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!