Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 
Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee of Mercy

Lord Jesus Christ, You have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, And have told us that whoever sees You sees Him. Show us your face and we will be saved. Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Mathew from being enslaved by money; The adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; Made Peter weep after his betrayal, And assured Paradise to the repentant thief. Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, The words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God!” You are the visible face of the invisible Father, Of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy: Let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness In order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: Let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, So that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, And your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, Proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, And restore sight to the blind. We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy, You who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
Jan 012016
 
O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, v. Alleluia! For His mercy endures forever, alleluia! (after each verse) O give thanks to the God of gods, O give thanks to the Lord of lords, To Him who alone has wrought great wonders, To Him who made the heavens with understanding, To Him who established the earth upon the waters, To Him who alone has made great lights, The sun for dominion of the day, The moon and the stars for dominion of the night, To Him who smote Egypt with their first-born, And led forth Israel out of the midst of them, With a strong hand and lofty arm, To Him who divided the Red Sea into parts, And led Israel through the midst of it, And overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, To Him who led His people through the wilderness, To Him who smote great kings, And slew mighty kings, Sihon, king of the Amorites, And Og, king of the land of Basan, And gave their land for an inheritance, An inheritance for Israel, His Servant, For in our humiliation the Lord remembered us, And redeemed us from our enemies, He that gives food to all flesh, O give thanks to the God of Heaven, O Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, alleluia! For His mercy endures forever, alleluia!
 
An Explanation of the Hajmeh Ceremony
by Rt. Rev. Philip Raczka
PDF, 2 pages, 134KB
The Hajmeh Ceremony that we perform on Holy Saturday Night is a short but beautiful ceremony. Most people enjoy it very much and look forward to it all year. All though the ceremony is brief, it is full of meaning and can be enjoyed even more if it is understood properly. The ceremony starts in the darkened church recalling the darkness of sin, death and life without God (Matthew 22:13 ). The main celebrant lights the Paschal Candle, which represents that Christ is the Light of the World (John 8:12 ). He comes to the Holy Doors with the Light of Christ shining in his hand representing that Christ shone in the darkness and was not overcome by it (John 1:5 ). The priest invites all to light their candles saying: Come all you faithful and take light from the Light that never fades, come and glorify Christ who is risen from the dead. Baptism is called Holy Illumination for by it Christ enlightens our whole being with his presence, knowledge and glory. That is why our baptismal clothes are white showing the glory of the Lord that we share because He is in our hearts (John 14:23 ). White is the color of the glory of the Lord as shown to us by the clothing of the Christ at the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor (Matthew 17:2 ). So the Ceremony of Light reminds us that Christ is the Light and that Light is in us because we are baptized (Ephesians 5:14 ). After our candles are lit we make a procession to leave the church. We have many processions in our church services. They serve different purposes but they all help us to realize that we are pilgrim people. Our permanent home is not here but with the Lord in heaven (Philippians 3:20 ). Even the words “parish” and “parishioners” mean a group of exiles.1 This idea of exile is very strong in the New Testament, St. Peter uses it in the opening of his First Epistle (1 Peter 1:1 ) as does St. James (James 1:1 ). So our procession reminds us that we are pilgrims, but with a mission to proclaim the resurrection as we sing: O Christ our Savior, the angels in heaven sing a hymn of praise to your resurrection. As for us who dwell on earth, make us worthy to glorify You with pure hearts. Outside of the front door of the church the main celebrant reads the resurrection Gospel according to St. Mark (Mark 16:1-8 ). We incense the Gospel Book before the reading because Christ is present in it, and we carry lit candles because He is the Light of the World (John 8:12 ). We listen with complete attention to the proclamation because when the Gospel is read in the Liturgy it is Christ Himself speaking to us.2 The Holy Spirit prepares our souls to hear the Gospel so that in listening to it the Logos may abide in us as He did the Virgin at the Annunciation.3 Christ contains in Himself all that He accomplished for our salvation, therefore when the Resurrection Gospel is read that Mystery is present also.4 So outside the doors of the church by the reading of the Gospel, Christ and his glorious resurrection become present to us. Our reaction to this divine and salvific Presence is to proclaim and celebrate. Taking the Paschal Candle and the censer the priest announces solemnly the Paschal Troparion: Christ is risen from the dead and by his death He has trampled upon death and has given life to those who are in the tombs. All present repeat the refrain twice making the proclamation and the celebration their own. The custom of singing a hymn after the reading of the Gospel, in order to proclaim and celebrate the mystery made present, goes back to 4th century Jerusalem.5 It is maintained by the Byzantine Rite after the Orthros Gospel and by the Syriac Rite after the Divine Liturgy Gospel. The priest now continues to incense around the table holding the Gospel Book, while chanting Psalm 67 with the congregation alternating the Paschal Troparion. This incensation is a solemn homage offered to the risen Lord present in the Gospel Book and the Gospel proclamation. When the priest starts to sing the doxology he incenses the entire congregation who are the living Temples of God (I Corinthians 3:16-17 ). Then the deacon intones the Litany of Peace which is augmented by 5 additional petitions. The proclamation of the Word of God in the Divine Liturgy, Vespers and most other services is followed by intercessions. Christ is our Great High Priest who intercedes for us with the Father (Hebrews 7:25 & 9:24 ). Being present in the Gospel Book, the Gospel Proclamation and in the hearts of the Faithful we join our voices with Christ’s to offer intercessions to the Father. We intercede for the whole world as the Apostle commands, not just for ourselves and our friends (1 Timothy 2:1-3 ). To intercede for others is a special ministry of the Christian tied to our adoptive sonship and union with Christ (Galatians 4:6 ). St. John Chrysostom (+407 AD) comments on this special ministry of the baptized in his Baptismal Catechesis as do other early Christian Fathers.6 The 5 special petitions added to the Litany pray for our participation in the victory of Christ over sin and the Devil. After this, the priest knocks on the doors of the church with the hand cross, while chanting Psalm 23/4 with the Sacristan answering from inside the church. This represents Christ opening for us the gates of Paradise that were closed by the sin of Adam (Genesis 3:23-24 ). Christ now enters heaven with us, who had been captive to sin and death (Ephesians 4:8 ). Thus the priest leads the entire congregation into the church to represent Christ leading us into heaven. While we enter the church we notice that all of the lights are on, the Holy Doors of the Iconostasis are open and that fragrant incense is burning. At the same time the choir begins to sing the 1st Ode of the Paschal Canon of St. John of Damascus (+749 AD): Today is the day of the resurrection… We are now entering a foretaste of Paradise, as much as is possible in this life, we are by the grace of God in his eternal Kingdom. Thus, we do not kneel or fast and we rejoice without limit for the next 50 days. It is the ancient tradition of the Church that our Lord Jesus will return for the Final Judgment and Resurrection of the Dead at midnight on Pascha.7 That means that a time will come, when we will enter the church after the Hajmeh ceremony, to find that we are with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17 ). To Him be glory now and forever. Amen.
  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  
 
An Explanation of the Crowning Ceremony
by Father Philip Raczka
PDF, 3 pages, 98KB

Introduction

The marriage ceremony of the Eastern Churches, called the Mystery of Crowning, is quite different than that of the Western Churches. The greatest difference is the lack of the crowning ritual in the western ceremonies. But, there are other differences as well and it is good to understand our own beautiful ceremony.

History

The marriage ceremony at the time of Our Lord in the Holy Land consisted of two parts the Betrothal and the Crowning. The Betrothal was held in the home of the bride after the marriage contract and bride price had been paid. The father of the family, who was considered to be the priest of the family, would celebrate the exchange of rings between the couple with a prayer. Usually a year later the couple was married. The groom would go to the bride’s father’s house where the father would impose the marriage crowns on the couple, join their right hands and say a prayer. The crowning of a groom is mentioned in Isaiah 61:10. Then the groom would lead the bride to his house. This procession consisted of the groom’s friends and the bride’s family while Psalms were sung. The Psalms were sung to celebrate a new marriage and family thus insuring the continuation of the Jewish people and fulfilling the promise that God made to Abraham that he would have countless descendants (Genesis 15:5). At the groom’s house, where the wedding banquet was ready, the groom’s father would say a prayer over a cup of wine. This cup was shared by the couple as a sign of their new life together and then the party followed. The Eastern Christians, who were the majority of Christians until 1453, took this ceremony and made it refer to Christ. The name of Christ was introduced into the prayers and eventually an Epistle, Gospel and Sermon were added to the ceremony. St. John Chrysostom (+407 AD) mentions that priests and bishops were being called upon to perform the ceremony instead of the father of the family. The earliest copy we have of the actual marriage prayers is found in the Barberini Codex #336, which dates from 750 AD. In it we find the same marriage prayers as we use today. Since the Codex was copied in Southern Italy, a remote part of the Empire, we can assume that the prayers are much older than the manuscript. Let us examine this ceremony which has roots in the Old Testament times.

The Betrothal

The Betrothal is first in the ceremony and may be performed independently of the crowning. Two prayers are said and the couple exchanges rings. The rings symbolize the promise of the partners to be faithful to each other. The entire marriage ceremony is full of prayers asking for faithfulness and stating that lawfully married couples are chaste in the eyes of God.

The Consent

The consent is the first element of the actual crowning ceremony. The love of God is deep and sacrificial and it is a choice. The couple is asked to have the same Agapé or Covenant love for each other that God has for us. It is a choice to be faithful, loving and true no matter what happens. They express this choice and commitment in the expression of consent.

Marriage Prayers

The heart of the ceremony is the Marriage Prayers after the Litany of Peace. In these prayers the priest prays remembering the origin of mankind and marriage in the Garden of Eden. He asks the Heavenly Father to join the couple together and to grant them all of the good things and blessings that they will need to have a happy life. It is during these prayers that the couple is wed together by the Lord Himself. As a sign of this divine joining together the priest joins the hands of the couple together. Thus he shows that Christ, the Great High Priest of the Church, is the real celebrant of the wedding ceremony.

The Crowning

The priest crowns the couple as a sign of their union. St. John Chrysostom says that the crowns symbolize the victory of Christ over sin, death and evil. The couple, as baptized Christians, lawfully joined in a sacramental marriage share in this victory. They have overcome the lusts of the world, which seek to separate the soul from the body and love from sex, and are united together in the love of God and each other. They are now joined as God intended man and woman to be joined together; giving themselves totally and freely to the other. The crowns also symbolize the crown of martyrdom or witnessing to Christ for the couple incarnates the love of Christ for the Church. They also represent the royal authority of the children of God. After the crowning the clergy and assembly sing together the coronation hymn (Psalm 8:6 & 7): Crown them O Lord our God with glory and honor and grant them dominion over the works of your hands. This is a prayer and wish for the newly weds from all present.

Epistle and Gospel

The Epistle to the Ephesians is the only place in the Bible that calls marriage a Sacrament or Mystery. The couple is called to incarnate the love of Christ for the Church proven by his death on the cross. In other words it is a total love and commitment. The Gospel is the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12). In this story Jesus turns water into wine. Water is good but wine is better. This is understood to be the point when Christ took Old Testament marriage, which was good, and made it into a Sacrament by which the couple brings the love of God into the world and grow in spiritual perfection.

The Cup of Wine

The cup of wine symbolizes the unity of married life. The spouses complete each other and share one life together. The Unity Candle is performing the same function in western ceremonies, but it is unofficial and not an actual part of the ceremony. There is no need for a Unity Candle in our ceremony since it would duplicate the function of the cup of wine.

The Wedding Procession

In the wedding procession the couple takes their first steps together as man and wife. It is a pilgrimage that will end with death. They go around the table with the Gospel Book on it. Christ is their Sun around which their lives must revolve. This procession also dedicates them to Christ as a couple and reminds them of their priestly role in their new family. They must watch over each other and their future children spiritually as well as physically and emotionally.

The Crown Removal

After all of the prayers and ceremonies have been accomplished the crowns are removed. We ask God to preserve their crowns and marriage forever in his Kingdom. The newlyweds must leave the Church and cooperate together with the Holy Spirit to build their new life day by day.

The Western Ceremony

The earliest witness to the western style ceremony is from Saint Cyprian of Carthage (ca. 250 AD). He mentions that after the couple performs the civil requirements and ceremonies for marriage that they come to the church. There the priest imposes the bridal veil on the bride. He then says a prayer blessing their union followed by giving them Holy Communion together. This reception of Communion recognizes their married state and incorporates them into the Church as a married couple. In the Middle Ages the contract and civil ceremonies were performed in front of the church door. This is when the vows started to loom larger in the consciousness of the participants; whereas previously they were almost never mentioned in sermons and commentaries. The couple then entered the church for the veiling, blessing and Holy Communion. Saint Thomas Aquinas (13th century) said that the vows were the essential matter of the sacrament; this lead to them receiving more importance and the other parts of the ceremony being diminished. According to the Canon Law of the Eastern Catholic Churches the essential elements of our ceremony are the consent, the prayers and blessings of the priest and the marriage crowns.
  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  
 
An Explanation of the Ceremonies of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Chrismation and Eucharist)
by Father Philip Raczka
PDF, 6 pages, 94KB

The Apostolic Origins of Christian Initiation

Introduction: There are several places in the Bible where Baptism is mentioned. Perhaps the most important is Christ’s commission to the Apostles: to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). The most famous passage from the Epistles on baptism is Romans 6:3-11 which is read in our baptismal ceremony and refers to baptism as joining Christ in his death and burial. Below I give three examples from the Acts of the Apostles of baptismal ceremonies. These stories show us how Christian Initiation came to be organized in the apostolic times and that the same basic patterns are still with us today. The Conversion of Saint Paul (Acts 9:10-19): In the early years of the Christian Movement, after the death of Saint Stephen, Saul (Paul) of Tarsus was converted by an appearance of Jesus Christ while he was on the way to Damascus in order to persecute the Christians there. This event was memorialized in art over the ages with the most famous painting being that by Michelangelo Caravaggio in the church of Santa Maria Del Popolo in Rome. It was the artists who had him falling off a horse for the Scripture says nothing about any kind of a beast of burden; Saint Paul was probably walking to Damascus and not riding. Any way it is important to note that although Christ appeared to Saul (Paul) this was not sufficient to make him a Christian for he still had to receive baptism. Acts tells us that he fasted for three days after seeing Christ and before being baptized. A pre-baptismal fast became common practice and eventually became the origins of Great Lent. A disciple named Ananias was sent by Jesus to baptize Paul. He first laid hands on him to receive the Holy Spirit and then baptized him. After this they ate. At this time the Eucharist was still connected to a full meal as at the Last Supper so most likely “when he had eaten” means that Paul also received Communion. So in this story we see that conversion is separate from becoming a Christian, fasting precedes baptism and the ceremony of initiation consists of three actions: receiving the Holy Spirit, baptism and the reception of the Eucharist. Also, we see the importance of an agent of the Church for Christ did not directly incorporate Paul into the Church but called him to convert and sent Ananias to baptize him. The Conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10:1-49): Cornelius was a Roman centurion (leader of 100 men in the Army) who lived in Caesarea of Palestine. He was a Gentile admirer of Judaism called in the New Testament times a “God fearer.” An angel appeared to him and told him to send for Saint Peter who was visiting in Joppa at that time. When Saint Peter arrived Cornelius called together his family and friends and the Apostle explained to them about Jesus Christ. While they were listening the Holy Spirit descended upon them and Saint Peter ordered them to be baptized and afterwards he stayed with them for a few days and naturally ate with them. Here we see a pre-baptismal teaching, the Gift of the Holy Spirit, baptism and Eucharist. Again we see the importance of an agent of the Church for seeing an angel was not enough to make Cornelius a Christian but Saint Peter and his helpers had to baptize him. The Conversion of the Jailer of Philippi (Acts 16:25-34): Paul and Silas were in jail in Philippi praying at midnight and an earthquake freed them. The implication is that the earthquake was of divine origin for St. Peter was freed from his chains by an angel (Acts 12:7). The jailer asked what to do and was told to believe in Christ. Then in the man’s house Paul and Silas preached to the members of the household after which they were baptized and ate. It was still dark when they ate and this was in no way a normal practice but the meal was served in order to have the Lord’s Supper (Holy Eucharist). So, once again we see here the celebration of the Eucharist connected to the meal and after baptism. This story has in it pre-baptismal preaching followed by baptism and Eucharist and again we see the importance of the role of the Apostles despite the fact that the earthquake was caused by the Lord. Summary: When we add together the different elements of these stories we arrive at the basic pattern of Christian Initiation as practiced in the Early Church and still followed today in our Church. First, there is something that makes the person interested in Christ and then there is pre-baptismal teaching (catechesis). There should also be a pre-baptismal fast even if it is only for a few hours as a preparation to receiving the Eucharist. Then the three Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation (Confirmation) and Eucharist are administered at one time. Only after receiving these Sacraments is a person a Christian and they must be administered by another person – the priest or bishop. No one may baptize himself or chrismate herself. In this Christian baptism is different from Jewish ceremonial washings (mikvot) wherein one purifies oneself.

The Catechumen Rites

Introduction: The Catechumen Rites are held in the entryway (narthex) of the church. They may be held prior to the actual baptism ceremony or immediately before it. In the ancient Church when most candidates for baptism were adults they were usually held on Good Friday at 3 PM when Jesus died on the cross and thus overcame the power of Satan. The people were then baptized on Easter at the Saturday evening vigil service. Whenever an adult is baptized these rites are very moving for the person speaking for himself renounces Satan and accepts Jesus Christ as their God and Savior. When a child is baptized the god-parents do it in the name of the child. Exorcisms: Our present day ceremony begins with several exorcisms or prayers to expel the evil powers. These prayers originally entered the ceremony because the Saints considered pagan worship to be the worship of demons placing the devotee of the pagan gods under the power of the devils. The demons would need to be expelled for the person to belong to Christ. When these prayers are done over children they protect the child from evil and expel any evil presence near the child. We should never doubt the reality of evil and the evil powers for to deny their existence gives them the opportunity to deceive us and trick us into sinning. Breaking your Contract with Satan: While the candidates and sponsors face west (away from the altar in the east) they renounce Satan. This is an act of the will to cut relations with Satan and anything evil. It is also a commitment not to participate in pagan worship or witchcraft. Making your Contract with Christ: The candidates and sponsors then turn and face the altar in the east in order to accept Christ. The altar represents Christ and is on the east side of the church to remind us that He is risen (like the sun), He is the Sun of Righteousness foretold by the Prophet Malachi (Malachi 3:20) and that He will come again. By accepting and believing in Christ the candidate is attaching himself to Christ by an act of the will. Belief is indeed an act of the will and a decision. The person is giving herself to Christ as fiancés commit themselves to each other. The Creed: The Nicene Creed that we use in baptism, the Divine Liturgy and some other services as well was composed at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 325 AD. It was completed at the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 381 AD with the further expansion of the clause on the Holy Spirit. In this Creed we express the basic beliefs of our Faith that God is the Trinity; He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each divine person is briefly described; the Father and Creator, the Son and Savior and the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier. Although brief, the Creed is the source of all of our beliefs and theology. Every other article of faith or theology is somehow rooted in it. This Creed is used by the Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Lutherans and is thus a point of Christian unity.

The Main Ceremony

The Blessing of the Water: The Blessing of the Baptismal Water begins with the Litany of the deacon. In any litany the lines of the priest or deacon are the intentions, not the prayer. The prayer is when the people respond: Lord, have mercy. Therefore, it is very important that all of those present at the ceremony chant the response. The priest’s prayer for the blessing recalls what Christ did for us especially his incarnation and baptism. We petition our Heavenly Father to send the Holy Spirit into the water; this is called the Epiclesis or invocation. We believe that this petition is always answered because of a conversation between Christ and the Apostles in the Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 11:9-13). In this teaching Christ tells the Apostles, who know how to give good things to their children, that our Heavenly Father (who is perfect) will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. The Blessing of the Olive Oil and Anointing: The Word Messiah means the “Anointed One” chosen by God to perform some special function for the benefit of his people. The person would be anointed with olive oil and receive gifts from the Holy Spirit to perform their ministry. Each follower of Christ is anointed in baptism with blessed olive oil to share in the ministry of Christ and perform a ministry that will benefit the Christian people as a whole. Priest, Prophet and King: When Aaron and his sons were chosen to be the priests of the Jewish people they were bathed by Moses, then anointed with olive oil mixed with spices (called chrism) and then dressed in their vestments after which they offered sacrifices (Exodus 29). Christ is our Great High Priest who offered his own life to the Father for us (Hebrews 9). We all share in his General Priesthood by praying for others and offering our time, talents and treasure to God. Those who are clergy share in Christ’s ministerial priesthood for the good of the believing community. Shortly before he was taken to heaven the Prophet Elias was told by God to anoint Elisha to take his place (1 Kings 19). The main function of the prophet is to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to preach the Word of God. We see this in our Lord’s life especially in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). We too are called to know and preach the Word of God to a world that is dying without it. The best way to do this is by the good example of a Christian life and sharing our stories with others of how God touched our life. When Saul was chosen by God to be the first king of Israel the Prophet Samuel went to him and did not crown him but rather anointed him with olive oil thus he became king (1 Samuel 10). Jesus is the Messiah or Anointed One because He is King by two rights: as God and as the Descendant of King David who rules forever and ever (Luke 1, 2 Samuel 7). We share in the royal authority of Christ exercising authority over our homes and serving our community with the talents that He has given us for the good of others. Christ also sacrificed his life on the cross for his people. Whenever we sacrifice our life or desires for the good of others we are sharing in Christ’s royal office. The Sign of the Cross: In the Book of Revelation those who belong to God are marked with a sign on their foreheads (Revelation 7). From the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 9) we learn that this mark is a cross “+”. The priest makes a cross with olive oil on the forehead of the person to be baptized thus marking them as belonging to God forever. We may run away from God with our sins but He never runs away from us. He accepts us and we belong to Him forever and the sign of the cross remains on our souls forever. The Final Preparation to Receive Christ as did the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation: When the Virgin Mary accepted to become the Mother of our Lord the Holy Spirit descended upon her and prepared her to receive Jesus in her womb and after the preparation was completed the Spirit placed Christ in her womb (Luke 1: 26-38). As the candidate is anointed with olive oil by the priest the Holy Spirit is preparing him/her for Christ so that when they enter the water Jesus may enter and dwell in their heart. Immersion in Water: The person is immersed three times in the water signifying the three days of Christ in the tomb. By this action all sin is removed from the person, he/she is born again as the adopted child of God and God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit comes to live in them. They begin a new life as a royal child of the Heavenly Father and temple of God. God is not far away from the person but dwelling in them. We use a generous amount of water in the ceremony to show these mystical realities of spiritual birth, death and cleansing. The Baptismal Formula: The person is baptized by the priest saying: The servant of God N. is baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This formula comes from the lips of Christ Himself (Matthew 28:19). By it we know that God is 3 in 1 or Trinity. The Holy Spirit leads us to Christ and Christ leads to the Father and thus God lives in us and we in Him. New Clothes: After the immersion in the font the newly baptized person is clothed in pure white. Other colors are not used at all not even as decoration or trim. The pure white baptismal robe is an ancient custom going back to the 5th century if not earlier and has several scriptural origins. One is the robe of Christ at the Transfiguration which was a brilliant white (Matthew 17:2) and when He appeared to St. John in the Book of Revelation He was also clothed in white (Revelation 1:13-15). So we see white as a color indicating the glory of Christ and his divine light. Psalm 103:2 tells us that God wears light like a cloak referring to the fact that God is the Source of Light and that God is light and there is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5). Light also is symbolic of the glory of the Lord because of the story of the Transfiguration and in icons of the resurrection Jesus is always in white. The Book of Revelation says the Saints in heaven wear white robes (Revelation 7:9). This shows that they share in the light and life of God and their sins were removed by the blood of Christ. White robes were also associated with the temple priests (Exodus 39:27) and thus show the newly baptized now worship God. Chrismation: After the blessing of the white clothes the newly baptized are signed with chrism on the forehead, sense organs, chest, back, hands and feet. While doing this the priest says: The seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit, to which all reply: Amen. Chrism from the Patriarch: Chrism is a combination of olive oil and spices that are cooked together so that they will not separate out and thus making a type of oily perfume. In the Old Testament Moses was commanded by God to make it and then use it for the dedication of the Tabernacle and the consecration of the priests (Exodus 30:22-33). In the Melkite Church it is made every several years by the Patriarch who then distributes it to the bishops who in turn give it to the priests. Thus the chrism used in the churches shows the unity of the parish with the bishop and the bishop with the Patriarch and Synod. Chrism is also used to dedicate churches and icons that are used in churches. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit: The purpose of the Chrismation of the newly baptized is that they may receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. These are given that the person may share in the life of God and show this in their actions. These gifts are also given so that the Church may be built up with each person contributing their part by fulfilling the special mission that God has given them in life.

