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Author Topic: St. Leo the Great and Papal Primacy  (Read 1712 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: February 19, 2012, 08:22:33 PM »

Eastern Orthodoxy venerates St. Leo the Great, pope of Rome as a saint because he convened Council of Chalcedon.

But, if we look at his letter to Dioscurus of Alexandria, he considered himself head of the church:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf212.ii.iv.ix.html

"How much of the divine love we feel for you, beloved, you will be able to estimate from this, that we are anxious to establish your beginnings on a surer basis, lest anything should seem lacking to the perfection of your love, since your meritorious acts of spiritual grace, as we have proved, are already in your favour.  Fatherly and brotherly conference, therefore, ought to be most grateful to you, holy brother, and received by you in the same spirit as you know it is offered by us.  For you and we ought to be at one in thought and act, so that as we read, in us also there may be proved to be one heart and one mind.  For since the most blessed Peter received the headship of the Apostles from the Lord, and the church of Rome still abides by His institutions, it is wicked to believe that His holy disciple Mark, who was the first to govern the church of Alexandria, formed his decrees on a different line of tradition:  seeing that without doubt both disciple and master drew but one Spirit from the same fount of grace, and the ordained could not hand on aught else than what he had received from his ordainer. We do not therefore allow it that we should differ in anything, since we confess ourselves to be of one body and faith, nor that the institutions of the teacher should seem different to those of the taught."

Here, he clearly calls himself head of the church. Isn't this heresy in Eastern Orthodox Church too?


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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2012, 08:57:01 PM »

Eastern Orthodoxy venerates St. Leo the Great, pope of Rome as a saint because he convened Council of Chalcedon.

But, if we look at his letter to Dioscurus of Alexandria, he considered himself head of the church:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf212.ii.iv.ix.html

"How much of the divine love we feel for you, beloved, you will be able to estimate from this, that we are anxious to establish your beginnings on a surer basis, lest anything should seem lacking to the perfection of your love, since your meritorious acts of spiritual grace, as we have proved, are already in your favour.  Fatherly and brotherly conference, therefore, ought to be most grateful to you, holy brother, and received by you in the same spirit as you know it is offered by us.  For you and we ought to be at one in thought and act, so that as we read, in us also there may be proved to be one heart and one mind.  For since the most blessed Peter received the headship of the Apostles from the Lord, and the church of Rome still abides by His institutions, it is wicked to believe that His holy disciple Mark, who was the first to govern the church of Alexandria, formed his decrees on a different line of tradition:  seeing that without doubt both disciple and master drew but one Spirit from the same fount of grace, and the ordained could not hand on aught else than what he had received from his ordainer. We do not therefore allow it that we should differ in anything, since we confess ourselves to be of one body and faith, nor that the institutions of the teacher should seem different to those of the taught."

Here, he clearly calls himself head of the church. Isn't this heresy in Eastern Orthodox Church too?




Pope St. Leo is not calling himself the "Head of the Church." He is affirming St. Peter's role as Chief Apostle, which is fully accepted in the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church. What Pope St. Leo is saying to Dioscurus here is that both his see (Rome) and Dioscurus' see (Alexandria) are both Petrine in origin, and therefore Dioscurus should have no problem understanding Pope St. Leo's perspective, since Mark received the Gospel as a disciple of Peter, they should be seeing eye-to-eye. He's making an argument for unity. He calls it a "wicked" idea to believe that St. Mark (the founding bishop of Alexandria) to be of a different "spirit" than St. Peter.

However, in this passage, there is no indication that Pope St. Leo is attempting to exercise some kind of authority over Dioscurus. He says that he should be seeing things eye-to-eye with him, since they have both received the Gospel through Petrine succession. This is a very different claim than universal headship of the Church.
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« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2012, 09:20:45 PM »

As I understand it (and I am still at the stage of Inquirer), the Eastern Orthodox church has never denied the status of Rome as the see of first importance, but it is a primacy of honor and love. What the EO reject are the imperious claims the Pope makes regarding his role in the ecclesiastic and even political/temporal affairs.
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« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2012, 10:07:22 PM »

I don't see it. I don't read this quote at all as if Pope St. Leo is claiming headship over the Church. It seems to me, as Benjamin stated, that he is appealing to unity in doctrine.
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2012, 12:36:33 AM »

I don't see it. I don't read this quote at all as if Pope St. Leo is claiming headship over the Church. It seems to me, as Benjamin stated, that he is appealing to unity in doctrine.

