Skip to comments.POPE'S DEATH AND CATHOLICISM'S PROSPECTS IN RUSSIA
Posted on 04/04/2005 10:01:53 AM PDT by annalex
MOSCOW, April 4. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Romanov) - It seems the only place the pope wanted but could not visit was Moscow. His patience was boundless, but he did not live long enough to see changes in the Russian Orthodox Church.
He, however, was open to the whole world, including Russians. It turned out that establishing contacts with the secular authorities of the new Russia was much easier than with the hierarchs of the Russian Church. The pontiff received Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Putin, the latter of whom has sent the Vatican an unusual letter of condolences. More than a matter of protocol, it was warm and sincere, evidently expressing the President's respect for John Paul II.
Polish-born Karol Wojtyla was the first pope since the Apostles to enter a synagogue. He called Jews the elder brothers of Christians and prayed at the Wailing Wall. As the head of the Catholic Church, he visited a mosque and almost every country, including Orthodox ones, but was not allowed to pray in only one place, Moscow. The pope respected the Christian canons and waited for the Russian Church to change its mind. He has been waiting until his death.
It is not for me to reach a conclusion on the reasons behind the inflexibility of the Church leaders, but their formal explanations about Catholics seizing Orthodox houses of worship are not particularly convincing. In fact, the Vatican could make similar claims in many cases, as in the 20th century and even earlier many temples changed their terrestrial owners several times, all the while serving the same celestial Father. A papal visit to Moscow could have resolved half the contradictions.
I am almost certain that the first Slavic pope was not allowed to the Russian Church's congregation for the same reason that earlier had driven the Communist Party to cover up Western voices: the fear of comparison.
The point is that the Catholic Church was lucky: a man of the greatest moral authority andcharisma occupied its throne, whose personal influence was far greater than that of the Church itself. No matter how much the sick Russian Orthodox Church might have wanted, it could not find his equal, as it had still not made a full recovery after the decades of persecution under the Soviet authorities. Orthodox hierarchs could not bear the thought of the pope in a crowded Moscow square or, even worse, in the Christ the Savior Cathedral. After all, they are only human.
It also explains the unhealthy, not so much religious, as human, response to any movement of the Catholic Church in Russia, even though this competition is not about oil or aluminum, but human souls, which in a democratic country are expected to choose freely. The words "shepherd" and "flock" are just images, because people are obviously not sheep. People that have a right to choose, i.e., to enter the church they want.
I believe that Russia has missed a historic opportunity for rapprochement with the Catholics and, consequently, with much of Western culture. The last man of power in Russia who seriously preached ecumenism and rapprochement with the Catholics was Emperor Paul I of Russia. The last pontiff who perceived Russia, its contradictions and spiritual trials so shrewdly was John Paul II. It was not coincidence that he prayed before a Russian icon as well others.
There are few chances that an equal to the late pontiff will succeed him. After all, when he was a student, some jokers put a sign "beginner saint" - and it seems justly - on his door.
An ordinary archbishop will most probably succeed this rock of a person, who was not afraid to voice words of apology for the Catholic Church's previous sins. A person educated and worthy, but without the traits Karol Wojtyla had. There are people who cannot be replaced.
Certainly, the new pontiff will not be a Slav, and the relations between Moscow and the Roman throne will enter the usual bureaucratic dimension. Delegations will visit each other, agree on something, sign something and mark time.
In other words, a person of the 21st century, the late John Paul II, will be replaced by a person of the 20th century, who will hardly bring about any breakthrough in the future.
As a result, everyone will lose: the Vatican, whose authority will decline inevitably and quickly, Catholicism on the whole, Catholics in Russia and, naturally, the Russian Orthodox Church, which has lost a huge incentive for self-improvement. This is regrettable, as even many Orthodox priests admit that complete recovery is still a distant possibility.
Once John Paul II was asked whether he ever cried, and he said, "Never outside."
Today, a significant part of humanity, regardless of religion, is crying both inside and outside. Everyone in his or her own manner. Together and on their own. Karol Wojtyla deserved this.
Ecumenical prospects dimmed?
