May 31, 2014, Saturday — Nicea III?

 “We agreed to leave as a legacy to ourselves and our successors a gathering in Nicaea in 2025, to celebrate together, after 17 centuries, the first truly ecumenical synod, where the Creed was first promulgated.” –-Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in an interview with AsiaNews published on May 29, two days ago
“Even as we make this journey towards full communion we already have the duty to offer common witness…” —Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew, May 25, Jerusalem, Common Statement after their meeting
“It is our profound conviction that the future of the human family depends also on how we safeguard — both prudently and compassionately, with justice and fairness — the gift of creation that our Creator has entrusted to us.” —Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew, same Common Statement following their May 25 meeting; this passage has led some in Rome to suggest that, as a step toward “full communion,” Pope Francis may ask Patriarch Bartholomew, whose environmental concern is well known, to become an advisor to Pope Francis (even a co-author?) for the encyclical on the environment Francis is now preparing, for publication later this year

Patriarch Bartholomew calls for an Ecumenical meeting in Nicea in 2025

In an interview with AsiaNews published on Thursday, May 29, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said that he and Pope Francis, during their meeting in Jerusalem on May 25, agreed in principle on summoning “a gathering” in 2025 in Nicea to commemorate the first Ecumenical Council, held in Nicea in 325 A.D.

It is not immediately clear what the actual nature or real purpose of this gathering would be.

And it would seem very early to jump to the conclusion that this meeting might turn into an actual Ecumenical Council, bringing together bishops from both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

But that is precisely what some are doing.

A report on the Commonweal magazine website, posted yesterday, May 30, is entitled “Nicea III in 2025,” suggesting that the proposed gathering may be an Ecumenical Council, and not just a Roman Catholic Council, but a Council for the entire Christian world.

Here is that report:

Nicea III in 2025?

By Michael Peppard
May 30, 2014 – 1:13pm

With the unpredictability of Pope Francis, some Catholics have wondered if he would call another council — a Vatican III. It appears not.

Something that big won’t do for Francis. He’s thinking even bigger: the church universal will be getting a Nicea III.

According to reporting from AsiaNews, His All Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, has announced that an ecumenical “gathering” will be held in Nicea in 2025.

Speaking exclusively with AsiaNews, Bartholomew says that together with Pope Francis “we agreed to leave as a legacy to ourselves and our successors a gathering in Nicaea in 2025, to celebrate together, after 17 centuries, the first truly ecumenical synod, where the Creed was first promulgated.”

The exact nature of the planned meeting at Nicea (now Iznik, Turkey) is not known. But how could it be, over a decade in the future?

The ongoing Catholic-Orthodox dialogue will be intensified in preparation for the event. What began in Jerusalem in 1964 and was celebrated last week at the Holy Sepulchre will continue in the holy city this fall, when, in Bartholomew’s words, “a meeting of the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Commission  will be held hosted by the Greek Orthodox patriarch Theophilos III. It is a long journey in which we all must be committed without hypocrisy.”

In all the attention to the Pope’s gestures toward political peace in the Holy Land last week, the joint event with the Orthodox got a bit lost in the mix.

But Francis and Bartholomew didn’t lose focus. And they’ve got a date on the calendar to prove it.
Given the growing rejection of Christian values and teachings by the formerly Christian West, the idea that the Latin (Roman Catholic) and Greek (Orthodox) “lungs” of Christianity need to “breathe together,” seems even more important and necessary now than in past centuries.
Christian unity is always a prayer of all Christians, as it was the final prayer of Christ to the Father at the Last Supper, before his crucifixion — “I pray that they all may be one.”

But in the early 21st century, the practical need for this unity is growing ever more evident.

This gives a certain verisimilitude (“seeming possibly to be true,” that is, plausibility) to the suggestion that the bishops of Rome (the Pope) and Constantinople (the Ecumenical Patriarch), along with the heads of the other Orthodox Patriarchates, may actually have a desire to meet together to reforge a unity that was broken in 1054 A.D., now almost 1,000 years ago.

And what better occasion that on the 1,700th anniversary of the first great ecumenical Council, that of Nicea in 325 A.D., summoned by the Emperor Constantine in the face of the heresy of the presbyter Arius, whose teachings denied the full divinity of Christ?

But, for an Ecumenical Council involving both Catholic and Orthodox bishops to occur, many other preliminary steps would have to be taken. Above all, there is at present no theological understanding or agreement which would allow for such a Council.

In the Catholic understanding, only bishops already in full communion with Rome could be full, voting participants at such a gathering.

In other words, a real union between the Churches would have to reached prior to the summoning of such an ecumenical council, if bishops from both sides were to be present as voting members.

But precisely that real union would seem to be one of the subjects for discussion at such a Council.

So, such a Council could not be called before the Churches were again united, but, the Churches cannot be again united (seemingly) without the summoning of such a Council.

