Post 435 of 444

By Katherine G. Valone

Pope Benedict XVI of Rome issued an important statement on July 10, 2007 stating that Our Lord Jesus Christ established one Church on earth, which is the Roman Church and that other communities “cannot be called ‘churches’ in the proper sense”, because they do not have apostolic succession – the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ’s original apostles, meaning all the Protestant churches. Then he adds in this document that Orthodox churches were indeed “churches” because they have apostolic succession and that they enjoyed “many elements of sanctification and of truth.” But the document said that they lack something because they do not recognize the primacy of the pope – “a defect”, or a “wound” that harmed them.

Quoting the document, “This is obviously not compatible with the doctrine of Primacy which, according to the Roman Catholic faith, ‘is an internal constitutive principle of the very existence of a particular Church.’” The document was signed on June 29, the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, which is commemorated in the Orthodox ecclesiastical calendar.

In spite of this, the harsh tone of the document constitutes a slap in the face of the Orthodox Church, the mother Church which represents the four ancient patriarchates from which Rome removed herself on July 16, 1054. The ancient Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople all remained together and continued the true Church that was founded in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost when 120 followers of Christ received the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem, and which continues to this day and embraces 350 million adherents in spite of the persecution by Rome itself when the Pope did not come to the aid of Constantinople when it was attacked by the Ottoman Empire on May 29, 1453.

Let us remember that it was the Orthodox and the Byzantine Empire which held back the Islamic forces in the Middle East allowing Rome and Western Europe to survive. Let us also remember that it was Rome under the guise of the Crusades, sent by the Roman church, that sacked the Mother city of Constantinople in 1204 and held the Orthodox captives, and tried to forcibly make them bow to the Pope’s authority. This sacrilege against a Christian city, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire founded by Constantine the Great in 330AD so weakened the city that it made the invasion of the Ottomans in 1453 disastrous.

When Constantinople had asked for help from the Pope at Florence, Italy in 1439, they were told again to bow to the primacy of the Pope. When the Orthodox refused and St. Mark of Ephesus uttered his famous “Better the fez of the Turks than the mitre of the Pope,” the Patriarch’s delegation returned to Constantinople with no hope of Rome’s help. St. Mark Eugenicos (of Ephesus) was welcomed for having denounced the Pope’s ambitions. Henceforth he was called a “Pillar of Orthodoxy.”

The Eastern Empire known as the “Byzantine” Empire produced the great fathers of the Church and flourished as a civilized city that stemmed the spread of Islam in the Middle East and contained the Islamic surge for as long as possible. But Eastern European Orthodox suffered more than three centuries’ occupation and persecution.

The claims of Rome and the Primacy of the Pope and many other unfounded, heretical teachings led the Roman Church to be in “essence” the first “Protestant” church and from there led to the untrue, absurd teaching that Rome was the “Mother Church” when all she was, was one of the Patriarchates obsessed with becoming the primary bishop, not satisfied to be “first among equals.”

I could say more on this. The Orthodox should acquaint themselves with the history of our Orthodox Catholic Church. We should not allow the Roman Church to usurp the word “Catholic,” which means universally accepted. Rome’s claim of universal headship of the Church is a non-scriptural intrusion in the life of the Church established by Christ. The Pope as a “Vicar of Christ” is not borne out in the Gospels, or the Apostolic Fathers’ writings or later Fathers. It is the mother of heresies and along with the teaching of the infallibility of the pope, and the “filioque” (which is an heretical teaching injected illegally in the Nicene Creed originating in Toledo, Spain), has altered the true nature of the Church and rendered Rome not schismatic, but heretical! Let us call Rome what she is, a renegade, ambitious, and unscrupulous church which in 1054 changed the direction of Christianity in the West so much as to produce wars against fellow Christians and produced the ugliest page in Rome’s history with the invention of the Inquisition that burned anyone opposing her at the stake, and lasted three centuries!

How dare Rome call the Orthodox Church has a “defect”. Let us remind the Western Church that the East was Christianized by St. Paul long before Rome; that the seven Ecumenical Councils were held in the East and no bishop of Rome presided over them; that the bishop of Rome was considered first among equals because Rome was the imperial Capital until 330AD and was later sacked by Alaric in 410AD.

Rome claims all the Fathers of the Church because the Church was called Catholic in the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed and meant “universal.” It was Rome that broke this universality by the Pope’s claim to not only primacy so much as “supremacy.”

This same Rome now calls the Orthodox Church as “defective” because Constantinople and the other Patriarchates (Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria) chose to stand together in unity and in the world as “Orthodox” meaning “right believing.”

In His infinite wisdom, God has allowed the Orthodox Church to be the “suffering” church. In post-apostolic times she suffered the 10 imperial persecutions that came out of Rome and the emperors who were self-proclaimed deities. Then came the various heresies that caused the Church to define itself in the Creed from 325 – 787 through the seven ecumenical councils. After this came the Crusades which ended the peace of the Churches in Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch where Orthodoxy flourished and where all the Holy Shrines were. The Crusades did not free the Holy Places from the Muslims, but took them from the Orthodox Christians who were custodians of the Orthodox Churches and shrines for centuries.

I could go on to mention World Wars I & II when Eastern Europe and northern Africa fought for their survival. Then came the scourge of communism which was another persecution through which Orthodoxy not only survived but thrived. Communism could not block out the words “Christos Voskrese” (“Christ is risen”) in Russia under godless Stalin.

Yes the Orthodox Church survived. Just as the ancient Hebrews always gained strength whenever they were attacked because the God of Abraham blessed them in spite of their tribulations, so is the Church, the true Church, a survivor. While Western Europe succumbed to atheism in the aftermath of World War II, the East kept the Faith through trials and tribulations; tortures and death under communism.

How dare the Pope call Orthodoxy a “defect” when out of Rome came many branches of church because of her straying from the Biblical Christ! The Holy Spirit protects those who worship God in truth and in spirit. The truth will prevail. Someone once said ‘the greatest moral weapon is Truth’. We Orthodox must worship only the Triune God and no man. The Church will always be triumphant and deception and deceit will be uncovered by the Light of Christ. That day is coming soon. In the meantime, as Archbishop Averky Tausher once said, “Orthodoxy demands moral heroism.” Does the Patriarch Bartholomaios have that moral heroism? Do our other patriarchs and hierarchs have that moral heroism? Do we the laity have that moral heroism to dispel Rome’s false claims? Do we have the courage to bring Orthodoxy to the world that is searching for the True Church, the True Faith, and the True Christ? I pray to God to help us. Take courage. Stand up for Christ and be counted. Christ dislikes “lukewarm” people. He said He will spit them out of His mouth. Rev. 3:16 (to Laodicea in Asia Minor, in one of the seven churches in the Book of Revelation.).