Ratzinger advocated breaking up the Latin Patriarchate

Wow. This has some huge ramifications.

You can find the entire article at

Comments by Fr. Joseph Komanchak, professor CUA, and member of the North American Commission of Orthodox and Roman Catholics. ( SCOBA / NCCB) .

Joseph Ratzinger, for example, pointed out the need to disentangle the confusion between the patriarchal and primatial roles of the bishop of Rome and to break up the Latin patriarchate, replacing it with a number of “patriarchal areas,” that is, regions with an autonomy similar to that of the ancient patriarchates, but under the direction of the episcopal conferences.

In an essay entitled “Primacy and Episcopacy,” Ratzinger developed the theme at greater length:

The image of a centralized state which the Catholic church presented right up to the council does not flow only from the Petrine office, but from its strict amalgamation with the patriarchal function which grew ever stronger in the course of history and which fell to the bishop of Rome for the whole of Latin Christendom. The uniform canon law, the uniform liturgy, the uniform appointment of bishops by the Roman center: all these are things which are not necessarily part of the primacy but result from the close union of the two offices. For that reason, the task to consider for the future will be to distinguish again and more clearly between the proper function of the successor of Peter and the patriarchal office and, where necessary, to create new patriarchates and to detach them from the Latin church. To embrace unity with the pope would then no longer mean being incorporated into a uniform administration, but only being inserted into a unity of faith and communio, in which the pope is acknowledged to have the power to give binding interpretations of the revelation given in Christ whose authority is accepted whenever it is given in definitive form.

After exploring the ecumenical implications of this vision, Ratzinger concluded: “Finally, in the not too distant future one could consider whether the churches of Asia and Africa, like those of the East, should not present their own forms as autonomous `patriarchates’ or `great churches’ or whatever such ecclesiae in the Ecclesia might be called in the future.”


23 thoughts on “Ratzinger advocated breaking up the Latin Patriarchate”

  1. I have been busy reading a lot of the new Pope essays and homilies. I can only conclude, upon consideration, that he is probably a more brilliant thinker than Pope John Paul II. I have found nothing so far to detract from my admiration of him in any way. Should this vision actually be made reality, we may be witnessing the greatest triumph of Christianity since the Council of Nicea defined the faith against Arius.

    Could it really happen? God alone knows, but so far, all I can say is that this pontificate has a hopeful beginning.

  2. Writings and interviews – Pope Benedict XVI

    Biblical Aspects of the Question of Faith and Politics

    Church, Ecumenism and Politics – excerpts can be obtained here:

    Excerpts from interviews with the Pope:

    On the Contemporary Crisis in Law

    Conscience in Its Age

    Those should get you started learning about the new Pope’s style of thought. I find it all very refreshing, myself.

  3. Missourian, check out this writing by Ratzinger on Scriptural exegesis. I think it nicely shows some of the inner workings of a mind that is probing for as close to a realization of objective truth as possible.

    Whether one agrees with him or not, in all cases his writings are coherent and thoughtful, even if a little “thick” (and even “highbrow”) at times.

  4. JamesK

    Thanks for the reference. I know that Ratzinger is well know for his scholarship. It appears that he is a wonderful writer also (in several languages!!).

  5. Note 5: Oh, dear. Okay, 98% of the site is valid. Seeing Papal merchandise does give me a chuckle, however.

    At least they don’t have glow-in-the-dark Popes, outrageously tall hats or “Paint-By-Numbers© Pontiffs” for sale, I guess!

  6. Note 8

    Don’t forget the chocolate crosses sold in the candy store in the amusement park run by Jim and Tammy Faye Parker, compared to that a T-shirt doesn’t really sound so bad. Maybe it helps pay the bills.

  7. Pingback: Vatican Watcher
  8. I realize this will probably cause a lot of audible groans, but does anyone else get a sense of comparison between the new Pope Benedict and Chancellor Palpatine of the Revenge of the Sith? O.K., go ahead now and groan. I’m actually not that much of a Star Wars fan, and I haven’t seen the new eposide yet, but I do find the character of Chancellor Palpatine intriguing. He is someone who appears beneficial and yet is actually someone quite sinister. Of course the methods here are opposite: Chancellor Palpatine seeks to centralize administrative power to himself, whereas Pope Benedict is talking about decentralizing administrative power. In this case, however, decentralizing administrative power in the Catholic Church will probably actually make the Catholic Church more powerful.

