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The Infallibility of the Church or the Infallibility of the Pope?
by Mr. James T. Whitacre

This paper was submitted during the Fall '05 semester as a class assignment for course “101 — History and Principles of the Orthodox Church”. Mr. Whitacre is the Web Administrator for the Pastoral School. He and his wife (Xenia) have three children and reside in Central New Jersey.


The primary issue that divides the Roman Church and the Orthodox Church and continues to divide is ecclesiastical in nature. Ecclesiology is essentially all encompassing because it pertains to who God is, who man is (his condition prior to his fall into sin and after) and our salvation in Christ. While certainly there are other doctrinal differences that have developed over the centuries within the Roman Church that serve to continue and further divide the Eastern and Western Churches; most of these are related to the main divergence which is ecclesiastical in nature—the infallibility of the Church or the infallibility of the Pope? Thus, questions regarding the Church; what it is, how it was established and how it continues throughout time and eternity are central to understanding why it is that the East and West are divided and continue to be so?

The Roman Church claims that each Pope of Rome is the absolute successor of St. Peter—who is the Rock whom Christ established His Church on and as such, has the inherent right to govern the “Universal or Catholic” Church unconditionally and infallibly. The Orthodox Church claims that they have and are maintaining the truth as it is in Christ and the Holy Trinity and thus continue to be the Church that Christ Himself established that the gates of hell shall not prevail over as the Lord Himself promised (Matthew 16:18). Both Orthodoxy and Rome believe the promise that the Lord gave; ‘lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’ (Matthew 28:20). Thus, both the Roman Church and the Orthodox Church make the claim that they are exclusively, the Church that Christ established both now and forever more.

Each claims the other is in “schism” from the one true Church. The Latin Church, with its emphasis on the external principle of societal unity and its exclusive claim to the successive throne of St. Peter (e.g. the Papacy) Rock in which Christ founded His Church which continues to govern and maintain unity within this society—believes that the denial of this makes one “schismatic” and thus promotes disunity within all of Christendom. The Eastern Churches denying this absolutist claim; considers the Latin Church in schism by its departure from the Ecumenical Church. The Orthodox Church views the absolute and exclusive claim of the Roman Pontiff and the Roman Church as a violation and a departure of the Church’s own internal principles of Christian unity.

Are these mutually exclusive claims? If they are, it is important to understand the reasons why; if they aren’t, it’s important to understand this as well. In our day, there are strong currents within the Papacy and even within Orthodoxy making efforts to reunite these two “sides” of Christendom. However, there are also strong currents within Orthodoxy that view the current efforts towards reconciliation as simply a concession to the spirit of modernity and Ecumenism. “Non-ecumenists” consider rapprochement with Rome is wrong and indeed impossible without the full renunciation by the Romanists of an error, which is now well over a thousand years old.

One of the characteristics of the late John Paul II's papacy was his persistent overture towards the Orthodox Church. Through encyclicals, meetings with patriarchs, and visits of pilgrimage and penance to Orthodox lands, this pope had vigorously pursued the goal of the reunion of Christianity—East and West (what he termed the "two lungs" of the Church—distinct, yet meant to breathe together). Many Orthodox hierarchs were in direct dialogue with these efforts as well. In Pope John Paul II's encyclical Ut unum sint [1], he suggests that the Church of the first millennium must serve as the model for reconciliation in our time. Perhaps even more significant, is Pope John Paul’s challenge in the same encyclical for the Orthodox and other Christian communities to help Rome exercise the Petrine primacy in a way "open to a new situation" and in a way, which accomplishes "a service of love recognized by all concerned." How should the Orthodox respond to such a statement or should they respond at all? Under what conditions, if in fact at all, could the Orthodox Churches, based on its own internal consensus, accept the Petrine doctrine of succession and authority?

The Roman Church—The society organized under the Roman Pontiff

It can be said that it is not the so-called Petrine commission and its consequences that determine the form of ecclesiastical government represented by the papacy and thus the Roman Catholic See. It is related more to the developed idea of what the Church is on earth and how it should be governed that determines the interpretation given to Christ’s words to Peter and the significance attributed to them by Rome. It is completely justified to characterize Rome as having a preoccupation with what the Church on earth is and how it should be governed. Noticeably, there is a preoccupation with external unity within the Roman Church and this so-called unity is to be attained only through membership in the society of the Roman Church.This Roman view is clearly expressed in The Catechism of the Catholic Church; “The Church is constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.” [2], It is clear from this official statement that the Roman view of the Church is one of a societal organization that the Roman Pontiff governs supremely and only those who are members of this society can be considered part of the Church that Christ established.

The governmental authority of the Supreme Pontiff extends over and above all local bishops and the college of bishops. He has supreme and universal power over all the Church. [3], He is also infallible when he speaks ex cathedra (from the Chair of Peter) and these statements must be submitted to without question. [4], Additionally, there must also be a religious submission of mind and will shown to the Supreme Pontiff and his magesterium in a special way even when he is not speaking ex cathedra. The Pope’s judgments are to be sincerely adhered to according to his manifest mind and will. [5]

The Orthodox Catholic Church—Mystical Union and Communion in Christ

Generally speaking within the Orthodox Church and patristic writings there are no “systematic” treatments of ecclesiology nor can one be given. [6] Fr. Georges Florovsky, speaking of the Church says: “One cannot define what is self-evident… One has to return from the school-room to the worshipping Church and perhaps to exchange the school-dialect of theology for the pictorial and metaphorical language of Scripture… Even this description will be convincing only for those of the Church. The mystery is apprehended only by faith.” [7] Within Holy Scripture (especially the writings of St. Paul) and in the patristic writings what is mostly said is that the Church is the Body of Christ and a communion of deification. [8] The Church is the Body of Christ (who is its sole Head); the communion of saints rooted and grounded in love through the indwelling of the Living Christ (Ephesians 3:17-18). Deification in Christ is the Church’s purpose. St. Athanasius puts it this way, “He, indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God” or literally “God became man that man might become God”. [9] If we separate the Church from her very purpose, we will make the Church into nothing but an anthropomorphic ideology—a religious and human organization.

