Eastern Churches

When I was last on Catholic Answers Live last week Constantine Regas called in to defend the Eastern Orthodox position against the Catholic Church’s teaching on Peter and the Primacy of Rome. Constantine’s words are in BLUE and my responses are in BLACK. I appreciated Constantine’s irenic tone and honest demeanor. 

CONSTANTINE REGAS (CR): I called the “Catholic Answers Live” show last Monday to clarify the Orthodox position on authority in the Church.

STEVE RAY (SR): I remember Constantine. And the studio cut us off before we got very far in our conversation.

CR: My exact question was that, if Christ gave St Peter the Keys to the Kingdom, why isn’t the current Bishop of Antioch the head of the universal Church since St Peter was the founding bishop of that city several years before he became the bishop of Rome? Part of your response was that he was also the first bishop of Jerusalem. The Apostle James was Jerusalem’s first bishop.

SR: Jesus promised him the keys to Peter in Matthew 16:19. The Royal Steward steps up to his position of authority when appointed, especially to fill in for the King in his absence. Once Jesus ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit fell Peter picked up those keys and exercised his authority on the day of Pentecost. From that point on we hear no words of the other Eleven. Except for Paul, none of the others have any recorded words in Acts. Peter is the Bishop, the Pope and the visible Head of the Church from that point.

In his massive history of the Church, Warren Carroll gives a very cogent outline of Peter’s movements. You can read this list here as I provided in my book Upon this Rock.

30 AD Death and Resurrection of Jesus
30-37 Peter head of the Church in Jerusalem
38-39 Peter’s Missionary journeys along Mediterranean Coast and Samaria
40-41 Peter in Antioch
42 Imprisonment in Jerusalem and departure to “another place.’
42-49 First sojourn to Rome
49 Expulsion from Rome by edict of Claudius
49-50 In Jerusalem for the Apostolic Council (Acts 15)
50–54 In Antioch, Bithynia, Pontus, Asia, and Cappadocia (or some of them)
54–57 Second sojourn in Rome; Gospel of Mark written under Peter’s direction
57–62 In Bithynia, Pontus, and Cappadocia (or some of them); Mark in Alexandria, Egypt
62–67 Third sojourn in Rome; canonical Epistles of Peter; Mark with Peter in Rome
67 Martyrdom in Rome and burial near the Necropolis at the Vatican

You say that the Apostle James was the first bishop of Jerusalem. If you referring to James the son of Zebedee, you are incorrect because he was killed by the sword about 42 AD as recorded in Acts 12:2. The James that became bishop of Jerusalem was James “the Lord’s brother” (Gal 1:19). He was referred to as James the Righteous. He became bishop of Jerusalem after Peter’s departure for Antioch around 40-41.

Doctor of the Church, St. John Chrysostom (an Eastern bishop) says, “‘And having spoken thus,’ the Evangelist declared, ‘he said, “Follow me.” ’ In these words He was once again referring indirectly to His solicitude for Peter and to the fact that He was on terms of intimate friendship with him. And, if someone should say: ‘How is it, then, that it was James who received the bishop’s chair in Jerusalem?’ I would make this reply: that Christ appointed this man [Peter], not merely to a chair, but as teacher of the world.” (John Chrysostom, Commentary on Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist: Homilies 48–88, trans. Thomas Aquinas Goggin, vol. 41, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1959), 473.)

Peter was the leader of Jerusalem for 10 years before going to Antioch for 2 years then ending up as the leader of the Church in Rome about 42 AD.

CR: The point I was making is that primacy of honor (not authority which rests with Christ alone) was given to the bishop of Rome because it was capital of the empire.

SR: Unfortunately, you are incorrect again. Never was the phrase “primacy of honor” used until after the Eastern churches broke away from Rome, took a new name (Orthodox) and used this phrase as a justification for rejecting the honorary and jurisdictional authority of Rome. One only needs to read history to find the Eastern churches in heresy for much of their existence and always depending on Rome to establish the truth of the faith and to appoint orthodox bishops in Eastern churches.

