Archbishop Joseph Raya on the Papacy

This is in response to the thread “Orthodox and Protestant Stumbling Block”. I would’ve posted this there, but the thread seems to be fading out, and I wanted to make sure that this was read.

Joseph Raya is a retired Melkite Archbishop, currently residing, as far as I know, at the Madonna House in Canada. He penned a splendiferous book on Eastern Christianity, titled The Face of God. In the other thread, there was much debate as to what the Melkite stance is on the papacy. Raya clearly presents it as it is. Hopefully this can help to clear up any misconceptions.

The Pope

As the local church manifests its reality and union with Christ by the presence of a bishop at the Eucharistic action, so also the different bishops express their unity and identity with Christ by their union in love, and by their cooperation with each other. Christ himself established a center and a symbol of this cohesion and harmony in his Church. He made Peter the head of his college of Apostles. He clearly wanted him to be the leader and perfect example of his own love for his brothers and peers. “Feed my lambs…feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). The primacy of Peter is, therefore, of divine institution, willed by Christ as the link and manifestation of union in his Body.

The Pope is the brother who confirms others in the faith, who runs to the aid of his brothers the bishops when they need his intervention and service. He is not the arbitrary dictator above and beyond the law of Christ who lives in the Church. At the Second Vatican Council Patriarch Maximos IV Sayeg explained clearly and unequivocally the meaning of this primacy according to Byzantine theology:

It should be clear to all of us that the only head of the Church, the only head of the Body of Christ which is the Church, is our Lord Jesus Christ and he alone. The Roman Pontiff is the head of the College of bishops, just as Peter was the head of the College of Apostles. The successor has no more power than the one whom he succeeds. For this reason it is not appropriate to say of the Roman Pontiff as we say of Christ—in the same way and without distinction—that he is the head of the Church, caput Ecclesiae.

The foundation of the Church is made up not of Peter alone, but of all the other Apostles as well, as is proven by a number of texts in the New Testament. This truth is in no way opposed to the primacy of Peter and his successors, but sheds new light on it. Peter is one of the Apostles, and at the same time head of the College of Apostles. Similarly the Roman Pontiff is a member of the College of bishops and at the same time head of the College. The head is the link for the whole body. It is not separated from it.

It should be clear that the power of the Roman Pontiff over the whole Church does not take away from the power of the College of bishops as a whole over the Church as a whole…a College which always includes the Pope as its primate…nor does the Pope’s power take the place of the power of each bishop in his diocese. Every canonical delegation of authority within the limits of a diocese comes from the bishop of the diocese and from him alone.

(continued)

We must emphasize that the universal power of the Roman Pontiff, complete though it is, and remaining in its own order, is given to him essentially as head of the whole hierarchy and precisely to enable him to fulfill this primatial act of service. The “You are Peter” of St. Matthew 16:18 should not be separated from the “Lend strength to your brothers” of St. Luke 2:32. Furthermore, this power is pastoral in character and strictly personal. It is pastoral by nature in this sense, that it is not a prerogative of command merely for the sake of command. It is ministry, a service, a diakonia, a pastoral charge, as His Holiness Pope Paul VI has well emphasized. This power is of a personal character and since it remains such, cannot be delegated in any way.

This Byzantine doctrine of the papacy does not diminish the privileged position of the Pope of Rome. It rather purifies it from human exaggerations and distortions, and presents it as a blessing instead of a domination. Explained in this way, primacy means the principal thrust of grace which calls for and sustains unity in the Church. It becomes, then, an object of gratitude to the Lord and not a cause for stumbling.

A general council is the place where this mutual love of Pope and the bishops is exercised and manifested, and where God manifests his will present through the Holy Spirit and living in the Body of Christ.

Cocamo Joe

C’mon folks, it’s okay to respond; I won’t bite, I promise.

What’re yall’s (there’s my southern-ness coming out!) thoughts in regards to this. As a Catholic, an Eastern Catholic at that, I love it, thus am certainly at peace with it. I was mainly wondering what the Orthodox have to say in regards to it.

God bless,

Cocamo Joe

That is the correct way the papacy should be viewed, by both eastern and western Christians. Unfortunately, DESPITE the brotherly attitude and example of the Popes in the past few centuries towards the East, Orthodox for the most part like to linger on issues further back, and never admit to their own faults by which they can come to the table with humility. That is their sin, if the perpetuation of disunity based on pride and fear can be called sin.Note that the Orthodox propaganda will bring up atrocities by Catholics and then charge the entire Catholic Church with the sins of these persons(lay, cleric, and ecclesiastic), even the Pope. Never mind that if the same circumstances were applied to the Orthodox milieu, they can be rendered guilty of all the crimes of their communist benefactors. But hypocrisy is not immediately apparent to those blinded with pride, fear, and an unforgiving heart.
God bless,
Greg

But hypocrisy is not immediately apparent to those blinded with pride, fear, and an unforgiving heart.

i wonder why the orthodox haven’t been as successful in bringing western christians into orthodoxy as catholics have been bringing separated orthodox brethren back into the fold? it might have something to do with their lack of charity.

