Rorate Caeli

The Pope to the Eastern Churches

The Church was established to be a sign and an instrument of the unique and universal saving project of God among men; She fulfils this mission simply by being herself, that is, "Communion and witness", as it says in the theme of this Synodal Assembly which opens today, referring to Luke's famous definition of the first Christian community: "The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul" (Acts 4:32). Without communion there can be no witness: the life of communion is truly the great witness. Jesus said it clearly: "It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples" (Jn 13:35). This communion is the same life of God which is communicated in the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ. It is thus a gift, not something which we ourselves must build through our own efforts. And it is precisely because of this that it calls upon our freedom and waits for our response: communion always requires conversion, just as a gift is better if it is welcomed and utilized. In Jerusalem the first Christians were few. Nobody could have imagined what was going to take place. And the Church continues to live on that same strength which enabled it to begin and to grow. Pentecost is the original event but also a permanent dynamism, and the Synod of Bishops is a privileged moment in which the grace of Pentecost may be renewed in the Church's journey, so that the Good News may be announced openly and heard by all peoples.

Pope Benedict XVI

Homily for the Mass Inaugurating the Special Assembly of the Middle East

October 10, 2010

In this way, the "sacra canones" of the ancient Church, that inspire the Oriental codification in force, stimulate all the Oriental Churches to conserve their own identity, which is simultaneously Eastern and Catholic. In preserving the Catholic communion the Eastern Catholic Churches did not at all intend to deny their own tradition. As has been many times repeated, the full union of the Eastern Catholic Churches with the Church of Rome that is already realized must not lead to a diminution of the consciousness of the unique authenticity and originality of those Churches. For this reason it is the task of all the Eastern Catholic Churches to conserve the common disciplinary patrimony and nourish their own traditions, which is a treasure for the whole Church.

The same "sacri canones" of the first centuries of the Church constitute to a large extent the same basic patrimony of canonical discipline that also regulates the Orthodox Churches. Thus the Eastern Catholic Churches can offer a peculiar and relevant contribution to the ecumenical journey. I am happy that in the course of your symposium you have taken account of this particular aspect and I encourage you to make it an object of further study, cooperating thus for your part to the common effort to adhere to the Lord's prayer: "May all be one ... that the world may believe ..." (John 17:21).
Pope Benedict XVI
October 9, 2010
The photo of the church is from this site. The picture of bishops is from Daylife.


  1. oremusrob5:19 PM

    This subject, unfortunately, is another bitter fruit of Second Vatican, though one that I don't think gets nearly as much attention as it should.

    As one who has had the opportunity to have considerable exposure to the Byzantine rite, members, services, clergy, and online discussion, there is a significant level of heterodoxy and dissent that has seeped into that rite, and I would imagine, a number of the the other Eastern rites. In the Byzantine rite, as exemplified by the so-called 'Zoughby Initiative' this has taken the form of seeking to imitate Eastern Orthodoxy to a degree that entails fundamental rejection of definitive magisterial teaching from the Ecumenical Council of Florence, as well as Trent and First Vatican.

    Among Byzantine Catholics there appears to be much apathetic indifference, and even some fervent condemnation of the 1990 Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Churches as a notorious Latinizing code that purportedly corrupts true Eastern traditions.

    Rome has made only the meekest of corrective responses, and its dubious initiatives with the Eastern Orthodox only seem to have fueled Byzantine Catholic heterodoxy. Questionable actions by the Vatican, such as deliberately omitting the filioque in Dominus Ieus, do not help matters.


    The above link is to the Solemn High Mass of Blessed John Henry Newman, celebrated at St. Vincent de Paul's church last Sunday, October 3rd.

  3. Anonymous11:30 PM

    I would hope that Rome gives due honor to the Patriarchs and Catholicoi of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

    As to heterodoxy in the Eastern Rite, there is no need to assume that only the Latin way of theologizing is fit for the Church. There have been always schools of thought in Catholic theology and for as long as debate does not wander into heresy and schism it is permissible I should think.


  4. Anonymous11:52 PM

    As to heterodoxy in the Eastern Rite, there is no need to assume that only the Latin way of theologizing is fit for the Church.

    Go back and re-read the 2nd paragraph.

    ...fundamental rejection of definitive magisterial teaching from the Ecumenical Council of Florence, as well as Trent and First Vatican.

  5. Oremusrob, perhaps you do not know this, Rome has ALWAYS said the Creed sans filioque (i.e. without saying the Spirit proceeds from the Son) when the Creed is said in Greek. This being the case, how can it be a "questionable" action on the part of the Vatican, especially in light of the consistent non-use of it in Rome in its most ancient liturgical language, and when of course the Filioque only came into use in Rome several centuries after the Creed was formulated?