The essence of every anthropomorphic ideology is in reality a denial of the sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth because it is God that establishes every member of His Body to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth (II Thessalonians 2:13). Every human person that does not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved will perish (II Thessalonians 2:10). Truth is at the heart of every Godly virtue and love as well. Truth is the God-Man Jesus Christ for He—His very person is the embodiment and express image of Divine Truth (Hebrews 1:3). Truth is a person and it is therefore personable—for it is the immortal incarnate Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He Himself is the “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and there is no truth, life or light outside of Him (John 1:4). He is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8); the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, which is, and which was, and which is to come (Revelation 1:8) and gives the fountain of the water of life freely (Revelation 21:6).

Therefore, truth cannot and is not an idea, a theory, a science, a philosophy, a culture, etc. Truth is not even the Scriptures themselves for it is these that bear witness of the person Christ (John 5:39). Whatever the ideology of this world is—whether it is born from inside the Church or are ideological relatives of those who have once departed from the very Life of the Church at some point, and who may even still use Christ’s name (Matthew 7:22)—are in fact the very imaginations, and every so-called high thing that exalts itself against the very knowledge of the one true God (II Corinthians 10:5). The very heart of the Orthodox Church is—Life in Christ. Thus the Church, as the very Body of the Living Christ has since its very beginning found it necessary to vehemently oppose and cast down any vain imagination (e.g. heresy) that sought to obstruct the knowledge of the Triune God in and through our Lord Jesus Christ—and thus the means our deification in Christ—the Church’s very purpose.

The Ecumenical Councils themselves must be viewed with this very purpose in mind. While the Fathers of the Church used precise Greek philosophical language to outline the truth of the Christian faith (primarily who the Triune God is and His Incarnate Son) in response to various heresies concerning the same; these are not a set of philosophical ideals to be categorized, but are the very boundaries, the guardians and protectors, given to the living Church by the living Church from within the living Church, for the living Church’s very purpose—deification in Christ.

The Church is intimately connected with the Incarnation of Christ—it is a spiritual reality that is rooted in the divine life. As such, it has its existence in heaven before it is manifest in any visible form here on earth—it is both invisible and visible. Both the invisible and visible spheres are vitally linked through the Incarnation of the Living Christ. In its visible form, it may be said to be an expression of God’s own life, implicit in those spiritual energies through which He enters into creation. Eternity enters into time and space; the invisible into the visible. According to the theology of St. Gregory of Palamas: “While His essence is unknowable, God in His energies has revealed Himself to us. These energies are not something that exists apart from God, not a gift that God confers upon humans; they are God Himself in His action and revelation to the world. God exists complete and entire in each of His divine energies. The world is charged with the grandeur of God; all creation is a gigantic Burning Bush, permeated but not consumed by the ineffable and wondrous fire of God’s energies.”[10] This means that none other than God in the Person of the Holy Spirit is the immanent substantial form of the Church, the immanent “interior” principle of its unity and its realization. The Church is one because God is one—not in an arithmetical sense, but in His indivisibility. Apart from this indwelling of the Holy Spirit there is no Church. As St. Seraphim of Sarov has pointed out: “The sole or true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God.” [11]

Correspondingly, it is only in so far as each of us participate in the divine life, in God, we are in the Church, because the Church is the life of God: we become one with this life, and through becoming one with the life of God we share in the unity of the Church. This mystical union of God with man is a “personal union”, a union with God in the Person of Jesus Christ through sharing in His body. In Christ is not just one human nature, but also all human nature that is united to God. Thus, the Church is not merely a body universal of those who share the same faith who happen to decide to join in the same cause. The Church is the continuing mystery of the incarnation in which all human persons are called to participate. In Christ, we are united and commune with the very person of Christ and one another—His Body.

By the power of the Incarnation and Pentecost, the whole of mankind is given the grace to enter the Kingdom of God, to be co-heirs with Christ and to live in Christ. This Kingdom is not merely just some future event, it is effectively already established in the here and now. Eternal Life has already been manifested and is available to all (I John 1:1-3). The Holy City has come down from heaven and opened its gates to us. In Christ and through Christ, we are sons and heirs—fellow citizens with all the saints. In as much as the Church and thus each member does participate in that spiritualized reality—the body of Christ—it becomes one with God and not only reflects the very image of God—Christ the God-Man—it becomes God—it is His very Body. Thus, the Church—the Royal Priesthood—is “iconographic” in as much as it is the new creation—created in the image and the likeness of God Himself.

It is only in and through the Church that each person realizes their unique destinies by becoming members of the body of Christ. “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” (Romans 12:5) This “life in Christ” into which we are called in the Church is that of growing participation in the divine. The Church has traditionally recognized three stages of this process of theosis; purification, illumination and deification. The process begins with the reception of the Catechumen into the life of the Church. Prayers of exorcism are said to banish the power of death—the devil. This is a rite of “purification”. The “seed” is planted in us at baptism—our entry into the Church where we symbolically die with Christ in order to partake of the new life. The seed sprouts and we are raised in His Life—the Light of all men. Immediately, we are chrismated, receiving the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Church recognizes this as “illumination” because in it we receive the very light of Christ. This seed of new life must be nourished so that it grows and transfigures our whole being making it pure, incorruptible, glorious, perfect and immortal. “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:16) The seed is watered by the living water and is nourished and grows primarily by partaking in the Eucharist—the Body and the Blood of Our Lord in whose flesh there is life (John 6:48-58). It is through our continual participation in the Divine Eucharist that we are led to and experience our “deification”. It is in Christ who breaks the power of death by binding the strong man; who in his light we experience the light; and in remaining in Him through partaking in the divine nature—His very body and blood that we are nourished from glory to glory (II Corinthians 3:18). It is important to note that all three stages of theosis are not any way an “automatic or mechanistic” process and thus it is not magical. God is a consuming fire and if one is not prepared, has not done the work of spiritual asceticism beforehand, he should not eat (II Thessalonians 3:10) otherwise it will consume and burn him up. As true as it is for material bread, it is true for the spiritual bread of heaven. However, if one is prepared and has done the work of spiritual asceticism, it will be for him the true life-giving bread of heaven (John 6:32, 51).