The Eucharistic Synaxis

The Sacraments of Initiation are completed with the reception of the Holy Eucharist which is the Body and Blood of Christ. By receiving the Eucharist Christ enters us physically as well as spiritually. At the same time because there is only one Jesus, whom all receive, we are united together by Christ. Christ is the principle of unity of the Church dwelling in the hearts of all of the baptized. The Procession: The procession brings the newly baptized to the altar to receive the Eucharist. It is solemnized by several elements which deserve explanation. During the procession we sing: All of you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ, Alleluia (Galatians 3:27). This chant refers to the fact that by being baptized Christ lives in us and this is symbolized by the beautiful white garments that are worn. During the procession the sponsors, newly baptized and sometimes the entire congregation carry lit candles. These candles remind us that Christ is the Light of the World (John 8:12) and He now gives us light. They also remind us that we must be vigilant for the return of the Lord as were the five wise virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). The Epistle – Romans 6:3-11: Once we arrive in front of the iconostasis the Liturgy continues with the proclamation of the Word of God. We hear the Prokimenon and then the Epistle to the Romans. This reading reminds us that by baptism we join Christ in his death and burial that we may live for God. The cross destroyed the power of sin and by being baptized this victory is extended to us. We must now live for God and forget the old ways of sin and corruption. The Gospel – Matthew 28:16-20: After the Epistle we prepare for the Gospel with the usual ceremonies: Incense to purify us; lit candles to show Christ is the Light of the World and the singing of Alleluia (Praise the Lord) to welcome Christ who speaks to us in the Gospel reading. The lection used is the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus commands the Apostles to go into the whole world and preach and baptize. It must be noted here that the original Greek of this passage is frequently mistranslated. A better translation would be: Go, therefore and disciple all the nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit and by teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. One makes Disciples of Christ by baptizing and teaching, both are needed. Making disciples is not separate from these two actions as some people propose. Holy Communion: After the proclamation of the Word of God we receive Holy Communion either at the Divine Liturgy or from the Sacrament reserved from an earlier celebration of the Liturgy. The Bread and Wine are the Body and Blood of the Risen Christ. Christ is one Person now glorious in heaven thus when He comes to us we receive his Body and Blood and soul and divinity. He is one Person and not chopped up into bits. The change of the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood takes place by the power of the Holy Spirit during the Anaphora. Christ is present all over the world and to each believer also by the power of the Holy Spirit. For this reason the Divine Liturgy is offered all over the world wherever Christians gather and not just in one place like the Jewish Temple. Christianity has sacred places where Christ lived or Saints are buried but the presence of Jesus is in no way limited to these places. A Liturgy in Boston is just as sacred as one in Rome or Jerusalem. The Divine Liturgy would be best at Christian Initiation: At the Divine Liturgy we hear the Word of God and then offer our gifts to God which includes our life. This self-offering is symbolized by the bringing of the bread and wine to the altar during the Great Entrance. During the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer) the Holy Spirit turns these humble gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. When we receive from the pre-consecrated Gifts there is no offering on our part. At the full Liturgy we offer and then receive. For this reason it would be best if baptism preceded the Liturgy or was combined with it. This was the tradition of the Early Church for more than 1,000 years. Now it is gradually being restored. It is to be hoped that more and more people will realize the value of this apostolic tradition and willing agree to have their Christian Initiation ceremony be part of the Divine Liturgy.

The 8th Day Rites

The baptismal ceremony ends with several rites that were originally done on the 8th day after baptism which would be the following Sunday. They closed a whole week of celebration during which the newly baptized attended the Liturgy and received Holy Communion each day. This is vastly different from those people in today’s world who leave the church after the baptism ceremony and do not come back again until the next baptism in the family. The Washing: The priest washes the face of the newly baptized with a clean cloth, water and soap. This is to remove the chrism and olive oil. It has become the tradition that the god-mother would continue this process at home and wash the entire baby and dispose of the water on the grass and not in the sewer since it would contain the remnants of the sacred oils. The Tonsure: In some places the priest tonsures the baby. Tonsure is a ceremony by which the hair is cut on the four sides of the head to form a cross. This is a symbol of obedience and is performed on new monks and those receiving minor orders (lector and sub-deacon). When it comes to a newly baptized infant the hair is understood as an offering by the child to God in thanksgiving for the gifts of spiritual life and physical life.

Conclusion

All the ceremonies of our Church have a profound meaning and scriptural origins. By taking some time to learn about them we can participate better in them and come to a greater understanding of God’s gifts and mercy to us.
  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  
 
An Explanation of the Divine Liturgy
by Fr. Philip Raczka
PDF, 11 pages, 141KB

The Great Incensation

Before the Divine Liturgy starts the deacon or priest incenses the entire church beginning at the altar. Since the altar represents Christ he says a prayer to Christ while censing it: Being God You were present in the tomb with your body, in Hades with your soul, in Paradise with the Thief, on the throne with the Father and the Spirit filling all things but encompassed by none. Thus we see that the censing of the altar honors both the Holy Table and Jesus Christ. The deacon then continues censing the Prothesis Table where the bread and wine are prepared, the Iconostasis and the congregation while saying the penitential Psalm 50. This shows that the incensation is also seen as purification to begin the service. In the Latin Rite this purification is accomplished on Sundays by sprinkling the church with Holy Water. We desire that we be purified of all evil that we may praise and worship with clean hearts focused on God. Incense is mentioned in the Old Testament and has several meanings. Psalm 140:2 mentions that it represents our prayers rising to God. The Magi offered incense to the Christ Child because the burning of incense was a way to honor gods and kings and Jesus is indeed our King and God (Matthew 2:11). Incense is also a purification and sacrifice to God and was commanded to be offered in the Old Testament Temple every morning and evening. In Exodus God appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush and led the people out of Egypt by a pillar of cloud (Exodus 3:2 & 13:21-22). When the Tabernacle in the wilderness was dedicated God came to it and filled it with smoke and the same happened when Solomon dedicated the First Temple (Exodus 40:34 & 1 Kings 8: 10-11). So a cloud reminds us that God is present with us and the incense creates a kind of cloud in the church. The smell of the incense cannot be seen yet is present. So too God cannot be seen but is present.

The Initial Blessing

The priest begins the Liturgy by proclaiming the Kingdom of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father made the universe through the Son and Holy Spirit. The Son is eternally begotten of the Father and was incarnate of the Virgin by the will of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and sanctifies and enlightens all the believers and draws the non-believers to come to Christ. We encounter the Trinity when we meditate on creation and experience salvation. This is why all of our prayers conclude with a doxology glorifying the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Church is God’s Kingdom in an incomplete form. It began with the resurrection of Christ and will be completed when He comes again in glory. In the meantime we have a foretaste of the Messianic Banquet in the Divine Liturgy and we are called to bring in new members to share in salvation and the life of God.

The Litany of Peace

The most ancient location for the petitions of the people in the Divine Liturgy is after the Sermon. Acts tells us that St. Paul preached to the presbyters of Ephesus at Miletus and then knelt and prayed with them (Acts 20:17ff). In ancient Constantinople the Litany of Peace followed by a prayer was placed at the beginning of the Three Antiphons in order to begin the procession that use to inaugurate the Liturgy for the Clergy and laity of ancient Constantinople use to process each Sunday and Feast Day from the center of the city to the Cathedral during the Antiphons. When these processions were no longer held the second Litany of Peace which was after the Sermon was dropped and the one at the beginning of the Liturgy was kept. In I Timothy we are admonished to pray for everyone including those in the government (I Timothy 2: 1ff). Thus the Litany of Peace (which was originally after the sermon) is worldwide in scope. It is our duty as Christians to pray for all, not just for those whom we like or love. The petitions of the priest or deacon are not the prayer; they are only directions to the congregation of what they should pray for. The actual prayer is when everyone sings, Lord, have mercy. Since this response is the actual prayer, it behooves all present to sing this response with all of their heart and to focus their mind on the petitions that they may offer their intercessions to the Lord for the stated intentions.

The Antiphons

An Antiphon is a Psalm chanted by the cantor with a response sung by the congregation. The First Antiphon always refers to the Theotokos; the Second to Christ and the Third response is the Troparion of the Sunday or the Feast. There are three antiphons to represent the three days that Christ was in the tomb thus pointing to the resurrection. Originally the Antiphons were sung while the clergy and people processed from the Forum to the cathedral. Later on these Antiphons became so popular that they were sung even when there was no procession as is the case today. For pastoral reasons today it is permitted to sing only one Antiphon so as to slightly abbreviate the Liturgy. The Psalm verses refer either to worshipping God or to the Feast being celebrated that day.

The Incarnation Hymn

The Incarnation Hymn: Only Begotten Son and Word of God… is sung at every Liturgy except a Vespers-St Basil Liturgy (4 times per year). This hymn from the 6th century summarizes our principle beliefs in Christ focusing on his incarnation, death and resurrection and ascension. By these mysteries Christ saved us. He left Heaven and became a man through the power of the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin. Then later as an adult He laid down his life for us and died on the cross. On Easter He made his human nature immortal and rose from the tomb thus preparing for our future immortality and resurrection. The ancestor of this hymn is Philippians 2:6-11 which is an early Christian hymn that also mentions the incarnation, cross, resurrection and glorification of Christ. Such hymns about Christ go back to the beginning of Christianity and we are happy to continue this tradition of singing hymns about Christ.

The Little Entrance

During the Little Entrance or first procession the deacon carries the Gospel Book around the church accompanied by candles, the cross, the fans and incense. Christ is present in the Gospel Book and to honor it is to honor Him. That is why we kiss it after it is read; we adore Him who just spoke to us. Because Christ is present He is accompanied by candles to show that He is the Light of the World. The cross is Christ’s standard or flag and the ripidia (fans) show that the angels worship Him. The incense shows that Jesus is King and God. The procession of the Gospel around the Church is a way for Christ to be with us and reminds us of how He walked around the Middle East preaching to the people and inviting them to enter the Kingdom of God. The normal Sunday Entrance Chant: Come let us worship and bow down before Christ is obviously an invitation to worship our Lord. On Feasts of Christ it is changed to reflect the occasion thus on Christmas we are told that Jesus is divine and on Ascension that He ascended etc.

The Troparia

The Troparion originated as the response to the Third Antiphon. It is always a poetic piece that refers to the Resurrection on Sundays and to the Feast on other days. To the initial Troparion we can add those of the Saint of the day, the patron Saint or Feast of the church and finally the last one is the Kondakion or concluding Troparion that refers to the Mother of God or the Feast. Some of these Kondakia were written by St Romanos the Melodist in the 6th century. The most famous one that he wrote is for Christmas: Today the Virgin gives birth… These Troparia tell us what we are observing that day. By singing about the Feast or Saint of the day we are celebrating and not just reading an announcement. When everyone sings these Troparia then all are joining in equally in the celebration. The Troparia were not originally intended as solo pieces to be sung by the cantor alone but by the entire congregation.

The Trisagion Hymn

On most Sundays, after the Troparia and Kondakion, we sing the Trisagion - “Holy God, Holy Might One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.” This very popular hymn was first sung by the Byzantine Bishops at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. It quickly spread and is currently used by the Maronites, Syriacs, Armenians and Latins (only on Good Friday and in the Divine Mercy Chaplet) in addition to the Byzantine Churches. Following the teachings of St. John of Damascus we understand the hymn as an invocation to the most Holy Trinity. “Holy God” refers to the Father, the Source of the Divine Nature. “Holy Mighty One” refers to the Son, Who conquered sin and the Devil. “Holy Immortal One” refers to the Holy Spirit, Who is the Lord and Giver of Life. Because the hymn refers to the Holy Trinity we bow and make the sign of the cross during it. The Hymn is called Trisagion or “thrice holy” because the word “holy” appears three times, as in the worship of the angels before God in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6: 3). We normally sing it in English, Arabic and Greek following the directives of +Archbishop Joseph E. Tawil: Greek is the original language of the hymn, Arabic for our old country origins and English for this country. On several occasions we sing, All of you, who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ, Alleluia (Galatians 3:27). This hymn is sung on the original baptismal days of the Early Church: Christmas, Theophany, and Lazarus Saturday, Holy Saturday, Easter and Pentecost. It refers to the light of Christ that now covers us and that He lives in and through us. On those occasions when we venerate the Holy Cross (September 14, 3rd Sunday of Lent, and August 1) we sing, We bow in worship before your Cross, O Master, and we give praise to your holy Resurrection. This chant draws attention to the unity of the Paschal Mystery of Christ. There is no resurrection without the cross and Jesus’ story did not end with his death on Good Friday but continues with his resurrection on Pascha.

The Prokimenon and Psalms in the Liturgy

The Prokimenon, immediately before the Epistle, is a few verses of a Psalm that was originally the entire Psalm sung with the people chanting the refrain. Psalms are sung in the Liturgy because they are the original hymns of the early Church coming from Jewish worship. The early Saints called them the “Hymns of the Holy Spirit” because they are inspired by the Holy Spirit as is the entire Bible. Currently Psalm verses are used in the Divine Liturgy for the Antiphon verses, the Prokimenon, the Alleluia Psalm and the Kinonikon before Holy Communion. These various Psalm verses refer to the “theme” or feast of the day. On Sundays everything relates to the Resurrection of Christ. On great Feasts all of the Psalm verses express the meaning of the Feast being celebrated. On weekdays they refer to the Saint of the day, i.e. Tuesday in honor of St. John the Baptist and Thursdays in honor of St. Nicholas, etc. We use the Psalms in the Liturgy to glorify God and state our faith. They are also God’s word to us as well as our words to God. Let us be attentive to the message of the “Hymns of the Holy Spirit.”

The Epistle

The first biblical reading in the Divine Liturgy is the Epistle. “Epistle” means letter, so the “Epistle of St. Paul to N,” means the Letter of St. Paul to N. Normally the Epistle is an exhortation to lead a Christian moral life or an explanation of the meaning of Salvation in Christ. Starting with the day after Pentecost we begin to read Romans. We then continue reading the New Testament Epistles in order, completing their reading in the course of one year. On great Feasts the Epistle always refers to the Feast. During Great Lent we read Hebrews which speaks so eloquently of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. From Easter to Pentecost it is the universal custom in all of the Christian Churches since the 4th century to read the Acts of the Apostles. The Epistle is read by a layperson, going back to the usage of the Synagogue where any adult male was allowed to read the Scriptures. Because of the reading of the Epistle, St. Paul the Apostle and his theology is know and beloved by most Christians.

The Gospel Ceremonies

After the Epistle is finished we start to sing Alleluia. Alleluia means literally praise Yahweh (God). It is sung with several psalm verses to express our joy at the presence of Christ in our midst through the reading of the Bible, especially the Gospel. During the Alleluia the priest recites a prayer that he may be worthy to proclaim the Gospel of Salvation. He or the deacon incenses the Gospel Book to honor it, and the congregation to purify them in preparation to hear the Gospel with sincerity. The servers hold lit candles to signify that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World (John 8: 12). The children come forward for the reading of the Gospel in memory of Christ saying, Let the little children come to me (Matthew 19: 14). In the Eastern Churches the Gospel Book is always treated with the greatest respect because Christ is present in it through his Word.

The Gospel

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13: 8). Because Our Lord does not change, neither do his words. He means them as much today as He did 2,000 years ago. For this reason we always listen to the Gospel with respect and attention and humble submission to the will of God. The priest or deacon chants the Gospel with a simple intonation to lend it solemnity and to aid in our memorization of it. By humming the eison we allow the Gospel to penetrate our whole being. We stand at attention because it is Jesus, not the priest or deacon, who is speaking. After the Gospel those standing nearby kiss the Book to render love and homage to Jesus Christ. The Gospel of St. John is read from Easter to Pentecost. St. Matthew is read from Pentecost Monday to the Feast of the Holy Cross on September 14. After the Feast of the Holy Cross St. Luke is read until the beginning of Great Lent. During Great Lent we read St. Mark and the Gospels of the Feasts always refer to the event being celebrated. Thus during the course of one year the four Gospels are read in their totality.

The Sermon

Following the reading of the Bible with the sermon goes back to Jesus Himself and the Apostles. St. Luke tells us that Jesus spoke in the Synagogue of Nazareth after the reading of the Prophet Isaiah (Luke 4: 16-30). St. Paul spoke in the Synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13: 15ff) after the reading of the Law and the Prophets. Having the Sermon in this location insures that its content will be related to the readings of the day and not be used as the private agenda of the preacher. Normally the sermon is a reflection on the Gospel and application of it to our life today. It is based on the fact that the Word of God is living and applies just as much today as it did when it was written many years ago. It is a great responsibility of the priest to preach to his congregation, he can only do so because of his ordination and the special grace of the Holy Spirit that he received at that time. The parishioners perform a great kindness for their priest when they pray for him and ask God to guide him in his labors, especially preaching.

The Ecumenic Litany

After the sermon there follows the Ecumenic Litany with its response of the triple, Lord, have mercy. This is the most ancient location for the prayers of the people in the Divine Liturgy. Acts tells us that St. Paul preached to the presbyters of Ephesus at Miletus and then knelt and prayed with them (Acts 20: 17ff). In I Timothy we are admonished to pray for everyone including the government (I Timothy 2: 1ff). Thus the Litany of Peace (which was originally also after the sermon) and the Ecumenic Litany are worldwide in their scope. There is a place for special petitions, but these are in addition to the regular ones. It is our duty as Christians to pray for all, not just for those whom we like or love. The petitions of the priest or deacon are not the prayer; they are only directions to the congregation of what they should pray for. The actual prayer is when everyone sings, Lord, have mercy. Since this response is the actual prayer, it behooves all present to sing this response with all of their heart and to focus their mind on the petitions that they may offer their intercessions to the Lord for the stated intentions. The Ecumenic Litany concludes the Liturgy of the Word or Bible.

The Great Entrance: The Cherubic Hymn

The Great Entrance, or procession with the bread and wine to the altar, begins the Liturgy of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is the second part of the Divine Liturgy. This procession parallels the Little Entrance, or procession with the Gospel Book, that commences the Liturgy of the Word or Bible. During the preparations for the procession and after it is completion we sing the Cherubic Hymn. This beautiful chant was first sung in our Liturgy in 574 AD. The Hymn focuses our attention on what is about to happen. During the Anaphora we will sing the Thrice Holy Hymn of the Angels (Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Sabaoth...) before the Throne of God (Isaiah 6: 3), thus we should put aside all of our earthly concerns that we may worship God and offer our sacrifice with all of our being. We then will receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. Jesus is the King of all, and wherever He is, the holy angels are there worshipping Him and escorting Him. Thus during the Liturgy the hosts of angels are present with us, and with us they glorify the King of the Universe.

The Great Entrance: Ceremonies

While the people are singing the Cherubic Hymn the priest is preparing the Holy Table for the Eucharistic Sacrifice. First, he spreads the Antimension, which is a special cloth containing relics and blessed by the current Patriarch or diocesan bishop, on this cloth will be placed the chalice and discos. Then he says a prayer asking Christ to make him worthy to offer the Holy Oblation. He or the deacon then performs the small incensation, which consists of incensing the Holy Table, the icons of Christ and the Theotokos, the west and the people. This is done to prepare and purify the Altar and congregation for the offering of the Sacrifice. Before beginning the procession the priest bows to the congregation and asks them to forgive him. During the procession of the bread and wine the priests and deacons mention the various intentions of that particular Divine Liturgy. After the procession the chalice and discos are placed on the Antimension and covered with the great veil or aer. It is part of the uniqueness of the Byzantine Liturgy that the Great Entrance is more solemn than in other Rites. It is considered one of the most beautiful ceremonies of the Liturgy and often depicted in iconography.

The Kiss Of Peace

After the Great Entrance is completed, and the Bread and Wine have been placed upon the Altar, we continue our preparation for the Eucharistic Sacrifice with the Kiss of Peace. The Kiss is mentioned several times in the New Testament by St. Paul (I Corinthians 16: 20, Romans 16: 16, II Corinthians 13: 12 & I Thessalonians 5: 26) and St. Peter also mentions it as well (I Peter 5: 14). We see then that the Kiss of Peace is one of the original parts of the Liturgy going back to the apostolic times. It originated in the Jewish Synagogue as a sign of the brotherhood of all the believers. When we exchange it we are admitting that we are God’s family and brothers and sisters in Christ. Secondly it is a sign of reconciliation and forgiveness. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said: Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5: 23 & 24). Thus when we are about to offer the Holy Sacrifice we must be at peace with our fellow Christians. When the Kiss of Peace is given we say: Christ is with us! He is and always will be! By these simple phrases we express our faith in the presence of Christ in the believers and the whole Church. You should only give the Kiss of Peace to two or three people next to you. It is like a chain consisting of many links. It is not the purpose to run around the whole church and greet everyone. Rather by greeting only those who are next to us we show the brotherhood of the believers, since these persons will greet others as well. This also maintains decorum in the Church, again the purpose is not to greet everyone, but to show the brotherhood of the faithful and that we forgive each other.

The Creed

After the Kiss of Peace and immediately before the Eucharistic Prayer (Anaphora), we say the Nicene Creed. This brief prayer expresses the essence of our Faith: That we believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the One God. It is in the name of this same God that we were baptized at the orders of Jesus Himself (Matthew 28: 19). Through Baptism God lives in us, therefore when we profess our faith we are doing so from experience. We know that God is Father because Christ has revealed Him as such. We know that Christ is true God and Man because the Holy Spirit reveals Him as such. We know that the Holy Spirit exists because His love and grace are in our hearts. We guard this reality with our whole being. If anyone comes and wishes to deny the Fatherhood of God, or the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ, or the divinity of the Holy Spirit, they are denying our salvation and the Trinity that lives in our hearts. We know that this cannot be! We profess, with all of those who have gone before us that God does exist and lives in Heaven and with us! The Creed as we have it now was promulgated at the 1st Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and the 1st Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. Originally it was the Creed of Caesarea in Palestine, which the Holy Fathers took as being the best one in use and therefore made it universal for all Christians. It is used today by the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran Churches, which constitute the overwhelming majority of Christians in the World.

The Anaphora: Our Sacrifice

We begin the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer) with a dialogue between the priest and people that goes back to the origins of Christianity. First, we are called to attention: Let us stand well...to offer the holy oblation in peace. This sentence points out two truths, first the people offer the Sacrifice together with the priest. The priest leads his people in prayer, that is why he faces East with them. The priest stands at the head of his community, not over it. He cannot offer the Liturgy without the faithful being present. Second, the Liturgy is a Sacrifice. The Sacrifice is our gifts, our lives and above all Christ Himself on the Cross. It is not re-enacted, but rather we are present at the original event through the power of the Holy Spirit. This Sacrificial nature of the Liturgy is expressed in the words that we use: Quran for the bread means sacrifice; the Maronites call the Liturgy the Qorbono which means sacrifice, and the Latin word Host means sacrificial victim. The people answer: A mercy of peace, a sacrifice of praise. This phrase acknowledges that Christ made peace with the Father for us by his death on the Cross (Romans 5: 1). We also offer our praises and our very lives as a sacrifice to God along with Christ. This sacrificial nature of the offering is confirmed in the Words of Institution. When Christ said: This is my Body... This is my Blood (Matthew 26: 26-28); He was using the same words that a 1st century Jew used when he presented a sacrificial lamb in the Temple. The difference of course being that Christ presented not a lamb, but Himself as the Sacrifice (Hebrews 9: 12). This supreme Sacrifice is made present at each Holy and Divine Liturgy.

The Anaphora: We praise God with the Angels

Almost every church member knows by heart the Angelic Hymn: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Sabaoth... These words of the Angels found in the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6: 3) become ours as we praise God for his majesty and all of his Gifts to us. The greatest Gift that God the Father ever gave us was Jesus Christ and the work of Salvation that He accomplished. The Salvation that we have received from Jesus Christ is the main reason that we come together to praise and worship God. In the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer) the work of Christ is the main theme. We glorify God with the Angelic Hosts because we have experienced Salvation through Baptism and our Christian Life. We look forward to when the Lord will come again and perfect the Kingdom. In the meantime, we continue to glorify and praise Him. Where ever Christ is present - He is present in church through the various modes of the Icons, Gospel, priest, Holy Communion and in the hearts of the faithful according to the Second Vatican Council - the Angels are there to worship Him. So the icons of the Angels in our church are expressing the spiritual reality of their presence with us as we glorify God together. In the Liturgy the Church on earth and the Church in Heaven are united before the throne of God in praise and worship.

The Anaphora: the role of the Holy Spirit

Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1: 35), and He offered Himself on the Cross to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:14). Likewise during the Anaphora, when the Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, this is also the work of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the great spiritual insights of the Eastern Churches to recognize the operation and presence of the Holy Spirit in the work of salvation. This theological insight is clearly expressed in the Anaphora when the priest asks the Father to send down your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here offered, and make this bread the precious Body of your Christ. This happens after the people sing, we praise You, we bless You... We believe that our Heavenly Father always answers this petition because in St. Luke’s Gospel Jesus said: If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (Luke 11: 13)? We further believe that all of the Sacraments are likewise accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is why we use passive formulas for them, i.e. The servant of God is baptized... because it is Christ Who is the true Priest, and the Holy Spirit is the true Agent of action in church. We are able to eat the Bread from Heaven (John 6: 33) because the Holy Spirit placed Christ in the womb of the Virgin, and that same Holy Spirit changes our simple bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Anaphora of the Divine and Holy Liturgy.

