I may be taking some time off tomorrow to celebrate another beautiful gift from God – another year of life in a beautiful family – my blood relatives as well as friends who are like family and my huge faith family, the Catholic Church! I don’t actually know how many times day I thank God for things, large and small, but it surely in the dozens.
I am grateful for countless things and events and people in my life and you, my readers and those who listen to “Vatican Insider” on the radio are high on that list. May each day of your lives be filled with many God-given moments for which to be thankful!
However, I will be with you briefly tomorrow! Don’t forget to listen to Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo. I join her every Wednesday, birthday or not, at 9:39 ET (3:39 pm in Rome).
ROME CELEBRATES HER PATRON SAINTS, PETER AND PAUL
Today, June 29 is the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles and patron saints of the City of Rome. It is a holiday in the Vatican and in Rome and usually is a very festive occasion but the Coronavirus has again muted some celebrations this year, although the papal Mass during which Pope Francis blessed the palliums to be given to the new metropolitan archbishop created since last June 29 took place in the splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The pallium is a white woolen circular band embroidered with six black crosses and two hanging pieces, one in front and another in back, that is worn over the shoulders and symbolizes their authority as archbishop and their special bond with the Roman Pontiff.
For decades the pallium was placed by the Pope on the shoulders of the new metropolitan archbishops, However, in 2015 Francis changed the traditional ceremony, having decided that the public ceremony of investiture of the pallium on metropolitan archbishops would henceforth take place in their home dioceses and not in the Vatican as has been the case under recent pontiffs. The nuncio to the country of the new archbishop places the pallium on his shoulders.
June 29 is also one of two days a year (the other is the February 22 feast of the Chair of Peter) when the bronze statue of the saint for whom the basilica is named is adorned with pontifical vestments, the triple tiara and a papal ring. His right foot is almost worn away from years of pilgrims kissing or rubbing the foot. Pope Francis kissed the foot this morning.
UNDERSTANDING CATHOLIC-ORTHODOX RELATIONS: YESTERDAY AND TODAY
In 2006 I covered the visit to Turkey by Benedict XVI and learned a great deal about Catholic-Orthodox relations, as well as those between the Catholic Church and Islam. Before this apostolic pilgrimage, I studied at length both aspects of the papal trip – the visit to the Orthodox patriarchate and the Church’s relations with Islam given that Pope Benedict made history with a much-applauded visit to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. Today I provide a capsule summary of what I learned and wrote about at the time.
The Holy See and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople exchange regular annual visits and send delegations for the feast days of their respective patrons. The Vatican celebrates the June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles and the Orthodox patriarchate marks the November 30 feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Roman Catholics believe St. Peter was given the mandate by Christ to lead the church and was thus the first Pope. The Orthodox believe that mandate was given to his brother, Andrew.
Both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have travelled to Turkey to celebrate this feast together with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. I was in Turkey to cover Benedict’s trip in November 2006 but did not accompany Francis in 2014.
On both occasions a Divine Liturgy was celebrated in St. George Church, located in the Phanar neighborhood (also spelled Fanar) of Istanbul. The name is the Turkish transliteration of the original Greek word meaning a lighting lantern, a streetlight, a lightpost with a lantern. The name is also linked to the classical phanárion and the modern fanári meaning “lantern.”
The Phanar neighborhood became home to many Greeks as well as to the Patriarchate of Constantinople after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, 400 years after the Great Schism, the divide between Constantinople and Rome, between the Eastern and Western Churches.
Today Phanar houses the offices of the patriarchate and the residence of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Just as the term Vatican – Vatican City State – is used the describe the heart of the Catholic Church, the Holy See, Phanar is often shorthand for the Ecumenical Pariarchate.
In his talk on November 30, 2006, Pope Benedict said, “the divisions that exist among Christians are a scandal to the world and an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel.”
One of the principal reasons for the thousand-year old split between Catholics and Orthodox is the Petrine ministry – Petrine referring to St. Peter – and the Petrine ministry being the office of the Pope.
Benedict made reference to that as well in his talk. He said that Christ gave Peter and Andrew the task of being “fishers of men,” but entrusted that task to each in different ways. Peter, said the Pope, was called “the rock upon which the Church was to be built and entrusted him with the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.” Peter traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome “so that in that city he might exercise a universal responsibility.”
“The issue of the universal service of Peter and his Successors,” said Benedict XVI, “has unfortunately given rise to our differences of opinion, which we hope to overcome.”
Some historical background on the East-West split:
What has come to be known as the East-West Schism occurred in 1054 when Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople, leader of the Eastern Christian Churches, and Pope Leo IX, leader of the Western Church, excommunicated each other. The mutual excommunications were lifted only in 1965 when both Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, following their history-making meeting in Jerusalem in 1964, held ceremonies that revoked the excommunication decrees.
Differences between the two Churches on matters of doctrine, theology, and language had been growing for years, with the most prominent issue being papal primacy. There were also issued over claims of jurisdiction. However, the two Churches have been seeking unity ever since.
The Petrine ministry – the primacy of the Pope – was specifically mentioned vis-a-vis the Orthodox Church in the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled “Responses to Some Questions on Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church,” dated June 29, 2007.
Pope Francis quoted this document – specifically the fourth question – in his talk during the Divine Liturgy in 2014. (This 1,200-word document, excluding footnotes, with five questions and five answers is eminently readable: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070629_responsa-quaestiones_en.html)
If you have time today, or want to save this for a later reading, here is the transcript of my lengthy interview for EWTN radio in Phanar with Archbishop Demetrios, the then primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, spiritual leader of some 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians, and exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The interview came at the end of Pope Benedict’s visit to Ankara, Ephesus and Istanbul where he met with Muslims as well as with the Orthodox, with whom he celebrated their November 30th patronal feast day of St. Andrew. Though I did this in November 2006, much of what the archbishop explains as the realities of the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue and the differences between the Churches remain current. A CONVERSATION WITH ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP DEMETRIOS: A PAPAL TRIP, CHRISTIANS IN TURKEY, CHRISTIAN UNITY | Joan’s Rome (wordpress.com)