PAPISM’  THE INSURMOUNTABLE OBSTACLE  OF CHRISTIAN UNITY Part 1 Introductory Remarks Following the totally unexpected escalation in provocations from the Vatican, under BENEDICT XVI, towards other Christians (especially the Orthodox, as we shall see below!), it is as plain as the sun that we are unfortunately entering a period of complete uncertainty, to mention nothing of strange ‘obscurity’. The medieval audacity of ‘Papism’, which we all believed was a thing of the past – in spite of the highly controversial dogmatism of the ‘doctrine of papal infallibility’ at Vatican Council I (1870) – is making a surprising return, and indeed in a manner that is completely incompatible with the deeper cultivation of persons, and the sincere efforts towards ‘purification’ which the Western Christian world in general has presented during the past two centuries. Therefore, given the general tendency of the ‘Ecumenical Movement’ on the one hand towards revitalization and reconstitution, coupled with the official decision of the Roman Church expressed through Vatican Council II concerning a substantial purification of ‘institutions’, ‘functions’ and ‘persons’ on the basis of the genuine sources of the common first Christian millennium, the terrible impression may be given that all these things are not only doubted, but in fact ridiculed. We should then say bluntly: that it appears that the approach of the hard-line cardinals of the Roman Curia has prevailed, which establishes ‘Papism ’ (not as the ‘Primacy of one Bishop’, but as an unbearably totalitarian ‘ideology’) as the truly INSURMOUNTABLE OBSTACLE, firstly for the ‘reunification’ of divided Christians, but also simply for peaceful ‘unity’ among themselves. Not to mention with non-Christians and ‘atheists’.  For this reason we are obliged today to make several brief comments and observations in simplified language (as much as this is possible, for the benefit mainly of the everyday Christians of East and West), in relation to the very recent revival of Papal Primacy and Infallibility, under the most unexpected circumstances, and at the expense of Christianity as a whole. The observations presented here become even more urgent in order to prevent possibly greater problems between the Christian Churches and Denominations, but also in terms of the Churches’ imperative creative relations with the rest of the world, which finds itself before enormous impasses, and for which Christianity still claims to ‘maintain’ unchanged the only saving truth from Revelation for all. Brief overview of the historical evolution of Papism in the Church Whoever has happened to study Church history seriously, i.e. without prejudices, would no doubt have observed (sometimes with astonishment, but on most occasions with justifiable indignation) an almost incredible fact: Before the Roman Emperors’ frightful persecutions of Christians had ceased on an institutional level (312-313AD), their Bishops – who were considered to be the immediate Successors to the Apostles – began to show signs of an unhealthy ‘ambition’ which was incompatible with the teaching of Christ. What was initially a reserved rivalry between them for ‘Primacy’, ‘Seniority’ and ‘Presidency’, very soon developed almost into a war of ‘fratricide’, when Christianity became the ‘legal’, and then ‘official’, religion of the State under Constantine the Great. The insatiable thirst of the Bishops was for Primacy and Seniority, in cases where their ‘Sees’ were in large cities and therefore acquired secular prestige and glory. First in this regard, and without compare for a considerable time, was Rome. Just as the pagan Roman Emperor of the day was called Augustus (= ‘worthy of respect’, an epithet of the gods!), and Ancient Rome was characterized as Roma aeterna (= ‘the eternal city’!), so it happened that the Bishop of Rome did not delay to gradually claim, first for his local Church and then for his person, analogously impious titles, and indeed to a superlative degree. The Vicarius Christi (= ‘representative of Christ’) we could say was the approximate translation, in Christian vocabulary, of Pontifex Maximus (= ‘Supreme Bridge-Maker’). There is perhaps no other issue which has occupied so intensely and continually the Synods of the ancient Church (whether Regional or Ecumenical) during the common first millennium as the order of ‘Seniority’ between the Episcopal Thrones, especially of ‘Rome’ and ‘New Rome’ (Constantinople), before the formation of the well-known Pentarchy of Patriarchs (of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem). However it must be stated that the problem is not as simple as it may at first appear to be. It did not only arise out of the practical need for the ‘First among Equals’ (Primus inter pares) to