The Litany before the Lord’s Prayer

The Litany before the Lord’s Prayer consists of two different Litanies. To the first we answer, Lord, have mercy, and to the second we respond, Grant this, O Lord. The first Litany prays for the renewal of the grace of Pentecost. We ask God the Father to send us the grace of the Holy Spirit because He has received our Sacrifice (Christ) on the Heavenly Altar. The Sacred Body and Blood are the Vehicle of this grace because the human nature of Christ is anointed and filled with the Holy Spirit due to His baptism (Mark 1: 10). In the second Litany we ask God for a peaceful and sinless life. We ask for an Angel of Peace (guardian angel) to help us in staying free from sin, and we ask for God’s forgiveness of our sins. The priest’s prayer at the end of the Litany ties both litanies together by asking God to make us worthy of receiving Holy Communion for the purpose of having our sins forgiven and communion in the Holy Spirit. This Pneumatological emphasis on the Body and Blood of Christ is part of our unique understanding of the meaning of Holy Communion as Byzantine Melkites.

The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer is inserted at this point in the Divine Liturgy in order to be a collective prayer in preparation for Holy Communion. The early Saints of the Church understood daily bread as including not only the food for our bodies, but for our souls as well. The sacred Body and Blood of Christ nourish both our soul and body in preparation for eternal life. Jesus said quite plainly in St. John’s Gospel, I am the Bread of Life (John 6: 35). He also said, I am the living Bread that came down from Heaven; whoever eats this Bread will live forever; and the Bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world (John 6: 51). There is also an early Christian translation of the Lord’s Prayer that rendered daily bread as divine bread. So during the Lord’s Prayer we pray together that we may receive Holy Communion and that the fullness of the Lord’s Kingdom will come. Our reception of the Body and Blood of Christ is already a foretaste of the Messianic Banquet in the Age to Come (Revelations Chaps. 19-22).

The Prayer after the Our Father

This is the second presbyteral prayer in preparation for Holy Communion. It is perhaps the most ancient prepatory prayer, even predating St. John Chrysostom (d. 407 AD). This prayer is important because it mentions that Jesus goes forth from the church with us. When we receive Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ become part of our own body by being digested and absorbed into our system. Christ truly becomes physically part of us as well as spiritually part of us. Thus, He leaves the Church with us to be with us in whatever we may do or need. Therefore, we ask Him to protect us as we travel and heal us if we are sick. St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. 110 AD) calls Holy Communion the Medicine of Immortality echoing the words of Christ in St. John’s Gospel, Whoever eats this Bread will live forever (John 6: 58). The Holy Fathers even said that when Jesus comes back to raise our bodies from the dead, He will do so looking for His own Body which has become part of us in Holy Communion.

The Rite of Holy Communion: The Fraction of the Bread

When the priest says, Holy Things to the Holy, the Rite of the reception of Holy Communion begins. The first action that he performs is to break the Lamb (short for Lamb of God) into four pieces. This Lamb is a large piece of Bread with a Cross imprinted on it and the Greek words for: Jesus Christ Conquers (IC XC NIKA). This symbol is often found several places in a church including the altar. One piece of the Lamb is placed in the chalice, the priest receives the second for Holy Communion, and the other two are used for the other clergy or the congregation. This act of breaking the Lamb goes back to the early Church when one large loaf of bread was used for the Liturgy. This loaf was not cut ahead of time, but broken apart by the deacons at Communion time. Now we cut the bread at the Prothesis before the Liturgy starts, only the Lamb is now broken. The bread from which the particles are cut is usually only one loaf, if possible, and placed on only one discos, if possible. This is done to show the unity of the Church. St. Paul says: The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf (I Corinthians 10:16 & 17). Our Byzantine way of preparing the bread for Holy Communion is much closer to the early Church than that of the Western Church which uses round hosts that were never part of the same loaf of bread. If possible only one chalice is used for the Liturgy also, again to show the unity of the Church. If more chalices are needed they are limited in number and frequently the sacred Blood is only poured into them from one large chalice at this time.

The Rite of Holy Communion: The Prepatory Prayers

After the singing of the Kinonikon, which is a Psalm verse (Praise the Lord… in honor of the resurrection of Christ), everyone says together the Prayers before Holy Communion. These prayers were originally said only by the clergy. They started to be said by the laity first in the Slavic Byzantine Churches, and since 1968 they have been said by the laity in the Melkite Church as well. The first prayer, I believe Lord and profess... tells us how to approach Holy Communion. First, we must believe that Christ is the Son of the Living God and He is our Savior. In this we echo the faith of St. Peter (Matthew 16:16). Second, we admit that we are sinners, just as St. Paul did (I Timothy 1:15). Third, we profess that the Bread and Wine are truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ as He stated at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26-30). Finally, we admit that only God can make us worthy to receive Holy Communion. To partake of the Body and Blood of Christ is a great gift and mercy from God. We never can be worthy to receive it on our own merit.

The Rite of Holy Communion: Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ

Melkites receive Holy Communion by the priest dipping the sacred Body in the chalice. This is called intinction. We have only done it this way for about 120 years. Previously, the sacred Body was placed in the chalice and the priest used a spoon to communicate the faithful, as is still done in the Slavic Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Intinction was first used in Aleppo, Syria due to a plague. It was remarked that more people approached to receive Holy Communion with the new method, so other Eparchies followed their example. It is good to note that the movement for frequent reception of Holy Communion started in the Melkite Church about 20 years before it started in Latin Church with Pope Saint Pius X. Also, as Melkite Catholics we always receive both the Bread and Wine, and not just the Bread as is frequently the case in the Western Churches. Christ instituted the Sacrament in two parts, bread and wine, not just one or the other. Normally during Holy Communion we sing the hymn, Make me this day... This piece comes from the Holy Thursday Vespers-Liturgy, and was first introduced there in 573 AD. It restates the themes of the Communion Prayers that we discussed previously, but in a more poetic fashion. It also poignantly recalls the cry of the Good Thief, Remember me in your kingdom (Luke 23:42). This simple phrase once again reminds us that we are utterly dependent upon the mercy of God to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Litany and Prayer of Thanksgiving After Communion

The word Mystery is very important in our prayers. It reminds us that what is taking place in the Liturgy defies human logic. Also, that it takes place by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, which also defies human reasoning. In the Thanksgiving Litany and Prayer after Holy Communion this term is used reminding us that we have done something and received Someone (Christ) because of the power and mercy of God. We just received the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Why Christ would be willing to give Himself to us is beyond our comprehension, yet He does it. How his human Body can be present in churches all over the world at the same time is explained only by referring to the ineffable power of the Holy Spirit. Finally, we acknowledge that only God made us worthy to partake of this great Mystery. In the face of all of this wonder, that bursts the bonds of our limited understanding, we can only thank and praise the Lord for his great love and mercy for us.

The Ambon Prayer

O Lord who bless those who bless You... in this prayer, originally read from the middle of the church, the priest invokes the blessing of God first upon the Church and then upon the whole world. We ask God to safeguard the fullness of the Church; we do not want to lose church members or the truths of salvation. We remember those who love the beauty of the house of God because it takes money and work to build and maintain the edifices that we use for our various church activities. We ask for peace for the Church and the whole world. When we use this word peace in the Church, we understand first of all not the absence of hostilities, but the peace of soul from Christ. Peace is a gift of Christ (John 14:27), and therefore can only come from Him. Indeed we spend the entire Liturgy mentioning this peace. In peace let us pray to the Lord... Peace be to all. Let us go forth in peace. When the Liturgy ends it is our job to bring the peace of Christ into the world around us. May we do so with His help.

The Dismissal

There are several blessings that end the prayers of the Liturgy. Originally these blessings were reserved for the servers and singers after the people received the antidoron. The kissing of the Cross and receiving the Blessed Bread (Antidoron) is very important. The people approach the priest to receive a personal blessing by kissing the Cross. This custom of the personal blessing goes back to Jesus. After the Feeding of the Five Thousand the Gospel tells us that Jesus dismissed the crowd while the Apostles left in a boat (Matthew 14:22). This seems to refer to a personal blessing for those present, and not just a general one for all. Jesus also dismissed the crowds in the Feeding of the Four Thousand (Matthew 15: 39). More important the Gospel tells us that Jesus laid his hands on the children and prayed, and then went away (Matthew 19: 13-15). So it seems that giving a personal blessing to the members of the congregation as they leave goes back to the Lord. In our Church it gives the priest a chance to personally greet and bless his flock. The Antidoron is a remnant of the ancient Agapé or Love Feast of the Church. We all share the Sacred Meal of the Body of Christ together, and then we share together the beginning of our earthly meal by sharing in bread that has received a simple blessing. One of the realities of Christian Life is that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. By sharing this bread together at the end of the Liturgy we show that we are God’s Family.

Conclusion

When we leave the church we do so to bring Christ, who is in our hearts, into a world that needs Him desperately. This is our evangelical mission. If you do not have the words to speak to others about Christ let Him shine through to others by your love, good works and peace of mind.
  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  
 

The Pilgrims of Ibillin is an American organization that works to support the wonderful schools founded by Melkite priest Father Elias Chacour.

Through the Mar Elias Educational Institutions, Fr. Chacour is working to build peace in the Holy Land.

A Brief Report of Trip to Ibillin, Israel, by Don Griggs - December 2002

(Rev. Dr. Donald Griggs is a Director of the Board of the Pilgrims of Ibillin, a Presbyterian Pastor and educator in Livermore, California)

It was a wonderful experience to be with the people of Mar Elias Educational Institution in Ibillin. I was with friends in a very special, familiar place. They kept me busy from morning to night everyday. The students, faculty, and staff welcomed me in ways that made me feel like I was one with them in their community. If only I could have spoken a little Arabic I would have felt even better. Fortunately, everyone I spoke with at any length was able to communicate with me in English. By the time the students graduate from high school they are fluent in Hebrew and English, in addition to their native Arabic. I conducted more than 20 interviews with students, faculty, staff, graduates, and others. All of the conversations were recorded so that all I need now is the time to sort through them to select important quotes. I also shot about 800 photographs of which I hope 200 or more are keepers.

Some brief observations:

  • Everyone was genuinely appreciative of the contributions Pilgrims of Ibillin has made to Mar Elias. On the first day, Father Chacour introduced me to the whole student body of the high school at their morning assembly in the parking lot. I told them that I came to learn more of their story in order to share that story with people in America. I also told them I brought a check for $40,000 to help with the construction of the elementary school. During my time in Ibillin I spoke with many students, faculty, staff and graduates. Everyone said, "Tell the people in America, thank you for their prayers, for their concerns about us, and for the financial help you provide."
  • Even though everything is going well in Ibillin, there is clearly an undercurrent of frustration and despair regarding the political situation in Israel. They feel deeply the pain of their brothers and sisters in the West Bank and Gaza. They object to being treated as second-class citizens in their own land. They observe that the U.S. government is too one-sided in our unconditional support of Israel and the present regime and that a grave mistake will be made if we attack Iraq. I taught in an introduction to Bible class that is the beginning of the university program with a certificate in theology. One of the students asked me, "How many Americans are like you?" His impression is that all Americans are supportive of the present policies of our government. He was heartened to hear that there are many Americans who disapprove of the actions and policies of our government, who care very much about the plight of the Arabs/Palestinians.
  • The development of the first Arab Christian University in Israel, under the auspices of Mar Elias, is proceeding according to plan. I met with members of the University Start-up Team, which includes two Jews, one from the Ministry of Education of Israel and the other an Urban Planner. They are very enthusiastic and committed to this project and look forward to the first classes being offered no later than next September. Ninety Ph.D. professors have submitted their vitae indicating their desire to be part of the founding of the university; thirty of them are Jews. I visited the site where the university will be built, in Mi'ilya (Maylya). Mi'ilya is a small Arab Christian village about an hour north of Ibillin. It is one of only two remaining Christian villages in all of Israel. The village council has given 50 acres of land for building the university and I was present at the signing of the documents by the Mayor and Father Chacour. The Mayor presented me with a certificate declaring that I am an honorary citizen of Mi'ilya. Every person I interviewed among faculty, staff, and graduates expressed great enthusiasm for the university. I have the impression that when the university becomes a reality Mar Elias will have a status and stature that far exceeds what they have now and the people will have a pride and also opportunities that are greater than they have presently.
  • Construction of the elementary school has begun. While I was on campus they began pouring concrete for the retaining walls that will help extend the site so there will be room for playing fields for the children. The 200 children of the elementary school now have their classes in the first floor of the college building, which serves the purpose temporarily but is not a good situation for either the children or the college students. Next fall, when the elementary school building is completed they will be able to accommodate more than 600 students. In addition, the top two floors of the building will have dormitory rooms to accommodate female students. It was good to see the progress of the elementary school, since it is one of the three projects Pilgrims of Ibillin is supporting in our Capital Fund Appeal.
  • The academic standards of Mar Elias Educational Institution remain high. Their students perform above average in the annual standardized exams to determine their eligibility for college and university admission. Last year one of the Mar Elias graduates achieved the highest score in the exam in all of Israel, a perfect 800 out of 800.
  • In addition to all of the above observations, I should report that I made a few side trips during my time in Ibillin. I visited holy sites in the Galilee that included a visit to Tel Dan where we walked to the source of the Jordan River. We visited Biram, the destroyed village of Father Chacour's childhood. I visited a Melkite Church in Akko that is celebrating the 200th anniversary of its present building. A visit to Nazareth Village was another highlight. This is a reconstruction of a village to represent life in Nazareth at the time of Jesus. Sunday worship was in the Melkite Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Sheferam, an adjacent community to Ibillin. Father Chacour was the celebrant of the Eucharist. My visit to Mi'ilya included participating in the olive harvest, seeing olives pressed into oil, visiting a restored peasant's home built in the late 1800s, and spending the night with an Arab Christian family.

I plan to return to Ibillin in 2003, if the way is clear. It will be important to build on the relationships that were established with key people on this visit. In addition, there are tasks to accomplish that were not completed on this trip. I will keep you posted.

  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  
 

Preparation for the Council

A – At the Stage of the Ante-preparatory Commission

On January 25, 1959, Pope John XXIII announced the convocation of the Second Vatican Council. On May 17, the Feast of Pentecost, the pope appointed an ante-preparatory commission, with Domenico Cardinal Tardini as president. The latter hastened to ask, on the following June 18th, for "the advice, counsel, and wishes of the future Fathers of the Council... for the preparation of the problems to be examined... with full freedom and frankness... concerning the questions which are susceptible of being treated at the future council."

Instead of replying individually, the members of the Melkite Greek Catholic hierarchy preferred to give a collective response. Thus the patriarch called them to a synod held at Ain-Traz on August 24 to 29, 1959. It was during this synod, almost exclusively devoted to the affairs of the Council, that the Melkite hierarchy set forth its suggestions for the Council in a collective letter to Cardinal Tardini, dated August 29, 1959, and signed by the patriarch, fifteen bishops, and four superiors general. The Melkite Greek hierarchy would continue to act in this manner: synodically and collegially. This letter accompanied the sending of two notes which we publish below in their entirety: one deals with "Reconciliation with the Orthodox," the other contains the suggestions by the hierarchy on the "Questions to be Submitted to the Council."

Note on Reconciliation with the Orthodox

This note of the Melkite Greek Catholic hierarchy was sent on August 29, 1959, to Cardinal Tardini in his capacity as president of the Ante-preparatory Commission of the Council. It already indicates the tremendous importance that the Melkite Greek Catholic hierarchy intends to give to the ecumenical problem, which, in its eyes, takes precedence over all the other problems of the Council.

Our Melkite Greek Catholic Church believes that its principal mission is to work for Christian unity, and more particularly, to reconcile our Orthodox brethren to the Holy See of Rome.

Therefore we believe that among the labors of the forthcoming Council those that should claim our greatest attention and that of the Council are precisely those which are meant to prepare for the restoration of Christian unity. It is, moreover, on this point that we believe that our contribution to the Council will be most appreciable, for, in spite of our small numbers, we represent, within the Catholicism of our time, the great Eastern apostolic Christianity in its origins. Unfortunately, the greater part of this Eastern Christianity is today still outside the Roman communion.

It is an undeniable fact, evidenced by long experience, that since the separation between the East and the West, and especially during the past two centuries, the attitude of the authorities of the Western Catholic Church, in spite of the purity of their intentions and their personal sanctity, has only exacerbated the estrangement of the Orthodox, deepened the gulf of the schism, and hardened positions. This is seldom realized in the West, where there is a tendency to accuse the Easterners of being at fault. But we Greek Catholics, who feel and endure all the repercussions of the conflict between the Latins and the Orthodox, owe it to ourselves to bring the matter to the attention of the Council, frankly indicating the principal cause of the trouble and proposing the appropriate remedies for it. 1. The principal cause of the trouble, it seems to us, is the tendency of the majority of the Latin theologians and canonists to concentrate all the authority conferred by Christ to his Church in the sole person of the supreme pontiff, making him the source of all power, and as a consequence giving excessively centralized and practically sovereign powers to the Roman Curia which acts in his name. With this perspective, it is difficult for them to see in the apostolic power of patriarchs and bishops anything other than a pure and simple delegation of the supreme authority of the pope, limitable and revocable at will. Thus the pope, the father of Christians, has become, for that part of Christianity presently dissenting from his communion, a disfigured personage, accused by the non-Catholics of insatiable pride and human ambition, often repugnant, whatever may be his personal charm, his human qualities, and his eminent sanctity.

Canon law and ecclesiology influence each other in this sphere, and give birth to theses and governmental measures that are increasingly centralized, and which, in the light of the power of the pope – that is to say, in fact, of the Roman Curia – cause the disappearance of all other authority in the Church.

Therefore the first thing we must do is to resume and complete the work on this matter done by the First Vatican Council which was suspended in 1870. It had defined the powers of the supreme pontiff, but did not have the time to define the nature and the powers of the bishops. Now, the hierarchy instituted by our Lord rests on the Twelve, with the primacy of Peter. It is indispensable from the point of view of union with the Orthodox, and of the internal peace of Catholics as well, that the power of Peter be balanced by that of the Twelve.

From the dogmatic viewpoint, that, it seems to us, is the principal task to be accomplished by the Council.

Moreover, the coming Council must, we believe, henceforth put a rein on the excessive zeal which drives certain groups or certain individuals to campaign in the Church to have the pope pronounce more and more dogmatic definitions in matters that until now have been optional. The effect of this tendency has been to stir up in reaction a contrary doctrinal tendency among other Christians, alienating them still further from the possibility of union around the Holy See of Rome.

2. Creation of a Special Commission to Work for Church Unity – The task of preparation for this part of the Council certainly should be consigned to a special commission. At this stage it is essential to consider two points:

a) Composition - This commission must not be recruited, it seems to us, solely from among the theologians and canonists with the "centralizing tendency," who dominate the bureaus of the Roman Curia and the pontifical universities, where, theoretically and practically, each one thinks that he is doing the right thing by outdoing the others with regard to the concentration of powers in the curia. This commission must also include persons of the other side, that is to say, persons who know the apostolic Christian mentality of the East, who understand its intuitions and recognize the extent to which they are good and just, persons who realize the impression that words and gestures of the Roman See can produce on the Christians of the East. Theologians of this latter category are not numerous, but, thank God, their numbers are increasing. If we were asked to name a few of them and to suggest that they be designated as members of the said commission, we would be happy to do so.

b) Orthodox Contacts – This commission must not restrict its labors to the speculative study of the powers of the bishops and their canonical formation. As a body or through some of its members, it must not fear to get in touch with representatives of Orthodoxy, prelates and knowledgeable theologians, who may even be officially designated by their hierarchy, to study these questions in truth and charity, to compare viewpoints which are often not opposed but rather complementary. Such contacts with the Orthodox are indispensable. By "Orthodox" we naturally mean the Orthodox of the patriarchates or of other autocephalous Churches, but nothing prevents conferring with the other Churches that call themselves Orthodox: the Armenians, the Copts, and the Syrians. Moreover, we know that their "Monophysitism," or, in the case of the Assyrians, their "Nestorianism," is increasingly considered to be merely verbal.

We insist on the necessity of quickly setting up the said commission for two reasons:

Granted that meeting with the Orthodox is indispensable from the viewpoint of restoration of unity, the formation of this commission and its implementation to contact them seems to be the best method of entering into agreement with them, for it is evident from the first reactions that, under the present conditions of Christianity, there will be neither an invitation from the pope to the Orthodox to participate in the Council, nor any possible Orthodox response to such an invitation. There remains only the proposed recourse: a commission which will officially assure the necessary contacts.

Besides, we can hope that the services of this "commission" will be such that the Holy Father will decide to keep it in existence, even after the end of the Council, as a permanent institution for contact with the Separated Churches. It could even become one of the Roman Sacred Congregations, to which would be imparted the handling of everything relating to ecumenism and to the constant effort to reform, without prejudice to Catholic dogma, morality, or discipline, everything that is open to criticism in Catholic relations with other Christians, whether in words or in actions. Thus the Catholic Church will become, as is universally wished, the head of a true catholic ecumenism.

The primacy of Peter, the infallible primacy, is a great grace, a charism granted by God to His Church, not for the advantage of a few, nor of Catholics alone, but of all Christians, including Orthodox and Protestants. All these Christians have the right to profit from this charism. At the present time there are obstacles that prevent them from seeing and attaining to this charism, obstacles placed either by them or by us Catholics. For our part, we must begin by removing the obstacles that stem from us, without waiting for the others to get started. This work will be part of the functions of the proposed commission.

Questions to be Submitted to the Council

The following note, also sent to Cardinal Tardini by the Melkite Greek hierarchy on August 29, 1959, is titled: "Questions proposed by the patriarch, the bishops, and the superiors general of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church for possible submission to the council."

I. Dogmatic Questions

1) In view of progressively preparing for Christian unity, and in order to avoid depriving certain souls of the advantages of ecclesiastical communion, we propose that the Catholic Church relax its present legislation on the matter of "communicatio in sacris" in all cases where doing so would not necessarily involve the denial of Catholic truth or a scandal for Christians. On this subject we note that at the present time, and especially in our countries, what scandalizes the faithful is not so much the participation of Catholics in Orthodox ceremonies as their refusal to participate in them. We believe that it is not permissible to treat Christian "non-Catholics," above all if they are Orthodox, in the same fashion as we treat unbelieving "non-Catholics." 2) Certain movements, parties, or sections, concerning which the Church has formerly made pronouncements, have taken on new forms of a nature to deceive souls. Thus we consider it useful that the Church once more determine its position in their regard, so that the pastors of souls may be provided with the necessary official documents, brought suitably up-to-date. We are thinking in particular of the following doctrines and organizations: Communism, Freemasonry, racism, Nazism, Fascism, extremist capitalism, etc. 3) The teaching of philosophy and theology in our major seminaries and our ecclesiastical faculties must assign a more important place to the doctrines of the Fathers of the Church and to modern philosophical theories.

II. Pastoral questions

4) Our century is the victim of atheistic materialism, of an unbridled pursuit of pleasure, and of religious indifference. Children and young persons are nurtured in this spirit in irreligious secular or atheistic educational institutions; the working class is losing the spirit of faith and increasingly breaking away from the Church. Thus we should review the methods of our apostolate, to re-establish contact with young people and manual workers through religious education, or by Catholic Action, to which the Church should grant an official and canonical form, as well as by encouraging priestly vocations, or through the use of the press, motion pictures, radio, television, etc. 5) Our century suffers from a crisis of priestly vocations and the lack of missionaries, in particular in certain parts of the world, as in South America, Africa, and Asia . To remedy this state of things, would it not be opportune to restudy, in the light of the true interests of the Church and its expansion, especially in mission countries, the question of married priests? The shock that this idea at first causes will perhaps be followed by a state of greater understanding. It would be also necessary to take effective measures to encourage priestly vocations and to guard against the moral isolation and material distress suffered by rural priests in particular.

III. Liturgical Questions

6) It is our hope that liturgical prayers and ceremonies while remaining as faithful as possible to the tradition of the Fathers, may evolve normally, like every expression of life, so as to be understood by all the faithful and lived by them. Certain rites need to be shortened and varied; others could usefully be reviewed with a view to the more exact expression of the truths that they contain. All should be celebrated in the language of the people. As for the Eastern Churches, however, this evolution should take place in a manner that will not accentuate the differences which separate us from our Orthodox brethren, and, if possible, be accomplished in concert with them.

