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Posted By Eric Sammons On March 5, 2009 @ 6:45 am In Eastern Christianity,Ecumenism | Comments Disabled
On the surface, the beliefs and practices of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches appear to be very similar, if not identical: seven sacraments, hierarchical structure, importance of tradition, etc. However, there often are subtle distinctions that can make for significant practical differences.
Take for example ecclesiology. The Orthodox consider the local church of supreme importance – each particular church (i.e. diocese) is considered a “catholic” church, whole in itself. The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, tends to emphasize the importance of the universal Church throughout the world and sees each particular church as a part of that. Because of their view of the local church, the Orthodox grants their bishops an almost complete autonomy; each bishop is consider supreme in his diocese, and there are few instances in which outside authorities can intervene in how a bishop leads his flock.
Thus there is a strong connection between a bishop and a diocese in Orthodox ecclesiology. In general, the Orthodox do not have auxiliary bishops; they believe fervently in the idea of one bishop, one church for each diocese. Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas argues in “Eucharist, Bishop, Church ” that this bond was so strong in the early Church that there was only one weekly eucharistic celebration in each diocese until the time of Constantine, and it was always celebrated by the bishop.
Understanding all of this makes a recent action of the Antiochian Orthodox Church  all the more perplexing. Their holy synod recently declared:
The Metropolitan is the point of reference of all bishops in his Archdiocese and they are under his authority.
All bishops within the Antiochian See are auxiliary bishops and are directly under their spiritual authority.
The Metropolitan defines the responsibilities of the bishops and the place where they should serve. The bishop does not do anything contrary to the will of the Metropolitan.
This is language that sounds more heavy-handed than the most ultra-monist of statements from the 19th century Catholic world. There is much confusion among the Orthodox because of this ruling, as it appears to fly in the face of Orthodox theology. I have seen many participants of Eastern internet forums in a near state of panic trying to determine what this can mean.
I pray that this situation doesn’t cause any undue burdens to our Antiochian brothers and sisters in Christ, and that they might be faithful to their traditions regarding the episcopacy.
Article printed from Divine Life – A Blog by Eric Sammons: http://ericsammons.com/blog
URL to article: http://ericsammons.com/blog/2009/03/05/auxiliary-bishops/
URLs in this post:
 Eucharist, Bishop, Church: http://www.amazon.com/Eucharist-Bishop-Church-Divine-Centuries/dp/1885652518/
 recent action of the Antiochian Orthodox Church: http://www.antiochian.org/node/18867
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