by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
Transcribed from a lecture at the Fellowship of Saints Alban and Sergius, 2008
Thank you very much, Bishop Hilarion, for your generous words. I've been associated with the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius now for I think fifty-six years, though I think this is the first time I have been at a meeting of the fellowship in the United States.
Let me recall one of the early meetings I attended of the fellowship in Oxford. In my early enthusiasm I brought a fellow student with me to the meeting, hoping that he would be won over to become a member of the fellowship. I was encouraged that throughout the meeting he seemed very observant, watching the faces of the people at the meeting. But my hopes of a new recruit were disappointed when we emerged from the meeting and he said to me, "Never, never in my life before, have I seen sitting together in the same room so many extraordinary-looking people." Far be it from me to suggest that there is any parallel between that meeting and this present one.
My theme this morning is The Orthodox Church and the Primacy of the Pope: Are we any closer to a solution? On the last ocassion when Catholics and Orthodox met together at the highest level, at the Council of Ferrara-Florence, 1438-1439, the two sides occupied some ten months debating the procession of the Holy Spirit and the addition of the filioque to the Creed. They devoted about four months to the subject of Purgatory and the blessedness of the Saints. But on the question of Papal primacy they spent no more than ten days towards the very end of the council. Ten months for the Filioque, ten days for the Papal claims. Such was the order of priorities in the 15th century.
Our perspective in the 21st century is altogether different. In the eyes of most Orthodox and of most Catholics today, the crucial point at issue between our churches is not the theology of the Holy Spirit but the position of the Bishop of Rome within the universal church. In the words of Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and co-chairman of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, for non-Catholic Christians the Papal ministry is the major hindrance on the path towards unity. The main theological problem we now face, he writes, is our shared and different understanding of communio, kinonia. We've already in the course of this conference, managed (inaudible) when we say we uphold an ecclesiology of kinonia, we have to look rather carefully at the word, because perhaps we mean different things by communion.
Cardinal Kasper's counterpart, the Orthodox co-chairman of the Joint International Commission, Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon, is in full agreement here. Historically, he says, the question of the papal authority and primacy has been the main cause of the gradual estrangement between East and West. The question of primacy undoubtedly lies at the very heart of Roman Catholic-Orthodox relations.
The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I is of the same opinion. We have different ecclesiologies and the place of the Bishop of Rome in the universal church of Christ constitutes the principal obstacle. You will notice that Cardinal Kasper, Metropolitan John, and the Ecumenical Patriarch all speak of Papal primacy rather than Papal infallibility as constituting the chief difficulty, though obviously in our Roman Catholic-Orthodox dialogue we also need to talk about infallibility in due course.
Now this doesn't mean the other topics debated at the Council of Florence are devoid of significance — far from it. The most serious undoubtedly is the question of the procession of the Holy Spirit. There are still a significant number of Orthodox on Mt. Athos and elsewhere who regard the Filioque as the root cause of all the errors of Rome.
Yet there are Orthodox, myself included, who see the Trinitarian theologies of the Greek East and the Latin West as complementary rather than contradictory. If the filioque were to be omitted from the Western text of the Creed — and for us Orthodox it is not enough to say, alright Eastern Catholics don't use it — we think nobody should use it. You should say the Creed in the form bequeathed to us by the Ecumenical Councils. If the West were then to omit the filioque from the text of the Creed, then many of us Orthodox might be willing to look upon on the doctrine of the Spirit's double procession as an acceptable theologumenon although not as a dogma. It would be necessary of course to safeguard the position of God the Father as the Principium, the Fountainhead, within the Trinity, but St. Augustine and the Council of Florence were in fact careful to do precisely that.
What of the other remaining points at issue between our churches? Although the delegates of Florence gave lengthy consideration to the question of the state of the departed, few of us today would regard this as an impedimentum delemems between our two churches. On the Orthodox side, we are greatly encouraged to note that the Roman Catholic writers since Vatican II usually interpret purgatory in therapeutic rather than penal terms; that is to say, as a hospital rather than a prison. Before Vatican II we heard a lot about expiatory suffering and penalties in purgatory, but now Roman Catholic writers rather see purgatory as a place where God's love heals us into freedom, and that indeed is the view of Dante and St. Catherine of Genoa and Numa.