IV. Questions of Discipline

7) Unification of the date of Pascha. The reform of the calendar ordered by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, which has not yet been adopted by the Eastern Churches not in union with Rome with respect to the date for Pascha, has had as a result that Christians in the East seldom celebrate together that "Great Feast," that memorial of the "Resurrection of Christ, foundation of our faith," that symbol of our unity. Thus, according to the ecclesiastical calendar for the next sixteen years, from 1960 to 1975, we shall have the joy of celebrating together only four times (1960, 1963, 1966, 1974); four times there will be a difference of 35 days (1964, 1967, 1970, 1975); the eight other times, the difference will be seven days.

In the West (Europe, America ) and in the countries where Christians are primarily Catholic or Protestant (Africa, Asia , Oceana), there is little awareness of the importance of this problem. Throughout the East, however, and wherever there are Orthodox minorities, Christians suffer painfully from this situation, as much from the religious viewpoint as from the social viewpoint.

In fact, in all those countries, there is no strict compartmentalization between the various Christian communities; many families are mixed: numerous families have a Catholic branch and an Orthodox branch. All families maintain among themselves social relations of friendship, neighborliness, and business. In the East the feast of Pascha assumes a very particular importance, not only to the Christians but also to their Muslim neighbors, who, on this occasion come to visit them and to offer their felicitations. Think of how much pain the Christians feel on this occasion which should be in principle only a time of internal and external joy! Think of the sarcastic remarks of which the Christians are the object on the part of others: "While some raise Him," they say, "others bury Him"! Not all the people are scholars or cultivated persons to see in this calendar difference only a question of astronomical calculations. The Muslims see in it one of the irremediable defects of Christianity, dedicated to division. The majority of ordinary Christians see in it an effect of the stubbornness and ill will of the ecclesiastical leaders. Each year the same catch phrases and the same complaints are stridently repeated.

More than ever, in the Arab East, Christians feel the need for unity, at least in externals, while waiting for a more complete and more permanent unity. This need for unification of the date of Pascha is so great that, when His Holiness Pope John XXIII announced his intention of convoking an ecumenical council, good Christian people of all confessions universally thought that this council would have as its principal aim the setting of a common date for the "Great Feast" of all Christians!

In the days of the League of Nations at Geneva , there were studies of various projects for calendar reform. What interests us is the date of Easter or Pascha. Among those projects there was one which proposed setting the date of Pascha as the second Sunday of April. This project received the adherence in principle of the Catholic Church, of Protestants, and of the Orthodox Churches. However, the political events of that epoch, notably the war of 1939-1945 and the disturbances that it brought to the world and which caused the League of Nations to disappear, have made the reform of the Paschal calendar disappear from view.

That is why we suggest the establishment at Rome of a small commission of a few specialists to study the question technically and to immediately make contacts with the Orthodox Churches on this matter. These contacts are absolutely necessary; they should be pursued with perseverance and charity until a conclusion is reached. They may well result in an agreement which could be put into force even before the meeting of the council.

8) We propose a revision of the Code of Eastern Canon Law, both those parts already published and those to be published in the future, before its definitive promulgation. This revision, in which the Eastern Churches themselves should be better represented and, above all, heard, would be carried on in the spirit of a greater fidelity to the authentic traditions of the Christian East, without excluding the advisability of making minor changes tending to simplify and mitigate the ancient law. We are thinking in particular of matrimonial law and of the need for our countries in the East to recognize the validity of mixed marriages contracted before Orthodox authority. This is a very important point on which our patriarchate and the bishops united in synod have frequently approached the Holy See of Rome, strengthening their propositions with factual arguments, which seem to them to be decisive. 9) The election of the sovereign pontiff should, it seems to us, have a broader base. To confirm the authentic catholicity of the Church, and given the centralizing powers that the pope ordinarily assumes in the Church as a whole, we propose that henceforth the Eastern patriarchs participate in his election. We would be pleased also to have this election carried out by a still larger number of electors, better representing all the Churches of the Catholic world.

10) Pontifical representation in the world, whether its character be diplomatic or simply religious, should be subjected to a serious revision, so as to avoid having the papal representatives transformed in fact into "superbishops" governing, in the name of the pope, the dioceses of the entire world. In selecting them, the choice should not be more or less reserved to those in a Christian nation to the detriment of the others. We would wish also that Easterners might be called to render such services to the Church.

11) We propose that the Holy See bring about a reform of the Roman Curia, leading to a clear-cut decentralization of powers and to a real catholicity (viz., international character) of those who compose it. Excessive and continuously growing centralization is one of the principal grievances of non-Catholics and of Catholics themselves against papal authority.

12) The General Council should, we believe, solemnly reaffirm the declarations of earlier councils and the formal promises of the popes relative to the rights and privileges of the Eastern Churches. Earlier councils and popes assured the Eastern Churches which would unite with the Roman Church that the rank that they occupy in the Church, the rights and privileges of their patriarchs and bishops, and the rite and discipline that belong to them would be respected and protected. It must not happen that these hierarchs should be rendered in fact illogical in their declarations and unfaithful to their promises. With such precedents, which cast doubt on the good faith of the Catholic party, it is not possible to hope to deal fruitfully on the subject of a return to catholic unity with our separated brethren. We think in particular of the following three points:

a) The ranking of Eastern patriarchs in the Catholic hierarchy – This rank, as it was established in ecumenical councils and which the popes have promised to respect, places the Eastern patriarchs immediately after the Roman pontiff. Thus it is not permissible, out of respect for the authority of the ecumenical councils and for the formal promises of the popes, as well as for the very interests of the Catholic Church and for the efforts for the restoration of Christian unity, that all the cardinals and all the representatives of the Holy See of Rome, even if they are not legates a latere, and even if they are simple priests, should precede the Eastern patriarchs. The order of precedence in the Catholic Church should remain what it has always been: the Pope of Rome in first place, then in order the actual Eastern patriarchs, not the titular patriarchs of Constantinople, of Alexandria, of Antioch, and of Jerusalem.

b) The powers of the Eastern patriarchs – The new Eastern canon law, promulgated by the Holy See of Rome, does not respect the prerogatives of the patriarchal institution, and submits the exercise of the majority of patriarchal powers to the humiliating and unnecessary prior or subsequent authorizations of the Roman Curia.

c) The safeguarding of the Churches – The Holy See of Rome should take effective measures to prevent the latinization of the East by poorly-informed Western missionaries. Eastern Catholics should remain Eastern. Eastern Catholics are no less Catholic than their Latin brothers. It is not necessary to be Latin in order to be fully Catholic. The establishment of Latin ordinary jurisdictions whose goal is to sustain the latinization of the East must be forbidden. Such, for instance, is the "Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem," which is a real threat to the Christian East, and which should be suppressed. The Eastern Catholic Churches have as many, if not more, rights over the Holy Places as the Latin Church, rights which today are absolutely unrecognized by Latin authority. Moreover, Eastern Catholics dispersed over the world should be provided with pastors of their own rite, at all levels of the hierarchy, and in collaboration with local authority.

On these three points the bishops of our patriarchate have set forth their thoughts in detail in a synodal letter to Pope Pius XII, dated February 10, 1958, and in a synodal letter to Pope John XXIII, dated May 1, 1959.

13) Restoration of the institution of metropolitan. The role that the institution of patriarch plays in the East, should be played by the institution of metropolitan or primate in the West, in relation to the suffragan bishops of one province or of one country. This presupposes the restoration in the West of the institution of metropolitan, which for centuries has been reduced to the rank of an almost entirely honorary position. Thus at the head of a region or of a country there would be a centralizing function, intermediate between the authority of the pope and that of the bishops, a role which until now has in practice been carried out by the representatives of the pope, thereby contributing still more to the centralization of the Church.

14) Episcopal powers should be recognized and strengthened. In what concerns us, we are thinking of the power of bishops, which has always been recognized, to elect their patriarch, to elect their colleagues in the episcopacy, and to ordain the clerics of their dioceses, and to do these things without any hindrance from the Roman Curia.

15) The position of the priest in the Church should be re-evaluated, both spiritually and practically.

16) Clerical attire. It is time, we think, for clerical attire to conform better to the needs of life and of contemporary duties.

17) The discipline of fasting and abstinence, as well as the number of holy days of obligation and the way to observe them, should be revised. On these subjects there are too many divergences from one place to another. Fasting and abstinence are rarely observed. The abstention from work on Sunday and holy days of obligation can no longer be based on the outdated and sometimes inequitable distinction between servile works and those which are not.

18) The Western Church is inclined to legalism and to the organization of the Church as a human society. This mentality presents the difficulty of viewing the Church from an angle that is too exclusively human, as being like every other society of the world, whereas the Church is above all a spiritual and supernatural society, whose primary goal is not of this world. This mentality should be re-examined, as well as the legislation and the canonical institutions that it animates.

19) The need is felt to set forth solemnly the position of the laity in the Church: their role, their mission, their rights and duties, their participation in the apostolate, and, in particular, their collaboration in the material tasks of the Church. In other words, the Church should establish a theology of the laity, which can be drawn up from the papal documents published especially since Pope Pius XI.

Calling Upon Non-Roman Collaborators

Patriarch Maximos noticed that the members of the Ante-preparatory Commission were all chosen from among the officials of the Roman Curia. He saw in this a possible danger for the direction that the future Council might take. The East, in particular, was not at all represented. On August 11, 1959, the patriarch expressed his thoughts to John XXIII, with his customary frankness and courage.

Most Holy Father:

The consolation that I felt at the time of the long audience that I had the honor and the joy to have with Your Holiness on last May 23rd and also the spirit of supernatural comprehension of the problems of the Eastern Church which Your Holiness demonstrated, induce me to address to you with confidence and frankness these few lines that I believe necessary for the good of the Church in view of the forthcoming Council.

Your Holiness has deigned to name an Ante-preparatory Commission for the ecumenical council, composed of prominent ecclesiastics, whose eminence nobody can dispute from any point of view.

This commission has stated that it "will receive with a respect and veneration the opinions, advice, desires, and requests of the bishops and of all those who by right will be Fathers of the council..." We are all profoundly grateful to it for this, and the episcopal body of our Church will soon submit its ideas to the commission.

However, all the persons who compose this commission – permit me, Holiness, to say this humbly and simply – belong to the Roman Curia. The ideas that guide them follow a predetermined direction, toward an ever more closed centralization from which the Latin world itself is suffering, without anyone daring to talk about it for fear of being considered anti-Roman. As for the Eastern Church, it absolutely cannot live in this atmosphere. Thus the wall that separates the Eastern Church from the Western one is becoming thicker and thicker. The council will without doubt have great repercussions on the Western Catholic Church, but it runs the risk of not having any effect on the Eastern Church, which will not have been touched at all.

Would it not be appropriate and even necessary to have among the members of this Ante-preparatory Commission – and, for greater reason, of the Preparatory Commission that will succeed it – ecclesiastical persons who are profoundly Catholic and Roman, but at the same time open to the problems of the Eastern Church? Must the Eastern Church always remain a closed book for the Western Church ? No successor to Saint Peter is better able to grasp these ideas than Your Holiness. Therefore I implore Your Holiness to break this ice that is over one thousand years old and to hear other voices than those of the Roman Curia, for which we otherwise have the greatest respect and consideration.

I entrust these humble lines to your heart as successor of Saint Peter, for whom the unity of the Church of Christ is the highest ideal.

B – At the Stage of the Preparatory Commissions

During the stage of those commissions which are properly called preparatory, it was at the Central Commission, above all, that the Melkite Greek Church had its greatest influence. Patriarch Maximos was named a member, as were all the other Eastern patriarchs. He made a great contribution. In spite of his age and the occupations of his high pastoral duties, at a profoundly troubled epoch in the history of the Arab Middle East, the patriarch took part personally at one of the meetings of this commission (January, 1962). He had to excuse himself from the other meetings, but he had obtained from the pope the favor of being represented by his secretary, so that his thought and that of his Church were always heard.

Further efforts was expended in the Eastern Commission, in which the Melkite Greek Catholic Church had three representatives: Archimandrite Neophytos Edelby, then secretary to the patriarch, Archimandrite Athanasius Hage, Superior General of the Basilian Chouerite Order, and Archimandrite Maurice Blondeel, Rector of the Melkite Greek Seminary of Saint Anne (White Fathers). A third field of action was provided by the Commission "on Bishops," to which Kyr Philip Nabaa, Metropolitan of Beirut , made an important contribution.

All told, five Melkite Catholic Greek prelates participated directly in the preparatory commissions of the Council. However, these contributions, even when presented with the signature of one or the other, were in reality the fruit of multiple consultations and of close collaboration among the members of the hierarchy.

It is necessary to add here the name of a sixth Melkite Greek Catholic among the most eminent: the late Cardinal Gabriel Acacius Coussa, who died unexpectedly in July, 1962, on the eve of the opening of the Council. As Assessor of the Eastern Congregation, then as Cardinal, he collaborated with the works of the Eastern Commission and of the Central Commission. He would have been able to play a very important role at the Council. Providence decided otherwise.

In general, the interventions of the Melkite Greek Catholic prelates created a sensation. But, with speaking time strictly limited to ten minutes, they sought to present the essentials of their thought, sacrificing proofs and nuances. The notes they entrusted to the different preparatory commissions of the Council are more numerous and more fully developed. It is especially in them that one finds the underlying thought of the Melkite Greek Catholic hierarchy. Since they deal with quite varied questions, we have not chosen to group them all in this chapter devoted to the preparation for the Council. They will be found distributed, according to the order of the subjects, among all the chapters of this collection, interspersed with the interventions that are conciliar in the strict sense.

For a Permanent Roman Organization on Ecumenical Matters

What first drew the attention of Patriarch Maximos in this second stage of the preparation for the council was the absence, around the pope, of a permanent organization for ecumenical matters. For a council that had for one of its principal goals to prepare the path for union between the Churches, this lacuna was serious. Profiting from his first visit with John XXIII, on May 23, 1959, the patriarch sent him the following note, which already demonstrated the constant concern for ecumenism that the patriarch would bring to the council. This note doubtless played a part in the setting up of the "Secretariat for Christian Unity."

Here is a humble suggestion that I entrust to the great heart of His Holiness Pope John XXIII, supreme head of the universal Church. At the present time, when there is so much talk about ecumenism, would it not be advisable to have in the Catholic Church, which represents Christ on earth, a permanent institution to promote the union of the separated Churches, in accordance with the desires of our Lord? The reiterated appeals from time to time by the sovereign pontiffs seem to have had almost no effect. Even more, they seem at times to have produced a more pronounced stiffening against Rome .

Would it not be advisable, for example, to create a new congregation or a special Roman commission to deal with everything that concerns the relations with the Christian Churches that are not in union with the Holy See, and with everything that can promote progress towards union? That is a very serious question that seems to deserve the greatest attention.

In this congregation or commission there would be a high-ranking member of the Holy Office, of the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Church, and a member of the Secretariat of State. Everything relating to ecumenism would be in the jurisdiction of this new institution. Within this institution the member representing the Holy Office would be free to make necessary dogmatic remarks, without his being able to take any measures against the persons subject to this institution, which for its part would have the right to act severely, if need be, whether ex officio or at the request of the Holy Office itself. Through this new creation hearts and horizons would be widened, and thus, it would seem, the first steps would be taken for effectively approaching our brothers separated from the center of Christian unity.

The Language of the Council

In collaborating in the preparations for the council, the patriarch was intrigued by the excessive importance that certain Roman groups gave to Latin. The patriarch saw in this notable drawbacks, relating to the very character of the council: was this a plenary Council of the Latin Church or something more? He first raised the subject with Archbishop Pericle Felici, then Secretary General of the Central Preparatory Commission. The letter is dated February 4, 1961.

Concerning the language to be employed in the forthcoming council, a number of high prelates have already declared to the press that only Latin would be authorized. It has even been specified that although the Fathers of the Council could use modern Latin for the deliberations, it was understood that for the publication of the Acts of the Council only classical Latin would be used.

On this subject, we wish to make a proposition. We agree that, for us also, classical Latin must be the language of the Acts of the Council. However, we suggest that for the speeches and the deliberations, in full session or in commissions, the Fathers should be able to freely use a living language of their own choice from among the four or five living languages most frequently employed today in international meetings. To this end, the organizers of the council will do well, it seems to us, to profit from the progress of modern technology: the speeches, submitted in advance, will be simultaneously heard in all the admitted languages, and the deliberations will likewise be translated and retransmitted by qualified interpreters.

The exclusive use of Latin presents, in fact, notable drawbacks: the great majority of the Fathers of the Council are not able to express easily, rapidly, and correctly in Latin the nuances of their thoughts, above all on matters of the modern apostolate, where the classical formulas render the thought only in an imperfect manner. It would not be proper, we think, that because of insufficient practice in Latin the majority of the Fathers should be reduced to remaining silent or to expressing themselves incorrectly and without nuances…

On May 17, 1961, the patriarch, moved by the evasive responses made to him, decided to write directly to Pope John XXIII on this question of the language of the council. Although these observations unfortunately were not accepted, they certainly had the merit of preparing for the future.

Holiness:

The simplicity and the freedom with which Your Holiness wishes that we express ourselves in addressing you on matters concerning the Second Vatican Council encourage me to submit to Your Holiness the following question regarding the language of the council.

On February 4, 1961, under No. 121313, I had the honor to address to His Excellency the Secretary General of the Central Preparatory Commission a letter containing a concrete proposition for the authorization of the Fathers of the Council to use, in addition to Latin, a few living languages, taking advantage of the progress of modern technology which facilitates the deliberations at international gatherings. In his response of February 13, 1961, Prot. N. 694 COM/1961, His Excellency Pericle Felici gave me the assurance that the question would be carefully studied and that the decisions adopted would be communicated to me.

Now I have just read in the press a note that has all the appearance of being at least a semi-official communiqué. It announces that, "an installation of simultaneous translation will be set up for the use of the official observers of the various non-Catholic Christian confessions who will attend the council, so that they may be able to follow the deliberations that take place in Latin."

I am very happy with this initiative, for which the Technico-Organizational Commission should be congratulated. Nevertheless, I wonder why is it necessary that the said official observers and/or delegates should be favored more than the Fathers of the Council themselves? Is it that there can be a suspicion that the majority of these Fathers even those who use Latin in the performance of their liturgical ministry are not in a position to follow with ease discussions in the Latin language, and above all to participate appropriately in them? Will it thus be necessary that all the substantive activities of the council that are so far-reaching and so diverse be concentrated in the hands of a small number of specialists?

The council must without doubt have an official language and it is natural that this official language be Latin. Still, in addition to this official language, the bishops incapable of expressing themselves sufficiently well in that language should be able to express themselves in one of the languages recognized today as universal. Why is it necessary to exclude from the dialogue successors of the Apostles who have, by divine right, the qualifications to teach and govern and to reserve this right to the latinists, some of whom could not be successors of the Apostles?

The common sense that, in addition to so many other qualities, is a remarkable ornament of the spirit of Your Holiness will not allow that so serious and so just a criticism be made, now or in the future, of so important a council convoked by Your Holiness.

That is why, convinced as I am of being on this subject the spokesman for the great majority of the Fathers of the Council, I come to beg humbly and urgently Your Holiness to kindly give instructions to those in charge to put into practice the suggestions contained in my aforesaid letter of February 4, 1961, namely: 1) to authorize, in addition to Latin, the use in the council of a few other modern languages; 2) to install a system of simultaneous translation, not only for the use of the official non-Catholic observers, but also for the benefit of the Fathers of the Council...

Finally, on October 23, 1962, the patriarch, speaking to the council concerning the use of living languages in the liturgy, took advantage of the occasion to entreat for the use of living languages at the council, by means of simultaneous translations.

Concerning vernacular languages, may we be permitted to say a few more words.

How happy we would have been if we had been permitted to understand all that is being said in the council, by means of simultaneous translations, as is done in all the great international assemblies. We are not maligning anybody when we say that the exclusive use of Latin prevents us, and also prevents many others, from understanding questions that are often serious, on which we are required to render decisions. We of the East are not obliged to know Latin, but we have the right to pronounce judgment only when we understand what we are doing. The words of St. Paul , "How can anyone ...say ‘Amen'... when he does not know what you are saying," applies to us. Moreover, we are required to place our signatures at the bottom of the acts of the council, and this can be done only with full knowledge and understanding of what we are doing. For us of the East, translation in one, or, even better, in two languages will be enough, and that is not so difficult.

We urgently beg the venerable president of the council to do what is necessary to accede to our legitimate request and thus permit us to perform human acts and not mechanical ones.

We address to him in advance our most sincere thanks.

Organization and Internal Regulation of the Council

From June 12 to June 22, 1961, the Central Commission held its first working session. The state of the health of the patriarch did not allow him to make the trip to Rome . He sent his opinion in writing, dated May 19, 1961. He replied to the questions, point by point. Here we publish the most noteworthy passages of his answer in regard to the agenda item, "Questions on the Manner of Holding the Council."

I. "In addition to the persons who must of right be summoned to the council, who should be admitted and by what right?"

The council is a general assembly of all the bishops of the Catholic Church, in communion with one another and with the Roman See, under the presidency of the Bishop of Rome. It is, in other words, the solemn assembly of the successors of the Apostles, under the presidency of the successor of Peter.

This concept, traditional in the East and in conformity with the practice of the first ecumenical councils, entails the following practical consequences:

1) All Catholic bishops, whether residential or titular, are members by right of the council. Episcopal consecration, in fact, and it alone, establishes them as successors of the Apostles. All who hold this title have deliberative votes.

2) It follows, therefore, that no priest or other cleric can by right be a member of the council, whatever his personal qualifications or the high position that he may occupy in the Church. In fact, from one viewpoint it is not ecclesiastical rank, knowledge, or ecclesiastical power which confers the status of successor of the Apostles, but episcopal ordination. From another viewpoint, it is not proper for the Church to change in this regard the constant and universal tradition of at least the first eight centuries its history on a point intimately linked to the foundations of the constitution of the Church.

There have in fact always been in the Church, in the first centuries as well as today, monks and priests who, because of their eminent theological doctrine or their exceptional apostolic activity have exercised in a practical way a greater influence on the destinies of the Church than a sizable number of bishops. Nevertheless, that has not appeared to the Fathers of the Church to be a sufficient reason to have these monks or priests sit in councils as de iure members.

As a result of this principle, no priest not invested with the episcopal dignity—even if he is a cardinal, or nuncio, or apostolic delegate—can be admitted as a member of the council. It is clear, however, that these high dignitaries should be able to be called to the council and to enjoy a deliberative voice in it. Thus we suggest that henceforth these dignitaries be invested with the episcopal character. It is the episcopal character, and it alone, and not the importance of the position that one occupies, that confers in the Church the standing as a successor of the Apostles and consequently constitutes the foundation of all precedence. It seems to us that the Church must hold firmly to this criterion of the apostolic tradition.

3) It is nevertheless desirable and even necessary that there should be monks and priests not only in the preparatory commissions of the council but also as counselors in the course of its business. They constitute vital forces which the Church should utilize, but they can have only consultative voices.

4) On the other hand, the ancient tradition of the Church has admitted to councils clerics who were not bishops, but only as representatives of the Roman pontiff (legates a latere), the patriarchs, and of other bishops who were legitimately absent. As for these representatives, the ancient tradition granted them a deliberative voice, because they were seen as expressing opinions of their mandatories. Today, because of the volume of the matters to be treated and of the ease of communication, it may appear expedient or desirable not to admit these representatives (except those of the Roman pontiff), or to accord them only the right of being present and of signing the Acts in the names of their mandatories.

II. The Language of the Council

1) It is true that today Latin is the ecclesiastical and especially the liturgical language of the Latin Church, but it is false to say that Latin is the language of the Church, meaning by that the Church that is catholic and universal. This confusion between the Church and the Latin Church is very regrettable.

2) Since the council represents not only the Latin Church but the whole Church, it is not proper to consider the language of only one of the Churches that constitute it, albeit the principal one, as the only language of the council.

3) Moreover, from the historical aspect, Latin has not always been the language of councils, at least not the only language. Hence, we should not make the exclusive use of Latin at the council a question of a sacred principle, which would imply, if pushed to the extreme, the denial of the authentic catholicity of the Church. The question is purely practical. In other words, it concerns knowing what language it is proper to use so that the Fathers can speak and make themselves understood. This is not a question of an intangible principle or of prestige. It is a question of convenience. Even to express revealed truths, languages other than Latin have formerly served and can still serve. The Roman Church used Greek during the first three centuries. It is necessary above all to avoid making Latin a sort of untouchable dogma.

4) In all the questions that we have to consider, or the decisions that we have to make, we must always take into account the impression which we will make on those Christians who are not yet in union with the Holy See of Rome. We are not directly a "council of union," but we are a "council preparing for union." Let us then not assume attitudes or make decisions of principle which will rebuff them, drive them further away. They are perfectly capable of understanding the practical convenience and necessities in the use of languages, but they would have every right to complain if we wished to impose on them, as an ecclesiastical principle, the use of the Latin language.

