‘We have reached consensus on the autocephaly procedure’

As the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission for the agenda of a Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church continues its work, the issue of granting autocephaly and the diptych order has come up to its attention in the period of 2009-2010. The leader of the Russian Orthodox delegation at the Preparatory Commission meetings, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, expounds the work of the Commission in an interview to the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, S. V. Chapnin.

– Your Eminence, the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory commission’s decisions on the procedure of granting autocephaly, adopted in December 2009 in Chambesy, make it possible to speak about a serious step made in the development of inter-Orthodox cooperation. How different were the initial positions of the Churches, and can one say that the search for consensus was difficult?

– According to the resolution of the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference, which took place in June 2009, the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission was to consider the way in which an Orthodox Church can declare its autocephaly and autonomy as well as the order of diptychs, which are lists prescribing the order in which the names of the heads of Local Churches are mentioned during the liturgy. During the six days of its work, the Commission managed to consider two of the above-mentioned issues, namely, autocephaly and autonomy, while the discussion on diptychs had to be put off till the next meeting of the Commission.

The issue of church autocephaly was already considered by the Preparatory Commission in 1993. At that time, it was agreed that autocephaly asked by a certain part of a Local Church can be granted on the basis of the consent given by the Mother Church to be followed by a search for pan-Orthodox consensus with the Patriarch of Constantinople as coordinator. It was the procedure for declaring autocephaly that came under discussion at the December meeting, and it was not an easy task to reach an agreement on this matter.

The principled stand of the Russian Orthodox Church, expressed by our delegation, was that this procedure should conform to the principle of sobornost, traditional for the Orthodox Church, in making decisions on important common church matters. In this understanding, a Tomos on Autocephaly should be signed by the heads of all the Local Churches. The same stand was taken by the delegations of the Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Polish Orthodox Churches as well as the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. At the same time, the delegations of some Churches insisted that the signature of the Ecumenical Patriarch alone was sufficient for granting autocephaly.

As a result of a prolonged discussion the Commission adopted a wording that presupposes signatures of the primates of all the autocephalous Churches. It was also agreed that the very contents and procedure for signing a Tomos on Autocephaly would be specified by the next meeting of the Preparatory Commission.

As for church autonomy, the Russian Orthodox Church believes every Local Church has the right to decide on its own whether autonomy should be granted to some part of it, otherwise the canonical principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of an autocephalous Orthodox Church would be challenged. Indeed, while enjoying broad rights to self-governance, every autonomous Church still preserves fundamental relationship with its predominating Church. This relationship is expressed both in the approval of its head by the autocephalous center and in receiving holy myrrh from it and in exalting the name of the primate of the autocephalous Church during liturgy celebrated in the churches of a respective autonomous Church.

This position was unanimously approved by the meeting in Chambesy, which resolved that every autocephalous Church has the right to an independent decision on granting autonomy to any of her part. In doing so, she is obliged to notify other Churches about the granting of autonomy which took place.

On the whole, the working out of agreed decisions was a strained but constructive process.

– There is a notorious problem of precise wordings, especially in translation to other languages. Which language or languages were used in discussing the documents? Are there official Russian versions?

– According to the procedure of the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences and Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commissions, adopted in 1986, their official languages are Greek, Russian and French. During the December meeting in Chambesy, just as during similar previous meetings, the speakers used all three languages. The secretariat in Chambesy provides for the simultaneous translation of the reports and discussions into these languages. The final documents are signed in their Greek, Russian and French versions. They all are authentic.

– How representative were the Local Churches’ delegations who participated in the discussion on the document?

– The Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commissions’ terms of reference provides only for a primary elaboration of the agenda for a Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. Documents adopted at the Commission meetings are only drafts. They are to be submitted for approval to Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences and then to a Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. The next Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference, the fifth one, will be possible to convene only after the Commission has finalized its work to draft a document on autocephaly and to consider the issue of diptychs.

– When will the next meeting of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission take place?

– The date for the next Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission to draft a procedure for signing a Tomos on Autocephaly and to discuss the diptychs has not been fixed as yet. I hope its participants will manage to build on the progress already achieved, and the common desire to reach agreement in discussing even the most acute issues will remain unchanged.

Read the entire article on the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church website (new window will open).


  1. … their official languages are Greek, Russian and French.

    Are there, and will there be, official English language transcripts of the documents?

  2. Michael Bauman says

    So would this mean the OCA would be autonomous, whatever that means, and not autocephalous?

    If the Antiochian situation is used as an autonomous model, it means that the local bishops have no effective accountability to anyone.

    If everyone has to sign off on autocephaly that means, IMO, it will never happen without a miracle.

  3. Harry Coin says

    So everyone has to sign off before anything can happen, whether or not they had anything whatsoever to do with the formation of the church growing to autocephaly? So if one little church somewhere is going through a corrupt little patch and won’t sign off on ‘autocephaly’ unless paid off beyond reason, nothing can happen?

    I expect autocephaly will happen going forward much in the way it has in the past– schism until those who didn’t get paid off die and then the others will ‘recognize’ that getting a one-time payoff is 100% more than $0.

    Except in language that uses words like ‘Most Holy’ and ‘Sacred’ often.

    Actually in the US case more likely if all the ethnic division and ‘ordained-young-never-marrierd-bachelor-bishop’ / scandal / kleptocracies persist the whole thing will dwindle so close to zero in a couple decades it won’t matter anyhow.

  4. Geo Michalopulos says

    I hate reading between the lines but the plain words are encouraging: “As for church autonomy, the ROC believes every Local Church has the right to decide on its own whether autonomy should be granted to somepart of it, otherwise the canonical principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of an autocephalous Orthodox Church would be challenged.

    Of course this is and always has been self-evident (to everybody but the Phanariotes.) This means that the OCA is at the very least autonomous. This can no longer be argued, contra the bloviations of Lambrianides. The question is, given that the ROC unilaterally granted not just autonomy but full-blown autocephaly to the Metropolia, will it then raise the stakes and say that any Local Church can grant autocephaly as well? I don’t see them backing down.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      P.S. this means that it (the OCA) can’t not be present at an Episcopal Assembly. AFter all it stands to reason that if extracanonical eparchies established by migrations can be present, then so can canonically-ordained authonomous churches. Otherwise, canonicity loses all meaning.

  5. Scott Pennington says

    Michael and Harry,

    I almost posted something earlier today that echoes some of what each of you have said, but then I said to myself, “Oh, why the heck bother.”

    It is disappointing to hear this from the MP’s representative since it leaves the OCA’s status up in the air. It seems as though in the recent past Pat. Kirill reaffirmed the MP’s grant of autocephaly by addressing Met. Jonah as “Your Beatitude” and supporting him against the Phanar during the recent war of words. It seems that the OCA would be in a no man’s land. Russia says it’s autocephalous, most other churches refuse to recognize them. No real difference there.

    However, as Harry pointed out, the bigger problem is that any autocephalous church has a veto on a new one being admitted. That’s actually worse than the Phanar’s position that it alone can declare autocephaly. The Church of the Czech and Slovak Lands is autocephalous with a membership of about 75,000 [salute!]. They and they alone could prevent a church from being granted autocephaly. What this means is that each of the primates can hold out for whatever bribe he wants. What has been agreed, apparently, is that the only way a new church can be born is if it acquires enough cash or credit to buy the signatures of all the primates. Very disappointing.

    Moreover, in a country like America, where there are many overlapping jurisdictions, the likelihood is very high that many “mother churches” would want a substantial payoff before signing off. Who pays the bill for all this graft? The Orthodox, of whatever jurisdiction, in America. Wonder why OCA wasn’t invited to this shindig?

    God willing, this whole process will fall through and it will return to the status quo ante. World Orthodoxy would be much better served by simply ignoring the Phanar and watching it gradually dwindle away rather than dealing with them on this subject.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Scott, that’s why I think that there is more going on here than meets the eye. Let’s step back and look at what your analysis means: any autocephalous church can veto autocephaly.

      What does this mean?

      1. If any one such church can veto autocephaly, ipso facto it must be able to grant autocephaly

      2. Leaving aside point #1, the veto power makes any autocephalous primate co-equal to the EP.

      Clearly, this has not been thought through completely by the Chambesy signatories. If I had to guess, what we are looking at is a compromise: The EP wanted to have the sole veto power, while everybody else wanted the maximal amount of power, even up to granting autocephaly to daughter churches.

