Geneva, New York

Before the Incarnation of God

  • 168 BC-70 AD Late Second Temple period: the main internal struggles amongst the Jews were between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, as well as the Essenes and Zealots.
  • 168 BC martyrdom of the Holy Seven Maccabees, their mother Solomonia, and their teacher Eleazar.
  • 167-160 BC Revolt of the Maccabees under Judas Maccabeus.
  • 165 BC Restoration of Jewish worship at the Temple in Jerusalem; the Temple is purified and the idols erected there by Antiochus IV are destroyed; the reconsecration of the Temple becomes an annual feast of dedication in the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah (the wicks of the menorah miraculously burned for eight days, even though there was only enough sacred oil for one day's lighting).
  • 63 BC Judea becomes a Roman client kingdom (Iudaea Province by 6 AD).
  • 46 BC Julius Caesar institutes Julian Calendar.
  • 40 The Idumean Herod the Great, son of Antipater, was designated "King of the Jews" by the Roman Senate.
  • 27 BC-180 AD Pax Romana.
  • 20 BC Herod the Great begins a massive renovation and expansion of the Second Temple complex; treaty between Rome and Persia fixes boundary between the two empires along the Euphrates.

The Nativity of God & The New Testament era 

Apostolic era (33-100)

Ante-Nicene era (100-325)

Nicene era (325-451)


Byzantine era (451-843)

Late Byzantine era (843-1054)

Post-Roman Schism (1054-1453)

Post-Imperial era (1453-1821)

Modern era (1821-1917)

Communist era (1917-1991)

Post-Communist era (1991-Present)

Timeline of the Orthodox Church in America

Early Visits and Missions (530-1900)

  • 530 St. Brendan the Navigator lands in Newfoundland, Canada, establishing a short-lived community of Irish monks.
  • 1738 Conversion of Col. Philip Ludwell III of Virginia at Russian church in London.
  • 1741 Divine Liturgy celebrated on a Russian ship off the coast of Alaska.
  • 1767 Community of Orthodox Greeks establishes itself in New Smyrna, Spanish Florida.
  • 1787 The US Constitution is drafted in Philadelphia, embodying the ideal of secular government with deliberate separation of "church and state" (First Amendment).
  • 1794 Missionaries, including Herman of Alaska, arrive at Kodiak Island, bringing Orthodoxy to Russian Alaska.
  • 1796 Martyrdom of Juvenaly of Alaska.
  • 1799 Ioasaph (Bolotov) consecrated in Irkutsk as first bishop for Alaska, but dies in a shipwreck during his return.
  • 1803 Louisiana Purchase expands American territory beyond Mississippi River.
  • 1804 The double-headed eagle became a motif widely used in Tlingit art, after the Russian-Tlingit Battle of Sitka in 1804, when Aleksandr Baranov, the first governor of colonial Russian Alaska and manager of the Russian-America Company, presented the Kiks.adi Sitka Tlingit leaders with a large medallion on which was found the Russian imperial symbol.[1]
  • 1816 Martyrdom of Peter the Aleut near San Francisco.
  • 1817 Russian colony of Fort Ross established 60 miles from San Francisco.
  • 1819 Various Spanish territories ceded to United States, including Florida.
  • 1824 Fr. John Veniaminov comes to Unalaska, Alaska.
  • 1825 First native priest, Jacob Netsvetov.
  • 1834 Fr. John Veniaminov moves to Sitka, Alaska; liturgy and catechism translated into Aleut.
  • 1830 Saints Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church is founded on Saint Paul Island (Alaska), in the Bering Sea.[2]
  • 1836 Imperial ukaz regarding Alaskan education issued from Czar Nicholas I that students were to become faithful members of the Orthodox Church, loyal subjects of the Czar, and loyal citizens; Fr. John Veniaminov returns to Russia.
  • 1837 Death of Herman of Alaska on Spruce Island.
  • 1840 Consecration of Fr. John Veniaminov as bishop with the name Innocent.
  • 1841 Return of Innocent of Alaska to Sitka; sale of Fort Ross property to an American citizen; pastoral school established in Sitka.
  • 1843 First mission school for the Eskimos was established at Nushagak by Russian-Greek Orthodox Church.[3]
  • 1844 Formation of seminary in Sitka.[note 1]
  • 1845 Former Republic of Texas joins United States.
  • 1846 Pacific Northwest received by United States via treaty with United Kingdom.
  • 1848 Consecration of St. Michael Cathedral in Sitka; Pacific Southwest won from Mexico by United States.
  • 1850 Alaskan episcopal see and seminary moved to Yakutsk, Russia.
  • 1858 Peter (Lysakov) consecrated as auxiliary bishop for Alaska with Innocent's primary see moved to Yakutsk.
  • 1864 Holy Trinity Church, first Orthodox parish established on United States soil in New Orleans, Louisiana, by Greeks.
  • 1865 First Divine Liturgy celebrated in New York City, by Fr. Agapius Honcharenko.
  • 1867 Alaska purchased by United States from Russia;[note 2] Bp. Paul (Popov) succeeds Bp. Peter.
  • 1868 First Russian parish established in US territory in San Francisco, California; Innocent of Alaska becomes Metropolitan of Moscow.
  • 1870 Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska formed by the Church of Russia with Bp. John (Mitropolsky) as ruling hierarch; Nicholas Bjerring, a Roman Catholic layman, converts to Orthodoxy and becomes priest of a Russian chapel in New York City.
  • 1871-72 Visit of Russian Grand Duke Alexis to the United States.
  • 1872 See of the Aleutians diocese moved to San Francisco, placing it outside the defined boundaries of the diocese (i.e., Alaska).
  • 1876 Bp. John (Mitropolsky) recalled to Russia.
  • 1879 Bp. Nestor (Zass) succeeds John (Metropolsky).
  • 1882 Bp. Nestor (Zass) drowns in Bering Sea.
  • 1883 Fr. Nicholas Bjerring, priest of the Russian chapel in New York City, converts to Presbyterianism.
  • 1886-1895 In the face of their shamans' inability to treat Old World diseases including smallpox, many Tlingit people (an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America), converted to Orthodox Christianity.[4][note 3]
  • 1888 Bp. Vladimir (Sokolovsky) becomes Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska.
  • 1890-1917 Greek Immigration to USA: widespread unemployment and economic problems led to migrations to the US of 450,000 Greeks, one-fifth of the total population.
  • 1891 Fr. Alexis Toth, a Uniate priest, petitions to be received along with his parish in Minneapolis into the Russian church; Bp. Nicholas (Adoratsky) assigned as Bishop of Alaska but is transferred before taking up his post; Nicholas (Ziorov) becomes ruling bishop of the Alaskan diocese.
  • 1892 Fr. Alexis Toth and his parish in Minneapolis received into Russian church; Carpatho-Russian Uniate parishes in Illinois, Connecticut, and several in Pennsylvania soon follow; first Serbian parish established in Jackson, California; Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox parish founded in New York City; Greek and Russian parishes founded in Chicago; first American-born person ordained, Fr. Sebastian Dabovich.
  • 1895 Archim. Raphael (Hawaweeny) arrives in America; Fr. John Kochurov arrives in America and becomes priest of the Russian parish in Chicago; Fr. Anatole (Kamensky) arrives in Alaska; first Syrian parish in Brooklyn, New York, founded by Raphael of Brooklyn; first clergy conference, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
  • 1896 Bp. Nicholas (Ziorov) reports to the Holy Synod of Russia that "the commemoration of the Emperor and the Reigning House during the divine services brings forth dismay and apprehension among Orthodox in America of non-Russian background"; Alexander Hotovitsky appointed as rector in New York; Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church is chartered by a special act of the New York State Legislature, being the first Greek Church founded in New York.
  • 1897 Bp. Nicholas (Ziorov) and Fr. Sebastian Dabovich petition Church of Serbia to oversee Serbian parishes in America, but are rebuffed due to an inability to support the infrastructure.
  • 1898 Bp. Nicholas (Ziorov) returns to Russia; Tikhon (Belavin) becomes Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska; American annexation of Hawaii.

