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Catechism of the Catholic Church
Paragraph 3. THE CHURCH IS ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC, AND APOSTOLIC
811 "This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic."256 These four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other,257 indicate essential features of the Church and her mission. the Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities.
812 Only faith can recognize that the Church possesses these properties from her divine source. But their historical manifestations are signs that also speak clearly to human reason. As the First Vatican Council noted, the "Church herself, with her marvellous propagation, eminent holiness, and inexhaustible fruitfulness in everything good, her catholic unity and invincible stability, is a great and perpetual motive of credibility and an irrefutable witness of her divine mission."258
I. THE CHURCH IS ONE
"The sacred mystery of the Church's unity" (UR 2)
813 The Church is one because of her source: "the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit."259 The Church is one because of her founder: for "the Word made flesh, the prince of peace, reconciled all men to God by the cross, . . . restoring the unity of all in one people and one body."260 The Church is one because of her "soul": "It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church's unity."261 Unity is of the essence of the Church:
What an astonishing mystery! There is one Father of the universe, one Logos of the universe, and also one Holy Spirit, everywhere one and the same; there is also one virgin become mother, and I should like to call her "Church."262
814 From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God's gifts and the diversity of those who receive them. Within the unity of the People of God, a multiplicity of peoples and cultures is gathered together. Among the Church's members, there are different gifts, offices, conditions, and ways of life. "Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions."263 The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church's unity. Yet sin and the burden of its consequences constantly threaten the gift of unity. and so the Apostle has to exhort Christians to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."264
815 What are these bonds of unity? Above all, charity "binds everything together in perfect harmony."265 But the unity of the pilgrim Church is also assured by visible bonds of communion:
- profession of one faith received from the Apostles;
-common celebration of divine worship, especially of the sacraments;
- apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders, maintaining the fraternal concord of God's family.266
816 "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) 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
Wounds to unity
817 In fact, "in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame."269 The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ's Body - here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism270 - do not occur without human sin:
Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.271
818 "However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers .... All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."272
819 "Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth"273 are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: "the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements."274 Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him,275 and are in themselves calls to "Catholic unity."276
820 "Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time."277 Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her. This is why Jesus himself prayed at the hour of his Passion, and does not cease praying to his Father, for the unity of his disciples: "That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, . . . so that the world may know that you have sent me."278 The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit.279
821 Certain things are required in order to respond adequately to this call:
- a permanent renewal of the Church in greater fidelity to her vocation; such renewal is the driving-force of the movement toward unity;280
- conversion of heart as the faithful "try to live holier lives according to the Gospel";281 for it is the unfaithfulness of the members to Christ's gift which causes divisions;
- prayer in common, because "change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name 'spiritual ecumenism;"'282
-fraternal knowledge of each other;283
- ecumenical formation of the faithful and especially of priests;284
- dialogue among theologians and meetings among Christians of the different churches and communities;285
- collaboration among Christians in various areas of service to mankind.286 "Human service" is the idiomatic phrase.
822 Concern for achieving unity "involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike."287 But we must realize "that this holy objective - the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ - transcends human powers and gifts." That is why we place all our hope "in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit."288
II THE CHURCH IS HOLY
823 "The Church . . . is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy. This is because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as 'alone holy,' loved the Church as his Bride, giving himself up for her so as to sanctify her; he joined her to himself as his body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God."289 The Church, then, is "the holy People of God,"290 and her members are called "saints."291
824 United with Christ, the Church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes sanctifying. "All the activities of the Church are directed, as toward their end, to the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God."292 It is in the Church that "the fullness of the means of salvation"293 has been deposited. It is in her that "by the grace of God we acquire holiness."294
825 "The Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect."295 In her members perfect holiness is something yet to be acquired: "Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state - though each in his own way - are called by the Lord to that perfection of sanctity by which the Father himself is perfect."296
826 Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it "governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification."297
If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn't lack the noblest of all; it must have a Heart, and a Heart BURNING WITH LOVE.
and I realized that this love alone was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function, the Apostles would forget to preach the gospel, the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood.
LOVE, IN FACT, IS THE VOCATION WHICH INCLUDES ALL OTHERS; IT'S A UNIVERSE OF ITS OWN, COMPRISING ALL TIME AND SPACE - IT'S ETERNAL!298
827 "Christ, 'holy, innocent, and undefiled,' knew nothing of sin, but came only to expiate the sins of the people. the Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal."299 All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners.300 In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time.301 Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ's salvation but still on the way to holiness:
The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she herself has no other life but the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for those offenses, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.302
828 By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly pro claiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God's grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors.303 "The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church's history."304 Indeed, "holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal."305
829 "But while in the most Blessed Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle, the faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness. and so they turn their eyes to Mary":306 in her, the Church is already the "all-holy."
III. THE CHURCH IS CATHOLIC
What does "catholic" mean?
830 The word "catholic" means "universal," in the sense of "according to the totality" or "in keeping with the whole." the Church is catholic in a double sense: First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. "Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church."307 In her subsists the fullness of Christ's body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him "the fullness of the means of salvation"308 which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession. the Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost309 and will always be so until the day of the Parousia.
831 Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race:310
All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God's will may be fulfilled: he made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all his children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one.... the character of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods, under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit.311
Each particular Church is "catholic"
832 "The Church of Christ is really present in all legitimately organized local groups of the faithful, which, in so far as they are united to their pastors, are also quite appropriately called Churches in the New Testament.... In them the faithful are gathered together through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the mystery of the Lord's Supper is celebrated.... In these communities, though they may often be small and poor, or existing in the diaspora, Christ is present, through whose power and influence the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is constituted."312
833 The phrase "particular church," which is the diocese (or eparchy), refers to a community of the Christian faithful in communion of faith and sacraments with their bishop ordained in apostolic succession.313 These particular Churches "are constituted after the model of the universal Church; it is in these and formed out of them that the one and unique Catholic Church exists."314
834 Particular Churches are fully catholic through their communion with one of them, the Church of Rome "which presides in charity."315 "For with this church, by reason of its pre-eminence, the whole Church, that is the faithful everywhere, must necessarily be in accord."316 Indeed, "from the incarnate Word's descent to us, all Christian churches everywhere have held and hold the great Church that is here [at Rome] to be their only basis and foundation since, according to the Savior's promise, the gates of hell have never prevailed against her."317
835 "Let us be very careful not to conceive of the universal Church as the simple sum, or . . . the more or less anomalous federation of essentially different particular churches. In the mind of the Lord the Church is universal by vocation and mission, but when she pub down her roots in a variety of cultural, social, and human terrains, she takes on different external expressions and appearances in each part of the world."318 The rich variety of ecclesiastical disciplines, liturgical rites, and theological and spiritual heritages proper to the local churches "unified in a common effort, shows all the more resplendently the catholicity of the undivided Church."319
Who belongs to the Catholic Church?