      • Scott Pennington says


        I don’t follow you. Establishing a rule that each autocephalous church must approve of autocephally for it to be granted does not indicate to me that any church alone can grant it. Maybe just the opposite.

        Regarding equality with Constantinople: In a way it makes each church equal to the Phanar on this particular issue. Still, the Pat. of Constantinople enjoys other prerogatives being first among equals.

        “If I had to guess, what we are looking at is a compromise.”

        I’m sure it was a compromise. But what it does is grant extortion power to each and every one of the primates at the expense of the stewards on the territory of proposed new autocephalous church. I can’t believe the primates did not consider this. It’s a potential huge windfall to each of them.

        What it actually indicates to me is that Russia made the calculation that it wasn’t particularly concerned with the process of granting autocephaly except to prevent the Phanar from being able to claim the exclusive right to do so. If they exempt the OCA from this process then they have succeeded in thwarting the Phanar, ingratiating themselves to the other primates (who may expect checks from any new autocephalous church before the status is granted) and they really haven’t lost anything regarding the status of any other autonomous churches.

        Now, whether it’s all a good arrangement from the perspective of South America or Australia, etc. or the OCA if it is not exempt from this process, I’m not so sure. Consider the possibility, however, that the other jurisdictions in America pool their funds and get all the primates to sign off on autocephaly. After the deal is done, would they refuse merger with the OCA? Probably not. Maybe it’s not such a bad deal from the OCA’s perspective either. There’s nothing that says they can’t continue as is and refuse to participate in the shakedown.

        • Harry Coin says

          I can’t see any gaps or mistakes in Scott’s presentation. What we had was a group of people sitting around of table making a deal bad for people not there making the deal. (Much like a public employee union representative, a public employee department manager, and a public employee arbiter/judge — anybody surprised the results aren’t so good for the people not there who have to pay public employees with their taxes?)

          However I think regarding church participation the people in the USA like to take a look at whatever an instition’s rules and practices are and if they seem bozo-like then just not join, or join another church or join no church.

          The biggest problem the old-world regal style bishops have is they don’t know how to deal with a government that has no desire for a relationship other than generally positive hands-off approach. No US official has any desire to pass through ‘royal doors’ either way, doesn’t want to pay the church for politcal support, doesn’t want the church to pay it for taxes.

          That forces the bishops to have a relationship with the people, or their church dies. And that hasn’t happened in a very long time.

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Scott, you may be on to something. The OCA may be in a sweet spot because it would never have to pony up moolah to the Old World to get what it already has. A further wrinkle: many of the ethnic eparchies have little to no money to buy their indedence. Will they just continue on as before until they wither away or will some of their more bold members just demand merger with the OCA?

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Scott, what are the practical ramifications of this? If it becomes obvious that palms have to be greased to get independence, then the frustrations of the nascent churches will rise to intolerable levels. This could very likely backfire in that these churches would say “what the heck” and just declare autocephaly.

      Is it just me or is the MP looking over all this and going to offer his good offices to aggrieved churches wanting to plead their case?

      • Scott Pennington says


        I expanded some on my post above while you were making your last comment.

        It may very well be that the MP thought this through pretty well, perhaps in consultation with Met. Jonah. It sticks in my craw a bit that potential new autocephalous churches might have to write several checks instead of just one. But the angle might be, as you mention above, that churches could run to the MP for intervention and possibly financial support during the process. That would ingratiate more churches to the MP.

        It all could be a masterful move in the Third Rome effort. Would you expect anything less though from a nation of physics calculating, chess masters?

  6. Michael Bauman says

    George, its just you. In fact, many consider the OCA to be practically and canonnically irrelevant now in this country and abroad. The GOA is still the 500 lb gorilla.

    Harry is correct, historically autocephally has been taken, not granted. The new local church was “in schism” until everybody else gave in decades or centuries later.

    There is no such thing as ‘world Orthodoxy’ anyway. That is papal language. There is only the local church gathered around her bishop. In that context and that context alone, Scott’s idea of authoritarianism makes sense.

    • Harry Coin says

      Michael wrote: ‘[Orthodoxy] is only the local church gathered around her bishop’. For a local church to be ‘gathered around a bishop’ an actual familial relationship is just presupposed by the author. There is no reoom for ‘stand ins’ and distant big-hats that visit once a year, often expecting big payments, and then leaves. Either today’s local priest is everything the old author had in mind (and our ‘bishops’ are not recognizable as such by the old authors) or we have no such church existing here today.

