Moscow: Limited jurisdiction for Constantinople

From the Moscow Patriarchate’s report on the recent meeting between Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk and Pope Benedict XVI:

Pope Benedict and Archbishop Hilarion

Pope Benedict and Archbishop Hilarion

Archbishop Hilarion stressed the importance of the Orthodox and Catholic common witness to traditional Christian values in face of the secular world. He pointed to the identity of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches’ views on such themes as family, motherhood, population crisis, euthanasia and many other ethical issues. The DECR chairman pointed to essential differences existing on these issues between the Orthodox and Catholics, on one hand, and various Protestant communities, on the other. In this situation the Orthodox-Catholic cooperation in elaborating a common stand on these issues acquired a special importance, he said.

Archbishop Hilarion also pointed to the need to enhance the positive potential of the bilateral relations including cooperation in the field of culture.

The DECR chairman and the head of the Roman Catholic Church discussed problems and prospects of the theological dialogue between the two Churches. Archbishop Hilarion underlined that there were two different ecclesiological models, one of which (the Catholic one) presupposed the existence of a single administrative center for the whole Universal Church, while the other does not presuppose the existence of such a center. In the family of Local Orthodox Churches, it is the Patriarch of Constantinople who has the primacy of honour but his jurisdiction does not extend beyond the Patriarchate of Constantinople.


  1. Somewhere someone brought up the multicentric nature of Orthodoxy. I’ll post my response here.

    On the mystagogy blog,

    a post of one of the EP’s Ukrainians on the canons and the EP’s place makes appeal to Apostolic Canon 34 as the basis of Constantinople’s primacy. He makes a number of mistakes. For one, although the EP seems to only gotten around to recognizing Georgia’s autocephaly in 1990, she received in in 483 from her Mother Church, Antioch, and therefore is an ancient, not “modern” Patriarchate. And canon 34 has nothing to do with a primacy over the level of autocephalous Church, no universal primacay. He also conveniently skips that the Fathers are not silent on why they gave honors to Constantinople, the presence of the Emperor and Senate. There’s no Emperor (in fact, as the entry “Last Ottoman Dies In Istanbul” shows, the Sultan isn’t there anymore either), nor a senate. It isn’t the capital of anything anymore. Since the reasons are gone, the appologists for the neo-Ultramontanism have to invent excuses.

    The Apostolic Constitutions, which were coupled with the Apostolic Canons, says this:

    “Now concerning those bishops which have been ordained in our lifetime, we let you know that they are these:–James the bishop of Jerusalem, the brother of our Lord; upon whose death the second was Simeon the son of Cleopas; after whom the third was Judas the son of James. Of Caesarea of Palestine, the first was Zacchaeus, who was once a publican; after whom was Cornelius, and the third Theophilus. Of Antioch, Euodius, ordained by me Peter; and Ignatius by Paul. Of Alexandria, Annianus was the first, ordained by Mark the evangelist; the second Avilius by Luke, who was also an evangelist. Of the church of Rome, Linus the son of Claudia was the first, ordained by Paul; and Clemens, after Linus’ death, the second, ordained by me Peter. Of Ephesus, Timotheus, ordained by Paul; and John, by me John. Of Smyrna, Aristo the first; after whom Strataeas the son of Lois; and the third Aristo. Of Pergamus, Gains. Of Philadelphia, Demetrius, by me. Of Cenchrea, Lucius, by Paul. Of Crete, Titus. Of Athens, Dionysius. Of Tripoli in Phoenicia, Marathones. Of Laodicea in Phrygia, Archippus. Of Colossae, Philemon. Of Borea in Macedonia, Onesimus, once the servant of Philemon. Of the churches of Galatia, Crescens. Of the parishes of Asia, Aquila and Nicetas. Of the church of AEginae, Crispus. These are the bishops who are entrusted by us with the parishes in the Lord; whose doctrine keep ye always in mind, and observe our words. And may the Lord be with you now, and to endless ages, as Himself said to us when He was about to be taken up to His own God and Father. For says He, “Lo, I am with you all the days, until the end of the world. Amen.”

    Notice, plural. Not singular. And no word on Byzantium.

  2. George Michalopulos :

    Bravo Isa! Read also Eusebeius “The History of the Church.” Only four sacerdotal lists are mentioned: Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Got no problem with Byzantium, any more than I do with Moscow, Bucharest, or Podunk, Ark. The chrism that anoints all bishops is the same, all bishops are equal. Byzantium is no more special than Athens or Corinth or Lyons.

  3. Oh, I disagree.

    Athens, Corinth or Lyons has more Apostolic authority.

    Btw, on Eusebius, notice how he only uses the word “Throne” in refernce to the cathedra of Jerusalem, which at the time wasn’t technically a patriarchate.

  4. George Michalopulos :

    You’re right. there were three patriarchates: Rome and Alexandria (which were and are papacies) and Antioch.

    You’re also right about Corinth, Athens, etc. they most definately were founded by Apostles (Paul and Peter respectively). However my point is tht once a see is established, its foundation is evangelical and that trumps all claims of apostolicity by those churches which were found earlier. That is if the earlier churches are playing the game of “gotcha.”

    For instance, Constantinople’s place in the dyptichs was statutory and it is canonical. Rome’s preeminence is likewise statutory. Although it was most definately apostolically founded, Jerusalem’s foundation is even more apostolic and more ancient. Yet its place in the dyptichs (fifth) is in no way a scandal, since it was statutorily defined to be such by an ecumenical council.

    Nor would I have a problem if the dyptichs were reworked. Since Rome’s primatial place was decided because of its political importance, then the diocese of Washington, DC could make a just claim to being the primus inter pares now (using those criteria). Theologically, I think we should get away from this type of reasoning and give primacy to Jerusalem. Constantinople, despite its great history can no longer claim to being the seat of a Christian civiliaztion in any way, shape, manner or form.

    Oh well, onward and upward!

  5. I’d agree with you on Jerusalem, but it has to stop worshipping a tomb and start tending to its flock. That situation might change soon in an odd way: it may be now that the majority of the Orthodox in the Holy Land are Hebrew converts, something I saw firsthand in the early 90’s.

    I agree with you also on the issue of sees: the episcopacy is an ontological whole. When it comes on down to it, the suffragan/titular bishop here in Chicago is no less a bishop than the EP. In fact, given his episcopal line, Met. Jonah is no less the successor of St. Andrew than the EP is.

    There is a difference though, in that Rome, Alexandria and Antioch (and in an odd way, Jerusalem) had their Apostolic autocephaly recognized by the Ecumenical Councils, not created by them. Cyprus too. Constantinople’s was created by the Councils. In that respect it resembles the OCA more than it resembles Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem or Cyprus. The problem for the EP’s claims is that the creation of Constantinople’s presbia was predicated on conditions that no longer exist. Constantinople doesn’t have the empire or senate, and isn’t the capital of anything. Even Istanbul doesn’t have the sultan or meclis, and isn’t the capital of anything.

    I’m leaving for everything as is, as long as the EP stops playing supreme pontiff. Otherwise, we’ll need a rectification.

  6. George Michalopulos :

    Isa, shhhh…don’t tell the Phanariotes! They’d keel over if the word got out that their see was “created” by an EC rather than “recognized” by an EC. Of course, you are right. thanks for the distinction.

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