Beyond Alaska (1900-1918)

Revolution and Rivalry (1918-1943)

Emergence of American Orthodoxy (1943-1970)

Union and Division (1970-1994)

Ligonier and Beyond (1994-present)

Timeline of Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic relations

Apostolic and Ante-Nicene Era

Conciliar Era

  • 325 Original Nicene Creed ratified at First Ecumenical Council.
  • 330 Founding of Constantinople as New Rome, renaming the city of Byzantium.
  • 357 Pope Liberius signs Semi-Arian creed (possibly under duress).
  • 379 Emperor Gratian permits Roman pope authority over neighboring bishops.
  • 381 Nicene Creed expanded at Second Ecumenical Council.
  • 382 First use of papal title Pontifex Maximus, as Emperor Gratian relinquishes the former pagan imperial religious title and bestows it on Pope Damasus I of Rome.[1][note 1]
  • 395-405 Series of correspondences between Augustine of Hippo and Jerome, where Augustine maintains the validity of the Septuagint, while Jerome favours the Hebrew (Rabinnical) Bible which becomes the OT basis for the Latin Vulgate.[note 2]
  • 410 Rome sacked by Visigoth invaders.
  • 417 Pope Zosimus waffles on Pelagianism.
  • 447 Pope Leo I wrote to the bishops of Sicily, rebuking them for permitting baptism at Epiphany, as the Greeks did, and ordering them to observe the Roman custom of baptizing on Easter and Whitsunday.[2]
  • 451 Fourth Ecumenical Council notes that Rome's primacy is because it was "the imperial city"; Tome of Pope St. Leo I endorsed by Council after review.
  • 455 Rome sacked by Vandals.
  • 476 Fall of the Western Roman Empire as Romulus Augustulus, the last Western Roman emperor, is deposed by the German Odoacer, leaving the emperor in the Greek East as the sole imperial authority, and an unstable political environment in the West where the Church of Rome slowly developed a centralized structure, concentrating religious as well as secular authority in the office of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome.[note 3]
  • ca. 537 Pope Vigilius allegedly writes letter endorsing Monophysitism.
  • 537-752 Byzantine Papacy.
  • 589 Insertion of Filioque into Nicene Creed by local council in Toledo, Spain.
  • ca. 590-604 Pope St. Gregory the Great rejects the title of "universal bishop" for any bishop.
  • 663-668 The island of Sicily passed to the Greek rite during the six years when Constans II made Syracuse his residence and the capital of the Byzantine Empire.[2]
  • 680-681 Sixth Ecumenical Council anathematizes Pope Honorius as a Monothelite heretic.[note 4]
  • 692 The Pentarchy form of government of universal Christendom by five patriarchal sees received formal ecclesiastical sanction at the Council in Trullo, held in Constantinople, which ranked the five sees as Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
  • 710 Last papal visit to Constantinople until 1967.
  • ca. 750 Forging of the Donation of Constantine, a false document claiming to be from St. Constantine granting universal secular power to the Pope and his successors.
  • 732-33 Byzantine Emperor Leo the Isaurian transfers the territories of Southern Italy (Sicily and Calabria), Greece, and the Aegean away from the jurisdiction of the Pope to that of the Ecumenical Patriarch in response to Pope St. Gregory III of Rome's support of a revolt in Italy against iconoclasm, in effect throwing the Papacy out of the Empire.
  • 752 Founding of Papal States (lasting until 1870).

