An Eastern Christian reads “Light of the World”

There is a very interesting post by Dr Adam DeVille at “Eastern Christain Books” on the comments of Pope Benedict in Peter Seewald’s interview/book “Light of the World”. His analysis reveals that there is actually a lot more about Catholic/Orthodox relations in this book than there is about condoms…

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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9 Responses to An Eastern Christian reads “Light of the World”

  1. William Tighe says:

    I believe that Dr. DeVille is a Melkite Catholic.

  2. Schütz says:

    Righto. That would explain a few things.

  3. matthias says:

    I found Dr DeVille’s article very enlightening

  4. old robe says:

    Tho by nature a lurker rather than a poster, I must own up to inciting Faz to post this link on Catholica. I found it a worthwhile read and a reminder that there is a lot more than the shrill headlines we usually cop.
    And let me say I find ‘lurking’ here pretty regularly to be both informative and entertaining. Thanks David and your guests.

  5. Tap says:

    Carlos Palad add some needed context of some of those word from B XVI, i’m pasting his comments from the eirenikon combox.

    Adam de Ville writes:

    “The pope is not exclusively the “vicar of Christ”: this title, rather, belongs to “every priest” when he “speaks on behalf of Jesus Christ” (7). This is important, not only because history clearly bears him out in refusing to see the title as exclusively papal, but also because, in the furor in 2006 over papal titles (about which more presently), Orthodox commentators like Met. Hilarion (Alfeyev) noted that other titles, including “vicar of Christ” needed critical examination.”

    I think that Mr. de Ville reads too much into the passage in question. The actual passage reads as follows:

    “Peter Seewald: For the Catholic Church the Pope is the Vicarius Christi, Christ’s representative on earth. Can you really speak for Jesus?”

    Benedict XVI: In proclaiming the faith and in administering the sacraments every priest speaks on behalf of Jesus Christ, for Jesus Christ. Christ entrusted his Word to the Church. This Word lives in the Church. And if I accept interiorly the faith
    of this Church and live, speak and think on the basis of it, when I proclaim Him, then I speak for Him—even though of course there can always be shortcomings in the details. The important thing is that I do not present my ideas, but rather try to think and to live the Church’s faith, to act in obedience
    to his mandate.”

    What the Pope is clearly answering here is the question whether the Pope “speaks for Jesus”, and, really, there is nothing new in the Pope’s response. After all, the Catholic Church, before as well as after Vatican II, has taught that every priest is “alter Christus”, and surely every baptized Christian who proclaims the truths of the faith is, in some sense, also speaking on behalf of the Lord. Peter Seewald’s comment on the Pope as Vicar of Christ is merely a preamble to the question which the Pope answers; the Pope’s answer doesn’t touch at all on whether “Vicar of Christ”, used as a special title for the Pope, should also be applied to others as well.

    More telling is that, after this exchange, Peter Seewald continues to apply the title “Vicar of Christ” in a special manner to the Pope, and the Pope certainly doesn’t object, but seems to implicitly approve its application to him as Pope. For instance, the following exchange (which I reproduce in full due to its great beauty):

    “Peter Seewald: For a symposium on the occasion of the eightieth birthday of Paul VI youread a paper in 1977 about what a Pope should be and how he should act. He must “be the least one and conduct himself accordingly”, as you quoted
    the English Cardinal Reginald Pole. He must profess “that he knows nothing but the one thing that was taught him by God the Father through Christ”. The Vicar of Christ is one who keeps Christ’s power present as a counterforce to the world’s power. Not by any form of domination, but rather by carrying his superhuman burden on human shoulders. In this respect the real place of the Vicar of Christ is the cross.”

    “Pope Benedict XVI: Yes, I consider that correct even today. The primacy developed from the very beginning as a primacy of martyrdom. During the first three centuries Rome was the headquarters and capital of the Christian persecutions. Withstanding these persecutions and giving witness to Christ was the special task of the Roman episcopal see.

    We can regard it as providential that at the moment when Christianity entered a period of peace with the State, the imperial throne was transferred to Constantinople on the Bosporus. Thus the Bishop of Rome could more easily set forth the independence of the Church, the fact that she is distinct from the State. We do not have to look deliberately for conflict, clearly, but rather should strive basically for consensus and understanding. Yet the Church, the Christian, and above all the Pope must always be prepared for the possibility that the witness he must give will become a scandal, will not be accepted, and that he will then be thrust into the situation of the Witness, the suffering Christ.