  6. Anonymous1:50 AM

    How about Tridentine Latinization? This is just a bad or even worse as Novus Ordo Latinization in the Eastern Catholic Churches. The Tridentine traddies (schismatic SSPX or not) should celebrate their traditionalism in the Latin Church together with the rest of the Latins, now they have the space in Summorum Pontificum (the SSPX schismatics should take a cue from the Byzantines and submit fully to the Pope of Rome). Let the Byzantines celebrate theirs.

  7. I agree. Latinization of the Eastern Churches is a terrible shame, and it seems like a lot of traditionalists want to support it for some reason. Heterodoxy is one thing. But thinking that Latin theologizing is the only way to go about doing things is very bad as well. Even the pre-Conciliar popes warned against it. The Second Vatican Council (a VALID Church council) specifically condemned it.

  8. "the SSPX schismatics"

    Not that supercilious and absolutely inaccurate remark again. The pope himself does not believe that nonsense. This is a sour comment based on ignorance at best and hate at worst.

    SSPX bishops are more faithful to the church than a large number of NO bishops whose behaviour is de facto schismatic. The list is a long one.

  9. oremusrob12:01 PM

    I consider the filioque to be an immutable dogma of Catholic faith and binding on all Catholics, regardless of rite. This has been considered a lawful and important addition to the creed, as cited by the Ecumenical Council of Florence.

    And this stands dogmatically, regardless of any plurality of liturgical practices that allow for its non-inclusion.

    My understanding, perhaps in error, is that during the drafting of Dominus Ieus, the filioque was orignally included, and Cardinal Ratzinger had it deliberately removed, presumably for theological diplomatic reasons with the Eastern Orthodox.

    I don't think that a progressive antiquarianism is a sound footing upon which to pursue such matters. If the argument is going to be that the filioque isn't that important because the creed existed before it was added, then one can logically progress to the conclusion that the creed itself cannot be that important, because before the creed existed, it did not exist.

  10. Oremusrob12:27 PM


    The problem that has come up is this: what happens when during the process of 'de-Latinization', Eastern Catholics will no longer give their assent to an authoritative dogmatic, definitive teaching of the Church, because that teaching is deemed to have a Latin theological pedigree and supposedly will corrupt the purity of the Eastern traditions?

    That's what is going on now. I maintain, in what I see as the historic authoritative, teaching continuity of the Church, that all Eastern Catholics must give a basic assent to such teachings, even as they pursue their own theological traditions. There should not have to be any incompatibility here. If there is somehow, then we have a huge problem before us: how can various Eastern traditions ever be truly and fully Catholic?

  11. oremusrob,

    Are you saying the Eastern rite Catholics who do not have 'filioque' in the Creed are not really Catholics and are heretics?

  12. Anonymous4:43 PM

    This "progressive antiquarianism" has been the position of the Church for centuries. Allowing the East to express its trinitarian theology in its own vocabulary was key to the Union of Brest:

    Since there is a quarrel between the Romans and Greek. . . we ask that we should not be compelled to any other creed but that we should remain with that which was handed down to us in the Holy Scriptures, in the Gospel, and in the writings of the holy Greek Doctors, that is, that the Holy Spirit proceeds, not from two sources and not by a double procession, but from one origin, from the Father through the Son. (Union of Brest, 1)

    It is radically untraditional to force the Filioque or Latin theological terms upon the Eastern Catholics. This is not a "ecumenism" or "Vatican II" issue; it is the historic position of the Catholic Church.

    And Eastern Catholics do not deny the Filioque, even if they do not make recourse to the term.

  13. Oremusrob6:08 PM


    While I do not want to get caught up in any of the details as to what constitutes heresy or not, I am saying that, regardless of what is said or not said by Eastern Catholics liturgically, they have a theological obligation to give the filioque dogma their basic assent as part of their faith. This is in accordance with multiple ecumenical councils as well as Benedict XIV's Etsi Pastoralis of 1742:

    "The Greeks are bound to believe that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son, but they are not bound to proclaim it in the Creed."


    I don't believe the Treaty of Brest says that any Byzantine Catholics have the right to deny the filioque. The holy ecumenical councils certainly do not say that, quite the opposite.

    There are at least some Byzantine Catholics who explicitly deny the filioque doctrinally. As one explained to me, such folks see it as a Latin error to claim that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Son. This is distinct, I was told, from the traditional Byzantine view that the Holy Spirit only manifests temporally from the Son. As this person explained, they're willing to be in communion with Westerners and whatever 'errors' they may have, so long as they are not imposed on Byzantine Catholics.

