Dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholics.
Letter by Professor of Dogmatics, Demetrios Tseleggidis of the Theological School of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, at the Holy Community of the Holy Mountain. 10-9-09
Following with a deep sense of responsibility the ecclesiastic condition of our time, as a simple faithful member but also as a University Professor of Dogmatic Theology of the Church, I would like to respectfully address you on a most serious theological topic.
In October of the current year, will take place in Cyprus, as it is well known, the most critical, perhaps up to now, Conference of the International Joint Commission of the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Roman-Catholics. This is because the Joint Communiqué which would arise at the Conference will have a catalytic effect in the development of relations between the two select parties. I consider it my duty to ardently ask you to consider this serious topic and particularly to become engaged with keen attention with the actual content of the Theological Dialogue.
The International Joint Commission will be specifically occupied with the "role of the Bishop of Rome in the community of all the Churches" (bk : Article of Ravenna, para. 45). I humbly believe that if you discuss theologically the topic and be explicitly placed in it, it will perhaps invariably influence the final form of the Joint Communiqué of the International Conference. In this way the Holy Community will act in time and with forethought, thus avoiding later intervening therapeutically, as it should, judging from hindsight the possible theological and ecclesiastical errors of the Joint Communiqué.
Moreover, permit me to express with all possible brevity also the theological aspects of the topic under discussion. The planned theological discussion next October in Cyprus on the primacy of the Bishop of Rome "in greater depth" is methologically untimely and substantially flawed. And this is because according to the theological and accepted principle, it is essential that the theological discussion be preceded by a discussion on our fundamental differences with the Roman Catholics in dogma and specifically on the "filioque", the infallibility and the created divine Grace, who continue falsely to maintain such dogmatic fallacies which act in defining the characteristic identity of the Roman Catholic and theological purges of its Ecclesiology and Mysteriology, namely, it substantially purged the accepted character of the Church as a "communion of theosis" of man.
Only after the immutability of our dogma is identified, can the discussion continue on the manner of governing of the Church. Our differences in dogma according to the letter and spirit of the Ecumenical Synods that clearly follow from their proceedings, places the Roman Catholics outside the Church, a fact that is confirmed even empirically from a millennium of separation in the sacramental communion between us.
Reasonably, therefore the theological question arises: How could we discuss rationally at the imminent Theological Dialogue with the Roman Catholics on the institutional-hierarchic position of a person (namely of the Pope) within the Church, as long as this person is still practically but also typically outside the Church?
If, despite these, the primacy of the Bishop of Rome is discussed theoretically, permit me here again, to remind you of the indisputable truth, that at no time during the first millennium did the Church recognize in the person of the Bishop of Rome the primacy of authority and power on a global level. The supreme authority over the Ecumenical Church (the whole Church) was always and only exercised by the Ecumenical Synods.
Furthermore, never has the Orthodox Church accepted the papist primacy as it was understood and interpreted by the 1st Vatican Council, which declared the Pope infallible pronouncer of the conscience of the Church with the capacity to oppose even the decision of the Ecumenical Synods. In other words, the Pope in the Latin West - through the dogmatically fortified by the 2nd Vatican Council of his "infallibility" and the contested primacy of authority over the whole Church - has assumed arbitrarily the position of the Spirit of Truth in the global Church.
As a consequence with the above understanding of the ecclesiastic character of the papist primacy of authority, not only is the Synodic system of the governing of the Church voided, but substantially even the presence of the Holy Spirit in her is also voided.
With what I wrote briefly, I address to you ...... so that I present to you the character of my ecclesiastic uneasiness and in parallel to make you aware of the theological assessment synopsis on the methodology and content of the actual two day Theological Dialogue within the framework of the Joint International conference.
I hope that the Grace of the Holy Spirit will enlighten you to consider the testimony of the Holy Mountain on this serious matter.
With profound respect,
I kiss your right hand.
Professor of the Theological School
Of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki.