Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Say what?

Russian Orthodox says Pope should shed more titles

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, who has dropped his title "patriarch of the West" to boost ties with Orthodox Christians, should scrap more terms tagged to his name if he wants real progress, a senior Russian Orthodox bishop has said.

Papal titles such as "vicar of Jesus Christ" or "sovereign pontiff of the universal Church" were "unacceptable, even scandalous" for the Orthodox, Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev said in a statement published this week on his Web site.

"Only renouncing titles stressing the universal jurisdiction of the pope, and the ecclesiological doctrine hidden behind that, would be a real step on the path toward reconciliation between the Orthodox and Catholic churches," he wrote.

A ha! It stands to reason that the Orthodox would want to see the titles of the Bishop of Rome proclaiming his universal jurisdiction dropped.

Hilarion, Russian Orthodox bishop of Vienna and his church's main representative in Europe, said the "patriarch of the West" title was actually more acceptable than some others.

Russian Patriarch Alexiy II said last month he hoped for a rapid resolution to the problems between the churches. Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican's top official for ecumenism, said neither side wanted to lure believers away from the other.

All this talk about such things is of course coming from the Russian Orthodox Bishop of Vienna. The Orthodox See of Vienna is the flashpoint of what some call Russian hypocrisy in castigating Rome for proselytization in Mother Russia and disregarding the boundaries of ancient historical churches while at the same time, the Russians are doing it right back in places like the Archdiocese of Vienna in a country that is pretty much Catholic by tradition.

Hilarion objected to three of Benedict's eight remaining titles -- Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles and Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church -- because the Orthodox do not believe any cleric can claim such authority.

The rest -- Bishop of Rome, Primate of Italy, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Roman Province, Sovereign of Vatican City and Servant of the Servants of God -- refer to more limited powers of the pope and do not clash with Orthodox views.

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