I suppose the number of Roman Catholics are still disturbed by the fact that the Orthodox reallow remarriage after divorce while the original partner is still alive. This was briefly mentioned at Florence; it was raised right at the end of the Council. The Roman Catholic delegates said to the Greeks, we hear you grant divorces and we think this is a bad idea. And the Greeks replied rather cryptically, we do not grant divorce except for good reasons, and in fact the Council chose not to carry the point any further, so if East and West agreed to differ over this in the 15th century, perhaps we could do so today.
Florence didn't discuss another thing that some Roman Catholics don't like — the theology of St. Gregory Palamas — the distinction between essence and energies. But today this is far more positively regarded than it used to be in the Roman Catholic Church. The Emperor John VIII at Florence insisted that this should not be put on the agenda at the Council; he said if we start discussing this, we shall never end.
Florence of course didn't discuss the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God because this was not yet a standard teaching in the West. Today, yes, quite a few Orthodox think that this is a serious difficulty. I don't. In any case it concerns not so much a different understanding of the Mother of God as a different understanding of original sin. And in the Greek East at any rate we've never attempted to define the question of original sin as a dogma.
Now, even if we do allow for these other questions, yet surely the real problem is the Papal claims, the diaconia of the Bishop of Rome in the universal church. At the Council of Florence, the participants began by discussing the points of disagreement between Rome and Orthodoxy. When the current international dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church was inaugurated at Patmos in 1980 a different attitude was adopted. Patmos is actually my own monastery. I was professed there many years ago. I wasn't there in 1980 when the dialogue was inaugurated but in fact just as the Orthodox and Roman Catholic delegates were celebrating a service in the church of the monastery, some of the monks went up on the roof of the monastery, hauled down the Byzantine flag, the double-headed eagle, and hauled up a black flag saying, Orthodoxy or Death. This was not appreciated by the members of the dialogue in the church below.
Let me tell you another little story about Patmos. Once I came down into the courtyard and there were a group of Americans there. And they said to me, do you speak English? So I said yes, a little, and we talked for some time. And they said, you speak English very well. Yes, I said, I try my best. Finally they said, do tell us how did you learn your English? Truthfully, I answered, I just picked it up. But I was put in my place nine days later. An Austrian academic, a librarian, came to look at the library in Patmos, and since there was no one in the monastery who spoke German I was recruited to show her around. She was an elderly lady who had evidently learnt her English from manuals of an earlier era. And she said to me at the end, on the whole you speak English quite well, but you make certain errors in syntax.
Now in 1980 when the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue was inaugurated, the members wanted to adopt a new approach, and to borrow a phrase from Pope John Paul's encyclical Ut Unum Sint, they decided to be open to a new situation. So they feared that if they started as at Florence with the points of disagreement, this would result in each party repeating well-worn arguments from the polemical arsenal of the past. So they began therefore not by considering the familiar matters of controversy but by exploring possible areas of consensus between East and West. In this spirit the delegates of the Joint International Commission have produced four convergence documents: the document at Munich, in 1982; at Bari in 1987, at Valamo in 1988, and that's quite good, three documents in less than ten years, and they seem to run a bit out of steam, because the fourth document didn't come out until 2007, at Ravenna. In between they began discussing the question of the revival of the Eastern Catholic, or Uniate, churches following the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, and they did produce a statement on that at Balamand in 1993, but that I don't think stands on the same level as the other four statements and it's a rather flawed document in my view.
Now these four agreed statements have a number of master themes. The importance in the notion of communion, or kinonia; the central significance of the local church; and the integral connection between church and Eucharist. But it's only in the most recent statement, that of Ravenna, that there's any detailed consideration of papal primacy, and even here the document does little more than attempt to identify the points at issue. Nonetheless, the Ravenna document, 2007, contains in my opinion three points above all that constitute deeply encouraging signs of hope for the future. What are they?