Estrangement and Schism

  • 792 Charlemagne accuses "Greeks" of deleting Filioque from original Creed.
  • 800 Usurpation of Western Roman Empire by Charlemagne.
  • 809 Pope Leo III forbids addition of Filioque to Creed and has original Creed in both Greek and Latin inscribed on silver tablets displayed in Rome.
  • 869-870 Robber Council of 869-870 deposes St. Photius the Great.
  • 870 Gradual collapse of the Moravian mission beginning with the death of Prince Rostislav of Moravia, who is captured and deposed by his nephew, Svátopulk, who favours more the Latin liturgy and Bavarian clergy represented by the Frankish Bp. Wiching of Nitra (consecrated in 880 as the first Bp. of Nitria);[note 5]
  • 874 The Great Moravian king Svátopulk subjugated the Vistulan tribe of Lesser Poland, resulting in the Christianization of Little Poland in the Orthodox Cyrillo-Methodian style, (as opposed to the Western Bohemian style), as early as the end of 9th century, before the conversion of Polish King Mieszko I in 966;[note 6]
  • 879-880 Council in Constantinople (endorsed by papacy) reinstates St. Photius and anathematizes any changes to Nicene Creed, including the Filioque.[note 7]
  • 962 Founding of Holy Roman Empire.
  • 966 Mieszko I, the first historical ruler of Poland, accepts Baptism, after marrying the Christian princess Dobrawa in 965, who as a Czech, had strong Orthodox connections.[note 8]
  • 996 After the repose of Pope John XV (985-996), the Frankish King Otto III installs his cousin Bruno of Carinthia as Pope Gregory V (996–999), the first German (non-Roman) Pope, marking the point at which the Roman papacy is converted to a Frankish organization.[3][note 9]
  • 1009 Patr. Sergius II of Constantinople removes name of Pope Sergius IV from the diptychs of Constantinople, because the pope had written a letter to the patriarch including the Filioque.[4][note 10]
  • 1014 First use of Filioque by Pope of Rome, at coronation of Holy Roman Emperor Henry II.
  • 1022 At a Council of Pavia, Pope Benedict VIII officially reaffirmed the celibacy of the clergy (first documented at the Synod of Elvira in Spain, ca. 306 AD), banning marriages and concubines for priests.[5][note 11]
  • 1054 Excommunication of Ecumenical Patriarch Michael Cerularius by Cardinal Humbertus, papal legate, the conventional date point of the Great Schism. Michael returns the favor by excommunicatingthe Pope (who had died, rendering his legate's authority null).
  • 1059 Beginning of the use of the term transubstantiation in West.
  • 1066 Invasion of England by Duke William of Normandy, carrying papal banner and with papal blessing as a crusade against the "erring English church," engineered by Hildebrand, archdeacon of Rome.
  • 1073-1085 Hildebrand becomes Pope Gregory VII and institutes Gregorian Reforms, the largest increase of papal power in history, including the claim to be able to depose secular rulers.
  • 1075 Pope Gregory VII issues Dictatus papae, an extreme statement of papal power.
  • ca. 1078-80 Council of Burgos reorganizes national Church of Spain as Roman Archbishopric, replaces use of Mozarabic rite with Roman. Sentences Bishops who refuse to recognize decrees to imprisonment.
  • 1095-1272 Crusades promise salvation to warriors from the West.
  • 1098 Abp. Anselm of Canterbury completes Cur Deus Homo, marking a radical divergence of Western theology of the atonement from that of the East; Pope Urban II called the Council of Bari, attended by more than 180 Roman Catholic bishops, including noted theologian Anselm of Canterbury (the founder of rationalistic Western Scholasticism) who defended the filioque clause, with the result that the Roman Catholic-dominated council affirmed the filoque and anathematized those who were opposed to it.[6][7]
  • 1139 Pope Innocent II declared all priestly marriages annulled and declared clerical celibacy the rule for all Roman Catholic priests from that day forward (Second Lateran Council, canons 6 and 7).
  • 1170 Council of Constantinople, attended by many Eastern and Western Bishops, on the reunion of the Eastern and Latin Churches, without effect.[8][9]
  • 1180 Last formal reception of Latins to communion at an Orthodox altar, in Antioch.
  • 1182 Maronites (formerly Monothelite heretics) submit to Rome.
  • 1187 Saladin retakes Jerusalem after destroying crusader army at Battle of Hattin, and returns Christian holy places to the Orthodox Church.
  • 1204 Fourth Crusade sacks Constantinople; Crusaders set up Latin Empire and Patriarchate of Constantinople (lasting until 1261).[note 12]
  • 1205 Latins annex Athens and convert the Parthenon into a Roman Catholic Church - Santa Maria di Athene, later Notre Dame d'Athene.
  • 1211 Venetian crusaders conquer Byzantine Crete.
  • 1224 The Byzantines recover Thessaloniki and surrounding area, liberated by the Greek ruler of Epirus Theodore Ducas Comnenus.
  • 1231 Monk-martyrs and Confessors of the Monastery of Panagia of Kantara, on Cyprus, who suffered under the Latins (1231).[10][11]
  • 1234 Delegates of the two churches met first at Nicaea and then at Nymphaeum (Asia Minor), negotiating the issues related to the union of the Churches, including dogmatic issues, however the dialogue came to a dead end.[12]
  • 1236 Pope Gregory IX issued a crusading bull authorizing a crusade against the Byzantines under Emperor John Vatatzes, on the occasion of the joint Byzantine-Bulgarian siege of Latin Constantinople.[12]
  • 1259 Byzantines defeat Latin Principality of Achaea at the Battle of Pelagonia, marking the beginning of the Byzantine recovery of Greece.
  • ca.1259-80 Martyrdom by Latins of monks of Iveron Monastery.[13][14][15][note 13]
  • 1260-1571 Subjugation of Church of Cyprus to the Roman Catholic Church.
  • 1261 End of Latin occupation of Constantinople and restoration of Orthodox patriarchs; Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos makes Mystras seat of the new Despotate of Morea, where a Byzantine renaissance occurred; Pope Urban IV endeavoured without success to stir up a crusade to restore the Latin Empire of Constantinople.
  • 1263 Roman Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas writes Contra Errores Graecorum (Against the Errors of the Greeks).
  • 1264 The festival of Corpus Christi ("the Body of Christ") is instituted by Pope Urban IV.
  • 1269 Orthodox patriarch returns to Antioch after a 171-year exile and usurpation by Latin patriarch.
  • 1274 Council of Lyons fails to force Orthodox capitulation to papacy.
  • 1281 Pope Martin IV authorizes a Crusade against the newly re-established Byzantine Empire in Constantinople, excommunicating Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos and the Greeks and renouncing the union of 1274; French and Venetian expeditions set out toward Constantinople but are forced to turn back in the following year due to the Sicilian Vespers.
  • 1282 Death of 26 martyrs of Zographou monastery on Mount Athos, martyred by the Latins.
  • 1287 Last record of, Amalfion, Benedictine monastery on Mount Athos.
  • 1300-1400 The "Chronicle of Morea" (Το χρονικό του Μορέως) narrates events of the establishment of Western European feudalism in mainland Greece, mainly in the Morea/Peloponnese, by the Franks following the Fourth Crusade, covering a period from 1204 to 1292.
  • 1302 Papal bull Unam Sanctam declares submission to pope necessary for salvation.
  • 1379 Beginning of Western "Great Schism," during which there are eventually 3 rival popes.
  • 1341-1351 Councils in Constantinople vindicate Palamite theology of hesychasm against Barlaamist philosophy.
  • 1409 Council of Pisa is convened and presided over by Cardinal de Malesset, Bishop of Palestrina, and attended by 4 Latin patriarchs, 22 cardinals, 80 bishops and hundreds of lower clergy, whereby both reigning Popes Gregory XII of Rome and Benedict XIII of Avignon were deposed as heretics, being a recognition of the fact that Patriarchs and Popes were subordinate to the Councils of the Church.[16][17]
  • 1414-1418 Council of Constance ends Western "Great Schism;" this council emphasized the Conciliar Movement over the authority of the pope.
  • 1415 The 13th Session of the Council of Constance (June 15, 1415) decreed that the administering of the Eucharist in Both Kinds to the Laity was to be forbidden, and that the Laity should receive the Eucharist under one kind only, that of the Bread, even though the Council itself noted that: "Christ instituted and administered to his disciples this venerable sacrament under both kinds of bread and wine; and that it was received by the faithful in the primitive church under both kinds."[18][19][note 14][note 15]
  • 1423-24 Council of Siena in the Roman Catholic Church was the high point of conciliarism, emphasizing the leadership of the bishops gathered in council, but the conciliarism expressed there was later branded as a heresy.
  • 1433 Nicolas of Cusa writes his major work on church government, The Catholic Concordance (De concordantia catholica), a manifesto of conciliarism, advancing the notion of a constitutional papacy subject to the authority of a council representative of the different parts of Christendom, balancing hierarchy with consent.
  • 1439 Council of Florence fails to force Orthodox capitulation to papacy and confesses Purgatory as dogma; St. Mark of Ephesus courageously defended Orthodoxy at the Council of Florence, being the only Eastern bishop to refuse to sign the decrees of the council, regarded as a Pillar of Orthodoxy by the Church.[note 16]
  • 1444 Catholic priest Lorenzo Valla proves Donation of Constantine a forgery.
  • 1450 Council of Constantinople convoked by Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos declined to accept the resolutions passed by the Council of Florence which were in favor of the union of the Greek and Latin churches.[8][9]
  • 1452 Unification of Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches in the cathedral of Hagia Sophia on December 12, five months before the city fell, on the West's terms, when Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos, under pressure from Rome, allows the union to be proclaimed by the former Metropolitan of Kiev Isidore (who had participated in the Council of Florence and was now a cardinal in the Roman Catholic church) who read the solemn promulgation of union and celebrated the union liturgy, including the name of the pope, arousing the greatest agitation among the population of the city.[20][21][note 17]