Luckily there are many Orthodox Christians who do not think or act in this way, so there is hope for the future.
For later -- Substituting this afternoon in an elementary school.
As I understand it, the problem for the Russian Orthodox is theological, and not merely political or petty.
On the one hand, they are not in communion with the Catholic Church. On the other hand, they recognize the Patriarch of the West, the Pope, as being senior in dignity to the other patriarchs, the First Among Equals.
And this puts the Russian Patriarchate in an impossible position, under the current understanding. On the one hand, they owe a duty of respect to their senior in dignity. On the other hand, they must not share communion with the leader of a Church they do not consider to be doctrinally correct.
The only way to avoid the impossibility of the circumstances of a Patriarch paying homage to the Pope, whose religion the Patriarch's religion says has lapsed into error, is to avoid the meeting.
The Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople has met the Pope and performed a common service, but it had to be carefully scripted, with the liturgy being adapted from the Eastern Rites so as to NOT contain the "filioque" clause ("and from the Son") in the Creed, which the Orthodox find so problematic (indeed, it was the proximate cause of the Great Schism).
Moscow is in a different place in its emergence from domination than Constantinople or Greece are, and the Russian hierarchs find the prospect much more troubling from a theological basis.
And for his part the Pope has not forced the issue. He has sent relics back to Moscow, but though he could have just declared his intentions to come, and probably would not have been banned from the gig by the Russian government, he did not. John Paul's purpose was to promote reconciliation, not grandstand in Moscow and damage such relationships as there are between Rome and "the Third Rome".
Pyotr the Romanov?
Malachi: just wondering if you're familiar wit this guy.
(for those who do not get the reference, St. Malachy predicted that Peter the Roman -- Pyotr Romanov in Russian -- would be the next Pope after the one about to be elected.)
What are your thoughts on this:
That which the author sees as Russian obstinate backwardness is an asset when it comes to confronting the secular humanist, increasingly pagan West. Somehow I don't imagine gay "marriage" ceremonies contemplated by those Russian-bear priests.
In other words, as conservatives we praised the late Pope inasmuch as he struggled to preserve the 2000 years of Christianity and roll back at least the most egregious abuses ascribed to Vatican II. I doubt that Mr. Peter of Rome (I can't shake the impression it's a pseudonym) has the same perspective.
>> That which the author sees as Russian obstinate backwardness is an asset when it comes to confronting the secular humanist, increasingly pagan West. <<
Perhaps this was translational shading by the journalists but the Russian response always seemed to be less:
"You'll kindly realize that I must respectfully decline your request to visit, as it would cause difficulties for us,"
"Get the Hell off my yard, or so help me I'll fill your ass so filled with lead you can use your latrine as a fallout shelter!"
There seemed to be a lack of charity, to put it mildly, that seemed well, un-Christian.
But you have a point in the notion that the Russian church is wary of Western liberalism. The Pope did a fantastic job at halting Rome's slouch towards Gemorrah, but was still liberal in some ways, such as interreligious dialogues and supporting the Novus Ordo.
Perhaps a Pope who stands tall against Islam aggression and gives the universal indult for the Latin Mass will, ironically, make the Russians at ease.
And the name Piotr Romanov reminds me of one possible meaning of "Peter the Roman." "Roman" came to mean "universal." Perhaps Peter the Roman will make the Vatican-led Church truly Catholic and truly Roman again by reconciling it with the Eastern churches.
The Russian penchant for adhering to tradition is an admirable quality, on its surface. They have many of the trappings of liturgical ceremony that are befitting of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Can we say as much for our local Novus Ordo parishes?
If one were to have the Queen of England come to one's home for a visit, would one desire greatly and therefore endeavor to do everything possible and within one's reasonalbe means to have every detail befitting the visit of the Queeen? Or, would it be thought not only okay, but "desirable" and "appropriate" to figure on serving her TV dinners and offering her the service porch where the dog sleeps?
In the name of a return to the deprivation of the early Church, "a return to antiquity," the Roman Church has undertaken a pogrom of devastation and abandonment of the beautiful trappings of the Mass of time immemorial. The Russians look at this from afar and weep. But they are too proud and too, well, Russian, to weep in public.
