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Philaret Denisenko’s “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) does not and has never existed, Patriarch Bartholomew told a group of Ukrainian journalists in Istanbul last week. “As for [Ph]ilaret, he was restored to his episcopal dignity as former Metropolitan of Kiev. The so-called ‘Patriarchate of Kiev’ does not exist and never existed,” the Patriarch told the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine. The head of the Union, Sergei Tomilenko, wrote about the meeting on his Facebook page and published the full text of Pat. Bartholomew’s English speech. The declaration comes against the background of Philaret Denisenko’s active attempts to garner support for the revival of the KP, which he loudly proclaims never ceased to exist, despite his promise to liquidate it on the morning of the “unification council” in Kiev on December 15. The Ukrainian Ministry of Justice has confirmed that the KP was never liquidated and continues to exist, at least in the eyes of the state. Moreover, the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church,” which united with the KP to create the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU), was also not liquidated before the council. Thus, there are now three schismatic bodies in Ukraine, rather than the two that existed before the “unification council.” A battle has begun between Philaret Denisenko, the “Patriarch” of the KP, considered the “Honorary Patriarch” of the OCU, and the primate of the OCU “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, that only further delegitimizes the OCU in the eyes of the Orthodox world and threatens to tear apart Pat. Bartholomew’s personal creation. While the Orthodox world has never recognized the legitimacy of the KP, it does not deny its existence. Moreover, in the same speech, Pat. Bartholomew himself speaks of the separation of Ukrainian Orthodoxy into “three separate entities,” and states that “This reality, the existence of two schismatic groups, was a real agony.” The rest of Pat. Bartholomew’s speech is largely a reiteration of the same points he and other Constantinople representatives have been making since the summer. He states that the granting of autocephaly to Ukraine was a purely pastoral matter on the part of Constantinople, to free Ukraine from the oppression of being part of the Russian Church and to create unity within Ukraine. The Synods, primates, and hierarchs of other Local Churches have, however, noted that Ukrainian Orthodoxy is only less unified since Constantinople’s interference there. He also repeats the historical claim that the Kiev Metropolis never transferred to the Russian Church—an assertion that only the Patriarchate of Constantinople accepts. Further, he states that “The issue in Ukraine was timely. That is, the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not suddenly decide to intervene,” although he had denied numerous appeals from schismatic clergy and state authorities over the preceding three decades, changing his mind only after the unsuccessful Crete council in 2016. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, a hierarch of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, has tied Constantinople’s interference in Ukraine to Pat. Bartholomew’s disappointment that the Russian Church did not participate in the Crete Council. Pat. Bartholomew further states: “As we have maintained, there are no more schismatics in Ukraine because they have been restored to communion with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” However, to date, the OCU is in communion only with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, not with the Orthodox Church as a whole. They have been explicitly rejected as schismatics by several Local Churches. http://orthochristian.com/121591.html?fbclid=IwAR12vr6wJNpNvByH8txIEr8X_vQXe-kVpv516GgsNGD1zDILzsNqiZ7tAgg
Constantinople, July 3, 2018 In a move that is sure to ruffle some feathers, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has declared that the Ukrainian Church is, in fact, still within his canonical jurisdiction. The patriarch again broached the topic of the ongoing schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy in an address following the 40-day memorial for Metropolitan Evangelos of Perge on Sunday, July 1, 2018, at the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Constantinople, emphasizing the patriarchate’s desire to heal the schism. As the website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate reports, Pat. Bartholomew began by stating his desire to see the problems in Ukraine come to a peaceable conclusion, given Constantinople’s historical role as the Mother Church for Kievan Rus’: “For, as the Mother Church, it is reasonable to desire the restoration of unity for the divided ecclesiastical body in Ukraine, a faithful population of tens of millions, baptized and enlightened directly through the providence and missionary activity of our Ecumenical Throne.” His All-Holiness has expressed such a sentiment in the past, and all Churches are in agreement with the historical role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the desire to overcome the schism. However, the patriarch stepped into controversial territory when he declared that the Ukrainian Church actually belongs to his canonical jurisdiction even today: Let us not forget that Constantinople never ceded the territory of Ukraine to anyone by means of some ecclesiastical Act, but only granted to the Patriarch of Moscow the right of ordination or transfer of the Metropolitan of Kiev