Word Magazine May 1959 Page 8


By Reverend Ilyas Kurban

That they all may be one: as thou, Father, art in Me,and I in thee. That they also may be one in Us. That the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.
(St. John17-21)

This is a quotation from the last discourse of our Lord. Jesus foresaw the future of His Church, therefore, He is praying fervently to the Father to preserve the unity of the Church. Division and sects are not from God, but from Satan. The devil is working constantly to destroy the unity of the Church of Christ.

It is the duty of every faithful Christian to work for this unity. We of the Eastern Catholic Orthodox Church do believe that the Church is one, in spite of the fact that there are many national Churches. The Church in its fullness is embodied in every single Church, regardless of its size or its location, or whether it is in Europe, in Asia, or in any place on the planet. The Church is the body of Christ and the assembly of the Christians.

We, the Eastern Catholic Orthodox Christians, do not believe in the absolute centralization of the juridical power in one local church in order that this church may rule over all Christendom.

From the tenth century on, the Church of Rome took the statement of our Lord “Peter, thou art rock, and on this rock I will build my Church” as absolute evidence of the primacy of the Church of Rome. It is true that St. Peter was very active. He used to speak in the name of the disciples. After the ascension of our Lord, Peter was the leader, but on the other hand, if we study the organization of the Apostolic Church, we would see that the Church was not an administrative unit, and St. Peter was not the only judge of the whole Church. In Jerusalem, the first place was given to St. James, and he presided at the first Synod at Jerusalem, and outside Palestine, St. Patti played the greatest role.

Could we say that St. Peter was infallible? If we read the Bible and if we study the whole history of the Church to 1870, we would find no mention of the word “infallibility” and no one was infallible. On the contrary, St. Peter was rebuked by Jesus and by St. Paul. Galatians 2:11-17.

Many bishops, patriarchs and popes were condemned because of their heterodox teachings. It would be a great error to presuppose that a man, no matter who he is, is perfect and infallible. A perfect and infallible man is no more a man, but he is God. Infallibility does not belong to man, but to the Holy Spirit in the Church. All of the Apostles were equal, and Jesus gave them all the power to baptize and the authority to forgive and to absolve from sins in the name of the Lord. Jesus did not give any authority to any one to rule all over the others. “A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And He said to them. ‘‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you: rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest. Luke 22:26.

It is possible to understand the primacy of St. Peter, but not in the same sense that the Roman Catholics believe in the Pope. As for the statement of Jesus about Peter when He said “And I tell you Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church. . . “ According to the Holy Fathers, this statement should be taken and analyzed not as one separate sentence, but as a sentence in a chapter or in a paragraph. Jesus was asking His disciples “ ‘Who do men say that the Son of Man is?’ and they said ‘some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah.’ He said to them ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Then Jesus said ‘Blessed art thou, and I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.’” The Holy Fathers explain that the rock is the faith of Peter, and that Jesus will build His Church on the confession of St. Peter, that Jesus is the Son of the living God, in another expression, Jesus will build His Church on Himself. Here is the foundation of the Church. ‘‘So then, you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus, Himself, being the chief Cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and “grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19-2l)

This would leave no doubt in our mind that Jesus is the foundation of the Church and no one else. St. Peter was a leader. He receives the first revelation; he expresses the idea of all the apostles, but the unity of the Church is not in St. Peter. This unity is not in the Pope, and not in the Patriarch. Our unity is in Jesus Christ. The real unity is in God. This unity is to be obedient to God through the hierarchy.

We believe that the Church has to have a leadership, but not in the same sense as the Roman Catholics believe in the Pope, and the Pope is not the only successor of St. Peter. The Patriarch of Antioch is also a direct successor of St. Peter and they may have the same power he had, but neither this nor that could be considered as Jesus Christ.

We pray constantly for the union of all men in Jesus Christ, and we ask you to pray that the Holy Spirit may guide us to the Unity that God wants. All of us are brothers and sisters in humanity. All of us are the children of one Almighty God.