5) Having said this, we readily agree that today the most practical language for the council, when everything is considered, is Latin. The Acts of the council and all other official documents will be drawn up in Latin.

6) As far as the interventions of the Fathers, either in commission or in full session, are concerned, Latin will ordinarily be the language most frequently indicated. But we must provide equipment, like that in use today in international congresses, permitting the Fathers to express themselves in one of five or six of the most widely known languages of the world, with simultaneous translation into Latin and the other languages. We might propose the following languages: French, English, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. It is rare that any cultivated person, as the Fathers of the Council are, is unable to understand and speak fluently one or another of these languages. Thus the Fathers will not be reduced to the role of spectators or of listeners to speeches that have been more or less prepared in advance, giving a disproportionate advantage for the latinists over the pastors of souls and over other theologians who are not always accustomed to using Latin.

Invitation of Non-Catholics to the Council

A second meeting of the Central Commission was held from November 7 to 18, 1961. The patriarch was not able to take part personally. The agenda included, among other items, a series of questions concerning "the invitation of non-Catholics to the Council." It was only this last point that the patriarch developed in his reply of October 4, 1961.

1. Should observers from the Orthodox and Protestant Churches be invited to the council?

Yes, without any doubt. If the coming council were a council of union, in the fashion of that of Lyons in 1273 or of Florence in 1439, we would have wished that all the Orthodox bishops of the East would be convoked to the council, even before the proclamation of union. Since the forthcoming council will be above all "an internal act of the Catholic Church," the least that we can do is to invite the Orthodox Churches of the East and the Protestant Churches to be represented there by official observers, who must not be treated as journalists or simple spectators.

2. What qualifications should these observers have?

It is preferable, on the part of the Catholic Church, not to establish any qualification or requisite condition for these observers. The non-Catholic Churches themselves will decide which observers designated by them will represent them worthily. Their names will be provided to the authorities of the council, who should naturally agree in advance, as is the case for diplomatic representatives. As for the number of the observers, it seems preferable to leave this determination to the invited Churches themselves.

3. To what sessions should the observers be admitted?

It is difficult to reply to this question without knowing in advance how the council will be concretely organized.

At least it is possible to say that these observers should be admitted to as many sessions as possible, and not only to the general sessions, for then their role would consist of a merely ceremonial presence. They should also see the Fathers of the Council at work, whether in commissions or in private sessions, with or without theologians. The observers should not have the impression that they are being invited merely to cleverly-staged ceremonies. Besides, the Catholic Church has nothing to hide, and one can justifiably suppose that the possible discussions among the Fathers of the council will contain nothing that is not edifying. Even differences of opinion or of pastoral attitude will be very well understood by the observers.

We exclude from this general rule only the organizational meetings of subcommissions for drafting or for administration, which have no general interest for the observers.

Before and during the council, the Secretariat for Christian Unity should be the agent for liaison between the council and the observers. It can organize meetings, exchanges of views, etc. It is in this sphere that the non-Catholics could express their viewpoints and obtain replies from qualified Catholic theologians.

4. What non-Catholic Churches should be invited?

Limiting ourselves to the Eastern Orthodox Churches, we say:

a) The invitation must come from the Holy Father himself, and it must not be communicated to the press before it arrives in the hands of the recipients. It is fitting that the personal invitation of the Holy Father be delivered by hand by the representative of the Holy See in each area.

b) The invitation must not be addressed to the Orthodox bishops individually, but to the head of the Church to which they belong. The Orthodox do not like to have the pope go over the heads of the highest authorities of their Church to address each bishop directly. Besides, the invitation is to be addressed to the particular Church as such, requesting that it send observers.

c) The invitation should be addressed to all the Orthodox Churches, autocephalous or autonomous, in the persons of their respective heads: patriarchs, archbishops, or metropolitans. The guidelines on this matter could be what was done recently at the Pan-Orthodox Conference at Rhodes , or else an official request can be made to the Ecumenical Patriarch for the list of Orthodox Churches considered autocephalous or autonomous.

Remarks Concerning a New Formula for the Profession of Faith

The same session of November, 1961, was to study a new form for the Profession of Faith. The patriarch attended, and on November 28th made some remarks reflecting the Eastern viewpoint.

1) Concerning the addition of the "Filioque" – While professing the doctrine expressed by this word, this addition as such remains optional in the Eastern Catholic Churches, according to the declaration of the Council of Florence. A remark, appearing as a note, at the bottom of the text, could explain this. This could have an excellent effect on the attitudes of our Orthodox brethren.

2) Concerning bishops – I believe that it would be good to make more explicit the collegiate responsibility of the episcopate, in communion with the Roman pontiff and under his authority, in the general administration of the Church, according to whatever the forthcoming council may declare to complement the definition of the primacy and the infallibility of the Roman pontiff made at the First Vatican Council. For a complete view of things, that previous definition needs to be balanced by a more precise declaration of the nature and the powers of the episcopal body.

3) Concerning the "words of consecration" – The text of the profession of faith on this point should not be understood as excluding, in transubstantiation, the fulfilling action of the Holy Spirit, such as is traditionally expressed in Eastern liturgies by the prayer of epiclesis.

4) As to form – It would be better to state which are the points of the encyclicals Pascendi and Humani generis that are to be included in the profession of faith, rather than referring to these two encyclicals in a general way.


Patriarchal Letter on the Eve of the Council

When the patriarch was about to leave for the first session of the Council, he addressed to his Church a pastoral letter, dated September 30, 1962. In it he explained the mission of his Church at the Council and called upon the faithful to collaborate with it.

Glory always to God!

Maximos IV

by the grace of God Patriarch of Antioch and of all the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem,

to our dear Children, the Priests, the Religious, and all the Faithful of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church both in the East and in the Emigration.

Peace, Salvation, and Apostolic Benediction!

At the point of my departure for Rome , with most of our venerable brothers the bishops of our eparchies, to take part in the work of the Second Vatican Council, we wish, dear children, to address this letter to you to inform you about the mission to which we intend to consecrate our efforts.

A Church council is not an international congress in which states, nations, or other peoples are represented by delegates, with the view of participating in works or projects relating to scientific, literary, or political interests, or other lofty purposes, for the good of the members of the congress or that of human civilization in general. However noble the aims of these congresses may be, they are very different from those of councils convoked by the Holy Church, in which only the bishops of the Catholic world solemnly take part to testify concerning the truth of the revelation recorded in Holy Scripture and in the deposit of faith conserved in Christian Tradition, as well as to lay down the disciplinary regulations that the Church needs according to the varying requirements of the times to help Christians reach their eternal destiny in the most efficacious way.

The bishops united in the Council are thus not deputies charged with representing their eparchies, their patriarchates, their communities, their nations, or their own people. Neither are they counselors qualified to express their own private opinions before the council. They are the successors of the holy Apostles, to whom Christ entrusted the mission of preaching to the world and of baptizing the nations in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, promising to be with them always until the end of the world.

In this capacity, the bishop has a teaching, jurisdictional, and sanctifying power for the universal Church. A bishop, who in ordinary times is the head of a particular eparchy and whose power is restricted by the boundaries of this same eparchy, sits in the council as one of the successors of the Apostles, with universal jurisdiction over all Christians of the entire world, bearing collective solicitude for all the Churches, in union with the successor of the leader of the Apostles, Peter, whom Christ established as the visible head to shepherd his flock.

The bishops of the council come from all the countries of the world. Each one thus represents the experience of the Christians of his region with respect to the understanding of Holy Scripture, fidelity to the apostolic tradition, practice of the spiritual life, the ordering of public prayer, the observance of fasts and holy days, and also the administration of the sacraments. In addition to that experience, each bishop knows the particular needs of his Church, in regard to a better knowledge of religion and a more faithful practice of the Christian virtues, as well as its needs for assuring the propagation of the word, and for overcoming the spiritual and moral dangers to which his faithful are exposed. Putting together this aggregate of diverse experiences and reactions, the bishops of the council define, in the light of Christ's teaching, what conforms to the true faith and what does not. They reaffirm sound morals, both public and private, and they disseminate evangelical principles throughout society. In all of this, they have at heart safeguarding the unity of spirit, and fulfilling the wish expressed by our Lord that all who believe in Him may be one, as He and the Father are one.

Such is the mission that is confided to us, as well as to your venerable bishops, at the council. Such are also the intentions of the souls of each one of us.

The Second Vatican Council presents some particular circumstances in comparison with councils that have preceded it. Among others, we must point out the fact that previous councils were most often assembled to clarify an obscure point of dogma or to reject a particular heresy or to condemn a sect. The council to which His Holiness Pope John XXIII has summoned us aims, in the first place, at pastoral action that proposes to eliminate everything that mars the Church and makes it appear outmoded in the light of the rapid evolution of humanity in various spheres of life. The Church will thus appear before the world as "glorious, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." In appearing thus to the world, the Church will have taken a great stride along the road toward the regrouping of Christians and will have drawn them closer to the unity that Christ desires.

The matters that will be treated at the council are extremely varied. We cannot give you even an elementary idea of these matters here. We only wish to inform you of the spirit with which we, patriarch and bishops, shall deal with these questions.

Each question in fact, can be treated under different aspects. Preparatory commissions, composed of eminent ecclesiastics, have considered all these aspects. At the council itself, other commissions will be designated to review them. What will be our attitude on all these questions?

The particular viewpoint that we shall use as a basis for our actions will be what bearing each of the proposed solutions might have on the problem of the union of the Churches. This union is not the direct goal of the Second Vatican Council, but it is the ultimate and long-term goal.

The union of the Churches undoubtedly represents for a considerable number of bishops a serious and fundamental problem, but they perceive it only theoretically. For us, the schism is a wound that is always bleeding, that we feel at the greatest depth of our souls. The problem of the union of Churches is our greatest care, our primary concern, and the deepest desire of our hearts. It is the goal to which we stretch all our energies, and for which we wish to be the redemptive victim, so that it may be attained. It seems to us that working for the union of Churches is our reason for being and the fundamental mission which Providence has entrusted to us, individually and collectively. The Orthodox of the East and we constitute only one people, one family, one blood, one language, one mentality, one rite, and one history. Our religious and social problems are the same. We need to unite with them as much as they need to unite with us. Each of us nurtures a sincere love and a deep affection for the other, but each refrains from manifesting what we feel. The time has come for the two brothers to embrace one another at last after their long separation. The time has come for Christians to work to fulfill Christ's wish: "that they may be one."

For all these reasons, you understand, dear childern, why we intend to consider all questions at the council in the light of their effectiveness in facilitating union. We have taken on ourselves the responsibility of representing at the council the true Eastern spirit, this spirit of apostolic tradition, which in itself brings forth sanctity that is just as eminent as that attained by the Catholic West, for in both cases holiness proceeds from the same wellspring, which is the Holy Gospel and the Savior's cross.

On this occasion, We wish to reaffirm here what we have expressed many times before, in various circumstances, officially and privately, orally and in writing, which is to say that we are Catholics adhering to the extreme limit to the Roman Church and the primacy of His Holiness the sovereign pontiff, as we are at that same time Easterners, attached to the extreme limit to the traditions of the Christian East and of the holy Fathers, and also to the rights, privileges, discipline, customs, and rites of the Eastern Church.

We ask you, dear children, to support us in this attitude by your prayers and fervent supplications to the Father of Lights so that He may help us accomplish this duty that is incumbent on us. Pray, pray without ceasing, in spite of the news that perhaps might deceive you. Our sins are great and numerous; the favor for which we implore is very great; thus We must never cease asking insistently and humbly, with absolute trust in God's mercies and the intercession of the "never-failing Protectress of Christians," the All-Holy Mother of God.

During our absence, which may be prolonged and repeated, we have appointed Archbishop Pierre-Kamel Medawar, our auxiliary, to replace us in all spiritual and temporal matters. Archbishop Medawar, as you all know, is worthy of this trust.

Finally, we expect of your piety, dear children, that you will take it to heart to preserve the spirit of charity and harmony among yourselves and in your relations with your fellow citizens, and obey dutifully the vicars who have been set up in each eparchy of our community to administer its spiritual and temporal affairs. By doing so, you will help us to devote ourselves entirely to the work of the council, and you will prove by deeds that you are a "chosen people," worthy of praise.

In conclusion, we renew our paternal greetings and our Apostolic Blessing.

Given at our patriarchal residence at Ain-Traz,

September 30, 1962.

MAXIMOS IV

Patriarch of Antioch and of All-the-East,

of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  
 

Codification of Canon Law

Against the Drawing up of a Single Code for the Eastern and Western Churches

A letter addressed to His Holiness Pope Paul VI by His Beatitude Patriarch Maximos IV on November 22, 1963.

Most Holy Father:

Replying to the invitation that Your Holiness extended to us, in the course of the audience of November 11, 1963, to inform him of everything that could facilitate drawing closer to our Orthodox brethren, I, in the name of all the conciliar Fathers of our Melkite Greek patriarchate, would like to explain the following to Your Holiness:

We have learned incidentally that a campaign is presently being conducted for the drawing up of single code of canon law, which would be equally binding on the Eastern Churches as on the Latin Church. In this single code it would be considered sufficient to point out, where it was relevant, the particularities of the law that are specific for the Easterners.

We are sure that our position, and that of all ecumenists and of all those who have at heart the harmonious progress of the Christian East along its proper path, coincides with that adopted, after a long examination, by the Roman See itself, namely, the drawing up of a special code of canon law for the Eastern Churches.

The arguments in favor of this position are the following:

1. Canon law is one of the principal and formal expressions of that "diversity in unity" that is a characteristic mark of the Catholic Church. While safeguarding the unity of faith, of the sacramental life, and of the hierarchy, the Catholic Church has always proclaimed its desire to protect entirely not only the diversity of the liturgical rites of the Christian East but also the diversity of its discipline. Well, making a single Code of law for the Eastern Churches and for the Western Church necessarily ends in the following results:

a) Either the Latin discipline will be almost entirely imposed on Easterners, which in actual fact means the pure and simple latinization of the East, against which Easterners, as well as the Holy See, have struggled for a long time;

b) Or the Latin discipline will be so prevalent in this single code that one will not be able to see in it, in any manner, the expression of the specific discipline of the East; for, in every place that the two disciplines are different, it can be foreseen that the Latin discipline will not be made to yield to the Eastern discipline, but vice versa. This will be a new—and most serious —manifestation of the latinization of the East, concerning which all those who know and love the East complain.

2. In the ecumenical dialogue, it will be truly catastrophic to show to our Orthodox brethren that the discipline which awaits them, in the unity with the Roman Church, is not theirs, but that of the Latin Church. The unification of the two codes is contrary to the ecumenical orientation of Vatican II and destroys the whole schema "On Ecumenism."

3. The Holy See has made a considerable effort since 1929 to attempt to give the Eastern Churches a code of law that would be as consistent as possible with their own discipline. Cardinal Massimi, who, with Cardinal Coussa, has labored the hardest in this work, said to our late predecessor, Patriarch Cyril IX, "I wish that when the Orthodox shall see our Eastern code, they will be able to say, ‘That is truly the discipline of our Fathers!'" It is necessary to acknowledge that, in spite of the definite good will and the immense labor that has been performed, the result has not always conformed to the expectations of the Easterners and has been accused of hybridism and latinization. This criticism will be based on much stronger grounds if a single code, with a Latin emphasis, is imposed on the Easterners.

4. Too many elements distinguish the Eastern law from the Latin one to make it possible to unite them in a single code, without sacrificing one or the other, and the law that will be sacrificed will certainly be the Eastern law. Let one think of the frequent differences in terminology, as also the institutions that pertain exclusively to the East, like those of the patriarchate, synods, rite, episcopal elections, etc. Let one think of the institutions that do not exist at all in the authentic Eastern law, like those of canons, benefices, censures latae sententiae, etc. Thus, while in Latin law one single canon suffices to regulate the patriarchal institution considered simply as an honor, in the Eastern law more than 200 canons are required to define the patriarchal institution. In contrast, in the authentic Eastern law, the treatment of "on sins and their satisfaction" can be covered in four pages. Thus, how is it possible to draw up a single code where there are such different elements?

5. Those who ask for a single code for the Eastern and the Latin Churches appear to us to be either latinizers, who wish to absorb the East, not in Catholicism but in Latinism, or Easterners with latinized mentalities, who do not realize how much harm their deviation from the authentic Eastern discipline does to the cause of growing closer to our Orthodox brethren.

For all these reasons, may Your Holiness permit us:

a.) to remain steadfast to the very wise position adopted by the Holy See, in ordering the drawing up of a special code for the Eastern Churches;

b.) to desire ardently that this special code for the Eastern Churches be reviewed to make it even more consistent with the authentic Eastern discipline;

c.) that this code be written according to authentically Eastern criteria, by competent jurists chosen among non-latinized Easterners, Latins friendly to the East, and ecumenists;

d.) that this question be not treated in the hall of the council, since many Fathers of the council are not aware of the gravity of the problem.

  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  
 

The Patriarchs in the Church

The ranking of the patriarchs at the Council had been discussed at length at the Melkite Synod of August, 1959: In the light of the rank presently given to the Eastern patriarchs, was it fitting for Patriarch Maximos to take part personally in the Council at the risk of scandalizing the Orthodox? On the one hand, the patriarch understood how imperative his personal presence was. On the other hand, he realized how much the relegation of the patriarchs to a rank after all the cardinals of the Roman Church must have shocked the Orthodox East at the very moment when the papacy was planning a vast effort of rapprochement with it. It was a painful dilemma. Before making any decision the patriarch attempted a personal approach to John XXIII, whom he knew to be open to these questions. The letter is dated October 8, 1959.

Most Holy Father:

The announcement of the approaching council has filled the entire Christian world with joy. The bishops of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church, the superiors general of our religious orders, and we ourselves, desirous of making our modest contributions to the success of the Council, after careful study by our Synod, have with solicitude proposed to the ante-preparatory pontifical commission the wishes, recommendations, and suggestions that it asked of us in the name of Your Holiness. It is a pleasure for us to remain entirely at your service with respect to any additional studies or information you might judge suitable to ask of us, especially on matters in which we believe that we can be most useful, namely, everything that concerns rapprochement with our separated brethren of the East.

The holding of this council is such an important event in the life of the Church that all our bishops and superiors general will make a point of attending this one personally and participating in a holy and active way in its labors. The ends for which such a council is convoked are always of the greatest importance for the faith, ethics, discipline, and life of the Church. In particular, the council that Your Holiness is planning to convoke is all the more important in our eyes inasmuch as through Your Holiness' declarations, as well as through the efforts made to resume contacts with the separated confessions, we have the firm hope that the means of facilitating the reunion of divided Christendom will be treated cordially there.

Now, this goal is precisely one of the reasons for the existence of our Eastern Catholic Church. We represent in Catholicism the hope and already the seed of a corporate reunion of the Christian East with the Holy See of Rome, maintaining all due respect for everything that constitutes the riches of the East's specific spiritual patrimony. Likewise, in spite of our advanced age we cherish the hope of being able to participate in person in the labors of this council, in which the Christian world hopes to find a truly open door leading to the Christian unity for which it so deeply yearns.

However, there is a preliminary difficulty to a personal and fruitful participation on our part in the labors of the Council. We owe it to ourselves to set it forth to Your Holiness with simplicity and trust. It concerns the rank of patriarchs in the Catholic hierarchy in general, and consequently the rank that they must hold in these very solemn sessions of Christianity which the ecumenical councils constitute. This question was given prolonged consideration by the bishops and superiors general of our Church gathered in their annual Synod held under our presidency at Ain Traz (Lebanon) during the last two weeks of August, 1959. They asked themselves the following question: In a council in which the Roman Church wishes to deal especially with the means of rapprochement with the separated East, how can one explain the presence of the patriarch and the bishops of an Eastern Catholic Church that is suffering because it is browbeaten and scoffed at with reference to its rights, which are the most obvious, the most palpable rights of the Eastern Church? Does not the presence of this patriarch, belittled and reduced to an inferior rank, constitute in these instances an inconsistency both on the part of the pope who invites and on the part of the patriarch who accepts his invitation? The considerations that I shall have honor of submitting to Your Holiness's benevolence are echoes of the deliberations of the Fathers of our above-mentioned Synod concerning this question.

According to the Motu Proprio "Cleri Sanctitati" of your predecessor of blessed memory, the late Pope Pius XII, promulgated on June 2, 1957, the patriarch is relegated to a rank after the cardinals (Canon 185, par. 1, no. 21), indeed after the representatives of the Holy See: nuncios, internuncios, and apostolic delegates, even if they are simple priests (Canon 215, par. 3, complemented by an authentic interpretation of August 25, 1958, which, far from changing the mind-set of the canon, essentially affirms it more definitively).

Most Holy Father, is it conceivable that at a council where they formerly traditionally occupied the first rank after the pope, the patriarchs of the East appear at the 150th rank after all the cardinals, all the nuncios, internuncios, and apostolic delegates, even those who are simple priests?[1]

The very statement of this historical "enormous mistake" suffices, we are sure, for Your Holiness to order immediately a total review of this question and restore the patriarchs of the East to the rank that has always been given to them by ecclesiastical tradition, the decisions of the ecumenical councils, and the so-often-repeated declarations of the supreme pontiffs, and to do this not in order to satisfy a petty vanity, but out of respect for authentic ecclesial values and in the interest of Christian unity for which the ecumenical council is proposing above all to prepare the way.

In fact, ecclesiastical tradition since the first centuries has been unanimous in determining the rank of the sees in the universal Church according to the following order: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Ecclesiastical tradition is equally unanimous in recognizing that the incumbents of these five patriarchal sees precede, according to the rank of their respective sees, all other ecclesiastical dignitaries. In conformity, therefore, to this ancient and unanimous tradition, the supreme pontiff of Rome is followed immediately, in the Church's hierarchy, by the incumbents of the four other apostolic patriarchal sees. The cardinals are auxiliaries of the pope, first of all as the Bishop of Rome, then successively as Metropolitan of the Roman Province, as Patriarch of the West, and finally as the ecumenical pastor. Their dignity is a participation in the first see, of which they are auxiliaries, but this dignity cannot logically exceed that of the other sees, by infringing upon their traditional and legitimate rights. Just as an aide or a patriarchal vicar—that is to say, a prelate whose dignity is a participation in the dignity of the patriarchal see—cannot precede the suffragan bishop of the patriarch, so too the pope's aides cannot, under the pretext that their dignity is a participation in that of the pope, precede the patriarchs. As for the representatives of the Holy See as such, unless they are legates a latere, they cannot precede the bishops, much less the patriarchs. That is the simple and sound norm of authentic apostolic Tradition. All the councils that have had to deal with this question have been unanimous in recognizing the hierarchic order as set forth above. As for the precedent set by Vatican Council I, where patriarchs were seated after cardinals, we should now take time to examine it for the following reasons:

1) This derogation, the first in history, was the result of a regrettable anti-Eastern mentality that then dominated certain groups of the Roman Curia, a mentality that was understandable at a time when the West did not know the Eastern Church the way it does in our day, and when Eastern Catholics themselves did not know one another and—as a result of persecutions and other vicissitudes—had a certain inferiority complex vis-a-vis Europe, which was then at the height of its colonial vigor. But Your Holiness surely would not approve of such a mentality.

2) The apostolic letter "Multiplices inter" of November 11, 1869, which Pope Pius IX promulgated, "de ordine sedendi et non inferendo alicui praeiudicio" (concerning the order of seating and not introducing any precedent), made the decision about infractions against the order of precedence to the effect that no prejudice can result from it and no new right can be acquired by it (Cf. E. Ceconi, Storia del Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano, Vol. I. P.424).

3) In any case, our Patriarch Gregory II, who was present at the aforesaid council, formulated, before he signed its acts, the limitations he could set in order to safeguard the rights recognized by the Council of Florence, including, of course, the order of precedence of the patriarchs.

Finally, all the supreme pontiffs without exception have declared on many occasions that the return of the Eastern Churches to Catholic unity was being accomplished with total respect for all their rights, traditions, privileges, and rites. How can we reconcile these explicit and solemn promises with an approach that reduces Eastern patriarchs to the rank of simple bishops within the framework of the centralized system that has come to prevail in the West since the Middle Ages?

It is not out of a desire for vainglory that on this specific point we now claim respect for ecclesiastical tradition, for the decisions of the ecumenical councils, and for the promises of the supreme pontiffs. Of this Your Holiness can be sure. In this matter, as in all others that we discuss with the Holy See of Rome, our humble person counts for nothing. Besides, we are on the threshold of eternity, and, at our age and after long years of Apostleship and struggles for the Church, self-love seems a very paltry thing to us. If all precedence is renounced in the Church, we shall be the first to accept the lowest place. However, since the importance of Churches is signified by their rank and since rank is only a symbol of greater service and the expression of the homage rendered to the Apostles, we owe it to our mission in the Church and to the memory of the holy Apostles to defend as much as is in our power the rank that rightfully belongs to our patriarchs.

