IN TIME AND OUT
Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarchate
is", wrote Olivier Clément in his book of dialogues with
Patriarch Athenagoras (p. 527) (Dialogues avec le Patriarche
Athénagoras, Ed Athème Fayard, 1969), "a mystery of Constantinople.
Emperor Constantin wanted to found not “an” other Rome but “the”
other Rome... He wanted a new Rome, which would be the receptacle
of Christianity and put at her service the graeco-latin humanism...
So that, nearer to the Greek sources, it was, better than the
latin Rome, the synthesis of the Occident". And for this
reason, Constantinople was a fertile mother of Churches. And
her authority was founded and was confirmed by the holy canons
of the Ecumenical Councils (3rd of the 2nd ecumenical council,
28th of the 4th ecumenical council, 36th of the In Trullo Council).
generally, it is she that expresses unity of the local Churches,
and in the communion with her, the unity appears in the body
of the Orthodox Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,
whose head is no other than Jesus Christ, her single head in
whom the faith is consummated... (Encyclical of the Patriarch
Athenagoras, Sunday of Orthodoxy in 1950)”.
this New Rome was in the forefront of the engagements against
the great heresies. And she maintained and preserved at all
times the true Faith and she is, until our days, within the
world of Orthodoxy, the guardian of the Truth and of the ecclesiastical
New Rome and not a second Rome! The time of the Church of Christ
is not like the image of the time of this world, where each
century is affected by relativity and temporality because disfigured
by the hard reality of the fall and the sin of men.
such as, for example, those of the possible advent of a third
Rome - as if, there was initially a first and then a second
- are remarks only intended to satisfy ambitions which do not
have anything to do with the Church of Christ; they are completely
unknown to the Christian revelation, which essentially is the
revelation of the End of this world and the arrival of the Kingdom
When the Old Rome, in spite of the abundantly spilt blood of
her martyrs and her remarkable contribution to the consolidation
and maintenance of Christianity, left one day the space of the
Confession of Faith of the Orthodox, the Lord allowed, in His
Infinite wisdom, that there is the New Rome for them - so that
the ecclesiologic unity within the orthodox world is preserved
and not so that any right of worldly domination is conferred
says well what it wanted to say.
the argument of modernity, neither that of the greatest number,
neither that of the cultural heritage, neither that of the ethno-phyletism,
nor any other argument generated by the temptations of this
world, cannot side with the life of the Church and the ecclesiastical
Church is the Body of Christ, because Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday and today and for ever (Hebrews 13, 8), because inside
this Body it is the same God who operates all things in all
and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to
each one individually (1 Corinthians 12, 6,11), nothing does
separate nor distinguish the Church from the first centuries
from the Church of our present time: Christ, who is the head,
is always the same, as has just been pointed out to us, unambiguously,
the Apostle Paul.
the sacred canons, which fix and define the role and the place
of Constantinople within Orthodoxy, are precisely there, not
to be modified by the liking of the times or the appropriateness
of the moment, but to reflect the continuity of the Tradition
connected with the uninterrupted Church, according to the model
of the trinitarian mystery and so that achieves, in single Truth,
the plenitude of our life in Christ.
this reason, unless the Church of Constantinople bestows faithfully
this word of Truth any more, no argument allows another local
orthodox Church to claim its primatial place and deny duties,
rights and honours which are reserved for her. Each time that
it is not so, the Patriarch of Constantinople must preserve
its place and its role within Orthodoxy, that he presides in
the communion in his rank as Ecumenical Patriarch.
moreover add that the canonical tradition does not offer any
other alternative to the rigour as regards to ecclesiology,
even if nowadays it is unceasingly ridiculed, and it falls to
the Patriarch of Constantinople, in his rank of guard of this
rigour, to protect it and take care of its right application.
Ecumenical Patriarch is the first among the equals only of all
the Episcopate which belongs to the Orthodox Church; he does
not possess an administrative capacity as it is the case of
the Head of the Church of West. His action is first of all,
to coordinate and express the unity of the local orthodox Churches;
to him belong also some spiritual privileges and right of substitution
each time the other orthodox local Churches do not have the
capacity to choose or to set up their own ecclesiastical organisation
due to persecutions, lack of adequate people or for other reasons’
(Patriarch Bartholomew in review PLEROPHORIA, Athens - May/August
recent and concrete examples illustrate this last comment: Albania
and, with all due respect to some, Estonia.
that the prestigious relics of our Holy Fathers John Chrysostom
and Gregory the Theologian rest again in the place which was
their patriarchal see, it is good us to remember that only Christ
is perfect and that the only Truth for the Church is Christ.
All the tensions and all the confrontations which are born within
the Church do not concern its nature; they express neither more
nor less that the weaknesses of men. Even our greatest saints
have made errors. Not because they are holy but because they
are human beings. The act to sanctify does not belong to them;
it is given to them by the grace carrying Life and action of
God in spite of the faults and disorders of all kinds. It is
the same thing for the life of the Church on this earth.
is, wrote Olivier Clément, a mystery of Constantinople. For
what relates to me, I welcome it with respect and confidence,
in appropriating to me these words of the angel of the Apocalypse:
I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance
Metropolitan of Tallinn and all Estonia
(*): "This topic (of “third Rome") appeared in the
16th century, after the fall of Constantinople, in the context
of an eschatological sensitivity, has been expressly condemned
by the councils of Moscow of 1666-1667 "(Olivier Clément:
“Rome autrement”, Ed Desclée de Brouwer, Paris 1997, p.80/note
*): The Patriarch of Constantinople received the first time
the ecclesiastical title of "Ecumenical Patriarch"
in the 6th century "the reason is that Constantinople exerts
a spiritual and administrative direct jurisdiction on all the
ecclesiastical territories" within her geo-ecclesiastics
limits which are founded on historico-canonical basis. The Orthodox
know well that this does not confer to Constantinople any worldwide,
universal jurisdiction as it is usually understood in the West
when one refers to the canonical adjective "Ecumenical".
(Basile Stavridis and Gregorios Papathomas in Review ISTINA:
The Patriarchate of Constantinople, Paris, 1995/4, p.357 and