This is the apparent “Catch-22” that would have to be resolved before a “Nicea III” could occur.

In any case, the mere mention of a common gathering in 2025, on the 1,700th anniversary of the Council of Nicea, in Nicea, suggests the profound veneration both Catholics and Orthodox have for that first Ecumenical Council and its decisions (primarily the definition of the divinity of Christ).

So, that profound veneration is something Catholics and Orthodox share, and that shared veneration is already a sign of an existing unity on a very profound level.

In this context, the filming of a major motion picture on the Council of Nicea, showing the dramatic confrontation between Arius and Athanasius, promises to be not only riveting drama, but extremely relevant to the events of our own time. That film, called Nicea, will begin to be made in Rome’s Cinecitta studios in the next few months. Anyone who would like to know more about this film, or assist in its distribution, may ask for more information by return email.


Here is the text of the original AsiaNews report:

05/29/2014 13:27


Bartholomew: With Francis, we invite all Christians to celebrate the first synod of Nicaea in 2025

by NAT da Polis

In an interview with AsiaNews , the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople reveals the future steps to strengthen unity between Catholics and Orthodox. In addition to the appointment of Nicaea, the first truly ecumenical council, in the autumn the next meeting of the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Commission will be held in Jerusalem, where everyone “must commit themselves without hypocrisy”.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – On his return from Jerusalem, where he met with Pope Francis at the Holy Sepulchre, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, has revealed an important appointment for unity between Catholics and Orthodox: a gathering at Nicaea in 2025, where the first real ecumenical council of the undivided Church was celebrated.

Speaking exclusively with AsiaNews, Bartholomew says that together with Pope Francis “we agreed to leave as a legacy to ourselves and our successors a gathering in Nicaea in 2025, to celebrate together, after 17 centuries, the first truly ecumenical synod, where the Creed was first promulgated.”

The Council of Nicaea (now Iznik, 130 km south-east of Istanbul), brought together more than 300 bishops from East and West in 325 and is considered the first true ecumenical council. It was there that the formula of the Creed was decided, similar to the one recited during the liturgy today, saying that Jesus “is co-substantial to the Father,” to counter the Arian heresy.

Francis and Bartholomew met to mark 50 years since the embrace between Paul VI and Athenagoras. The 1964 meeting broke a centuries-old silence between the Christian East and the West, with all the socio-political consequences that have arisen, and from which Europe still suffers.

The meeting at the Holy Sepulchre has revitalized dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, two Christian visions that despite their differences, have a common vision of the sacraments and apostolic tradition.

“The dialogue for unity between Catholics and Orthodox,” Bartholomew tells AsiaNews, “will start again from Jerusalem. In this city, in the autumn, a meeting of the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Commission  will be held hosted by the Greek -Orthodox patriarch Theophilos III. It is a long journey in which we all must be committed without hypocrisy.”

“Jerusalem,” continues Bartholomew, “is the place, the land of the dialogue between God and man, the place where the Logos of God was incarnated. Our predecessors Paul VI and Athenagoras have chosen this place to break a silence that lasted centuries between the two sister Churches.”

“I walked with my brother Francis in the Holy Land not with the fears of Luke and Cleopas on their way to Emmaus (cf. Luke 24: 13-35), but inspired by a living hope which we learn from our Lord.”



Common Declaration of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

May 25, 2014, Jerusalem

Here is the text of the Joint Declaration by Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, following their meeting in Jerusalem on May 25.

By Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

1. Like our venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras who met here in Jerusalem fifty years ago [in 1964], we too, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, were determined to meet in the Holy Land “where our common Redeemer, Christ our Lord, lived, taught, died, rose again, and ascended into Heaven, whence he sent the Holy Spirit on the infant Church” (Common communiqué of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, published after their meeting of 6 January 1964).

Our meeting, another encounter of the Bishops of the Churches of Rome and Constantinople founded respectively by the two Brothers the Apostles Peter and Andrew, is a source of profound spiritual joy for us. It presents a providential occasion to reflect on the depth and the authenticity of our existing bonds, themselves the fruit of a grace-filled journey on which the Lord has guided us since that blessed day of fifty years ago.

2. Our fraternal encounter today is a new and necessary step on the journey towards the unity to which only the Holy Spirit can lead us, that of communion in legitimate diversity. We call to mind with profound gratitude the steps that the Lord has already enabled us to undertake.

The embrace exchanged between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras here in Jerusalem, after many centuries of silence, paved the way for a momentous gesture, the removal from the memory and from the midst of the Church of the acts of mutual excommunication in 1054.

This was followed by an exchange of visits between the respective Sees of Rome and Constantinople, by regular correspondence and, later, by the decision announced by Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Dimitrios, of blessed memory both, to initiate a theological dialogue of truth between Catholics and Orthodox.

