Head of Orthodox

is there an equivalent position to the Pope in the Orthodox church; if so what is similar and what is different ? :smiley:

NOPE no Pope for the Orthodox. Except for the Coptic (Egyptian ) Orthodox. The Pope of Alexandria had the title of Pope long before the Pope of Rome.

Long live Pope Shanouda I!!! :smiley:

Ciero is right.

The Orthodox have always taken exception to the pope being the “(visible) head of the Church.” They affirm that if it can be proven that Christ has somehow left His Church alone and is not its Head, then such a claim would stand its ground,.

Government in the Orthodox Church is conciliar with the Ecumenical Patriarch being the “first among equals” in the Church universal, then the respective Patriarchs, Primates and Metropolitans being “first among equals” in their respective ecclesial jurisdictions.

And, since we’re being honest, so what if there is a Pope? Bishops will do what they wish, irrespective of the Pope’s wishes and we see that today all over the place.

The Orthodox record in this respect is a much better one than that of the Catholic Church in North America or Europe.


I don’t know. The Anglican communion has the Bishop of Canterbury and there seems to be no hierarchical authority there at all.

The question was about the Orthodox, not the Anglican communion.

Sorry I was giving an example of how the Pope might have more authority than given credit for by citing an example of the Anglicans having a Bishop who is “greater among equals” but really having little authority among other bishops.

In the Anglican case (even though we’re talking about the Orthodox), you would be more than correct.

I’ve read “letters to the editor” in Anglican magazines from Anglicans who bemoan the fact they are not in union with Rome since the Bishop of Rome would take charge of their situation with respect to, shall we say, questionable clergy ordinations since their own bishops seem unable to.

In the Orthodox tradition, there is a clear dedication to the canons of the Church. And the authority of the Orthodox Patriarch, Metropolitan or local Bishop is, in a word, absolute.

The Bishop must be obeyed, period. So the issue you raise with Anglicans has to do with loose episcopal authority all around.

And North American Catholic Church has issues with this as well.


Alexander Roman, I’m curious in what way is the North American Catholic Church having difficulty with questionable ordinations? Since it takes a Bishop to ordain anyway how are they failing?

Peace be with you.

I meant with certain Catholics obeying the Pope.

I believe that if one is in union with the Holy Father, his commands MUST be obeyed without equivocation.


No, we do not have a head as the Catholic Church has a head in the Pope. We have what’s called a synodal, or conciliar, form of church government, where each church is self-governing (autocephalus), governed by the patriarch and synod, which is usually comprised of the archbishops (metropolitans). There is variation on exactly how each church governs itself however. Each church is in communion with each other, and comes together in councils to address concerns that impact all the churches. The bishop with primacy is the Patriarch of Constantinople, known as the Ecumenical Patriarch, who serves as a point of unity and spokesman for Orthodoxy, but does not exercise authority over the other churches. There is debate among Orthodox about his postion in the modern world since there is no longer an empire (oecumenos) and his church has only a few thousand faithful left since centuries of Turkish persecution, and in particular his claim to jurisdiction over Orthodox in the “diaspora”, i.e. new world countries.

Just to clarify; who tells the Patriarch of Constantinople what to say; has he ever said anything others disagreed with and if so how was this resolved?

In the EO view has there been a truly ecumenical council after 1054?

When EO read the gospels and Acts, do they really see absolutely zero difference in the roles Jesus set up for Peter versus the other 11?

I unfortunately don’t know more than that, so I’d have to defer to other Orthodox posters.

No, there hasn’t. My priest said that there can’t be since there is no longer an “oecumenos” or empire, and the term “ecumenical council” means literally “imperial council”. There is talk about a general council, which for all intents and purposes would be what we can an ecumenical council, but they fell through in the beginning stages of discussion. I’ll have to answer the question about Peter tomorrow.