836 "All men are called to this catholic unity of the People of God.... and to it, in different ways, belong or are ordered: the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all mankind, called by God's grace to salvation."320
837 "Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who - by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion - are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but 'in body' not 'in heart.'"321
838 "The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter."322 Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church."323 With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist."324
The Church and non-Christians
839 "Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways."325
The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People,326 "the first to hear the Word of God."327 The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ",328 "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."329
840 and when one considers the future, God's People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.
841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."330
842 The Church's bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race:
All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city. . .331
843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."332
844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them:
Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair.333
845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. the Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. the Church is "the world reconciled." She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood.334
"Outside the Church there is no salvation"
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337
848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."338
Mission - a requirement of the Church's catholicity
849 The missionary mandate. "Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be 'the universal sacrament of salvation,' the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder and because it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel to all men":339 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and Lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age."340
850 The origin and purpose of mission. the Lord's missionary mandate is ultimately grounded in the eternal love of the Most Holy Trinity: "The Church on earth is by her nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, she has as her origin the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit."341 The ultimate purpose of mission is none other than to make men share in the communion between the Father and the Son in their Spirit of love.342
851 Missionary motivation. It is from God's love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, "for the love of Christ urges us on."343 Indeed, God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth";344 that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the prompting of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God's universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary.
852 Missionary paths. the Holy Spirit is the protagonist, "the principal agent of the whole of the Church's mission."345 It is he who leads the Church on her missionary paths. "This mission continues and, in the course of history, unfolds the mission of Christ, who was sent to evangelize the poor; so the Church, urged on by the Spirit of Christ, must walk the road Christ himself walked, a way of poverty and obedience, of service and self-sacrifice even to death, a death from which he emerged victorious by his resurrection."346 So it is that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians."347
853 On her pilgrimage, the Church has also experienced the "discrepancy existing between the message she proclaims and the human weakness of those to whom the Gospel has been entrusted."348 Only by taking the "way of penance and renewal," the "narrow way of the cross," can the People of God extend Christ's reign.349 For "just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and oppression, so the Church is called to follow the same path if she is to communicate the fruits of salvation to men."350
854 By her very mission, "the Church . . . travels the same journey as all humanity and shares the same earthly lot with the world: she is to be a leaven and, as it were, the soul of human society in its renewal by Christ and transformation into the family of God."351 Missionary endeavor requires patience. It begins with the proclamation of the Gospel to peoples and groups who do not yet believe in Christ,352 continues with the establishment of Christian communities that are "a sign of God's presence in the world,"353 and leads to the foundation of local churches.354 It must involve a process of inculturation if the Gospel is to take flesh in each people's culture.355 There will be times of defeat. "With regard to individuals, groups, and peoples it is only by degrees that [the Church] touches and penetrates them and so receives them into a fullness which is Catholic."356
855 The Church's mission stimulates efforts towards Christian unity.357 Indeed, "divisions among Christians prevent the Church from realizing in practice the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her sons who, though joined to her by Baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her. Furthermore, the Church herself finds it more difficult to express in actual life her full catholicity in all its aspects."358
856 The missionary task implies a respectful dialogue with those who do not yet accept the Gospel.359 Believers can profit from this dialogue by learning to appreciate better "those elements of truth and grace which are found among peoples, and which are, as it were, a secret presence of God."360 They proclaim the Good News to those who do not know it, in order to consolidate, complete, and raise up the truth and the goodness that God has distributed among men and nations, and to purify them from error and evil "for the glory of God, the confusion of the demon, and the happiness of man."361
IV. THE CHURCH IS APOSTOLIC
857 The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:
- she was and remains built on "the foundation of the Apostles,"362 The witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;363
- with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching,364 The "good deposit," the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;365
- she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ's return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, "assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church's supreme pastor":366
You are the eternal Shepherd
who never leaves his flock untended.
Through the apostles you watch over us and protect us always.
You made them shepherds of the flock
to share in the work of your Son....367
The Apostles' mission
858 Jesus is the Father's Emissary. From the beginning of his ministry, he "called to him those whom he desired; .... and he appointed twelve, whom also he named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach."368 From then on, they would also be his "emissaries" (Greek apostoloi). In them, Christ continues his own mission: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."369 The apostles' ministry is the continuation of his mission; Jesus said to the Twelve: "he who receives you receives me."370
859 Jesus unites them to the mission he received from the Father. As "the Son can do nothing of his own accord," but receives everything from the Father who sent him, so those whom Jesus sends can do nothing apart from him,371 from whom they received both the mandate for their mission and the power to carry it out. Christ's apostles knew that they were called by God as "ministers of a new covenant," "servants of God," "ambassadors for Christ," "servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God."372
860 In the office of the apostles there is one aspect that cannot be transmitted: to be the chosen witnesses of the Lord's Resurrection and so the foundation stones of the Church. But their office also has a permanent aspect. Christ promised to remain with them always. the divine mission entrusted by Jesus to them "will continue to the end of time, since the Gospel they handed on is the lasting source of all life for the Church. Therefore, . . . the apostles took care to appoint successors."373
The bishops - successors of the apostles
861 "In order that the mission entrusted to them might be continued after their death, [the apostles] consigned, by will and testament, as it were, to their immediate collaborators the duty of completing and consolidating the work they had begun, urging them to tend to the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit had appointed them to shepherd the Church of God. They accordingly designated such men and then made the ruling that likewise on their death other proven men should take over their ministry."374
862 "Just as the office which the Lord confided to Peter alone, as first of the apostles, destined to be transmitted to his successors, is a permanent one, so also endures the office, which the apostles received, of shepherding the Church, a charge destined to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops."375 Hence the Church teaches that "the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ."376
863 The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is "sent out" into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways. "The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well." Indeed, we call an apostolate "every activity of the Mystical Body" that aims "to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth."377
864 "Christ, sent by the Father, is the source of the Church's whole apostolate"; thus the fruitfulness of apostolate for ordained ministers as well as for lay people clearly depends on their vital union with Christ.378 In keeping with their vocations, the demands of the times and the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, the apostolate assumes the most varied forms. But charity, drawn from the Eucharist above all, is always "as it were, the soul of the whole apostolate."379
865 The Church is ultimately one, holy, catholic, and apostolic in her deepest and ultimate identity, because it is in her that "the Kingdom of heaven," the "Reign of God,"380 already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time. the kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into him, until its full eschatological manifestation. Then all those he has redeemed and made "holy and blameless before him in love,"381 will be gathered together as the one People of God, the
"Bride of the Lamb,"382 "the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God."383 For "the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."384
866 The Church is one: she acknowledges one Lord, confesses one faith, is born of one Baptism, forms only one Body, is given life by the one Spirit, for the sake of one hope (cf ⇒ Eph 4:3-5), at whose fulfillment all divisions will be overcome.
867 The Church is holy: the Most Holy God is her author; Christ, her bridegroom, gave himself up to make her holy; the Spirit of holiness gives her life. Since she still includes sinners, she is "the sinless one made up of sinners." Her holiness shines in the saints; in Mary she is already all-holy.
