Monday, April 27, 2009

Talk by the Greek Catholic Archbishop

On (Bright) Friday, I served the Liturgy in celebration of the Life-Receiving Spring at St. George's here in Panorama, and then on Sunday I co-celebrated here with the other fathers. Other than that, it's basically been a time of getting back to work.

This evening, Monday, my professor resumed his (semi-) weekly meetings for his graduate students. Today, we did something a bit different. He had us meet at Moni Lazariston, the site of a long-gone Catholic monastery and a seat of the Catholic archbishop of Northern Greece.

The talk was quite interesting on a number of levels. The archbishop began by telling us a little about the Roman Catholic church in Greece today. With immigration, there are now some 350,000 Catholics in Greece. There had been for some time small pockets of Greek Catholics, mainly in certain islands that were held for more of less time by the Venetians, but now the numbers are increasing. This bishop himself was a Greek Catholic, born on the island of Corfu. As Uniates, the Greek Catholics appear outwardly in many respects as Orthodox. In Greece, they even celebrate Pascha (Easter) on the same day as the Orthodox Church.

The main thrust of his talk, though, was on the ecumenical movement, specifically the dialogue between the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. He also fielded questions from the students. He covered the usual hot topics, including the Filioque, Papal Primacy, and the status of the Uniates. On the Filioque, he repeated the now-standard Catholic explanation (admission) that it is not necessary, and the Catholics in Greece (like most Uniates) do not use it.

On Papal Primacy, he didn't really say anything definitive. Basically, we discussed the problem of the Orthodox Church's understanding of primacy, and whether there is a unified view of the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch, particularly between the Greek patriarchs and the Russians.

His response to one student's direct questions about the Uniates was the only time I saw him get animated. Basically, his point was: well, this is how it is. Now what?

I found particularly interesting his rather frank and open admission that, since the Catholics view Orthodox mysteries as perfectly valid (while the Orthodox do not share the same view), he (and other Catholic bishops) tell their faithful who do not live near a Catholic church to simply go to the Orthodox Church for communion, but NOT TO TELL the Orthodox priest. He said they have found that if the priest is not told, he will give them communion.

At the end of the talk, there were a few minutes of refreshments and chit-chat. I was sitting with my professor and some fellow students and he came over and sat next to me. Seizing the opportunity, I asked him a question that I hadn't asked him in the public forum: What about the theology of St. Gregory Palamas? Did he view it as a major obstacle in talks between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholics? I saw that he had written a book with a title involving the Blessed Augustine and St. Gregory Palamas, so I thought he would be a good person to ask for the Catholic view.

I really wasn't sure what he would say, but I kind of thought maybe he would say that it was a misunderstanding of language, etc. In fact, he quite readily admitted that there was a major difference between St. Gregory's thought and Catholic thought, but his answer was that it was simply not important. He explained that the difference was a matter of method (of approaching God) and theology, but NOT dogma, and therefore it was inconsequential to union.

Anyway, it was interesting, so I thought I'd "blog" it. I also snapped this picture, which has the archbishop in the background and my professor in the foreground.

1 comment:

Carlos Antonio Palad said...

"I found particularly interesting his rather frank and open admission that, since the Catholics view Orthodox mysteries as perfectly valid (while the Orthodox do not share the same view), he (and other Catholic bishops) tell their faithful who do not live near a Catholic church to simply go to the Orthodox Church for communion, but NOT TO TELL the Orthodox priest. He said they have found that if the priest is not told, he will give them communion."

I'm Catholic, and I find this offensive. I mean, I'd be very angry if a Protestant were to try to sneak into the communion line in a Catholic liturgy. I frankly am embarrassed by this.