Now that the Pope has allowed the former Anglican sects to come back to union with the Roman Church, it is time to extend the dialogue to the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church and end the wounds of the Great Schism. Of course there has been a development of East-West dialogue since the Second Vatican Council; however the process really needs to be escalated. Pope John-Paul II called the Eastern and Western traditions of both entities, “the lungs of the Church.”
Pope Benedict XVI since the inception of his papacy has make reunion with the Orthodox sects of the Church one of the primary goals of his pontificate. The mission to restore unity between East and West is reflected in our own Latin liturgy, in the Eucharistic Prayer, when the priest prays,”…from East to West a perfect offering may be made to the glory of Your Name.” The prayer reminds us that the Church’s mission and ministry are indeed global in scope, including all directions of the cosmological winds.
The Eastern Orthodox Catholic Churches are a cultural and ritual example of how the Catholic liturgy of the East developed differently from the rituals of the West (Latin Church). Nonetheless, both branches on the genealogical tree of theology are established in authentic Apostolic Succession. The Eastern Orthodox Church in addition to valid sacraments is part of the great artistic and ritual heritage the West shares with Constantinople. Greater understanding of the theological points that unite us rather than divide us is crucial to our reconciliation with the East.
We share valid Sacraments, rooted with the primitive Church and indeed Jesus and the Apostles at the Last Supper. Disunity between our Churches was more of a political and social series of antagonisms rather than inconsistencies of theology of belief. A component of the disagreement is the Role of the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome. The Eastern Orthodox Church developed a different appreciation of the Pope and his Office. They maintained the Bishop of Rome should be accorded a “Primacy of Honor, “as the Successor to Saint Peter, however the Patriarch of Constantinople was the temporal and moral head of the Orthodox Church.
We have seen since Pope Paul VI’s common visit with the Patriarch of Constantinople in the 1960’s to the Upper Room, site of the Last Supper real movement towards restored dialogue between both East and West. During the Pauline visit to Jerusalem, the reciprocal excommunications between Pope and Patriarch were lifted. Both men prayed the Lord’s Prayer in Greek and Latin. Pope and Patriarch offered each other the Kiss of Peace and enjoyed warm embraces.
Subsequent Popes since that crucial reunion in Jerusalem have all met and embraced with the Patriarch of Constantinople. Benedict XVI even joined the Patriarch in a common profession of faith at Saint Peter’s Basilica, where they both recited the creed in Greek.
Symbolum Nicaeno-Constantinopolitanum
Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα Θεὸν Πατέρα παντοκράτορα, ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς, ὁρατῶν τε πάντων και ἀοράτων.
Και εἰς ἕνα κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ, τὸν ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς γεννηθέντα πρὸ πάντων τῶν αἰώνων, φῶς ἐκ φωτός, θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθέντα οὐ ποιηθέντα, ὁμοούσιον τῷ πατρί•δι’ οὗ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο• τὸν δι’ ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτηρίαν κατελθόντα ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν καὶ σαρκωθέντα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα, σταυρωθέντα τε ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου, καὶ παθόντα καὶ ταφέντα, καὶ ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρα κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, καὶ ἀνελθόντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανοὺς, καὶ καθεζόμενον ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ πατρός καὶ πάλιν ἐρχόμενον μετὰ δόξης κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς• οὗ τῆς βασιλείας οὐκ ἔσται τέλος.
Καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, τὸ κύριον, (καὶ) τὸ ζωοποιόν, τὸ ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον, τὸ σὺν πατρὶ καὶ υἱῷ συμπροσκυνούμενον καὶ συνδοξαζόμενον, τὸ λαλῆσαν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν. εἰς μίαν, ἁγίαν, καθολικὴν καὶ ἀποστολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν• ὁμολογοῦμεν ἓν βάπτισμα εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν• προσδοκοῦμεν ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν, καὶ ζωὴν τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος. Ἀμήν.

Such joint cooperation between Churches is unprecedented since the unfortunate schism that has endured for centuries. However, with the current trend towards Catholic unity, the responsibility of mutual understanding is incumbent upon all members of both Eastern Orthodox and Western (Latin) Catholics. The most important factor that needs consideration is the wish of Christ in His priestly prayer, “That they may be one!” The roots of unity are very apparent between us and our ritual expressions through the Sacraments. Both East and West celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice on one single freestanding altar. Both Churches recognize the validity of each others’ Holy Orders. Even in extreme cases Orthodox Priests are able to provide the Anointing of the Sick, Absolve Sins and provide Viaticum to Latin Catholics that are dying.
We both recognize the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We embrace a common male clergy and share appreciation of the Blessed Mother and the Saints. With all of the points in common, the process of reunification should prove inevitable.
Most importantly there is a genuine consideration that calls both branches together, joined by faith, theology and ancient rituals. Theological matters such as the filioque question are things that are not insurmountable obstacles to reunion, but rather opportunities to appreciate the Eastern Orthodox’s understanding of the same Triune God.
If indeed anyone were to say that reunion between East and West is that simple does not really have a keen appreciation of the historical, social and political factors that contributed to the split in the first place. What is important however is the desire towards mutual resolution of these points of contention with a prayerful understanding of the developing Mystery of the Body of Christ.
John-Paul II made reference to the Eastern Orthodox branches of the Church as essential to permit the continued breath of the Holy Spirit. With the unity of the Holy Spirit in mind, the time to once again to join East and West has come, and put historical disputes into the realm of ancient but common histories.

Hugh J.McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist writing on Catholic topics and issues. He attended Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where he studied both philosophy and theology. He writes frequently at http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com & http://nothing-left-unsaid.blogspot.com . Hugh writes about his Irish Catholic upbringing and educational experiences at http://graysferrygrapevine.blogspot.com . He has contributed works to Catholic News Agency, Catholic Online, The Irish Catholic, Dublin, the British Broadcasting Company, London and the Philadelphia Bulletin, Catholic Exchange, Pewsitter.com, Blogger News Network & The Catholic Business Journal and Wilmington Examiner. Comments are always welcome at hjmn4@gmail.com.

 

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