preside, according to the spirit of the 34th Apostolic Canon. There also intervened difficult historical circumstances, according to which the ‘more practical solution’ was a great temptation, with the price in terms of ‘ethical deontology’ being not only heavy, but utterly devastating. Yet if the 34th Canon, which is relatively old and very ‘Apostolic’ in spirit (although its date is not in fact from the time of the Apostles!), was respected, it is certain that historical Christianity as a whole would have avoided many perils. An equal number of perils, if not more, would have been avoided also by the non-Christian populations which, for centuries now, have undergone the colonial callousness and invasive exploitation by so-called Christian leaders of the West, accompanied and assisted by so-called missionaries who equally saw material aspirations and interests (look at the peoples of what we call the ‘Third World’ today!). The concise text of the 34th Apostolic Canon must be quoted here in full, so as to make clear to all the unimaginable ‘renewal of the world’ (!) that might have been achieved over the centuries, had this golden Canon been fundamentally applied by those considered to be ‘spiritual’ Fathers and Leaders of Christianity. This astonishing text is as follows: “It behoves the Bishops of every nation to know the one among them who is the premier or chief, and to recognize them as their head, and to refrain from doing anything superfluous without his advice and approval; but, instead, each of them should do only whatever is necessitated by his own eparchy and by the territories under him. But let not even such a one do anything without the advice and consent and approval of all. For thus there will be concord, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” (The Rudder, by Priest-Monk Agapios and Monk Nicodemos, translated by D. Cummins, Chicago, 1957) Already from a first glance, the careful reader of this Canon can see where its theological weight is to be found. The ‘mutuality’ of honour and confidence which is established as an inviolable ‘condition of peace’ in the Church, also safeguards a much higher good. This is the true doxology or glorification of the Trinitarian God, which can only be achieved through ‘concord’ among the Bishops. In this way, we have vividly before us an Ecclesiology founded upon Trinitarian theology, i.e. derived from the most sacred and indestructible ‘Model’ of the Holy Trinity. This in turn means of course that the relations between the three divine Persons must be reflected directly and convincingly in the relations between the Bishops, together with each of the local Churches. Only then is the ‘unity’ on the one hand, and ‘communion’ on the other, safeguarded in the Church. Part 2 Following the mystagogical vision of the “primordial Mystery of the Church”, as described with astonishing theological consistency in the 34th Apostolic Canon, it would be a terribly backward step and vain endeavour to comment here on the ‘pseudoclementine’ and ‘pseudoisidorian’ textual claims concerning primacy, which have long ago been refuted by objective historians and theologians. These and other manipulations or casuistic interpretations were employed by Rome on more than a few occasions, so as to ‘support’ the ‘primacy’ of the Apostle Peter initially, and of the Bishop of Rome subsequently, who was considered to be the only Successor of Peter. An exhaustive and systematic negation of what was dared by the Papists of the West was presented in our doctoral thesis (The Infallibility of the Church in Orthodox Theology, Athens, 1965), the English translation of which shall, God willing, soon be published. We will therefore restrict ourselves to presenting concisely, and directly to the current Pope Benedict XVI, just a few fundamental questions. These questions should – in spite of his high office – be answered by the Pope himself, as they concern him directly. At any rate, in the dialogue between Christians, and especially Bishops, avoidances are impermissible, in accordance with Christ’s command to say either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We consider it just for Benedict XVI to answer personally the questions we present below, for two main reasons: Firstly, because they bear directly upon the whole of Christianity, as a single body in world history. Secondly, because a host of the current Pope’s earlier writings, as Professor Ratzinger, had contributed greatly to the intended ‘renewal’ and ‘purification’ of the Western Church, through the Second Vatican Council. First question: Can he who made his mark as the Theologian Joseph Ratzinger deny that the function of the ‘First’ in the Church – regardless of whether it refers to the Apostle Peter, or to any other