868 The Church is catholic: she proclaims the fullness of the faith. She bears in herself and administers the totality of the means of salvation. She is sent out to all peoples. She speaks to all men. She encompasses all times. She is "missionary of her very nature" (AG 2).
869 The Church is apostolic. She is built on a lasting foundation: "the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (⇒ Rev 21:14). She is indestructible (cf ⇒ Mt 16:18). She is upheld infallibly in the truth: Christ governs her through Peter and the other apostles, who are present in their successors, the Pope and the college of bishops.
870 "The sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, . . . subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines"(LG 8).
Catechism of the Catholic Church - IntraText
TEHRAN – Earlier today, the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran raised the Red Flag of Hussein over the Holy Dome of Jamkaran Mosque, in Qom. The raising of the red flag gives a precise signal – it indicates that a major war is to come or is even now underway.
Reports so far indicate that this is the first time Iran has unfurled this flag over the Holy Dome, a flag steeped in religious symbolism relating to Islamic eschatology, the end times, and the specter of total war of epic and religious proportions.
This is not a flag of mourning, or of somber remembrance. It is a flag indicating that Iran is mobilizing its entire society towards a conflict never before seen. Bear in mind that this flag was not unfurled even during the Iran-Iraq war.
The Red Flag of Hussein raised above the mosque symbolizes the strength of the battle like that of Karbala and the color of the blood that may soon be poured as sacrifice and for justice over the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, who has now become Shahid Soleimani (martyr Soleimani). Yet it reaches far beyond that of Shia martyrs, and speaks of events yet to unfold in short time.
The mosque is the considered one of the most significant in Iran, and in recent years has experienced much greater interest particularly from the youth.
Iran told the United Nations Security Council and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday that it reserves its right to self-defense under international law after the United States killed Qassem Soleimani, the top commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
Iranian U.N. Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi wrote in a letter that the killing of Soleimani “by any measure, is an obvious example of State terrorism and, as a criminal act, constitutes a gross violation of the fundamental principles of international law, including, in particular, those stipulated in the Charter of the United Nations.”
TOTAL WAR: Iran Unfurls Red Flag of War Over the Holy Dome of Jamkarān Mosque - Fort Russ
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Why Constantinople registered its organization of one person at the address of the Czech monastery.
It has become known from open sources that the Patriarchate of Constantinople began to create a parallel jurisdiction in the Czech Republic, in the canonical territory of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia (OCCLS) and registered a “monastery” subordinate to Phanar. What are the Phanariots striving for and what may their plan of forcible takeover of this Local Church be?
Christianity was brought to Moravia by Sts. Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodius, who are also called the Moravian brothers. In 869, Pope Adrian II ordained St. Methodius to the rank of Archbishop of Moravia. This was before the fall of the Roman Church, which happened almost 200 years later, in 1054. Thus, the first Mother Church for the OCCLS was precisely the Orthodox Sazavska Monastery, and Orthodoxy disappeared from these lands for almost 800 years. Only at the end of the 19th century Orthodox temples appeared in the Czech Republic, which the Russian Church built for vacationers from Russia in Czech resorts. There appeared a Czech Orthodox community in Prague, which was also led by a priest from the Russian Church.
However, amid political disagreements between Russia and Austria-Hungary, and then World War I, the Austrian authorities did not register this Orthodox community in Prague and it legally belonged to the community of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Vienna. The Serbian Church ordained the first bishop for the Czech and Slovak lands, Bishop Gorazd (Pavlik). Thus, the Serbian Church became the second Mother Church for the OCCLS.
Bishop Gorazd put a lot of efforts in the formation of the Church in Czechoslovakia, and in the interwar period it developed quite actively, while being in the jurisdiction of the Serbian Church. During the Second World War, Bishop Gorazd was tortured by the Nazis and became the first holy martyr of the Church of Czechoslovakia.
At the same time, instead of supporting the work of St. Gorazd, the Patriarchate of Constantinople tried to create a parallel jurisdiction and in 1923 established its Autonomous Orthodox Church in the Czech Republic and Moravia and ordained Bishop Sabbatius (Vrabets) to lead it. However, the believers rejected him and remained faithful to Bishop Gorazd. Bishop Sabbatius retired, while the autonomous Church from Constantinople remained on paper.
During World War II, the Czechoslovak Church was liquidated by the Nazis and revived after the victory but already in the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. Unlike Phanar, the Russian Orthodox Church did not pretend to rule this Church and in 1951 granted it full autocephaly, thus becoming the third Mother Church for the OCCLS.
An act signed by Patriarch Alexy (Simansky) read as follows: “The Russian Orthodox Church, represented by Patriarch Alexy of Moscow and All Russia and the entire Holy Council of Bishops, in consideration of the petition of the Church Council of the Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia, grants autocephaly to this Church, formerly the Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Russian Orthodox Church with one heart prays to the Heavenly Shepherd, our Head the Lord Jesus Christ so that He sends His Divine blessing to the youngest sister in the family of Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, the Church of Czechoslovakia and crowns Her with eternal glory.”
It is noteworthy that this is the full text of the act.
Constantinople categorically did not recognize it arguing that Saints Cyril and Methodius came to Moravia from Constantinople, therefore this is its canonical territory. Phanar was not at all embarrassed by the fact that Methodius was ordained bishop of Moravia in Rome and that for almost 800 years there was no Orthodoxy in these lands at all,.
But even without the recognition of Constantinople, the OCCLS was developing quite successfully and by the end of the 20th century already numbered several hundred thousand parishioners.
In 1998, the current Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, recognized the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia by publishing his Tomos on the autocephaly of OCCLS. This Tomos is strikingly different from the ROC act. Whereas the act does not contain any terms on limitations of autocephaly, the Phanar’s Tomos abounds with them. Like in the Tomos for the OCU, there is an obligation for the OCCLS to receive the myrrh from Constantinople, to appeal there, coordinate all important issues with Phanar and act strictly in line with the foreign policy pursued by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The OCCLS considered the Phanar-issued Tomos to be simply an internal document of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
However, in 2013, the Primate of the OCCLS Metropolitan Christopher (Pulz) was forced to retire due to the appearance of publications casting a shadow on his moral character. The publications, as it was established later, turned out to be slanderous, but this enabled Phanar to intervene in the affairs of the OCCLS.
On October 19, 2013, at the diocesan meeting of the Prague diocese, which was supposed to choose a new Prague bishop, the well-known Metropolitan Emmanuel (Adamakis) of France turned up and said that Phanar would not recognize any of the candidates proposed at the meeting. This caused confusion and the congregation was not able to elect its bishop.
In December 2013, in Prague, a meeting of the Holy Synod of the OCCLS was held, to which the locum tenens of the head of this Church, Archbishop Simeon (Yakovlevic) had already invited two Metropolitans of Constantinople – Emmanuel (Adamakis) of France and Arseny (Kardamakis) of Vienna. It was announced to everyone that these hierarchs would participate in the meetings of the Synod of a foreign Church with a casting vote.
