As an Oriental and a Catholic, I think this is GREAT news.
One of the issues for EO has always been that the OO have fewer Ecum Councils, while the CC (as least the Latins for the most part) have more Ecum Councils. This act would render meaningless the absolute necessity of recognizing an EXACT number of Ecumenical Councils as a condition for reunion. Now, OO can no longer be accused of recognizing only 3 Ecum Councils, and CC can no longer be accused of having more Ecum Councils than the EO. It might have some ramifications for the ACOE also.
I believe this well make ecumenical efforts easier.
Btw. What is the 9th Ecum? I’ve never heard of it.
A sad reply indeed, but the beatification of Stepinac is something that has puzzled and offended a number of Orthodox believer and I have the personal experience of been asked by a Serbian Orthodox believer as to how I can possibly justify belonging to a Church that makes saints of peope (people is not the word he actually used either) like Cardinal Stepinac. The man is not regarded highly (to put it mildly) by many in the Orthodox world. Many clergy in Croatia during that period and their roles with regard to the Ustase do disturb me greatly, especially the way many did indeed escape or were smuggled out after the war.
Some Orthodox, by no means all, but some do have the perception of the Catholic Church as converting by force and coercion and not reason or logic. This in part explains why there is suspicion existing regarding us in some areas still in the Orthodox world and to be quite frank from an Orthodox point of view the outlook is not totally unreasonable and if we want to combat it the onus is on us to a large degree.
The rest of the letter though is written in a quite unpleasant tone at points the Catholic Bishop’s replies seem far more measured.
The Ninth Ecumenical Council actually consisted of a series of councils, held in Constantinople in 1341, 1347 and 1351, which exonerated St. Gregory Palamas’s hesychastic theology and condemned the rationalistic philosophy of Barlaam of Calabria. Sometimes also referred to as the Fifth Council of Constantinople, the result of these councils is regarded as the Ninth Ecumenical Council by some Orthodox Christians but not others. Principal supporters of the view that this series of councils comprises the Ninth Ecumenical Council include Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos, Fr. John S. Romanides, and Fr. George Metallinos.
Since I was also curious about the Eighth, I surfed over to its entry:
The Eighth Ecumenical Council was a reunion council held at Constantinople in 879-880. This council was originally accepted and fully endorsed by the papacy in Rome (whose legates were present at the behest of Pope John VIII), but was later repudiated by Rome in the 11th century, retroactively regarding the robber council of 869-870 to be ecumenical. The council of 879-880 affirmed the restoration of St. Photius the Great to his see and anathematized any who altered the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, thus condemning the Filioque.
…Further, the 1848’s Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs refers explicitly to the “Eighth Ecumenical Council” regarding the synod of 879-880 and was signed by the patriarchs of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria as well as the Holy Synods of the first three.
Those who regard these councils as ecumenical often characterize the limitation of Ecumenical Councils to only seven to be the result of Jesuit influence in Russia, part of the so-called “Western Captivity of Orthodoxy.”
“The ceaseless Jesus prayer is a continuous, uninterrupted call on the holy name of Jesus Christ with the lips, mind, and heart; and in the awareness of His abiding presence it is a plea for His blessing in all undertakings, in all places, at all times, even in sleep. The words of the prayer are: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!’”
I can’t speculate as to its ramifications outside of this, but I don’t think this will actually matter for OO/EO relations. Those who insisted we accept seven (as though this were a dogma itself) might now insist that we accept eight or nine. We will still only accept three. From our side, what is needed is for the EO who have this mindset to recognize that the faith accepted by the church is to be reflected in the councils accepted by it, whether they are “officially” counted or not, rather than treating the councils in themselves as a kind of crucible of Orthodoxy (e.g., Orthodoxy = 7, 3, 21, etc. councils). The EO church as a whole already seems to function in this manner, in that for instance the Hesychastic practices and principles defended by Gregory Palamas and accepted in the synods which constitute the ninth ecumenical council were themselves already accepted and practiced and integral to the life of the Church before the recent event of “formal” recognition of those synods as constituting a ninth council. We may say the same of our (OO) de facto repudiation of iconoclasm, ethnophyletism, or any of the other things that have been dealt with in EO synods for which we had no need to have our own councils to answer (as they weren’t problems in our communion in the first place). But, like I wrote, I won’t hold my breath for them to look at us in the same light as they look at their own church and its ability to hold to the Orthodox faith proclaimed throughout all of history without having to further accept more ecumenical councils after the seventh.