Renaissance and Modern Era

  • 1453 Fall of Constantinople to Ottoman Turks;[note 18] numerous Greek scholars flee to West, triggering European Renaissance.
  • 1463 Greek scholar and pro-unionist Basilios Bessarion, formerly an Orthodox Metropolitan, later becoming a Roman Catholic Cardinal, is given the purely ceremonial title of Latin Patriarch of Constantinople by Pope Pius II.
  • 1472 Decrees of the Council of Ferrara-Florence repudiated by Patriarchate of Contantinople; martyrdom of Isidore of Yuriev and 72 companions for refusing to convert to Roman Catholicism.
  • 1484 Synod of Constantinople with all four Patriarchs in attendance, calling itself "ecumenical", officially repudiated the union of the Greek and Latin churches discussed at Florence in 1439, and determined that Latin converts to Orthodoxy should be received into the Church by Chrismation.
  • 1518 The Greek Orthodox Church of Saints Peter and Paul is founded in Naples, Italy, to serve the needs of Orthodox faithful who became refugees after the Fall of Constantinople.
  • 1539 The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George in Venice is founded in Venice Italy (completed in 1573), to serve the needs of Orthodox faithful in the West.
  • 1545-63 Council of Trent answers charges of Protestant Reformation.
  • 1568 Pope Pius V recognizes four Great Doctors of the Eastern Church, John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Athanasius.
  • 1569 Union of Lublin unites Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania into a single state, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, placing the Ruthenian Orthodox lands of Belarus, and modern Ukraine under direct Roman Catholic rule.
  • 1573 Pope Gregory XIII establishes Congregation for the Greeks, a committee of cardinals who addressed issues relating to the Greeks in southern Italy and Sicily in the hope of resolving tensions between Greeks and Latins.
  • 1576 Pope Gregory XIII establishes Pontifical Greek College of St. Athanasius (popularly known as the 'Greek College') in Rome, which he charged with educating Italo-Byzantine clerics.
  • 1582 Institution of Gregorian Calendar.
  • 1583 Arrival of the first Jesuits in Constantinople and constant proselytization by the Roman Catholic Church in the Ottoman Empire.[22][note 19]
  • 1595-1596 Pope Clement VIII declared in his Constitution Magnus Dominus (23 Dec. 1595), which announced the Union of Brest, that Orthodox Chrism was not valid and had to be repeated by a Roman Catholic bishop and that all Orthodox clergy had to accept the union;[note 20] Union of Brest-Litovsk and creation of the Unia (Eastern/Byzantine/Greek Catholics);[note 21] after initially having supported rapproachement with Rome, Bp. Hedeon (Balaban) of Lviv opposed the Union of Brest until his death; in Italy, the Greek language was forbidden in the liturgy and the College of St Athanasius (formally established in Rome in 1577) became one of the main centres of anti-Orthodox propaganda;[23] Pope Clement VIII also replaced all Orthodox bishops with his own people, a policy that alienated local Orthodox populations, who yearned for the religious tolerance enjoyed by Ottoman subjects.[23]
  • 1597 Death of Nicephorus, the Protosyngellos of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who had supported the Orthodox synod at Brest (against the Uniate synod), and was sentenced to prison by the high court of Poland on charges of espionage.
  • 1611 Gallican French theologian Edmund Richer (1559-1631), author of De ecclesiastica et politica potestate, held the view that ecclesiastical councils, not the papacy, was the method by which doctrinal truth was established, but his work was censured at the Council of Aix-en-Provence in 1612; this ‘richérisme’ strongly influenced 18th century Jansenism.
  • 1620 Council of Moscow presided over by Patr. Philaret of Moscow insisted that only Orthodox Baptism by triple immersion was valid, and that all Latin converts had to be rebaptized.
  • 1623 Death of turbulent Uniate Bp. Josaphat Kuntsevych who openly persecuted the Orthodox to such a degree that he was even rebuked by the Lithuanian chancellor Leo Sapiega, the representative of the Polish king himself.[24][note 22]
  • 1633 Ethiopian emperor Fasilides expels Jesuits and other Roman Catholic missionaries from Ethiopia.
  • 1646 Union of Uzhhorod joins 63 Ruthenian Orthodox priests from the Carpathian Mountains to Roman Catholic Church on terms similar to Union of Brest.
  • 1648 Martyrdom of Igumen Athanasius of Brest-Litovsk due to his very strong opposition to the Union of Brest.
  • 1671 French Roman Catholic nun Margaret Mary Alacoque promoted devotion to the Cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in its modern form.[note 23]
  • 1672 Synod of Jerusalem convened by Patr. Dositheos Notaras, refuting article by article the Calvinistic confession of Cyril Lucaris, defining Orthodoxy relative to Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, and defining the Orthodox Biblical canon; acts of this council are later signed by all five patriarchates (including Russia).
  • 1722 Council in Constantinople, in which Athanasios of Antioch (+1724) and Chrysanthos of Jerusalem (1707-1731) participated, decided for the re-baptism of the Latins.[9][25]
  • 1724 Melkite Schism, in which many Antiochian Orthodox become Greek Catholics; Old Catholic Schism: on October 15, 1724 Roman Catholic Bp. Dominique (Varlet) of Baghdad consecrated the first dissident bishop of Utrecht, Bp. Cornelius van Steenhoven (elected in 1723), as the Church of Holland, (or Church of Utrecht) broke with Rome under its own archbishop and hierarchy, becoming the mother church of the Old Catholic Churches.[note 24]
  • 1740 Pope Benedict XIV (Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini) promulgated the encyclical Pastoralis Romani Pontificis on March 30, in which he enforced and declared that he, his predecessors, and all his successors hold Papal Infallibility, and that ecumenical councils should be discouraged, as they can undermine one of the principle pillars of the papacy - infallibility.
  • 1755 Synod of Constantinople declares Roman Catholic baptism invalid and ordered baptism of converts from Roman Catholicism.
  • 1763 The Jansenist Provincial Council of Utrecht, seed of the future Old Catholic movements, affirmed every Roman Catholic dogma and pronounced the Orthodox Faith to be schismatic and false, signalling not so much a rapprochement with Orthodoxy, but rather a refusal to drift yet further from her, as much of the Roman fold was doing.
  • 1767-1815 Suppression of the Jesuits in Roman Catholic countries, subsequently finding refuge in Orthodox nations, particularly in Russia.
  • ca.1770 About 1,200 Kiev region Uniate churches return to Orthodoxy under political pressure from Russia.
  • 1779 Death of New Hieromartyr and Equal-to-the-Apostles Kosmas Aitolos, who prophecied that Christians should condemn the position of the Pope since he will be the root of many catastrophes: ‘You should curse the Pope, because he will be the cause of harm.’[note 25]
  • 1793-95 Over 2,300 Uniate churches became Orthodox under Tsarina Catherine the Great.
  • 1798 Patriarch Anthimus of Jerusalem contended in the Paternal Teaching (Dhidhaskalia Patriki) that the Ottoman Empire was part of the Divine Dispensation granted by God to protect Orthodoxy from the taint of Roman Catholicism and of Western secularism and irreligion.[26][27][note 26]
  • ca.1830 Slavophile movement co-founded by Alexei Khomiakov and Ivan Kireyevsky in Russia, drawing on the works of Greek patristics, Russian poets and literary critics to reinforce Orthodox Christian values and Slavic cultural traditions, denouncing "westernizations" by Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, and stressing Russian mysticism over Western rationalism.[note 27]
