Catholic Orthodox Unity?

Thanks to the many bloggers who have posted the link to this article in the National Catholic Register. For those of you who have not seen it check it out here.

It seems the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Moscow has said that unity between Rome and the Orthodox world is “within a few months.” Well as much as many of us hope and pray that one day this will be true I hate to disagree with His Eminence but I do not think that is possible.

I do not think the day will ever come that the church will be “one” again from an administrative position. I think we might achieve Communion of sorts as we have seen with other churches but unification is not possible. Too much time has passed and there are far too many differences to be reconciled for unity to be achieved. I know miracles can happen but this would be a big one!

At the present time in the Orthodox world there are 9 Patriarchs and 6 heads of recognized Autocephalous Churches. If we include Rome there would be 10 Patriarchs. Yes we Orthodox do recognize the Pope of Rome as a Patriarch and dare I say would say that he is first among equals. Laying aside all other theological problems the Universal Jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff would cause quite a problem for the others in the club.

Trying to get the Orthodox to agree on something is sort of like herding cats. Oh we talk a good game but when it come down to it a turf war begins. Here in the US for example we have the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). This group recognizes 10 Jurisdictions in the United States and Canada. These are the Canonical Orthodox Churches in the Americas. Now some of you who read this blog do not belong to one of these Jurisdictions yet claim to be canonical. I cannot accept that nor would the majority of Orthodox in the US. So that is one problem. The other is if we cannot get these 10 bishops to agree how are we going to get a multitude of bishops to agree. Administrative unity is something that has been a goal in the US for many many years and sometimes is within the grasp but them slips away.

We have a bishop for example that does not like what a lay person is writing on his blog about him. He asks the lay persons bishop to sanction him and tell to stop writing. Bishop cannot do this after all this is not Soviet Russia. Other bishops stops his feet and pulls his seminarians out of the other bishops seminaries a week before classes begin. One of these very seminarians had just moved into an apartment and his wife was GREAT with child! So off they go on the move. This is the kind of silliness that should end.

I could go on but suffice it to say we have a long way to go before we can talk about unifying with anyone outside of the Orthodox family. Let’s talk about uniting the family we have before we invite anyone else to join.


  1. Reunion with the Vatican is not in the near future, nor is any semblance of authentic visible union (as must be evidenced by sharing the Eucharist as the culminating witness of the Faith). The opposing trajectories of East and West have – at least for today – no points of convergence, maybe some public chatter, moments of generic dialogue, a birthday or two, certainly many feastdays and symbolic gift exchanges. Those thinking reunion is lurking close by should give thought to Einstein's claim that parallel lines converge only in the most distant galaxies lightyears away from today. You are correct that the administrative issues are heavy, and that histories have been written, and jurisdictional lifestyles set in stone. Regarding pan-Orthodox symbiosis, we know from our own family that though heads of jurisdictions may be filled with spiritual urgency, may have the best intentions, may have drafted the most detailed plans, and may have acquired logistical tools for such grand maneuvers, the laity – the grassroots piety movements – will have the most significant role to play whether we find oneness in Christ at the Holy Altar of His Church, or we remain as ever-splintering groups founded on anthropomorphic criteria.

  2. We may rely on a few key points: Everything that is Christian was established pre schism at the Ecumencial Councils. There is nothing more to add no innovation necessary. Only in the flights of children is reunification in my life time doable. I encourage the Pope to continue to assert his influence to assit the Ecumenical Throne with its struggle against human rights violations.
    We must treat one another as children of God as the fruits of the Apostles themselves pushing through the resistence to belief and practice set before us by the enemy.
    The churches will move together as sisters in full communion when God deems it; until then the Eastern Orthodox Church (faithful) will keep the candles burning.

  3. For the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Moscow to say that unity between Rome and the Orthodox world is "within a few months" is a very optimistic viewpoint.

    I would also like to see a united Christian Church in the near future, but "within a few months" somehow does not appear to be a realistic time in which it will occur.

