There is no breakthrough in Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue

H/T: Russian Orthodox Church (here)

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk: Allegations about a ‘breakthrough’ in Orthodox-Catholic dialogue are untrue

As has been stressed by the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the working document of the Joint International Commission for Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue, publicized so widely by some media, does not reflect the attitude of the Orthodox side to the problem of primacy of the bishop of Rome and can be viewed only as a purely auxiliary paper for further work.

Contrary to allegations in the press, the Orthodox-Catholic Commission meeting in Vienna has made no ‘breakthrough’ whatsoever. The entire meeting was devoted to a discussion on the role of the bishop of Rome in the first millennium. The Commission’s coordinating committee had drafted a document on this issue, which was discussed last year in Cyprus. A rough draft of this document ‘leaked’ into the mass media and was published.

It was planned to finalize the discussion on this draft in Vienna. However, something different happened as the discussion on the status of this draft took too much time. The Orthodox participants, from the very beginning of the meeting, insisted that ‘Crete Document’ could not be officially published on behalf of the Commission, nor could it be signed by its members. From our point of view, this draft has to be considerably revised, but even after the revision it only could have the status of ‘working document’, that is, auxiliary material (instrumentum laboris) which could be used in preparing subsequent documents and could have no official status.

‘The Crete Document’ is purely historical and, speaking of the role of the bishop of Rome, it makes almost no mention of bishops of other Local Churches in the first millennium, thus creating a wrong impression of how powers were distributed in the Early Church. Besides, the document is lacking any clear statement that the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome did not extend to the East in the first millennium. It is hoped that these gaps and omissions will be made up in revising the text.

After a long discussion, the Commission agreed that this document should be improved and that a final decision on its status should be made at the next plenary session of the Commission, that is, presumably in two-year’s time. By this time a new draft document will have been elaborated to deal with the same problem but from the theological perspective.

For the Orthodox participants, it is clear that in the first millennium the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome was exercised only in the West, while in the East, the territories were divided between four Patriarchs – those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. The bishop of Rome did not exercise any direct jurisdiction in the East in spite of the fact that in some cases Eastern hierarchs appealed to him as arbiter in theological disputes. These appeals were not systematic and can in no way be interpreted in the sense that the bishop of Rome was seen in the East as the supreme authority in the whole Universal Church.

It is hoped that at the next meetings of the Commission, the Catholic side will agree with this position which is confirmed by numerous historical evidence.

DECR Communication Service

Milica Katanic

I know I haven’t written much about this these past 9 months, but we’ve been expecting our sixth child who, after just one push (the one nurse said she had never seen anything like it), came this morning and – it’s a girl! (our fourth girl; the second “blog” baby, recorded on these pages, see here) at 7 pounds 14.2 oz; 20 1/2 inches.

It’s still amazing to me how exciting the whole thing is. Particularly since I went in this morning, actually in the middle of the night, and kept falling asleep on the chair. You’ve been through the whole process before, you know what to expect, what to do…but then you see the baby and everything stops and you’re completely lost and it’s the newest child and newest experience you’ve ever had.

Thank God everything went well!

The sins of others

I have no real opinion regarding the Bishop Eddie Long scandal. I was watching  a little about it on Fox News and CNN but in the end, whether he’s guilty or innocent, it’s none of my business.  Yet there is something attractive in hearing about the failings and mistakes of others. I can only assume it’s because it, quite simply, has nothing to do with us.  We’re given a chance to play the role of judge. That is, to do that which can ultimately get us in more trouble spiritually than the ones we are foolishly judging.  It is not by mere coincidence then that, after my snooping and reading, I was led to Fr. Ted’s blog and this post he made a few months back (from here).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”  (Romans 6:23).

There is no doubt since Christianity began it taught its members to be holy as God is holy.  This has sometimes been reduced in people’s minds to referring only to morality, but holiness is not just proper external behavior, it also has to do with the state of a person’s heart, and in fact their very being including their relationship with God.  Sometimes Christians reduce the sense of holiness to sexual activity, something which was influenced by ideas presented early on in Christianity by dualists who despised the body and marriage, treating any sexual desire as a disease (St. John Cassian calls it such in his Institutes, though admittedly he is writing for monks not to all Christians).  This abhorrence of anything sexual ultimate denies the goodness of creation and is at odds with the Genesis story of God creating humans male and female as well as with the Gospel truth of the incarnation where Jesus is a male not an androgynous being).  Today, as in every generation of Christianity, we see these ideas manifesting themselves, in our times especially in claims which make homosexuality to be veritably THE unforgivable sin.   In the book IN THE WORLD, OF THE CHURCH, Paul Evdokimov notes:

Berdiaev [Nikolai Berdiaev, a 19th century Russian religious and political philosopher] stressed with reason that the Gospel is infinitely more severe toward wealth, exploitation, and social disorder than toward any sexual failing. The real problem of social obligation has been repressed and replaced by a veritable obsession with matters sexual, even up to our time.  According to the Gospel, it is the rich who will not enter the Kingdom, while repentant prostitutes enter ahead of the righteous and their influence.  ( pg. 87)

We are so often concerned with or obsessed by the sins of others, while holiness tells us when it comes to sin to specifically look at ourselves.   Christianity is a self-denying religion, but only when it comes to sin does it traditionally tell us to look at ourselves and judge rather than looking at and judging others.