  • 1838 Council of Constantinople held, attended by Patriarchs Gregory VI of Constantinople and Athanasius V of Jerusalem, whose main theme was the Unia, and the extermination of Latin dogmas and usages, in particular Absolution Certificates.[9][28]
  • 1842 Russian diplomat Ivan Sergeyevich Gagarin converted to the Roman Catholic Church and joined the Jesuit Order, becoming dedicated to union between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.[note 28]
  • 1847 Restoration of Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem by Pope Pius IX; 1847 Agreement between the Holy See and Russia.
  • 1848 Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs sent by the primates and synods of the four ancient patriarchates of the Orthodox Church, condemning the Filioque as heresy, declaring the Roman Catholic Church to be heretical, schismatic, and in apostasy, repudiating Ultramontanism and referring to the Photian Council of 879-880 as the "Eighth Ecumenical Council."
  • 1853-56 Crimean War is fought between Russia on the one hand, and the Ottoman Empire, Britain, France, and (later) Sardinia on the other, ostensibly over which church would be recognized as the "sovereign authority" of the Christian faith in the Holy Land, and over Russia's claim of protection over the Greek Christians in the Turkish Empire; the French Catholic Abp. of Paris Marie-Dominique-Auguste Sibour pronounded that this was a holy war against the Orthodox.[note 29]
  • 1854 Declaration of Immaculate Conception of Mary as dogma.
  • 1857-66 J.P. Migne produces the Patrologia Graeca in 161 volumes, including both the Eastern Fathers and those Western authors who wrote before Latin became predominant in the Western Church in the 3rd century.
  • 1863 Abbé Vladimir Guettée, a French Roman Catholic priest who converted to the Orthodox Church, writes "The Papacy: Its Historic Origin and Primitve Relations with the Eastern Churches", a strong criticism of the Papacy.
  • 1870 Declaration of Papal Infallibility to be dogma at First Vatican Council.
  • 1875 Uniate diocese of Chelm in modern day Poland incorporated into Russian Orthodox Church under Alexander II, with all of the local Uniates converted to Orthodoxy.
  • 1889 Roman Catholic priest Fr. Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvares (Julius of Goa) and hundreds of Goan Catholic families (approximately 5000 Roman Catholics) left the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Goa and Daman and joined the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church as the Independent Catholic Church of Ceylon, Goa and India, with Fr. Antonio being ordained as the first (Latin-Rite) Oriental-Orthodox Metropolitan of Goa-Ceylon (1889-1923).[note 30]
  • 1894 Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae (on the Reunion of Christendom), an Encyclical Letter of Pope Leo XIII promulgated on June 20, called for the reunion of Eastern and Western churches into the "Unity of the Faith", while also condemning Freemasonry; criticized by Ecumenical Patriarch Anthimus VII in 1895; Pope Leo XIII issues Orientalium Dignitas, a papal encyclical concerning the Eastern Catholic Churches including a prohibition aganist Latinizing influences among Eastern Catholics.
  • 1895 Council of Constantinople, convened and presided over by Patriarch Anthimus VII, and attended by 13 bishops, condemns all the Franco-Latin heresies, including the new false dogma of the so-called Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary by St. Anne, and the blasphemous teaching that the pope is supposedly infallible and undeposable.[9][29]
  • 1908 English Roman Catholic priest and Byzantine scholar Dr. Adrian Fortescue writes The Orthodox Eastern Church, written to teach Roman Catholics and people in the West about the Orthodox Church.
  • 1914 Martyrdom of Fr. Maxim Sandovich, Protomartyr of the Lemko people.
  • 1918 The "St. Sophia Redemption Committee" is formed in Britain after the Armistice, whose members included two future Foreign Secretaries and many prominent public figures, seeking to restore Hagia Sophia into an Orthodox Church (1918-1922);[30] Roman Catholic opposition to the St Sophia Redemption Committee included Msgr. Manuel Bidwell (Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Westminster) who was on the initial committee, Roman Catholic British MP Sir Stuart Coats also on the committee, Cardinal Pietro Gasparri the Papal Secretary of State, and the Vatican who wished to block Hagia Sophia from becoming a Greek Orthodox Church again according to the Grand Vizier of Constantinople who had an offer of Papal support.[31][note 31]
  • 1924-26 Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky (Warsaw) is demolished by Polish authorities less than 15 years after its construction.
  • 1923 Pope Pius XI proclaimed the controversial Uniate Bp. Josaphat Kuntsevych a "hieromartyr" on the 300th anniversary of his death, in the encyclical Ecclesiam Dei (The Church of God).
  • 1925 Concordat of 1925 between Poland and the Holy See included recognition of the Uniate Church in Poland.[32]
  • 1926 The Benedictine monastery Chevetogne Abbey is founded in Belgium, dedicated to Christian unity, being a ‘double rite’ monastery having both Western (Latin rite) and Eastern (Byzantine rite) churches holding services every day; the Society of St. John Chrysostom is founded to promote awareness and friendship in the Christian West for Christians of the East, through prayer and liturgy, conferences and lectures, and praying for the unity of the Churches of East and West; Pope Pius XI decides to attempt the establishment of a provisional hierarchy for the Roman Catholic Church without the knowledge of the Soviet government;[note 32] French Jesuit scholar and Roman Catholic bishop Michel d'Herbigny receives episcopal ordination in secret and behind closed doors from Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII) in the failed attempt to establish a clandestine hierarchy for the Catholic Church in the Soviet Union during the religious persecutions of the 1920s.
  • 1929 Papacy and the Kingdom of Italy ratify the Lateran Treaty, recognizing sovereignty of Papacy within the new state of the Vatican City, bringing to an end the so-called "Roman Question";[note 33] Russicum (Russian College or 'College of St. Therese') founded in Vatican City by Pope Pius XI and run by the Jesuits; Papal Bull Cum data fuerit regulates Uniate clergy in the US, mandating celibacy, resulting in the return of several parishes back to Orthodoxy in 1938.
  • 1930 A Pan-Orthodox Consultation in Mount Athos concluded that the only possible relations on the part of the Orthodox toward the Roman Catholics was "Relations of defense on the part of the Orthodox toward Roman Catholic Proselytism."[33]
  • 1937 Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Divini Redemptoris, condemning Communism and the Soviet regime; the Serbian Orthodox Church led by Patr. Varnava (Rosic) of Serbia and Bp. Nikolai Velimirovic fiercely resisted the attempt by the government of Yugoslavian Prime Minister Milan Stojadinović to implement a Concordat with the Vatican, which would have virtually established the Roman Catholic Church in Yugoslavia and granted it privileges denied to the Orthodox Church, resulting in the proposal never being ratified.[note 34]
  • 1938 In the Volhynia region of modern day Western Ukraine, by 1938 the Polish government had overseen the destruction of 190 Orthodox churches and converted a further 150 churches to Roman Rite Catholicism, despite its Ukrainian majority, and despite Pope Leo XIII's encycical Orientalium Dignitas of 1894; the few Orthodox churches that were permitted to stay open were forced to use the Polish language in their liturgies.[34] American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese founded, when a group of 37 Carpatho-Russian Eastern Catholic parishes, under the leadership of Fr. Orestes Chornock, were received into the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

