Is Reunification of Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches Imminent?

Papa ante portas Novae Romae

Orthodoxy resisted recapitulation to the pope of Rome in the council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-45) rejecting this synod, even though, as a result, Constantinople fell under the hordes of the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The Great Schism between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Roman-Catholicism, dated from 1054, has remained to this day. Attempts to reunite the two Churches have intensified recently. Is reunification of Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches possible almost a millennium later? Not only it is possible; it is imminent.

In an interview with the Austrian newspaper “Couriers” given on Nov. 13, 2014 Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stated: “Reunification of the Churches constitutes a duty of our time.” “The first steps were initiated in this direction 50 years ago by Pope Paul the Sixth and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras,” he added. He then called the theological differences between the Churches “misunderstandings and differences of opinion,” which “the official theological dialogue helped to eliminate.” 1

The Ecumenical Patriarch is ready to accept the pope’s primacy and universal supremacy. The other divisive doctrinal issues (Filioque, Purgatory, Immaculate Conception, etc.) are handled as “local traditions.” Everything is sacrificed in order to achieve unity. While many Orthodox people may consider this to be good news, others view such statements as a betrayal of their faith and a capitulation to Roman papacy. Few, however, dare to raise their voices openly. One of them is Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus.

On November 14, 2014 Metropolitan Seraphim issued a communiqué commenting on a statement by Pope Francis made on Nov. 5, according to which those Churches whose faithful and clergy are not visibly united with their bishops “and with the pope, in the One, Unique Church, which is ours, the hierarchal Holy Mother Church, are sick.”2 Since the pope is traveling to Istanbul on Nov. 28-30, for the patronal feast of the Church of Constantinople, the Metropolitan perceived the statement as a message addressed specifically to that Church, and was obviously offended by the term “sick” applied to the Orthodox Church.

The Ecumenical Patriarch should repudiate the conceited statement made by “the pope of peace” and should remind him of the Orthodox principle of primus inter pares, that is, that all bishops are equal, and any preeminence among them is honorific. But it won’t happen, because the Ecumenical Patriarch claims for himself an absolute primacy among the Orthodox bishops, as has been made clear in many recent pronouncements by him and others under him.

The sad truth is that ecumenism, a movement that has been fully embraced by the ecumenical patriarchate, has divided Orthodoxy. Soon the division will be in the open. It is feared that Patriarch Bartholomew may take an unwarranted step and declare the de facto union with the Roman Catholic Church without asking for a recantation of its errors (heresies) and without bothering to consult with the autocephalous sister Orthodox Churches. Let us stand well!


13 thoughts on “Is Reunification of Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches Imminent?”

  1. Fr. Emmanuel,


    What is your opinion on the Orthodox ecclesiological statements that Pat. Bartholomew makes when speaking to Orthodox audiences? Which Pat. Bartholomew should we trust? The one who speaks like an Orthodox bishop on Mt. Athos or the one who concelebrates with the heterodox?

  2. I understand your theological concerns; but there are practical considerations which require ingenuity and pragramatism? E pluribus unum. I think we should demand that the churches reunify, institute a bilateral council, so that Hagia Sophia can take its rightful place as the center of gravity, shared with the Vatican, and prepare for the eschaton.

    • Dear John,

      Thanks for your input. You are not alone in viewing the Church as a worldly institution and addressing it along geopolitical variables. Who knows, united, and with the Vatican’s backing, Hagia Sophia could once again become a Christian temple.

      As I said in my post, there was another time in history when “pragmatism” dictated union of the East with the West. The Orthodox Greeks were hard pressed to capitulate at the council of Ferrara-Florence. Yet, with St. Mark they refused. The Orthodox Church is ready to do the same if and when her unique character is threatened.

      E pluribus unum? Indeed the very name “Church” means assembly. Yet we cannot speak of a multiplicity of Churches “reunifying,” because the Church is one, as Christ is one. There are only bodies of believers who either don’t have the faith of the Church or for selfish reasons have broken away from the unity of the Church, which is found in our common faith, worship and love.