    I’m not talking about administrative power here, but rather cultural power. The centralization of the Catholic Church, in my opinion, is one of her major cultural weaknesses. As Orthodox, we know that having various autonomous local Churches lends a flexibility and strength to the Church. If the Latin Patriarchate is broken up, my guess is that this will only make any hopes of reconcilliation between the Catholic and Orthodox all the more distant.

  9. We have been reacting to Rome and the west for a thousand years. If we are who we say we are, we need to proclaim it and issue the call to join us–not react and be defensive. If we are not who we say we are, then we need to stop pretending, submit to the Pope’s rightful authority and get on with it. Personally, I believe and affirm that we are who we say we are. Therefore, we don’t really need to be concerned at all about the character of the Pope or the choices he makes. We either believe the Holy Spirit rules His Church and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her, or we don’t

    Before we even begin to think about re-union, we have to have our own understanding of, and adherence to ecclesiological authority worked out. Despite not having an emperor for 552 years, we are still wedded to a system that is dependent on the authority of the emperor to call a council. There have been supposed preparations for the next great council going on for over 40 years and we are no where near to actually having one. Ridiculous.

    The split in the U.S. Antiochian Archdiocese was stopped when two bishops, Met. Philip and Archbishop Michael, may his memory be eternal, got together against the advice of their advisors and decided to end it. Frankly, I think the Orthodox laity need to demand of their bishops that they stop being so pompous, go lock themselves in a room somewhere and don’t come out until their is a unanimous understanding of ecclesial authority. The U.S. bishops tried that only to have it squelched by Pat. Bartholomew.

    Such an understanding would accomplish two important things: 1. We would have our own house in order with no more internal spitting matches. Once the understanding was approved by the faithful, anyone who chose to go their own way would be clearly outside the Church; and, 2. We would be speaking with one voice to other Christians, including Rome, and the world. We could then call all back to the practice of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

  10. Michael point out two big problems I have with Orthodoxy. Forgive my rather pedestrian rewording of his eloquent comments.

    1. “[Orthodox] are still wedded to a system that is dependent on the authority of the emperor to call a council.” In other words, the Orthodox are dependent upon political authorities to bring them together to deside religious matters. Wouldn’t this be like the apostles approaching the Sanhedrin to decide if Jesus really did appear to them after the crucifixion?

    2. “…the Orthodox laity need to demand of their bishops that they stop being so pompous, go lock themselves in a room somewhere and don?t come out until their is a unanimous understanding of ecclesial authority.” Who, then, approves of this ‘understanding’ – the laity? The last thing the Orthodox should start doing is acting like Protestants, i.e., acting like the church is a democracy, where the people tell the Archbishops, Bishops & Priests what is expected of them.

  11. I have to wonder if a new Ecumencial Council is really necessary. If it even were possible to have one, invariably someone would cry afoul, and there would probably just be further splintering of the Church. Certainly there are many issues that could be brought up, but one has to wonder if these issues are important enough to risk further division. We can witness even to this day the tragedy of the schism between the Greek Church and the monophysites (Coptic, Ethiopian, etc). Many theologians such as the late Fr. John Romanides have questioned whether that schism was really necessary.

  12. Daniel and Stephen

    #1 is the only real problem I have with the administration of the Orthodox Church myself. Our polity is still founded on the idea of a Christian state. As Missourian has pointed out, there aren?t any. In the west, the Bishop of Rome took over the position of Emperor–the real foundation of the Roman claim to hegemony over the Church. Orthodox bishops have never done that really and don’t want to.

    #2. The synergy in the Orthodox Church between bishops, clergy, and laity has always had a quality that allows and even encourages the laity to hold the bishops accountable for their actions or lack there of without lapsing into the Protestant mentality. We can’t fire our bishops or even our priests, but we can and should hold them to the highest standards of the faith. My own bishop has often said that there will be no Orthodox unity in the United States until the laity demands it.