As the body of Christ is the Church, the Eucharist, which is the manifestation of this body, is also the manifestation of the Church on earth. The Eucharist constitutes the center of the Church on earth and it is in the Eucharist that the Church lives. The Church is a continuation of the Incarnational mystery. As Christ is a union of two natures—the divine and the human, the uncreated and the created—so the Eucharist, which is the manifestation of the body of Christ, which is the Church, is also a union of these two natures, divine and human, the uncreated and the created. It is our participation in the Eucharist that we each participate in the same Incarnational process. We become part of the same mystery, Sons of God and co-heirs with Christ. We become like God, deified through the realization of our genuine divine-human nature.

Thus, there is no question of the Church being merely a created or visible reality, any more than there is a question of Christ being a merely created or visible reality. The two become one. This is a very key point, for in Orthodoxy there is no idea of a split of the Church into two departments—one uncreated, invisible, and heavenly and the other created, visible and earthly. There is not one Church that is triumphant and mystical kept by God in peace and perfection and another, militant and institutional. Nor is there a two-fold law, the invisible Church operating according to a divine law, and the visible Church operating according to a human law. The sacrifice, which Christ offers on the heavenly altar before the throne of God, is one and the same as he offers on numberless altars in the Eucharistic mystery. This is genuine catholicity, the fullness of the living Christ, present at each local Eucharistic meal. There is nothing lacking and nothing to add. However, Catholicity can also be thought of in a much broader way, Fr. Justin Popovich says: “The mission of the Church, given by Christ and put into practice by the Holy Fathers, is this: that in the soul of our people be planted and cultivated a sense and awareness that every member of the Orthodox Church is a Catholic Person, a person who is for ever and ever, and is God-human; that each person is Christ's, and is therefore a brother to every human being, a ministering servant to all men and all created things.” [12] In other words, our deification in Christ—the Church’s very purpose—has a broader purpose within itself—the life of the world (John 6:51). This is Catholicity; this is the One, Holy Catholic Church. This is Orthodoxy.

When any one of members of Christ’s Body begin to forget this very purpose—thus forgetting the living God—they begin to fall within the power of sin and death and their fallen human image rather than the divine-human image they are called to. Forgetting to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19); they forget the very life-giving God who alone is their life and their light. This is the vision of God—the uncreated Light. The heavenly call of each of us—as persons and members of His Body—is to “ponder” within ourselves, as the Most Holy Mother of God herself did; to “remember” Him in the Holy Spirit at all times (John 14:26; Luke 2:18); to bear within ourselves the Living Christ. All schism from the very Body and Life of Christ is the result of this failure to “remember” and members who sever themselves from the Life-Giving Body whither and dry up having “cut themselves off” from the very source of life itself. Life in Christ is organic by its very nature. At the heart of every schism, by its very nature; and indeed it can only be this way, is an anthropomorphic ideology that results in nothing but a mere human society organized around fallen human societal principles—even if it happens to continue to use His name. This is the spirit of antichrist and this deception seeks to lead the ignorant astray. However, God is not mocked, “for whatever a man soweth, that he shall also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

All the visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit that are within the Church (the Holy Scriptures, the councils, the canons, [13] the Liturgies, its iconography, the hierarchy, etc.) and have one function or purpose within the Church itself—the building up and edification of the people of God unto a holy temple—a habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:1-22). The external manifestations of the heavenly Spirit within the Body of Christ (who has joined both heaven and earth in His One Body) are but the living and organic expressions and functions of the living Christ for her one purpose—deification of the Body of Christ itself—her Oneness in Him—that Christ might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27).

The Holy Eucharist is the visible reality of the invisible living Christ—it is the very center of all external manifestations or expressions of the Holy Spirit. It is in the Holy Eucharist that Christ and His Body are mystically united—the two become One Flesh. It is not just the living presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist; it is each and every one of His members—we in Him and He in us. It is the marriage and the marriage feast. The entire world is invited and as much as each of us have done our ascetical work of preparation for the marriage feast (because while it is mystical, it is not simply mechanical or magical) we partake and realize our divinity. It is in this, the Church’s very purpose—to be Incarnated and thus divinated in Christ—that each of her members becomes a Burning Bush, permeated but not consumed.

The manifestation of the hierarchy within the Orthodox Catholic Church and its functions are indissolubly linked with the Eucharistic reality—for both the Church and the Eucharist are the Body of Christ. Since the Eucharistic meal and the ascetic work in preparation to receive it are the means for the deification of the Body of Christ; the primary ministry of the Church (and thus the gift of the hierarchy for the Church herself) is the maintenance of the Eucharist itself and the conditions under which it can be celebrated. There are many conditions for this maintenance; one example is the Typikon, which literally means following the order. A Typikon is a liturgical book, which contains instructions about the order of the various Church services and ceremonies in the form of a perpetual calendar. It’s purpose, in fact any ecclesiastical form of the Church (including the governmental and hierarchical), serve the ministerial function—the Eucharist—manifesting the life of God in and to all of humanity throughout all of history. In other words, all hierarchic and apostolic functions are organic expressions within the living Body of Christ for the express purpose of manifesting the living presence of Christ in, with and through the Body of Christ.

Christ is the sole actual head and the chief liturgist of the Church, of both its invisible and its visible aspects. He exercises these roles directly and immediately through it and in it. No person or office can take the place of Christ in the Church or exercise a vicariate for Him as though he is not always and in all circumstances fully present. Christ can never be absent from the Church any more than a head could be absent from a body. Christ as the Head is never separate from the body in any of the Church’s functions or expressions. He is not just fully present in the Eucharistic meal, but in all aspects of the organic Living Body of Christ. Thus, all ministerial functions are organic expressions within the Living Body of Christ. These organic expressions are not exercised over the Living Body, but within it and they are derived from it. These expressions can have no autonomous identity because by their very nature they are organically derived from it. The Church is a divine-human reality. There is not a separate human reality and a heavenly reality operating on two different planes. Heaven and earth are joined together in the God-Man Jesus Christ. And as was said before, the sacrifice, which Christ offers on the heavenly altar before the throne of God, is one and the same as He offers on numberless altars in the Eucharistic mystery. This is stated clearly in the Liturgy of St. John Chyrsostom at the end of the Anaphora; “Thine Own of Thine Own we offer unto Thee, in behalf of all and for all.” Thus, there can be no authority, person, principle or office that can take the place of Christ. If Christ does not exercise His own ministry living mystically or inwardly in His Body then there is no life in Her and thus no Church. Where two or three are gathered living directly and inwardly in the life of Christ, there is no question that Christ is not among them and they are in fact His Living Body—the Church (Matthew 18:20). It is in and through the Eucharist that catholicity—the fullness of Christ—is manifest on earth. Where Christ is manifest in Eucharist, there is the Catholic Church. Because Christ’s fullness and His wholeness are fully present and manifested in every local Church in which the Eucharistic is celebrated, each local Church is in and of itself the Catholic Church. Each local Church is fully united to the Triune God and therefore fully and completely Catholic because the very Divine Life manifest in the Body of Christ is one—God is one. It is indivisible as God Himself is indivisible. There cannot be one local Church that is more Catholic than the other because the particular manifestation of and full presence of the Body of Christ—the Eucharist—in each particular appearance is not more or less than any other. The body of Christ is always equal to itself. Therefore, each local Catholic Church cannot become more Catholic by becoming part of a larger whole. The organic essence of unity and oneness is established by the full presence of Christ Himself in each particular instance. Therefore, unity, oneness and fullness in Christ are not gained through a local Church’s identification in an external corporate and institutionalized society governed or ruled as any earthly society by law, judges, an office or a king. This is not the role of the hierarchy within the Body of Christ. They are not rulers and no one is being ruled. No one can take the place of Christ or replace Christ in the Eucharist, it is Christ who is the chief liturgist and always celebrates His own mystery.