      Unless we are ready to go fuss what ‘is’ means. Denial is indeed a river in Egypt.

    • Scott Pennington says

      “There is no such thing as ‘world Orthodoxy’ anyway. That is papal language. There is only the local church gathered around her bishop. In that context and that context alone, Scott’s idea of authoritarianism makes sense.”

      Touchy, touchy, Michael. By “world Orthodoxy” I meant the collective interests of all the Orthodox churches and faithful, especially autonomous churches aggrieved by old world patriarchs (Constantinople being a leading perpetrator), not papism. I’m among the least likely to suggest a move to papalism.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Michael, obviously the Big Kahuna himself (+Kirill) doesn’t think that the OCA is “canonically irrelevent,” otherwise, he wouldn’t have gone to the great lengths at last year’s extravaganza in Russia. Nor for that matter does the EP, otherwise he wouldn’t go to such great lengths to exclude/ignore/castigate it. Nor would he have given +Demetrios such grief. (Let’s not forget that the MP directed all MP parishes in North America to address +Jonah during the Great Litany as “Metropolitan of All-America and Canada.)

        Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not taking offense. The GOA being the “500 lb gorilla” in the room is like saying “Joe is the world’s tallest midget.” At the risk of opening up old wounds, the numbers of the so-called Big Three in the US are: GOA=300,000, OCA=100,000, and AOCNA <100,000. Or by parishes: GOA=550, OCA=520, AOCNA=250 (all numbers approximate).

        I do agree that when all is said and done autocehally is usually taken. This of course will present an interesting quandary in North American in that it can't be "taken" by the AOCNA, GOA, etc. because an autocephalous church already exists.

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          P.S. I just took the time to read the most recent heading on this blog, about the chaos that is presently engulfing Greece. we would be wise to refrain from taking too serious “worldwide Orthodoxy’s” opinion about anything or their “recognition” about this or that local church. The violence in Greece is a disgrace, but the stagnation of the other Old World churches is nothing to write home to Mother about.

      • Dean Calvert says

        Scott and Michael,

        Just for the record, while “world Orthodoxy” may not be a phrase you like Michael, the phrase “Orthodox Oecumene” is a phrase routinely used for the past 1000 years. I think this is what Scott is referring to.

    • Eliot Ryan says

      There is no such thing as ‘world Orthodoxy’ anyway. That is papal language.

      Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: ‘We are increasingly conscious of the fact that an Orthodox Church does not really exist’.

      I just can’t help feeling the urge to laugh … or at least smiling a lot. One would think the following is a joke, but is not. So the best way to stop laughing is to get the ‘joke’ out of your head.
      From “An Orthodox Reply to the Opinion of Cardinal Walter Kasper

      Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has recently spoken of the difficulties of the Vatican in ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox Church, stating: ‘We are increasingly conscious of the fact that an Orthodox Church does not really exist’. He went on to explain his words, saying that the Vatican had expected that the Patriarchate of Constantinople played a similar role in the Orthodox world to that played by the Papacy in the Roman Catholic world. He had realized that it does not. Hence his personal revelation.

      Cardinal Kasper does not understand that the Orthodox Church is a family whose members freely associate together through the matrix of the Common Orthodox Faith, Whose model is the Holy Trinity, a pattern of unity in diversity. There is no such thing as authority being imposed from outside, even by some politically powerful or wealthy, secular-style organisation. Authority in the Orthodox Church is not conferred in some secular, legalistic manner, as a result of financial wealth or political power, or even numbers of faithful. Authority in the Orthodox Church is granted by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love. The voice of that authority is heard through Church Councils, whether Pan-Orthodox or merely local, or through inspired individuals.

      He should not, therefore, expect to meet this authority or unity at air-conditioned conference centres in Switzerland or in the 5-star hotels prepared for ecumenical delegations at exotic, jet-set locations. If he did expect to meet the Orthodox Church there, then we understand why he has come to the conclusion that ‘the Orthodox Church does not really exist’. She exists surely enough, but She is to be found not in secular establishments and secular minds, but in the hearts and lives of the faithful.