Same here, I think I just worded the same idea a little differently in another thread.
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2012, 01:20:24 AM »

Don't you think that Leo is assuming a tone of superiority over St. Dioscorus in this document? That was the impression I got when I initially read the letter. Particularly the part when he demands that Alexandria's traditions conform to those of Rome. But then again, I could just be misreading it.
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« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2012, 01:23:59 AM »

I don't see it. I don't read this quote at all as if Pope St. Leo is claiming headship over the Church. It seems to me, as Benjamin stated, that he is appealing to unity in doctrine.

To me it seems Pope Leo is asking for uniformity in liturgical practice.  Is he bringing up a doctrinal difference?  It could be I missed it.
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« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2012, 02:47:46 AM »

I don't see it. I don't read this quote at all as if Pope St. Leo is claiming headship over the Church. It seems to me, as Benjamin stated, that he is appealing to unity in doctrine.

To me it seems Pope Leo is asking for uniformity in liturgical practice.  Is he bringing up a doctrinal difference?  It could be I missed it.

I got what you did; it seems Pope St. Leo is arguing that if both Alexandria and Rome are Petrine sees, then the liturgical practice handed down from St. Peter should be the same, and it seems to be that St. Leo is of the opinion that it is Alexandria that should conform to Rome, instead of Rome to Alexandria.  That is the closest I can see to any sort of superiority, and it is a far cry from a claim of headship (let alone anything similar to what would, before too terribly long, develop in Rome).
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« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2012, 03:17:19 AM »

St. Leo quite clearly does *not* call himself the head of the Church. He calls St. Peter the head of the Apostles, a statement which is decidedly uncontroversial. His entire argument is that the traditions the Church of Alexandria received from its founder, St. Mark ('the taught' 'the ordained' 'the disciple'), should align with the traditions the Church of Rome received directly from St. Peter ('the teacher', 'the ordainer', 'the master'). One can disagree with his specific conclusions/assumptions (e.g., assuming that a Roman tradition was specifically from St. Peter and therefore normative rather than a later development within a range of possible praxis), but the argument itself (that a Tradition received from St. Peter should be normative) is solidly Orthodox.
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« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2012, 01:49:13 PM »

The Church in Antioch was also established by St. Peter.  Does anyone know of any correspondence from any patriarch of Antioch to any patriarch of Alexandria telling Alexandria to conform its liturgical practices to those of Antioch?

I'm just wondering.  Something like that would be quite interesting and it would show that this was not just a Roman tendency.
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« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2012, 03:29:55 PM »

OO Antioch has conformed the St. Thomas Orthodox, has it not?
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« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2012, 06:29:21 PM »

I think "St. Thomas" Christianity in India has roots from Syria or Persia, which is why you see a Syriac influence.  I don't know the details of their history, though.  One of our Indian Orthodox members can definitely fill us in.

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The Saint Thomas Christians represent a single ethnic group. Saint Thomas Christian culture is largely developed from East Syrian influences blended with local customs and later elements derived from indigenous Indian and European colonial contacts. Their language is Malayalam, the local tongue of Kerala.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Thomas_Christians

I don't think it's an analogous situation.  It's not like they had their own liturgical traditions that were different from the East Syrians, but then were told in a letter to change them.  At least there is no evidence of things happening that way.
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« Reply #12 on: February 20, 2012, 06:40:31 PM »

Don't you think that Leo is assuming a tone of superiority over St. Dioscorus in this document? That was the impression I got when I initially read the letter. Particularly the part when he demands that Alexandria's traditions conform to those of Rome. But then again, I could just be misreading it.

It seemed more fraternal to me.
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« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2012, 06:41:52 PM »

I think "St. Thomas" Christianity in India has roots from Syria or Persia, which is why you see a Syriac influence.  I don't know the details of their history, though.  One of our Indian Orthodox members can definitely fill us in.

