Does the Pope have supreme universal jurisdiction over the Eastern Churches?


In particular, if the Pope has supreme universal jurisdiction over the Eastern Catholic Churches does he have the authority to make changes in the liturgy of the Maronite Church or of the Melkite Church? In the case of a reunion with the Eastern Orthodox church, would the Pope retain his supreme universal jurisdiction and have the authority to make changes in the liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Churches in union with the Roman Catholic Church? Or would the Pope give up his claim to supreme universal jurisdiction over the Eastern Churches and accept the Eastern Orthodox teaching that he is the first among equals, but does not have supreme universal jurisdiction over the Orthodox Churches.


Vatican II emphasized the collegiality of the bishops, largely in reaction to the kind of understanding you raise with these questions. The Pope has “full, supreme and universal power over the Church… the order of bishops… is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church.”(LG 22) I have left out the bits suggesting the Pope’s freedom to exercise that power, which is absolute. The core image is that the Pope does not act alone (though he could) but in concert with other bishops. The Pope and the hishops form a single subject of this power.

This means the Pope could do what you ask about, but would not. He has a ministry to the universal Church, which means he should always acknowledge other bishops and their power. (full, supreme and local?) if the Pope did not recognize their actions, he would be undercutting his own authority.

On your final question, there is no real way to know exactly how these tensions would be resolved in a reunification. I am sure the Vatican would insist on a universal role because of the unity of the Church. (That is why Benedict16 dropped the “Patriarch of the West” title) How that would be reconciled with the Orthodox remains to be seen. It is almost St Andrew’s day (30 Nov) which suggests one option: they will just agree “We are brothers.” And leave it at that.


This is what likely will take place. However while “Eastern Orthodoxy” is a unity at the moment, I predict there will be a few “Eastern Orthodoxies” very soon.

Some parts of EO will be defacto Eastern Catholic Churches. Other parts will be fully independent but in sacrament communion. Others will be somewhere between.


The Supreme Pontiff reviews the texts for the Patriarchal, Major Archiepiscopal, and Metropolitan churches which approve their own texts, but those other sui iuris churches depend entirely on the Supreme Pontiff. The Maronite and Melkite are Patriarchal. Only eight of the twenty-three eastern are totally dependent upon the Supreme Pontiff: Albanian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Byzantine-Italy, Greek, Krizevci, Macedonian, Russian. This is through the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.


Canon 42 - Just as, by the Lord’s decision, Saint Peter and the other Apostles constitute one college, so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff, successor of Peter, and the bishops, successors of the Apostles, are joined together.

Canon 43 - The bishop of the Church of Rome, in whom resides the office (munus) given in special way by the Lord to Peter, first of the Apostles and to be transmitted to his successors, is head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the entire Church on earth; therefore, in virtue of his office (munus) he enjoys supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church which he can always freely exercise.

Canon 657 - §1. The approval of liturgical texts, after prior review of the Apostolic See, is reserved in patriarchal Churches to the patriarch with the consent of the synod of bishops of the patriarchal Church, in metropolitan Churches sui iuris to the metropolitan with the consent of the council of hierarchs; in other Churches this right rests exclusively with the Apostolic See, and, within the limits set by it, to bishops and to their legitimately constituted assemblies.
§2. The same authorities are also competent to approve the translations of these books meant for liturgical use, after sending a report to the Apostolic See in the case of patriarchal Churches and metropolitan Churches sui iuris.
§3. To republish liturgical books or their translations intended even in part for liturgical use, it is required and suffices to establish their correspondence with the approved edition by an attestation of the hierarch referred to in can. 662, §1.
§4. In making changes in liturgical texts, attention is to be paid to can. 40, §1.

Canon 40 - §1. Hierarchs who preside over Churches sui iuris and all other hierarchs are to see most carefully to the faithful protection and accurate observance of their own rite, and not admit changes in it except by reason of its organic progress, keeping in mind, however, mutual goodwill and the unity of Christians.
§2. Other clerics and members of institutes of consecrated life are bound to observe their own rite faithfully and daily to acquire a greater understanding and a more perfect practice of it.
§3. Other Christian faithful are also to foster an understanding and appreciation of their own rite, and are held to observe it everywhere unless something is excused by the law.