      O Cardinal, you have been looking in the wrong places! Seek, and ye shall find!

      • I wonder about the full context of his remarks. The source document does not give any clue as to where the statement came from. Pulling one sentence out of a speech and then running with it is, to say the least, poor journalism. I searched Vatican.va, Zenit, and the web for the source, but found nothing.

        • Eliot Ryan says

          I googled myself and I found this:
          The Crisis of Ecumenism, According to Cardinal Kasper
          A Delicate Project “Totally Different from Relativism”
          ROME, MARCH 7, 2002 (Zenit.org).

          • Michael Bauman says

            The article quotes the Cardinal,

            “He continues: “With Moscow, dialogue at the universal level at present is very difficult; the situation is improving with Greece; in the Middle East, in the territory of the ancient See of Antioch, the situation is completely different and there already is almost full communion.”

            Oh really?

          • Thanks for getting us closer. I was able to find the original document. It turns out that ZENIT misquoted Cardinal Kasper. Interesting how much can turn on the word “an.” This is what the Cardinal really said…

            A third element (of an already changed ecumenical situation) is the inner differentiation within the great confessional world families. The Pontifical Council decided right at the beginning of the ecumenical movement to engage in dialogues with all the Orthodox churches together…

            This perspective leads to a consideration of the increasing awareness of the fact that the Orthodox church does not really exist. There are autocephalous Orthodox churches which are often jealous of their independence and live in tension with their own sister churches. Constantinople at this moment seems no longer to be able to integrate the different autocephalous Orthodox churches, and its primacy of honour is questioned especially by Moscow…

            In what way do the Cardinals actual words show a lack of understanding of Orthodoxy?

            ~ Don’t the various Orthodox Churches often live in tension with each other?
            ~ Doesn’t the EP see it as his responsibility to keep the Churches together?
            ~ Hasn’t Third Rome questioned the primacy of the EP for centuries?

            Source: Present Situation and Future of the Ecumenical Movement. PLENARY 2001. November 12-17, 2001

        • Michael Bauman says

          In context of the more complete article that Eliot linked to, it is even worse.

          • Scott Pennington says

            “We are increasingly conscious of the fact that an Orthodox Church does not really exist,” he contends. “At the present stage, it does not seem that Constantinople is yet capable of integrating the different autocephalous Orthodox Churches; there are doubts about its primacy of honor, especially in Moscow.”

            The real question is did he actually say the words in italics? The “no longer able” quote which Greg offers is not really any better. Constantinople never integrated the various Orthodox churches. There was a time when it was much more powerful and more widely respected. But either quote presumes a Roman-type integration. This suggests a non-Orthodox ecclesiology being imposed on the other Orthodox Churches by Constantinople. It presumes that this has been the effort of the Phanar. And it acknowledges that to this point it has been a failure (Thank Christ!).

            I suppose it boils down to what “integration” means. But the various churches are in communion. I can go to any New Calendar Greek church, any Russian church, any Serbian church, any Antiochian church and receive communion (if properly prepared to do so). So intercommunion is not what is contemplated by “integration”. The Orthodox churches have always had tensions between them and have at times competed for status, etc. It seems that what the cardinal is referring to is that no Orthodox patriarch can speak for the Church or lead it by his own authority. That is true. It has always been true. That is the Orthodox faith. And that is what the cardinal can’t wrap his mind around.

            It’s interesting to hear confirmation from a Roman Catholic cardinal that the Patriarch of Constantinople is being encouraged by the RCC to become an Eastern Pope.

            Who out there is left that says ecumenical dialogue with Rome is not evil?

          • George Michalopulos says

            Scott, though I agree with you completely, I for one don’t see that dialogue with Rome is “evil.” If we’re going to dialogue with anyone, I’d rather it be them than the WCC/NCC/axil of weasel. Though the RCC may have unfortunate ideas about papalism, they still understand the reality of morality. That’s important in today’s world.

            If we have problems with the RCC’s errors, especially its administrative blunders that led to the present pedophile crisis, we should then consider our own weaknesses in this regard. We need to steer clear of papalism.

          • Scott Pennington says


            In what sense is Rome’s ecumenical effort with the Orthodox churches not evil if it is based on the notion that Orthodox ecclesiology must fall into line with Roman Catholic ecclesiology (“integration” under a communion wide primate), thus necessitating the submission of the Orthodox Churches to an Eastern Pope as a prerequisite to their reintegration into the RCC?