on the condition that the Metropolitan of Kiev should be elected by a Clergy-Laity Congress and commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch. As evidence, he pointed to the tomos of autocephaly given to the Polish Orthodox Church in 1924 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate which states that the separation of the Metropolitanate of Kiev from the Ecumenical Throne “in no way occurred according to the binding canonical regulations.” His assertion is interesting, given that the patriarch recently told a delegation from the canonical Ukrainian Church that he wants to help, but not to interfere in the affairs of another Local Church. That Ukraine belongs to Constantinople is sure to come as a surprise to the Ukrainian Church itself, which recently stated that it is perfectly capable of carrying out its evangelical mission as an autonomous body within the Moscow Patriarchate, and to the Russian Church, which has been the spiritual home of the Ukrainian Church since 1685. Moreover, the Russian Church had already rejected such claims when His Eminence Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon presented the theory at the recent meeting between hierarchs of Ukraine and Constantinople. Addressing the Ukrainian delegation at the June 21 meeting in Constantinople, Met. John put forth the theory that Kiev was never truly transferred to the Russian Church, and that the relationship they did have was temporary in nature, as Interfax-Religion reports. His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk has responded that there is no documentary evidence for such a claim: We have recently done a lot of work in the archives and have found all the available documentation of these events—900 pages of documents in both Greek and Russian. They absolutely clearly show that the Metropolitanate of Kiev was included in the composition of the Moscow Patriarchate by decision of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and that a temporary nature to this decision is nowhere stipulated; no timeframe was set. Met. Hilarion added that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has never challenged Kiev’s inclusion in the Russian Church over the past 300 years. He also noted that the territory of the Metropolitanate of Kiev was much smaller at the time that it was transferred from Constantinople to Moscow, including neither Odessa, nor Donetsk, nor Crimea. “Accordingly, the current Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is a completely different territory than the one that was then appended.” Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Ukraine’s two schismatic bodies await a response to their appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for a tomos of autocephaly for a Local Ukrainian Church. http://orthochristian.com/114119.html
After I became convinced by the historic claims of Christianity concerning the person of Jesus, I started looking for a church to call my own and as I did, I quickly became confused by the disorienting variety of teachings and practices among different denominations and this forced me to confront questions about the divisions that exist within Christianity. I started studying Church history and I quickly narrowed my focus to the division between Catholicism and Protestantism. Eastern Orthodoxy didn’t, at that time, register as a contender for one very simple reason. I’m an English speaking white dude in a British commonwealth country. There is a universality to Catholicism that doesn’t exist in the Eastern Orthodox churches. For me to become Eastern Orthodox, I’d have to join a Church with a very specifically ethnic or national identity. When people ask me why I’m not Eastern Orthodox, I’m tempted to get into a theological throw down, but the easiest way to answer that is by pointing out that I’m not Russian, Ukrainian, Greek, or any other ethnicity that the Eastern churches in the city I live in serve. A point of contention at all the major divisions in Christianity has been the focus on authority. So, the East West split focused on the authority of the Pope vs. other bishops and patriarchs. The protestant reformation was about the authority of the Church and the Pope vs. the exclusive authority of scripture, and the English reformation was about the authority of the Pope vs. the authority of the King. So, as you might guess, authority, how it’s defined, and where it resides, seems like a pretty essential component of the faith. So in the case of the East West schism, there were a number of controversies that they were stuck on, but arguably, the most significant one was the disagreement over the authority of the bishop of Rome vs. that of the other patriarchs and bishops. Rome insisted that the bishop of Rome had a unique and universal authority over the entire Church, without which there would be no universal Church, as inherited from the authority of Peter. The Eastern Orthodox side was arguing that the bishop of Rome was a first among equals but only in an honorific way which meant that he had the same authority as the other patriarchs. So that was their position going into the controversy. OK, how true were they to their positions after the controversy had led to an actual division and schism? Well, the West still maintained the conviction that the bishop of Rome had a universal authority over the whole Church. But the East, did not continue to treat the Bishop of Rome as a first among equals. In fact, they excommunicated him which seems like a clear violation of their own claim that no autocephalous patriarch has authority over another. The honor of first among