But that aside, I don’t see that the 8th, 9th Ecumenical Council issue has very much import for EO-OO dialogue. A bit more, I think, with regard to EO-Catholic relations, if only because it combats the old cliche that “The EOs haven’t had an ecumenical council since 787.”
The Church of Greece is recognizing as Ecumenical, Councils which we already accepted as teaching the Orthodox faith. There is no actual conflict within the Church over whether the teachings of those councils were faithful or not, it is merely the case of a title, and the title has nothing to do with the True Faith.
Mentioning Councils is a good way, when you have common ground, to establish what the teaching of the Church is, “This council said this, and we both agree with this council, therefore this teaching must be Orthodox”, but I would say that anyone who holds that same teaching, and that same faith, even without a single Ecumenical Council, are brothers.
I’ll bring up a third Council which the Church of Greece isn’t recognizing as Ecumenical - the last major council, the Council of Jerusalem.
Not a single Orthodox Church recognizes it as an Ecumenical Council, and yet in spite of this we are all able to recognize that it preached the truth.
What is troubling is when those Council’s preach something which is not in keeping with our faith. Only then must we reject the church which made them.
But seriously, I should have clarified that when I wrote that bit about not holding my breath, etc., I was referring to those EO I had referenced earlier in the post who take the position that being Orthodox rests upon acceptance of the seven (or eight, or nine, or whatever number) councils already recognized as ecumenical by the EO church. This kind of mechanical thinking about councils and their purpose and place in the Church is at odds with Orthodoxy, as can be demonstrated by (among other things) the fact that the EO church venerates St. Isaac of Nineveh, despite the great saint’s having been born in a time and place (the 5th century, modern Bahrain) which certainly prevented him from formally accepting the councils which had by that time been accepted by the Byzantine church, though of course in recognizing him as a saint the EO (and OO, and RC, both of which also venerate St. Isaac) are de facto recognizing his Orthodoxy despite his belonging to what they (and the OO) still declare to be a heretical church (that of the Nestorians/East Syrians). So clearly, Orthodoxy is not the seven, or eight, or three, or whatever number of councils. Rather the councils themselves are Orthodox, provided that they conform to and teach the Orthodox faith. Nine Two is 100% correct, and in this OO and EO do not differ.
P.S. On second, perhaps that won’t lead to an eyeroll, but rather to an Anglican poster saying “Well, I’d be thrilled if you regarded us in the same light that you regard them” …
Yes, yes…everyone wants to be Orthodox, but nobody wants to be Orthodox… :rolleyes: (:p)
I know this is not per se a thread about Stepinac, but since you mentioned him, I would like to post something I read in “Hitler, the War, and the Pope” by Ronald Rychlak:
"The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia at that time was Archbishop (later Cardinal) Aloysius Stepinac. Others have noted that when the brutality began, Stepinac ‘“almost immediately . . . used his position to speak out against the maltreatment of Jews and Orthodox Christians.”’ He also conducted extensive relief work, including hiding refugees in Church buildings. Stepinac was recognized as a staunch opponent of Fascist leaders, but after the war, he was a threat to the Communist regime that took over. Communist leader Josip Broz Tito put Stepinac on trial, and he was convicted of having supported the Ustache goverment’s brutality towards the Serbs and of having engaged in forcible conversions.
During Stepinac’s trial, the prosecution produced a report allegedly sent by the archbishop to the Pope dated May 18, 1943. It bitterly condemned the Serbs and the Orthodox Church. It also showed Stepinac to have been working for the Ustashe and calling the Pope to arrange for foreign intervention in Yugoslavia. Stepinac denied having written or sent this letter. It was not written on diocesan paper, and it did not have an address or signature. It was in Italian, instead of the formalized Latin style normally used by the archbishop. It referred to Stepinac as ““metropoleta de Croatie et Slovoniae,”” but Stepinac never referred to himself that way. It contained detailed information about Bosnia and its history, which Stepinac was unlikely to know, especially as Bosnia was not part of his diocese. The Communists claimed that the letter was found in the Croatian Foreign Ministry offices, but Stepinac did not send his reports there. The prosecutor claimed to have a copy signed by Stepinac, but he never produced it at trial, and it does not appear in the record of court documents.
In December 1941, copies of another letter, this one signed by Dr, Prvislav Grisogono, a well-known Catholic and a respected Croatian politician, came into circulation. It was addressed to Stepinac, and it condemned the Church for permitting priests and monks to kill and torture thousands of Serbs. The writer condemned the sending of nuns, ‘“with a dagger in one hand and prayer book in the other,”’ to convert the survivors. The letter provided alleged details of priest-led gangs of thugs . . .
