Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Patriarch Peter III on Primacy in the Church

Patriarch Peter III of Antioch is most famous for his attempt at mediation between Rome and Constantinople during the controversy over ayzmes leading up to the Great Schism. However, in his correspondence about azymes with Archbishop Dominic of Grado, he makes an ecclesiological point that may be relevant to the disagreement between Moscow and Constantinople about the nature of primacy in the Orthodox Church. See Moscow's position here and Constantinople's response here.

The translation below is on the basis of Patrologia Graeca 120, col. 760.

Pay attention to what I say. The human body is governed by one head. In it, there are many parts and all are regulated by only five senses. These are: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. Likewise the body of Christ, that of the faithful, the Church, is fitted together from different members and is regulated by five senses, which are called the great sees, and is governed by one head, which is Christ. Just as there is no sense above the five senses, there is no patriarch admitted above the five patriarchs. Thus by these five sees, which are like the senses in the body of Christ, all the parts, that is all the countries of the peoples and the local episcopates, are regulated and guided in a Godly manner. Just as in one head, Christ our true God, they are likewise fitted together and governed by one Orthodox faith.

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