The bishop as a member of the Body of Christ among the members of the Body of Christ in celebrating the Eucharist manifests the reality of Christ. He is not Christ and he is not acting as a vicar—standing in or substituting for another in their absence. He is simply the president (“the first among equals”); the one who presides during the Eucharistic meal. No one can take the place of Christ who celebrates His own mystery. The bishop is an “iconographic” image. Acting in the image of Christ, he makes visible the invisible image of Christ. To act as an image in this capacity is not to replace or even stand in for a prototype that is absent. It is to share in and make visible an invisible prototype that is already present. This acting in Christ’s image for the presiding of the Eucharistic mystery is what is conferred in apostolic succession. Christ conferred it to the Apostles and in turn the Apostles conferred it to other men who were “qualified” to act in the image of Christ presiding with the members of His Body in the Eucharistic meal. Apostolic succession, like the Eucharist, is not “mechanistic or magical”. One is not “in” the apostolic succession simply by tracing a lineage back to one the Apostles. While there must be a historical lineage because of the very organic nature of the Church itself; a bishop who acts in the image of Christ is one who has done, and continues to do his ascetical work. He represents to the people of God within the people of God—as one of their members as well—the image of Christ. He is not over and above the Body of Christ for only Christ is the Head of His Body—he is a very member of this same Body. The bishop does not represent some separate office outside of the very body he is a part of himself. His office is a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church from within the Church for the building up of the Church. His legitimacy and whatever powers he has are solely derived from the mystery of the Eucharist. Thus, there is not and cannot be any sacramental office higher than that of the Bishop.

The bishop and the Eucharist are indissolubly linked. There is no Eucharist without the bishop and no bishop without the Eucharist and there is no Church without the Eucharist. This is why St. Ignatius can say: “…You must all follow the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed the Father, and follow the presbytery as you would the apostles; respect the deacons as the commandment of God. Let no one do anything that has to do with the church without the bishop. Only that Eucharist which is under the authority of the bishop (or whomever he himself designates) is to be considered valid. Wherever the bishop appears, there let the congregation be; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church. It is not permissible either to baptize or to hold a love feast without the bishop. But whatever he approves is also pleasing to God, in order that everything you do may be trustworthy and valid.” [14]

A particular instance of the Eucharist in time and space—still being one and the same that Christ offers on the heavenly altar before the throne of God—occurs within a local Church within local members of the Body of Christ. The bishop who acts in the image of Christ presiding in the Eucharistic meal does not do so apart from the very members who also participate. In this way, the local bishop and the laity he represents are also indissolubly linked. The Bishop—as Christ Himself does—embodies the members themselves in which he presides. In Christ, He acts in their name and on behalf of its lay members in their own supplications, invocations and offerings before the throne of God. A bishop cannot be conceived of without a flock or even independent of his own flock. [15] He is the “first among equals” and the relationship of the laity to her hierarch and vice-versa is the same as the familiar familial model outlined by St. Paul of Christ and His Body; or as the “husband is head of his wife”, and thus does not “Lord it over” her, but lays down his life for her sanctifying and cleansing her with the washing of water by the word (Ephesians 2:22-26). For we are all one flesh—great is the mystery (Ephesians 5:28-32). This “first among equals”, primacy, headship or presidency is one of honor, not one of a sovereign with autocratic supremacy. Every member (clergy and lay) submitting themselves one to another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21). There is not a ruled and a ruler as in a typical societal model, but a union of our common nature in Christ. In this way, each local Eucharistic Church is therefore not only fully Catholic, but also fully Apostolic.

The relations of a local Church and thus their bishop to other local Churches and their bishops are not relations of legal and jurisdictional interdependence, but relations of love and grace. There is only one episcopate and each local episcopal office shares in this one episcopate, not in part but in its wholeness. [16] One local Church is united with all the other local Churches of the world by the bond of identity. Just as one is the Church of God, the others are the Church of God as well. They are not divided by national boundaries or even the political goals of the countries in which they live. They are not even divided by the fact that they might not even know of each other’s existence. The same blood of Christ circulates in their veins and the same Holy Spirit enlightens their minds and leads them to the knowledge of the same truth. The Church has no need of external bonds in order to be one. It is not submission to a hierarchy, which unites, but common nature in Christ. Therefore, local churches are not united by a Pope or a Patriarch, but by their common nature. [17] A Pope, a Patriarch, a Metropolitan or any other designation which is given for honor does not exclude the fact that he is a bishop of a local Church. He cannot be conceived of outside of his own flock and his relations with the other bishops outside of his local Church is the same as outlined above. He holds a position simply of honor and this honor is given because of his particular local Church, not as something outside of it. Respect and honor are given to the local Church and thus the bishop who represents this Church, not the office of a Patriarchate itself. His relations with the other local Churches as a “first among equals” is governed in principle by the unity in the Eucharist itself. An example of this can be seen in the 34th Canon of the Apostolic Constitutions: “The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent... but neither let him (who is the first) do anything without the consent of all; for so there will be unanimity...” Primacy is a position of honor guided by brotherly love in grace and truth, not power and authority.

