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Author Topic: Pope Leo the Great's thoughts on papacy?  (Read 925 times) Average Rating: 0
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PorphyriosK
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« on: November 02, 2012, 01:22:58 PM »

For those who didn't see my thread last week, I'm another Catholic investigating Orthodoxy (seems to be a lot of us lately!)

Obviously one of the biggest things I'm looking at right now is the papacy of the first millenium.  I wanted to see what a great Orthodox pope of the first century might have to say about the papacy itself and came across these quotes from Pope Leo the Great and haven't been able to find any other threads here that address these quotes.  I realize they're from a Catholic apologetics website, but I'm just taking the quotes at face value.  Here they are:

Quote
1) The Lord . . . wanted His gifts to flow into the entire body from Peter himself, as if from the head, in such a way that anyone who had dared to separate himself from the solidarity of Peter would realize that he was himself no longer a sharer in the divine mystery . . . The Apostolic See . . . has on countless occasions been reported to in consultation by bishops . . . And through the appeal of various cases to this see, decisions already made have been either revoked or confirmed, as dictated by longstanding custom
{Letter to the Bishops of Vienne, July, 445 A.D., 10:1-2; in Jurgens, William A., ed. and tr., The Faith of the Early Fathers (FEF), 3 volumes, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1970, vol. 3, p. 269; emphasis added}

2) Although bishops have a common dignity, they are not all of the same rank. Even among the most blessed Apostles, though they were alike in honor, there was a certain distinction of power. All were equal in being chosen, but it was given to one to be preeminent over the others . . . the care of the universal Church would converge in the one See of Peter, and nothing should ever be at odds with this head.
{Letter to Bishop Anastasius of Thessalonica, c.446 A.D., 14:11; in Jurgens, FEF, vol. 3, p. 270; emphasis added}

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/03/pope-st-leo-great-r-440-461-and-papal.html

If you go to that site, there are some other quotes from him that I'm also having trouble squaring with the idea that the bishop of Rome had only a primacy of honor in the first millenium.  I'm just wondering if there are any good Orthodox sources that would explain this from an Orthodox perspective.  Thank you!

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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2012, 01:30:08 PM »

The first thing they have to do is to explain how that would not apply to the Patriarch of Antioch who is also a successor of Saint Peter in straight line and even to the Patriarch of Alexandria, successor of Mark, who was a disciple of St. Peter as well.
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PorphyriosK
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2012, 01:43:45 PM »

The first thing they have to do is to explain how that would not apply to the Patriarch of Antioch who is also a successor of Saint Peter in straight line and even to the Patriarch of Alexandria, successor of Mark, who was a disciple of St. Peter as well.


So, in that first letter when Leo uses the term "Apostolic See", in capital letters, he could also be referring to the other sees founded by Peter you mentioned. 

What about in the second quote where he says "the one See of Peter"?  I guess you'd need more context on that one.
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« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2012, 01:44:41 PM »

Pope Leo "the great" was an ultramontanist avant la lettre, indeed.

The first thing they have to do is to explain how that would not apply to the Patriarch of Antioch who is also a successor of Saint Peter in straight line and even to the Patriarch of Alexandria, successor of Mark, who was a disciple of St. Peter as well.


So, in that first letter when Leo uses the term "Apostolic See", in capital letters, he could also be referring to the other sees founded by Peter you mentioned. 


There was no such thing as capital letters in antiquity.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2012, 01:45:38 PM by Cyrillic » Logged

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PorphyriosK
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« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2012, 01:49:09 PM »

Wow, I didn't know that!  I guess that means capital letters can be added at will by translators to emphasize certain things.  Thanks for that info  Smiley
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« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2012, 01:53:20 PM »

Wow, I didn't know that!  I guess that means capital letters can be added at will by translators to emphasize certain things.  Thanks for that info  Smiley

To be correct, they used all caps. Spaces or paragraphs were out of the question as well. So technically the translators add lower case letters at will Smiley

This is a manuscript from around the time Leo wrote:

« Last Edit: November 02, 2012, 02:00:00 PM by Cyrillic » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2012, 01:54:56 PM »

My point is based on this:

It is a historical fact that both Rome and Antioch trace their apostolic succession to Peter. In fact, Antioch's claim should be better since there is no doubt the church of Antioch was founded by Peter, while there is controversy about Rome. Anyway, despite that, the bishops at Rome may have been ordained by Peter, thus having a succession, specially if he was indeed a leader there, although I personally suspect that his authority was much like those of the gerontas of today.

Now, since we have two sees that are "thrones of Peter", the traditional theology of supremacy *because* of this succession must necessarily lead to two "heads of the Church".

