"If any hierarch claims today to be First WITHOUT Equals, it is an Orthodox expression of PAPISM pure and simple, and should be heartedly condemned by all faithful Orthodox Christians who want to preserve the UNITY of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. To do otherwise is to encourage schism and worse . . ."
Editor's Note: Patriarch Bartholomew — the current Patriarch of Constantinople — arrogantly claims to be "First Without Equals", presumably ruling over the entire Orthodox Church worldwide. Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis addressed this heresy in his article - EASTERN POPE: Patriarch Bartholomew a Monarch, Analogous to God the Father?
In the following article, Fr. James Bernstein — a well known archpriest within the Antiochian Orthodox Church — explains why the Orthodox Church never has, and never will, accept such claims.
"First without equals?" The Orthodox Church has NEVER had a Patriarch that was First WITHOUT Equals.
Prior to the Great Schism, the Pope of Rome (Old Rome) was considered to be first AMONG equals. He had Primacy, not Supremacy, he was Fallible, not Infallible, and he only had Local Jurisdiction, not Universal Jurisdiction.
No Pope of Rome called, officiated, or even attended an Ecumenical Council prior to the great schism of 1054 AD. Decisions of those Ecumenical Councils, though binding upon all, were not submitted to the Pope as if he were the FINAL arbiter of truth.
Following the Great Schism in 1054, the Pope increasingly claimed to be first WITHOUT equals. For example, in present day Roman Catholicism:
"The pope alone has the right to convoke, suspend, and dissolve an ecumenical council; he also presides over it or chooses someone else to do so and determines the agenda (can. 338). The vacancy of the Holy See automatically suspends an ecumenical council. Laws or teachings issued by an ecumenical council require the confirmation of the pope, who alone has the right to promulgate them (can. 341). The role of the pope in an ecumenical council is a distinct feature of the Catholic Church."
Prior to the Great Schism, the Orthodox Church never claimed to have a Patriarch that is first WITHOUT equals.
There have been a number of times in which Patriarchs have become heretical. A prime example is the Patriarch of Constantinople Nestorius, after which the heresy of Nestorianism is named.
None of the seven Orthodox Ecumenical Councils were convened by either the Pope or the Ecumenical Patriarch. (They were typically convened by the Emperor.)
The 4th Council of Constantinople (879-880) that condemned the Filioque, and the 5th Council of Constantinople (1341-1351) that the confirmed essence/energy distinction and upheld hesychasm and St. Gregory Palamas, likewise were universal councils, binding upon the worldwide Church. And no pope was needed to convene these councils.
IF any hierarch claims today to be First WITHOUT Equals, it is an Orthodox expression of PAPISM pure and simple, and should be heartedly condemned by all faithful Orthodox Christians who want to preserve the UNITY of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. To do otherwise is to encourage schism and worse. Lord have mercy!
Fr. James Bernstein
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