We would say that while Peter has primacy among the apostles, he does not have supremecy. Peter is an apostle, the first among them, but possesses the same office. We believe that all apostolic churches are founded upon Peter since they possess the same faith, and do not see Rome as having inherited any special perrogatives on that basis. We see Rome as the first among equals, but like Peter not having supremecy. Some Orthodox would make Roman primacy purely honorary, and others would admit that it serves as a focus of unity and even a responsibility to oversee the welfare of the entire Church, but our primary objection is to his claims to power over us. The hierarchy of the Church rule by grace, not power, and unfortunately there have been far too many examples of Popes abusing their office which Orthodox still remember.

I’m curious regarding this as I look forward to a reunification with our Orthodox brothers and sisters and just exploring where the road blocks might be. How would this road block be resolved ? within the traditions of both sides at this point in time or forseeable future :slight_smile:

You might have to look pretty far forward for that, and to see the reasons for this, you need to look back.

There have been, on a couple of occasions, brief re-unitings of East and West. They didn’t last long at all. As you look ahead to the possibility of reunification, keep in mind that certain things have to be in place in order for that to happen, but the matter of making it permanent is quite a bit more difficult.

Additionally, the CC has made a number of moves since either of the last attempts that widened the gulf between East and West. The dogma concerning papal infallibility is a particularly large obstacle. The East will always be faithful to ancient Christianity as it was in the first millennium, and they simply cannot do this while affirming that the bishop of Rome enjoys a special charism of infallibility whenever he says he does. But at the same time, the West initially chose to promulgate this teaching in such a way that it will never be possible for Rome to put it on the table and come to any sort of compromise.

Essentially, the East cannot affirm it and the West cannot retract it. And that’s just one of the more recent obstacles…although it is a pretty major one. It also has nothing to do with the reasons that previous attempts have failed, and you might want to look into those as well.

I initially thought reunification might happen relatively soon- if not in my lifetime, perhaps within the next century. Once I got into it a bit more, though, I got the impression that there are intractable differences that cannot be overcome. If you avail yourself of any opportunities that you have and talk to some of the apologists on staff with CAF, I think you’ll get a similar vibe. They tend to look at unity as something that would be really nice, but it’s more of an ideal like “If all the Orthodox Christians individually decided to convert to Catholicism, that would be ideal.” And, for what it’s worth, more doable and realistic.

I didn’t understand where that was coming from at first, given that I initially saw more reason to be optimistic than pessimistic with regard to the possibility of approaching unity. But I think I see it more clearly now. What’s become clear to me is that the East and West will continue to be divided for at least another 2 or 3 centuries, and an additional 1,000 years or more is not at all unrealistic. Especially if the CC continues to create dogma as divisive as that of the past two centuries.

Obviously the Pope does not just declare things of the top of his head and n his own authority but after major consultation. What if the Papal Infallability was rediffined to express this better and Place it more in Line with what you Patriarch of Constantinaple role or is it too different in action.

And oh, how different things would be if the bishop of Rome still had major consultation with Eastern bishops. But a good deal of important things have gone down without that consultation, and some of these things never would have gone down if the consent of Eastern bishops had been required or, indeed, a factor at all. And in some of these instances, there’s really no going back on what was done.

What if the Papal Infallability was rediffined to express this better and Place it more in Line with what you Patriarch of Constantinaple role or is it too different in action.

He’s actually not my patriarch, and I honestly don’t know the extent to which a dogma can be “redefined.” I don’t know that there’s any precedent for it, but from what I gather, there isn’t much of one and there isn’t much in the way of wiggle room in this sort of hypothetical situation. I guess I could find ways to ask about the extent to which central Catholic dogma can be redefined, but with me as the source of such a question, I don’t think that would come across all that well. And to be honest, I have a pretty good idea of what the answer is to start with.

Would it be too rude then to say that EO see the Petrine office as essentially no different than any other episcopal office, except with some figurehead-type leadership role attached?

It doesn’t seem possible that there might be a connection between the lack of a council in the last 1,000+ years and the lack of the Petrine office? Food for thought, anyways.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.