WWII and Post-WWII Era

  • 1939 The last remaining Orthodox Church in Lutsk, the Volhynian capital was converted by Polish State decree to Roman Rite Catholicism.[34]
  • 1941-45 Croatian Ustasa[note 35] terrorists, part of whose ideology included Roman Catholic Clericalist Fundamentalism, kill 500,000 Orthodox Serbs, expel 250,000 and force 250,000 to convert to Catholicism;[note 36] the Orthodox in Croatia were forced to wear the Cyrillic letter "P" for Provoslavets, or Orthodox, like the Jews who were forced to wear the Star of David during World War II; [24]martyrdom of Bp. Sava of Gornji Karlovac, and Fr. Djordje Bogic.
  • 1943-44 Hundreds of Orthodox priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church eliminated, tortured and drowned by Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists - Ukrainian Rebel Army, aided by Uniate Metr. Josyf Slipyj who was a spiritual leader of Nazi military units[35][36][note 37] that were later condemned by the Nuremberg tribunal, and who was imprisoned by Soviet authorities for aiding the UPA; zenith of the Papist[note 38] persecution in Poland against Orthodox faithful in the region of Helm and Podlaskia - Holy Poles martyred by the Papists.
  • 1946 Metr. John of Kiev received Fr. Gabriel Kostelnik and twelve other priests from the Unia to Orthodoxy; state-sponsored synod held in Lviv Ukraine dissolves the Union of Brest-Litovsk and integrates the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church into the Russian Orthodox Church, with Soviet authorities arresting resisters or deporting them to Siberia; Croatian Roman Catholic Abp. of Zagreb Aloysius Stepinac is tried and found guilty of collaboration with the fascist Ustaše movement and complicity in allowing the forced conversions of Orthodox Serbs to Catholicism;[37][note 39]
  • 1947 Death of Alexei Kabalyiuk, Apostle of Carpatho-Russia, who played a major role in reviving Orthodoxy in Transcarpathia in the early 20th century.
  • 1948 Martyrdom of Carpatho-Russian priest Protopresbyter Gabriel Kostelnik.
  • 1949 Papal Decree against Communism by Pope Pius XII excommunicates all Catholics collaborating in communist organizations.
  • 1950 Declaration of Bodily Assumption of Mary as dogma.
  • 1952 Ecumenical Patr. Athenagoras officially visited, for the first time in the last one thousand years, the Papal representative in Constantinople, who returned the visit.[33]
  • 1958 Pope John XXIII and Ecumenical Patr. Athenagoras exchanged formal letters calling for peace among the Christian churches.[33]
  • 1962 The secretive Metz Accord is made between the Holy See and the U.S.S.R. (attended by Metr. Nikodim (Rotov) of Leningrad) at Metz, France, on 13 August 1962, renewing the previous pacts of 1942 and 1944 concerning the Vatican's Ostpolitik, by which Eastern Orthodox participation in the Second Vatican Council was authorized in exchange for a non-condemnation of atheistic communism during the conciliar assemblies.[38][39]
  • 1962-1965 Vatican II institutes major reforms, especially liturgical, into Roman Catholic Church; Patr. Maximos IV Sayegh of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church urged reconciliation between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, spoke forcefully against the Latinization of the Eastern Catholic Churches, and championed the Eastern tradition of Christianity, winning a great deal of respect from Eastern Orthodox observers at the council and the approbation of the Ec. Patr. Athenagoras I.
  • 1963 Pope Paul VI announced the relaxation of the Roman Catholic ban on cremation in a confidential letter to bishops and issued his Instruction on 5 July, 1963.[40]

Era of Dialogue

Primacy & Pride

Primacy and Unity in Orthodox Ecclesiology


Primacy and Unity in Orthodox Ecclesiology

The question of universal primacy is a central ecclesiological issue of our time. According to Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, "The issue of primacy is perhaps the most important ecumenical problem."1 A recent agreed statement of the World Councils of Churches shows that, while some degree of ecumenical consensus exists on the issue, much work remains to be done:

Whenever people, local communities or regional churches come together to take counsel and make important decisions, there is need for someone to summon and preside over the gathering for the sake of good order and to help the process of promoting, discerning and articulating consensus. Synods and councils of all times and in all churches demonstrate this clearly. The one who presides is always to be at the service of those among whom he presides for the edification of the Church of God, in love and truth. It is the duty of the president to respect the integrity of local churches, to give voice to the voiceless and to uphold unity in diversity.2

Primacy in Orthodox-Roman Catholic Dialogue

A joint commission of Orthodox and Catholic theologians recognized the prerogative, within the context of conciliarity, of "the bishop of Rome as protos among the patriarchs". Reference.The Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue reached the agreement in a meeting in Ravenna, Italy in October 2007. This is not the same as saying, as some press reports of the document have suggested, that "the Pope has primacy over all bishops, though disagreements about the extent of his authority still continue". ReferenceThe commission went on to state that: "It remains for the question of the role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of all the Churches to be studied in greater depth. What is the specific function of the bishop of the “first see” in an ecclesiology of koinonia and in view of what we have said on conciliarity and authority in the present text? How should the teaching of the first and second Vatican councils on the universal primacy be understood and lived in the light of the ecclesial practice of the first millennium?" (para 43). What is interesting here however is the apparent readiness of the Roman Catholic participants to consider the possibility of interpreting the decisions of the two Vatican councils (including presumably the statements of Vatican 1 on papal primacy) in the light of eccleisal practise of the first millennium.

Papal primacy is often recognized as the greatest single issue dividing the Eastern and Western churches. Fr. John Meyendorff wrote that "The whole ecclesiological debate between East and West is thus reducible to the issue of whether the faith depends on Peter, or Peter on the faith."3 Pope Paul VI said that "the pope…is undoubtedly the most serious obstacle on the path of ecumenism."4

Primacy is an especially pertinent issue in Orthodox-Roman Catholic dialogue. This is not only the case because discussions of primacy naturally begin with the Roman Catholic concept as a point of departure, but also because of some important recent developments. In the 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint, Pope John Paul II wrote:

Whatever relates to the unity of all Christian communities clearly forms part of the concerns of the primacy….I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility in this regard, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation (§95).

However skeptical one may be about the actual application of the Pope's words, nevertheless such openness to dialogue is unprecedented. Many Orthodox theologians have felt a need to respond thoughtfully, for, as Fr. John Meyendorff writes, "the issue placed by the papacy before the consciousness of all Christians is that of a world Christian witness."5

Primacy and Communion Ecclesiology

In order to provide some context, it is worth noting that an important concept underlying much of the ecumenical discussion on the subject of primacy is "communion ecclesiology." Popular in ecumenical circles, it has been enthusiastically accepted by Catholics and Orthodox, who are also responsible for laying some of its basic foundations. Zizioulas, for example, in his book Being as Communion draws on the Eastern Church Fathers to define Christian life within the framework of "communion."