      People of all nations, languages and races, regardless of age and sex, are called to come together and become members of the Body of Christ and live His life. The Lord prayed that we all may be one, even as the three divine persons are one (see John 17:11; cf. 17:21). Unity is an essential characteristic of the Church. But we cannot be united while divisions continue to exist among us.

      It is not, therefore, through our “ingenuity” that the desired union will be affected. Christ founded His Church when the Holy Spirit descended upon the gathered disciples. It is “The Holy Spirit [that] welds together the whole institution of the Church”—not the pope or the ecumenical patriarch or some super council.

      It is our fervent prayer that those who find themselves separated from the true Church, but desire to unite with her, may overcome the worldly and ecumenistic spirit that pervades their minds, and through the grace of the Holy Spirit heed the Lord’s voice and join His one and only flock (see John 10:16).

      • Did not St. Mark of Ephesus stand alone at the Ferrara-Florence council, with the Greeks and the Russians capitulating, thus effectively effecting unity, although temporary? If I am incorrect, please forgive me and cite your source. Thank you.

  3. My humble opinion is that the focus of reunification should preserving and promoting which historically was the one true church prior to schism. Politics created the split; why let political inferences corrupt the unity of faith?

    • Dear Dr. Krolikowski,

      The reason for establishing “dialogues” with the Roman Catholics was to go over the mutual faith over the first 1,000 years and “return” to it. These dialogues failed to achieve a consensus. Instead it was agreed to call the differences “local traditions” and unite in love.

      We (I) refuse to follow our current leaders to a union that marginalizes the uniqueness of our Church. and unite with the heresies of the world. This is not politics.

  4. It has always been my contention, that the “political” rift twixt Roman Catholics and the Orthodox tradition was premature and historically regrettable. Had that schism not occurred, Communism would not have divided Europe as it did, and the faithful might have united to the betterment of all. (Just my opinion)

    • When it comes to matters of faith “opinions” are not allowed. Your opinion sets aside the consensus patrum and the ecumenical and local synods based upon it. If everyone shared your view we would be one Church not only with the Roman Catholics, but also with the Monophysites, the Nestorians and “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord”. Thus we would all belong to the Body of the Lord – alas, a dismembered One.

  5. I see that there will be little resistance here in America from Orthodox people.
    What is going on??? People are sleeping… they don’t see what is coming and worst…they see it and they will welcome it. Its really really scary….
    As for the few of us ….God help us…the biggest problem is that we don’t have priests to support us…I am waiting for the opposite… they will persecute us. This for now.

    • I see that there will be little resistance here in America from Orthodox people.

      There will be little resistance everywhere. This is their plan; otherwise they would have proclaimed the union with the Roma Catholics 100 years ago. They take it slow, with their endless dialogues, so we can see them dialoguing together as good friends, then issuing statements together, then praying together, then some of them recognizing the Uniates, then celebrating with them, then… it will be all over. No declarations, no synodical decisions.

      What is going on??? People are sleeping… they don’t see what is coming and worst…they see it and they will welcome it.

      Yes, people will be caught sleeping, because the priests who know keep quiet out of fear of losing their income, and others are indifferent and don’t care, having money and security. So the people don’t hear anything, they don’t know what’s happening, and the few who know see they cannot make a difference.

      It’s really, really scary…. As for the few of us…. The biggest problem is that we don’t have priests to support us…

      There is a solution. The few people that care know each other. They can organize themselves, approach the ROCOR Bishop in their area, and petition to be received as a mission church. They can start with as a “church at home,” as in New Testament times. There are retired priests who can help. Soon the mission churches will grow and become parishes, because the people will see there are alternatives and more will join. Then they will be able to support their priests.

  6. Thank you, dear Fr. Emmanuel! I am a convert from Roman Catholicism, I am grateful for your efforts in standing up for Orthodoxy.

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