The Pope’s New ‘Council of Cardinals’ – a Guest Post


by Father Gareth Jones, JCD
Chaplain, Cardiff University

It is regrettable that the ancient and abiding roles of the Patriarchs of the Eastern Patriarchal Churches does not appear to have been acknowledged or included in the proposed constitution of this “council of cardinals”. It is not sufficient that a patriarch be offered the cardinalate so as to have access to the Bishop of Rome when he wishes to express concerns for his own Patriarchal Church. The patriarchs share a special bond with the Bishop of Rome whose ministries of witnessing and building unity for all the Churches is exercised as a supreme authority under Peter according to the canons of the Eastern and Western codes. Patriarchal Churches and their synodal governments are ancient while the vigilance exercised by a permanent “council of cardinals” cannot be said to be so, nor historically intended. The Universal Church is after all constituted East and West. The Latin Church alone is not the Universal Church so why the omission of patriarchs? Collegiality is nowhere more historically evident and supremely relevant than in relation to the Eastern Churches Catholic and Orthodox.

Collegiality is of the constitutional nature of the Universal Church. The Eastern Catholic Churches should function within an authentic autonomy, unhindered and un-mediated in their relationship to the Bishop of Rome in his exercise of the Petrine ministry. Patriarchs, eparchs and synods legitimately exercise their pastoral care as shepherds of the flock entrusted to them by Christ. This exercise of the tri-munera by patriarchs and eparchs should not be exercised or understood as a ‘concession’ under the vigilance of a Roman dicastery. They exercise catholic and apostolic ministry established and willed by Christ.

The acknowledgement of the importance of Patriarchal Churches is long overdue in the Universal Church and may hold the possibility to re-invigorate ancient customs and canons of the Eastern Churches. Were the importance and exercise of Patriarchal Churches to be restored within the Universal Church in relation to the Bishop of Rome as Supreme Pontiff new legislation could be drafted and inserted into the codes of canon law of the East and West. Such a restoration may hold great ecumenical opportunities for the Eastern Catholic Churches in their relations to the Orthodox Churches. In a decade that has seen savage attacks upon ancient Patriarchal Churches who have witnessed to Christ for centuries by their rich and diverse theological traditions a clearer and stronger voice would be welcome. There is a rich theology of marriage and its pastoral care that could also give nuance to our own Western practices. It is to be hoped that the conciliar teaching contained in Orientalium ecclesiarum will be re-examined in this Year of Faith so that the theological and liturgical treasury of all the Churches may be rediscovered.


4 responses to “The Pope’s New ‘Council of Cardinals’ – a Guest Post

  1. I totally agree. The Churches of the East have been ignored long enough and need not be treated as if they were stepchildren of the Universal Church. The Latin church needs not to be so self centered thinking She has all the answers or possess the only way for evangelization to take place in the world. The Churches of the East have given great witness to the Gospel of Christ and faithfulness to the Church over these last eight years through the poured out blood of many martyrs. An elder priest of the Latin Rite once told me the re-evangelization of the western world will come from the Churches of the East. These are just my thoughts. Nothing special or earth shaking in them

    • Honestly now, did the Latin Church ever care about its Eastern counterpart? Were we ever anything more than the ‘elephant in the living room’ which no one recognizes or speaks about? Observe the Western church’s attitudes toward the Orthodox (not to aggrandize the Orthodox), through the centuries. Does this not give us a clear interpretation of how it (the Western church) thinks of us? Until some move of substance is made by Rome toward all the East, there is only hot air and hollow rhetoric.

  2. “Maybe it is time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops, because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic. This will also have ecumenical value, especially with our Orthodox brethren. From them we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality. The joint effort of reflection, looking at how the church was governed in the early centuries, before the breakup between East and West, will bear fruit in due time. In ecumenical relations it is important not only to know each other better, but also to recognize what the Spirit has sown in the other as a gift for us. I want to continue the discussion that was begun in 2007 by the joint [Catholic–Orthodox] commission on how to exercise the Petrine primacy, which led to the signing of the Ravenna Document. We must continue on this path.” -Pope Francis

    Regarding this comment in the article posted : “There is a rich theology of marriage and its pastoral care that could also give nuance to our own Western practices. It is to be hoped that the conciliar teaching contained in Orientalium ecclesiarum will be re-examined in this Year of Faith so that the theological and liturgical treasury of all the Churches may be rediscovered.”

    Pope Francis has said: “With reference to the issue of giving communion to persons in a second union (because those who are divorced can receive communion, there is no problem, but when they are in a second union, they can’t…), I believe that we need to look at this within the larger context of the entire pastoral care of marriage. And so it is a problem. But also – a parenthesis – the Orthodox have a different practice. They follow the theology of what they call oikonomia, and they give a second chance, they allow it. But I believe that this problem – and here I close the parenthesis – must be studied within the context of the pastoral care of marriage.”

  3. While it is heartening to see a renewed interest in the Roman denomination including both the Eastern Rite and Orthodox denominations in it’s discussions, the simple fact is that Not All Catholics Are Roman OR Orthadox. If the effort of Francis is to merely clean his own house, and he feels that the major problems of that house are solely in the Roman part of the Catholic garden, then He most certainly could consider it to be an single-denominational issue best handled by Roman bishops working to reform the Roman denomination.

    If however he feels that the abuses of power, money laundering, crimes against children, crimes against women, violations of human rights against both Mother and child in Spain, and GLBTQ people everywhere, and hiding of wanted criminals in a cardinals hat in Vatican City are actually epidemic amoung all the Vatican led churches, then by the means he ought to bring as many of in.

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