The Ravenna document which I suspect most of you have not read has as its beginning a rather long title, not exactly calculated to grip your attention: ECCLESIOLOGICAL AND CANONICAL CONSEQUENCES OF THE SACRAMENTAL NATURE OF THE CHURCH, ECCLESIAL COMMUNION, CONCILIARITY AND AUTHORITY. That's what happens when documents are drafted by committee. It has been said I think that if a committee were seeking to invent the horse they would end up with a dromedary. So this somewhat ponderous title indicates the complexity of the document's content. But I have tried to seek for a unifying thread. Before I come to that however, I'd like to note an omission in the Ravenna document. It speaks about the authority of bishops, but it doesn't speak about the spiritual authority of the saints, of holy men and women, the succession of sanctity, the authority of the startsi, the gerontes, linked particularly but by no means exclusively with monasteries. Last night, Father Andrew mentioned the idea that I've often liked to suggest, that there are two apostolic successions parallel in the church — the apostolic succession of the bishops but the apostolic succession of the spiritual guides, the holy men and women in the church. Now in the original draft of the Ravenna document there was a specific reference to spiritual authority. And to my great disappointment this was taken out. And I think this reflects the viewpoint of someone whom I greatly respect in common with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and that is Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon. I could only say that Metropolitan John suffers from what might be called mono-episcopo-mania. He makes everything depend on the bishop, in my view in a one-sided way, underestimating the importance of the monasteries as well as the diocese, underestimating spiritual authority of the startsi. Well, that's something I regret. Probably the document could have said more about the charismata granted to the total body of the church, to the laos or laity by virtue of the sacraments of baptism and chrism: 1 Peter 2:9, you are a royal priesthood, a holy nation; 1 John 2:20, you have anointing, a charisma, from the Holy One and all of you have knowledge, or [an] alternative reading of the manuscripts, you have all knowledge, but the meaning is the same.
If we are to have to balanced theology of primacy at any level in the church, we surely must give full emphasis to the gifts of grace that are possessed by the total body. We must take into account what Roman Catholic theology calls the sensus fidelium, and what Orthodox theology calls the general conscience, the genikesinidises, of the church. Without this, our theology of primacy is going to be gravely one-sided and unbalanced. As St. Gregory the Theologian said, even bishops have to learn, and they have to listen as well as preach. And when St. Innocent, the Apostle of Alaska and later Metropolitan of Moscow, was consecrated bishop in I think 1840, in his consecration sermon he made the very significant statement, the bishop is at one and the same time the teacher and the disciple of his flock. The bishop has to learn from the laity because they too have the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we need to say this when talking about authority and primacy. Well, they don't exclude this in the Ravenna document so they could have made it a bit more emphatic.
I might allude in passing to the fact that at Ravenna in October 2007, the Russian delegation withdrew. The Ravenna statement was accepted unanimously by all the other delegates but sadly the two delegates from the Russian church, [including] Bishop Hilarion, were not there. But the reason for this was not anything to do with Orthodox-Catholic relations; it was due purely to an internal Orthodox problem, the question of the church of Estonia. Though Bishop Hilarion did express serious objections to section 39 in the Ravenna document. He did not agree with description of the Orthodox as being the bishops in communion with the see of Constantinople. He felt that this was a papalist definition. You can describe the Roman Catholic Church as the Bishops in Communion with the see of Rome but in Orthodox ecclesiology it is the communion of all the Orthodox Churches together that constitutes the Church, not communion with any one see. I agree with him there (inaudible). The church of Bulgaria for example was out of communion with Constantinople between 1870 and 1945 but no one doubts it was an Orthodox church during that period and was in communion with the Church of Russia all that time.