>>Once John Paul II was asked whether he ever cried, and he said, "Never outside."
>>Today, a significant part of humanity, regardless of religion, is crying both inside and outside. Everyone in his or her own manner. Together and on their own. Karol Wojtyla deserved this.<<
JPII was not alone in his grief. Nor were the Russians the only ones to share it with him.
The whole world groans in agony over the current fact that the Russian Orthodox and Rome cannot make amends.
However, it seems to me that the direction taken at VatII is in part due to the fact that Russian ideological contribution and influence were there. Usually when the Church convenes an oecumenical council, she addresses the greatest threat to the Church at the time. At the time of its worldwide persection of Christians (66 million political murders!), Communism was not addressed at VatII. Observers from the USSR were allowed to attend the council. It would seem that all they had to do was sit there, and the council became different by their presence. We have today documents that contain the promise that Communism would not be a topic and that if the Russian observers saw that promise broken, they would walk out of VatII. What would happen next is not clear, but who knows what words of warning passed in spoken form alone behind closed doors?
It would not seem imprudent to ask if the Church was not being held captive by terrorist threats. The Cold War might have seemed like a bad dream, but it was very real. Ask anyone from 1946 Japan.
The differences that the Church has with Russia are founded on dogma. There is a curious problem with dogma. Those who hold disagreement usually refuse to make compromises. The stronger their adherence to their own belief, the less they want to entertain the discussion of it. In Catholic Tradition, we have no choice in the matter. We are not permitted to discuss compromising dogma with anyone. Not even a Pope can "dialog" regarding dogma with heretics. All he can do is teach them what the Church teaches.
It seems to me that the Russian politicians know this, and they are very afraid that the errors of Russia would be made clear by a visit from the Pope. For me to say otherwise would be a denouncement of JPII. The more Catholic a pope is, the less the Russians would want to have him visit, apparently. Therefore, to resolve this situation what we need is an act of God.
I am not convinced of that. The opinion I hear from Catholic apologists such as Karl Keating is that every time the dogma is examined by both parties, no disagreement is found. For example, there is no dogmatic disagreement with Filioque, -- both sides agree on the dogma of Trinity and the provenance of its persons, -- there is an argument over the rite, essentially. But we have many rites, and some, legitimately, don't say "filioque". The Catholics are left with the impression that the Orthodox want there to be a disagreement and when one is resolved find another.
Hardly, considering that 1/2 the West is protestant and most of the rest is post-Christian.
It has a lot to do with the 600 years of attempted forced conversions that started when the Kieven princes asked for help against the Mongols and instead got invaded by the Poles, Lithuanians, Swedes and Teutonics, all by Papel decree. The sacking of Constintinople by the Fourth Crusade, only added to this, also the butchering of Orthodox Christians in Jerusalem, along with the Jews and Islamics, during the First Crusade.
Protestantism, at the exception of high-church pre-Rowland Anglicanism, has no basis of unity with Orthodox Russia. Catholicism, on the other hand, has no basis for disunity. If that is not self-evident, I can explain.
Tell that to the average Souther Baptist who will then tell you that you Papists aren't even Christians and are praying to idolic statues of Mary.
I've defended Catholicism to protestants a lot more often then my own Orthodox faith. About the only thing they don't say is that you make your communion waifer with kid's blood.
My remark beggining "I am not convinced of that" referred to your "The differences that the Church has with Russia are founded on dogma", and not to your entire #10, which I enjoyed reading, but find myself incapable of further comment.
You misunderstood me. I see a basis of unity between Catholics and Orthodox. I see no basis of unity (except, of course, the broad sense of confessing Christ as our Lord and Savior) between either Catholics and Orthodox on one hand, and low-church Protestants on the other.
It was my understanding that, in spite of the hard history, the Orthodox consider the Pope to be formally "First Among Equals", although disunion and theological differences do not permit the exercise of common communion.
In a nutshell, you've expressed the sentiment quite well. Right now, however, because of the schism, Constantinople is first in honor among the Orthodox Patriarchates. The Pope under the present circumstances has a theoretical position of first among equals rather than a real one.
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