We simply add that it is useless for the Catholic Church to seek paths leading to reunion with our separated brothers if the patriarchs of the East do not obtain the rank that is due them within the universal hierarchy. Our Orthodox brothers want to see, on the basis of our example, what place the Roman Church would give their patriarchs in the event of union, what respect it holds for ecclesiastical tradition and for the decisions of the ecumenical councils, and how well it honors its own promises.

This question of the rank of the Eastern patriarchs in the Catholic hierarchy has been the subject, in part, of a long synodal letter, sent by special messenger, that we had the honor of addressing to His Holiness Pope Pius XII on February 10, 1958. May Your Holiness deign to refer to it.

Since we know with certainty Your Holiness' greatness of heart, as well as your experience in the East and your sense of justice, we have no doubt that the questions we have allowed ourselves to raise in this letter will receive your careful attention and a just and worthy solution. Otherwise, God forbid, our personal participation in the council would tend to be an insult to the Christian East and would contribute on the contrary to widening the gulf that divides Christians.

Confident that Your Holiness will receive our proposition benevolently and will deign to give it the only just solution that it deserves, we humbly bow to kiss your august hands and to implore your apostolic benediction...

On January 17, 1962, having at last decided to take part personally in the labors of the Central Commission, Patriarch Maximos reminded Archbishop Pericle Felici of his earlier comments and expressly claimed all the rights and privileges of the patriarchs of the East: for the greatest good of the Church, the patriarch agreed to be seated at the inferior rank assigned to him, but retained the rights of the patriarchal institution as such. It was a historical declaration that the patriarch asked to be inserted in the official acts of the council:

On October 8, 1959, I had the honor of asking His Holiness, in the name of all the Fathers of the Synod of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church, to be so good as to settle, even before the holding of the council, the question of the rank of Eastern patriarchs in relation to the Catholic hierarchy as a whole.

On September 22, 1961, Reg. 14, No. 404, I took the liberty of writing to Your Excellency about this same subject.

As Your Excellency and all the Fathers of the Council can easily realize, this question of the rank of the Eastern patriarchs, as it has been established by the ecumenical councils, and recognized by the supreme pontiffs up until the union of Florence, is in no sense a personal question of vanity or of human prestige. If it depended only on our humble person, nobody would snatch the lowest place from us.

However, in this council above all, where, through the express wish of the supreme pontiff, concern for the union of Churches holds a place of choice, it is harmful to the best interests of union and of Catholicism to humiliate in our person the Eastern Church which we unworthily represent. Orthodoxy is listening intently. If the Eastern patriarchs who, according to the decisions of the ecumenical councils, occupy the first places after the Roman pontiff, are relegated to places after all the cardinals and even theoretically after all the representatives of the Holy See, even if the latter are simple priests, how can the Orthodox East believe that the popes, in inviting it to unity, wish to respect it and are determined, while they await the hour of union, to maintain its place of honor within the bosom of the Catholic hierarchy? Indeed, on the basis of the way we are treated today, Orthodoxy draws conclusions as to the way it will be treated if some day union is achieved.

Because of my burning concern to spare the Catholic Church and Orthodoxy a scandal that is all the more serious in that it is occurring in these general sessions of Christendom that this council represents, my conscience would have made it a duty for me to be seen as little as possible.

Yet, in order to clearly demonstrate that my defense of the legitimate rank of the Eastern patriarchs is not, in my eyes, a personal matter; in order to give a new proof of my desire to cooperate to the extreme limit possible with my brothers in the episcopate in the preparation of appropriate reforms of the existing discipline, especially on points relating to the reaching out in fellowship of the Western Church to the Christian East; and in the hope that the Central Commission, and later on the Council itself, will approve the plan presented by the commission of the Eastern Churches for once again recognizing the rank of Eastern patriarchs in the Church immediately after the Roman pontiff:

I thought it my duty to participate in the sessions of the Central Commission, expressly retaining all the rights and privileges of the patriarchs of the Eastern Churches, as previously decided by the ecumenical councils, as recognized by the Roman pontiffs, and as confirmed by time-honored usage, in the face of the diminution's to which they have been subjected in recent years by a frame of mind with little concern for Christian unity.

I would be grateful to you, Your Excellency, if you would be so kind as to submit to our holy and beloved Father the pope the contents of this letter, which I beg you to consider as an official declaration of principle that to my mind is of greatest importance...

On the eve of the opening of the Council, the patriarch was requested by the Holy Synod of August 1962 to attempt a final effort to persuade the general secretariat of the council. He wrote to Archbishop Felici on September 20, 1962:

The Fathers of the annual Synod of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church, held at our residence at Ain Traz from August 27 to August 31 last, have requested that I make a last effort through your good offices to reach our Holy Father the pope, as well as the presidential commission of the council, so that the Eastern patriarchs be given the rank assigned to them by the canons of the first ecumenical councils, namely, the first rank immediately after the supreme pontiff.

The decisions of the ecumenical councils on this matter were respected at the sessions of the Council of Florence in 1439, where, by order of Pope Eugene IV, the Patriarch of Constantinople Joseph II held the first rank after the pope and preceded the cardinals. The union between the Greeks and the Latins was proclaimed in Florence only on the basis of respect for all the rights and privileges of the patriarchs of the East. Now, among these rights and privileges of the patriarchs of the East, the first to consider is the privileged rank these patriarchs hold in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Since that time, these decisions of the ecumenical councils have never been expressly revoked. However, as was the case during the First Vatican Council, today the Eastern patriarchs again face a fait accompli on the part of those in charge of protocol who invariably grant precedence to cardinals over patriarchs.

In order to demonstrate the cogency of our claims, we thought we should make an objective study of the entire question in a memorandum on "The rank of the Eastern patriarchs in the Catholic Church," which we consider it our duty to transmit to Your Excellency within a few days.[2]

The question is serious and can constitute an almost insurmountable obstacle for the future of the union of the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church.

Our humble person plays no part at all in this matter of Church discipline. If it depended only on ourselves, no one would snatch the lowest place from us. However, we owe it to the Church to reclaim the observance of the decisions of the ecumenical councils and Tradition, respect for the conditions of union set in Florence, and fidelity to the solemn promises made so many times by the popes to our predecessors.

Above all, we owe it to Christ to avert everything that could constitute an obstacle to the reunion of the Churches. We are more convinced than ever that Orthodoxy cannot envision a rapprochement with the Roman Church if its leaders, the patriarchs of the apostolic sees, to whom the ecumenical councils gave precedence, immediately after the supreme pontiff, over the entire hierarchy, find that they have been relegated to the hundredth rank.

Because of these considerations which affect the supreme good of the Church, we would have wished not to appear at the approaching council, in order to prevent the depreciating, in our person, of the honor due to the patriarchal sees of the East.

But in order to prove that this is not a personal matter of conceit or vainglory on our part; in order to enter into the views of our Holy Father the pope, who has opened the way to a better understanding with respect to the Christian East and given proof of profound benevolence; in order that through our presence the voice of the East may be heard; and to collaborate with our brothers in the episcopate for the progress of the pastoral work in the Church, we have decided to take part personally in the sessions of this Council, in spite of our advanced age and the state of our health, but explicitly declaring that our presence must not prejudice in any way the respect of rank due to our see and reserving in the most explicit way the rights and privileges of the Eastern Church, as the ecumenical councils and Tradition have defined them and as the popes have promised many times to have them respected.

I beg Your Excellency to be so good as to submit the present letters to our Holy Father the pope with the homage of my deepest respect as well as to the presidential commission of the council.

I likewise beg Your Excellency to consider this letter an official declaration that is an integral part of the acts of the council.

Now that I have thus unburdened my conscience before Christ, before the Church, before my community, and before my Orthodox brethren, there remains only for me to pray the Father of Lights to deign to inspire those in whose hands rests the responsibility for souls to take the measures that He deems appropriate.

In unshakable faith that Christ will sustain His Church and that the best solutions will always ultimately triumph for the greatest good of souls, I beg Your Excellency to accept...

Archbishop P. Felici, in a letter dated October 4, 1962, acknowledged receipt of the patriarch's letter and of the memorandum that accompanied it. He added that the question would be submitted to the Holy Father.

To its 1963 "Remarks on the schemas of the Council," the Holy Synod added the following memorandum.

On the Rank of the Eastern Patriarchs in the Catholic Church

Part One – The Authentic Tradition of the Church

1. The Decisions of the Ecumenical Councils

The Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon held in 451 approved what had been a gradual development whose principal stages were marked by Canons 6 and 7 of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 and Canons 2 and 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381. In its Canon 28 the Council of Chalcedon first of all confirmed the privileged rank granted to the Bishop of Constantinople by Canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381, placing him immediately after the Bishop of Rome and before the Bishop of Alexandria. Then the same canon established the ranks of the five great patriarchal sees of Christianity as follows: Rome (without prejudice to its universal primacy), Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. This canon, which ratified a new ecclesiastical organization in the East (the patriarchal organization) and a new order of precedence in the Church, was at first contested. Yet, notwithstanding the initial opposition of Rome, the new organization remained in force. Emperor Justinian confirmed this "patriarchal pentarchy." (Novella 126, De sanctissimis et Deo amabilibus episcopis, Cap. II: Novella 131, De ecclesiasticis titulis.) Pope Adrian II (867-872) finally recognized it indirectly by approving Canon 21 of the Fourth Council of Constantinople in 869-870. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 officially recognized it and again approved the ranks of precedence among the five patriarchates of the Christian world, as it had been fixed by Canon 28 of Chalcedon. It is true that at that time the patriarchal sees of the East were occupied by Latin incumbents by reason of the Frankish conquests of the Crusades: Jerusalem since 1099, Antioch since 1100, Constantinople since 1205, and Alexandria since 1209. But the rites of the incumbents mattered little, and it is certain that for the Catholic Church the decisions of the ecumenical councils still remain valid today. According to these decisions, the five highest places in Christianity are reserved, without prejudice to the primacy of Rome, in descending sequence, to the incumbents of the Sees of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. These decisions of the ecumenical councils have never been abrogated either by the popes or by any other subsequent council. Thus, if we wished to hold to the decisions, still in force, of the ecumenical councils, the first places, after that of the supreme pontiff, at the sessions of the forthcoming Second Vatican Council should belong by right to the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

2. The Rise of the Cardinalate

However, in the meantime a new institution was being born in the Church of Rome: the "College of Cardinals." In the beginning this college included only the principal pastors of the city of Rome, who formed a sort of diocesan council around their bishop, such as there were in other Western dioceses, especially in Paris. Then little by little this college came to embrace also the principal deacons of the city and even the suburban bishops, thus forming a sort of council for the entire Roman province. In this capacity it replaced with increasing frequency the ancient Roman "synods" which the popes had been using to administer not only the affairs of their Roman province but also those of their Papal State, of all Italy, of the West, and even of the entire Church. There were also some laymen among them. The importance of the College of Cardinals has not ceased to grow at the expense of the hierarchy of the bishops, the successors of the Apostles. This importance was manifested especially in 1059, when Pope Nicholas II reserved to the cardinals the exclusive right to elect the pope.

This decisive development in the importance of cardinals occurred, we might point out, when the East and the West were already separated. It was a phenomenon intrinsic to the Western Church. In the West, cardinals, even those who were laymen, assumed priority over priests and even over the bishops, who are divinely instituted, something that is absolutely unthinkable in the East. Until the twelfth century history indicates no marked opposition to this prodigious ascent of the cardinals, who ultimately were given precedence over the entire hierarchy of the Western Church.

3. The Cardinals and the Latin Patriarchs

The cardinals faced an initial opposition by the Latin patriarchs, who, beginning in 1099, occupied the patriarchal sees of the East. The problem then arose: which of the cardinals or Latin patriarchs should have precedence?

Until 1439 a compromise solution seems to have prevailed. The Latin patriarchs were seated among the cardinal-bishops, and, as a rule, immediately after the first cardinal-bishop and before the other cardinals. This is recorded in the "Liber caeremoniarum pontificalium" compiled in 1488 by Agostino Patrizi, Bishop of Pienza in Tuscany, and published for the first time in Venice in 1516 by Cristoforo Marcello, the archbishop-elect of Corfu. Thus, speaking of the "Ordo Sedendi in Cappella Papae" (Lib.III, Sectio II, Cap. I, fol. 195 verso), Patrizi says: "Indeed the four principal patriarchs, namely those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, were accustomed to sit among the cardinal bishops, as we said above concerning kings, and consequently to wear a cope, and they had train-bearers, like the cardinals."

And the author adds, speaking of the period after 1439: "However, in our days and in the days of Eugene IV, neither do they sit among the cardinals, nor do they have train-bearers."

Actually, we know that at the sessions of the Council of Ferrara in 1438, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem was seated after the first cardinal-bishop and before all the other cardinals.

However, under Pope Eugene IV, and more precisely in 1439, a change occurred in the order of precedence which placed the Latin patriarchs after the cardinals. A conflict arose that year between John Kemp, Archbishop of York, who had been created a cardinal by Pope Eugene IV in 1439, and Henry Chicheley, Archbishop of Canterbury, who refused to cede the first place to him (this was an ancient quarrel over precedence between the two great archepiscopal sees of England). Pope Eugene IV intervened to definitively approve the precedence of the cardinals over every other hierarch in the Latin Church, be he archbishop or even patriarch. In his letter "Non mediocri," written in Florence and dated as of the eighth year of his pontificate (March 4, 1439 March 4, 1440), the pope traced the origin of the cardinalate to Saint Peter himself, attributed some of the Cardinals' privileges to the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, which he dated as "about the year 330," declared that the cardinals constituted "part of his body," referred to the donation of Constantine, whose authenticity he, like all his contemporaries, naturally admitted, and referred as well to the honorific privileges with which this emperor was said to have endowed the cardinals, and concluded that it was a common canonical and traditional doctrine that the cardinals were superior to the (Latin) patriarchs.

As matter of fact, after this letter of Pope Eugene IV, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, who, as we have seen, was seated at the sessions of Ferrara after the first cardinal-bishop and before all the other cardinals, gave precedence from then on to the cardinals, and we see him at the last session of the Council of Florence, on July 6, 1439, sign the Bull of Union "Laetentur coeli" after the eight cardinals present.

So we see that in the discipline of the Latin Church, it is since 1439 that the cardinals, continuing their ascent, have taken precedence over the Latin patriarchs.

4. The Cardinals and Patriarchs at the Council of Florence

This applied only to the relations between the Latin cardinals and the Latin patriarchs. But when it came to the respective rank of the cardinals and the Eastern patriarchs, precedence was always granted before, during, and immediately after the Council of Florence to the Eastern patriarchs over the cardinals, and not only with the knowledge of the pope but at his express command. Our proofs naturally come from the history of the Council of Florence, because before that council, cardinals and Eastern patriarchs had never met and consequently the problems could not have arisen.

On January 8, 1438, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Joseph II, having arrived in Venice, received the homage in that city of a deputation composed of bishops and notables sent from Ferrara by Pope Eugene IV and led by Cardinal Nicola Albergati (also called Cardinal of Santa Croce), who had been named president of the council by the pope. On March 9, 1438, Patriarch Joseph II arrived in Ferrara. By order of the pope, the two youngest cardinal-deacons, Prospero Colonna and Domenico Capranica, went to welcome him.

On April 8 the first session of the council in which the Greeks participated was held in Ferrara. The Latins were to the right of the altar and the Greeks to the left. This was an ingenious compromise, for the left side of the altar, where the icon of Our Lord and the throne of the hierarch are located, was considered to be the first place by the Greeks, whereas the right side of the altar was considered by the Latins to be the first place. Thus the Patriarch of Constantinople faced the first cardinal-bishop.

When the council was transferred to Florence, the patriarch entered that city on January 23, 1439, with one cardinal on his right and another on his left (the same ones who had welcomed him in Ferrara).

So there can be no doubt that Pope Eugene IV considered the Patriarch of Constantinople to be superior in rank to his cardinals.

This view must have been shared by his immediate successors. Indeed, after the failure of the Council of Florence we see two cardinals raised to the patriarchal See of Constantinople: Bessarion, former Metropolitan of Nicea, and Isidore, former Metropolitan of Kiev. Both had been made cardinals by Pope Eugene IV on December 18, 1439. Now, Isidore of Kiev was promoted by Pope Pius II in 1458 to the patriarchal See of Constantinople, and when he died on April 27, 1463, Cardinal Bessarion was chosen to succeed him, and he remained the incumbent of the patriarchal See of Constantinople until his own death on November 14, 1472.

So here are two cardinals raised to the patriarchal dignity: a sign that the supreme pontiff of that time considered the patriarchal dignity in the East as being superior to the dignity of the cardinalate.

5. The Cardinals and the Eastern Patriarchs in Modern Time

What happened after that? From the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 18th century there was in the Byzantine East no patriarchal succession officially united with Rome.

This long absence of Eastern Byzantine patriarchs in the Catholic hierarchy sufficed to make the contrary point of view prevail among the canonists. The Latin West withdrew within itself. Its Latin institutions seemed to it the only valid ones in the entire Catholic Church. Inasmuch as in the West, since the time of Eugene IV, cardinals have held precedence even over the Latin patriarchs, it was thought that they must precede all patriarchs, even the patriarchs of the East.

This is a false analogy, because the Latin patriarchs are simply ordinary archbishops endowed with the purely honorific title of patriarch, whereas the Eastern patriarchs are true heads of particular Churches with a hierarchy of bishops under their jurisdiction, by the same right as the Bishop of Rome is the patriarch of the West.

On the other hand, however, there were not at that time any Eastern Byzantine patriarchs to defend their rights, and on the other hand the Romanists were not displeased to see the Eastern patriarchs identified with the honorific Latin patriarchs. Finally, the cardinals were continuing their unobstructed ascent in the hierarchy and assuming ever greater importance in the general administration of the Church, whereas the importance of the Eastern patriarchs, on the level of influence, wealth, and membership was continually decreasing.

That is why at the First Vatican Council the Roman Curia does not seem to have distinguished between the Eastern and the Latin patriarchs. They were all considered inferior to the cardinals. It was even thought that the patriarchs of the East were being honored by being likened to the Latin patriarchs, because by virtue of the discriminatory theory of "precedence of the Latin rite" that was in favor in Rome during the 18th century the Latin patriarchs were supposed to take precedence over the Eastern patriarchs. However, Pope Pius IX intervened and declared that in the Catholic Church all rites were equal.

Thus, during the 19th century as well as at the beginning of this century, everybody, or almost everybody, was henceforth convinced that cardinals are the highest dignitaries in the Catholic Church after the Roman pontiff and must take precedence over patriarchs, whether they be from the East or from the West. Only the Melkite patriarchs have continued to claim for their patriarchal sees the rank that was assigned to them by the ecumenical councils, explicitly recognized by the popes up to the 15th century, and since then never explicitly revoked.

Part Two – Reasons for Respecting This Authentic Tradition in the Church

There is no doubt whatever that the primitive and authentic tradition of the Church places in the first ranks of the Catholic hierarchy after the supreme pontiff not the cardinals but the incumbents of the patriarchal sees of the East.

Must this tradition be respected? We believe that the answer should be an unhesitating "yes," for the many reasons given below:

1. The reason of ecclesial tradition itself

In the first place, the Catholic Church owes it to itself to respect the decisions of the ecumenical councils, even in the matter of discipline. If, in the course of time a modification appears to be necessary, it is fitting to have it adopted by another ecumenical council or to have the authority of the supreme pontiff intervene in an explicit way to revoke it. Now, in the case of this serious question of the rank of the Eastern patriarchs, neither the popes nor subsequent ecumenical councils have revoked the decisions made by the first ecumenical councils. After the 15th century, certain Latin canonists have allowed themselves to make erroneous analogical deductions to support the rise of the institution of the cardinalate at the expense of the honor of the apostolic sees of the East.

2. The reason of apostolicity

The patriarchal institution in the East, contrary to what is happening in the West, is not simply an honorific title. It is founded first of all on the apostolicity of the see. When Canon 28 of Chalcedon sought to base on human considerations the first rank that it wished to grant, after Rome, to the See of Constantinople because that city had become the capital city of the Empire, it was Pope Saint Leo who took care to rectify the thinking of the Fathers of the council. He told them: "The structure of human things is not the same as the divine. The apostolic origin of a Church, its foundation by the Apostles, this is what assures it a higher rank in the hierarchy." (Epist CIV, 3 = PL, Vol. LIV. Col.995)

In the Catholic Church the highest honor must be granted to the apostolic foundation. The reason that Rome is the mother of all the Churches is because it was founded by the Apostles Peter and Paul and because it was the definitive see of Peter.

This honor due to the preeminent "apostolic see" that is Rome applies by analogy to the other apostolic sees of Christianity, which are the patriarchates.

We know the famous texts of certain popes which seek to ground the origin of patriarchal dignity as though on some sort of diffuse primacy of Peter, thus making them participate in a certain sense in the supreme solicitude for all the Churches that Peter bequeathed to his successors on the See of Rome: Peter to Jerusalem, Peter to Antioch, Peter to Alexandria (through his disciple Mark), Peter to Rome. Thus Pope Innocent (402-417) writing to the Bishop of Antioch, said: "Wherefore we observe that this has been attributed not so much because of the magnificence of the city as that it is shown to be the leading seat of the leading Apostle." (PL, Vol. XX, col. 548)

Still more clearly, Pope Saint Gregory the Great (580-604) wrote the following in a letter to the Emperor Marcion: "He (the prince of the Apostles) exalted the see in which he deigned to settle and to finish his life on earth (Rome). He adorned the see to which he sent his disciple the evangelist (Alexandria). He confirmed the see in which he sat for seven years before leaving (Antioch). (PL, T. LXXVII, col. 299)

Jerusalem certainly cannot be excluded from the circle of these "Petrine" cities, for it was there that Peter first and so manifestly exercised his primacy.

While Constantinople cannot historically claim to have been founded by Peter or by another Apostle, it has other grounds, as we shall see, for its claim to patriarchal honor.

And so we see from the testimony of the popes themselves that the eminent rank of the patriarchates of the East in the Catholic Church is an honor due to their apostolicity. Cardinals do not occupy apostolic sees, and are not, as cardinals, successors of the Apostles. Now, what more important criterion is there than the apostolicity of a see, in a Church one of whose essential marks is that it is apostolic and at whose head is the "apostolic see"? Must not the apostolicity that made Rome the first see and the head of Christendom logically give the other sees that claim apostolic origin the first ranks after the Roman pontiffs? Is not apostolicity as a criterion of precedence, recognized by the pope and by the ecumenical councils, superior to every other criterion of precedence that could be claimed by the cardinals, some of whom in earlier times were not even priests?

Beyond this, the patriarchal sees, as the popes testify, participate in a certain way in the primacy of Peter. It is Peter who founded them, even if he did not remain in them permanently. From this Petrine origin the patriarchal sees have inherited not only a primacy of honor over all the other sees, but also a certain participation in the universal solicitude for the Churches, bequeathed by Peter in an eminent and absolutely unique right to his successors in the See of Rome.

From this it follows that the first auxiliaries of the pope in the overall administration of the Church are, according to the authentic tradition of the first centuries, not the cardinals but the patriarchs. It was to the patriarchs that the pope first announced his election. The patriarchs, in turn, wrote their letter of communion to him immediately after their election. In moments of danger and during the dogmatic or disciplinary crises that convulsed the Christian world, it was to the patriarchs that the pope turned to devise a plan of action. When they could, the patriarchs maintained a permanent representative at the pope's side, and the pope maintained a legate called an apocrisiary by the side of his patriarch in Constantinople. In their letters to the patriarchs, the popes expressed themselves in very fraternal terms. It was evident that for the popes the Eastern patriarchs, the incumbents of the apostolic sees, were their brothers and their principal collaborators.

This apostolicity is the basis in the Catholic Church for the eminent rank given to the Eastern patriarchs.

3. The reason of gratitude

The Eastern patriarchs, however, have other grounds for occupying the first ranks after the pope. Christianity owes them this honor out of gratitude. Whatever the past and present merits of the cardinals, they are far from equaling those of the patriarchal sees of the East.

It was in Jerusalem that our salvation was accomplished. It was from Jerusalem that the faith spread first "in Judea, Samaria, Galilee, and in the entire world." According to our liturgical books and the constant tradition of the first Fathers of the Church, Jerusalem is the "Mother of all the Churches," for it was the first Church and it was from Jerusalem that all the other Churches were founded throughout the world.

Alexandria made the Christian faith reach out over Egypt, Pentapolis, Libya, Cyrenaica, Nubia, and Ethiopia. It brought monasticism to Europe. For a long time, it was the mouthpiece of Rome in the East.

It was in Antioch that the faithful were first called Christians. Antioch preached the Gospel throughout the then-known portions of Asia. It implanted the Christian faith in the Persian Empire, in India, and even as far as Mongolia and China.