Common Ground?—The Real Dilemma

It should be quite clear in what has preceded that the real issue with trying to delineate the similarities and the differences between the Orthodox and Roman Churches is that both have very different understandings of common inherited Christian terms while maintaining somewhat similar external appearances. It may seem that there are many things that these two Churches have in common externally, but there is in reality very little in common when one looks beyond these external appearances. At the heart of the difference between these so-called “two sides of Christendom” is an inherently different paradigm, which affects nearly everything that has to do with Christianity in general. The meanings behind the expressions of each of these traditions; most often couched in the same theological terms with completely different meanings has caused much confusion.

For example, while both East and West subscribe at least “externally” to the common Christian Creed of Nicea-Constantinople. Of course, the exception to this is that Rome, as merely one local church among many acted independently from their other brother Churches by adding the filioque clause – “and the Son” concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit. Apart from any of the theological reasons as to the validity or not of the clause; the point here, is that they it took upon themselves without any consultation or approval from the rest of the Ecumenical Church this addition to the common Christian creed. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the “two-sides” of Christendom have completely different understandings of each of the very terms in the Nicea-Constantinople Creed concerning the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The Romanists interpret these terms primarily with an external organizational emphasis, while the Orthodox interprets them according to the mystery of unity in Christ.

The Orthodox Church, having never lost its sense of the purpose of the Church (the very Body of Christ in union with Christ as her only Head), the very deification of all her members (from glory to glory), is ascetical by its very nature. Each member is called “to strive” to find themselves in Christ. This “striving” or ascesis is not the aim of the Christian life. Again, as St. Seraphim of Sarov has eloquently pointed out: “As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ's sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. The sole or true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God.” [18] The means to acquire the Holy Spirit is to take up our cross and deny ourselves (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). Self-reproach is the means to acquire the aim of Church life—Deification in Christ through the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. “This is the spiritual struggle inside the human soul—self-reproach, self-humiliation, self-resistance, self-constraint, introspection, vision of the Last Judgment and future life, control over feelings, struggle against evil thoughts, repentance and confession, wrath against sin and temptation, etc.—things totally unfamiliar to most modern learned men, and so clear and well-known to any faithful villager, present or past.” [19]

In the West through the influence of scholastic theology, action (praxis) is interpreted as mission, and vision. While in the theology of the patristic Fathers, action (praxis) is purification of the heart—through noetic prayer and vision of the uncreated Light. Through the purification of the heart, the knowledge of God is available to any person of any station in life. One does not obtain the knowledge of God by accumulating a headful of facts and arranging them into elaborate systems. There is a vast difference here; one is genuinely Christian, the other is rationalism. In this fact, can be seen as one of the reasons for the great chasm between the clergy and the laity in all the Western traditions and the division within Roman Catholicism itself between the “Teaching Church” (the clergy) and the “Church of Pupils” (the laity). This difference is also clearly seen when a so-called “saint” of Roman Catholicism such as Francis Assisi and a saint within the Orthodox Church such as St. Seraphim of Sarov are compared. [20]

The legalistic and juridical character of the Roman Church and all western scholastic theology is characteristic in all its expressions. It is in the teaching of Anselm of Canterbury that we can see some of its root. According to Anselm, God “in His essence” is love and justice. Adam’s sin and every other sin of man thereafter, is a sin against God’s justice. God is thusly offended and consequently, the demand for punishment is necessary “of the divine nature itself”. Some philosophical “external” law of necessity now binds God; therefore He requires the satisfaction and propitiation of His justice. This “required” satisfaction came about through the Incarnation of Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross. Thus, the purpose of the Incarnation of the Word and His sacrifice on the Cross was the propitiation of the divine justice, which was offended by man’s sin. [21] According to the Orthodox and the patristic Fathers this view can simply be characterized as heretical.

“God’s justice and love are not His essence, but His energies. God is not love and justice in His essence and His nature, but in His energies, which are uncreated and are called essential or natural energies. God is free of any necessity and any self-interest. It is sinful to ascribe to God the characteristic features of fallen man, such as that God is angry and vengeful and therefore must be propitiated and appeased. Such an attitude wants to make it appear that it is God who needs curing and not man. This is sacrilegious. The sinful man who is characterized by egoism and arrogance is offended. We cannot say that God is offended.” [22]

To further illustrate these differences, let us take a closer look at what the west refers to as the sacraments and the East refers to as the mysteries. In the west, the sacraments, especially the Divine Eucharist, Baptism and ordination become juridical means for salvation. The Church is reduced to a legal institution supplying salvation and created grace. In the establishment of the Church (this is especially seen through the establishment of the Papacy as an organizational idea and a separate apostolic office), the legal institution comes first before the sacramental composition. Within Orthodoxy, the sacramental composition of the Church precedes, and the Church is protected and expressed through the Canonical institutions. [23]

Obviously, this creates a serious problem theologically from both points of view and makes discussions from either side almost simply polemical in nature. Roman Catholic apologists consistently attack the Orthodox based on simple ‘empirical’ observations concerning its external unity within Orthodoxy in the world today; pointing out “problems” of nationalism and ethnicity or disagreements between the various autocephalous churches, etc. Therefore, it is obvious that the Orthodox Church needs “to return” to the universal primacy of the Roman Pontiff to bring order to all this chaos. Orthodox apologists who are consistent with the patristic and a true ecumenical view of the Church argue based on what to them seems like basic a priori theological dogma. It seems the twain shall never meet. Where is the common ground?

Both Roman Catholics and Orthodox make an appeal to the Tradition of the Church and also to history as evidence that each is in harmony with the principles of the Church concerning its position. The Orthodox continues to insist on the organic nature of the Church, while the Roman Catholics insist on their developed understanding of the organizational nature. The obvious problem is that each is applying a different hermeneutic to their understanding of both Church Tradition and to history itself. It can be said that there are no brute historical “facts”. All historical studies—the chronologies, the way we arrange dates, and the antecedents that we assume for events—are in fact an interpretation of historical events. These “facts”, the data, the pieces that make up our view of the world in which our theologies and Christian values are formed are the things that tell us, not what we believe, but why we believe what we do here and now. [24] It is more in the underlying values; the way in which we interpret history and Church tradition that determines why we believe what we believe.