The Orthodox-Roman Catholic Bilateral Consultation in the U.S.A. issued "An Agreed Statement On The Church" in 1974 which describes the basic premise of "communion ecclesiology": "The Church is the communion of believers living in Jesus Christ and the Spirit with the Father. It has its origin and prototype in the Trinity in which there is both distinction of persons and unity based on love, not subordination."6 This is further illustrated in a document published in 1982 by the Joint International Commission entitled "The Mystery of the Church and of the Eucharist in light of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity."7

The influence of this kind of ecclesiological outlook is fundamental to many modern discussions of primacy. For example, Zizioulas writes:

For such a primacy to be accepted and applied an ecclesiology of communion rooted deeply in a theology, and even an ontology of communion, would be necessary. I believe that the 2nd Vatican Council has made an historic advance in this direction, and we can proceed in the deepening of such a theology of communion and apply it to all matters still dividing us, including that of the Roman primacy.8

Many feel a need for Primacy

When John Paul II proposed the question, "Do not many of those involved in ecumenism today feel a need for such a ministry?"9 in 1995, many Orthodox answered strongly in the affirmative. The question of primacy is not only an important ecumenical topic, but a need to examine the issue is keenly felt within Orthodoxy. Fr. Meyendorff states:

A united witness of the universal episcopate of the Church is not simply a pragmatic necessity, but a sign that the Holy Spirit did not abandon the Church… the unity and coherence of [the Church's] witness, the service to the world which it implies, the common action which it requires, can be assured only if the episcopate remains one. The function of the "first bishop" is to serve that unity on the world scale, just as the function of a regional primate is to be the agent of unity on a regional scale.10

The need for a united witness of the Church is a primary consideration. Many have called for renewed thinking about the very concept of primacy itself.

An Orthodox Vision of Primacy

In what ways does the Orthodox understanding of primacy differ from the Roman Catholic view? The Orthodox perspective is rooted in principles drawn from the early canonical tradition. It is worth mentioning that even within Orthodoxy the question deals first and foremost, because of historical considerations, with the legitimate primacy exercised by Rome before the schism.

The Theological Necessity of Primacy

Orthodoxy has never accepted Rome's self-supported claims of universal jurisdiction, but has always rebuffed them. A closer examination, however, reveals the many subtleties of the issue. As Thomas FitzGerald wrote, "Orthodox theologians have not rejected the concept of primacy, but only its development by the Church of Rome."11.

An understanding of corporate personality is important for any study of primacy. Zizioulas writes: "The idea of the incorporation of the 'many' into the 'one,' or of the 'one' as a representative of the 'many' goes back to a time earlier than Paul."12 More directly, he says, "Bishops are not to be understood as individuals, but as heads of communities."13 This would necessitate a single representative showing forth the unity of the episcopate. There is another important point here: that primacy belongs to a see, not to an individual. As Zizioulas states: "In an ecclesiology of communion, we have not a communion of individuals, but of churches."14

The Orthodox understanding of primacy is rooted in the need for taxis. Meyendorff explains:

It is a fact, however, that there has never been a time when the Church did not recognize a certain "order" among first the apostles, then the bishops, and that, in this order, one apostle, St. Peter, and later, one bishop, heading a particular church, occupied the place of a "primate."15

Zizioulas says that the question of Roman primacy must be approached theologically rather than historically; if primacy was only contingent on historical developments, then it could not be viewed as a necessity for the Church.16 His question is, does Roman Primacy belong to the esse of the Church or is it only for her bene esse?

Hierarchy and Concilliarity

Fr. Schmemann wrote: "hierarchy is the very form of concilliarity."17 He sees this as mirroring the divine life of the Trinity. Hierarchy and concilliarity should not be opposed, but go together: "the hierarchical principle belongs to the very essence of the council…"18, and Orthodox church government must be rooted in a "concilliar ontology."19 Zizioulas maintains that "The synodal system is a 'sine qua non conditio' for the catholicity of the Church."20

Schmemann explains this well: "hierarchy is, above everything else, the mutual recognition of persons in their unique, personal qualifications, of their unique place and function in relation to other persons, of their objective and unique vocation within concilliar life. The principle of hierarchy implies the idea of obedience but not that of subordination…"21 He concludes: "To oppose these two principles is to deviate from the Orthodox understanding of both hierarchy and council."22

Multiple levels of Primacy

This synodal structure is essential for the whole Church, going much deeper than the universal level. "At the local, regional, and global levels of the Church's life, primatial leadership exists to build up the unity of the Church and the communion of sister Churches."23 Our main concern here will be with universal, rather than regional primacy, or primacy as exercised within an autocephalous church. The system of Patriarchates comes closer, but is still not quite what we are looking at. Zizioulas demonstrates that this system, no matter how venerable and ancient, was never theological in a strict sense.24

The fundamental identity of the episcopate

Professor John Erickson points out that the Orthodox understand all bishops, not just the bishop of Rome, to be the successors of Peter, and mentions that Patriarch Bartholomew has recently reiterated his explicit rejection of the Catholic interpretation of the "keys of Peter."25 In Orthodox ecclesiology, all bishops possess a fundamental equality, even if, because of practical reasons, some are given a higher position than others. This is an example of where Orthodox ecclesiology differs from Roman Catholic teaching in an important way.

Primacy of honor not without authority

Metropolitan John Zizioulas says that the phrase "primacy of honor" often used by Orthodox may be misleading, because the exercise of primacy necessarily involves actual duties and responsibilities.26This position has been clearly articulated in an article by Roman Catholic historian Brian Daley: "Position and Patronage in the Early Church: The Original Meaning of 'Primacy of Honor'," Journal of Theological Studies 44 (1993): 529-553. The primacy exercised by the Patriarch of Constantinople, for example, has included such things as the right to convoke councils in cooperation with the other Patriarchs, and an emergency right of intervention when help is requested by another Patriarchate:27

"In response to the present Roman Catholic understanding of the Petrine Office, Orthodox theologians have not rejected the concept of primacy but only its development by the Church of Rome. Among the Orthodox, there has been an attempt to recognize the various expressions of primatial leadership in the life of the Church, and to place primacy within the framework of concilliarity."28

Professor Erickson points out that for the Orthodox, Roman primacy has been understood as a pragmatic, rather than theological, issue, growing out of a principle of accommodation.29 Honor and primacy must be linked to ministry and service, and the Pope must function as head of his see, as one who is among, rather than over, the other bishops. Again, primacy involves more than simply "honor," but is linked to a universal pastoral concern, a "presidency in love." This means leadership, not juridical authority.30

31they nevertheless contain principles applicable to universal primacy as well. Zonaras observes:

"Just as bodies, if the head does not maintain its activity in good health, function faultily or are completely useless, so also the body of the Church, if its preeminent member, who occupies the position of head, is not maintained in his proper honor, functions in a disorderly and faulty manner."32

Zonaras also mentions the prime importance of harmony among all, bound together by the bond of love.33

From the time of the first Ecumenical Council on, Byzantine canon law had always assigned primacy of honor to Rome, for example Nicea canon 6.34 Even when the capital of the Empire was moved to Constantinople, the "new Rome," the priority of the old Rome was safeguarded. Constantinople 3 states: "As for the Bishop of Constantinople, let him have the prerogatives of honor after the bishop of Rome, seeing that this city is the new Rome."35 Even when Anna Comnena, daughter of Emperor Alexis I, tried to interpret "after" in a purely chronological sense, she was corrected by both Zonaras and Balsamon, who maintained that "after" certainly shows hierarchical inferiority.36