Rome was established as the See of Peter because Peter chose it to be. Jerusalem had become a backwater city after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and the 10th Legion. Yes, Rome was the capital of the Empire and the hub of the wheel (“all roads lead to Rome”). Peter and Paul established the Church of Rome by their blood and it was by their appointment, the See of Peter and the Head of the Church.

Of course, Jesus is the head of the Church. But he left his royal steward with the keys of the kingdom as a visible head of the Church and a source of unity. There is no contradiction here.

CR: The second canon of the Second Ecumenical Council A.D. 381 explains this clearly. After the capital was moved to Constantinople, primacy of honor became shared. Feel free to investigate.

SR: I see you do not provide the quote from the source you cite. It is easy to say a council said this or that, but proving it is quite another thing. And claiming the primacy was “shared” is an eastern idea and refuted by the facts of the first 1000 years of the Church. This I have made abundantly clear in my book Upon this Rock.

Yet in that very Council, in the beginning of the very next Cano  it contradicts tour claim. Here is the except from that Canon of that Council:

Canon III
The Bishop of Constantinople, however, shall have the prerogative of honour after the Bishop of Rome; because Constantinople is New Rome.
Ancient Epitome of Canon III: The bishop of Constantinople is to be honoured next after the bishop of Rome.

CR: I also noticed that the above comment (among others) was edited out of yesterday’s rebroadcast.

SR: I am not aware of that, nor is that under my care. The sound techs at Catholic Answers Live handle what is posted in the podcast.

CR: One last point if I may: All the Eastern bishops can trace their authority back to one of the Apostles. The Vatican recognizes this and therefore acknowledges the validity of the Orthodox priesthood and sacraments.

SR: We have no argument here. That is why we consider the eastern churches to be legitimate churches. We don’t consider Protestants to be churches since they have lost the apostolic succession, which the Eastern Orthodox churches have maintained. However, that has nothing to do with the fact that Rome has the primacy both in honor and in jurisdiction. The Eastern churches are in schism and we all hope that one day there will again be unity.

St. Pope John Paul II said it best when he stated his desire that the Western and Eastern lungs be breathing together again in one united Body of Christ.

If you are interested in my thorough study on all of these matters, in which I interact a great deal with Orthodox theologians, I suggest you get my book referenced below.

I appreciate your irenic tone and honest discussion. God bless you my brother in Christ!

(Stephen K. Ray, Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church, Modern Apologetics Library (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), 67.)

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By Elizabeth Scalia | Sep 25, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 5.38.14 AM“Before 1917 nobody ever proposed that the collapse of a centuries-old Christian empire would happen…”

Participating in a London conference on the topic of “The Christian Future of Europe,” Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, head of the External Relations Departments of the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, spoke on September 22 at the Russian Embassy to Great Britain, and his talk was something of a warning to the Churches of the West.

Opening his talk with an acknowledgement of Christian persecution throughout the world, and armed with research figures hewn from recent PEW polls and other studies, Hilarion painted a grim but up-to-date and accurate picture of what Christianity is currently facing due to migration and Western secularization, and also what the future of Christianity will look like without a deep and strenuous effort at evangelization.

The Archbishop presented a sobering look at how migration is impacting Europe:

“According to figures by the European Union agency Frontex, more than 1.8 million migrants entered the EU in 2015 alone … the number of migrants in Europe has increased from 49.3 million people in 2000 to 76.1 million people in 2015.”

“The other reason for the transformation of the religious map of Europe,” said Hilarion, “is the secularization of European society. Figures in a British opinion poll indicate that more than half of the country’s inhabitants – for the first time in history – do not affiliate themselves to any particular religion.”

This trend is not holding true in Russia, where an identification with faith is on the upswing, although “many defined themselves as ‘religious to some degree’ or ‘not too religious’ … However, the number of people who define themselves as being ‘very religious’ is growing steadily.”