    #3. Stephen, you are correct, a new Ecumenical Council is not necessary. If the Patriarchs, heads of the other autocephalous Churches, and a few other synodal bishops would just get together and hammer out a solution amongst themselves, that would be all it would take. The meetings would not be short or free from contention, but that’s OK. They just need to act like the brothers in Christ they proclaim to be. Until we have a better working understanding of ecclesial authority, our witness in the modern world is diluted and compromised.

  13. I have great respect for the Orthodox Churches and I long for the reunification of East and West. But such a reunion must be based on truth, or else it will not be a reunification at all. Peter is the Rock of the Church established by Christ. It is precisely the “centralization” of the Catholic Church that is its strength– centralization not in any administrative system, but centralization in the Rock and his successors. This is how the Holy Spirit guarantees the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church.

  14. Tim, without rehashing, I am sure you realize that the interpretation you give is the Western version, one that the Orthodox have never accepted in the same manner. You are doing nothing more than has been done for over 1000 years and calling the Orthodox to submit to Rome, submit to an authority we consider to be without real foundation in scripture or tradition. See: http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/encyc_1848.aspx for the official understanding even prior to 1870.

    To quote one small paragraph: 4. Of these heresies diffused, with what sufferings the LORD hath known, over a great part of the world, was formerly Arianism, and at present is the Papacy. This, too, as the former has become extinct, although now flourishing, shall not endure, but pass away and be cast down, and a great voice from heaven shall cry: It is cast down (Rev. xii. 10).

  15. Hi. I’m a Catholic and I have a few questions about the Orthodox Christians view of Catholics. I’ve been reading this blog for a while and this thread looks like a suitable place to ask, if that’s OK. I do have Orthodox friends, but their answers on these questions didn’t match.

    1. Do you consider Catholics as Christians?

    2. Do you consider the Catholic Baptism valid as a sacrament? Method of aspersion, infusion and immersion make a difference?

    3. Are the other sacraments valid, or do they possess Grace?

    4. Apostolic Succession and Apostolic Tradition?

    5. There’s no Salvation outside the Church. We agree on this, but we don’t agree on what the “Church” is. Is Salvation manifested in the Catholic Church? I ask because Pope Benedict XVI said that, while Salvation exists in its fullness only in the Church, it can be manifested on other Christians Churches.

    Of course East and West churches consider each other to be heretical and schismatic. There’s no need to specifically address this.


  16. Delance: You write “Of course East and West churches consider each other to be heretical and schismatic. There is no need to specifically address this.” As long as this is true, the rest of your questions are mostly moot. The primary reason for identifying and opposing heresy is because it leads people away from salvation.

    To simplify: As long as the Pope continues to demand submission to a idea of Papal authority that we feel is without basis in scripture or Tradition, the rest does not matter on a marco level at least.

    Certainly on an individual level Catholics and Orthodox should and do respect each others individual faith. Jesus saves whom He will. The Holy Spirit blows where He will.

  17. Delance, your questions also reflect a peculiar Roman mentality which is not really the way the Orthodox think, i.e., the fascination with the intimate mechanical workings of salvation in the earth. The Orthodox approach to salvific, scaramental living is quite different, far less concerned with mechanics and far more focused on the essence–communion with Holy Trinity which requires repentance and sharing the fruits of that repentance with others. The structure of the Sacraments and the other prayers of the Church are all designed to remind us of our need to repent, allow us the avenue to repent, and to praise God for his Grace and Mercy.

    We are only allowed to share the liturgial sacraments with other Orthodox in good standing.

  18. Thanks for your answers. But that’s not my mentality. I understand there’s the rift, but the questions are not moot. At least not the first one. I know Catholicism certainly regards Orthodox as Christians. For what I’ve been reading here, so does this blog, for the best of my understanding. That’s something that I feel is a little superior to mere �respect to the faith’ on, let’s say, an ontological level.