The rest of the Czechoslovak hierarchs resolutely opposed to this and asked the Russian Orthodox Church for protection from Phanar’s gross interference in the affairs of the Church OCCLS. Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), the head of the Department for External Church Relations, arrived in Prague. He negotiated with the Phanariots and ensured that the Synod of the OCCLS would settle its own affairs without interference from other Churches.
The Synod of the OCCLS removed the locum tenens, Archbishop Simeon (Yakovlevic), from office and appointed Metropolitan Rostislav (Gont). And soon after the Local Council of the OCCLS elected Metropolitan Rostislav, who received 87% of the vote, as the Primate.
It is easy to guess that Phanar did not recognize such an election and continued to consider its protégé – Archbishop Simeon – as the locum tenens thus provoking a split in the OCCLS.
In February 2015, Constantinople further aggravated this schism, having ordained Bishop Isaiah (Slanink) for the OCCLS in order to create an “alternative Synod” of the OCCLS.
It is not known how the situation would develop further, but in 2016 Phanar urgently needed the support of the OCCLS in the run-up to the Cretan Council. This Council, as we recall, was supposed to affirm the primacy of Constantinople in the Orthodox world, securing it many exclusive powers, and also open the way to unification with the Latins, recognizing the Vatican as an Orthodox Church along with Orthodoxy.
Thanks to the Providence of God, Four Local Churches did not attend this Council and it did not become pan-Orthodox, in fact. But then, before this Council, Patriarch Bartholomew struggled to ensure the presence of the Primates of all Local Churches and he had no time to fight with Metropolitan Rostislav. As a result, Phanar recognized Metropolitan Rostislav as the head of the Church, while the OCCLS recognized the Tomos of Constantinople of 1998 on its own autocephaly, which puts the OCCLS in actual subordination to Phanar.
A new attack by Phanar on the OCCLS ensued already in 2019 due to the fact that the Czechoslovak Church did not recognize the OCU and declared support for the UOC and His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry. On the same day when Phanar made its lawless decisions on Ukraine, on October 11, 2018, Metropolitan Rostislav sent a letter to the Russian Orthodox Church condemning the gross interference of the Ukrainian government in the internal life of the OCCLS and also stated that the position of the Church on this issue remains unchanged.
“World Orthodoxy recognizes the only canonical head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. This fact was repeatedly mentioned and reiterated on behalf of all those present by the Holy Primate of the Great Christ Church of Constantinople, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Synaxis of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches, which took place in Chambesy (Switzerland) from January 21 to 27, 2016. Therefore, any attempt to legalize the Ukrainian schismatics by the state authorities should be strongly condemned by all the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches,” the letter said.
And on February 3, 2019, on the day of “enthronement” of Epiphany Dumenko, Metropolitan Rostislav declared the following: “In fact, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has existed for centuries – from the time of Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir and Princess Olga, from the day of the Baptism in the Dnieper, and it has its primate – this is His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. <...> Among the high-ranking hierarchs there were those who decided to refute this, who considered for nothing what had been for centuries and proclaimed this impostor ‘a metropolitan of all Ukraine’ instead of the canonical metropolitan.”
Of course, this position aroused the indignation of Constantinople, which launched a new offensive on the OCCLS. In August 2019, Phanar initiated the creation of a parallel jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the Czech Republic. At the constituent assembly, the legal entity “Association: Holy Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (hereinafter referred to as the Association)” was created and the statute was adopted.
Only three people took part in the Constituent Assembly: Konstantinos Kardamakis, who is also Metropolitan Arseny of Austria (Constantinople Patriarchate), ThDr. Igor Slaninka, who is also Bishop Isaiah, and also a certain Roman Rugyko. These three established the Association and elected its chairman – “Dr. Konstantinos Kardamakis, born on October 31, 1973, residing at 13 Fleiskmarket, 1010 Vienna, Austria” and his deputy – “ThDr. (Doctor of Theology) Igor Isaiah Slaninka, born on June 25, 1980, living at the address: Jana Zizky, 1116/13, 434 01 Bridge.”
On October 1, 2019, the Association was registered by the regional court of Ostrava city.
What is noteworthy, in this extract in the column "number of members" there is a number 1. And the most interesting thing is that the monastery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at this address has already existed for a long while.
There is not much information about it on the Internet. There are some photos on the Czech site “Light of Orthodoxy” and a little information for the pilgrims on the website "Pilgrimage Alphabet":
“The Monastery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is located in the town of Vilemov, which is located in the Czech Republic. Over the long years of its existence, this convent became one of the main centers of Orthodoxy in the traditionally Catholic Czech Republic. Located in a quiet area, the monastery became a place of seclusion for a small Orthodox community. <...> Address: Czech Republic, Olomouc District, 783 22 Vilemov 159.”
What do we have? Phanar creates a monastery under the name "Association" at the same address, on the site of a female monastic community, which has existed for many years. Moreover, the Association formally establishes three people, none of whom has anything to do with this monastic community. The number of members of the Association, according to the extract from the register, is only one person. Furthermore, the Association is subordinate not to the OCCLS, i.e. the Local Church in whose canonical territory it is registered but directly to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Here is a paragraph of the Association’s statute on its goals: “The Association is a voluntary, non-governmental, non-profit association of Orthodox believers under the spiritual leadership of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which united the advocates of the spiritual development of Orthodox citizens living in the Czech Republic and other Orthodox believers to satisfy their spiritual needs, for vigorous activity in this development, to popularize this goal and ensure charitable activities in the field of this missionary work. The task is also to lead a spiritual and liturgical life, to be engaged in charity work, to help those in need, and at the same time to create contact spiritual centers (dependencies) to fulfill this goal. For this purpose, the chairman of the association (abbot) appoints the clergy who received the canonical mission. At the same time, it has to pay attention and help protect the rights of citizens and Orthodox believers, defend their interests in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom and to make sure that no one incites hatred, intolerance, supports violence or violates the Constitution and laws.”
The Association is subordinate to Constantinople; The Association extends its activities to all Orthodox citizens living in the Czech Republic; in the list of tasks of the established monastery (Association) there is not a word about monastic life. This means that under the guise of a monastery, a parallel jurisdiction will be established, which will expand throughout the Czech Republic, and then, possibly, will spread to Slovakia.
The fact that the Association is supervised by the bishop, who lives in Austria, speaks of two things. First, the Association will not attract “seekers of the monastic life” but entire parishes with the clergy, laity, churches and church property. As the recent developments show, Phanar has perfectly mastered the art of “head-hunting” clerics into its jurisdiction using blackmail, threats, financial incentives, political and other pressures, etc. Secondly, if there are not so many people who want to move from the OCCLS to the jurisdiction of Phanar, not only Czech or Slovak priests will be attracted but also Phanar-loyal clergy from other countries.