I can see the Orthodox being insulted by the requirement to submit all liturgical texts to Rome. Did St John Chrysostom submit his Divine Liturgy texts to Rome for review?


Of course. I don’t see the Orthodox agreeing to allowing Rome change their traditional Orthodox liturgy. They will point to the New Mass and what came about with the changes. I don’t see them agreeing to having puppet Masses or dancing at Mass as we have seen celebrated by a Roman Catholic bishop (Bishop Remi J. de Roo) after Vatican II.

How can you tell what would happen in the future? In 1929, there were 9 marriage annulments approved in the USA. Who would have said then in 1929 that within 100 years, there would be a year with more than 70,000 marriage annulments per that year in the USA. I don’t see the Orthodox agreeing to letting the Pope have universal supreme jurisdiction over their liturgy.
I don’t see how it is realistic to expect any union or reunion with the Orthodox Church as long as the Catholic Church maintains its teaching on the supreme universal jurisdiction over the whole Church, East and West.


Yes. The Pope does have supreme universal jurisdiction over the Eastern Churches, and would be able to make changes to their liturgies.


There is no example of this happening in the pre-schism Church. Hypothetically you could argue that the Pope has the power… but I think an equally strong case could be made that it would be so imprudent that he would be guilty of abusing his power to the point of sin.
The Eastern Churches have a FAR better track records, lituturgically speaking, than does the Latin Church


Well I’m pretty sure most Catholics would consider puppet Masses abhorrent as well.

Dancing can be appropriate in certain cultural contexts. The Ethiopian Orthodox Liturgy, for example, includes a ritualistic dance.


I never said there was any example of it happening in the pre-schism Church, I never said that the Pope should do it, and I never said that he would. I said that he could.


In the situation of a union between RC and EO, could the Pope change the Orthodox liturgy?

The point is that the Roman Catholic liturgy was changed rather drastically. Would the Orthodox agree to giving the Pope the supreme authority to change their liturgy? I don’t see their agreeing to that. IOW, I don’t see any possibility of a union between Catholics and Orthodox unless the Catholic Church abandons its teaching on supreme universal jurisdiction, which seems unlikely that it would do so.


The Church cannot abandon its teaching of supreme universal jurisdiction.

It’s not a matter of the Orthodox Churches giving the Pope permission or giving him universal jurisdiction. It’s a matter of them accepting it.


I cannot. Accepting this depends on faith.

The point I was making is that the Pope, with full supreme and universal power, does not act alone. The order of bishops also has full supreme and universal power with the Pope. If he disregards their power, he undercuts his own, since it is the same power.

I have been wrong before and might be wrong now. A future pope might pay no attention to other bishops. He might teach there are four persons in the Trinity. He might call for a new crusade. Idk.

And as long as Catholics profess a faith in “one…church” he Pope will claim universal jurisdiction. I do not think all Orthodox will have that much of a problm with it.


Then it wouldn’t be a Union with the Catholic Church. It would a Statement on Compatibility. One might as well say the EO pattern is a “Stumbling block”.

Who would the average EO Christian rather trust with jurisdiction?


No way!



Have you read the Chieti document?



Is that the document that has no teaching authority whatsoever?


Yes that’s the one.


Ah okay. I thought so.



Both churches are coming to a common understanding of the Bishop of Rome’s role during the first millennium. What’s wrong with that?

What bothers me as a Byzantine Catholic (I know I’m not the only one here that feels this way, on this forum, my parish or other parishes) is the Roman Catholic superiority complex. When it comes to us Easterners we are just Roman Catholics with a “funny Mass.”

We have our own Liturgy, theology, spiritually and we are in communion with Rome. We acknowledge that the Latin Church has its own theology but when it comes to us, it’s not reciprocated.

Eastern Catholics are only required to believe what the Latin Church teaches on the level of theologia prima.

As Pope Saint John Paul II said in Euntes in Mundum, the rights and privileges of the Eastern Churches is granted by God and not Rome.

I know, I know, your going to say, “oh, that document has not official teaching authority” or something like that. :rofl:


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