    The fact that all the early Popes were martyrs is significant. Standing there as a glorious ruler is not part of being Pope, but rather giving witness to the One who was crucified and to the fact that he himself is ready also to exercise his office in this way, in union with him.”
    Mr. De Ville also asks if the Pope is somehow backtracking from Dominus Iesus:

    “Backtracking from Dominus Iesus? Discussing the conciliar language of particular churches, the pope notes that “the Eastern Churches are genuine particular churches, although they are not in communion with the pope. In this sense, unity with the pope is not constitutive for the particular church” (89; my emphasis)! When I have time I’ll have to check this (especially the word “constitutive”) against Dominus Iesus and also the 1992 declaration on the Church as communio because it sounds like the pope is introducing an important clarification or nuance here…. ”

    Again, I think Mr. De Ville reads too much into what the Pope actually said. The actual passage reads as follows:

    “Peter Seewald: According to Gerhard Ludwig Müller, a bishop known for his ecumenical engagement, Catholics and Orthodox have already achieved 97 percent of ecclesial unity. The remaining 3 percent consists, Müller says, in the question of papal primacy and jurisdiction. Not only did you remove the
    tiara as a symbol of authority from the papal coat of arms, but you also ordered the designation “Patriarch of the West” struck from the list of papal titles. The Bishop of Rome is, you said, only the first among equals. Significantly, even while still a cardinal, you stated in the declaration Dominus Iesus, which was issued in 2000, that genuine particular churches
    exist, “although they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, insofar as they do not accept the Catholic teaching of primacy.” Will Pope Benedict XVI restructure the papacy in order to foster the unity of Christianity?

    “Pope Benedict XVI: A few qualifications would of course be needed here now “First among equals” is not exactly the formula that we believe as Catholics. The Pope is the first—and he also has specific functions and tasks. In this respect, not
    everyone is equal. “First among equals” would be immediately acceptable to Orthodoxy; it acknowledges that the Bishop of Rome is the protos, the first, as is laid down already by the Council of Nicaea. But the question is precisely whether the Pope has specific tasks or not. The citation from Dominus Iesus
    is also complex. But these are contentious issues, which I would have to say more about than I can right now . . .

    “Peter Seewald: Does that mean that Ratzinger as Pope is contradicting his earlier self as Cardinal and custodian of the faith?

    “Pope Benedict XVI: No, what I defended was the heritage of the Second Vatican Council and of the entire history of the Church. The passage means that the Eastern Churches are genuine particular churches, although they are not in
    communion with the Pope. In this sense, unity with the Pope is not constitutive for the particular church. Nevertheless, the lack of unity is also an intrinsic lack in the particular church. For the particular church is ordered to membership in a whole. In this respect, non-communion with the Pope is a defect in the living cell of the particular church, as it were. It remains a cell, it
    is legitimately called a church, but the cell is lacking something, namely, its connection with the organism as a whole. I would also be less confident than Bishop Müller and would be shy of
    saying that only 3 percent is still missing. First of all, there are huge historical and cultural differences. Beyond the doctrinal issues, there are still many steps to be taken at the level of the heart. God still needs to do some work on us here. For the same reason, I would also be shy about making any
    predictions about when reunion will happen. The important thing is that we truly love each other, that we have an interior unity, that we draw as close together and collaborate as much as we can—while trying to work through the remaining areas of open questions. And it is important for us always to remember in all of this that we need God’s help, that we are incapable of doing this alone.”

    So we can see that:

    1) Pope Benedict XVI is certainly NOT backtracking from Dominus Iesus, as he himself emphatically affirms. Indeed, I would say that the above passage adds iron to the words of Dominus Iesus.

    2) The Pope emphatically affirms the necessity for a church to be united with the Pope, and that the lack of such unity is an “intrinsic defect” and shows that it is not connected with “the organism as a whole”.

    3) The Pope explicitly rejects the understanding of the Pope as “first among equals”.

    4) Let us revisit the passage on which Mr. De Ville bases his question: “The passage means that the Eastern Churches are genuine particular churches, although they are not in
    communion with the Pope. In this sense, unity with the Pope is not constitutive for the particular church.” Mr. De Ville asks if the Pope is now introducing a nuance here. I see nothing of the sort. The Pope is simply stating that unity with the Pope is “not constitutive” for the (separated) Eastern Churches because they are still genuine particular churches despite not being in union with Rome. This, once again, is nothing new — the understanding of “sister churches” elaborated by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (“Church of Constantinople” and “Church of Rome” are sister churches, but we cannot speak of “Orthodox Church” and “Catholic Church” as sister churches) already provides for this, in addition to Rome’s age-old recognition of the apostolic succession of the Eastern Churches not united with it.

  6. Tap says:

    apparently my last post has been caught in your spam filter, not, might have had too many words in it. I was trying to provide the context as written (on another blog) by someone else.

  7. Tap says:

    Anyways, most of that could be found on the eirenikon blog, check the post by Carlos Antonio Palad.

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