusted to his pastoral care. This common pastoral concern will ensure that your regular meetings are marked by the wisdom and fraternal charity necessary to support one another and to engage with both the joys and the particular difficulties which mark the lives of your people. I pray that the aspirations of the Christians of Jerusalem will be understood as being concordant with the aspirations of all its inhabitants, whatever their religion: a life of religious freedom and peaceful coexistence and – for young people in particular – unimpeded access to education and employment, the prospect of suitable housing and family residency, and the chance to benefit from and contribute to economic stability.

Your Beatitude, I thank you again for your kindness in inviting me here, together with the other guests. Upon each of you and the communities you represent, I invoke an abundance of God’s blessings of fortitude and wisdom! May you all be strengthened by the hope of Christ which does not disappoint!

Comments

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    Michael Bauman says:

    The Pope says:

    I pray that our gathering today will give new impetus to the work of theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, adding to the recent fruits of study documents and other joint initiatives.

    Negative comments:

    Orthodox Churches? HMMMM. Clearly coming from the point of view that the RCC is the arbitor of Church–they are one and we are many.

    I have zero faith in study documents and joint initiatives.

    More positive:
    At least the Pope seems to give actual honor the the Patriarch and his throne at a time when either is given little.

    Question: How are we in communion?

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    Joseph says:

    “Orthodox Churches? HMMMM”

    He also talks about Eastern Catholic faithful as members of Eastern Churches. I think you are looking for something to be upset about.

    As to how were are in communion there is a difference of opinion based on the particular ecclesiology of each Church. You might also be surprised at the communion practices of Catholics and Orthodox in Lebanon and Constantinople.

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    Joseph says:

    Joseph,

    By saying “Orthodox Churches” but “Catholic Church” (instead of the Roman Church), he acknowledges that we are Churches (in the full sense of the word, according to post-Vatican II ecclesiology) but that we are not the Church, which is only rightly called the Catholic Church.

    So, his words are significant, but they are not insulting. Of course, the Roman pope thinks that the Roman Church is the Catholic Church, while we think that the Orthodox Churches are the Catholic Church, i.e. the Body of Christ. If we thought differently, the current schism would not exist.

    Perhaps Mr. Bauman’s annoyance is simply that the bishop of Rome would remind an Orthodox Patriarch of his opposing ecclesiological view while a guest. It is diplomatic bad taste. However, I prefer truth to niceties, and I am glad that J.R. Benedict states what he believes.

    I think that the problems with Rome are significant and legion, and I do not think that it is outrageous to call them heretics. I do not do so, though I believe that several of their doctrines are wrong. Are false doctrines heretical? If so, is a body that clings and espouses false doctrines a body of heretics? I don’t know. Clearly, they are schismatics with many pernicious ideas.

    (I do, by the way, call Protestants heretics. If they do not merit the term, who does? Many Arians were nice, pious, bible-believing Christians, as well. They did many good things. The same holds true of many heretical sects. Mormons have solid family lives. Heresy does not equate encompassing evil. Heresy has a meaning. It is an infection of the p.c. spirit to allow manipulative sappiness to corrupt our speech.)

    Nonetheless, the Latins typically choose rather impressive top dogs. The Roman episcopate and even the College of Cardinals are full of unworthy men, but the pope himself is quite impressive. In light of our recent discussions about the Ecumenical Patriarchate, such a fact should shame us into some humility.

    Joseph

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    Michael Bauman says:

    I’m not upset at the Pope, he’s being the Pope without apology. To him we are schimatic churches. That doesn’t mean he is correct even though we act that way often.

    I am upset that so many of our bishops won’t be as strong. Then we could have some dialog that might result in working toward genuine communion. The Dhimmi communion of the middle east has its place but that does not mean we are really in communion. The consolation of the persecuted and beaten down is a better place to start than the position papers and study groups of the various commissions however.