  14. oremusrob,
    Antiquarianism of any sort requires an ultimately capricious selection of something no longer in use and attempt to bring it back to life somehow. This is pointedly NOT the case for the absence of the filioque when the Bishop of Rome says the creed in Greek, which has been done consistently by the Church in Rome as long as it has done just about anything. Consistency AND antiquity are two strong benchmarks to safeguard against heresy and heterodoxy, as per the old phrase "If it is new, it cannot be true." Don't you agree?

  15. oremusrob,
    Also, your logic about the creed "not existing" does not apply. Think about it. The creed was not something dreamed up one day for this or that reason by a bunch of churchmen. It was a proclamation of what they had long been praying and already believed. When the threats to the Faith arose, it seemed good to them and to the Holy Spirit in Nicea I and Constantinople I to summarize in one statement or symbol of faith (hashed out in committee and conference) what each of the assenting bishops held to be what he had received from the bishop before him, and that bishop from the one before him, all the way back to the Apostles.

    Maybe it went down something like this. "Hey, Joe, do you folks in Syria ever pray or ever hear any of the Apostles ever say that Christ was a creature? We ain't never heard dat here in Philadelphia." "No, Sam, I checked, and nobody ever prayed or said no such thing." "How 'bout you guys in North Africa?" "Nope, never happened here either." "And we checked with Rome, and they said for sure it never happened there." "Ok, we are all gonna vote this way on that damn iota."

    So, in fact, the creed DID always exist from the time Jesus revealed it. It is part of the unchanging, once revealed, forever guarded deposit of faith.(with apologies to the Council fathers for the, ah, rough poetic license).

  16. Oremusrob6:49 PM


    My point was that the Nicene Creed didn't exist before the Council of Nicaea formulated and proclaimed it. That the belief it embodies had already existed, I have no doubt, but I do not believe that that means a formal creed somehow existed before it was promulgated.

    I'm not sure what we're necessarily talking about when we say 'new'. I'll simply say that the issue, for me, comes down to brass tacks.

    Either the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Son or He doesn't. There is no way of fudging this question with matters of optional liturgical content or differing theological traditions. Catholicism has said that it is true, that it's a definitive teaching, and that all Catholics must give some basic assent to this, and cannot hold anything to the contrary.

    No Eastern Catholic has the right to say that the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds alone from the Father. At least that is what the Church has repeated proclaimed. I'll stand with the Church. My understanding is that eternal procession doesn't necessarily contradict temporal manifestation, but affirming the latter doesn't give anybody the right to deny the former.

  17. Oremusrob,
    You seem fairly adamant about conformity from Eastern Catholics regarding the filioque, yet by your posts you give yourself quite wide latitude in what it is you wish to accept or reject from Vatican II. Am I missing something, or is that an inconsistency?

  18. Anonymous2:00 AM

    "You seem fairly adamant about conformity from Eastern Catholics regarding the filioque, yet by your posts you give yourself quite wide latitude in what it is you wish to accept or reject from Vatican II. Am I missing something, or is that an inconsistency?"



  19. Anonymous3:00 AM

    So let me get this straight. When I cannot make the 1.5 hour drive to the Tridentine Mass because it is -40 and there's black ice all over the highway, I can no longer go down the street to the local Ukrainian Catholic parish! Ignorance was bliss.

  20. Oremusrob11:23 AM


    While we can have an ongoing discussion and disagreement, it seems you're now veering into putting words into my mouth.

    Where on this thread, where anywhere on Rorate Caeli, where anywhere period, have I ever talked about teachings I 'accept' or 'reject' from the Second Vatican Council? You seem to have just made this up out of pure thin air. I don't think the one reference I've made - 'bitter fruit of Second Vatican' - speaks to any specific council teachings of any kind.

    Second Vatican actually supports my stated views here, when Lumen Gentium re-affirms the Councils of Florence and Trent. There's no exception for Eastern Catholics. Just as those councils themselves obviously made no exception. And Second Vatican's Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches doesn't give them any exceptions to definitively defined dogma, either.

    Seriously, let's think all this through to its 'logical' conclusion.

    If Eastern Catholics are to only affirm the elements of authoritative, definitive Church teaching that conform to their 'traditions', then what?

    Should Eastern Catholics be able to re-marry divorced people into de facto adultery and toss out indissolubility and nullity because these teachings are alien to their traditions?

    Should they be able to use artificial contraceptives? Such practice has gained increasing acceptance in many Eastern Orthodox circles and any number of their priests say it can be in perfect conformity with Byzantine tradition.

    Should they be able to tell Protestants that they agree with their rejection of indulgences, citing the fact that their Eastern traditions don't recognize any such thing? Should they be able to snicker with Protestants about the absurdity of Purgatory?

