Sunday 25 February 2024
Contact |  Site map |  Search
Home » F.A.Q. » The reaction of the Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Churches point of view

Some readers may not understand the distributed nature of the organization of the Orthodox Churches. Whereas The Patriarch of Constantinople has recognized seniority, over the other Patriarchs, this seniority does not in any way imply overseeing responsibilities. Each of the other Patriarchs is independent and has the right to administer his domain as he is inspired, according to the canons and traditions of the Orthodox Church. Because there is no centralized authority, the Orthodox require a synod in order to reach decisions on significant matters of faith. Individual Bishops report to one of the Patriarchs and those bodies are administered as distinct Sees.

Thus, the Orthodox Churches (they are Catholic, also) do not have a unified ecclesiastical hierarchy. With respect to TLIG most of the Bishops prefer to maintain a “wait & see” attitude.

The Editor of one of the journals of the Orthodox Church of Greece states that Vassula has by her own accord “fallen away” from the Church in form, if not in substance”. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Vassula has not “fallen away” by herself. In fact, Vassula maintains her standing in the Orthodox Church by having an Orthodox Priest as her confessor, and she continues to receive the Orthodox Sacrament of Holy Communion in the Orthodox Church, on a very regular basis.

Again, misinformation that circulates against TLIG includes a statement that because Vassula has received Holy Communion from the Roman Catholic Church, that event would render an Orthodox in violation of the Orthodox Canon. Indeed, the Orthodox Canon prohibits Orthodox from receiving the Eucharist from a Church that the Orthodox have excommunicated (“anathema”). This had been historically the case between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople, with the mutual excommunication over FILOQUE, which was put in effect by Pope Leo IX and Michael, the Patriarch of Constantinople, in 1054 AD.

However, at this present time, these two churches are NO LONGER EXCOMMUNICATED FROM ONE ANOTHER! On December 7th, 1965 both the Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras HAVE LIFTED the excommunication toward one another, and as a consequence, the Roman Catholic Church now permits the Orthodox to receive the Eucharist (Canon 844 §3).

Sadly, it is the practice of most of the Orthodox Bishops to not reciprocate, by refusing to grant Holy Communion to Roman Catholics that are in good standing with their Church.

Orthodox Clergy think of themselves as the “guardians of the true faith” and therefore they probably believe that to share their Holy Eucharist with those of the Roman Church may in fact be perceived as betraying the true faith, in that dogmatic differences exist between those two sister Churches (the “Eastern vs. the Western Church”). Mutual discussions continue between the two, at an extremely slow pace, the most “sticky” point of disagreement being whether the Pope has authority to oversee the affairs of the Orthodox Patriarchates.

Nevertheless, it is a fact that the mutual excommunication between the Eastern and the Western Churches has been lifted, by both Churches!

Some may question whether Paul VI and Athenagoras had the authority to lift the excommunication on their own individual ecclesiastical authority… in fact they did: Patriarch Athenagoras was the legitimate successor to Patriarch Michael and Pope Paul VI was the legitimate successor of Pope Leo IX. Therefore, according to the Apostolic Canon both Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI had the legitimate authority to lift the mutual excommunication. And this is exactly what they did on that December 7th of 1965!

The decision of Patriarch Athenagoras to lift the Excommunication of the Roman Church was reaffirmed by his successor, Patriarch Dimitrios who directed that “an Orthodox could receive Holy Communion from a Roman Catholic Priest”.

Yet, it appears that Church politics interfere with God’s desires that we may all be one [1]. The Orthodox Bishops continue being too slow to accept the lifting of the excommunication, and they have been pressuring [2] Bartholomew I, the current Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, to distance his Church from the Roman Church.

Nevertheless, the former excommunication remains officially lifted, in compliance with the Canon of the Church! The Orthodox do not subscribe to the infallibility of any Patriarch or Bishop. They must all follow the Canons and the tradition of the Church. Therefore, if certain Orthodox Bishops forbid their flock to receive Roman Catholic Eucharist, on what canon do they base their judgment? Why would it be wrong for any Orthodox to receive Holy Communion from a Roman Catholic Priest?

The previous notwithstanding, for the Orthodox Churches to approve TLIG as one body, it probably requires a world-wide synod… something that last happened in the eighth century AD. The author believes that only a divine intervention would cause the Orthodox to convene in a Panorthodox Synod in order to approve TLIG!

By Jim Peters
December 2, 2008

[1] John 17:11; John 17:21-22.

[2] Newsweek Magazine, November 3, 1997: "But Bartholomew’s blunt language may have less to do with Christian ecumenism than with Orthodox Church politics. These fellows aren’t called Byzantine for nothing. There are many bishops in the Orthodox churches of Greece, Russia and elsewhere who believe that he is already too friendly with Rome."

Articles of the same Topic :
2. Announcement by the Ecumenical Patriarchate