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Orthodox prelate sees balance of Synod, primacy as keys to ecumenical progress

February 27, 2014

A leading Orthodox prelate has said that differences between Constantinople and Moscow are threatening the process of ecumenical dialogue with Rome.

Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas of Pergamon, one of the most influential theologians of the Orthodox world, and a co-chairman of the joint Catholic-Orthodox dialogue commission, told the Vatican Insider that he foresees problems with the continued dialogue. Among the most serious problems, he said, is the refusal of the Russian Orthodox Church to accept a joint Orthodox statement on primacy. That problem is magnified, he said, because of the enormous influence of the Moscow patriarchate, which rivals the combined influence of the other Orthodox churches. However, Metroplitan Ioannis rejected the claim by the Moscow patriarchate that the Eastern Christian tradition has never recognized a universal primacy. On the contrary, the Orthodox prelate said:

Ever since the very beginning, Church tradition has had canons which state the following: in the Church there is never a Primus without the Synod and there is never a Synod without the Primus. Harmony between the Primus and the Synod is a gift of the Holy Spirit. This has been our ecclesiology right from the start.

Metropolitan Ioannis said that Pope Francis has provided some encouragement for Orthodox participants in ecumenical dialogue, especially by saying that the Catholic Church should learn from the Eastern experience of synodality. “The Orthodox used to see the Pope as a figure who put himself on a pedestal and the papacy as a form of ecclesiastical imperialism,” he said; Pope Francis has helped to dispel that image.


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  • Posted by: Art Kelly - Feb. 28, 2014 1:05 AM ET USA

    Since there is no unity among the various Eastern Orthodox churches, the possibility of a reunion with the Catholic Church is extremely unlikely now or in the future. In addition to the issue of the papacy, there are many other doctrinal differences between Catholic and Orthodox churches.