Meyendorff summarizes the "privileges" spoken of in Constantinople canon 3:

…this ministry was always understood in moral terms, rather than in terms of formal power, or rights. The actual exercise of this power depended upon political circumstances, as well as the orthodoxy, the wisdom, and the prestige of the "first bishop" himself… it is only when the "Old Rome" decisively and consistently pretended to transform its moral "privilege" into actual jurisdictional and doctrinal power that the Orthodox East refused to allow it.37

Chalcedon canon 28 is also notable. It says, in part:

The fathers in fact have correctly attributed the prerogatives to the see of the most ancient Rome because it was the imperial city. And thus moved by the same reasoning, [we] have accorded equal prerogatives to the very holy see of New Rome, justly considering that the city is honored by the imperial power and the senate and enjoying the prerogatives equal to those of old Rome, the most ancient imperial city, ought to be elevated as Old Rome in the affairs of the Church, being in the second place after it.38

The Principle of Accommodation

Notice that the phrase "because it was the imperial city" lends no credence to any argument for primacy based on apostolic foundation.39 Meyendorff also makes the point that there were many cities of apostolic origin in the East, none of which claimed primatial authority. He writes: "Antioch, Corinth, Thessalonica, and many other churches were founded by apostles, but never claimed primacy based on this fact."40 But he is quick to point out that such accommodation is not the only criterion.41

What if Roman Primacy were Reinstated?

There are a variety of approaches to what a resuscitated Roman primacy would look like. Erickson writes that it might be possible for the Orthodox to accept the view of Papal primacy which developed in the West in the second millennium as legitimate within its historical context.42 He says that "Agreement in principle on some aspects of primacy may be on the horizon."43 He describes Ut Unum Sint as a welcome sign which has reopened discussion of primacy,44 and calls for a "deeper exploration of the meaning of primacy for the ongoing life of the Church…"45

Zizioulas makes that point that "A universal primus exercising his primacy in such a way is not only useful to the Church but an ecclesiological necessity in a unified Church."46

He says that ascribing universal primacy to Rome would not be problematic if it was "fundamentally qualified."47 For him, this means that Rome should not interfere in the autonomous life of the other Churches, and that primacy should be exercised in a synodical context, acting in consensus with the other bishops in matters that concern more than just the local (or regional) church. He discounts the view that a revived Roman primacy would be merely a "Western Patriarchate," and points out some of the problems that arise if Rome is viewed as merely "Western." It would be too confusing a "scheme of division" and could not claim a theological raison d'être.48

He presents an articulate vision of what a Roman primacy along Orthodox lines would mean:

…the universal primacy of the Church of Rome would mean in the first instance that the Bishop of Rome will be in cooperation on all matters pertaining to the Church as a whole with the existing patriarchs and other heads of autocephalous churches. His primacy would be exercised in communion, not in isolation or directly over the entire Church. He would be the President of all heads of churches and the spokesman of the entire Church once the decisions announced are the result of consensus.

In Summary

Bishop Kallistos Ware points out two short formulae that may be helpful in summing up the eastern attitude towards primacy: "Among the bishops, the pope is the elder brother, in the absence of the father", and, "The pope is the mouth of the Church and of the episcopate."49 These two pithy sayings capture in many ways the approach many Orthodox would take toward this topic.

Primacy within Orthodoxy Today

Our historical understanding of Roman Primacy is one thing, but how do we understand the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch today? For, as Meyendorff states, "After the schism, Constantinople was left with primacy in Orthodoxy."50 There remains a need to look at some of these difficulties posed by the question of the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the modern Orthodox world.

Surely it is not enough to rest on history. Fr. John Meyendorff states: "…since Byzantium does not exist anymore, it is simply meaningless to attempt a definition of the rights of the ecumenical patriarchate in Byzantine terms."51

Michael Fahey describes the contemporary functioning of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Patriarch is elected by an endemousa (permanent) synod of twelve members, presided over by the Patriarch. "The synod addresses matters of moment to the patriarchate and, because of the primacy of this patriarchal church, it also discusses many far-reaching matters crucial to the life of Orthodoxy worldwide."52Fahey outlines four ways the Ecumenical patriarch, along with his synod, has exercised primacy in recent years: 1) promotion of Orthodox unity and pan-Orthodox cooperation. 2) by agreeing to hear appeals from other local churches. 3) through ecumenical initiatives, and 4) through pastoral care of the diaspora.

The ministry of unity

Among the four functions enumerated by Fahey, two have to do with the ministry of unity. One concern here is the question of who should speak for the Orthodox. Thomas FitzGerald, in a booklet entitled The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Christian Unity discusses the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch within Orthodoxy as its visible representative and spokesman. A statement in the front of the book by Patriarch Bartholomew reads: "Our Ecumenical Throne is fully aware of its historic heritage and of its responsibility, by the Grace of God, to do whatever is possible, to serve the unity of the Church"53

Synodal organization

The danger in having an endemousa synod is that it would not be truly representative. Meyendorff has stated: "In some churches…the so-called 'permanent synod' ceased to promote concilliarity and has become an organ of bureaucratic administration exercising power over other bishops."54 He presents what he thinks such a synod today should look like. He says: "The normal functioning of an Orthodox primacy in the modern world would clearly require a permanent representation of all Orthodox churches in a consultative body around the patriarch and, in general, an international staff."55

Meyendorff mentions that there are some voices advocating a transfer of primacy to places like New York or Moscow.56 He states: "It would, of course, be preferable for the patriarchate to remain in the inimitable glorious setting of Constantinople, but its very survival as an institution is more important than those historical considerations, and it is clear that the organization of a real world center would be much easier to realize elsewhere."57

Hearing appeals

Chalcedon canons 9 and 17 describe the authority of the see of Constantinople to hear appeals. This has certainly caused some problems in contemporary church life. Lewis Patsavos clarifies the view of the Ecumenical Patriarchate: "In both cases, bishops and other clergy dissatisfied with their metropolitan are not compelled be the council to appeal to the see of Constantinople, but thereby overturning the decision of the exarch of the diocese. On the contrary, they are given this option only if they so desire."58

Territorial Limits

Too often, the "pastoral care of the diaspora" has seemed more like a ploy for power. The question of territorial limits is a hotly debated today. Based on a certain interpretation of the term "barbarians" I Chalcedon canon 28, the Ecumenical Patriarch has tried to argue in recent years for jurisdiction over the "diaspora." Troitsky and L'Huillier offer extensive treatments about the proper interpretation of this canon.59 Nevertheless, the question remains: Does Constantinople have a certain jurisdiction over the "diaspora" not otherwise in the "territory" of another mother-church? Many would say yes. While shying away from the full brunt of the Constantinopolitan position, Lewis Patsavos defends this fundamental right to hear appeals, saying: "Constantinople has always maintained that the canonical legacy of the Fourth Ecumenical Council proves without a doubt… areas not claimed by a specific ecclesiastic jurisdiction were under the authority of the bishop of Constantinople."60


Throughout this article we have examined various nuances of an Orthodox approach to the issue of primacy. The subject is frustrating, because our theory seems quite distant from the actual reality of church life. We may hope, however, that by keeping this vision alive our Church will one day grow into its own theology.


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