The Roman Catholic tradition interprets history, scripture and the traditions of the Church in such a way that it imposes their dogma of the infallible papacy upon all of these. It is clearly an “imposition”; a reading-back into all three elements to rationally justify the development of its doctrine from its point of view. Rome makes no qualms or apologies about their understanding of Papal infallibility (amongst other new and innovative doctrines such as immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary) as being simply a development of dogma. [25] Rome admits that the infallibility of the pope (or any other new and innovative doctrine) is not a doctrine that suddenly appeared in Church teaching; rather it is a doctrine, which was implicit in the early Church. It is only our understanding of the infallibility of the Pope, which has developed and been more clearly understood over time. In other words, it is easy for us (i.e. the “Teaching Authority” [26] ) after our development to see these implicit doctrines that were all contained within the early Church. In today’s light (sic) we can now see their truthfulness—so they are in fact true—all that remains are for them to be accepted and submitted to. These are the supreme authoritative teachings given to the Church with the authority of the supreme Pontiff and his magesterium. In other words, our understanding has grown from the infant Church into the now more mature Church. We now understand that the Church from its very beginnings was actually the Church organized in Rome—organized under the successor of St. Peter as the infallible Roman Pontiff with supreme and universal power and authority over the entire Christian Church—a teaching that was implicit in all of the early Church. From this point of view, it is completely hopeless and even useless for anyone within or without the Roman tradition, to make any sort of appeal from history, scriptures or the patristic tradition. No evidence will matter; the deed is done. Rome has spoken—there is no common ground.

It is this theory of the development of doctrine that makes any discussion or comparisons with reference to history, scripture and the traditions of the patristic and Ecumenical Church almost completely fruitless. It is a self-contained paradigm. Rome can and does rationalize almost any of its doctrines and justifies itself based on its own interpretive rationalistic theory, which it applies to its own “private” interpretations or revisions of history, scripture or tradition. These are the very things that Orthodox Christians once had in common with them. This prideful approach ignoring the Holy Spirit’s work in the rest of their brethren is in itself fundamentally quite non-catholic. The Orthodox Catholic Church (official designation of the Orthodox Church in its liturgical and canonical texts), when seen under the eyeglass of this sort of developmental theory becomes merely a form of “ossified” conservatism. This developmental notion is completely foreign to an Orthodox view. “Tradition can be defined by saying that it is the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church, communicating to each member of the Body of Christ the faculty of hearing, of receiving, of knowing the Truth in the Light which belongs to it, and not according to the natural light of human reason.” [27] Rome has made itself into its own anthropomorphic image still held captive to the power of death following vain philosophy and the rudiments of this world (Colossians 2:8). The Orthodox Church continues to be alive in Christ in organic union with the life of the Holy Spirit. Rome has spoken—there is no common ground.

Romanism bears within itself the prideful seeds of anarchy having anointed itself with the chrism of infallibility. It has denied the Ecumenical Church itself and the divine ecumenical principle of the Ecumenical Church—“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28). This was in fact the conviction and reasoning of St. Mark of Ephesus at the Council of Florence, who refused to sign the so-called union demanding that the Creed be restored to its original purity and the “addition” of the filioque be declared an “opinion” standing outside the original formula. Bearing within itself the seeds of rationalistic anarchy as a first principle, Rome could do no other than fear the very manifestation of itself within itself (i.e. more anarchy) and thus it became necessary to transform itself into despotism. For this reason, Romanism is and cannot be anything but falsehood. Rome was and is essentially the first Protestant. This is why the Russian theologian Khomikov could say, “All Protestants are Crypto-Papists.” [28] Rome has spoken—there is no genuine common ground.

What Rome is left with in its own autonomous rationalism, is only externality—it can be no other way. The unity of Papism is an external unity deprived of all living content. Like the Judaizers of old, it is based on an external “sign” outside of the living continuity of the living Church itself. This external “sign” is the idea that there is an “apostolic” function outside, over and above and even precedes the organic life of the Church itself—the Eucharistic reality. This is the innovative notion of the Papacy—the “sign” of the Roman Catholic Church. And like the Judaizers of old, this has inevitably produced nothing more than a juridical and legalistic institution that in absolutely no genuine way resembles the genuine living Church.

The Eastern Churches have maintained the living witness of the Apostolic and Patristic tradition within itself. The Orthodox Church is radically different than the Roman Catholic tradition despite their common heritage and many similarities in external appearances. Rome is now a dead shell. She has rejected the very source of life—the living Christ and the life-giving Holy Spirit. As has been shown, the primary difference is that each tradition is based on completely different principles. These differences are the result of Rome’s departure from the Ecumenical Church. The development of the doctrine of the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff with his absolute and universal geographical authority is simply the end result of her self-justifying autonomous rationalism (i.e. pride) resulting in her schism from the Ecumenical Church. Rome has spoken—genuine common ground was breached when Rome separated herself from the Ecumenical Church not the other way around.


So while it may seem there are several external similarities because of the common heritage of both East and West, there is in reality no genuine commonality at the very root of the matter. Despite the same words used, different meanings and nuances are certainly implied. As a result, the traditional Orthodox Church (with the exception of some Orthodox that seem to be unfortunately persuaded to entertain or follow the “worldly” Roman Catholic ecclesiastic model) has always concluded that the Roman Church is hopelessly lost to schism and apostasy because of her belief in the true nature of the Church as a “living organism” and Rome’s refusal to repent and return to the bosom of the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church—the Ecumenical Church—the Orthodox Church.

Here indeed is the impasse. The Roman Church through its own autonomous, internal, rationalistic, prideful and anarchic principle believes that the East needs the West to establish an “external unity” based on its asserted universal authority through the succession of Peter—the Rock on which the Church was established. The Papacy sees itself as the “unifier” in an “organizational” way. It is exactly here that we can see the “essential” difference between the Orthodox and Roman Churches. The Eastern Church emphasizes the “inner” realities of the Church, while the Latin Church emphasizes the “external” as the essence of the Church. The East sees the Church, as a “Divine-Human living organism” who solely receives her life “yesterday, today and forever” through the risen Lord Himself and who is the sole head and king of the Church; while the West tends to view the Church as a “legal organization” with divine rights and a divine king (i.e. the Pope or “Vicar of Christ”).

