Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 

Questions:

Must we Eastern Catholics consider the post-schism General Councils of the Roman Church Ecumenical like the Seven of the First Millennium?

Bishop John's Answer:

Patriarch Gregory II Youssef-Sayour occupied the Melkite throne of Antioch for thirty-three years (1864-1897). At Vatican I, the Patriarch gave an impassioned plea to the assembled bishops in defense of the prerogatives of the ancient patriarchs. He said: "The Eastern Church attributes the highest and most complete power to the Pope, but in such a way that the fullness of his power is in harmony with the rights of the other Patriarchal Sees. (Mansi 52,cols. 133-137). Patriarch Gregory finally signed the document Pastor aeternus but only after adding the phrase made famous at the earlier Council of Florence that expressed his reservations. He added: "salvis omnibus iuribus et privilegiis patriarcharum". {saving all of the rights and privileges of the patriarchs}.

While the first seven ecumenical councils enjoy a place of prominence, especially in the East, both the Churches of the East and West have experienced local councils and synods throughout their rich histories. The early ecumenical councils met to resolve and articulate important Christological doctrines. The Melkite Church participated fully in Vatican I and Patriarch Gregory spoke clearly to his affirmation of the fullness of power enjoyed by the Petrine Office. The Patriarch was very concerned that the exercise of papal powers be "in harmony with the rights of the other Patriarchal Sees." The second Vatican Council is seen to have completed the unfinished business of Vatican I with its special emphasis on ecclesiology, specifically on the nature of the Church.

Recent theological speculation has developed the concept of "communion of churches" with promising results for ecumenism and rapprochement with the Orthodox. It would be a simple rekindling of the old controversy of conciliarism to suggest that some councils are less ecumenical than others. With the promulgation of the Holy Father, the doctrinal content of the various councils is a part of the sacred magisterial teaching of the Church to which Melkites in full communion with the See of Rome give wholehearted assent.

   

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