Although this letter was reprinted in many books after the war, it was a forgery. Grisogono, the supposed author, was in the Gestapo prison at Banjica, near Belgrade, at the time that the letter was supposedly written. On his release from prison, Grisogono wrote to Stepinac to disown the letter. After the war, Grisogono’s son and daughter also confirmed that the letter was a forgery. The son and daughter of another man, Adam Pribicevic, acknowledged that their father had forged the letter. The father’s political assistant, Vlastimir Stojanovic, confirmed their story.
In 1985, Stepinac’s prosecutor, Jakov Blazevic, acknowledged that Stepinac had been framed and that he was tried only because he refused to sever ties between Croatians and the Roman Catholic Church. Blazevic said that if Stepinac had agreed to head an independent Catholic Church he would not have been brought to court.
In 1992, Croatia came out from under the thumb of Communism. One of the first acts of Parliament in the newly independent state of Croatia was to issue a declaration condemning '" the political trial and sentence passed on Cardinal Stepinac in 1946. Stepinac was condemned, declared the Parliament, ‘“because he had acted against the violence and crimes of the communist authorities, just as he had acted during the whirlwind of atrocities committed in World War II, to protect the persecuted, regardless of the national origin or religious denomination.”’
Nearly forty years after the trial, one of Tito’s senior legal officials by the name of Hrncevic, who had put together the original case against Stepinac and arranged the trial, stated: ‘“The indictments were designed rather more for publicity than for legality.”’ Yugoslavian politician dissident Milovan Dilas, who had once been close to Tito, said that the problem with “Stepinac was not his policy towards Ustashe, but towards the Communists.”’
Well said. However, being that the Greek Metropolitan seems to be one of those hardliners in his general disposition, I think his move might soften the view of other hardliners on the idea that a requirement of the Faith is a formal recognition of 7 Ecum Councils, instead of the Faith contained therein.
As I’ve proposed several times in the past, I believe a general paradigm of distinguishing the term “ecumenical” from the term 'orthodox" needs to be made. What is “ecumenical” is certainly “orthodox,” but not all things “orthodox” need be “ecumenical,” as far as Councils are concerned anyway. There are many local and general councils/synods in all the Churches that maintain the Catholic and Orthodox Faith, though those same councils/ synods don’t have “ecumenical” status.
It is more important that a council be “orthodox” than for it to be “ecumenical.”
Hmm. I purposely did not use the term ecumenical in my post because I don’t think it’s necessary to get into that (since clearly there have been councils that have not been declared ecumenical that are still held to), but okay.
The action of Metropolitan Seraphim is not really all that surprising, because there is a common theological opinion is that there are more ecumenical councils than what have been officially enumerated in our liturgical commemorations (that is, the Seven Ecumenical Councils which are celebrated throughout the liturgical year), and the Metropolitan is free to set local variances in commemorations within his jurisdiction.
As for concerns over the Metropolitan’s hardline attitude, I should point out that the classical tradition of polemical literature has survived amongst the Greeks, and that we therefore should be careful to read his own polemical literature with a grain of salt (English speakers are especially sensitive to polemical literature, because it no longer forms a large part of our literary tradition). St. Basil the Great made similar remarks about his own opponents in his day, which might be shocking to the modern reader, unfamiliar with the genre. To quote the introduction from a new edition of St. Basil’s Against Eunomius, translated by Mark DelCogliano and Andrew Radde-Gallwitz:The polemical character of Against Eunomius is most apparent in the sarcasm and ad hominem attacks on Eunomius, intertwined with real engagement with his opponent’s ideas. While such invective typically featured in polemical texts from antiquity, Basil displays a certain gusto in his vitriol. According to Basil, Eunomius is nothing more than a scheming, impious charlatan who attempts to trick people into denying the divinity of the Son of God. He is “lying, stupid, wanton, dissembling, and blasphemous.”… According to Basil, Eunomius is a liar in whom the devil speaks. Basil over and over again accuses Eunomius of stupidity, craziness, insanity, madness, derangement, and utter foolishness. On one occasion, Basil even goes so far as to call Eunomius a “whore,” though in this case he couches his abuse in the words of scripture. Perhaps he did so to forestall criticism for using such a nasty expression.
Some modern readers of Basil may find such insults and sarcastic language unsuitable for a person whom some consider a saint and father of the church. Others, however, may find Basil’s vituperation, or at least some of it, effective and even hilarious. But, more to the point, Basil’s depiction of Eunomius is a willful distortion of the truth, and his ancient readers, familiar with the polemical genre, would have known this, not been surprised by it, and in fact expected it.