Now I'd to come a little to the heart of the matter. Underlying the Ravenna document is the three-fold distinction between local, regional, and universal levels of ecclesial kinonia. In the words of the Ravenna text, section 10, the conciliar dimension of the church is to be found at the three levels of ecclesial communion: the local, the regional, and the universal. At the local level, entrusted to the bishop; at the regional level, of a group of local churches with their bishops, who recognize "who is the first among themselves," apostolic canon 34. And at the universal level, where those who are first, the Proti, in the various regions together with all the bishops cooperate in that which concerns the totality of the church. At this level also, that is the universal level, the proti must recognize who is the first among themselves. Now this is a long established three-fold distinction. Let me as a typical illustration quote from a 17th work. This is by Leo Allatius, native of Chios, who spent most of his life in Rome and ended up as prefect of the Vatican Library, Greek Catholic. In his classic work, De Ecclesiae occidentalis et orientalis perpetua consensione, On the Perpetual Agreement of the Western and Eastern Church, he says:
As even the Greeks concede (and [by] the Greeks he means the Orthodox), in the Roman Pontiff there is a three-fold power. The first is episcopal whereby he is joined to the diocese of Rome. The second is patriarchal whereby he in the same way as the other patriarchs governs the provinces assigned to him and exercises authority over the bishops of those regions, occupying in his case the patriarchal throne that is at Rome. The third is apostolic whereby he presides over the whole church and rules it as Vicar of Christ. And this third power he has received from no one else than Christ, despite the objections raised by the innovators (the innovators are not the Orthodox; I think they are the Protestants). The Supreme Pontiff has as bishop everything in common with the other bishops; as patriarch everything in common with the other patriarchs; but as Vicar of Christ endowed by Christ with apostolic power not only does he stand on a higher level than bishops and patriarchs but he also wields authority over them, strengthening them, promoting them, and if need be, deposing them.So [states] Allatius, the Greek Catholic. The Pontifical Council for promoting Christian unity makes the same point in a working document from 2002 somewhat more concisely: the bishop of Rome acts simultaneously at once as the bishop of local diocese, as patriarch of the Western or Latin Church, and as the universal minister of unity.
What then is the attitude of the Orthodox Church towards these three levels of papal authority? As regards the first level, that of the Pope as bishop of the diocese of Rome, we Orthodox have here no problems. There is no need to speak further about it. As a diocesan presiding over a local eucharistic community, the Pope is sacramentally equal to all other diocesan bishops.
As regards to the second level, that of the Pope as first among the patriarchs, again there is in principle no difficulty. As the patriarch of the West, the Pope is essentially the "elder brother" in the world-wide Christian family, first among equals, primus inter pares. Just as qua bishop of Rome on the diocesan level is equal to other diocesan bishops, so qua patriarch of the West is equal to the other patriarchs, enjoying only certain rights of seniority, prestia, but no power of jurisdiction over the other patriarchates. That's the view of the Greek Catholic Allatius and we Orthodox have no reason to disagree with him here.
It's only when we come to the third level, that of the Pope's universal primacy as Vicar of Christ, that Catholics and Orthodox find themselves on more disputed terroritory because we Orthodox certainly cannot accept the description of papal powers given by Allatius. But are we willing to give to the Pope a certain universal primacy defined in somewhat different terms? That is the supreme question between us.
Might we as Orthodox be willing to ascribe to the Pope not a direct immediate power of jurisdiction but a certain power of initiative, pastoral care for all the churches, to use the Pauline phrase, 2 Corinthians 11:28, sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum, and that very phrase is applied by Pope Innocent I early in the 5th to his papal ministry. Might we be willing to do that? Now before I leave the question of the position of the Pope as patriarch, there has to be perhaps a little parenthesis here. I said there was no problem, and I'm afraid there is a problem. In 2006 the Annuario Pontificio eliminated the traditional papal title Patriarch of the West. And this they did without any explanation. Most people seem to have been taken by surprise over this, not least the people in the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. But actually this decision to eliminate the patriarchal title of the Pope didn't happen altogether unexpectedly, like summer lightning from a cloudless sky. As long ago as 1990, a closely argued monograph appeared by one Father Adriano Garuti. He says there the title and role of Patriarch of the West attributed to the Bishop of Rome seems to lack any sound basis, alike from the historical and from the doctrinal viewpoint. It originates from a defective ecclesiology founded upon an exaggerated emphasis of the local church at the expense of its universal dimension. In the light of Vatican I and Vatican II it is impossible to make a distinction between the primatial and the patriarchal roles of the Pope. Garuti goes on to conclude that it would be, he says, opportune if the title Patriarch of the West were no longer to figure in the Annuario Pontificio. Some sixteen years later Garuti's proposal has precisely been adopted. Now, Father Garuti worked for twenty-seven years, from 1975 to 2002, in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and for much of that period the Congregation was headed by the then-Cardinal Ratzinger. Does the Pope — for the Pope must be well aware of Father Garuti's opinions — does he agree with them, is there in fact a policy being pursued in the Papacy at this moment to eliminate the idea that the Pope has a position as a patriarch?