That good news must be balanced an understanding of the rapid decline of religious practice in Europe and North America, and here Hilarion suggested that history must be given its due study, as a warning:

I would like to remind you all that in Russia before 1917 nobody ever proposed that the collapse of a centuries-old Christian empire would happen and that it would be replaced by an atheistic totalitarian regime. And even when that did happen, few believed that it was serious and for long.

The modern-day decline of Christianity in the western world may be compared to the situation in the Russian Empire before 1917.

The revolution and the dramatic events which followed it have deep spiritual, as well as social and political, reasons. Over many years the aristocracy and intelligentsia had abandoned the faith, and were then followed by common people.

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia spoke of this in January 2017:

“The fundamental rupture in the traditional way of life – and I am now speaking … of the spiritual and cultural self-consciousness of the people – was possible only for the reason that something very important had disappeared from peoples’ lives, in the first instance those people who belonged to the elite.

In spite of an outward prosperity and appearance, the scientific and cultural achievements, less and less place was left in peoples’ lives for a living and sincere belief in God, an understanding of the exceptional importance of values belonging to a spiritual and moral tradition.”

Hilarion seemed to reserve a special condemnation of the resistance to religion demonstrated by the European Union:

And when half a century after the creation of the European Union its constitution was being written, it would have been natural for the Christian Churches to expect that the role of Christianity as one of the European values to have been included in this document, without encroaching upon the secular nature of the authorities in a unified Europe.

But, as we know, this did not happen.

The European Union, when writing its constitution, declined to mention its Christian heritage even in the preamble of the document.

I firmly believe that a Europe which has renounced Christ will not be able to preserve its cultural and spiritual identity.

The Archbishop’s full speech may be read here.

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East-and-WestSince we are in Jerusalem, where many of the Eastern Catholic Churches converge, I decided to share this excellent article. I found it very helpful.

Many think the name of “our church” is the “Roman Catholic Church” — but that is only the name of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. The “Catholic Church” is the simple and actual name of our Church, a church made of many different rites, all with the same sacraments and all loyal to the Bishop of Rome as the visible head of the Catholic Church.

But many others of the Eastern churches are not “Catholic” and are not in union with Rome such as the Greek Orthodox, the Russian Orthodox, Coptics and many others.

I hope you find this explanation, list of the various rites, glossary of terms and more as helpful as I did. Greetings from Jerusalem where the Roman Catholic Church is referred to as the Latin Rite and cooperates with many other Catholic Rites and co-exists with many non-Catholic Eastern rites.

The article begins,

JPIIfuneral“As millions watched the funeral for Pope John Paul II, many were confused by the concluding Panakhyda celebrated not in Latin, but in Greek and Arabic by hierarchs in black hoods, turbans, crowns, and unusual vestments. Was this not the responsibility of the cardinals? And were those clerics even Catholic?

“The answer may surprise you, as Catholics are generally unaware that they have millions of coreligionists who are not themselves part of the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, even the term “Roman Catholic” isn’t quite right it was actually a derogatory label assigned to us by Anglican Protestants, trying to legitimize their own use of the term “Catholic” over and against that foreign Church loyal to the pope of Rome.

byzantine-catholic-1“In point of fact, the Catholic Church directly under the jurisdiction of Rome is properly and canonically termed the Latin Church. All official Church documents simply use the term, “Catholic Church.” And contrary to popular belief, most of the day-to-day work preformed by the Holy Father is not in his role as pope and pastor of the Universal Church but in his position in the Latin Church as the bishop of Rome and the patriarch of the West.

“So who are these “other” Catholics? They have their own hierarchies and liturgies, as well as their own distinct apostolic lineages. They may look and act like Eastern Orthodox churches, but they recognize the pope of Rome as the head of the visible Church on earth and have suffered for the cause of that unity.

“Meet the Catholic Churches. There are more of them than you think…  For the whole article, click here.

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