Let me start this column by wishing a “buon onomastico” or “happy name day” to all those named Andrew (Andrea, André). Name days are important in Italy and for some people, their name day is celebrated more than their birthday!
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.
So many questions are asked about the differences between Catholics and Orthodox and I hope this report (I have posted this in the past on the feast of St. Andrew) and the two links I provide will answer some of those questions.
Pope Francis had a message today for Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople as the Orthodox celebrate St. Andrew: Pope to Bartholomew: Only dialogue and encounter can overcome conflicts – Vatican News
UNDERSTANDING CATHOLIC-ORTHODOX RELATIONS: YESTERDAY AND TODAY
Today is the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Holy See and the Patriarchate 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.
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 (now 94 years old, God bless him!), the then primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, spiritual leader of some 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians, and exarch (bishop) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
With Abp. Demetrios in the Phanar residence:
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.
Click here for my talk with Abp. Demetrios (for the Orthodox, an archbishop is referred to with the title Eminence: A CONVERSATION WITH ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP DEMETRIOS: A PAPAL TRIP, CHRISTIANS IN TURKEY, CHRISTIAN UNITY | Joan’s Rome (wordpress.com)