That means the following: that if Leo is right, then he is wrong. If he is wrong, then he is wrong too. "Tertium no datur", so they say. Smiley
« Last Edit: November 02, 2012, 01:56:09 PM by Fabio Leite » Logged

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PorphyriosK
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« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2012, 02:08:04 PM »

My point is based on this:

It is a historical fact that both Rome and Antioch trace their apostolic succession to Peter. In fact, Antioch's claim should be better since there is no doubt the church of Antioch was founded by Peter, while there is controversy about Rome. Anyway, despite that, the bishops at Rome may have been ordained by Peter, thus having a succession, specially if he was indeed a leader there, although I personally suspect that his authority was much like those of the gerontas of today.

Now, since we have two sees that are "thrones of Peter", the traditional theology of supremacy *because* of this succession must necessarily lead to two "heads of the Church".

That means the following: that if Leo is right, then he is wrong. If he is wrong, then he is wrong too. "Tertium no datur", so they say. Smiley

Interesting...  Thanks for your thoughts on this.  Can you recommend a good study on the early papacy written from an Orthodox perspective?  Either a book or a website format would be okay.  Anyone feel free to chime in on that one, btw.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2012, 02:14:34 PM by PorphyriosK » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2012, 02:29:19 PM »

My point is based on this:

It is a historical fact that both Rome and Antioch trace their apostolic succession to Peter. In fact, Antioch's claim should be better since there is no doubt the church of Antioch was founded by Peter, while there is controversy about Rome. Anyway, despite that, the bishops at Rome may have been ordained by Peter, thus having a succession, specially if he was indeed a leader there, although I personally suspect that his authority was much like those of the gerontas of today.

Now, since we have two sees that are "thrones of Peter", the traditional theology of supremacy *because* of this succession must necessarily lead to two "heads of the Church".

That means the following: that if Leo is right, then he is wrong. If he is wrong, then he is wrong too. "Tertium no datur", so they say. Smiley
Not trying to get into a debate. But, we acknowledge that the Patriarch of Antioch is a successor of Peter. It's just that heis not the successor of Peter. For us, Rome has a special patrimony because that is were St. Peter ended his ministry.
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« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2012, 02:39:03 PM »

This excerpt from The Orthodox Church speaks to your quotes from Pope St. Leo the Great, touching on Rome's primacy and the ability to hear appeals from other parts of the Christian world:
Quote from: The Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos Ware, pg. 27
Orthodox believe that among the five Patriarchs a special place belongs to the Pope. The Orthodox Church does not accept the doctrine of Papal authority set forth in the decrees of the Vatican Council of 1870, and taught today in the Roman Catholic Church; but at the same time Orthodoxy does not deny to the Holy and Apostolic See of Rome a primacy of honour, together with the right (under certain conditions) to hear appeals from all parts of Christendom. Note that we have used the word 'primacy', not 'supremacy'. Orthodox regard the Pope as the bishop 'who presides in love', to adapt a phrase of St Ignatius: Rome's mistake - so Orthodox believe - has been to turn this primacy or 'presidency of love' into a supremacy of external power and jurisdiction.

This primacy which Rome enjoys takes its origin from three factors. First, Rome was the city where St Peter and St Paul were martyred, and where Peter was bishop. The Orthodox Church acknowledges Peter as the first among the Apostles: it does not forget the celebrated 'Petrine texts' in the Gospels (Matthew xvi 18,19; Luke xxii, 32; John xxi, 15-17) - although Orthodox theologians do not understand these texts in quite the same way as modern Roman Catholic commentators. And while many Orthodox theologians would say that not only the Bishop of Rome but all bishops are successors of Peter, yet most of them at the same time admit that the Bishop of Rome is Peter's successor in a special sense. Secondly, the see of Rome also owed its primacy to the position occupied by the city of Rome in the Empire: she was the capital, the chief city of the ancient world, and such in some measure she continued to be even after the foundation of Constantinople. Thirdly, although there were occasions when Popes fell into heresy, on the whole during the first eight centuries of the Church's history the Roman see was noted for the purity of its faith: other Patriarchates wavered during the great doctrinal disputes, but Rome for the most part stood firm. When hard pressed in the struggle against heretics, people felt that they could turn with confidence to the Pope. Not only the Bishop of Rome, but every bishop, is appointed by God to be a teacher of the faith; yet because the see of Rome had in practice taught the faith with an outstanding loyalty to the truth, it was above all to Rome that everyone appealed for guidance in the early centuries of the Church.

But as with Patriarchs, so with the Pope: the primacy assigned to Rome does not overthrow the essential equality of all bishops. The Pope is the first bishop in the Church - but he is the first among equals.