equals has since been designated to the Patriarch of Constantinople. Jesus wanted his followers to be one as a sign of his divinity to the world. Between East and West, from what little I know of it’s history, I only have ever seen major attempts from the West to realize that unity. Through the councils of Lyon and Florence, the East’s bishops conceded Rome’s position on Papal Supremacy, the Filioque, and purgatory, but the unity that was struck fell apart when the Eastern delegates went home and succumbed to political pressure there. Rome has always been the initiator of ecumenical dialogue, from what I’ve seen. It was at the first Vatican Council that the mutual excommunications of 1054 were lifted. It was the second Vatican council that made ecumenism a high priority for the Church moving forward which paved the way for the joint theological commission of East and West. It was Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI who recited the Nicene Creed with Eastern patriarchs without the filioque. It was the bishop of Rome who first visited the East. It wasn’t until 1995 when the Patriarch of Constantinople finally visited Rome. Last week I made a video about why I never became Eastern Orthodox and it got a lot of reaction, which is great, but that reaction was quite polarized and there seemed to be a lot of misunderstanding about what I was trying to say in that video, so I wanted to take some more time to address some of the feedback as well as the misunderstandings from the previous commentary. The first thing I’d want to point out and re-emphasize is that the perspective I’m trying to share on this topic is more personal than anything else. Some people complained that my presentation of the history and theology of the great schism was too one sided. And that’s completely true. It’s the same criticism or disclaimer I made about it at the beginning of the video by saying that it wasn’t supposed to be an apologetic about why Catholicism is right and Eastern Orthodoxy wrong. It was about my reasons for not being Catholic as opposed to Eastern Orthodox which is going to be inherently one sided. Ultimately, I’d hate for people to think that I’m positioning myself in an adversarial way towards Eastern Orthodoxy because the honest fact is, I do find the peculiarities in Eastern Christianity extremely attractive. I like a lot of the simplicity of it, I like icons, I absolutely LOVE eastern architecture. I love how you’ve been so steadfast against the aberrant currents of modernism, and I could go on. So let me try to dispel what I think is the biggest misunderstanding from the last video which is that some people thought I was criticizing ethnic or national churches which is definitely not what I was trying to say. I think it’s great that there are particular churches that express the theology, liturgy, and spirituality of a particular heritage. The point I was trying to make about the universality of the Church, is that there needs to be a way for those national churches to express their communion and universality with one another. So in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, from what I understand, they would say that their universality is expressed in their common theology… their orthodoxy. But the question for me has always been, how is that common theology defined? How do you make sure that as new difficulties and controversies arise the entire Church responds to address them? Well, if there’s no one final authority, like we have with the Pope, then you’d need an ecumenical council where all the patriarchs and bishops gather to define doctrines and settle controversies. But for the Eastern Orthodox, as they are known today, there hasn’t been an ecumenical council in over 1000 years. And meanwhile, Rome never stopped calling and hosting ecumenical councils through the centuries. So there seems to be something, to me, about the Eastern Orthodox Churches that keeps them frozen and unable to reaffirm the universal aspect of our faith because there isn’t one unifying voice to bring them together in an ecumenical way. In evaluating the East West schism, I tried to find a similar easy to identify and understand argument. Something that made one of the positions self refuting and I felt like I found it in the Eastern position and that’s what I was trying to emphasize in my last video. I was interested in trying to discover which Church stayed true to the very thing they were contending in the division itself. The Eastern bishops maintained that the Bishop of Rome was the first among equals but not supreme in authority. But after the schism, they excommunicated him and haven’t once shown him that kind of honor since, so they’ve betrayed their own position. Now some people responded to that by saying, the Pope excommunicated the patriarch of Constantinople too, which is true. But in so doing, he was acting in accord with the argument that the West was making which is that he had universal authority. The East was saying that the authority of those ancient sees ended there. Constantinople couldn’t tell Rome what to do and vice versa. But in, excommunicating the Pope, they were contradicting themselves and their own arguments. So, I hope that provides some more clarity for what I was trying to say in my last video and again, don’t take my word as some kind of authority because I’m not. Based on my comprehension level, these are the points I found persuasive. You should go do your own research because it matters, and it’s pretty interesting. The Wikipedia article on the East West schism is actually a great resource so, I’ll link it in the description.