Now for us Orthodox this is very disturbing. In maintaining that it is impossible to make a distinction between the primatial and the patriarchal roles of the Pope, Garuti in effect telescopes the three-fold scheme of the Ravenna document, and of Allatius, into a two-fold scheme. Instead of the triad episcopal body, patriarchs, pope, he affirms a dyad: episcopal body, pope, with no intermediate level, and the implication is that the Pope has exactly the same powers in the East as he has in the Latin West. And that is something that we Orthodox cannot accept. So isn't it disturbing that just as we're getting on to the question of papal primacy an action of this kind is being undertaken at Rome? So, all is not rosy in the landscape [just announced].
I might say Cardinal Kasper doesn't think very highly of Father Garuti's work. He says the thesis of Garuti is to be considered a personal historical thesis, one which is vigorously disputed by reputable historians, and he had a good more to say on that level, and he accuses Garuti of reading church history simply through the spectacles of Vatican I without taking any account of recent scholarship by people like Debrees, Congar and others. However, when the title of Patriarch of the West was omitted, the Council for Christian Unity had to think up something to say about this because there were a lot of protests. Interestingly, the prefect for the congregation for the oriental churches, Cardinal Achille Sylvestrini, says that the deletion of this title was a sign ecumenical sensitivity, a curious statement indeed! There are a lot of titles that we Orthodox would be quite pleased if the Pope would drop but Patriarch of the West is not one of them.
The Council of Unity said that well the problem is that the word "West" no longer has any clear meaning so "Patriarch of the West" doesn't mean anything. My answer would be if something doesn't have a clear meaning, the best thing is not to abolish the title but to clarify it. Well, it's certainly true that the pentarchy as the archbishop pointed out has rather since been outdated. It's been replaced in the Orthodox Church by the fifteen heads of the different autocephalous churches. But we Orthodox find it very important that there should be an intermediate level between papal primacy and the local episcopate. We don't want to see the three-fold scheme — episcopal body, partiarchs and heads of autocephalous churches, pope — collapsed into the dyad, episcopal body, pope. The Pope's primacy is to be viewed as the top of a pyramid below which there is to be distinguished the lower level of regional primacy. If you isolate the papacy, you distort it. Only when proper allowance is made for this lower level can the universal primacy be properly understood. As the French Joint Roman Catholic-Orthodox committee has said, the primacy of the church of Rome and of its bishop is inscribed within a fabric of regional primacies, of centers of communion recognized as such by other churches both in the East and in the West. Now, is it the current policy at Rome to eliminate this whole fabric of regional primacies? This is to me very disturbing. And hostice(?) isn't the only place where this happens. [Arcic] 1 ignored regional primacy, talked only about the local episcopate of the Pope, and they asked for comments. So I sent them a comment saying what about regional primacy, what about patriarchates? You've only mentioned this in passing in a very vague way. I got a rather dusty answer from the two heads of [Arcic] 1 saying that they had quite deliberately omitted any reference to patriarchates. So this poor old Orthodox was sent away with a flea in his ear on that ocassion.
Ut Unum Sint, many good points there, as Father Neuhaus reminded us. Ut Unum Sint however almost entirely ignores regional primacy — just the Pope and the bishops. And for us Orthodox that's a great defect in the document, and I'm glad to say that the Anglican bishops in their comments in 1997, they responded to Ut Unum Sint and made this very point, and the point is repeated in the 2006 Cyprus agreed statement, The Church of the Triune God.
Now, what about Pope Benedict? When he asked Professor Ratzinger in the 1960s, he was very concerned not to telescope the second and third levels of ecclesial authority. He spoke in those years explicitly about the need to "build up patriarchal spaces" in which "the consciousness of repriprocal interconnections at the horizontal level can develop." And he goes further than this — he says, it is a tragedy that Rome has not managed to make a distinction between the apostolic responsibility and the patriarchal idea with the result that it has presented to the East a claim that the East cannot admit in this form and never has admitted.
