Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Some Really Interesting insights on Pope Benedict XVI and Orthodoxy

It's not secret that Pope Benedict is the most Orthodox-friendly Pope for generations, possibly centuries. This report is really thorough and hopeful in tone. I've highlighted some of the key parts below.

1. While still a brilliant theologian at the university, he endeared himself to the separated Eastern Orthodox with his famed "Ratzinger Formula." In Graz (1976), the Roman Church dogmatician shocked the ecumenical world by declaring that "what was possible during a whole millennium can Christianly not be impossible today." Consequently, "on the doctrine of the primacy (of the papacy), Rome must not require more from the East than what was formulated and lived out during the first millennium"--that is, prior to the 1054 Great Schism.
Ratzinger later clarified that his 1976 statement was not meant as a mere chronological return, but as a mutual commitment to confess the essential doctrinal consensus that had emerged as the ecclesial heritage of the first seven ecumenical councils of the undivided early church (through II Nicaea, 787).

2. Also on the positive side was the widely overlooked but significant fact that the papal encyclical begins intentionally with a restatement of the "fundamental contents of the Christian faith." Significantly, here John Paul II confesses the Nicene Creed in its Conciliar-approved original form (Constantinople, 381) — without, repeat without, the infamous clause, "and the Son" (filioque).

The Christological affirmation of the "filioque" clause was added unilaterally at Rome only later, in 447, by Pope Leo I. Still later, again without dialogue with Orthodoxy, a Roman Council approved the amended form of the creed for the Latin Mass. The resulting change in faith and worship has officially divided Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Trinitarians for most of the past fifteen centuries. The Greek East confesses that within the Holy Trinity, the Spirit proceeds from the Father; the Latin West confesses that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

We may prayerfully recall the striking metaphor used frequently by John Paul II to pose the enormous challenge now faced reciprocally by both these worldwide communions:
Ever since 1054, Western Christendom has been breathing on only one lung.


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