of the sacred group of ‘The Twelve’, or even to the Bishops who are their Successors – had from the outset an absolutely soteriological character, with the corresponding and consequent administrative implications upon the entire ecclesiastical life of the ‘Church militant’ in each local area? Second question: Is it possible for the soteriological character of the ‘First’, in general, to be ‘bound’ and indeed ‘predetermined’ by a particular geographic region or city? If the continually changing underlying historical and geographical conditions, which sometimes lead to decay or disuse, were of such decisive significance for SALVATION, would not the Primacy of Jerusalem have from the very beginning prevailed upon world Christianity, since this is where the saving drama of the divine economy had unfolded historically and geographically, with Christ at the very centre? Yet in such a case, how are we to understand the radically contrary statements of Christ to the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob? What is the meaning of those striking messages: “neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem” (John 4:21)? Third question:  From when was it possible, and with which theological arguments, for Rome to be ‘differentiated’ so radically from the common teaching of the Christian Church of both East and West, concerning ‘Apostolic Succession’ (succesio Apostolica), making the succession of the Bishop of Rome such a weighty matter? Would it ever be possible to seriously claim that the local Bishop is the successor of only one specific Apostle (eg. Peter by the Bishop of Rome, Mark by the Bishop of Alexandria, Andrew by the Bishop of New Rome, and so on)? If this was the meaning of Apostolic Succession, would it not follow that the number of Bishops throughout the entire Church would never be more than 12 in number? And then should not Rome, as a result, be speaking specifically about successio Petrina, rather than insisting on the more comprehensive term Apostolica? On the contrary, the correct conviction and teaching of Scripture and Tradition concerning succession is that all Bishops succeed the eschatologically significant Group of Twelve, and this is why the Church always essentially included in the meaning of Apostolic Succession not only the Bishops, but also the Presbyters, as differing very little from them in terms of the ‘saving’ mission of the Church. Fourth question: Can the current Pope state responsibly as a theologian that the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church - who as all know are appointed directly by the Bishop of Rome without being elected by the Synod of their local Church - are to be considered as equal in authority to the Orthodox Bishops ‘elected’ by a canonical Synod? Does the holy Father recall that, as the official Theological Dialogue’s Co-Chair on behalf of the Orthodox delegation for 20 years, I had personally protested to him because the Vatican had still not restored its Bishops in general to their most sacred office, just as the undivided Church [of the first millennium] knew it, and that the Orthodox justly demand it so that we may consider the election of Roman Catholic Bishops ‘valid’? Is it not then highly ‘lenient’ and ‘tolerant’ on the part of Orthodox Bishops that we still – while officially dialoguing with Roman Catholic Bishops – silently accept them as our ‘counterparts’? Fifth question:  If the non-acceptance by Orthodox of the ‘primacy’ and ‘infallibility’ of the Bishop of Rome constitutes for Pope Benedict XVI a deficit of Orthodoxy, in order to be considered by Rome a complete and true Church, then what was the point of the axiomatic common statement concerning the official Theological Dialogue, that it is being conducted “on equal terms”? Sixth question:  The characterization of the Church militant as a “perfect society” (societas perfecta), which became prevalent among Roman Catholics through the influence of Augustine (civitas Dei) was justly and most correctly replaced in the texts of the Second Vatican Council by the terms “People of God” (populus Dei), to express as a journey of pilgrimage (perecrinatio) the dynamic and evolving character of all categories of faithful (Clergy, Monks, Lay) in the present world. No theologian who has studied the Second Vatican Council can ignore that the Professor of Dogmatic Theology Joseph Ratzinger had also contributed in no small measure to the formulation of the mentioned renewed texts. How is it that today the same Dogmatic Theologian, now as Pope, proclaims indirectly the reviled theory of societas perfecta which, even if unwittingly, competes with the most secular forms of narcissism in modern globalization? Seventh question: In closing with the symbolic number of seven (7) questions arising from today’s ‘isolation’ of Pope benedict XVI (both from his deeper self, as well as from his most sincere friends and admirers which he had acquired by his tranquil and ever-modest presence), we would wish to know the position the theologizing Pope takes at this time on two of his better known works, which also showed the broadest horizons that the name Ratzinger represented for many decades. We refer to the following enthusiastic and enthusing studies: a) ‘The influence of the Order of Beggars in the Middle Ages upon the development of the Worldwide Primacy of the Pope’ (Munich, 1957). Therein it is admitted that, in spite of  the invoked spirituality of the ascetic Bonaventura, artificial means were employed to achieve the purely strategic goal of Rome. b) In ‘Christian Brotherhood’, which was originally delivered as a lecture in Vienna in 1958 and soon became the first book of the young Professor Ratzinger (which was also translated into Greek with a special prologue written by the author), it is emphasized that, in contrast to the various modern groupings which constitute ‘closed societies’, i.e. ‘exclusive’ clubs, Christian Brotherhood remains ‘open’ so as to include all. Today, unfortunately, it sounds like a tragic irony to hear the praise offered by the Archdiocese of Freiburg, on the occasion of the new edition of that book, and in particular the assertion that “according precisely to this spirit the current Pope still acts and wishes to be understood”! If only that were the case; nothing indicates that it is. WHEN ‘PLUSES’ BECOME ‘MINUSES  -  (Professor Joseph Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict XVI) We deliberately allowed the first impressions to pass, and for the speculation and enthusiasm aroused by the almost unexpected election of Pope Benedict XVI to abate somewhat, before commenting on his subsequent ‘astonishing’ statements and actions in the international arena of Politics and Ecumenism, so as not to do injustice to his intentions and visions – as do they who do not know the man. In briefly evaluating, today, the theological presence, on the one hand, and the administrative activity, on the other, of the most distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology, Joseph Ratzinger, who almost a year ago was elevated to Pope under the name Benedict XVI, the writer does not intend to infringe upon the responsibilities of any other contemporary Administrative Head or Theologian of the Orthodox Church. He simply wishes to place on record, for the sake of truth alone, matters which he happens to know personally from first hand. And this, not only because of his long-standing and uninterrupted friendship with the current Pontiff, up until his elevation to the Papal Throne, but above all because of his highly responsible position as Chairman of the Orthodox delegation for 20 testing years in the Official Theological Dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics, which altogether unjustly and shamefully capitulated into an utter ‘calamity’ at Baltimore in 2000. This essentially ‘martyric deposition’ becomes all the more morally requisite also because of the statement of honour conscientiously repeated by the Pontiff himself on the occasion of his first Official Visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, naming two specific persons whom, in a sense, he characterized as the living source from which he ‘came to know and love Orthodoxy’. That the first of those persons is the humble writer of this article, undoubtedly creates additional ‘demands’ and ‘obligations’. In order, however, for the present ‘deposition’ to satisfy the specific, reasonable questions of the average reader, it is necessary – regarding the positive or negative influences of the new Pontiff on the global ‘arena’ of so-called modernism – to restrict our brief assessments and observations to the three key areas which, from the vantage of Tradition, even today, are especially significant: a. The Vatican itself b. Islam and Christianity c. Byzantine Orthodoxy The Vatican itself For someone, like the writer, who had the opportunity to observe the academic career of the current Pope, from yet his first steps and publications as Associate Professor at the Theological Seminary of Freising (near Munich), to his mature treatises and the wealth of literature which he later produced as Professor Joseph Ratzinger at the most prominent universities of the then Western Germany, there was never a doubt that this distinguished, gentle and pious Clergyman would emerge, during the critical years of preparation and conduct of the famous Vatican II Council (1962-1965), as the most suitable ‘communicator’ of the Western Church with all the currents of contemporary Protestantism, for a truly ‘creative synthesis’ which would, at the same time, produce the ‘purification’ which the Council sought, after 100 years of complete silence of the Synodal institution in the West. Through the ‘regenerating’ introspection of the Council in mention (which provided important ecclesiological texts for world Christianity), Professor Ratzinger had become a firm advocate for the ‘dynamic transcendence’ from barren Thomism and Legalism which - following the tumultuous Middle Ages, the much-divided Protestant movement and the ‘modernistic’ currents of the more modern era - had provided the Papal-centred spirit of the Roman Church the possibility of ‘creating a dogma’ for the Bishop of Rome, through the Vatican I Council (1870), presenting him as the absolute Monarch of global Christianity (Primacy-Infallibility). For precisely this reason, the name and the personality of Ratzinger became a ‘pole of attraction’ for all Orthodox theologians undertaking post-graduate studies, especially for the Greeks.   It should be considered a certainty that, had there not developed a close cooperation and mutual respect between himself and the acutely politicized and dynamic Polish Pontiff, John-Paul II, who appointed him in essence to the true ‘rudder’ of the Vatican (as Prefect of the Congregatio Fidei), then his indisputable respect for the genuine traditional values of the 1st Christian Millennium would never have permitted the modest theologian Ratzinger to envisage himself in the role of the Papal Office, even in its somewhat ‘simplified’ mould of today!    In any event, however, the ‘surprise’ of his unexpected election could not but raise the hopes of all around the world who honoured the education and theological vigilance of Cardinal Ratzinger  as well as his tireless work in his capacity as Prefect of the Congregatio Fidei, that there would prevail a more realistic ‘adaptation’ of the contemporary Roman Catholic world to the needs of modern times. Besides, ‘adjomamento’ was, literally, the motto by which the amiable Pope John 23rd of blessed memory, dared to convene a Council of the calibre and programme of Vatican II. It was precisely the major decisions of that Council, in relation to the urgently imperative return ‘to the sources of authentic Christianity’, that the new Pope was called to ‘implement’ in the ‘structure’ and ‘function’ of all the historical institutions of the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, his relatively advanced age (79) for a position of such manifold responsibilities, and his undoubtedly burdened state of health in recent years, perhaps were meant to act as a ‘constraint’. Yet, these same ‘personal’ traits, in a more venturesome man, may have provided the impetus for the acceleration of long outstanding changes, for instance, such as the canonical election of bishops by a Synod, and no longer by the Pope’s direct ‘nomination’ of their ‘appointment’ (!), a matter which we had personally, repeatedly and unambiguously discussed together, even up until recent times when the writer was still the Orthodox Chairman of our Official Theological Dialogue. However, if one were to judge by the new leadership of the ‘Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity’, then it becomes plain as daylight that, under the Presidency of Professor and now Cardinal Walter Kasper (also from Germany) this so ‘sensitive’ function of the Vatican, instead of developing further the indisputable achievements of Ecumenism in our day, rather inaugurated unprecedented Papocentric attitudes and tactics which, in the end, might possibly ‘suspend’ everything that we – the Orthodox at least – had hoped for and almost believed in, upon the elevation to the Papal Throne of the enlightened Ecumenist theologian Joseph Ratzinger. This, unfortunately, appeared immediately with the unacceptable and audacious conduct towards the most critical issue of Uniatism. Though it had been made known internationally that we had, in our Official Theological Dialogue, jointly ‘condemned’ Uniatism, ‘as a method of rapprochement’ between our two Churches, Rome dared suddenly and unilaterally to ignore the outcomes decided in the Dialogue with reference to this issue, as non-occurrences, resulting in the known impasse at Baltimore. We shall not say any more here, since we will return to this subject in paragraph ‘c’ below. b. Islam and Christianity The new Pope, without obviously expecting it, created the greatest crisis to his image during his celebratory speech at the Aula Magna of Regensburg University in Bavaria, where he had gone especially to celebrate (9-13 Sept. 2006) the Jubilee for ‘40 years of contact with the Churches of the East’, together with a host of colleagues and friends of old. The Jubilee in mention had been