Constantinople converted the Slavic world, which, by itself, once represented one third of Christendom.

Can the Catholic Church forget these first centers of Christianity? Is it not somewhat unfitting to give precedence over them to young Churches in America, Australia, or Africa which have just recently been founded, simply because their incumbents have been made cardinals?

4. The reason of fidelity to the promises given by the popes

In addition, the popes solemnly and repeatedly promised the Eastern patriarchs who reunited with the Holy See of Rome that none of their legitimate rights and privileges would be diminished, that they would find again in the Catholic Church the same rank, rights, and prerogatives which they had enjoyed up to that time.

The promises are so numerous that it is hard to find one pope who did not feel obliged to repeat them, and in ever more solemn terms. In order not to lengthen this memorandum, we shall be content to cite only a few of these declarations, among those that are most significant:

a. At Florence the union was proclaimed only on condition that all the rights and privileges of the Eastern patriarchs be safeguarded: "with all their privileges and rights preserved." This solemn promise, originally made to the four Byzantine patriarchs, was repeated in the Bull of Union with the Armenians. (Cf. texts in J. Gill, The Council of Florence, Cambridge 1959, p.415).

b. After Florence, more than once the Holy See of Rome proposed union to the Eastern patriarchs, always with the same conditions, that is to say "with all their privileges and rights preserved" (Cf. G. Hoffman, Patriarch Kyrillos Lukaris, in Orientalia Christ., XV, 1, Rome 1929, p.53).

c. On the occasion of proceedings for union, the Holy See of Rome solemnly promised the Eastern patriarchs that their dignity would not be diminished in any manner because of their union with Rome, but that on the contrary their rights and privileges would be fully maintained. Thus Pope Clement XI, writing on April 11, 1703, to the Coptic Patriarch John XVI: "By which salutary measure (namely union)... you would again set that distinguished patriarchal see in that place of dignity in which because of its extraordinary prerogatives.. almost all the records of the Catholic faith demonstrate that it was formerly placed." And the pope continues: "When with the help of divine grace you will have fulfilled the laudable plan (of union), most certainly you will be able to convince yourself that We, having retained the practices of this Holy See, which strives not only not to diminish but indeed to protect and enlarge the rights and privileges of the Eastern Churches, will embrace you in the Lord with all the good will and testimonials that are harmonious with your office and dignity, and that nothing will ever be omitted by us that is deemed to be fitting for your future convenience, distinction, and splendor." (Cf. J.P.Trossen, Les relations du Patriarche Copte Jean XVI avec Rome (1676-1718), Luxembourg, 1948, pp. 171-172)

On July 8, 1815, Pius VII wrote to the Coptic Patriarch Peter VII: "We shall take care that the prerogatives and privileges of your see are most diligently restored and protected." (De Martinis, Pars I, Vol. IV, p. 530)

Likewise, in 1824, Pope Leo XII promised the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria that he would preserve all his ancient rights and privileges: "We grant to this Catholic Patriarchate of Alexandria, and to the one who will hold it, all the honors, privileges, prerogatives, titles, and all power that are based on the sacred canons or usages, which not unreasonable circumstances may support." (Loc. cit., p. 651)

d. Finally, here are more general and still more solemn promises:

Pope Benedict XV, in his famous "Demandatam" of December 24, 1743, wrote: "For the rest, we desire that all rights and privileges and the free exercise of your jurisdiction remain intact for your Brotherhood." (Loc. cit. Vol.III, p. 130)

The great Pope Leo XIII wrote in the motu proprio "Auspicia rerum" of March 19, 1896: "For nobody can deny, inasmuch as it is fitting and wholly in order, that the patriarchal dignity does not lack among Catholics any of those supports and distinctions which it enjoys abundantly among the dissidents." (Acta S. Sedis, T. 28 (1895-1896), p. 586)

More clearly still, in his apostolic letter "Praeclara gratulationis" of June 20, 1894, the same Leo XIII addressed the Eastern Churches in these terms: "Nor is there any reason that you should hesitate in that thereby [because of the union] we or our successors would detract anything from your rights, your patriarchal privileges, or the liturgical usage of any Church." (Ibid., T. 26 (1893-4), p. 709)

It is certainly the heartfelt wish of the Holy See of Rome to honor its solemn promises. The greatest of the rights and privileges that the pope promised the Eastern patriarchs they would maintain is precisely the right to occupy in the Catholic Church the rank that the ecumenical councils and the authentic tradition of the Church assigned to them, namely, the first rank after the Roman pontiff. To relegate these patriarchs to the 100th place cannot constitute the maintenance of their rights and privileges, as solemnly promised by the popes at the time of the union and after the union.

This assumes extraordinary gravity the moment that the Holy See of Rome once again is proposing union to the Orthodox Churches, guaranteeing, on the condition of unity of faith and government, the safeguarding of their own liturgy and discipline. How could the Orthodox Churches not be tempted to mistrust when they see that the guarantees so solemnly given by the pope to the Eastern patriarchs who are in union have not been respected?

5. The reason of the apostolate for union

This consideration brings us to the definitive and conclusive reason why the Catholic Church owes it to itself to respect the rank that the Eastern patriarchs traditionally hold in the hierarchy. This reason is precisely the supreme interest of Christian unity.

Indeed, if the Eastern Catholic patriarchs claim for their apostolic sees the first ranks after the Roman pontiff, it is not out of vanity or out of a desire for vainglory.

Nor is it out of concern for antiquated ideas.

It is solely because the humiliating and in their view unjust position in which they are placed by the Catholic hierarchy constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to rapprochement and then to union with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In Orthodoxy, whatever the real and current importance of the patriarchal sees, the patriarchs continue to represent a summit in the hierarchy. They are the heads of Churches. Even a Patriarch of Moscow bows and kisses the hands of the patriarchs of the ancient apostolic Sees of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, regardless of the number of their faithful. These patriarchs know and proclaim that they are the highest dignitaries of the Church after the Roman pontiff. How can we speak to them of union if we do not recognize for them today what Pope Eugene IV recognized for their predecessors at the Council of Florence?

If the Orthodox patriarchs are thinking of reuniting some day with the Roman Church, it can only be in order to reoccupy in Catholicism the place that was theirs before the schism. But if they notice that this place is being refused them, and that in the event of reunion they are to be relegated after all the cardinals, or if—worse still—this place is promised to them but afterwards refused, there is little hope that the dialogue that has begun will culminate in union.

For all these reasons, and especially the last-mentioned, it seems to us that the supreme interest of the Church demands that the rank that authentic ecclesial tradition has assigned to the Eastern patriarchs and which the popes have promised be indeed maintained.

Part Three – Response to the Objections

1. It will be objected: This is a question of vanity and of human prestige.

- Not at all. Certainly, questions of precedence are very paltry, especially on the part of the disciples of the One who said: "The first among you must be the servant of all." But the honor given to the hierarchs in the Church is not addressed to their individual persons but to their ministry, to Christ, and to the Apostles whom they represent. In this case, the privileged rank claimed by the Eastern patriarchs is, as we have seen, a recognition of the apostolicity of their sees and a debt of gratitude toward these first centers of the spread of Christianity. Besides, why would the patriarchs who claim their traditional rights be at fault, and not those who contest those rights so as to pass ahead of them? In any case, Patriarch Maximos IV has declared more than once that if it depended only on him, no one would snatch the last place in the Church from him, but that only the supreme interests of the respect for tradition and for Christian unity made him consider it his duty to claim the rank that is due to patriarchal dignity.

2. The following objection will also be made: Today the cardinals are universal auxiliaries of the pope, whereas the sphere of the patriarch's ministry is limited to their flocks.

- Even if the patriarchs were not in any way auxiliaries of the pope, that would not be a reason for depriving them of the rank assigned to them by the ecumenical councils and the authentic tradition of the Church. The councils and the Fathers knew what they were doing.

Besides, we have seen through the testimony of the Roman popes themselves that, in a sound ecclesiology, the patriarchs were to be considered as the foremost auxiliaries of the pope, his innate auxiliaries.

The patriarchs are even more than auxiliaries of the pope; they are his brothers, incumbents like him—naturally without prejudice to his universal primacy—of the great apostolic sees of Christendom.

When addressing the cardinals, the pope says: "my son;" when he addresses the bishops, and especially the patriarchs, he says: "my brother." The cardinals are freely created by the pope, and, as cardinals, are in no sense successors of the Apostles. The patriarchs are elected by the bishops of their Church and are, by the loftiest right, successors of the Apostles.

Compared with the nobility of apostolicity and the importance of the patriarchal ministry which participates secondarily in the universal solicitude of Peter's successor, the claims of the cardinals to precedence cannot be supported unless the patriarchates are in fact treated as simply honorary titles. In that case, it would be understood that the patriarchs would not appear to be more important than the cardinals. But this is a distorted notion of the patriarchates, popularized by a certain self-interested ecclesiology that has no links to the authentic tradition of the Fathers.

3. Yet another objection is that the privileged rank of the patriarchs is a matter of simple ecclesiastical discipline decreed by the ecumenical councils. Now, what an ecumenical council has done can be abrogated by the pope or by another ecumenical council.

R. That is correct. Indeed no one claims that the rank of the patriarchs as established by tradition is immutable or of divine right. However, the fact that this rank can be changed is one thing, and that it should be changed is something else. Now, from what we have seen, no ecumenical council or pope has until now expressly given precedence to the cardinals over the patriarchs of the East. It is as if the matter were settled and not subject to possible contestation. It is our opinion, on the contrary, that so many and so serious decisions of the first ecumenical councils should be discussed at length, and then should be abrogated only if the supreme interest of the Church demands it, and then by an explicit contrary decision emanating from an ecumenical council or from the pope by virtue of his supreme power. It is not fitting that in such a serious matter the Eastern patriarchs should continue to be faced with a fait accompli, as happened at the last Vatican Council, and as we foresee will happen at the forthcoming council.

4. Another objection will be that the privileged rank of the Eastern patriarchs was founded on an actual importance that they no longer have today, whereas the cardinals are constantly gaining greater importance in the Church.

R. It is correct that the patriarchates no longer have in the Church the importance that they once had as true capitals of the Christian world. However, first of all, influence, wealth and numbers are not the only criteria of rank in the Church. Rome may some day be only a little town, or even disappear. It will nonetheless remain the Holy See of Rome and the head of all the Churches. In fact, as of now several dioceses in the world are already more "important" than Rome. Is this a reason to diminish its leadership?

Admittedly Rome holds primacy in the Church by immutable divine right, but this example is cited here only to show that the rank of a see does not necessarily coincide with its real and current importance.

Besides, does anyone believe that the subvicariate dioceses of Rome are so very much more important than the other sees of Christianity that it is necessary to raise their incumbents to the rank of cardinals?

How many dignitaries there are in the Roman Curia who have almost no importance today and who nonetheless continue to receive precedence over bishops of larger and more important dioceses of the Christian world!

If there is any community in the world that respects traditions relating to precedence, it is certainly the Roman community. Why, then, must the Eastern patriarchs be the only ones who can no longer maintain their traditional rank?

Finally, resorting to reductio ad absurdum, if we say that the Eastern patriarchs must give up their traditional rank because their actual importance has declined and that of the cardinals is increasing, we logically have to place them not only after the cardinals but even after all the bishops whose dioceses are more "important" than those of the patriarchs.

If numbers, wealth, and membership were all that counted in the church, the Eastern patriarchates would count for nothing. But in Christ's Church there is room for superior values: apostolicity, tradition, the initial Christian expansion, the proclamation of the Word, Christian unity. According to these values, infinitely more important than the former, the Eastern patriarchs still represent what deserves the greatest respect in Christ's Church after the Roman papacy. These are values that do not pass away, and, thanks to them, the Eastern patriarchs have lost none of their true importance.

5. Finally, the objection is made that when the "true" patriarchs of the East, namely the Orthodox patriarchs, agree to think about union, it will naturally be necessary to recognize the eminent place they occupied before the schism. But the Eastern patriarchs presently in union are new creations of the Holy See, which therefore grants them the rank and powers that it deems appropriate.

- This concept, which denies the Eastern Catholic patriarchs the right to be considered the legitimate successors of their predecessors in their respective sees, is the new weapon that the "latinists" have used against the Catholics of the Eastern rites. Unfortunately for them, this concept, while it can, if necessary, be accepted by the Orthodox separated from Rome, is incomprehensible for Catholics and absolutely contrary to the concept of the supreme pontiffs themselves.

Since we cannot cite the countless pontifical texts supporting our view, we shall be content to reproduce those that concern our own Patriarchate of Antioch, whose incumbent Cyril VI Tanas officially proclaimed union with Rome in 1724. When the papal legate enthroned him on April 25, 1730, he proclaimed him "legitimate Greek Patriarch of Antioch." (Mansi, Vol. 46, col. 189) Pope Benedict XIV, in his allocution in the consistory of February 3, 1744, recognized Cyril VI as the true and only incumbent of the Orthodox See of Antioch, and said of his dissident rival Sylvester that "he invaded the patriarchal see," and declared of the Melkites that in them "the venerable remnants of the Church of Antioch, formerly buried, are brought back to life" (Ibid., col. 340).[3]

In his letter of February 29, 1744, addressed to the same Patriarch Cyril, Benedict XIV expressed himself in this way: "While we consider that illustrious Antiochian Church of the Greeks, for a long time separated from the Roman See by a calamitous schism and ruled by patriarchs infected with that blemish, now it is at last committed to your brotherhood, in the safeguarding of a legitimate pastor." (Ibid. col. 341) And the pope continued, rejoicing that it was henceforth possible once again to introduce the name of the Patriarch of Antioch into the diptychs of the Roman Church.

From all of this, it is clear that, for the popes, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate is the legitimate continuation of the successors to the See of Antioch. Therefore the same rights and privileges are due to its patriarchs as to his ancient predecessors.

Other objections can be found. It will be easy to answer them as well. The heart of the problem comes down to this: should the Catholic Church of our time purely and simply ratify the special development of the Latin West from which the cardinalate sprang, or should it harmonize in its heart the more recent institutions of the West with the more ancient institutions of the East? In other words, is Catholicism a broadened and conquering Latinism, or is it a divine, supra-regional, supra-national institution in which the traditions of the East and those of the West have equal inherent rights?

The problem of the rank of the Eastern patriarchs in the Catholic Church is not a question of vainglorious precedence. It postulates a return to more apostolic and hence more authentic ecclesiological concepts.

We know the outcome of all these discussions. By order of Pope Paul VI, the patriarchs, including the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, were placed beginning on Monday, October 14, 1963, on a platform set apart, to the right, facing the cardinals, as had been the case in Florence. History will some day relate the exhausting labors of Patriarch Maximos, with the help of his episcopate, to have this change accepted. On October 15, 1963, the patriarch wrote to Pope Paul VI to thank him for it.

For an Amelioration of the Conciliar Schema

The Eastern Commission had submitted to the session of January 1962 of the Central Commission the draft of a schema "On the Eastern Patriarchs." Since the patriarch did not expect to take part personally in that session, he sent from Damascus on December 21, 1961, a few notes intended to improve the contents of the draft:

This schema is of the greatest importance for the future of the union of Churches. The rights claimed in it for the Eastern Catholic patriarchs refer not to their humble persons but to their mission. Depending on the way that the Catholic Church treats these Eastern Catholic patriarchs, Orthodoxy will reach conclusions as to how its patriarchs will be treated in the Catholic Church the day that union can be achieved.

On this matter, here are a few criticisms to be made to the preamble, as well as to the expository portion of the document:

1. The preamble, intended in principle to introduce and justify the rights recognized for the patriarchs in the following section, seems rather to aim at minimizing these rights, as if it were feared that they might be an infringement on those of the supreme pontiff. Not only do the rights of the patriarchs not encroach upon those of the supreme pontiff, they confirm them. "My honor is in the honor of my brothers" are the words of Pope St. Leo. In addition, the wording of this preamble seems to need reworking.

a. "Episcopi quoque, Apostolorum successores, ex divino iure, mediante tamen Romano Pontifice, plena pollent potestate ... (Also the bishops, successors of the Apostles by divine right, although with the mediation of the Roman pontiff, are endowed with full power...).

This intervention or "mediation" by the Roman pontiff in the transmission of the divine right to the bishops seems to us contrary to the tradition of the Church. I fear lest it invite confusion and lest certain individuals might wish to give it a meaning that it does not have, for example, the meaning that all power in the Church emanates directly and exclusively from the Roman pontiff.

b. "Si autem.. prae oculis iura habeantur, quae saeculorum decursu tacite vel expresse a suprema auctoritate concessa sunt ..." (If, however,...those rights should be held up to view which in the course of the centuries have been tacitly or expressly conceded by the supreme authority...)

This phrase also invites ambiguity. The patriarchal institution has not always and exclusively depended on a tacit or explicit concession by the supreme pontiff. It was also created by the ecumenical councils, as No. II of the proposed schema acknowledges: "quippe qui amplissima potestate, a Romano Pontifice vel a Concilio Oecumenico data seu agnita..." (who indeed [have] the fullest power, given or acknowledged by the Roman pontiff or by an ecumenical council...) Now, an ecumenical council, even though it requires the confirmation of the pope, is not one and the same authority with him. The expression "supreme authority" designates in canon law the Roman pontiff as well as the ecumenical council. It would be wise to avoid ambiguity by clarifying the thought.

c. The same ambiguity occurs a little farther on where the patriarch is said to have a supra-episcopal power "ex participatione pontificiae potestatis" (by participation in the pontifical power). In one sense, it is true to say that the patriarchs, as heads of particular churches, participate in some manner in the universal solicitude of the Roman pontiff. But does this also mean that all supra-episcopal power, whether metropolitan, primatial, or patriarchal, is necessarily an emanation or a delegation of the supreme power of the supreme pontiff?

The author of the preamble seems to wish to glide toward a theory that is not in any way defined—and which it is not advisable to define or even to encourage defining today. According to this theory, all power in the Church would be a delegation or an emanation of the power of the supreme pontiff.

2. The expository portion of the document seems to me to be well drafted, and I approve it except for the following points:

a. It is abnormal and prejudicial to the work of Christian unity that the patriarchal sees of the East be occupied by Latins, even those that are simply honorary. Thus Article IX proposes that the titular Latin patriarchates be eliminated, but it illogically makes an exception for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose continuance it recommends. We would say that on the contrary it is the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem that must above all be eliminated.

This patriarchate of Jerusalem, founded by the Crusaders in 1099 in accordance with the mentality of that time, disappeared after their domination ended in 1273. It was not restored as a residential see until 1847 by Pope Pius IX. Since then and contrary to the explicit and repeatedly expressed will of the supreme pontiffs, this patriarchate has made every effort to latinize Eastern Christians, whether Orthodox or Catholic. This has constituted a painful denial of the pope's declarations promising the Eastern Christians who returned to unity that they would not have to become latinized. Our own patriarchate has explained at length its point of view on this question in a brochure entitled: Catholicisme ou Latinisme? A propos du Patriarcat latin de Jerusalem (Harissa, Lebanon, 1961) [Catholicism or Latinism? Concerning the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem]. We ask that it be referred to for fuller information on this subject.

b. Given the mission of each Eastern Catholic Church, it appears difficult to reduce the patriarchal sees within the same territory to only one, just as it is difficult and harmful to limit the rites to one. The fact that there may be two or three Catholic incumbents occupying the same patriarchal see is a historical reality that cannot easily be avoided at this time. It is better to accept it as it is, to organize it, and to try to make the best of it, considering it as a division of labor rather than as a dispersion of energies. The disadvantages of this situation can be diminished if there is a sincere collaboration among patriarchs. This depends on the persons involved rather than on the institution itself. In any case, this phenomenon exists especially in the See of Antioch. On the other hand, in Jerusalem, where there had always been a single Catholic patriarch, the Holy See doubled the hierarchy by restoring the Latin patriarchate of Jerusalem. So we see this division of authority is not always the fault of the Eastern Churches. I therefore completely reject this article X as premature, unrealizable and harmful.

c. Article XI cannot be accepted, and it is not in the best interests of the Catholic Church that it be accepted. If it is clearly understood what a patriarch is in the Eastern Catholic Church, it cannot be wished or allowed that he become a cardinal, even if this is merely an honorary title. It is not necessary to make the patriarchal institution an appendage in order to honor it. It is a sufficient dignity in itself in the Catholic Church. It must retain this dignity the way that it has been defined over the centuries.

d. In itself, Article XII is contrary to ecclesial tradition, namely, that the patriarchs of the East not participate in the election of the Roman pontiff. However, since this tradition has been changed in the direction of greater centralization, to the point that the Roman pontiff now intervenes in the confirmation of the patriarchs, and even very often in their election or nomination, another innovation can be accepted, namely, that the Eastern patriarchs participate in the election of the Roman pontiff. On the other hand, if, as Article XIII provides, the Eastern patriarchs are considered to be superior in rank to the cardinals, it is normal that they should also be the first to participate in the election of the Common Father of the Church. In this sense, I approve Article XII.

e. Article XIII proposes three drafts relating to the precedence of the patriarchs. Only the first draft, which maintains for the patriarchs the first rank in the Church after the pope, seems to us to conform to the decisions of the ecumenical councils and, of course, to the best interests of union. I reject the other two drafts, and I would like to see a decision made in this direction at the very opening of the Council, so that the presence of the Eastern Catholic patriarchs may not turn out to be disadvantageous to the work of union in this council, which is intended to be a prelude to union.

The Patriarchate and the Cardinalate; Latin Patriarchs of the East

At the last minute the patriarch decided, for serious reasons, that he must take part personally in the Central Commission's meeting of January 1962. When invited to speak on the theme of patriarchs, he set aside his written text and developed two important aspects of the problem: The patriarchate and the cardinalate, then the Latin patriarchs of the East. His talk was given on January 18, 1962.

I The Patriarchate and the Cardinalate

The patriarchate and the cardinalate are two institutions of different orders. A patriarch is the head of a particular Church, and generally the incumbent of an apostolic see. According to the decisions of the ecumenical councils, the Bishop of Rome, in addition to his universal primacy in the Church, is also considered to be the Patriarch of the West, the first of the five classical patriarchs of ancient times. After the pope, considered as Patriarch of the West, next in order of priority come the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Later on, other so-called minor patriarchates were constituted in the East, and purely honorary patriarchs were constituted in the West.

As for the cardinals, they were originally the immediate auxiliaries of the pope in his office as Bishop of Rome (the cardinal-priests and the cardinal-deacons), or in his office as Metropolitan of the Roman Province and as patriarch of the West (the suburban cardinal-bishops).

When the East and the West were still united, no one could have imagined that these immediate auxiliaries of the Roman pontiff could eclipse the incumbents of the other patriarchal sees of the East.

Then, little by little, cardinals increased in rank in the hierarchy, until even the primates of the Western Church were relegated to the background. But this rise of the cardinalate occurred at the moment when the West and the East were divided.

When partial reunions were achieved between the Roman Church and the majority of the Eastern Churches, the question arose as to the relations of priority between the Catholic patriarchs of the East and the cardinals who had meanwhile been promoted to the pinnacle of the hierarchy of the West.

A twofold question arises here: first, which of the patriarchs or cardinals are to have priority in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church; second, whether it is fitting that the Eastern patriarchs be named cardinals through the free choice of the supreme pontiff.

As to the first question, namely the order of precedence between the patriarchs of the East and the cardinals, the Commission of the Eastern Churches answered by voting by a majority in favor of the honorific priority of the Eastern patriarchs. I ask the venerable members of this commission to ratify in this manner this schema that has been presented to us. It is not a question of personal pride or human prestige. If it were simply a matter of our humble person, we would on the contrary see to it that no one would snatch the lowest place in the Church from us. But Orthodoxy is listening intently. The Holy Father wishes to prepare in this council the paths toward Christian unity. If the Orthodox patriarchs of the East should desire union today we should be able to show them that the Catholic Church continues to reserve for them the place that is rightly theirs through the decision of the ecumenical councils and through the explicit promises of the popes. Besides, it is not normal that the cardinals, who are the auxiliaries and sons of the pope, should proceed ahead of the patriarchs, who are his brothers in the apostolic sees.

As to the second question, namely, whether it is fitting that the patriarchs of the East become cardinals, I believe, contrary to Article XI of the schema proposed to us, that we must answer in the negative. In fact, if we really understand what a patriarch is in the Catholic Church, we must not, in my humble opinion, either wish or permit that he be made a cardinal. One must not wish it, since by the very fact that he is a patriarch he possesses an eminent rank in the Catholic Church, as we have said earlier. Nor must we permit it, for it is unthinkable that a patriarch should become a deacon, a priest, or even a suffragan bishop of the Roman Church. Even if these titles are purely honorary and do not correspond with reality, it remains abnormal that a patriarch, the head of a Church, should become a member of the clergy of another Church.

However, there is nothing to prevent a priest or a simple bishop of the Eastern Church from becoming a cardinal, as did Bessarion and Isidore of Kiev.