I highly recommend this book--it's very balanced in it's approach to history. I've actually seen it quoted in Catholic apologetic books and websites in their discussion of Eastern Orthodoxy!
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« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2012, 05:57:19 PM »

This excerpt from The Orthodox Church speaks to your quotes from Pope St. Leo the Great, touching on Rome's primacy and the ability to hear appeals from other parts of the Christian world:
Quote from: The Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos Ware, pg. 27
Orthodox believe that among the five Patriarchs a special place belongs to the Pope. The Orthodox Church does not accept the doctrine of Papal authority set forth in the decrees of the Vatican Council of 1870, and taught today in the Roman Catholic Church; but at the same time Orthodoxy does not deny to the Holy and Apostolic See of Rome a primacy of honour, together with the right (under certain conditions) to hear appeals from all parts of Christendom. Note that we have used the word 'primacy', not 'supremacy'. Orthodox regard the Pope as the bishop 'who presides in love', to adapt a phrase of St Ignatius: Rome's mistake - so Orthodox believe - has been to turn this primacy or 'presidency of love' into a supremacy of external power and jurisdiction.

This primacy which Rome enjoys takes its origin from three factors. First, Rome was the city where St Peter and St Paul were martyred, and where Peter was bishop. The Orthodox Church acknowledges Peter as the first among the Apostles: it does not forget the celebrated 'Petrine texts' in the Gospels (Matthew xvi 18,19; Luke xxii, 32; John xxi, 15-17) - although Orthodox theologians do not understand these texts in quite the same way as modern Roman Catholic commentators. And while many Orthodox theologians would say that not only the Bishop of Rome but all bishops are successors of Peter, yet most of them at the same time admit that the Bishop of Rome is Peter's successor in a special sense. Secondly, the see of Rome also owed its primacy to the position occupied by the city of Rome in the Empire: she was the capital, the chief city of the ancient world, and such in some measure she continued to be even after the foundation of Constantinople. Thirdly, although there were occasions when Popes fell into heresy, on the whole during the first eight centuries of the Church's history the Roman see was noted for the purity of its faith: other Patriarchates wavered during the great doctrinal disputes, but Rome for the most part stood firm. When hard pressed in the struggle against heretics, people felt that they could turn with confidence to the Pope. Not only the Bishop of Rome, but every bishop, is appointed by God to be a teacher of the faith; yet because the see of Rome had in practice taught the faith with an outstanding loyalty to the truth, it was above all to Rome that everyone appealed for guidance in the early centuries of the Church.

But as with Patriarchs, so with the Pope: the primacy assigned to Rome does not overthrow the essential equality of all bishops. The Pope is the first bishop in the Church - but he is the first among equals.

I highly recommend this book--it's very balanced in it's approach to history. I've actually seen it quoted in Catholic apologetic books and websites in their discussion of Eastern Orthodoxy!

I guess it's a matter of finding out exactly what is meant by the word "first" in the phrase "first among equals" and what is meant by "primacy".  I listened to parts of the talk by Met. Hilarion at the Orientale Lumen conference and he said that the Orthodox are trying to come to a consensus among themselves as to how they define the primacy, so I guess that means there is not one definitive opinion about this in Orthodoxy yet. 
And thanks, I just got the book recently and am hoping to start it as soon as possible. Smiley   
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« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2012, 11:12:47 AM »

I know choy is very lyrical about "The Primacy of Peter" by Fr. John Meyendorff. It has an essay in it by Schmemann about primacy in the Orthodox Church.
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« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2012, 11:34:49 AM »

There is a consensus though on what it is not: a universal jurisdiction, direct governance over other jurisdictions even if in exceptional cases, infallibility, and that it is necessary for salvation.

The debate is how exactly this primacy is to be exercised: merely in a honorary fashion or with some actual presiding prerrogatives and if any prerrogative, which ones.

My take on this, is that eventually people will acknowledge what is written in the Justinian institutes: that the "First Among Equals" is the "Head of the Bishops", that is, the presiding chair of the Synod. That is far more than the stricts conciliarists think and far less than radical papists advocate. Also that title is not theological or ecclesiological, but administrative. It is a rank, not an order. The extreme metaphysical dogmas related to the see of Rome necessarily being this presiding chair will have to be put aside. The criteria was clearly a mix of prestige from ecclesiastical history, social, political and economical importance and "spontaneous respect" due to firm defense of the Orthodox faith.

If Rome accepts the above, plus the revogation of the Filioque from the Creed (or if Rome and Orthodoxy can agree with the formulation "and through the Son"), and if Rome can acknowledge Immaculate Conception as a theologumen instead of dogma, then, IMO, union could happen immediately with Rome again as the first see. After all, today it *is* the most important see in social, political and economical importance, it does have a beautiful ecclesiastical history and if it confesses the Orthodox faith, it will comply with the three criteria.
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« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2012, 12:05:21 PM »

Not directly related to the OP's question, but it could be of interest in discerning St. Leo's views regarding the papacy :

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,39295.0.html
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