"PRO ECCLESIA" Editor
With the Second Vatican Council came a renewed effort by the Catholic Church to heal a centuries-old Schism with the bloc of Byzantine Greco-Slav churches whose grievances can be said to date back to the sad events of 1054 and 1204 A.D. Discord between the See of Rome and the Patriarchate of Constantinople combined with growing political and cultural estrangement exacerbated theological disagreements over the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff, the Procession of the Holy Spirit, the Filioque addition to the Latin text of the Creed, the use of unleavened bread in the Western Church, and a host of other liturgical differences that were regarded by the Byzantines as heretical innovations.
The failure of the Reunion Councils of Lyons (1274) and Florence (1439) did not, however, prevent other Reunion efforts which succeeded in retaining the fidelity of millions of Eastern rite Catholics in the Ukraine, Hungary, Rumania, and the Middle East. It is their presence in the Church that has preserved the mark of "Catholic" for the true Church of Jesus Christ.
The Byzantine Greco-Slav Schism has been the worst Schism in Christian history, not withstanding the even worse consequences flowing from the heretical Protestant Revolution which fractured the unity of Western Christendom. It is not without significance that Martin Luther would appeal to Eastern dissidents to justify his own bitter struggles against the Papacy. With the Catholic Church now engaged in a "dialogue of love" with the separated Christians of both East and West, Pope John Paul II has made every effort to bring about the reconciliation of the Eastern Orthodox churches with Rome. In countless addresses and frequent travels to meet with their prelates and people, the Pope has affirmed that:
"..the spiritual riches of the Church in the East and in the West, cannot shine before the eyes of contemporary man in their full splendor without this witness of full reconciliation... In the Catholic view of ecumenism, the task of achieving, with God's grace, the full visible unity of Christians must always be a priority. Partial relationships between Christians which do not yet express full communion in faith, the sacraments of faith, and order, are never enough; not least because disunity continues to put obstacles in the way of the mission entrusted by Christ to His disciples." (cf. Address 6/24/91)
The Pope has repeatedly referred to the greatest of Russian philosophers and thinkers concerned with European unity, Vladimir Soloviev (1853-1900) as "an ardent prophet of ecumenism" who did "all in his power for reunification between Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism."
Unfortunately, few American Catholics have had contact with their Eastern Orthodox brethren in the U.S. or cared to have intimate knowledge of them in order to facilitate prayer and ecumenical efforts to restore them to the visible unity of the Church centered in the See of Peter. One notable exception has been Likoudis, himself a convert from Greek Orthodoxy. In a previous work "Ending the Byzantine-Greek Schism" (1982) he gave an historical survey of the spread of the Schism and provided a translation of the remarkable "Apologia for Unity with Rome" by the 14th c. Byzantine Greek lay theologian Demetrios Kydones who provided his contemporaries with the works of St. Thomas Aquinas rendered in impeccable Greek. Also provided readers were translations of the "Letter to the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople on the Procession of the Holy Spirit" by St. Peter Damian and a trenchant "Letter to a Greek Abbot in Constantinople" by the Dominican friar John de Fontibus - both of which give a fascinating insight into Latin-Greek relations from the 11th to 14th centuries.
Mr. Likoudis also utilized effectively the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas to defend Catholic doctrine on the perduring Primacy of Peter in the Church and on the eternal Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and (or through) the Son.
In his latest work "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox", Mr. Likoudis returns to explaining Catholic doctrines and defending them against the polemics of a number of Eastern Orthodox writers (former Catholics and Protestant converts to Byzantine Orthodoxy) who reject the "pan-heresy of ecumenism" and have renewed medieval grievances against the Catholic Church and the Papacy. He treats in great detail the defects in Eastern Orthodoxy's notion of the Church, and replies to objections hurled against the Pope's Primacy of Supremacy and Infallibility, the Procession of the Holy Spirit as explicated in the Filioque clause, the definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Theotokos, the doctrine of Purgatory, and even the denial of a legitimate Development of Doctrine that must take place in a living Church.
His consideration of the "Christocentric nature of the Roman Primacy" and the "Church as Icon of the Holy Trinity" give new insight into the theocratic and theandric character of the visible Church established by the Lord on the Rock-man Peter. An Appendix to this remarkable volume contains the valuable 1871 treatise of German Catholicism's great champion Bishop William Emmanuel von Ketteler on "The Infallibility of the Teaching authority of the Pope According to the Definition of the [First] Vatican Council".
"The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox" is a unique contribution to Catholic Apologetics. There is no similar work in English which treats in detail Eastern Orthodox claims to be the continuation of the Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
It is available directly from the author:
Reprinted from "Pro Ecclesia" vol. XXXIII, no. 3 pgs. 23-24 (2002)
Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage