07 November 2006, 14:34
Meeting between Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew will not be a meeting of heads two universal Churches - Moscow Patriarchate
Vienna, November 7, Interfax - Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria, representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to European international organizations, urged not to see in the forthcoming meeting of Pope Benedict XVI of Rome and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople a meeting of heads of the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity.
‘When he (Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople - IF) is presented as the ‘head’ of the Orthodox Church worldwide, it is misleading. It is equally misleading when his meeting with the Pope of Rome is considered to be a meeting of the heads of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches’, Bishop Hilarion stated in his interview to the Zenit news agency.
He reminded the agency that the Patriarch of Constantinople is primus inter pares, the first among equals in the family of Eastern Orthodox Churches, ‘but his primacy is that of honor, not of jurisdiction, since he has no ecclesial authority over the other Churches’.
Until 1054, the Moscow Patriarchate representative continued, it was the Bishop of Rome who enjoyed a position of primacy among the heads of the Christian Churches, while the canons of the Eastern Church - in particular, the famous 28th canon of the Council of Chalcedon - ascribe to the patriarch of Constantinople the second, not the first place.
“Moreover, the ground on which this second place was granted to the patriarch of Constantinople was purely political: once Constantinople became ‘the second Rome,’ capital of the Roman - Byzantine - Empire, it was considered that the bishop of Constantinople should occupy the second seat after the Bishop of Rome,’ Bishop Hilarion explained.
He expressed hope that the visit of Benedict XVI to Istanbul ‘will further improve the relations between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople’, which broke communion with one another in 1054 - the fact, according to the bishop, the ‘makes them especially responsible to restore unity.’
At the same time, the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate believes that along with contacts with Constantinople ‘it is equally important for the Roman Catholic Church to develop bilateral relations with other Orthodox Churches, notably with the Russian Orthodox Church.’
‘The latter, being the second largest Christian Church in the world - its membership comprises some 160 million believers worldwide - is eager to develop such relations, especially in the field of common Christian witness to secularized society,’ Bishop Hilarion remarked.