Well, has the Pope changed his mind since what he wrote 40 years ago? Is he now in agreement with Father Garuti? It would help us very much if the Pope would make a clear statement reaffirming what he wrote then. I listen closely for this statement.
Well, coming back to Ravenna, the statement sticks very closely to the triadic structure. It gives full emphasis to regional primacy, and this to me is a first sign of hope. I hope that the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith will not slap down the Ravenna statement because it defends the position of patriarch. I hope it will not follow Garuti in telescoping the three-fold scheme into a two-fold scheme. So that's my first sign of hope.
And now I come to the other two, I trust a little more quickly. I heard a sermon by an Orthodox not so long in which he said he had seven points and he took 20 minutes over the first point, so I wondered how the sermon would go if he dealt with the other six points in five minutes.
Let's look now at the third level, universal primacy. Can we Orthodox allow a universal primacy to Rome in some form or another? Now there will be many Orthodox who will flatly deny this. Here is the late ecumenical patriarch Demetrios I, predecessor of the present patriarch Bartholomew, in a declaration made in 1973 to Cardinal Willibrands who was visiting the Phanar: No bishop in Christendom, says Patriarch Demetrios, possesses the privilege, either divine or human, of universality over the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ. We are all purely and simply fellow bishops under the one supreme high priest and head of the church, who is Jesus Christ. So that is a flat denial of any form of universal primacy by no one less than the Ecumenical Patriarch. Or take one of the most distinguished theologians of the past generation in Greece, Professor Ioannis Karimiris, who has written a huge book on Orthodox ecclesiology also dating from 1973. Here he says, "the bishop of Rome enjoys by human and not divine order a simple primacy of honor as the first among equal presidents of the particular churches." So for Karimiris the Pope is simply the senior patriarch, and nothing more.
But this is not the only viewpoint among Orthodox. Father Alexander Schmemann in a seminal essay, "The Idea of Primacy in Orthodox Eccesiology," orginally published in 1960 — it comes in a book published by St. Vladimir's Seminary, The Primacy of Peter — excellent essay, still worth reading — Father Alexander Schmemann is very definite that there is universal primacy from an Orthodox point of view, and he mentions both that of Rome and that of Constantinople. An age-long anti-Roman prejudice, he says, has led some Orthodox canonists simply to deny the existence of such universal primacy in the past or the need for it in the present. But an objective study of the canonical tradition cannot fail to establish beyond any doubt that though are long and local centers of agreement on primacies, the church has also known a universal primacy. The eccesiological error of Rome lies not in the affirmation of her universal primacy; rather, the error lies in the identification of this primacy with supreme power.
And Father John Meyendorff takes the same line as Father Alexander, that there has to be one apostle who is first, St. Peter, and then one bishop heading a particular church, the church of Rome, as primate within the universal church. I would venture to affirm, says Father John Meyendorff, that the universal primacy of one bishop was not simply a historical accident reflecting reflecting pragmatic [unintelligible]. And Metropolitan John Zizioulas takes the same view. He says, and I'll say this in a very loud voice because he prints in italics, synodality cannot exist without primacy. He says that there has never been and there can never be a synod or council without a protos. If therefore synodality exists, jure divino, by divine right, primacy must also exist by the same right.
Synods without primates never existed in the Orthodox Church says Metropolitan John, and this indicates clearly that its synodality is an ecclesiological, that is, a dogmatic necessity, so must be primacy. The fact that all synods have a primate, as an ecclesiological necessity, means that the ecumenical synod should also have a primus. This automatically implies universal primacy. The logic of synodality leads to primacy and the logic of ecumenical council leads to universal primacy. He goes on to say [that] primacy, like everything else in the church, even in God's being, the Trinity, is relational. There's no such thing as individual ministry. Archbishop Roham was saying the same thing. No such thing as individual ministry understood and functioning outside a reality of communion.