  4. Thank you Father for your post and your blog.

    If I may, it seems to me that–theological differences between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches aside for a moment–the impediment to reconciliation between our two Churches seem largely internal to the Orthodox side of the question.

    That is to say, we cannot move toward reconciliation between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches because though we (the Orthodox) share a common faith we are nevertheless divided in other ways.

    Our own divisions for all that they are secondary (e.g., the lack of administrative unity not only in the US but also Western Europe, Australia and parts of Asia) are nevertheless an impediment to healing the schism. I do not say this lightly, but we need to face the facts of our situation.

    Taking the narrowest interpretation of the Great Schism, that all the fault lies on the side of Rome and that they need to repent and return to us, how can they do this when we cannot even manage to agree on relative simple matters such as a unified and functional administrative structure for the US?

    I agree, as I alluded to on my own blog, that the interpretation many are giving to the words of Catholic Archbishop of Moscow are overly optimistic–I suspect that what he was referring to was not a re-establishment of communion, but pastoral collaboration and cooperation in the face of the twin threats of Islamic radicalism an increasing secular culture. But even this cooperation will be difficult to put into effect if, sadly true to form, one or more of the Orthodox churches (or bishops) stamps it (or his) foot and has a temper tantrum.

    It is sad for me to think that it is we, the Orthodox, who are the stumbling block in this matter.

    Again, thanks for the post.

    In Christ,


  5. Those of us who witnessed the historic 1965 meetings between Athenagoras of Constantinople and Paul VI of Rome, during the joint lifting of the excommunications of 1054, were comforted to know that this one particular piece towards reunion was put behind us. Through the years Constantinople has made strides with "dialogues of love"; in many instances Moscow turned a cold cassock toward the Vatican (as well as the WCC). Perhaps what we are seeing is the imposition of necessity owing to new factors that we've never experienced before, e.g., the Internet, spontaneous news coverage, and information sharing, civil laws of the land encouraging us to conform to human rights equality and equity when often we'd choose no to. The international community is diligent to wave the universal flag of human rights laws and UN instruments, esp. of religious minorities and against the perpetrators of these violations and crimes against humanity – ungodly matters that all religious and spiritual traditions have amassed in their ancient closets and cultural mindsets. Though inter-Orthodox cohesion seems fragile on the local, national, and regional levels, our global unity is solid (as shown by the June 2009 Chambesy conference) and moving forward. Yes, many Orthodox tend to stamp their feet and beat their breasts, but, alas, we encourage our own people to do the same when our hierarchs and clergy shut doors to our own people rather than make provisions by economy to bring all people into the parishes under welcoming circumstances. If we can't seek the most humble and needful of our lost ones without casting aspersions and pointing canonical fingers at them, how can we seek anything greater?

  6. It is not God's will that we have division. "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

    Let's not forget that it was a miracle that Greeks and Romans ever shared the same faith to begin with.

    With God, all things are possible. Also, with God, time has no dominion. Don't forget who God is. Yes, he's more powerful than Greek egos or Roman rules. If we cling to Love, it will happen.

  7. Father Michael I respect your views, but this concept of 'first among equals' is surely irrational and contradictory. Should not the Orthodox ditch it?

    For all our sakes, roll on true Catholic/Orthodox unity.

  8. JK,

    We just cannot get rid of 1st among equals that would require a change to the Holy Cannons and that would require an Ecumenical Council.

    Unity is not easy but necessary.

  9. With God all things are possible. It is why we pray. Prayer is our contact with God. Let us pray for the unification of dates of Easter. It is what divides the Church. Dialogues, rationalism and intellectualism will not bring about unity. Unity begins not with a treaty, but in the heart. Love and humility is missing. We must first ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to truly repent, for the fruit of repentance is humility and love. "It is not just through words that unity among brothers will come, but through the action of the Holy Spirit" (Sep 30, 1993 TLIG). MAY WE RAISE OUR VOICES IN PRAYER TO UNIFY THE DATES OF EASTER!

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