Friday, October 7, 2016

Carol Saba: Crete 2016 Failed to Read the "Signs of the Times"!

The French original was published in the magazine of the Catholic charity Oeuvre d'Orient in its July-August-September 2016 issue, no. 784, pp. 518-519.

Crete 2016 Failed to Read the "Signs of the Times" (Matthew 16)!

An "objective" reading of Crete 2016, which is giving rise to worrying fractures among the Orthodox, is premature. Subjective readings that embellish the event and make extrapolations on the basis of its texts, which are already under heavy criticism, are feeding the Orthodox conciliar crisis and setting the stage for a possible ecumenical crisis.

Crete 2016, as a moment and a process, was an expression of a longstanding Orthodox "autism", incapable of reading the "signs of the times" (Matthew 16), the original spiritual and conciliar vision put forward by John XXIII and Athenagoras I. The symptoms of the Orthodox conciliar crisis, which are many and easily expressed, were neither "seen" nor identified for an Orthodoxy that is, while very rich, in need of an aggiornamento that would cause it to be renewed without betraying itself.

The twentieth century was a trying time for the Orthodox lands, but also a great moment of theological renewal with the neo-patristic inspirations of the Paris School. The historic ice age that lasted from the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to that of the Ottoman Empire in 1920 was followed by thaw with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990. The Orthodox world abruptly shifted from a static geopolitics toward a dynamic geopolitics, not without tensions, that placed the Orthodox poles more in competition than in complementarity, although the latter is a prerequisite for any strengthening of unity. From hot wars to cold wars, the path to the council was progressively led astray by new issues of Orthodoxy's worldwide governance and the organization of its influential "diaspora", present on every continent. Everything else is just window-dressing, and perhaps in poor taste.

To lay the cards on the table regarding Crete 2016, there is the battle, as much furtive as open, that has for some time pitted the partisans of "primus sine paribus" (first without equals) against those of "primus inter pares" (first among equals). Among the former, there is an innovation of Orthodoxy that seeks to take its governance in a direction it should not go, calling for a different content-- more juridical than honorific, more global than local-- of the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its primate in the entirety of Orthodoxy, separating him from the other primates. Thus it was necessary to move forward at no matter what cost on Crete without concern for the "coming together of Orthodoxy", if that is a barrier to putting into place this new governance for Orthodoxy. We are far from the original vision of Athenagoras I for whom, from 1959, the council was not an end in itself but a "common path" so that "the Orthodox may learn to work together."

Crete 2016 is thus the expression of an unfinished unity of Orthodoxy between the ten autocephalous churches that were present and the four churches (and not the smallest) that were absent for well-founded reasons. Moreover, in the opposition between the "conciliarity" based on the largest number to the traditional conciliarity of the full communion of the pleroma of the fourteen autocephalous churches of Orthodoxy, a worrying rift is expressed, something that is not without consequences for ecumenical dialogue as well.

What should be done to escape the impasse? The biased and triumphalist discourses of Crete 2016 should be replaced by a responsible discernment of the "signs of the times" and of what is needed for unity and rallying together. His Holiness Bartholomew I, a servant of Orthodox unity, has a leading role to play here. A leading responsibility to repair what has been broken.

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