When the members of the Association are significantly more than one person, Phanar will be able to either carry out a coup in the OCCLS, bringing its people to power (the same Igor-Isaiah Slaninka), or even transfer the OCCLS to its jurisdiction having eliminated autocephaly. Such a renewed (or abolished) OCCLS will definitely recognize the OCU.
Time will tell whether these plans are destined to come true, yet we have no choice but to pray for the Primate of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, Metropolitan Rostislav, and the faithful hierarchs of his Church wishing them to have the same stamina and courage as His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.
Patriarchate of Constantinople is trying to create another parallel jurisdiction in Europe - UOJ - the Union of Orthodox Journalists
No student of Church history underestimates the important place of the Council of Chalcedon 451, held in modern day Kadıköy (district of Istanbul). This Council established the 2-in-1 [2 natures in 1 Person] doctrine of Christ as opposed to the followers of Eutyches and Dioscorus who wanted to say Christ had 1 single nature [Mono-physite].
Following the Council, there was relative peace between Rome and Constantinople due to Patriarch Anatolius’ obedience to Pope St. Leo I’s annulment of the 28th canon, but soon enough things were destined to change because the Monophysites had been, with relatively strong arguments, pressing for a new Council to overturn Chalcedon. In an attempt to conciliate the Monophysites and the Chalcedonians, Emperor Zeno issued his “henoticon”, a document of Christology sought to pave the way for union. The henoticon would be accepted by Acacius, Patriarch of Constantinople, Peter Mongus, Patriarch of Alexandria, and Peter the Fuller, Patriarch of Alexandria. This brought about what is known as the Acacian Schism, and lasted from 484 to 519, a total of 35 years.
When Pope St. Gelasius entered Papal office in 492, this schism had been operating for already 8 years. Not only was the “reform” on Chalcedon in Zeno’s henoticon an issue of dispute between Rome and the East, but also the assumption that Constantinople should occupy 2nd place in Christendom, which is what Canons 3/28 of Constantinople 381 and Chalcedon had attempted to pass as an ecumenical canon. Acacius must have not taken seriously the words of his predecessor Anatolius who wrote the following to Pope Leo I on this – “the whole force of confirmation of the acts was reserved for the authority of Your Blessedness.” (Patrologia Latina 54.1082B). Concerning the same canons, Pope St. Leo claimed that “by the blessed Apostle Peter’s authority we absolutely dis-annul in comprehensive terms” (Ep. 105).
No doubt, therefore, Chalcedon is completed by the recognition of Petrine supremacy over the field of an Ecumenical Council. Acacius, however, was of a different mind on this. Though St. Gelasius, as well as his successors Anastasius II and St. Symmachus, attempted to bring the East back into the fold of Christ, it was not until Pope St. Hormisdas that re-union was established through his Formula of Reunion which required a recognition of much of what St. Gelasius had already been writing on. Below, I will be posting material found in the letters of Pope St. Gelasius, drawing from three sources: (1) his letter to the Bishops of Dardania (495), (2) his instructions to a Papal legate Magister Faustus, and (3) his letter to the Emperor Anastasius.
In his epistle to the Bishops of Dardania, St. Gelasius responds to Acacius’ grab at the 28th canon of Chalcedon. Notice how he reviews the history of the exchange between Anatolius and Leo which took place in 453, about 40 years earlier.
This confirms the existence of this letter from Anatolius wherein he conceded to Leo’s discriminate authority over all the canons, which Leo had understood to be derived from St. Peter (see the 2 reference above):
“If the bishops of Constantinople flatter themselves because their city is the residence of the Emperor, and think therefore that their persons are more important, let them listen to Marcian, the Princeps [Emperor] of that city.
When, having interceded for the promotion of the priest of that city, he was not able to obtain anything that was contrary to the canons, he extended to Pope Leo of holy memory the highest praise, because he [the Pope] had not allowed the rules of the canons to be violated in any manner. Let them listen to Anatolius, the Pontiff of that same city, or better, to the clergy of Constantinople, confessing that they were trying to obtain the same thing, and affirming that all was within the power of the Apostolic bishop [Leo].
And let them listen to the same blessed Pope Leo, head of the Apostolic See, through whose authority the Synod of Chalcedon was confirmed…to rescind by a competent refutation that which had again been attempted in a new way at the assembly, and which would be well outside the canons of Nicaea. Noentheless, they can hear Probus, bishop of the city of Canusa of holy memory, legate of the Apostolic See under Simplicius of blessed memory, teaching the same thing in the presence of the Emperor Leo [Marcian’s successor], who asked then that it should not be attempted in any way, and refused resolutely to give his consent to it in any way, and therefore, let them not look at the status of any city, but let them rather properly observe the way of ecclesiastical order confirmed by the tradition of the Father” (Patrologia Latina 59.66D)
Just prior to this in the same letter, he speaks of the Apostolic See as the executor and ratifier of Councils, not by some ecclesiastical privilege that was conferred upon the Roman see, but by divine right in blessed Peter.
“Let no true Christian ignore the fact that the constitution of any synod which has been approved by the consent of the whole church can be executed by no other See than the First, which confirms any synod by its authority and watched over it through continuous supervision, especially because of its principate, which Blessed Peter the Apostle obtained through the word of the Lord and which it has always retained and continues to retain…” (Patrologia Latina 59.66B,C)
And on the freedom of the absolving power of loosing [i.e. the Keys], St. Gelasius writes in the same letter:
“The entire Church over the entire world knows that the Chair of Blessed Peter has the right to loose what has been bound by the sentences of any bishop whatsoever, as the See of Peter is entitled to jurisdiction over any Church, while no one is entitled to pass judgement on its decision, for the canons have permitted that appeals should be directed to it from all the world, but no one is permitted to appeal its decision….
The Apostolic See has often had the freedom (facultas), without a Synod preceding it, to loose those whom a Synod had unjustly condemned, and also, if necessary, to condemn others without the convocation of a Synod….an Eastern synod [Tyre] had rejected Athanasius of blessed memory: but the Apostolic See took him up, denying confirmation of the condemnation by the Greeks, and acquitted him: in the same way a synod of Catholic bishops had condemned too John Chrysostom of Constantinople; him also the Apostolic See released merely by refusing to confirm the sentence.