[quote=CocamoJoe]C’mon folks, it’s okay to respond; I won’t bite, I promise.

What’re yall’s (there’s my southern-ness coming out!) thoughts in regards to this. As a Catholic, an Eastern Catholic at that, I love it, thus am certainly at peace with it. I was mainly wondering what the Orthodox have to say in regards to it.

[/quote]

Dear Cocamo Joe,

Not much point really in making an Orthodox response. We have already been tried and judged by GAssisi as “hypocritical” and “blinded with pride, fear, and an unforgiving heart.”

Oat Soda adds to the insults with “lack of charity.”

I am interested to know all the same what Bp Joseph Raya is trying to say with:

This Byzantine doctrine of the papacy does not diminish the privileged position of the Pope of Rome. It rather purifies it from human exaggerations and distortions, and presents it as a blessing instead of a domination.

The implication, although very politely phrased, seems to amount to an accusation that the Roman Catholic view of the papacy is wrong and needs to be purified from its “human exaggerations and distortions” and its “domination.”

Since the Byzantines in the Catholic Church are too small a minority to have much of an impact, one assumes that the Roman Catholic doctrine prevails with its “exaggerations and distortions” and “domination”?

[quote=oat soda] i wonder why the orthodox haven’t been as successful in bringing western christians into orthodoxy as catholics have been bringing separated orthodox brethren back into the fold? it might have something to do with their lack of charity.
[/quote]

What the heck kind of comment is that? :tsktsk:

[quote=GAssisi]…But hypocrisy is not immediately apparent to those blinded with pride, fear, and an unforgiving heart.
God bless,
Greg
[/quote]

Something here reminds me of splinters and logs.

[quote=Fr Ambrose]I am interested to know all the same what Bp Joseph Raya is trying to say with:

This Byzantine doctrine of the papacy does not diminish the privileged position of the Pope of Rome. It rather purifies it from human exaggerations and distortions, and presents it as a blessing instead of a domination.

The implication, although very politely phrased, seems to amount to an accusation that the Roman Catholic view of the papacy is wrong and needs to be purified from its “human exaggerations and distortions” and its “domination.”

Since the Byzantines in the Catholic Church are too small a minority to have much of an impact, one assumes that the Roman Catholic doctrine prevails with its “exaggerations and distortions” and “domination”?
[/quote]

Father, I think what he’s trying to say is this:

Explained in this way, primacy means the principal thrust of grace which calls for and sustains unity in the Church. It becomes, then, an object of gratitude to the Lord and not a cause for stumbling.

“This way” being

It is pastoral by nature in this sense, that it is not a prerogative of command merely for the sake of command. It is ministry, a service, a diakonia, a pastoral charge, as His Holiness Pope Paul VI has well emphasized. This power is of a personal character and since it remains such, cannot be delegated in any way.

Although it’s not hard to understand why he makes a point of talking about “human exaggerations and distortions” :hmmm:

What the heck kind of comment is that?

my point is if you really love someone you want to share with them everything you have. if the orthodox church is the fullness of faith, why haven’t they reached out to separated western christians with as much success as the catholics have? as a catholic, i can go to 22 different churches and 7 different rites. this represents much better the universality of the church then any orthodox body does.

the church needs to breath with both lungs again. we need them, and they need us as Jesus prayed that we all be one.

:amen:

[quote=oat soda]my point is if you really love someone you want to share with them everything you have. if the orthodox church is the fullness of faith, why haven’t they reached out to separated western christians with as much success as the catholics have? as a catholic, i can go to 22 different churches and 7 different rites. this represents much better the universality of the church then any orthodox body does.

the church needs to breath with both lungs again. we need them, and they need us as Jesus prayed that we all be one.
[/quote]

Ok, I can see your point, sort of.

I have always felt this way when I get into my more romantic moods. I love the church, so much my heart aches. And yes, the Catholic Communion does represent every valid Christian Apostolic Tradition. For that I am very grateful.

But I need to advise you that the “Unia” itself, (that actual relationship between the Church of Rome and the sister churches) is not a great example of love and cooperation that will convince many outside of the Communion.

Rather, it has a long history of being as much abusive as it has been loving. The Congregation for the Eastern Churches is sometimes referred to as the “Bureau of Indian Affairs” by clerics and Eparchs of the Eastern churches and some episodes in the history of these churches have truly been a “Trail of Tears”. Claims to the contrary will smack of revisionism.

The irony of our claim to be Universal because we are more loving will not be lost on many Orthodox who have personal family histories as Eastern Catholics in Communion with Rome, and have a much more cogent idea about what being in union with Rome can really be like for them than most Roman Catholics can imagine. Likewise, many Eastern Catholics (who share much history with their Orthodox cousins) feel the same way.