    In any case your response dosen’t really answer my question. How are we in communion when we have a radically different understanding of sacred things. When we are to each other schismatics, even heretics. To blythely dissmiss centuries of sincere disagreement with the wave of a hand or the turn of a phrase is arrogant. It is a dishonor to the Catholics and Orthodox both for the last 1000 years. It’s not that easy, nor should it be.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    I do, by the way, call Protestants heretics. If they do not merit the term, who does?

    The only ones who merit the term “heretic” are those within the Church who distort her teaching. Further, and I mean this respectfully, it is not up to you to decide who is a heretic or not. Heresy, if the term is to retain any meaning at all, is decided by a council of Bishops.

    The Arian teaching was officially declared a heresy at Nicea, not before. Arius was declared a heretic only when refusing to repent. Some of Origen’s teachings were anathamatized but Origen is not a heretical teacher. Augustine taught some doctrines repudiated by Othodoxy, but he is “Blessed.”

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    George Michalopulos says:

    All, I prefer the term “heterodox.” I can’t blame Protestants for their doctrines because they were born into them, many going on for several generations. Same with the RCs. Fr, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Gregory of Nyssa’s concept –but not the man–of universalism likewise condemned in the Fifth Council?

    Like Joseph, I am in awe of many of recent popes and despair of the opposite lack in quality of many of our own patriarchs (+Alexei II, +Laurus stand out as wonderful exceptions to the rule. I choose only to name those who have reposed. Some living ones would include +Kirill and +Pavle of Serbia.)

    Anyway, point taken.

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    Joseph says:

    Dear Fr.,

    The term heretic, then, would apply to very few persons if it only refers to people anathematized by name. However, if it refers to named heresiarchs and their followers, then we cannot depend on a council to name each and every follower of a given heresy.

    At some point, we have to call a spade a spade if we are to affirm one tradition rather than another (say, the apostolic tradition in its continuity in the Church versus a wayward tradition). That, for me, is what heresy signifies . . . a tradition within Christianity that “chooses” what doctrine it wishes to hold. I am open to correction if I hear an argument that makes sense to me.

    The designation “in the Church” is not very helpful, either, as it would only apply to first generation rejecters of the apostolic tradition. Are the fifth and sixth generation rejecters not heretics, then? Or, are they misled folks with heretical ideas? Are then heretics only a certain subset of people with heretical ideas — or, more precisely, of people who belong to a sect that embraces heretical ideas?

    Fr., I appreciate the charity behind such word framing, but I don’t think that it makes sense. If the point to the distinction is to reserve the ugly name heretic for those in the Church who reject the way of the Church (similar to the word “apostate”), then there seems to be an assumption therein that such heretics do what they do maliciously. Yet, I don’t believe that to be true. Arius, Sabellius, Marcion . . . I don’t see why we should think that they taught and did what they did for any other reason than that they thought that it was right. The same would hold for their spiritual descendants.

    I do not see how it makes sense — what rationale lies behind — the restriction of the term heretic to your definition. It just strikes me as ecumenical double talk.

    Lastly, aren’t the Protestant sects full of teachings that have been repeatedly condemned by the Church in councils? Modalism, iconoclasm, Arianism, adoptionism, gnosticism . . . indeed, every historical heresy lives on in their confessions.

    No offense taken, by the way, and none intended.

    Joseph
    (a fan of the “heretical” Origen and the “blessed” Augustine)

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Heresy, heretical, heretic.

    So Father, it is virtually impossible for anyone to be a heretic these days, or for the Church to even identify heresy officially? Doesn’t that make it rather difficult to really know what we are supposed to believe?

    I agree with you about the use of the word heretic, but I find it a little too easy an escape to essentitally void the abiltity to name heretical thought as such simply because the Church is such a mess.

    I have seen the horrible damage such thought does to people.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    However, if it refers to named heresiarchs and their followers, then we cannot depend on a council to name each and every follower of a given heresy.

    Arius could be called a heretic in that he was the author of heresy. That’s what the Church decided. You could correct and instruct a person who held to Arian ideas, but to call him a heretic? That’s an entirely different thing altogether. I’ve never seen any decree that condemns a group of people as heretics, although we see teachings anathematized. And remember, this was within the Church, not outside of it.

