Moscow Patriarchate freezes ecumenical journey: pope never commanded in the East
Moscow (AsiaNews) – The Moscow Patriarchate has poured cold water on progress in the ecumenical journey that emerged from the recent meeting in Vienna of the Joint Commission between Catholics and Orthodox (see photo). In a statement published on the Patriarchate website Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department for External Relations says that " no breakthrough has been made," on the theme of the meeting, that of the role of the bishop of Rome in the first millennium, and moreover challenges the very foundation of the meeting, denying that the pope ever had jurisdiction over the Eastern Churches.
The two co-chairmen of the Commission, Mgr. Kurt Koch and Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas, outlining the outcome of the meeting on September 24, had appeared optimistic about the results achieved. " There are no clouds of mistrust between our two churches" - declared the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. " If we continue like that - he added - God will find a way to overcome all the difficulties that remain".
Zizioulas had argued that to achieve full unity – which existed until 1054, when there was the schism between East and West - Orthodox and Catholics need "not a reform, but an adaptation from both sides." For the Orthodox, he explained, this means recognizing that a universal Christian Church is at a higher level than their national churches and the bishop of Rome is the traditional leader. For Catholics, this means strengthening the principle of collegiality, that is the role of the synods of bishops in decision-making.
Hilarion has rejected everything. Starting from the document drawn up last year in Cyprus, during the previous meeting of the Commission (at which the Moscow Patriarchate did not participate due to the presence of the Estonian Orthodox Church, which it does not recognize), which he refers to as a mere "instrumentum laboris" , or working document "which has no official status."
That document, he adds, is "strictly historical in nature and, speaking of the role of the bishop of Rome, makes almost no mention of the bishops of the other local Churches of the first millennium, which creates a misunderstanding of how power was distributed in the early Church. Moreover, the document does not contain a clear and precise statement of the fact that the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome in the first millennium did not extend to the East. It is hoped that these gaps and omissions are remedied in the final draft of the text”.
"For the Orthodox, it is obvious that in the first millennium, the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome extended only to the West, while the eastern territories were divided among four patriarchs - Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. The Bishop of Rome had no direct jurisdiction over the East, despite the fact that in some cases, the Eastern bishops have called upon him as a arbitrator in theological discussions. This fact was not systematic in nature and can in no way be construed as meaning that the bishop of Rome was seen in the East as the holder of a supreme authority throughout the universal Church".