    What do I think? Oh, we have Patriarchates. Rome is one whose leader is also the Pope and the Bishop of Rome. But the Catholic Church is something a more than that just the latin rite. Here in my city of Rio de Janeiro we have a lovely Catholic Melkite and a Catholic Bizantine churches, who follow their respective rites and traditions. I appreciate this universal aspect. I like that I can talk with a Korean girl from NY and a Sri-Lankan on Australian about Christian Orthodoxy.

    But this is a really interesting site. Thanks for your time.

  19. Delance,

    Your questions and their answers:

    1. Do you consider Catholics as Christians? Yes. The mutual anathemas were lifted between the two churches in the 1960’s. The official rift between the two churches is a schism – a break in communion. Roman Catholics are Christians, though ones with which we are not in communion due to various reasons.

    2. Do you consider the Catholic Baptism valid as a sacrament? Method of aspersion, infusion and immersion make a difference? The Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church consider each other’s sacraments to be valid. In some communities, particularly under duress, only a Byzantine Rite Catholic priest or an Orthodox priest is available to administer sacraments to both communities. It happens, though is not the norm. The Didache, or the teaching of the 12 apostles (an ancient document), prefers the use of immersion but allows for aspersion in baptism if necessary. Clearly, both methods were in practice in the 1st Century, though immersion seems to have been preferred almost universally. Given the climate of Europe, I can understand why pouring became the dominant practice there, even though the presence of huge baptistries in Northern Europe attest to immersion being practiced up through the High Middle Ages. The Orthodox will continue full immersion, but given the history of this topic, will consider Roman Catholic baptisms to be valid.

    3. Are the other sacraments valid, or do they possess Grace? All mysteries of the church exist for our edification. Orthodox consider the Roman Church to have valid sacraments, but Orthodoxy is not so concerned with communicated Grace as are the Western churches. Salvation is a person, Jesus, and our relationship to Him. It is not a ‘thing’ or some kind of ‘substance,’ but rather, as one Father said, “being able to look God in the eyes as Father.”

    4. Apostolic Succession and Apostolic Tradition? All Orthodox bishops stand in Apostolic succession. There are ‘Apostolic Sees’ in the East, meaning churches whose founding was directly as the result of the missionary efforts of Paul or another apostle. These are common in the East, though only Rome in the West has this claim. As for Apostolic Tradition, I am not sure what you are asking. The Orthodox Church believes that the faith has been communicated down to our time through many forms. These include: icons, the Divine Liturgy, other services of the church, the writings of the Fathers, the Bible, the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, non-Biblical writings from the period (Shepherd of Hermas, etc.), and others. Together, all of these sources provide the ‘Apostolic’ Tradition. We do not set one source above another, nor do we consider any of them to be contradictory. Any idea that contradicts the seamless whole of this stream of thought is rejected.

    5. There?s no Salvation outside the Church. We agree on this, but we don?t agree on what the ?Church? is. Is Salvation manifested in the Catholic Church? I ask because Pope Benedict XVI said that, while Salvation exists in its fullness only in the Church, it can be manifested on other Christians Churches. We do not know the limits of God’s grace. The Pope is a wise and pious man, and the Orthodox feel no differently. We can never set limits on God’s mercy.

    Hope this helps.

  20. Gleen –

    Thanks a lot. That was really helpful.

    Is this schism a break in communion on a similar level of the ones that happens between Orthodox churches?

    Elucidating my question: The Catholic Church, like the Orthodox Church, believes and holds Apostolic Tradition. Protestants, of course, don’t (sola scriptura). It seems to be Orthodox probably does consider the Catholic one valid, since by the eleventh century it was long consolidated.

    As for succession, well, some Churches make this claim. I have no doubts the Orthodox have it. I was just asking if they recognize the one from Rome. I think they do, but, again, just asking. It can be tricky as with other claims like the Anglican Church or the Chinese ‘Patriotic’ Church, but that’s not an issue here.

    Note: I think Church Doctrine still considers the aspersion (sprinkling) valid, but only they are not allowed to be made any more, with preference to the method of infusion (pouring), while immersion is of course valid and allowed.

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