There is a trend in the Catholic Church today which tends to reaffirm the institution of the patriarchate. Now, the best way to do this is still to respect the meaning of the patriarchate in the East, to safeguard its authentic place, and to recognize its legitimate rights.

In achieving this, we should not consider the number of faithful subject to each of the patriarchal sees or the influence of their respective Churches. The criteria of numbers and influence are neither the only nor the most important ones in the Catholic Church. If they were, then the Archbishop of New York, or Paris, or Malines (in Belgium) would precede all the suburban bishops who govern much less important dioceses.

In reality, we know that the Christian Church owes a debt of gratitude to these great Eastern sees that spread the Gospel to Asia, Africa, and even to Europe, and we owe a debt of respect toward the sees founded by the Apostles. That is the origin of the rights and privileges of the great patriarchs of the East.

II The Latin Patriarchates of Eastern Sees

Today in the Latin Church of the West there is a double series of patriarchs: the Latin patriarchs of Western sees, such as Venice, Lisbon, and Goa, and the Latin patriarchs of Eastern sees, such as Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

Concerning the Latin patriarchs of the Western sees (Venice, Lisbon, Goa), I have nothing to say.

As for the Latin patriarchs who occupy the Eastern sees, I must distinguish between the sees that are purely titular, such as Constantinople and Antioch, and the see of Jerusalem, which was once again made a residential see in 1847.

In itself, it is abnormal and prejudicial to the work for the union of the Churches for the Eastern patriarchal sees to be held by Latin titulars. In fact, these Latin patriarchates were created at the time of the Crusades on behalf of the political-religious domination of the Franks in the East. In particular, the survival of a Latin patriarchate in Constantinople is felt very painfully by our Orthodox brethren who cannot forget the excesses of the Fourth Crusade. Besides, the Holy See of Rome seems to wish to prepare for the pure and simple elimination of these titles, since it has been leaving these sees without titulars for some years now. I therefore believe that the elimination of these honorary Latin patriarchs of Constantinople and Antioch does not present any great difficulty.

On the contrary, the schema that is presented to us seeks to make an exception, in Part 2 of Article IX, for the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, so that in this very Eastern see a Latin incumbent is maintained, who is not merely honorary but residential, as he is today.

At this point, I earnestly beg the venerable members of this Commission not to consider what I have to say as a personal matter. I have here beside me His Beatitude Archbishop Gori, the worthy and greatly-revered incumbent of this Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose post I would ask to be cancelled, naturally in the manner and at the moment that the Holy See of Rome deems advisable. His Beatitude Archbishop Gori, the incumbent of the see, is our colleague and our friend. What will be said of the see does not in any way concern his dear person, whom we love and respect because of his dignity and his remarkable qualities. Nor does it concern our own poor person, who already has one foot in the grave. What is at stake here is a lofty question of principle that affects to the highest degree the existence of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.

I deem before God, therefore, that it is illogical and harmful to the best interests of the Catholic Church and to the progress of union to make an exception in favor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. This Latin patriarchate of the most venerable see, that of Jerusalem, must be abolished. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem must be Catholic, but not Latin. It must remain an Eastern see.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem was created by the Crusaders in 1099, on behalf of Frankish domination in Palestine. It was attuned to the mentality of that period, according to which a Latin hierarchy was needed to correspond with Latin domination. In fact, when the Latin-Frankish domination ceased in 1273, with the fall of St. Jean d'Acre into the hands of Muslims, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem ceased to exist. It became a purely honorary title until 1847, the date on which Pope Pius IX, for political-religious reasons that it would take too long to explain here, deemed it good to restore it as a residential see.

Since then, and contrary to the express will of the supreme pontiffs, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has latinized Eastern Christians, both Orthodox and Catholic, instead of letting them remain in their Eastern rite.

The presence of this Latin patriarchate in Jerusalem cannot please the Eastern Christians, since it reminds them of Frankish domination and the exile of their own patriarchs. Whatever one makes of it, it is still a foreign patriarchate. In our own time, we Catholics must not be the last ones to open our eyes. What is happening at the present time in the Afro-Asiatic countries is such that we can understand that it is good for the Catholic Church to be represented everywhere not only by a local hierarchy but also by a local rite, especially if this rite is of the greatest antiquity and answers to the spirit and needs of the people for whom it was created. Today all the peoples of the world are gaining their independence. Must the Church be the last, for human reasons, to share this history lesson?

Finally, the latinization of the East, undertaken by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, constitutes a painful repudiation of the explicit declarations of the popes, who promised the Eastern Christians who return to unity that they will not be latinized.

If the Eastern Christians can be Catholic without being Latin Catholics, I ask: why, then, maintain in the East, in the middle of the twentieth century and in a Muslim land, a Western patriarchate that can survive only by latinizing at the expense of the Eastern Church?

For all these reasons, I owe it to my conscience and to my fidelity to Christ to ask for one of two things: either that this Latin patriarchate not be an exception to the general plan that is proposed to us to eliminate all the Latin patriarchs of the East, or that this question not be dealt with by the council but be left to the judgement of the Holy Father, who, through the grace given him, will see what appropriate steps should be taken according to the variable needs of the times. In the last analysis, this is a purely administrative matter that ecumenical councils are not in the habit of handling.

Besides, what I ask for is the elimination of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem as a patriarchate, and not the elimination of the Latin rite or the Latin community in the Holy Land. The East offers hospitality to everybody. Far more, I hope that the Latin presence in the Holy Land may be more vital and stronger still, without the necessity of clothing the person who governs this Latin community in the Holy Land with the patriarchal dignity. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem is an Eastern patriarchate, and I believe that it must remain Eastern.

Final Declarations on the Patriarchate

In the end, the Eastern commission decided not to present a distinct schema "On the Eastern Patriarchs." The subject was to be treated in a few paragraphs within the schema "On the Eastern Catholic Churches." Patriarch Maximos IV, in his intervention at the Council on October 15, 1964, expressed his views on the matter:

In its disciplinary proposals the present schema "On the Eastern Churches" constitutes, generally speaking, a certain progress, for which we wish to congratulate the Eastern Commission that prepared it.

Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about what in the schema stems from a more doctrinal or more ecumenical vision of the problems.

Thus, for example, the preamble praises the Catholic Church for always having had the highest esteem for the institutions of Eastern Christianity. In doing so, it sets up the Catholic Church, which extends this praise, as opposite to or as distinct from the Eastern Churches which are the objects of this praise. This leads to the belief either that the Catholic Church is identical with the Latin Church, which is not correct, or else that the Eastern Churches are not in essence in the Catholic Church, which is equally incorrect.

And yet of all the chapters in the present schema the weakest is without doubt the one devoted to patriarchs (Nos. 7-11). This chapter, as it has been presented to us, is inadmissible. It defies history and in no sense prepares for the future.

In dealing with the most venerable institution of the hierarchy after the Roman primacy, the schema has succeeded only in giving definitions that are academic and also incomplete, while expressing platonic hopes, most often repeating recent canonical texts, as if Vatican II had not been called to take a few steps forward but had to be content with the imposed status quo.

Four important comments need to be made:

1. It is false to present the patriarchate as an institution just for the East. It is a universal institution of the Catholic Church that is proud to have at its head the veritable successor of Peter in the Roman See. The foremost patriarch of the Catholic Church is the Bishop of Rome, as the ecumenical councils have declared so many times, as it appears in the official titles of the pope in the "Annuario Pontifico," as is confirmed by the very name of this "patriarchal" basilica of Saint Peter where we are assembled. We are also reminded by the name of the residence of the Bishop of Rome, the Lateran Palace, perpetuated in archives and in stone: "Patriarchium." As successor of Peter in his universal primacy over the whole Church and as Bishop of Rome, the pope is also Patriarch of the West. Patristic tradition and the ecumenical councils have always considered him to be such, without ever believing that this could be detrimental to his primacy. Why would the pope, who does not feel diminished by reason of the fact that he is the Bishop of Rome and as such the equal of the bishops, feel diminished by reason of the fact that he is also patriarch of the West, and on that level the colleague of the Eastern patriarchs? Today we have gone too far in forgetting the concept of the "Patriarchate of the West" and replaced it by the institution of a few honorary titles. This last-named institution must disappear in order to make way for the true concept of the patriarchate, a concept that is absolutely necessary for a serene dialogue with Orthodoxy. Why deny these facts, as if that could wipe them out of history?

2. The patriarchate is not an anonymous institution. The councils that the schema cites have recognized this dignity as applying to certain designated sees that they cited by name, for specific reasons peculiar to those sees. Now, these sees should be cited once again, even if the list needs to be complemented by the names of other patriarchal sees that have been created more recently. It is not permissible to speak of the Eastern patriarchs without citing even once, for example, the Holy See of Rome or the Ecumenical See of Constantinople, whose incumbent represents, above and beyond any consideration of numbers or temporal influence, the leading dignitary of the Orthodox Church, recognized and honored as such by His Holiness Pope Paul VI. As far as the drafters of the schema are concerned, it would seem that the historic encounter between His Holiness Pope Paul VI and His Holiness Patriarch Athenagoras I means nothing at all.

3. If we wish to be faithful to history, which is as it were the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church, we must not forget that the incumbents of the patriarchal sees were intimately linked to the universal solicitude for the whole Church entrusted to Peter and his successors. The popes and the Eastern patriarchs were, during the period of union, the peaks of the universal episcopate. Almost as soon as he was elected, the Bishop of Rome would send his profession of faith to the four Eastern patriarchs. And the latter, as soon as they were enthroned, did the same exclusively among themselves and with the Bishop of Rome. And so a patriarchal college was constituted in the Church, or as we would say today, a "summit" of universal solicitude, through which, while safeguarding the inalienable and personal rights of the successor of Peter, was brought about the visible collegial communion of all the episcopate. Their exchange of "irenical" letters (the name in use in Orthodoxy) would be proof enough of this, without mentioning the exchange of the pallium, sent by the patriarchs to the pope as well as by the pope to the patriarchs, and the commemoration by each of the patriarchs of the Bishop of Rome and of the other patriarchs.

It is certainly up to the supreme authority in the Church to renew or rejuvenate these forms of ancient ecclesial communion. But the principle on which they were founded must not be passed over in silence if we wish to offer our Orthodox brothers a rough draft of the charter of union.

4. Finally, the patriarchate is not merely an honorary dignity. Its dignity can only be the external expression of its actual importance. Besides, we must not heap honors and precedence on the Eastern patriarchs, only to treat them afterwards as subordinates whose authority is limited in its smallest details by infinite obligatory recourse, both in advance and afterwards, to the offices of the Roman Curia. While leaving untouched the prerogatives of the successor of Peter, each patriarch, with his Holy Synod, must under ordinary conditions be the ultimate recourse for all the business of his patriarchate. It is this internal canonical autonomy that saved the Eastern Christian Churches from all sorts of vicissitudes over the course of history. It could be an interesting formula to envision for other ecclesial groups that find themselves in exceptional situations. It could also serve as the basis for union between the Catholic Church and other Churches, in the West as well as in the East.

Venerable Fathers, when we speak of the East, we must not think only of those who humbly represent it today within the bosom of Roman Catholicism. We must reserve a place for those who are absent. We must not have a closed circuit of Catholicism in a dynamic and conquering Latinity on the one hand and a rather weak and absorbed fragment of the East on the other. We must leave the circuit open. Let us make Catholicism faithful to its solemn affirmations, to its definition of "catholic" in the sense of universal. Let us make it great, not for our humble persons and communities in blessed communion with Rome, but so that our original Churches can recognize themselves in it when it has been enlarged, in fact as well as legally, through the accomplishment of love, to universal dimensions.

Patriarch -Cardinal

What Patriarch Maximos dreaded—being made a Cardinal—was to happen to him. It was the greatest trial of his life. Taken by surprise by events, the butt of misunderstanding, the patriarch gave the ultimate proof of his faith: he placed his trust in the pope. Summing up and repeating in part the different declarations through which he sought to legitimize his attitude, the patriarch on March 14, 1965, in the Cathedral of Beirut, gave an important discourse "on his acceptance and of the dignity of the cardinalate." The discourse represented the ultimate evolution of his thinking. We are publishing an extensive part of it:

Most beloved sons:

You have chosen, in the person of your revered Pastor, our brother Archbishop Philip Nabaa, to invite us to celebrate before you a solemn Liturgy on the occasion of our return from Rome where the supreme pontiff His Holiness Paul VI has just given the Eastern Church a greater global radiance by conferring the cardinalate on some of its patriarchs, with full respect for the dignity of the Eastern Church, its particular mission, and its ancient traditions.

We for our part would like to profit from this happy occasion to explain to you, with the clarity and frankness that is our custom, this question whose true nature has escaped certain persons, for it is not without difficulties, given the historical, canonical, and theological implications which have given rise to differing interpretations.

Yes, for valid reasons, we have now accepted the dignity of the cardinalate, just as for valid reasons we had in the past excused ourselves from receiving it. In acting in this way we have not deviated from the course which, with God's grace, we have always tried to follow.

Here are a few clarifications:

I. The reasons that formerly motivated the refusal can be summed up in a few words: patriarchal dignity in the East, especially the dignity of the apostolic sees, constitutes a peak above which there is only the papal primacy which extends to the entire Church, both East and West. As for the dignity of the cardinalate, from its origins it has been an institution of the particular Church of Rome. Organized during the Middle Ages, it evolved over the centuries, but it never ceased being a Western dignity whose incumbents were considered as counselors or auxiliaries of the pope in the central administration. We likewise know that according to the decisions of the ecumenical councils, in particular the first seven, equally recognized by the East and the West, there are five apostolic patriarchates in the universal Church: Rome, which holds primacy in the entire Church, a primacy that the Eastern Church recognizes as much as Western Church, even though they do not agree as to the extent or scope of this primacy, then Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and finally Jerusalem.

Therefore, since the patriarchal institution constitutes a peak in the East, surpassed only by the papacy, and since on the other hand the cardinalate is, in the patriarchate of the West, an accessory dignity and of more recent institution, it is not normal for the dignity of the cardinalate to be conferred as an indication of promotion to someone who already possesses through the patriarchate the highest dignity. For a patriarch, the very fact of receiving this dignity as a promotion constitutes an incompatibility with the discipline of the Eastern Church.

That is the truth that, for years and even before the present the Second Vatican Council, we have worked and continue to work to propagate, in order to make it known to the Christian West where the idea of the patriarchate has almost vanished. In fact, the only existing patriarchate in the West is the patriarchate of Rome. Now, this Roman patriarchate has somehow been merged with the papacy. It has become so completely identified with it that its distinctive signs are no longer discernible, and it has become, so to speak, simply a title. Moreover, for many, if not the majority, that pointing out that the pope is also the Patriarch of the West arouses astonishment, if it is not considered an offense against the Holy See of Rome and a diminution of its rank. But is it possible to open a dialogue with a view to union with our Orthodox brothers if the authentic rights of the patriarchates recognized by the ecumenical councils are not restored to them? Now, these authentic rights require that the patriarchal sees succeed one another in rank without intermediaries, according to the established order of precedence: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

For these many reasons, we have maintained that the cardinalate, as it has existed in the Latin Church, was not appropriate for an Eastern patriarch.

II. As for the reasons that now justify the acceptance of this dignity, they may be summed up in the following considerations:

1. The role of the cardinalate, under the impetus of His Holiness Pope Paul VI, is manifestly evolving. It is being transformed from being a local and Western institution into a worldwide and catholic institution embracing both the East and the West. Today the cardinalate has in fact become a senate of the entire Catholic Church.

In order to emphasize this transformation and avoid any confusion, we have chosen not to use the expression "Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church," but to say simply "Cardinal of the Holy Church." In this way everybody will understand that in accepting the cardinalate we did not join the Western Church, but that we have remained Eastern, faithful to the East. Thus the evolution of the very notion of the cardinalate entails an evolution in our attitude toward it. 2. In addition, the valid motives that militated against the acceptance of the dignity of the cardinalate by an Eastern patriarch have disappeared, or almost so. There remains only a trace of them that will progressively disappear, we hope, thanks to the understanding shown by His Holiness Pope Paul VI with respect to existing realities, and thanks also to his heart's openness to the dimensions of the world.

Here, then, are the principal changes that have in fact already occurred and whose absence has until now prevented the patriarchs of the East from accepting the dignity of the cardinalate:

a. According to Latin usage, every cardinal received a titular church in Rome, which he was supposed to administer as a bishop, priest, or deacon. In this way the cardinals became, even though in appearance only, bishops, priests, or deacons of the particular Church of Rome and became, so to speak, a part of its local clergy. Obviously, this was not applicable to the situation of an Eastern authority, especially if it is patriarchal. Now, according to the new dispensation, the Eastern patriarchs receive no Roman titles but enter the sacred college in the title of their own patriarchal sees.

b. A second modification in the discipline in effect until now affects the rank of the Eastern patriarchs in relation to the cardinals. We know that the ancient ecumenical councils decided that the Eastern patriarchs occupied the first rank after the patriarch of Rome. But during the centuries of separation the Christian West experienced a disciplinary evolution that was independent of the East. As a result, it came to consider the cardinalate as the highest dignity in the Church after the papacy. It thus gave the cardinals, even those who were laymen, deacons, or simple priests, precedence over all the bishops, archbishops, and patriarchs. On the basis of this unilateral evolution, the canon law for the East promulgated in 1957 relegated Eastern patriarchs to the last rank after cardinals, and indeed after every representative of the pope, even simple priests. Such an error cannot be accepted by Eastern tradition.

Today, the Holy Father intends to recognize in practice the prerogatives of the Eastern patriarchs. At the second session of the council he transferred their places, having them face the cardinals. Today, he introduces them, at least a few of them, into his supreme council, by recognizing their right of precedence not only over all the Catholic bishops and archbishops of the entire world, numbering over 2,000, but also over the cardinals as well, except for those whom His Holiness considers as forming a single person with him, namely the six cardinals who are placed at the head of the so-called suburban dioceses, and who are immediately subject to the Roman metropolitan. Even this exception is subject to change, and it is possibly a first step toward recognizing the rights of precedence and the other historical prerogatives of the Eastern patriarchs, not because of their entrance into the college of cardinals, but simply by reason of the fact that they are patriarchs.

c. The third modification of the discipline in effect until now is that in accepting the dignity of the cardinalate we do not cease to consider the patriarchal dignity as a peak in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, after the papal dignity. As for the cardinalate, we consider it an additional responsibility given to us for the good of the universal Church. That is why we do not see the cardinalate as a promotion in the strict sense of the word. We were and we remain above all the patriarch of our patriarchal sees. To this primary and fundamental dignity we shall add the title of cardinal, indicating an additional and independent responsibility that we assume in the council of His Holiness the Pope and in the Roman dicasteries (congregations, tribunals, offices, etc.) for the good of the whole church. That is the reason we have changed nothing of our attire, of our general comportment, of our daily routine, or of our traditional titles. His Holiness the Pope himself, when he graciously spoke to us, continued to address us as Beatitude and Patriarch. We are preserving this title as a precious patrimony of the Church. In our turn, we shall ask that we continue to be called: "His Beatitude the Patriarch." That is what we were, that is what we shall remain.

d. A fourth change has affected the investiture ceremony of the cardinals. This ceremony included gestures, symbols, and words incompatible with the patriarchal dignity. Inherited from the Middle Ages when the papacy experienced its temporal apogee, it was inspired by the customs of feudalism. The pope transformed this rather secular ceremony and replaced it with the most sublime of the liturgical rites, namely a Eucharistic concelebration, in which he joined with us in consecrating and receiving the Body of Christ. To this rite he has added the fraternal embrace, the symbol of our greater collaboration with His Holiness in carrying, as His Holiness says, the weight of the keys of the Kingdom that have been entrusted to him for the government of the Church. By this gesture the pope soared like an eagle from earth to heaven. Who would have predicted a few years ago that such a transformation would come about in so short a time?

All these things and other less important ones have produced a change in the cardinalate which we cannot fail to take into consideration as if it had never occurred. It is one thing to hold fast to principles, and it is quite another to apply them according to the variable circumstances and events that arise. Levelheadedness is the principal quality of good judgement.

These bold modifications that are indispensable for dialogue with Orthodoxy, for the sake of restoring the necessary equilibrium of the Church, have been realized today in great part, sooner than expected, bringing divergent points of view closer together and saving the time and efforts of those participating in the dialogue.

3. If we add to all that has been said the reiterated wish of our Holy Father the Pope to see us closer to him in the central administration—for the general good of the Church, with the aim of making it reach out more to the world in order to give this world back to Christ—we would have thought that we were failing in our duty if we had not responded to this paternal appeal coming from the pope's apostolic heart. If, in accordance with our axiom, we wish to remain faithful to the East and to Orthodoxy, should we be less faithful to the Catholic Church?

Another consideration is added to this, namely: in questions in which opinion is divided and in which theoretical discussion is still possible, it is permissible for each one to express his point of view on the serious measures that the highest authority intends to take. But once this duty of forewarning is accomplished, there is nothing more pleasing to God and more useful to men than conforming to the wishes of superiors. If, indeed, the Catholic Church can take glory in anything, it is certainly in its spirit of order and discipline which has enabled it to experience an unparalleled spiritual development in the world.

It is also a principle followed from the earliest days by the Eastern and Western Churches that in controversial questions the view of the Bishop of Rome must prevail, for the common tradition recognizes in him the function of arbiter, moderator, director, and chief pastor in the universal Church of God.

Two motives have inspired us, in agreement with our Holy Synod, to assume the attitude that we have followed and which, in our view, must be followed. These are on the one hand our personal conviction, following the changes made in the institution of the cardinalate, and on the other hand the reiterated wish of our Holy Father the Pope, for whom we nurture in the depths of our heart the greatest respect, veneration, and love. For God has chosen him to lead the Church according to the legitimate requirements of our times, after his predecessor of holy memory had opened its bronze portals to the world.

Perhaps God also willed this new situation for the Eastern patriarchs so as to permit them to make their voices heard more forcefully by the Latin world in which their faithful are already scattered to the four corners of the world.

Here we call to mind another consideration which has determining weight in the decision of our brothers the bishops. History and experience are the best teachers. At the synod that we held during the summer of 1962 to study the conditions for our participation in Vatican II, which was soon to open, an extremist opinion was expressed and discussed which advised us to boycott the council and not participate in it as a form of protest, until the Holy See of Rome granted us our rightful demands. But the Holy Synod decided that we had to be content to formulate the necessary reservations and then take part in the council. If the extremist position had then prevailed and we had abstained from being present at the council, we would not have accomplished the great good that God, through no merit on our part, has worked through us. Today, likewise, we are convinced that our positive attitude toward the cardinalate—although this institution, in its relations with the patriarchate has not attained its fullest development—is preferable to the attitude of negative intransigence which, had we adopted it, would perhaps have inspired in certain groups an ephemeral reaction of admiration and praise, but which would surely have prevented any efficacious contribution on our part within the council, not only for the good of our particular Church but also for the good of the ecumenical movement itself.

We also think that it would be underestimating the great personages of Orthodoxy—as has been reported to us from one of them—to suppose that they are incapable of understanding that the cardinalate, like every other ecclesiastical institution, is susceptible to evolution and has in fact evolved.

My very dear sons, we have wished to give you these brief clarifications so that you might know the real truth, just as it is, and so that you might appreciate the efforts of your spiritual leaders who are working not for their own personal interests but for the interests of the universal Church and yours as well. We have also done this so that you might know the efforts being made by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, who, in his work of understanding and openness to the Eastern Churches, must also take into account the mentality of hundreds of millions of our Western Catholic brothers and the ancient traditions in effect in the Roman Curia, and all of this so as to bring hearts closer together in view of the union of the holy Churches of God, efforts that history will record with his name in letters of gold.

As for us, we shall actively and humbly pursue our apostolic ministry for the remainder of the days that will be given to us to live on this earth, so as always to do the will of Christ, to whom we have consecrated our life and all that we are. To Him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever.



[1] Actually, at the first session of the Council the representatives of the Roman See did not obtain any precedence, but occupied their rightful places as bishops, which is altogether normal.

[2] A few copies of this memorandum were sent to Archbishop Felici in a letter dated September 27, 1962, No. 1435/14.

[3] Here the patriarch unwittingly subscribes to the rhetoric of uniatism from which both the Roman Church (in the Balamand Statement) and the Melkite Church (in the bishop's 1995 Profession of Faith) subsequently distanced themselves.

  1. Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist: Our Sanctification (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) pp. 95-98.  
  2. 2nd Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #7 (1963).  
  3. Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), page 67.  
  4. Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Rome: Edizioni Orientalia Christiana, 2001), pages 15-29.  
  5. Egeria, The Diary of a Pilgrimage (Ancient Christian Writers, New York: Newman Press, 1970), page 92 (Chapter 24).  
  6. Edward Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pages 163-4.  
  7. Raniero Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), page 3.  

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