Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"Holy Water" and "Sister Churches": The Wednesday Audience

Who wants the backwash on that glass?

The Pope spoke about Constantinople this morning at the weekly jamboree in the Piazza...
Today, Benedict XVI drew a picture of the personality of the brother of Simon, Andrew, who was the “first-called”, and therefore he is known as the “Protoclete”. The Pope said: “It is certain that because of the brotherly relationship between Peter and Andrew, the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople feel, in a special way, like sisters.” He continued: “To highlight this relationship, my predecessor Pope Paul VI, in 1964, restored the relics of St Andrew, which until then had been kept in the Vatican Basilica, to the Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop of the city of Patrasso in Greece, where according to tradition, the apostle was crucified.

The Pope did not talk merely about Andrew’s role as evangelizer of the Greek world; he also drew attention to his attitude when faced with the Cross on which he was to die. Tradition has it that Andrew defined the Cross as “blessed” because it was taking him to Jesus: an attitude that invites the faithful “to consider and to welcome” evils that strike us, “our crosses… as part of the cross of Christ”.

After recalling that the Gospels mention Andrew several times, showing him to be an eminent figure among the Twelve, the Pope added: “Very ancient traditions see Andrew not only as the interpreter of some Greeks meeting Jesus, they consider him as the Apostle of the Greeks in the years following Pentecost; they inform us that for the rest of his life, he proclaimed Jesus to the Greek world. Peter from Jerusalem reached Rome through Antioch to exercise his universal mission; Andrew, meanwhile, was the apostle of the Greek world: thus they appear in life and in death as true brothers – a brotherhood that is symbolically expressed in the special ties of the Sees of Rome and Constantinople, truly sister Churches”.
...however, on the same day as Benedict's elegy, it's being reported in the Italian press that Patriarch Bartholomew, successor of St Andrew in Constantinople, called his brother out on their relationship.

A statement released in the name of the Constantinople Synod last week strongly criticised Benedict's recent decision to excise the title "Patriarch of the West" from the papal styles whilst maintaining those of "Vicar of Christ" and "Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church." (The full explanation, released from the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, can be found here.)

Constantinople's response
says that "Out of all the titles that are used by the Pope, the only one that goes back to the period of the Undivided Church of the first millennium, and which has been accepted in the conscience of the Orthodox Church is the title of 'Patriarch of the West.' In the beginning this was related to the institution of the “Pentarchy”, but, it became widely accepted in the East even after the Schism of 1054 AD."

The Orthodox response makes clear that, in its mind, "At this point it is of extreme importance to the Orthodox Church that Pope Benedict, while having rejected the title 'Patriarch of the West,' retained the titles 'Vicar of Christ' and 'Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church.' These titles create serious difficulties to the Orthodox, given the fact that they are perceived as implying a universal jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome over the entire Church, which is something the Orthodox have never accepted. By retaining these titles and discarding the 'Patriarch of the West' the term and concept of 'sister Churches between the Roman-Catholic and Orthodox Church becomes hard to use."

Given this background, consider today's talk Benedict's response to the response.

Reuters/Max Rossi