So primacy for Metropolitan John is an essential element in the church; universal primacy is an essential element. And he says this can never be mere primacy of honor. Many Orthodox like to use the phrase "primacy of honor" and contrast it with "primacy of jurisdiction." I think this is a misleading kind of distinction. Jurisdiction basically means the necessary authority given to someone in order that he may be able to fulfill his ministry in the church. If you have a ministry, then you must be given the authority to perform that ministry. And jurisdiction is quite simply the authority to exercise your ministry. So if we think of universal primacy as a ministry in the church, this has got to imply some kind of jurisdiction.
Now, here is my second sign of hope in the Ravenna document. It is clearly stated there [that] the fact of primacy at the universal level is accepted by both East and West. So Ravenna has come down quite firmly against Patriarch Demetrios, against Professor Karimiris; there is a clear acceptance of the fact of primacy. The Ravenna document goes on to say, however, we have differences, Orthodox and Catholics, concerning the manner in which this primacy is to be exercised, but we all agree on the fact. This to me is the second important positive statement in the Ravenna document, the second sign of hope that we are getting a little nearer to a solution.
Now, what kind of primacy? The Ravenna document doesn't really try to deal with that and we shouldn't be disappointed there. It's only an interim statement, part of an ongoing discussion, and we are now moving on to get down to the details. At the present moment the dialogue is looking at the historical facts in the first millenium, which we interpret differently in East and West, but let us try and tie things down to history. We're discussing all this in sub-committees as you know.
However, the Ravenna document does give us a hint. It quotes apostolic canon 34 which, says Metropolitan John Zizioulas, is the golden rule of the theology of primacy. Now I'm sure the Orthodox present here all know that canon by heart but it may be less familiar to the non-Orthodox because its influence in Western canon law has been much more restricted than in Orthodoxy.
Basically what the 34th canon says is, the bishops of each province — ethnos (not in the modern "ethnic" sense) — must recognize the one who is first, protos, amongst them, and consider him to be their head, kefali, and not do anything important without his consent. Each bishop may only do what concerns his own diocese. But the first, the protos, cannot do anything without the consent of all. For in this way concord will prevail and God will be praised through the Lord in the Holy Spirit. That last phrase is very important, reference to the Holy Trinity. The church is an icon of the Holy Trinity, reproducing on earth the [perikoresis] of the Divine Person. So, canon 34 of the apostles is referring to regional primacy, the patriarchal level, or rather at the metropolitan level but we don't really have metropolitan districts in the Orthodox Church today. However, the Ravenna document applies the language of apostolic canon 34 to the universal level as well. It doesn't explicitly say that canon 34 of the apostles should govern our thinking about universal primacy, but when it speaks about universal primacy of the Pope, it uses this language about the protos and the kefali. So, Ravenna hints that the relationships between universal primacy and those under his care should be the same as exists on the level of regional primacy. Now the great point affirmed by apostolic canon 34 is the need for reciprocity, mutual consultation, mutual concord. The bishops are to do nothing without the head, if it concerns things outside their diocese, but the head is to do nothing without consulting the bishops. So I think that Ravenna, in a fairly subtle way, is suggesting here a model of papal primacy. We Orthodox might accept the primacy where the Pope would always act in consultation with the patriarchs and the total episcopate, never on his own, but always in consultation. Mutuality, a Trinitarian model, this is perhaps the kind of primacy that we might be willing to accept. I say "perhaps" and I say "might" because there's got to be a lot more discussion.
But here I see a third sign of hope, a possibility that we could work forward along these lines. The Ravenna statement ends — and I'm going to end too — the above statement on ecclesial communion, conciliarity, and authority represents positive and significant progress in our dialogue and it provides a firm basis for future discussions of the question of primacy at the universal level in the church.
Taking into account those three signs of hope, I truly believe that that is a fair estimate of the Ravenna statement. If we are to ask are we any closer to a solution, with sober hope we can answer by God's grace under the mercy, yes we are. But we have still a long way to go. In the words of that great pioneer in the work for Christian unity, Father Georges Florovsky, the greatest ecumenical virtue is patience. Perhaps we should add an impatient patience, a patient impatience.