Rome to Absorb Orthodox Churches? Who Cares?

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G.A. – OCP Articles – 17/01/2019

Special courtesy – Fr Dr. Jossi Jacob, Principal – St Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary, Nagpur.

The article by Andrew Miller titled ‘Is Reunification of Catholic and Orthodox Churches Imminent?’ dated 7th Jan 2020 published in is worth a personal reflection.

In his article, Miller hails the ongoing efforts by the Vatican to unite all Christians under the Roman Pope. The author incorrectly states that the Eastern Orthodox Churches split from the Catholic Church in the 11th century (which is not at all true). It was the Roman Catholic Church that split from the rest of the Churches.).

Roman Catholic Church is the old Orthodox Church of Rome and the Pope is the Old orthodox Bishop of Rome.

The secular world is undergoing swift and drastic changes, the Christian world as well. Recent developments in the Orthodox Christian world tend to showcase a change that seems less promising in terms of conciliar unity. The ‘Dilemma of Unity’ among Orthodox Churches is increasingly evident than before.

Ever since the great schism (between the East and Western Churches), Rome chose a divergent path of operation and existence. The Roman Church (Western Orthodox Patriarchate or simply the Old Orthodox Church of Rome) transformed itself into a globally dominant force with its imperial ambitions, outstanding administrative structure (Vatican), its enormous wealth and its ecumenical and inter-faith strategies. The global media dominance and its alliance with Western countries have transformed the Roman Church as a tool or as an agent of ‘Westernizing the East.’

The Vatican has been successful in getting a strong alliance from the Orthodox family in the form of Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and a few other Churches as well. Except for the Old Calendar and anti-ecumenical Orthodox Churches, both Eastern and Oriental Orthodox maintain cordial relations with Rome. Inter-Orthodox schisms and ecumenical ties with Rome are on the rise.

The ‘Night’ Before the Dialogue with the Vatican

Oriental Orthodox Churches, despite their filature, to build a permanent Pan-Oriental secretariate and their ailing dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox family has managed to conduct annual theological deliberations with the Roman Church since 2004.

Reflections on the future of the Oriental Orthodox Communion

The sad divisions in the Orthodox world have become a fertile ground for the Vatican to operate its ecumenical tactics to absorb the Orthodox world under the imperial yoke of the Roman Pope. It is an undeniable fact that almost all Orthodox Churches maintain direct or indirect relations with the Vatican.

The Vatican remains an undeniable religious, political, and business force. However, sadly the hierarchy of the Orthodox Churches worldwide has not made it a priority to achieve solutions for the rising disunity between local Churches. This scenario is common to all families of Orthodox Churches.

Rome and Constantinople (EP/Ecumenical Patriarchate) are in excellent terms.

EP is Vatican’s best friend among the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Constantinople has been demonstrating extraordinary leniency towards the Vatican in ecumenical and interfaith cooperation. Patriarch Bartholomew is more than happy to declare that there is no much dogmatic difference between Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity.

The strategic relations are pleasant between Moscow and Rome. Despite the Ukrainian Greek Catholic problems and other issues, the relations between the Vatican and Moscow are on the rise.

‘The meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill is a historic one, and it has opened a very broad space for cooperation in all spheres. We are now working on the ways of implementing what the Pope and the Patriarch agreed to do.” Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk (October 2019).

Moreover, we have to wait and see if Moscow will commit its most fatal mistake of inviting the Pope to Russia.

The creation of a national Orthodox Church of Ukraine (in an uncanonical manner) by the Ecumenical Patriarchate has already divided the Orthodox world. Moreover, the religious situation in Ukraine is of intense concern. Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who is the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) supported the creation of the national Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

He urges for a union between UGCC and Ukraine Orthodoxy, a kind of dual Church structure recognized by the Roman Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Lamentably the leadership, especially, Metropolitan-Primate Ephiphany of the newly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) is in favor of unity with UGCC.

The Roman Church is well versed in ecumenical tactics. They show a very cordial and welcoming gesture to their Orthodox counterparts during ecumenical dialogues and meetings. Such gestures are aimed at a total subjugation of the Orthodox and other Eastern Churches under the Pope. Uniatims helped the Vatican realize their ‘Eastern dreams’ to an extent but miserably failed. In 2016, at the height of Christian persecution in the Middle East, the Vatican made a fruitless attempt (through the Chaldean Catholic Rite) to bring the Assyrian Church under the Papal communion is just one example of the cunning ways of Rome. The Assyrian Church leadership outrightly rejected any such union.

Pope Francis is smart enough to invite Orthodox Churches for an ‘urgent’ Eucharistic unity by skipping the most challenging aspect, which is none other than the ongoing theological dialogues. The Vatican superb brains have understood that the so-called diplomatic ecumenism is reaching nowhere. Hence, the most convenient way to ‘pamper’ Orthodox Churches is through brotherhood and by using the charisma of Papa Francis. It is equally effortless to entertain some of the Orthodox Churches which are at present in schism with their sister Churches.

Pope Wants to ‘Trick’ Orthodox Churches Through ‘Urgent’ Intercommunion

The article states that’ The Roman Catholic Church has been trying to bring the Eastern Orthodox back under its dominion since the 1970s. But negotiations have stalled over the Eastern Orthodox Church’s refusal to accept the authority of the Pope’. He is all clear. Roman Catholic ecumenism is all about bridging other Christians under the Pope. Disregarding Papism and the Papal primacy is unimaginable for the Roman Catholic leadership.

Three Popes & a Patriarch & the Impossible task of Orthodox Christian Unity

The silence on Orthodox Christian unity is terribly wrong in all aspects. Orthodox Christians have accepted schism and conflicts as a part of their life. That is right. However, the leadership nor laity seems to be interested to achieve solutions for the existing schisms or at least establish an enduring initiative to heal schisms.

A lot of reasons (race, ethnicity, politics, dogmas, cannons, jurisdiction) are pointed as hindrances for the lack of Pan-Orthodox unity. However, no such problems hinder the active participation of Orthodox Churches in various ecumenical movements. You live in a world where you become a laughing stock, or you get heavily criticized… If you talk about eastern-oriental Orthodox unity. It remains a playful thing. It is not at all a matter of concern for anyone, except for a few people who lament the sad division.

The ghost of the so-called ‘Monophysitism’ perpetually haunts the dialogue. The Christological agreements between EO and OO Churches remain in theological circles. The genuine power of Orthodox conciliar unity is heavily undermined, or it is considered a utopian theory.

Do we have laity or Orthodox groups holding a public protest or lobbying for Pan-Orthodox conciliar unity? We don’t right? Church leaders and the majority of the faithful talk about ecumenism and Christian unity, sharing high hopes on Orthodox-Roman Catholic unity.

Global media is adding to the fuel. Media doesn’t converse about Orthodox unity rather howl a lot about ecumenical unity. The Christological agreements between EO and OO Churches remain in theological circles.

We are trained in an ‘ecumenical manner’ right from our childhood. Either we say no to ecumenism or we remain open to ecumenical unity and passive towards Pan-Orthodox unity.

What are your investments (time, money, genuine effort) in Pan-Orthodox dialogues? 

What are the priorities for Orthodox Churches? Do you have any properties at all? What are your concerns? Is it ecumenical unity or Orthodox unity in general? 

What are the steps taken to tackle disunity? Do you believe in dialogue at all? Are you running desperately behind power, money and the pomp and glory of the Vatican? Are you trying to imitate the Roma Pope or do you even think of humility?

Are we moving away from the Orthodox Christian Conciliarity system to the Western Imperial Roman Papacy? 

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