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The Saint Thomas Christians represent a single ethnic group. Saint Thomas Christian culture is largely developed from East Syrian influences blended with local customs and later elements derived from indigenous Indian and European colonial contacts. Their language is Malayalam, the local tongue of Kerala.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Thomas_Christians

I don't think it's an analogous situation.  It's not like they had their own liturgical traditions that were different from the East Syrians, but then were told in a letter to change them.  At least there is no evidence of things happening that way.

If I'm not mistaken, the Syrian OO bailed the St. Thomas Christians out of Jesuit influence (well, the ones who didn't join with Rome), some time in the 15th-16th century, and a result was a larger Syrian liturgical and ecclesiastical influence after that time.
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« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2012, 07:21:38 PM »

If I'm not mistaken, the Syrian OO bailed the St. Thomas Christians out of Jesuit influence (well, the ones who didn't join with Rome), some time in the 15th-16th century, and a result was a larger Syrian liturgical and ecclesiastical influence after that time.

Is that what happened between Rome and Alexandria in the fifth century?
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« Reply #15 on: February 20, 2012, 07:25:23 PM »

Again, I am wondering if we have any letters from any patriarch of Antioch to any patriarch of Alexandria, saying that Alexandria should conform its liturgical practices to those of Antioch because St. Mark was the disciple of St. Peter.
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« Reply #16 on: February 20, 2012, 10:59:24 PM »

Again, I am wondering if we have any letters from any patriarch of Antioch to any patriarch of Alexandria, saying that Alexandria should conform its liturgical practices to those of Antioch because St. Mark was the disciple of St. Peter.

I don't know about the issue of what day of the week ordination takes place, but at least concerning making the Eucharist available to the flock on a major feast day, if there was an issue with people not being able to recieve on a feast day (I'm not saying there was or wasn't either way, don't know how much of an issue it was), I don't think it would have been out of line for someone to suggest that the Lord's Body and Blood be available for reception on a major feast day, and if someone were to say something, why not the only bishop who outranked Alexandria in the dyptichs at the time (a good reason why you might not find anything similar coming from Antioch, but I don't know if there ever was or not). As I said before, it's not so much  "you're my disciple because St Mark was St Peter's disciple", but a "we have a common apostolic patrimony, so our beliefs shouldn't be different". Also, it's not like St Leo was asking the church in Alexandria to wear Roman vestments and chant the Roman rite liturgy in latin.

Just a thought.

EDIT TO ADD: Interesting enough, I just remembered that the "we have the same teachers" argument was put out there by the Latins at Florence, not so much in an attempt to change eastern expressions of the faith, but to get the east to accept that the west has developed it's own expressions. This is actually true to a point, one of the reasons why I accept the filioque in latin theological writings but not in the creed, but we already have enough threads on that and in their proper place.
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« Reply #17 on: February 20, 2012, 11:06:22 PM »

What was the point of Pope Leo's letter?  Was there a problem that needed to be settled in Pope Dioscorus' See that Pope Dioscorus couldn't handle?  Or was this supposed to be a casual letter from Pope Leo?
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« Reply #18 on: February 20, 2012, 11:26:57 PM »

What was the point of Pope Leo's letter?  Was there a problem that needed to be settled in Pope Dioscorus' See that Pope Dioscorus couldn't handle?  Or was this supposed to be a casual letter from Pope Leo?

We seem to be missing a lot of the context around this. In the other thread, Fr. Peter mentioned that this letter was apparently sent soon after Pope Dioscorus's enthronement which matches with the opening sentence where St. Leo talks about "we are anxious to establish your beginnings on a surer basis". But its not clear at all what had brought these particular issues to St. Leo's attention or why he chose to write about them at this time (instead of, say, in St. Cyril's day).
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« Reply #19 on: February 21, 2012, 01:30:29 AM »

Don't you think that Leo is assuming a tone of superiority over St. Dioscorus in this document? That was the impression I got when I initially read the letter. Particularly the part when he demands that Alexandria's traditions conform to those of Rome. But then again, I could just be misreading it.

No, "the Church of Rome still abides by His institutions," and so should the Church of Alexandria.  The point is that they both had successors of Peter preceding them, and should both abide by His institutions. 
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« Reply #20 on: February 24, 2012, 10:37:33 PM »

I am sorry I didn't write on the forum for few days.

So, the way I see and the way many people see it, Leo I was the first Pope to explicitly teach Papal Primacy...