The infallibility of the Church, expressed in Ecumenical Councils and elsewhere, is rooted in the very life of love expressed in the Eucharistic meal. Infallibility is a moral experience and as such cannot be separated from the life of selfless love in the Holy Mysteries. Only God is infallible, and this the body of Christ shares directly and existentially in the corporate mysteries of unity wherein God Himself destroys the very powers of falsehood and division. Infallibility resides in the Church—the very Body of Christ—not in one autocratic or despot bishop called the pope.

The Eastern patriarchs, having assembled in council with their bishops, solemnly gave their reply to the Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius IX that “infallibility resides solely in the ecumenicity of the Church bound together by mutual love, and that the unchangeableness of dogma as well as the purity of rite are entrusted to the care not of one hierarchy but of all the people of the Church, who are the Body of Christ.” [29]

In this very basic difference, can be seen the reasons that the traditional Orthodox position has in times past rejected and continues reject the Roman claims of the papacy and other erroneous doctrines fervently. It is a matter of fact, that the Orthodox have through many Synods and Church Fathers consistently and vehemently rejected the Roman ecclesiastical claim along with the Latin claims concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit as outright heresies. [30]

Rome is not the Church. She became a non-Church when she acted autonomously in separating herself from the folds of the Holy Catholic Church—the very Body of Christ. Rome’s very structure and its developed and rationalistic doctrines spew from this autonomy and are merely symptoms of her real worldly disease—the pride of life (I John 2:16). As such, they are nothing but “sinking sand” for they are not built on the true Rock of offence from which springs forth rivers of living water (I Peter 2:8, Romans 9:33, I Corinthians 10:4, John 7:38). For any Orthodox to acknowledge her in any other way is a grave mistake. It is unfortunate that there have been in the past and there are some Orthodox today, who forgetting that the Church is in the world, but she is not of the world; have begun to see the Orthodox Church and its own hierarchy merely according to the very organizational principles of Rome herself. In so doing, they are beginning to separate themselves from the very life of Christ. Let each of us be careful not to be one of those St. John the Evangelist refers to: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (I John 2:19)

Rome exemplifies Babylon and thus the confusion of this world. She has transformed herself into a harlot and perhaps the mother of all harlots (Revelation 17:5), having a form of godliness, but denying the very power thereof (II Timothy 3:5). As the Apostle Paul says: “from such turn away.” Her only hope is to return with genuine humility and repentance to the one true Shepherd and Bishop of our souls—the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (I Peter 2:25) and His Holy Living Body—the Holy Orthodox Church—the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

What do Rome and Orthodoxy have in common today? Rome has spoken—there is absolutely no common ground. All that we truly share in common is an early history when the two traditions were one. Pope John Paul II was not correct when he compared East and West to the "two lungs" of the Church, for the Church is not divided nor can it be, nor has it ever been. He was only partially correct when he suggested that the Church of the first millennium must serve as the model for reconciliation in our time. However, this model is not nor can it be simply yet another rationalistic developmental theoretical device in which Rome uses to stubbornly see herself as anything but what she developmentally sees herself as. The model is not merely the Church of the first millennium, but also of the second—the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church—which has and continues to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 1:3) and is held together, not by a centralizing organization held together by a single prelate wielding power over the whole body, but by the double bond of unity in the faith and communion in the sacraments. [31]

The basic difference between East and West are not ecclesiastical organizing principles (e.g. a divine king over a divine society vs. a conciliar form of organization). These are mere reflections of the inherent differences between the rock of the living experience of God within His Living Body and those who have severed themselves and out of necessity—have built a house upon the sand of human reason and innovation. They reflect a difference between experiencing who the Holy Triune God is and mere scholastic natural reason. All external forms of the Church—whether East or West—are reflected from these two basic and foundational principles. What is needed for any kind of reconciliation is humility and repentance within the enduring mercy of God—not reason. This is especially so for all those poor souls in the East or the West; who have been mere victims of Rome’s schism. Like any one of us, Rome must flee the massaging of her own mind, for any genuine reconciliation to occur. Like any of us, she must do her “ascetical” work and return to the Church of her Fathers. It is only in the hope of our merciful God in humility and with repentance that she can turn from her developed rationalism and self-justifying view and once again experience from within the Body of Christ the grace of genuine unity of love in truth. In this, Roman Catholicism can truly find her freedom. This is indeed the only hope for any of us. For now—Rome has spoken. She spoke clearly when she left the bosom of the Holy Ecumenical Church—the Body of Living Christ.


1. Pope John Paul II. 1995. Ut unum sint: On commitment to Ecumenism. The Vatican. (cited January 3, 2006) Available from: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25051995_ut-unum-sint_en.html

2. The Catholic Church. 2000. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Our Sunday Visitor; 2nd edition., 816 (cited on January 19, 2006). Available from:http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p123a9p3.htm

“The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it. . . . This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.” (267)

The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism explains: “For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God.” (268)

3. The Catholic Church, 1964. Vatican II Documents, Dogmatic Constitution of the Church: Lumen Gentium. Chapter III, Section 22. (cited January 19, 2006). Available from: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

“But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff.”

4. The Catholic Church, 1964. Vatican II Documents, Dogmatic Constitution of the Church: Lumen Gentium. Chapter III, Section 22.

“And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith,(166) by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals.(42*) And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith.”

5. The Catholic Church, 1964. Vatican II Documents, Dogmatic Constitution of the Church: Lumen Gentium. Chapter III, Section 22.

“This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.”

6. Meyendorff, John. 1979., Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes. New York: Fordham University Press, pg. 79.; and Vlachos, Metropolitan Hiertheos. 1998. The Mind of the Orthodox Church. Lavadia-Hellas, Greece : Birth of the Theotokos Monastery., pg. 44.

7. Florovsky, Georges. 1972. Bible, Church, Tradition, Belmont, MA: Nordland Publishing, pg. 57ff.

8. Vlachos, Metropolitan Hiertheos. The Mind of the Orthodox Church., pg. 44.

9. St. Athanasius, 1975. On the Incarnation. Crestwood, NY : St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Chapter 54, pg. 93.

10. Ware, Bishop Kallistos. 1997. The Orthodox Church. New York, NY: Penguin Books. pg. 68.

11. Motovilov, N.A. 1953. St. Seraphim of Sarov. A Wonderful Revelation to the World: Conversation of St. Seraphim with N.A. Motovilov., Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, pg. 6. Available at: http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/wonderful.aspx

12. Popovich, Fr. Justin. 1994. Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ: The Inward Mission of the Church. Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies.