organized with much enthusiasm by ‘The Committee for Ecumenical Relations of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy in Germany’, known for its ‘Theological Symposia of Regensburg’, from long ago, and its exchange of scholarship holders for a more substantial acquaintance with the National Orthodox Churches, in the first instance, but also with Copts, Syrochaldeans and other Ecclesiastical Communities of the East. Because he found himself once again in his most beloved academic environment, in a city where contemporary Dialogues of every nature were at the epicentre of interest for the unification of Europe, the ‘Professor’ Pope saw this as a unique opportunity to state his views concerning the relations between Islam and Christianity, a subject of acute timeliness, especially for Germany, and particularly in the midst of problematic ‘accession negotiations’ through which Turkey is applying pressure to enter the European Union under its dynamic yet contoversial Islamist Prime Minister, Tayip Erdogan. We should not forget that today’s Pontiff, while still Cardinal of Munich, had succeeded a courageous Pastor and battler, Cardinal Julius Doepfner, who as Cardinal of Berlin previously, had personally witnessed the most volatile conditions of pastoral problems created by the presence of millions of Turkish ‘economic immigrants’ in these two major German cities. There is no doubt that the Pope did not wish to become embroiled in the direct socio-political parameters of the problem. Plainly, however, he desired to contribute towards a creative Dialogue which needed to be pursued on purely ‘religious’ grounds between Christianity and Islam. For this reason, even though he had not up until now concealed his reservations and his denial in seeing Turkey prematurely incorporated into the European Union, he hastened to bring to the forefront of current affairs the example of a historical Dialogue which had taken place during the 14th century between the adventuresome Byzantine Emperor Michael II and a wise Persian, a Dialogue which the Pope had observed in a relevant publication by Professor Theodore Khoury in Münster, Germany. It would be impossible for an unbiased reader of the text of the official Papal Lecture (and in the original German at that) to find a remotely hostile or scornful remark against Islam or the Koran itself. Also, no fair-minded listener or reader of the text in mention could possibly doubt the good intention of this profound scholar of the ‘religious phenomenon’ in general, and in particular of the fundamental ‘supplications’ presented to the prudent person by the so-called ‘question about God’. Precisely here, one should recall that the first Official Papal Encyclical issued by Benedict XVI was based on one solitary theme: ‘Deus Caritas Est!’ (‘God is Love’). Consequently, it is not without significance that the international turmoil evoked almost reflexively by the lurking ‘criers’ of the current political circumstances, was not caused either by level-headed Researchers of Islam nor by the contemporary Religious Leaders of Islam. The turmoil was created immediately by extremely politicized ‘Activists’, not of Human Rights Movements, but of immiscible Political Organizations of Europe, America etc, which the more serious European and, in particular, German Press did not hesitate to expose with their specific names and whom they represent. That the above-mentioned adversaries were not fair-minded ‘discussion partners’ or even simply ‘offended faithful of the Prophet’ was clearly demonstrated by the acidity with which they persistently sought an unequivocal apology, in order to ‘humiliate’ the Leader of Roman Catholicism. In any event, if they wanted explanations or clarifications, these were not denied by the Pontiff who, at the same time, expressed his sorrow at the complete misinterpretation of his words and intentions. In the humble opinion of the writer, nonetheless, perhaps the mistake of the ‘infallible’ Pope was that he underestimated a latent centuries-old ‘psychological’ factor: That the name ‘Byzantium’ and, indeed, the recognizable historical personality of that region and civilization, as is the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II, would unavoidably evoke some not so pleasant, albeit subconscious, ‘connectivity’, which was something dangerous and unbeneficial! Whereas, had he spoken entirely in point of fact on the relations between the Christian Gospel and the Koran, the topic could perhaps have been ‘economized’ better. Byzantine Orthodoxy The distinct appreciation of the new Pontiff for Orthodoxy in its entirety – as the unaltered treasure which preserved for the whole of Christianity the authentic central ‘structures’ and ‘functions’ of the 1st Christian