Here, he calls himself not only head of the church but calls himself a master, while calling Dioscurus - a disciple.

Take a closer look:

For since the most blessed Peter received the headship of the Apostles from the Lord, and the church of Rome still abides by His institutions, it is wicked to believe that His holy disciple Mark, who was the first to govern the church of Alexandria, formed his decrees on a different line of tradition:  seeing that without doubt both disciple and master drew but one Spirit from the same fount of grace, and the ordained could not hand on aught else than what he had received from his ordainer. We do not therefore allow it that we should differ in anything, since we confess ourselves to be of one body and faith, nor that the institutions of the teacher should seem different to those of the taught.

At first you think the words "teacher", "master" and "ordainer" refers to Christ, but it's actually Peter, who now is Pope of Rome.

At first the phrase: "both disciple and master drew but one Spirit from the same fount of grace[/b], and the ordained could not hand on aught else than what he had received from his ordainer. We do not therefore allow it that we should differ in anything"

The fount of grace here is Christ. Also, the words "ordained" and "ordainer" are both singular, thus the phrase - "we should not differ", in this phrase "we" is among "ordainer and ordained" and not between two ordained...

Also, Christ had no church tradition, Christ established the Church. Thus it's about Peter who established the tradition, about which Leo says is a Master.

I read it this way... Smiley
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« Reply #21 on: February 24, 2012, 10:43:19 PM »

Don't you think that Leo is assuming a tone of superiority over St. Dioscorus in this document? That was the impression I got when I initially read the letter. Particularly the part when he demands that Alexandria's traditions conform to those of Rome. But then again, I could just be misreading it.

Yes, he calls himself a "master" and "ordainer". Well, not his person, but the place he occupies, as he is bishop of Rome.

He is saying: "Peter was head of the apostles, and his disciple was holy Mark. Thus it's impossible for disciple to have different line of tradition than his master. For this reason, Alexandria should follow Roman tradition."

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« Reply #22 on: February 24, 2012, 11:08:48 PM »

Don't you think that Leo is assuming a tone of superiority over St. Dioscorus in this document? That was the impression I got when I initially read the letter. Particularly the part when he demands that Alexandria's traditions conform to those of Rome. But then again, I could just be misreading it.

Yes, he calls himself a "master" and "ordainer". Well, not his person, but the place he occupies, as he is bishop of Rome.


I agree with all others and disagree with you. You seem to be projecting onto St Leo his successors' opinion.
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« Reply #23 on: February 24, 2012, 11:55:23 PM »

Don't you think that Leo is assuming a tone of superiority over St. Dioscorus in this document? That was the impression I got when I initially read the letter. Particularly the part when he demands that Alexandria's traditions conform to those of Rome. But then again, I could just be misreading it.

Yes, he calls himself a "master" and "ordainer". Well, not his person, but the place he occupies, as he is bishop of Rome.


I agree with all others and disagree with you. You seem to be projecting onto St Leo his successors' opinion.

I am not projecting on anything. He calls "master" St. Peter, and "disciple" St. Mark, that's clearly obvious there.

And to prove the fact that Alexandria should follow Rome, he says they have chairs of St. Peter and St. Mark respectively...
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« Reply #24 on: February 25, 2012, 12:46:57 AM »

Don't you think that Leo is assuming a tone of superiority over St. Dioscorus in this document? That was the impression I got when I initially read the letter. Particularly the part when he demands that Alexandria's traditions conform to those of Rome. But then again, I could just be misreading it.

Yes, he calls himself a "master" and "ordainer". Well, not his person, but the place he occupies, as he is bishop of Rome.


I agree with all others and disagree with you. You seem to be projecting onto St Leo his successors' opinion.

I am not projecting on anything. He calls "master" St. Peter, and "disciple" St. Mark, that's clearly obvious there.

And to prove the fact that Alexandria should follow Rome, he says they have chairs of St. Peter and St. Mark respectively...

