Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Two Chairs of Peter

Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick has written on Patriarch John X of Antioch and Pope Francis on his Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy blog in a post entitled Two Chairs of Peter: Reform, Orthodoxy and the Papacy. Do give it a read.

In the anticipation preceding yesterday’s election of the new Roman pontiff, especially what with the American media’s constant chatter about reform for the Roman Catholic Church, I could not help but be reminded of a somewhat less-anticipated primatial election that is still fresh in the hearts of the faithful of my own church, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch. In December, the Holy Synod of Antioch elected Metropolitan John Yazigi of Europe, a Syrian-Lebanese scholar and pastor who for only a few years served as the Antiochian Orthodox Metropolitan of Europe.

Patriarch John X of Antioch is very much regarded as someone with a fresh and flexible approach to church life, though nevertheless uncompromising in the ways that an Orthodox hierarch should be. In this at least, it may be said that the election of the new bishop of Rome, the Argentinian Jesuit Cardinal-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, marks a similar accession for his own church.

My purpose here, though, is not to engage in a thoroughgoing comparison of these two men in terms of their personal biographies and qualities (though that might be quite interesting) but rather to offer a few brief reflections in terms of the kinds of reform each of these two men might be capable of offering by virtue of their office as it is understood in the dogma of the respective churches.

And it’s also worth noting here that I am not merely comparing two primates but rather two primates who, according to Christian tradition, sit upon the Chair of Peter. Even though there is no evidence that Peter was ever bishop in Rome, it is the tradition of both the Orthodox and Latin churches that Peter did indeed exercise episcopal authority in Antioch, long before he ever came to Rome. There is even a feast day on the Roman calendar whose ancient name was The Chair of Peter in Antioch but is now the reduced Chair of Peter, celebrated on February 22 and referenced by Pope Benedict XVI in an audience he gave on that day in 2006. It is also worth noting that even many early Roman popes regarded the Church has having not one or two but three Petrine sees, not just Rome and Antioch but also Alexandria, by virtue of its establishment by St. Mark, the disciple of St. Peter. This kind of language is found in this passage from Pope St. Gregory the Great (r. 590-604), who did not look at Antioch and Alexandria as former sees of Peter but current ones...

Complete article here.

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