Millennium – was not merely acknowledged. It was officially and repeatedly confessed by the Pontiff himself through the plethora of his ecclesiological studies, as well as through his relevant statements. This precisely - which was and remains his great advantage over his Predecessors - created for him however certain specific and, by no means pleasant, responsibilities. Especially the advantage of his theological education and maturity, enforced a new order of priorities and, indeed, one in contrast to the so- called ‘World Ecclesiastical Politic’ established by his immediate Predecessor, John-Paul II. The dynamic Polish Cardinal of Kraków, Karol Wojtyla who, as Pope John-Paul II, set a precedent by surpassing all other Ecclesiastical and Political Leaders in mobility, was nonetheless, from the beginning in many ways a captive of, and in deep solidarity with, the entire five-century history of Uniatism. This illegitimate fabrication by Rome, which the Orthodox justifiably characterized as a ‘Trojan Horse’, used against the Eastern Church in general, has left deep wounds and indelible traces in the relations between Rome and the Orthodox peoples of Eastern and Central Europe, as well as the Middle East. Of course, Cardinal Ratzinger was well aware of these matters, as Prefect of the Congregatio Fidei at the Vatican. Above all, though, he was aware – as a member himself of the Joint Committee for the Official Theological Dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics – of the deep sensitivity of all Orthodox regarding this critical and thorny problem of Uniatism. And more so following its sudden and highly militant rebirth after the collapse of the vast Empire of the former Soviet Union. But, even from his substantial tenure during the preparation and conduct of the Vatican II Synod which, as is known, dared to implement courageous decisions for vital reforms in the contemporary Roman Catholic Church, not only in liturgical regeneration but also in matters of genuine Ecumenism, the current Pope was duty-bound to forthrightly state two things about Orthodoxy: Firstly, that, of all the Christian Churches or Confessions today, Orthodoxy is the closest to the Tradition of the Undivided Church of the first millennium. Secondly: that, precisely because of its faithfulness, it constitutes the most valid witness to the value of the reforms endorsed by the Vatican II Synod. For all the above reasons, the new Pope hastened to express his desire and readiness to visit Constantinople expeditiously, as the First Throne of all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches. If one takes into consideration the familiar reactionary movements, as well as the ‘diplomatic’ obstructions with which the Turkish Government, initially, treated the intellectual and enthusiastically phil-Orthodox Pope Benedict XVI, we should give recognition to his unshakeable stability and his great patience. What unfolded gradually, however, during his Official Visit of support to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, unfortunately is not what any objective observer would have expected. His excessive submissiveness to Turkish pressure did not harm only his former image internationally. It might, perhaps, have undermined the authority of the Papal institution with problems of wider ramifications which we hope will not manifest themselves in the near future. As for his anticipated positive accord towards Orthodoxy, it must be stated unequivocally that the learned Pontiff was rather ‘trapped’, either by the latent messianism of the Papal office, or by the coalitional powers in centres of influence which he was not able to control. In any event, the blatant political game of ‘worldly diplomacy’ which was recommended he follow, that is, to demonstrate in the end an entirely unacceptable inconsistency on the subject of Uniatism, is the ‘acid test’ which, it appears, will unfortunately stamp his entire Papal tenure. At any rate, this became apparent also from his wholly unprecedented decision to suddenly and inexplicably reject the title ‘Patriarch of the West’ in order to be entitled to abandon the ecclesiological territory of the Traditional Pentarchy, in which case, as the absolute Monarch, he will feel entitled, at whim, to intervene in the East and the West. For these precise reasons, in conclusion, the writer publicizes his letter to the venerable Centre in Phanar, Constantinople, in response to the relevant Patriarchal Letter on the occasion of the recent Papal Visit. As for the supposed ‘continuation’ of the Theological Dialogue, we reserve our qualified judgment for the future because, for the time being, there prevail absolute fluidity and total vagueness.
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