13. Schmemann, Fr. Alexander. 1964. “Problems of Orthodoxy in America: The Canonical Problem”. St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 2, Crestwood, NY. pp. 67-84.

14. Lightfoot, J.B. and J.R. Harmer. 1989. The Apostolic Fathers. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, pp. 112-113 (St. Ignatius of Antioch, “Letter to the Smyrnaeans”, Chapter VIII).

15. Kalomiros, Alexander. 1967. Against False Union. Seattle, WA St.. Nectarios Press. pg. 55.

16. Roberts, Alexander and James Donaldson. 1998. The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmanns Publishing Company, 1998, pg. 423 (St. Cyprian of Carthage, “On the Unity of the Church”, Chapter V).

17. Kalomiros, Alexander. 1967. Against False Union. pp. 56-57.

18. Motovilov, N.A. St. Seraphim of Sarov. A Wonderful Revelation to the World: Conversation of St. Seraphim with N.A. Motovilov., Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, pg. 6.

19. Khrapovitsky, Metropolitan Anthony of Kiev and Galich, What is the Difference Between Orthodoxy and Western Confessions? (cited on January 12, 2006) Available at: http://www.archangelsbooks.com/articles/east_west/OrthodoxyandWest.asp

20. Macris, George, Synaxis: Orthodox Christian Theology in the 20th Century, Vol. 2., New-Ostrog Monastery, Canada., pp. 39-56. (cited on January 19, 2006) Available at: http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/francis_sarov.aspx

21. Vlachos, Metropolitan Hiertheos. 1998. The Mind of the Orthodox Church. Lavadia-Hellas, Greece : Birth of the Theotokos Monastery., pg. 44. For a much deeper analysis, see Romanides, John S. 2002. The Ancestral Sin Ridgewood, NJ: Zephyr Publishing, p. 96ff.

22. Vlachos, Metropolitan Hiertheos. The Mind of the Orthodox Church. pg. 170. For a more detailed explanation on this very theme, see; Kalomiros, Alexander The River of Fire, Seattle, WA: St. Nectarios Press. (cited on January 3, 2006) Available at: http://www.stnectariospress.com/parish/river_of_fire.htm

23. Vlachos, Metropolitan Hiertheos. 1980. The Mind of the Orthodox Church. pg. 168ff.

24. Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna and Bishop Auxentios of Photiki. 2002. The Roman West and the Byzantine East. Etna, CA : Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, pg. 13.

25. The Catholic Church. 1964. Vatican II Documents, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum. Chapter II, Section 8. Available at: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

“This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. (5) For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.”

26. Another basic principle and characteristic within Romanism is its bifurcation of the Church into the “Teaching Church” and the “Church of Pupils”. This is conditioned by its own structural properties with its division into clergy and laity. The absence of this division within the Orthodox Church is an indication of her character in the most decisive way.

27. Lossky, Vladimir. 1974. In the Image and Likeness: Tradition and Traditions Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, p. 152.

28. Ware, Bishop Kallistos. The Orthodox Church., pg. 1.

29. Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs. 1848: A Reply to the Epistle of Pope Pius IX, "to the Easterns". (cited on January 19, 2006) Available at: http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/encyc_1848.aspx

For an interesting and more detailed response to Pope John Paul II’s request “to help Rome exercise the Petrine primacy in a way "open to a new situation" and in a way, which accomplishes "a service of love recognized by all concerned."; that is based on the encyclical of 1848 from the Eastern Patriarchs; see Hopko, Thomas. 2005. Roman Presidency and Christian Unity in our Time. The 30 th Anniversary Woodstock Forum: “Re-envisioning the Papacy”, Washington, DC: Georgetown University, September, 26, 2005. (Cited on January 17, 2006) Available at: http://www.svots.edu/Faculty/Thomas-Hopko/Articles/Roman-Presidency-and-Christian-Unity.html

30. Askoul, Father Michael “An Open Letter to the Orthodox Hierarchy” Seattle, WA: St. Nectarios Press Educational Series.

“If any doubts that Papists and Protestants are heretics, let him have recourse to history, to the reputable and sagacious opinions and statements of councils, encyclicals and theologians. From the time of blessed Saint Photius, when Papism was coming into being, the Church of God has defined her attitude towards this ecclesiological heresy even as She had towards the triadological and Christological heresies of ancient times. The Council of Constantinople (879-880) under Photius declared the various innovations of the West to be heretical (J.D. Mansi, Sacro. Council. Nova et amplis. collect. Venice, 1759, XVI, 174C, 405C); and the Council of the same imperial city (1009) confirmed the decisions of Photius against the Papists (Mansi, XXXL, 799f). Theophylact of Ochrida condemned the Papal errors (PG 126 224) as did Nicephorus Blemnydes, Patriarch of Constantinople (PG 142 533-564).

…Again, George of Cyprus (PG 142 1233-1245), Germanus II, Patriarch of Constantinople (PG 140 621-757), Saint Marcus Eugenicos (PG 140 1071-1100) and Patriarch of Constantinople, Gennadius (PG 160 320-373) and all condemn the Papist heresies as does Saint Simeon of Thessalonica (Dial. Christ. Contra Omn. Haer, PG 155 105-108), the illustrious successor to the most blessed, Saint Gregory Palamas, God-mantled enemy of Latin Scholasticism.

31. Ware, Bishop Kallistos. The Orthodox Church., pg. 7.


Askoul, Father Michael “An Open Letter to the Orthodox Hierarchy” Seattle, WA: St. Nectarios Press Educational Series.

Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna and Bishop Auxentios of Photiki. 2002. The Roman West and the Byzantine East. Etna, CA : Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies.

St. Athanasius, 1975. On the Incarnation. Crestwood, NY : St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.

The Catholic Church, 1964. Vatican II Documents, Dogmatic Constitution of the Church: Lumen Gentium. Chapter III, Section 22.

The Catholic Church. 1964. Vatican II Documents, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum. Chapter II, Section 8.

The Catholic Church. 2000. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Our Sunday Visitor; 2nd edition.

Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs. 1848: A Reply to the Epistle of Pope Pius IX, "to the Easterns".

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