    What about their being able to claim the Pope of Rome has no universal supreme jurisdiction, let alone infallibility? They can all rightly point to all the Eastern traditions and claim that the Pope of Rome has never been recognized as having such power.

    What about adding Maccabees 3 and 4 and possibly other works to 'their' Bible? What about adding Monastic orders as an official 8th sacrament while Roman Latins still have only 7? There are those who want these.

    So please explain how, from your view, you would plan to rein in this kind of ecclesial chaos and theological incoherence of an iceberg, of which the filioque issue is only the tip of. How would a non-Catholic have any serious handle on what Catholics believe, seeing this dizzying array of beliefs that vary by rite?

    For that matter, how would even a Catholic be able to coherently understand the faith at this point?

    One other thing I should note in fairness: while I have been lumping all Eastern Catholcisms together here, it does appear that Maronites, in general, have not succumbed to this Easternism, and do not appear to have anywhere near the levels of dissent that other Eastern Catholicisms appear to have.

    One can even say, perhaps, that Maronites have indeed been too Latinized in certain respects, and I understand that they are in the midst of trying to reform their liturgical practices into a more authentic mode of worship pertaining to their tradition. But I haven't seem them rejecting the filioque or any authoritative, definitive Church teaching.

  21. amazing, again the ignorance. to original first post, there's like 20 people all on byzcath (byztrash is more appropriate) who believe in the "Zoughby Initiative" - case in point the senile archbishop zoughby was publicly, in written form, denounced by the hierarchy and later also in written form denounced and corrected by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    i can speak for the Ukrainian Church NO ONE and I mean no one believes no would if they heard (none, 0, have) of the "Zoughby Initiative" to say that is something believed by the Ukrainian Church is erroneous to the extreme

  22. Oremusrob11:15 AM


    Relatively speaking, Byzantine Ukrainian Catholicism may well be better and more faithful than other Byzantine Catholicisms, especially the Melkites.

    From my experiences, I have seen what, by all appearances, are significant levels of heterdoxy in Byzantine Catholicism pertaining to a refusal to give an assent of faith to the Holy Ecumenical Council of Florence. I know of two deacons and 1 priest in Byzantine Ukrainian Catholicism [USA] who I consider to fit this description. I'm told, without knowing firsthand, that there are quite a few more than just those 3. There is no reason for me not to believe that.

  23. Oremusrob11:22 AM

    To give folks a flavor of what I have been talking about, I am posting below an excerpt from an email I received a few years ago from a prominent Byzantine Catholic thinker on the subject of Catholic dogmatics:

    Dogmatically, I believe that developments in Catholic dogma which were formulated in the 600 years between the Schism and the period of reunion are
    matters that remain to be discussed and refined in a manner that reflects the lived (especially liturgically lived) faith of the united Byzantine
    Churches. Such matters would include the precise definition of what Latin dogma has come to call Purgatory, the modality whereby we speak of the purity of the Mother of God and--foundational to that question--an understanding of ancestral sin and its consequences.

    From the time of reunion until the Second Vatican Council, the tiny
    Byzantine Catholic jurisdictions lacked the resources and the freedom to pursue these questions from within our own tradition as equal partners in dialogue with the Latin Church. Vatican II and later papal pronouncements
    (notably in the reign of John Paul II) have repeatedly affirmed our
    autonomous status and our obligation to live the faith in our own tradition. The next step is to dialogue seriously from that autonomous status.

    So, I believe I am free to believe that dogmatic definitions formulated by the Latin Church
    from a presumed position of superiority (praestantia ritus romani), or without free and autonomous participation of Byzantine and other Eastern
    particular Churches and especially in rather narrowly focused polemics against the Reformation are open for discussion. They are the fruit of a fractured Church emerging out of a culture and framed in a language that
    does not take the lived tradition of non-Latin churches into account. In many cases, Protestant error has defined the field in which Catholic
    orthodoxy must make response. Here as nowhere else, bringing the Byzantines to the table is a blast of fresh air for both the Catholic and non-Catholic western points of view.

    You may see for yourself that this is happening. Compare the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Purgatory with, say, the Catechism of the Council
    of Trent. I find next to nothing in the CCC definition that any Orthodox Christian could really object to, apart from, maybe, the word Purgatory itself. This sort of refinement--ideally openly and in dialogue with Eastern Catholic (and Orthodox) theologians--is the sort of openness I

    So, it is, to my mind, not quite accurate to go to Denzinger (or Ludwig Ott, or whatever the standard [Latin] textbook for Dogma may be in the mind
    of the interlocutor in question), find the appropriate anathema from a council @1200-1700, and consider the matter closed.

    This is, I think, the viewpoint you would find among most Byzantine Catholic theologians today. It is the viewpoint I will bring to the discussion.


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