In the same way the Apostolic See released Flavian of blessed memory, who was similarly condemned by an assembly of bishops, merely through not agreeing to its condemnation. Furthermore the Apostolic See condemned by its authority Dioscorus, the Bishop of the 2nd See, who had been admitted there; it dissolved the godless synod by refuting its concurrence, and for the sake of truth ordered, on its own authority, that the Synod of Chalcedon should be held” (Patrologia Latina 59.66C, 67 B,C)
In his epistle of instructions to Magister Faustus, St. Gelasius gives his commentary on the Canons of Sardica (343), and how he would have applied it to the plan of the henoticon in the East:
“These are the canons which decreed that appeals from the whole Church should be directed to this See. They have, however, by no means sanctioned an appeal elsewhere from its judgement; in this way they have ordained that it should sit in judgement over the whole Church, but that it should itself be judged by no one, and never that its judgement should be nulled, but rather ordered that its decrees should be followed” (Patrologia Latina 59.28B)
In his epistle to the Emperor Anastasius, St. Gelasius covers the concept of the “Two Powers”, and in it he reveals his thoughts on the origin of the primacy of Rome:
“If it is fitting that, in general, the faithful should subordinate their hearts to all priests who are correctly administering things divine, how much more should one endeavor to be in accord with the holder of the See, whom not only the divine will wished to be superior to all priests, but whom also the common piety of the Church following the divine will has continually celebrated as such. As your piety can clearly realize, never can anyone elevate himself through any human counsel whatever to that privilege or confession of Peter whom the voice of Christ had placed above all, and whom the venerable Church has always confessed and reverently regarded as its primate. What has been established by divine decree can be attacked by human presumption; it cannot however, be defeated by any power” (Patrologia 59.42 C & D, and 43A )
Catholic Patristic scholar, Robert Eno, interprets St. Gelasius as holding to the concept of Papal supremacy. He has the following to summarize the writings of St. Gelasius:
“Of all the ancient Popes, Gelasius comes closest to making explicit what later theology might term Papal indefecetibility. If Rome were to be allowed by God to fall into error, then who would be left to keep the rest of the Church from falling into the abyss, asked Gelasius ? Finally, he expressed the Roman point of view that it is alone was an in practice had to be, the sole final arbiter of the Church’s doctrinal decisions. Such definitions must be in accord with Scripture, tradition, with canon law, etc. but who is to decide whether this is the case or not? A council ? Gelasius maintained that Rome could accept or reject councils as it saw fit. He recalled the papal rejection of canon 28 of Chalcedon against the wishes of both council and emperor.
Thus we leave antiquity with the final Roman assertion that she is the ultimate decision maker, in doctrine as well as in discipline.” (Teaching Authority in the Early Church, Vol. 14, p. 163)
Eastern Orthodox scholar A. Edward Siecienski has the following to say of St. Gelasius:
“Feliex’s successor in Rome, Gelasius (492-96), had no such doubts about his authority in the matter. Like his predecessors, Gelasius linked his ministry to that of Peter, who was tasked with being ‘primacy caretaker’ (gubernatio principis) of Christ’s flock. When a Roman synod met in 495 to judge the excommunicate Misenus of Cuma, Gelasius received him back using the power of the keys ‘which our Savior delegated to blessed Peter the apostle before the rest’. …..For Gelasius, the chief task of the Roman See , ‘whom the voice of Christ set before all, whom the venerable Church has always acknowledged and in her devotedness holds as primate’ was safeguarding ‘the upright root [that] is the glorious confession of the Apostle’, protecting it ‘from any gash of crookedness, by any infection at all’……By entering into communion with those who denied the truth of Pope Leo’s Tome, the ‘double-dealing’ Acacius had ‘prostituted the catholic faith’ and deserved the sentence of excommunication pronounced against him’……Gelasius’ attack against Acacius and his allies proceeded along two fronts. First, supported by ‘Christ’s utterances and the tradition of the elders and authority of the canons’, Gelasius asserted Rome’s right/duty to intervene in the matter, a fact that had been recognized at Sardica by ‘the very canons that intended the referral of appeals from the entire Church to this see for examination…And by this means the canons have instructed that this See is to sit in judgement on the entire Church, to pass to nobody’s judgment, nor ever to be judged by its judgment, and they have determined that its verdict should never be undone, and ordered instead that its decisions are to be followed‘.”
(The Papacy and the Orthodox: Sources and History of a Debate, Chapter “The Church of Rome in the Patristic Era”, Pp. 181-183)
And if we were to ask Siecienski how the Eastern bishops who maintained loyalty to Chalcedon thought ofSt. Gelasius, he writes:
“Gelasius’s stand against Monophysitism earned him the respect of the Chalcedonian bishops in the East, who praised the Pope and his heirs in glowing terms. Seeking the help of Pope Symmachus (498-5140), [Gelasius’ second successor], they wrote to him how ‘Christ, the best Shepherd, had entrusted the chair of the blessed Prince of the Apostles to you… to tend the sheep of Christ entrusted to you over the whole inhabitable world’….
While his enemies criticized Gelasius as ‘haughty’ and ‘arrogant’, surprisingly we know of few attacks on the papacy itself, or the claims that Gelasius was putting forth on its behalf.” (ibid. , p. 183)
Anglican Patristic historian J.N.D. Kelly writes concerning this Pope:
“Gelasius siezed every opputunity of inculcating his conviction of the supremacy of the Roman see, and was the first pope known to have been saluted as ‘Vicar of Christ’ (at the Roman synod of 13 May 495, which restored Misenus). It was the pope’s prerogative, he claimed, to ratify councils and protect their decisions…Next to Leo I, Gelasius was the outstanding pope of the 5th cent., and he surpassed Leo in theological grasp. His writings leave the impression of an arrogant, narrow-minded, and harsh pontiff; but the extraordinary reverence in which he was held by contemporaries is reflected in a description left by the monk Dionysios Exiguus, who lived in Rome 500-550 and consorted with his disciples.” (Oxford Dictionary of Popes, pp. 48-49)
As to his being in error, one could bring up what Kelly said about the positive statements made by the Scythian monk St. Dionysius Exiguus, who is also canonized for the Eastern Orthodox. Dionysios wrote to his presbyter friend Julian concerning the holiness of St. Gelasius’s life. Rev Alban Butler’s “The Lives of the Saints” (1866, Vol. XI) says that St. Gelasius is:
“extolled for the purity of his manners, his extraordinary humility, temperance, austerity of life, and liberality to the poor, for whose sake he kept himself always poor, as Dionysius Exiguus, who died before the year 556, tells us” (November 21, St. Gelasius, Pope and Confessor – Latin source of Dionysios’s letter , Patrologia Latina 67.203).
French Byzantinist, Francis Dvornik, also writes of St. Dionysios’s description of St. Gelasius:
“Dionysios Exiguus, the author of the famous Collection of Papal Decrees, transmitted to posterity the sentiments of admiration and gratitude felt for their master by Gelasius’ disciples. In the introduction of his collection, dedicated to Cardinal Julian, his benedactor and Gelasius’ disciple, Dionysios inserted a long euglogy on Gelasius, exalting his humility, his labors for the Church, his charity and chastity, and calling him ‘a shepherd and an imitator of the supreme good Shepherd — a chosen head of the Apostolic See who obeyed an taught the precepts of God‘” (The Idea of Apostolicity in Byzantium and the Legend of Apostle Andrew, p. 121)
In recent scholarship, however, a Dr. George Demacopoulos, Professor of Theology at Fordham University, has taken a fresh look at the Gelasian corpus, and has contributed a different perspective. Being Eastern Orthodox himself, it will be a great deal to make clear there is no bias in his historical and theological inferences and arguments. This, no doubt, he seeks to show in his referencing the original sources in context, Roman Catholic historians, and the rather undisputed facts accepted by the breadth of scholarship. However, holes there are, and though here is not an extensive critical review, this article will allow some space to pick out what proves to be the major weaknesses of Demacopoulos’s (whom I will refer as Dr. D) arguments.
For starters, given the aim of this present article, Dr. D only shows that I have hit near the bulls-eye when it comes to the question of what St. Gelasius himself believed. Dr. D admits that St. Gelasius claimed to hold a Christ-ordained universal authority over the whole Church, and that the See of Rome cannot be judged by anyone, and whose judgement are irreformable by anyone else in the Church (The Invention of Peter , p. 98). However, he understands the origin of these claims to be coming from St. Gelasius’s frustration with the dissidence of the Eastern patriarchs, particularly of the See of Constantinople, and so are more fabricated imagination than reliable truth.
Right off the bat, one is puzzled at how Dr. D could so theorize. The claim to Apostolic & Petrine prerogative in the Roman See by divine right had been claimed by Pope St. Stephen I (254), which was before the Constantinian elevation of the Christian society; and Pope St. Julius I (340-343), Pope St. Damasus (366-384), Pope St. Siricius (384), and Pope St. Innocent I (401-417), all of whom reigned in the See of Peter when there was no particular reason for the West to fabricate reasons to bolster its superior authority over the East by way of the loss of secular prestige. What difference is there in the claims of Pope St. Leo the Great (450) and Pope St. Gelasius? And what difference was there from the claims of St. Leo with those of his predecessors?
In fact, the Petrine prerogatives were explained by Damasus and Leo, and both of these Popes receive special attention from Emperors in the favor of the authority of the Holy See (Gratian & Valentinian III, respectively). So it would take much to argue that the Petrine claims originate with the absence of Imperial support. This indicates that the fishing project wherein Dr. D speculates as to the “why” of St. Gelasius’s “grandiose” Papal claims as rooted in an imagination by which to disingenuously subjugate the Monophysite-East is immediately held suspect. Rather, since the Papal claims were consistent in a variety of contexts, and even those not including Pope’s of Rome, such as St. Optatus vs. the Donatist Parmenian, it is more preferable to find the root of it in something else. Now, that does not mean that when the Pope’s were seeing schisms and dissension from its doctrinal influence we will not see a ratcheting up of those claims. That it seems to me is only natural even to an authentic appeal to a widely held and accepted Papal authority.
Secondly, Dr. D attempts to show that the veracity of the Papal claims are to be doubted because of Pope St. Gelasius’ trouble to enforce obedience in his own Roman diocese. He describes how certain catholic citizens of the Roman city, being led by a un-named Christian magistrate (which Collectio Avellana designates as Andromachus), had promoted the pagan custom of the Luperaclia celebration against the directive of the Pope against it. The Lupercalia was a Roman celebration, pre-Christian, held each year on February 15th, and it involved sacrificing a goat and celebrants acting like priests to “bless” Rome by warding of evils such as pestilences and catastrophes. The Pope in Tractate 6 had threatened excommunication to Andromachus and all who participated in this pagan festival.
For St. Gelasius, this was an act of spiritual adultery, and it shows that many of the pre-Constantinian celebrations of Pagan Rome had still continued on , most likely by the more nominal church members. In any case, Dr. D interprets this non-compliance as a proof that the Papal claims were not a reality even in Rome itself, much less anywhere else, and even says that the threat of excommunication by the Pope may have amounted to “little more than a bluster” (ibid. p. 77). The first observation to be given here is that Dr. D is examining an event which exists between what even 5th century Christians all knew to be the ordinary authority of a local diocese, the Bishop, and the members under him. Even modern Eastern Orthodox would accept that a Bishop has the right to impose disciplinary restrictions upon the people of his diocese when he foresees something of spiritual danger to his flock [i.e. in our case the Lupercalia].
So it makes one wonder why Dr. D does not only see this as a threat against Episcopal authority even more so than Papal since that is the most immediate relationship. But since Dr. D presumably accepts the veracity of Episcopal authority (unless I am mistaken), then this sort of non-compliance does not amount to proving the non-existence of that authority. Or does he see that non-compliance with a particular Bishop as evidence that the institution of Bishop was not universally embraced? Second, what evidence do we have of a total non-compliance on the part of the Roman Christians who were following this member of the aristocracy? If the local Bishop orders excommunication, that would carry weight to most God-fearing members of the Church, and Dr. D does not provide any evidence of how this all ended in this particular dimension. And last, it should be duly noted that the persons involved in this act of quasi-rebellion are not the sort [i.e. partaking in a questionable pagan festival] that we would expect to be on deck to obey religious authority, much less representative of persons to be chosen as considerable witnesses against the Papacy.
Next, Dr. D mentions another instance of the Bishop of Rome in possible division with his clergy in Letter 30 of the Gelasian corpus. This Letter includes a description of the proceedings which took place at a Synod in Rome which had re-examined a certain Bishop of Cumae named Misenus, who, as Papal ambassador to Constantinople under Pope Felix III in 484, received holy communion from the Constantinople’s Patriarch Acacius, who was out of union with the Holy See. Felix had swiftly excommunicated Misenus. However, at this new Synod in Rome (495), presided over by St. Gelasius, Misenus openly confessed his wrong-doing and was granted absolution by the Pope himself.
Now, on pages 80-93, Dr. D speculates from this that since a Synod was held for his restoration, there must have been Roman clergy who were unsympathetic with the Rome’s excommunication of the anti-Chalcedonian East, and, on the flip side, since, of the original 76 invited to partake of the proceedings, 18 priests had boycotted the exoneration of Misenus, the Pope did not persuade everyone of his absolution of Misenus. From this, Dr. D implies that Papal power was not even taken for granted even in the Roman diocese, much less in answer to the question of where else.
Though, being truthful to the description of the proceedings in Letter 30, Dr. D recognizes that the Roman Synod had made several statements which made explicit their belief in the supreme power of Peter resident in the person of Gelasius, even referring to him as “Vicar of Christ” and “Vicar of Peter”. But, he infers from this that this was all a cooked up meal in order to cover up for the embarrassment that Gelasius had to endure from the non-compliance of the 18 priests who protested the exoneration (ibid., p. 83). But, once again, this is the local ordinary Bishop of the Roman diocese, holding a Synod in the presence of many, wherein Micenus openly conforms to orthodoxy contra Acacius, and is absolved. What is taking place here that would not call for the obedience of the clergy just on the principle of Episcopal rights?
If Dr. D thinks this is a legitimate witness of the weakness of the Papal institution, would he say the same about St. Thomas à Becket, who was not only resisted by a protesting party, but eventually was assasinated! And why not take the statements made about the authority of the Bishop of Rome clearly laid out in Letter 30 as a genuine perspective of the priests present? 18 out of 76 priests still leave a 58 majority. The sense on gets from this is that Dr. D sees the illegitimacy of authority when it is contested, and especially when we do not have existing documentary evidence of any repentance from the dissidents.