            Tell me, how does one “integrate” an autocephalous church? Does not such integration necessarily negate conciliarity? If not, of what value to Rome would such integration be since it would not unite the Orthodox churches under one Patriarch such that the other churches would defer to the mother church for purposes of ecumenical dialogue?

            The quote presupposes that this had been the effort of the Phanar and that it has been encouraged to this end by Rome.

            The cardinal’s comments are very interesting in that the reveal the extent to which Rome’s corruption of the Orthodox has progressed. If Rome is almost in communion with Antioch (at least in the Middle East), and if Rome has been encouraging the “Mother Church” ecclesiology of the Phanar, then it is making an organized effort to subvert Orthodox teaching by using the ecumenical dialogue as a way to persuade Orthodox leaders to abandon Orthodox teaching. Would you not say this is the work of the evil one?

            By the way, George, I agree with you regarding the WCC, etc. And I think a productive dialogue on social issues is to be had with the Vatican. I just think that some Orthodox ecumenists have been too influenced by Rome and should rather make clear to the Vatican the type of schema which the Church might accept. Fr. Thomas Hopko outlined such a sketch in his Woodstock speech.

    • Harry’s point about autocephaly being taken rather than given is salient. The Phanar is just engaging in its peculiar habit of making up history according to its own self-deluding fantasy to claim otherwise. There is precious little in the way of a historical norm of establishing local churches from out of pre-existing ones. It’s a human process, and very political, thus does not conform neatly to theory.

      It reminds me of music theory vs.practice of the art. What Byzantine singer actually fusses about the correct ‘Pythagorean’ numerological relationships between the pitches he sings? None; the art existed and then theorists attempted to describe it schematically. The same goes for church life on the large scale. Relations between nations and peoples are sketchy at best and there is not perfect way of administering them.

  7. Michael Bauman says

    “World Orthodoxy” as I most often run across it denotes a vertically integrated, monolithic organization that plays right into the papal claims of universal jurisdiction. It seems to me that the EP often wants it to appear that way to bloster his claims as THE spiritual head of the Orthdodox Church. Perhaps I am over-reacting.

    • Scott Pennington says


      This is what I wrote upstream that seems to be what provoked your comment about papalism. I don’t see how you can read that into these words since they posit “world Orthodoxy” against the Phanar. If anything it is anti-papal in the sense of being anti-“Eastern Papalist”:

      “World Orthodoxy would be much better served by simply ignoring the Phanar and watching it gradually dwindle away rather than dealing with them on this subject.”

      • Michael Bauman says

        Scott, I wasn’t consciously reacting to anything you said. I was reacting to the attitude I see in the whole process from the Greeks. I agree with your comment actually.

  8. Dean Calvert says


    Given the present situation, you are probably right to err on the side of over-reacting.

    As with many other things, we (Orthodox) use the same words, but mean completely different things than the Western Christians. Of course, no monolithic structure exists, or ever will exist, in Orthodoxy. Otherwise, the Greeks would be compelled to leave…LOL

    That said, I have always believed that the term “Orthodox Oecumene” was more in keeping with traditional Orthodox governance. It was used consistently throughout the Middle Ages (perhaps earlier – not sure) to denote an Orthodox “Commonwealth” – perhaps more accurately, the worldwide Orthodox community. I’ll leave it to the Greek scholars to do the precise translation.

    Nevertheless, the thought of an “Eastern Vatican” should send shivers down our collective spines. Nothing of the sort was ever envisioned by the Church Fathers.

    Best Regards,

  9. Scott Pennington says

    The reason the RCC might presume that no “Orthodox Church” exists is that they fundamentally misunderstand the nature of what the Church is, having broken away from it long ago.

    As Michael pointed out above, the Church is the bishop, surrounded by the laity, celebrating the Eucharist. In other terms, it is the communion of all bishops with apostolic succession who hold the holy catholic (i.e., Orthodox) faith. Offices higher than that of bishop are primarily administrative.

