Rorate Caeli

Ecumenical breakthrough with Moscow?
An interview with the Archbishop of Cyprus

The words of the Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos II, in the following interview, published in the current edition of the Italian weekly L'Espresso, seem to indicate that a future meeting of Pope Benedict XVI and the Patriarch of Moscow is almost certain. The mediator is none other than Chrysostomos himself, who reveals the current positions of those involved in the ecumenical discussions.

The interviewer itself is quite ignorant of some details, including the fact that the Assisi interreligious meetings did not help at all the ecumenical relationship with the Eastern Orthodox (or discussions with Traditionalists in the Latin Church...). The main excerpts:

I will take Pope Ratzinger to Moscow

A conversation with Chrysostomos II

by Gigi Riva

The Archbishop of Cyprus speaks; the great weaver of the operation for the meeting between the two Churches; at the eve of his Vatican visit. (...)

It was necessary to go to Nicosia to find the man who will try to put Pope Benedict XVI and Russian Patriarch Alexis II one before the other. His Beatitude the Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II will leave the Mediterranean island on June 12 for a journey which will take him to Rome (up to the 17th) and then to Moscow on the next day. Declared objective: to establish the bases for the historic meeting which remained in the dreams of John Paul II. (...)

Archbishop Chrysostomos II, word is spreading that you will be the mediator of the meeting between Rome and Moscow. And the itinerary of your journey is quite eloquent.

"A preamble: I myself have asked to see the pope and I thank him for the opportunity. We wish to help him in every way to improve the relationship between both Churches because we are the children of the same Father. I would be glad if he accepted the offer."

Are there conditions, today, for the meeting with Alexis II?

"Every time is a good time, because the goal is that of doing what is best for both Churches. It is clear that it is not a meeting that is assembled in 24 hours. First, it is necessary to exchange delegates, to put the theologians to work. In sum, it is necessary to prepare the event so that it will be a success. I am ready to provide my contribution. I will make what is possible to make them meet -- them and the Churches.

Have you had the chance to hear Alexis II's opinion about it?

"I am very close to him, and I am a good friend of his. I believe I can affirm that there are not any problems even for him. When there are good intentions, the obstacles are overcome."

John Paul II tried to overcome them, but found himself before unsurmountable difficulties. Moreover, he was considered as more favorable to interreligious dialogue than Pope Ratzinger. He was the one who promoted the Assisi meetings.

"During the pontificate of John Paul II, the then-Cardinal Ratzinger had maybe a different way of regarding matters. But in the present position he has another responsibility. He is the Pope. And, let us not forget it, he is a theologian Pope. He knows Greek theology well and this helps in the dialogue between the Churches. (...)

"... This is really the right time [for a reunification] for several reasons. There is a Pope who deeply knows Greek theology. On the other hand, a Patriarch of Constantinople open to ecumenical dialogue. (...) The great part of Catholics and Orthodox and inside the same common Europe. The reasons are manifold. What is important is that the reunification be not imposed from above, but shared by the people, by the faithful, so that it may be complete and may work."

SEE ALSO: For the current situation of the theological discussions between Catholics and Orthodox, as seen by the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate in the debate, Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, read a recent interview granted by him to INTERFAX.


  1. I periodically read reports such as this. And I think my approach is the same as yours with regard to the date of the motu proprio. I am dubious. At some point I think B16 or his successor will get to Moscow. But don't expect this anytime soon. The reasons are manifold and covering them all is beyond the cope of a comm. Box post. But a few quick points should be born in mind.

    The Russian Church is the largest of the various Orthodox Churches. It is also one of the more conservative. It has just seen the end of a long and bitter schism with the Church Abroad which is probably the most conservative of the canonical Orthodox Churches. The presence of their bishops in the Holy Synod will likely pull the Russian Church even more to the right. They have expressly condemned ecumenism as a heresy, and most of the bishops in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) do not recognize the grace ("validity" would be an apt western term) of Roman Catholic sacraments.

    The Moscow Patriarchate (MP) believes that there must be some concrete progress on the theological front before agreeing to a serious meeting. This year’s session of the Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue will be focusing on what I think is the most contentious issue dividing the two churches, namely papal primacy and infallibility. The canons of Vatican I on this subject are almost universally considered heretical by Orthodox and I really don't see anyway around them. We can't accept them and you can't renounce them. Their language is far too clear for any kind of reinterpretation or "doctrinal development." Of all the various other additions to the Deposit of the Faith that have occurred in the west, IMO Vatican I is the show stopper.

    Rome claims that it is THE ONE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH founded by Jesus Christ. So does Orthodoxy. For there to be restoration of communion one of our churches would have to cease to be.

    Another obstacle to restoration of communion is that a huge number of Orthodox just don’t care what the Roman Catholic Church does. This is a tragedy, but the separation has been so long in existence that most no longer see Rome as a separated part of the Church but rather as something ontologically different from the Church of the first millennium. In this respect the current crisis of modernism run amok in the Latin Church is seen as bitter proof of Rome’s deviation from Holy Orthodoxy. Most of us want nothing to do with the gay rights activists in churches, tambourines at Mass and nuns demanding to be ordained as priests. I think there will be very little enthusiasm for restored communion while this situation remains.

