Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 

Question:

"As Melkite Catholics, are we allowed to participate in the prayer services (such as Vespers) of our Antiochian Orthodox counterpart? I would like to know: What are the rules?"

Bishop John's Answer:

Thank you very much for your question regarding attending services with the Antiochian Orthodox. Vatican II urged all Catholics to become more familiar with Eastern Orthodox Christians, since there is so little that separates them. The present Holy Father is most eager to work toward a reunion of the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. For us as Melkites, the issue is even more pressing, since we have common family roots - many of our families are inter-related, and we have so much in common. You probably notice that the music and services are so very similar. By all means attend the Offices with the Antiochian Orthodox and pray with them, as well as inviting them to services in our Melkite churches. However, we do not have full Communion re-established with them yet. At present, we refrain from receiving Communion in each other's churches, ... not because we are better than they, nor they better than us ... we refrain as a recognition that both sides have to work harder toward reunion so that one day we may all intercommunicate and enjoy that unity that Christ God prayed for so fervently at His Last Supper with the Apostles, when He gave us the Divine Liturgy as a celebration of full communion with the Father and each other through Him in the Holy Spirit.
 

Question:

I am an orthodox Christian and I am wondering if the Byzantine rite Catholic Church will ever unite under the mother church of Constantinople. We are so similar in almost everything that it's a shame for us to be apart, from the ecumenical patriarch Bartholomeow.

Bishop John's Answer:

Thank you for your candid question. Books filling innumerable libraries have been written pro and con your question. I don't intend to give you a last answer. However, you may consider the following facts: The Holy Scriptures never promised primacy to St. Andrew who is traditionally believed to be the founder of the Patriarchal See of Constantinople. In fact, the See of Constantinople became listed as apostolic See late in history, due to the residence of the Emperor.

Our Lord gave St. Peter the "Keys to the kingdom of heaven …" (Matthew 16:19) He told him: "You are Peter (the Rock), and upon this Rock I will build my Church … etc." (Matthew 16:18) He previously had changed his name from Simon to Peter.(Mark 3:16) Despite his weakness, Peter was entrusted by the Lord to "strengthen his brothers." The Lord told him: "Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat. But I prayed that your own faith may not fail. And, once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:32) Among the Apostolic Sees, Rome alone claims to be the model to other churches in falling in no heresy. Peter's name is always mentioned in the Scriptures at the top of the lists of the Apostles. (Cf. Matthew 10:2; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13, I Corinth 15:5-8) Were any of the above prerogatives given to Andrew or to any of the other Apostles?" Can His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, successor of St. Andrew, claim any of these? I think that the Eastern Catholics, despite their small number and their many limitations, are called to show the other Eastern Christian brothers and sisters the way to unity not "under," but "with" the Successor of Peter.

Let us pray for the unity of all the followers of Christ, as Our Lord prayed at the Last Supper, "That all may be one." God bless all the people of good will who are working to make the wish of Christ come true.

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