    The RCC wants to see its own heterodox ecclesiology as normative for the Orthodox, probably having been encouraged to do so by the Phanar. What they seem to have failed to realize in the past is that the Phanar’s idea of primacy is not shared by the vast majority of Orthodox. At most, if Constantinople can be said to represent the views of Greece itself as well, the Pat. of Constantinople’s view of primacy can be said to represent the opinion of only about 5-7 percent of the Orthodox. This realization on the part of the RCC is actually a cause to rejoice. They seem to realize, at least some of them, that their assumptions were in error that lead them to the conclusion that cutting a deal with the Phanar was the road to “reconciling” the Orthodox to the RCC.

    From our side, we can say that at least they’re beginning to face conciliarity, even if it is in dismissive language like the cardinal’s above.

    There is an Orthodox Church. It is a continuation of the Church of the Apostles. Papal imperialism is as foreign to our faith as it was to the Apostles’. The sooner the Vatican and the Phanar realize this, the sooner false hopes of a false unity based on lies will dissipate.

  10. Michael Bauman says

    A metaphor of the Church just occured to me, i.e, a multi-dimensional spider web with Christ at the center of course.

  11. Dean Calvert says

    Scott and Michael,

    Or, perhaps the Cardinal simply selected the wrong choice of words. I was told a story sometime ago about Pope Shenouda which translated into essentially the same thing.

    A few years back, an Orthodox bishop met Pope Shenouda at a meeting, and asked him, “When are we going to re-unite?”

    “I’m ready now,” said Pope Shenouda, “now tell me, which one of the 15 heads of the Orthodox should I call?”

    I’m paraphrasing, of course, but the sentiments were identical to those communicated by the Cardinal.

    Best Regards,

    • Scott Pennington says

      “I’m ready now,” said Pope Shenouda, “now tell me, which one of the 15 heads of the Orthodox should I call?”

      Any of them. All of them. One of them. Any bishop (as Michael pointed out).

      It’s just a canard. Unless and until Roman Catholics or Oriental Orthodox are willing to admit that their faith has strayed from the truth, they cannot be reconciled. Until they admit this to themselves, they do not really want to be reconciled.

      And it would be much better if we did not waste time on such nonsense.

  12. Michael Bauman says

    How to reunite is an interesting question. Doing it an an institutional level is impossible. The Orthodox bishop asked the wrong question. It should have been: “Do you wish to unite yourself to Christ and His Church? If you do, repent, confess and submit yourself to your local bishop.”

    So it should be for each and every person who wants to be part of the Church. We are not ‘re-uniting’. The opportunity for that with the Copts passed 1600 years ago. With Rome over 1000 years ago. We are talking now about simply becoming Orthodox, being received into the Church.

    The Church is and always has been open to anyone who wants to be part of her. Trouble is they want to be ‘Orthodox’ without changing anything, without repentance, without confession and without having to give up power and position.

    If the Pope or Cardinal Kaspar do not want to be part of the Church, fine, that’s up to them. However, if they want to work with us in any meaningful way its going to take a lot more person to person contact than they anticipated.

  13. Michael Bauman says

    Greg, your three points are all true, they have been true since the inception of the Patriarchal system and was one of the contributing factors to Rome going into schism. The Roman expectation of an eastern version of themselves shows an incredible ignorance. If healing of the divisions is really the goal here, it is a bit like a surgeon operating on the wrong part of the body.

    Still all the “re-union” stuff comes down to is an attempt to have the cake and eat it too. It cannot be done on an institutional level. All that can be accomplished there is a bit of relaxation of some of the animosity. Although it can just as easily stir it up again.

  14. Eliot Ryan says


    The concept of a ‘Super-Church’ proposed in the 1960’s by Christian ‘representatives’ who are now well past retirement age, if not actually in their graves, has become a joke. The books, brochures and grand plans of professional ecumenists and academics of that period now gather dust on forgotten library shelves. The end-game is here.

    In turn, the Orthodox Church is now beginning, phoenix-like, to free itself, rising from beneath the ashes of the fires of the most terrible persecutions of Christianity ever seen, those under Communism in Eastern Europe and Russia. It is our belief that Her millions of New Martyrs and Confessors there, so far ignored by the Western world which is still in the clutches of its self-admiring consumerist frenzy, have not yet been heard by History. And it is the words of these Martyrs of the last century which will yet shape the end of Western history that is now coming, as surely as it was the words of the Martyrs of the first centuries which shaped the beginning of Western history.


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