    While the Patriarchate of Constantinople (EP) is much friendlier with Rome (in part for political reasons) his influence in the Orthodox world is largely symbolic. Many westerners mistakenly see him as the leader of the Orthodox Church. He is not. His position is essentially that held by the Patriarch of Rome during the age of the undivided Church, Primus Inter Pares. He has almost no jurisdiction beyond a primacy of honor outside of his own see. In theory he could convene a Great Council of the Church. But that would also require at least on some level the concurrence of the other autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

    A ninth Ecumenical Council would be the most likely way of restoring communion. But again we must return to the enormous obstacles of the western additions to the faith over the last thousand years or so. Orthodoxy will not restore communion until these have been significantly resolved. Absolute agreement on every point is probably not necessary. Even in the first millennium there were various points on which the east and west disagreed while maintaining communion. But the really serious issues need to be settled.

    I would be very interested in the thoughts of other readers on how to get around Vatican I. I see no way to do it. As one of your readers (I think it was Tony) posted here once before in a reply to one of my posts, “The only thing we are interested in is when you (the Orthodox) will submit and kiss the Pope’s ring.” That may have been blunt to the point of being offensive to Orthodox Christians, but it was honest. I will continue to pray that God’s will may be done and all schisms be ended. But barring divine intervention I think it unlikely. The gulf has grown too wide.

    Ad Orientem

  2. ooops... typo 2nd to last senetnce in opening paragraph should read...
    "The reasons are manifold and covering them all is beyond the scope of a comm box post."

  3. Chrysostomos himself explains the conditional steps in his answers: (1) the exchange of delegates; (2) some kind of theological discussion.

  4. Anonymous7:57 PM

    "In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world." The true ecumenism whose success is promised by the Blessed Virgin Mother of God Herself.

  5. Anonymous,
    Your a little behind the times. Russia was converted in 987. And while the Church suffered from a brutal persecution in the last century, and her soil was drenched in the blood of the New Martyrs, Russia today remains Orthodox.

    Ad Orientem

  6. Yes, we know you have a problem with the Mother of God.

  7. Anonymous1:11 AM

    This is a different anon.

    I agree with anon. #1.

  8. Anonymous4:36 AM

    "His position is essentially that held by the Patriarch of Rome during the age of the undivided Church, Primus Inter Pares."

    History is very clear that during the age of the undivided Church, the Bishop of Rome was far more than primus inter pares.

    "The canons of Vatican I on this subject are almost universally considered heretical by Orthodox and I really don't see anyway around them. We can't accept them and you can't renounce them. Their language is far too clear for any kind of reinterpretation or 'doctrinal development.' Of all the various other additions to the Deposit of the Faith that have occurred in the west, IMO Vatican I is the show stopper."

    It's not an addition to the Deposit of Faith, but a clear definition of something that had always been a part of the Deposit of Faith. The trouble isn't Catholic additions but Orthodox deletions (unless one would see Orthodox rejection of various Catholic distinctives and later defined dogmas as additions). You and I would agree, however, that unless and until the Orthodox can accept Roman Primacy and all that entails (which we Catholics see as the Orthodox returning to what they believed before the Schism of East and West), there will be no reunion.

    "For there to be restoration of communion one of our churches would have to cease to be."

    If the Orthodox can be reconciled with the Catholic Church in a way that they accept Roman Primacy, jurisdictionally the Orthodox Churches would still exist, but they would not be the Churches they once were, since they would have lost their characteristic "non-Roman-ness" or even anti-Roman-ness. If the Catholic Church were reconciled to the Orthodox on Orthodox terms, however, the Catholic Church would indeed no longer be what she has been throughout her history.

    You and I would probably also agree that reunion of East and West is highly unlikely any time soon. I agree that it would take an Oecumenical Council, but we're nowhere near close to recovering from the last one we had in the 1960s, so I don't expect another one for a long time.

  9. Anonymous9:09 AM

    I agree with the interesting comments by ad orientem.

    However I would be more critical of the current Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. As the real power of Constantinople has decreased so have the claims to some form of primacy over all Orthodox. The reality is apart from the diaspora Constantinople has little, other than an historical, relevance.

    The real 'leadership' in Orthodoxy is Moscow now strenghened by the restoration of communion with ROCOR on Ascension day.

  10. Anonymous2:53 PM

    Is Bartholomew attempting a Bessarion, perhaps?

  11. Anonymous11:56 PM

    I agree with the honest answer of ad orientem (where were you in 1962??)as why should you have tamberine masses and female priests? The liberalization of the church in the name of ecumenism has actually destroyed the once mighty church and with its unwavering stance and grand mass and church's was at one time something to look at in awe, sort of like a baseball player who always wanted to play at Yankee Stadium (bad analogy?), but today you have lame looking modern church's with priests whose vestments I cant seem to even find a cross on anywhere that look like they came out of the psychadelic 60's and why would you want to be part of this? Are we any longer the "One True Church" by the only means salvation can be found? Not if you read the decree on Ecumenism as that was now changed.
    I read not to long ago some bones of a respected saint were sent back to the Orthodox, and the Latin church seems to make these awkward gestures that really make me chuckle

    With respect to Vatican I-One would expect anyone who was part of the Latin church to show obedience to the Pope so I dont see why you would need to "get around it". Good post


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