Over these years, God, the source of all peace and love, has taught us to regard one another as members of the same Christian family, under one Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and to love one another, so that we may confess our faith in the same Gospel of Christ, as received by the Apostles and expressed and transmitted to us by the Ecumenical Councils and the Church Fathers. While fully aware of not having reached the goal of full communion, today we confirm our commitment to continue walking together towards the unity for which Christ our Lord prayed to the Father so “that all may be one” (Jn 17:21).

3. Well aware that unity is manifested in love of God and love of neighbour, we look forward in eager anticipation to the day in which we will finally partake together in the Eucharistic banquet. As Christians, we are called to prepare to receive this gift of Eucharistic communion, according to the teaching of Saint Irenaeus of Lyon (Against Heresies, IV,18,5, PG 7,1028), through the confession of the one faith, persevering prayer, inner conversion, renewal of life and fraternal dialogue. By achieving this hoped for goal, we will manifest to the world the love of God by which we are recognized as true disciples of Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 13:35).

4. To this end, the theological dialogue undertaken by the Joint International Commission offers a fundamental contribution to the search for full communion among Catholics and Orthodox.

Throughout the subsequent times of Popes John Paul II and Benedict the XVI, and Patriarch Dimitrios, the progress of our theological encounters has been substantial. Today we express heartfelt appreciation for the achievements to date, as well as for the current endeavours.

This is no mere theoretical exercise, but an exercise in truth and love that demands an ever deeper knowledge of each other’s traditions in order to understand them and to learn from them.

Thus we affirm once again that the theological dialogue does not seek a theological lowest common denominator on which to reach a compromise, but is rather about deepening one’s grasp of the whole truth that Christ has given to his Church, a truth that we never cease to understand better as we follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Hence, we affirm together that our faithfulness to the Lord demands fraternal encounter and true dialogue. Such a common pursuit does not lead us away from the truth; rather, through an exchange of gifts, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it will lead us into all truth (cf. Jn 16:13).

5. Yet even as we make this journey towards full communion we already have the duty to offer common witness to the love of God for all people by working together in the service of humanity, especially in defending the dignity of the human person at every stage of life and the sanctity of family based on marriage, in promoting peace and the common good, and in responding to the suffering that continues to afflict our world. We acknowledge that hunger, poverty, illiteracy, the inequitable distribution of resources must constantly be addressed. It is our duty to seek to build together a just and humane society in which no one feels excluded or emarginated.

6. It is our profound conviction that the future of the human family depends also on how we safeguard — both prudently and compassionately, with justice and fairness — the gift of creation that our Creator has entrusted to us. Therefore, we acknowledge in repentance the wrongful mistreatment of our planet, which is tantamount to sin before the eyes of God. We reaffirm our responsibility and obligation to foster a sense of humility and moderation so that all may feel the need to respect creation and to safeguard it with care.

Together, we pledge our commitment to raising awareness about the stewardship of creation; we appeal to all people of goodwill to consider ways of living less wastefully and more frugally, manifesting less greed and more generosity for the protection of God’s world and the benefit of His people.

7. There is likewise an urgent need for effective and committed cooperation of Christians in order to safeguard everywhere the right to express publicly one’s faith and to be treated fairly when promoting that which Christianity continues to offer to contemporary society and culture. In this regard, we invite all Christians to promote an authentic dialogue with Judaism, Islam and other religious traditions. Indifference and mutual ignorance can only lead to mistrust and unfortunately even conflict.

8. From this holy city of Jerusalem, we express our shared profound concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their right to remain full citizens of their homelands. In trust we turn to the almighty and merciful God in a prayer for peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East in general. We especially pray for the Churches in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, which have suffered most grievously due to recent events. We encourage all parties regardless of their religious convictions to continue to work for reconciliation and for the just recognition of peoples’ rights. We are persuaded that it is not arms, but dialogue, pardon and reconciliation that are the only possible means to achieve peace.

9. In an historical context marked by violence, indifference and egoism, many men and women today feel that they have lost their bearings. It is precisely through our common witness to the good news of the Gospel that we may be able to help the people of our time to rediscover the way that leads to truth, justice and peace. United in our intentions, and recalling the example, fifty years ago here in Jerusalem, of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, we call upon all Christians, together with believers of every religious tradition and all people of good will, to recognize the urgency of the hour that compels us to seek the reconciliation and unity of the human family, while fully respecting legitimate differences, for the good of all humanity and of future generations.

10. In undertaking this shared pilgrimage to the site where our one same Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and rose again, we humbly commend to the intercession of the Most Holy and Ever Virgin Mary our future steps on the path towards the fullness of unity, entrusting to God’s infinite love the entire human family.

“May the Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!” (Num 6:25-26).

+ Jerusalem, 25 May 2014


The Anthropological Question
“You live in a deranged age, more deranged than usual, because, in spite of great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.” —Walker Percy (1916-1990), American Catholic convert and writer, author of The Message in the Bottle and Lost in the Cosmos

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