Well, imagine if we carried that into the logic of 4th-century Arian fragmentation. Would that mean that Nicaea 325 did not have divine authority? Certainly, there were many who did belief that, and this is the view which prevailed into the catholic and universal church for centuries going forward. But who would be the ones that held this Nicaean faith in the midst of such division? It was the faithful. Instead of finding witness testimony in some nominal aristocratic magistrate who persists in celebrating a pagan festival and a small minority of priests who did not want to see a repentant Micenus restored to the good graces of Christ’s church, why not look to those who we know were faithful at the time, whose view endures the test of more time?
On pages 84-87, Dr. D discusses how many of the Papal decretals that were sent to various places in the West, such as “suburbican Italy, Sicily, and the southwestern coast of the Balkans” (ibid., p. 84) and how these decretals continually on the Petrine privilege of Rome. In what appears as a desperate search for ways to demonstrate the lack of veracity to the Papal claims, Dr. D speculates that this method of harping on Peter and the divine primacy of Rome thereby shows that it was not accepted in certain places in the East. He refers to this as “rhetorical strategies” (ibid., p. 85). But where is the direct evidence of this? I cannot seem to find any of it in his treatment of these Papal letters.
In fact, we have precedent in Pope St. Leo I for a continual insistence on the Petrine prerogative of Rome in letters to places where it is more than welcomed. I think, for example, his Tome which was written to St. Flavian of Constantinople as well as the letters to the East back and forth. Even going back further to the first Papal decretal which has survived, Pope Siricius’ epistle to the Bishops of Tarragona, which was actually a response to appeals. This decretal has a few references to the Petrine privilege of Rome, and no evidence of trying to make up for outward rebellions is evident by the fact.
Some of the orders that St. Gelasius gives to churches of the regions mentioned includes the requirement of notifying Rome of the planting of new churches, such as Letter 25 (to a Bishop Zeja). But this is akin to the metropolitical rights envisions already in canon 6 of Nicaea for the quasi-Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch. So what is Dr. D really seeing here? A challenge to Papal power, or Rome’s metropolitical power? It would seem that the objective scenario’s involve the latter more than the former.
But if that is truly the case, then one wonders how an Eastern Orthodox would deem as authentic witnesses against illegitimate authority cases where Metroplitical rights are trashed. But again, this is all conjecture. No evidence is provided which proves these Papal decretals are being written to otherwise rebellious and disobedient clergy.
And lastly, Dr. D tries to summarize the Pope St. Gelasius’s interaction with the East as a humiliating inability to capture the obedience of all. He writes: “What is clear is that Eastern bishops will not yield to the papal condemnation of Acacius. While the fact is both obvious and well-known, it must be acknowledged that the Roman See simply did not possess the international respect in doctrinal matters that Gelasius so forcefully claims throughout the letter” (ibid., p. 93).
Again, this merits the same interesting puzzelment already state above. Why is the Monophysite East being considered as a reason why the Papal claims are close to untrue, or made up on the spot by St. Gelasius as a disengenuous technique or strategy? Dr. D even admits that St. Gelasius does not defend the existence of the Papal prerogative (ibid., p. 96) , but merely asserts it. Well, that sounds a lot like someone who is demanding obedience, and not trying to persuade the East, necessarily, of its existence by apologetics. If you are trying to persuade others who are expected otherwise not to believe in what you are seeking to persuade them of, assertion after assertion is a poor tactic. And so it is very unlikely that Dr. D’s gloss here reflects Gelasius true motive. And if one were to really follow the faithful minority, who were faithful to Chalcedon in the East, you would find the likes of those monks above who Siecienski quoted as well embracing the Papal claim in Rome, regardless of what their Monophysite counterparts said of the powerlessness of Rome.
What implications does this have for Anglican & Orthodox relations with Catholics on primacy? I think it bears great significance, especially since this is an Eastern Orthodox Pope who is to this day venerated in the East, and the commentary of his holiness of life by St. Dionysios. As for the Anglicans, they have already admitted the very same Papal claims as being taught by another Orthodox Pope of Elder Rome, St. Leo I, but that this was not accepted in the Christian East, much less accepted by the polity of Reformed England. I am sure one could argue in this direction. Though, as we saw, Gelasius’s tussle with the Eastern patriarchs is contrasted with the willing submission to the Papal claims by the Greek monks.
So who are we choosing to be Representative of the voice of authentic Eastern Christianity, the anti-Chalcedonian Patriarchs or the Chalcedonian clergy underneath? However, it should be noted that in this thread it was mentioned how the Patriarchs of Constantinople Anatolius and John II, had to admit the authority of the Holy See over the canons of Ecumenical Councils as well as the authority to admit to communion the three main Eastern Sees which returned from the Schism of Acacius. But then, what of Pope Honorius, who was condemned by Constantinople 681 as a Monothelite heretic? I would say that for all that lies behind the difficult history of Honorius, his statements which are “Monothelite”-esque are far more innocent than the persistent claim to Papal supremacy in St. Gelasius.
In other words, if Honorius is worthy of the name heretic for his letters to Sergius, then St. Gelasius would be no less deserving of the same for his Papalism. So I would then ask, are the Orthodox willing to hold a new Council where, like Constantinople 681, they condemn all the former proponents, such as Gelasius, for espousing the very belief in Papal supremacy which Orthodox converts from Catholicism are required to renounce? At the same time, Catholics owe an explanation on Honorius, which we have often given despite its relative weaknesses or strengths under harsh scrutiny. The question that consistently comes up is whether St. Gelasius’s gloss on Papal authority, even if an echo of his predecessors, was held by the ecumenical church. This question immediately leaves the Catholic taken back, since anyone who is familiar with the history of first millennium Christianity is well aware that there were more than a few occasions that the Pope’s were resisted and even condemned by some.
Though, we have to step aside and calculate how much value this would have in light of a consideration of the historical context. Hardly any action of the catholic and universal church was always accepted by everyone. In pre-Nicean Christianity, there were the Judaizers who did not bend the knee to the Apostolic council of Jerusalem (49), the outbreak of the Gnostic communities, the many divergent positions on the person of Christ, Nicaea (325), as already briefed, was rejected by many Eastern communities, and this continued onward up unto the Iconoclastic period (8/9th century). On this scale, we need not be boggled down with the question of whether the Papal theory was an ecumenical one because we have the paralyzing question of whether *anything* was accepted as ecumenical. That is, if we are taking poll from the consensus of every person and community who claimed to the title of Christian or church.
This author concludes that these facts altar the investigation, and requires one to observe for what stands as a moral consensus, endures the test of time, and accomplishes victory over the opposition of heretical onslaught. Without having the space here to go into each and every point, there exists, in the opinion of many, ample evidence that the teaching ministry of the Roman see as it pertained to the occurrence of arbitration, doctrine, discipline, Councils, and/or episcopal trials, there lies a telling tale which might serve as the best clue. I pray that this all is seriously meditated on as we continue studying history and the various points of interest in the East/West dialogue.