    I do not see how it makes sense — what rationale lies behind — the restriction of the term heretic to your definition. It just strikes me as ecumenical double talk.

    It called precision in language. If the Fathers and teachers don’t use the term as promiscuously as it is used here — especially towards groupings of lay people, then there is a reason for it.

    Thus, the way non-Orthodox believers are grouped in these discussions is flawed. If the tradition reserves the term for hierachs and thereafter only anathematizes their teaching, it is because the responsibility for teaching rests, in the end, with the hierarchy — certainly not with non-teachers, and especially non-teachers in churches outside of Orthodoxy.

    Labeling people as heretics then, really amounts to nothing more than a condemnation of those who think differently than you do. That is dangerous territory.

    Lastly, aren’t the Protestant sects full of teachings that have been repeatedly condemned by the Church in councils? Modalism, iconoclasm, Arianism, adoptionism, gnosticism . . . indeed, every historical heresy lives on in their confessions.

    All these sprang up in Orthodoxy. Do you think we are free of modern heresies (like secularism — which I believe is a heresy in the correct definition of the term)? I don’t. My point here is that we are responsible for our own house. We’ve got plenty of our own problems and sins, and branding someone else as a heretic, well, has that odor of triumphalism that, frankly, is not Orthodox.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Note 8.

    So Father, it is virtually impossible for anyone to be a heretic these days, or for the Church to even identify heresy officially? Doesn’t that make it rather difficult to really know what we are supposed to believe?

    So you have to call someone a heretic in order to know what you are supposed to believe? Or is it that until you know who the heretics are you won’t really know what you believe?

    Come on guys. Think this through. You throw the term around with no real comprehension of what it means.

    Know your own teaching. Know it well enough that you can defend it against all challengers. But understand your challenger is not a “heretic.” Everyone who disagrees with you is not a junior Arius. Arius was in the church. Your challenger is not.

    Think of John Calvin. Would Calvin’s doctrine of double predestination be anathematized if, God forbid, it ever became a cause of division in the Church? You bet. Would John Calvin ever be condemned as a heretic? Of course not. He is not Orthodox.

    Words mean things. Quit abusing them.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Fr, your point is well-taken. One of the reasons I’m a conservative instead of what I really want to be (a libertarian) is because as C S Lewis said, “the facts of life are conservative.” That goes for religion as well.

    Right now, I’m engaged in a debate w/ the canon-28ists and others and your criticism regarding words meaning things is apropos. It seems to me that only by distorting words or eliding meanings or conflating ideas that illegitimate arguments gain any currency.

    An example: in discussing canon 28, I noticed that the argument of universal jurisdiction could only be made if the meaning of certain prepositions (“in”) and nouns (“barbarians”) could be twisted to something that was not intended (i.e. “next to,” and “nations”). Because of this cavalier attitude with the English language, a sort of Byzantine papalism is in the offing and causing the present tumult. This happens all to often in the political world as well, where the plain meaning of the First Amendment –which guarantees freedom of religion–is used to suppress Christian piety.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Fr., would it be proper to say something like, the Church of the Councils said this is an heretical teaching because….? Or would you simply abandon all use of the term in any personal context?

    The reason I ask is because I find that there are elements of heresy or heretical thinking that we need to be aware of because we are all subject to them simply living in the world. It is incumbant upon us to know, as best we can, the official heresies and why they are anathmatised so that we can check ourselves.

    Also when offical Church proclamations such as the 1848 Encyclical which called the office of the Papacy as practiced in the RCC heretical, or the 1872 meeting that declared phyletism as heretical. I look at those statements as being authoritative statements of the Faith, even though neither meeting was ‘Council’. Much as I do the 14th century Palamite synods. Am I wrong in that?

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    I’d like to see the text of those just for reference. The dates are interesting though, just as the Western churches were developing their doctrines of infallibility — both papal and biblical.

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    GregF says:

    What did Theophilus III have to say at, or about the meeting with Pope Benedict XVI?

Care to comment?

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