The Weakness of Orthodoxy--Autocephaly?

In his recent interview with Peter Seewald, The Light of the World, Pope Benedict XVI seems to give some credence to the assertion of the preeminent Orthodox theologian here in America, John Meyendorff, that the biggest liability in the Orthodox church is their autocephaly, and that they could benefit much by some element of primacy.

Any thoughts from our Orthodox brothers on this treatment (non-Christians and fellow Catholics welcome, too!)?

From my understanding (correct me if I’m wrong), Orthodox do accept some form of primacy, found in the Ecumenical Patriarch. While they wouldn’t see this primacy as simply an Orthodox version of the Papacy, they do indeed have a form of primacy, while accepting autocephaly of various churches.

Is there a quote from Meyendorff? I’d assume that, being an Orthodox theologian, he would be familiar with the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarch, so perhaps he meant something else?


Only joking. I was actually just looking that up, and–although the actual interview does not provide a citation (interviews generally don’t)–I have managed to come up with possible interpretations for the quote the Holy Father was referring to.

By simply looking up the subject (‘Primacy and Unity’ on OrthodoxWiki, there are numerous Meyendorff quotes on the subject–many implying that the subject needs to be reconsidered and that it remains something of an ‘open question’.

I think you’ll have to admit, though, that the Ecumenical Patriarch’s ‘primacy of honor’ arrangement isn’t exactly ideal for the purposes of the Church and churches. As it is not exactly universal and its relationship to the particular churches varies, depending on the church, I do not think it would be wrong for Meyendorff to hold the view (…perhaps if someone is familiar with the actual quote…) that the current Ecumenical Patriarch does not exactly embody the ideal of primacy.

But any thoughts, or anyone who is familiar with the relevant quote would be welcome to reply!

I have a hard time believing Meyendorff meant the same thing by the words “primacy” as the Pope does.

I agree in many ways that the Orthodox Church would benefit from a clearer primacy, however that’s a far cry from believing we should submit ourselves to the Bishop of Rome.

While I know you were joking, take care to note that asking for a source is not an accusation that one is lying, it is a desire to see the context for oneself.

I’m actually very curious about the source myself (in my notes on the interview, I have a reminder written to “lu:” the source).
To clarify, the Pope was not explicitly advocating a realignment with Rome**, he was just ruminating on quotes from the Orthodox world–in the context of Catholic-Orthodox ecumenicism–that would suggest respected theologians are themselves critical of the autocephalous character that many of the churches assume, even those that submit to a theoretical primacy.

As a polyglot, linguist and theologian of Joseph Ratzinger’s stature–and given how magnanimous he has been in the past after having difficulty with inter-religious gaffs–I do not think that he is somehow misinterpreting Meyendorff’s use of ‘primacy’.

I think this issue needs clarification from someone who has studied Meyendorff and Orthodox views on primacy and unity.

Keep in mind Rome itself assumes an autocephalus character. :wink:

I’ve spent enough time studying semiotics to know that qualifications don’t cancel out the possibility for misunderstanding (especially since as far as I know, Benedict has no qualifications in Eastern Theology), however even then I’m not necessarily saying the pope misunderstood.

Haha, noted, but most people in both the Catholic and Orthodox worlds tend to look to Rome or Constantinople as the ecumenical Center. (… unless you’re Russian or Ukrainian. :P)

I’m glad that we agree–but your first statement, “I have a hard time believing Meyendorff meant the same thing by the words “primacy” as the Pope does.”, seemed to suggest that the Pope did misunderstand him rather than the modest claim that the possibility of misunderstanding existed. I listed his credentials not to rule out that possibility, but to emphasize that it is not probable.

I know that the great Corpus of his work does not give undue treatment to Orthodox theology in particular, but I also wanted to make clear that I don’t believe he would be so indelicate as to ‘miss’ the obvious fact that Fr. Meyendorff was approaching a familiar concept from his own religious background.

[Shamelessly bumping my own thread.]

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