I am not saying this to object to your zeal for the church or the great value we place in a communion of all the Apostolic churches. I believe a model of Truly Equal Patriarchal churches can ultimately be found and it is an ideal we can share. All I will say is that if we decide to crow about our own magnanimity and charity we will embarass ourselves.

Dear Michael,

Thank you for the rebuke. Though I must say that it is not Catholics who always manage to bring up atrocities of the past as some kind of ad hominem argument against the Church, and present themselves as sinless meanwhile.

God bless,
Greg

No one is sinless, and I am the greatest of sinners.

I beg forgiveness from those I offend here, although I do not deserve it.

The ones who would view your posts as offensive are the ones that need forgiveness.

God bless,
Greg

[quote=Fr Ambrose]Dear Cocamo Joe,

Not much point really in making an Orthodox response. We have already been tried and judged by GAssisi as “hypocritical” and “blinded with pride, fear, and an unforgiving heart.”

Oat Soda adds to the insults with “lack of charity.”

The implication, although very politely phrased, seems to amount to an accusation that the Roman Catholic view of the papacy is wrong and needs to be purified from its “human exaggerations and distortions” and its “domination.”
[/quote]

I will try to explicate: It seems that many a Roman Catholic views their local bishop merely as the Pope’s “spokesman”, without any real authority: his role is to say exactly as the Pope tells him to say. This is evidenced, at least in my personal experience, by many a Roman Catholic being able to tell me each and everything about the Pope and his whereabouts and his calendar, but they can’t tell me anything other than the name of their local bishop.
Or there’s the issue of papal infallibility. Many a Roman Catholic seems to think that all that His Holiness utters is binding on Catholics the world over. And then with those things which are indeed binding on Catholics, such as the new Liturgy “revisions” recently released to help fix the innumerable liturgical abuses, many a Roman Catholic wonders why my Church uses leavened bread, has its altar “backwards” (I honestly believe that it is the Roman Catholics who have their altars backwards). They, many a time, view the Pope not as the “brother who goes to the brother in need” or the “servant of the servants”, but as the dictator, who will beat then with a stick if they don’t all that he does.

Since the Byzantines in the Catholic Church are too small a minority to have much of an impact, one assumes that the Roman Catholic doctrine prevails with its “exaggerations and distortions” and “domination”?

Perhaps Raya’s usage of the word “doctrine” was faulty in that passage; perhaps not. The above passage from Raya is the Catholic view on the papacy, anything other than that is precisely what he dubbed as “exaggerations” and other things of the sort. God bless,

Cocamo Joe

Dear Joe,

Please help my memory. I recall that an Eastern Catholic bishop once asked the Pope for advice or whatnot, and the Pope responded to him, “well, exercise your rights!” Do you know of what or of whom I write? I think it was sometime in the early 20th century.

Eastern Catholic bishops, and patriarchs especially, should flex their muscles more on issues of discipline and practice. It is their right.

God bless,
Greg

[quote=GAssisi]Dear Joe,

Please help my memory. I recall that an Eastern Catholic bishop once asked the Pope for advice or whatnot, and the Pope responded to him, “well, exercise your rights!” Do you know of what or of whom I write? I think it was sometime in the early 20th century.

Eastern Catholic bishops, and patriarchs especially, should flex their muscles more on issues of discipline and practice. It is their right.

God bless,
Greg
[/quote]

I have no recollection of having ever heard about that which you referred to (pretty wordy,eh?:wink: ).
I do remember hearing, though, of one of the cardinals asking the my Patriarch, of Antioch, what was so “big” about his role. His response was something like this, “If Peter didn’t leave Antioch and go on to Rome, I would be numero uno.”

Cocamo Joe

All I will say is that if we decide to crow about our own magnanimity and charity we will embarass ourselves.

you know as well as i that that more damage is done to our church from within than from the outside (sex abuse, liturgical chaos, poor catechesis). look at what happened to Jesus, he was betrayed and the leader of the apostles deigned him three times. from the very beginning, God willed the church to be full of sinners. we shouldn’t be surprised then if those in the church don’t live up to their calling, some of the apostles didn’t. i’m not catholic because of the morality of her members; i’m catholic because she most represents the fullness of his body.

the church is divine and human. because she is divine, she is pure and holy. it is only the human element that is weak and sinful. this is how God wants it to be, chaff and wheat together until the end. so i think the most important thing here is obedience, even when it hurts. Look at Jesus, he was obedient to his Father’s will and it lead him to the cross. how can we think it’ll be different for us if God let his own Son undergo the humiliation of crucifixion?

Cocomo,

May I ask where you got to know Archbishop Raya? I find this very interesting. My spiritual director was offered to be ordained by him 32 years ago and this same spritual director is an associate priest of Madonna House. He (my priest) has travelled many times to Lebanon, etc with him. I have in my possession the ‘Byzantine Daily Worship’ with Byzantine Breviary, etc published in 1968 when the Archbishop was Archbishop of Haifa, Aka, Nazareth and All Galilee.

I am sorry if I am breaking your conversation here…

Blessings,
Shoshana

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