Death and taxes…

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain,” said Benjamin Franklin once, “except death and taxes.” There is an interesting article in Vanity Fair about Greece’s economic insanity which amidst tax fraud on a grand scale is deeply concerned and troubled about the affairs of the flourishing Vatopaidi Monastery. I don’t know how accurate of a picture the article gives of the economic situation in Greece and I don’t think I fully understand what the monastery has done wrong. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Read article here.

“The Church is not the servant of any nation….”

I found this in today’s edition of the Serbian paper Politika (here). Again, translation is quick and loose:


With news that Serbian language is now being taught in Fieri, Albania for the Serbs living in that country, we have discovered that in the three surrounding villages more than 500 Serbian families are either of Muslim or Christian faiths. In the motherland, in Serbia, about 85 percent of the population had identified themselves as Orthodox Christians at the last census in 2002  and in some circles Serbdom is  linked with the Orthodox faith, meaning a Serb is only one who is Orthodox. Serbs were not, are not, nor do they have to be exclusively of the Christian Orthodox faith, explains the V. Rev. Stavrophor Zoran Krstic, professor of canon law and Christian sociology at the Orthodox Theological Faculty in Belgrade.

“The absolute identification of faith and nation is a remnant of Turkish rule. The cross-resurrection feat of our Lord Jesus Christ marks the beginning of the existence of the church as a new humanity, a new nation, a new Israel. Christ has redeemed us before God from every race and language, people and tribe. By its nature, therefore, the church is catholic, ecumenical and of a super-national character. It does not divide people by any kind of nation, race, age, gender or  class.  This characteristic of the church does not imply an erasing of the differences between people or between nations. On the contrary, every man and every nation is called to enter the church with their own specific gift,” said V. Rev. Stavrophor Zoran Krstic.

Orthodoxy is an undisputed part of the Serbian national identity and our people keep and develop their national identity as part of their overall identity, inasmuch as they are guided by the foundations of Christian values in their daily lives, said our source.

“We enter the church freely and we exist in it out of our own free will. Freedom of religion is a prerequisite of any healthy religiosity. This means that if Serbs are born as agnostics or atheists, which we have become used to [during communism, ed. note], then they can also, out of their free choice, become Muslims, Buddhists and the like. The question of whether individuals or groups at some point in history were forced to convert to other religions is a question of the sin and crime of others. What is important for us is that we unconditionally respect the religious beliefs of our neighbors even when we disagree with them.  Besides the abuse of freedom of religion, history knows also of the abuses of the church and Christianity for nationalistic and political purposes. Every nation can find its place in the Church but the Church is not the servant of any nation, nor was Christ anyone’s  tribal god.  This sort of abuse was prevalent particularly during the 19th and 20 centuries during the period of the formation of the Balkan states when the young and unstable nations used Orthodoxy for internal integration of the population, but also for external confrontation, and even towards those of the same faith, their Orthodox brothers, expressing first their national and then Orthodox identity,” said Fr. Zoran.

If, for instance, we went with the argument that Serbs are only Orthodox Christians we would be denying ourselves of a part of our history. A little more than 20,000 Serbian Catholics lived in Dalmatia and Boka in the 19 century, mostly in Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar, and their influence was significantly greater than the share in total population, consisting of between three and four percent, says historian Cedomir Antic. He points out that medieval Serbian spread to the coast of Omis, and later to Stona, and so many Serbian coastal regions were at certain periods Catholic, and many of our leaders were Catholic.

“Catholic Serbs were Serbs politically. Their family tradition was Catholic. This went so far that the Austro-Hungarian subject, the Catholic Lujo Bakotic – and not an Orthodox bishop – negotiated a concordat with the Vatican on behalf of the Kingdom of Serbia. Pero Budmani, a philologist, born in Split, fired a revolver at participants of the pogrom demonstrations against Serbia which followed the Sarajevo assassination in 1914.  The assimilation process was allowed by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia which was later accelerated and completed by the communist government after 1945.  Relations were complex, but less tense than they would be today. I do not know if anyone has declared themselves as such in recent times. In Split, the last census counted nine Serbs. In Istra more people identified themselves as Serbs than those who were willing to admit that they spoke Serbian, Antic notes.

Serbian Muslims are, or more accurately, could, logically be members of the Serbian people who at one point in time embraced Islam, said the orientalist Darko Tanaskovic, adding that during the multi century Ottoman rule in the Balkans a large number of Serbs, or rather the Slav population – of which it is reasonable to assume that there were also Serbs – converted to Islam.

“During the creation of modern nations in our region religion has become a key criterion for the separation of those nationalities who are closely related ethnically and linguistically. Therefore, it is almost completely impossible that Serbs become, as Vuk Karadzic had once said, “of all three laws,” which greatly narrowed the scope of the Serbian national (self-) determination. Often contrary to the feelings of Serbs of the Muslim faith, something which was considered natural, and still is, is that Serbs can be exclusively Orthodox, and today atheist as well, but follow Orthodox traditions. Serbian Muslims are, therefore, directed toward national identification with their religious affiliation, or enjoy the national-forming process whose ultimate expression is in the Bosniak nation. Many who were Muslims religiously or cultural-traditionally  feel that they are Serbs nationally, and some prominent figures have recently emphasized this publicly. Statistically, and politically, however, it is irrelevant and often it is seen as a provocation and violation of the established order of things, no matter how humanly authentic it is. Thus the nation is a political formation. Serbian Muslims, as an institutionalized social group, do not exist – says Tanasković, adding that the fact makes the news of “the Serb Muslims” from the surrounding areas of Fieri interesting.