Friday, November 16, 2007

On Ecumenical Councils

39. Unlike diocesan and regional synods, an ecumenical council is not an “institution” whose frequency can be regulated by canons; it is rather an “event”, a kairos inspired by the Holy Spirit who guides the Church so as to engender within it the institutions which it needs and which respond to its nature. This harmony between the Church and the councils is so profound that, even after the break between East and West which rendered impossible the holding of ecumenical councils in the strict sense of the term, both Churches continued to hold councils whenever serious crises arose. These councils gathered together the bishops of local Churches in communion with the See of Rome or, although understood in a different way, with the See of Constantinople, respectively. In the Roman Catholic Church, some of these councils held in the West were regarded as ecumenical. This situation, which obliged both sides of Christendom to convoke councils proper to each of them, favoured dissentions which contributed to mutual estrangement. The means which will allow the re-establishment of ecumenical consensus must be sought out.

From the final document of the Orthodox-Catholic theological discussions held at Ravenna. I think the above reference to the impossibility of holding true ecumenical councils could be (heavy emphasis) a very significant phrase. It might open a whole bunch of doors which I (and most Orthodox and Roman Catholics) have long presumed shut. Where will this go? No where right away. But let's see what happens in the future. Maybe this was what is sometimes called a trial balloon to gauge reaction. If so it would probably get a warm reception from the East. Then again it is entirely possible that I am reading way too much into this. Thoughts?

A big hat tip to Cathedra Unitas for posting the entire document and Wei Hsien for catching the interesting choice of wording noted above. Please comment over at CU.

1 comment:

Chris Jones said...

I've already commented at CU, but let me add here that I think this is a total non-starter. An ecumenical council can occur among the bishops of the Apostolic Church anytime the Holy Spirit wants it to. The schism of Rome from the Church did not change that.

Sorry to be blunt, but hasn't that always been the Orthodox view?