“What is your view of Archbishop Elias Zoghby’s book, “We are All Schismatics”?”
Bishop John’s Answer:
First, the book’s title as translated is misleading. The title in French is: “Tous Schismatiques?” Note that this is not a statement, but a question with a question mark. It doesn’t claim that we are ALL schismatic, but asks, “Are we all schismatic?”
Here is an answer copied from my course “Melkite Perspectives” as given to our deacon candidates in 1997:
The book is written with sincere love to both the Roman and the Orthodox Churches. Archbishop Zoghby asserts that the faith is essentially the same both of the Church of Rome and of Orthodoxy. He asserts that the Councils held by the West alone cannot be considered “ecumenical”, because they did not include the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchates. He disdains the claim of the Eastern Catholic Churches united to Rome as being apostolic. He criticizes the present Canon Law of the Eastern Catholic Church. He claims that the union which took place between some Eastern Churches with Rome in the past three centuries was a great mistake. He recognizes the primacy but only of honor to the Church of Rome. He thinks it is a matter of conscience to face the division of the churches. He asserts that “To prolong the schism is to remain in sin.” He calls for the double communion of the Melkite Church both with Rome and with the Orthodox Churches. His initiative led to the Declaration of 1995 which was signed individually by the greatest majority of bishops present (25 out of 28) and to the subsequent statement approved unanimously by the Fathers of the Synod of 1996.
In a review of the book by Father (now Archbishop) Cyril Salim Boustros, Archbishop Boustros, now successor of Archbishop Zoghby on the see of Baalbeck, concludes his article by two remarks:
- There is no doubt that the situation of the Eastern Catholic Churches in their relation to Rome, especially from the administrative point of view is not the ideal situation expected to exist between the Apostolic Eastern Sees and the Apostolic See of Rome. However, we could not conclude that our forefathers committed a mistake by proclaiming their union to Rome, and that it would have been better if they stayed as they were. Who knows what would have happened if union didn’t take place? No one can judge of possible things which might have happened. All we can do is to study in an objective way its positive and negative results.
- It is not allowed in any way to affirm that the Orthodox Patriarchs and bishops are the only legitimate successors of the Apostles over the Eastern sees under the claim that they represent the authentic Eastern tradition. The true Eastern tradition, according to the assertion of His Excellency (Archbishop Zoghby), supposes communion with the see of Rome. This is why His Excellency did not break the communion with Rome when he reestablished communion with the Antiochian Orthodox see and through it with the whole Orthodoxy.
We support the position of His Excellency and we deduce from it that the Greek Orthodox, because of their refusal of communion with Rome, — regardless of the reasons for this refusal — do not represent the Eastern tradition but partially; because the complete Eastern tradition requires absolutely the communion with Rome, although in a special way as it was in the first millennium. On the other hand, the Greek Catholics, by keeping their union with the see of Rome, have kept a fundamental principle of Eastern tradition, especially the Antiochian tradition. However this principle has been exposed in its application to different things which deformed it, so that communion almost became absorption. Therefore, the Greek Catholics also do not represent the Eastern tradition but partially. Consequently, we can affirm that neither the Greek Orthodox nor the Greek Catholic represent fully the Eastern tradition, although both churches have kept it partially.
Archbishop Zoghby declared individually his reunion with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch without cutting out his communion with the Catholic See of Rome. Now the question is addressed to both Churches: Does the Roman Catholic Church accept an Eastern Catholic bishop who proclaims his communion with the Orthodox Church? And does the Orthodox Church accept communion with a bishop who is still in communion with the Catholic See of Rome? As we wait for the answer from East and West, we offer our supplications to God and we join our prayer to the prayer of Jesus Christ the only head of the Church: “Father, let them all be one, so that the world will believe that You sent me.” (John 17:21)
(End of Bostros’ remarks)
So far, neither the Catholic West nor the Orthodox East accepted the Zoghby initiative. However, this initiative has sharpened our yearning for unity, looking forward for the day when the prayer of Christ will be fulfilled. We Melkites who took a risk and keep hoping beyond hope, may comfort ourselves with the well known saying: “It is better to love and lose, than not to love at all.”