First sentence, yes. There's nothing controversial there. St. Mark was literally was the disciple of St. Peter and was ordained by him.
Second sentence, no. There's no mention of 'chairs' at all or any claim by St. Leo to possess St. Peter's authority. What he actually says is "the Church of Rome still abides by his [St. Peter's] institutions". And it would be wrong to believe that. "Mark...formed his decrees on a different line of tradition: seeing that without doubt both disciple and master drew but one Spirit from the same fount of grace". It's a simple logical chain - St. Peter instituted the Roman traditions. St. Mark was the disciple of St. Peter. So St. Mark must have instituted the same traditions St. Peter did. There's no appeal to any authority other than that of St. Peter--and no claim by St. Leo to possess that authority. St. Leo's only claim is that he and the Church at Rome are obedient to the authority of St. Peter--and the church of Alexandria should be as well.
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« Reply #25 on: February 25, 2012, 12:57:10 AM »

Don't you think that Leo is assuming a tone of superiority over St. Dioscorus in this document? That was the impression I got when I initially read the letter. Particularly the part when he demands that Alexandria's traditions conform to those of Rome. But then again, I could just be misreading it.

Yes, he calls himself a "master" and "ordainer". Well, not his person, but the place he occupies, as he is bishop of Rome.


I agree with all others and disagree with you. You seem to be projecting onto St Leo his successors' opinion.

I am not projecting on anything. He calls "master" St. Peter, and "disciple" St. Mark, that's clearly obvious there.

And to prove the fact that Alexandria should follow Rome, he says they have chairs of St. Peter and St. Mark respectively...

Again, that Rome follows faithfully the one who succeeded Peter and that it is expected that Alexandria likewise follows the one who succeeded Peter there (St. Mark) is nothing of note.   Chairs...where?
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« Reply #26 on: February 25, 2012, 01:28:50 AM »

The Church in Antioch was also established by St. Peter.  Does anyone know of any correspondence from any patriarch of Antioch to any patriarch of Alexandria telling Alexandria to conform its liturgical practices to those of Antioch?

I'm just wondering.  Something like that would be quite interesting and it would show that this was not just a Roman tendency.
LOL. If "Patriarch" Balsamon "of Antioch" counts, him: he induced Pope Mark III to abolish the ancient rites of Alexandria.  But then he was pushing the rites of New Rome, his real see, so maybe it is just a "Roman" tendency, Old or New (or third).
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« Reply #27 on: February 25, 2012, 01:29:59 AM »

Wow!  I guess so.   Shocked
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minasoliman
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« Reply #28 on: February 25, 2012, 03:38:12 AM »

I am sorry I didn't write on the forum for few days.

So, the way I see and the way many people see it, Leo I was the first Pope to explicitly teach Papal Primacy...

Here, he calls himself not only head of the church but calls himself a master, while calling Dioscurus - a disciple.

Take a closer look:

For since the most blessed Peter received the headship of the Apostles from the Lord, and the church of Rome still abides by His institutions, it is wicked to believe that His holy disciple Mark, who was the first to govern the church of Alexandria, formed his decrees on a different line of tradition:  seeing that without doubt both disciple and master drew but one Spirit from the same fount of grace, and the ordained could not hand on aught else than what he had received from his ordainer. We do not therefore allow it that we should differ in anything, since we confess ourselves to be of one body and faith, nor that the institutions of the teacher should seem different to those of the taught.

At first you think the words "teacher", "master" and "ordainer" refers to Christ, but it's actually Peter, who now is Pope of Rome.

At first the phrase: "both disciple and master drew but one Spirit from the same fount of grace[/b], and the ordained could not hand on aught else than what he had received from his ordainer. We do not therefore allow it that we should differ in anything"

The fount of grace here is Christ. Also, the words "ordained" and "ordainer" are both singular, thus the phrase - "we should not differ", in this phrase "we" is among "ordainer and ordained" and not between two ordained...

Also, Christ had no church tradition, Christ established the Church. Thus it's about Peter who established the tradition, about which Leo says is a Master.

I read it this way... Smiley

As much as I personally would agree that Pope Leo was a Papal Primacist, based on what you write, I would agree with others you need a stronger argument than this.  This letter alone doesn't really prove it outright, and the interpretation, as is shown by other EOs can go either way.  He didn't really say to St. Dioscorus you should obey me, but rather "you and I both" should obey the tradition of St. Peter.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2012, 03:40:05 AM by minasoliman » Logged

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« Reply #29 on: March 14, 2012, 12:33:37 AM »

Regarding the issue of Papal Primacy, this post by Isa is probably more relevant than the above letter:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,43289.msg721447.html#msg721447
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