Met Anthony explains difference in understanding primacy by Phanar and ROC

Metropolitan Anthony giving a lecture at the KTAS. Photo:

Met Anthony believes that Phanar is developing the idea of an "Eastern papacy", which is completely unacceptable for the Russian Church and other Local Churches.

On March 30, 2021, the UOC Chancellor, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary, in his report "Orthodox Teaching About the Church: Modern Challenges and the Search for Answers" at the XI student conference, spoke about the difference in understanding of primacy in the Church between the Phanar and the Russian Orthodox Church, reports the UOC Information and Education Department.

Metropolitan Anthony reminded that today the Patriarch of Constantinople insists on his special status in the Ecumenical Church, which provides for him only the primacy of honour but also the primacy of authority.

Vladyka noted that “the understanding of primacy in the Ecumenical Church has been the subject of theological polemics between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches for many centuries” since “it was the Roman bishops who began to gain a special power in the Ecumenical Church, which led to the formation of the phenomenon of papacy”.

The hierarch recalled that "such an understanding of church primacy caused rejection in the Christian East already in the era of the Ancient Church," and "the schism of 1054 was largely the result of the imperious ambitions of the Roman bishops".

Vladyka said that today, after the start of a dialogue with the Catholic Church, representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople developed their doctrine of primacy, but it "turned out to be absolutely unacceptable for the Russian Orthodox Church".

In the 2007 Ravenna document, which was not signed by the ROC, Vladyka continued, "the existence of primacy in the Church at the eccumennaical (universal) level is recognized", and "in the East, the Patriarch of Constantinople occupied a place similar to the bishop of Rome in the West".

“The delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church came out with a fundamental denial of such a formulation, noting that in the East, communion with the See of Constantinople has never been considered a prerequisite for conciliarity (as was the case in the West with respect to the See of Rome – Ed.). Accordingly, the Patriarch of Constantinople has never played a role in the Orthodox Church similar to that of the Roman bishop in the West,” Vladyka emphasized.

Metropolitan Anthony went on to say that the main author of the ecclesiological model that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is promoting today is John (Zizioulas), who "bases his vision of the Church on the doctrine of the Eucharist as a church assembly in which the Church can be realized."

“Therefore, the primacy of the bishop at the local level is manifested, first of all, in his ptayerful intercession at the liturgy, that is, in the Eucharistic assembly. At the local level, primacy is manifested in the Council of Bishops ", and "the voice and face of the Council can only be a person, that is the Primate ... With this view, the Local Church as the organic unity of individuals is personified in the person of the Primate," said Metropolitan Anthony.

Another theologian of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Archbishop Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis) believes that primacy at all three levels of the Church's existence (diocesan, local and ecumenical) is unique in nature, and believes that personal primacy should exist in the Church as well.

Transferring triadology (which speaks of monarchy, or the primacy of God the Father in the Holy Trinity, - Ed.) to the sphere of ecclesiology, Archbishop Elpidophorus argues that "in the Church primacy at the universal level cannot be represented by an institution but only by a person."

“With such a view, the rejection of personal primacy in the Ecumenical Church becomes a distortion of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The teaching that the first hierarch in the Ecumenical Church receives his powers from the Council, in the opinion of Archbishop Elpidophoros, is tantamount to the assertion that the source of the Father's Monarchy is the Son and the Holy Spirit,” said Metropolitan Anthony.

In addition, Vladyka Anthony says, according to John (Zizioulas), "the categories of the canonical order reflect the realities of the divine order."

“With this approach, the issue of church primacy is no longer a matter of human law, it is transferred to the sphere of divine law. This is how the primacy in the Universal Church receives divine sanction,” stressed the UOC Chancellor.

Metropolitan Anthony believes it follows from the teachings of Archbishop Elpidophoros and Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) that "the Patriarch of Constantinople (or rather the Ecumenical) is turning into a kind of "corporate personality" in which primacy at the universal level is embodied".

However, according to Vladyka, "the position of the Russian Orthodox Church is fundamentally different". Thus, “at the level of the diocese, primacy belongs to the ruling bishop. It is from him that priests and deacons receive their powers. Also, it is the bishop who has the right of the church court in the diocese. At the local level, primacy belongs to the Primate of the Church. He presides over the Councils of Bishops of the Local Church, has the right to speak on behalf of his Church."

"As for the primacy at the eccumenical (universal) level, the Moscow document notes that its source is "the canonical tradition of the Church, which is recorded in the sacred diptychs and is recognized by all Local Churches". The canons do not endow the first in honour bishop in the Ecumenical Church with any powers of authority," and the transfer of "primacy from one level of church life to another is fundamentally unacceptable”, the bishop emphasized.

"If we mechanically transfer the primacy of the diocesan level to the universal one, this will mean the emergence of the ‘Ecumenical Bishop’ who has special power in the entire Ecumenical Church." But for the Russian Church “from the sacramental point of view, all bishops are equal, just as all the primates of the Local Churches are sacramentally equal,” Metropolitan Anthony reminded.

Vladyka stressed that from the point of view of the Russian Orthodox Church, the content of the primacy of honour in the Ecumenical Church "is determined by the consensus of the Local Orthodox Churches".

In other words, “Local Orthodox Churches recognize that the Patriarch of Constantinople has the right to come up with initiatives of a pan-Orthodox nature, as well as to address the outside world on behalf of all Orthodox plenitude ... With this approach, the family of Local Orthodox Churches acts as a union of independent Churches professing the same faith and being in the Eucharist communion”, which indicates, by analogy, a confederation.

However, Patriarch Bartholomew believes that the unification of equal Churches is a Protestant idea and only "the Constantinople Primate is the guarantor and personification of the unity of World Orthodoxy" and "the keeper of the true faith and the guarantor of the Church's authentic testimony to the modern world," said Metropolitan Anthony.

"It is quite obvious that it is hardly possible to reconcile the two indicated models of World Orthodoxy." That is why, according to Vladyka, “dialogue between the Local Churches is vital in order to reach a consensus on these issues, which should not be the result of concessions in the field of doctrine but the result of a deep and responsible study of the patristic heritage”.

AS reported earlier, Bishop Sylvester explained how the 9th rule of the IV Ecumenical Council is interpreted in “Pedalion”, which allegedly gives the powers of the “ecumenical judge” to the Phanar.

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