The two Petrine Sees (1)
There was a man from Galilee. A simple fisherman are we told by the Gospel. His name is known at the present as Petrus in Latin, Petros in Greek, Patros in Aramaic. Arabic has it as “Boutros”, because the language does not echo the “p” sound. The name is mainly referred right now as to the Bishop of Rome, namely Benedict XVI who will step down on forthcoming 28th of February 2013 at 8 p.m. Roman time. This is why the “Petrine See” is a bit embattled at the moment. The cathedra of Rome of or the Pope of Rome will be quit on that date. Of course, it sounds a bit new. There are many varied opinions, reflection, think-tanking. It cannot change the reality of the decision taken with much freedom and undoubtedly with insights, long prayer hours and days and faith in the Lord by the Bishop of Rome. Benedict XVI ahd accepted the decision to remove his title of “Western Patriarch” some years ago. In February 2013, he quits the see and his pastoral activity as the successor of Saint Peter; as such, he mostly deals with the Western Catholic Church, in particular on this special year of the 1700th anniversary of the proclamation of the Edict of Milan by the Roman Emperor Constantine (313). Along his numerous declarations, Benedict XVI acted and behaved as the strict and very wise theologian whose work have paved the way to the Second Vatican Council and to a deeper reflection on the mystery and existence of the Church as the Body of Christ. This reflection had been carried by different theologians who are more than important for the present and the future develoment of the Catholic Church: Hans Urs von Balthasar, for example, also a German educated whom Joseph Ratzinger had known quite well. Their thoughts were cross-minded by the fact that they both reflected with much depth on the “definition of the Church for the present and the future” and they also share common research on Judaism and the progressive “estrangement” that had drifted the Church from its roots, thus also from any serious eschatological comprehensiveness of Saint Paul’s epistle to the Romans and the “plenitude of the Church” as including Israel, maybe not in the way that has traditionnally been considered by the teaching of exclusion conveyed by the Fathers of the Church, the pastors and the lay people till our generation. Hans Urs von Balthasar had been deeply affected by his being unable to have a true and direct dialogue with Martin Buber (“Einsame Zwiesprach mit Buber”) in whom he recognized a man of the Jewish tradition. Things are a bit special with regards to Martin Buber since he has left the Jewish Orthodox way of his family, had married a Catholic woman, then having spent a long and providential time among the Hassidic communities of East European Jewries, he could put down and save the very vivid words of the Yiddishkayt and hand them over to those who have survived the Catastrophe. Joseph Ratzinger had been profoundly impressed and shocked by all the tragedies that have affected Germany, his home country, a country and culture that is widely spread throughout Europe and had given so many fruits in philosophy, arts, theology, techniques. This country and culture have significantly impacted the Jewish way of thinking throughout the cultural and human space of Europe – also by the existence of Yiddish, to begin with a sort of “Bavarian, Rhineland” dialect that later came to include more than 20 different European, Latin, Germanic, Slavic and other tongues and still retained a specific Aramaic way to bring the Talmudic tradition into the realm of the Gentiles. Hans Urs von Balthasar’s “Einsame Zwiesprach mit Buber” is certainly one of the most contemporary interrogating books because it underscores the absence of real relationship and connection between the Christian world – in particular the Catholic Church – and the Jewish Communities. This will take a long time and the process only may be considered as prospect and not more at the present. This aspect of the relationship between Israel as the cradle and maybe the final companion of the Church in either possible ways has been at the heart of the theological studies and teaching of Joseph Ratzinger. It may have helped him or at least it did lead him to sense the real measure of the Church in its depth, width, breadth heighth and length (Ephesians 3:17-19). This is why Benedict XVI’s attitude was to respect every denomination and to anticipate how the unity of the Body of Christ could be reached in a spirit of mutual recognition admissible to all. This direction is typically German. Joseph Ratzinger is indeed of Bavarian, i.e. of Southern and more Austrian education and culture. Nonetheless, Germany is the “compound of Länder” where Catholicism had to experience the Western Schism of Martin Luther, Zwingli in a particular way. The Germans do know that their “country” both include Catholics and Protestants”. Thus, rejection or exclusion have to be overcome to allow some tolerance and allow some dialogue. The Austrian realm is more Habsburg-linked, expanded to traditional Central and Eastern-European areas, firstly of more Catholic backgrounds. Still, on the marches of the Ukraine, Catholics and Calvinists influenced the Orthodox piety in many ways that must be described with accuracy and understood adequately. Cardinal Jospeh Ratzinger had accompanied late Pope John Paul II on his way of the Cross and his pilgrimages across the announcement of the Good Tidings in the European continents, also on the “Borders” of Eastern Orthodoxy, Byzantine traditions, the Kievan Rus’ and the now leading Russian Orthodox Church that openly revived with much vigor.
It is quite meaningful to point out that, in the Catholic Church, there is another example of dismissal on a voluntary basis and for the spiritual benefit of the Church and the faithful. Cardinal Lyubomir Husar, former Archbishop majeur of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainians (often called “Patriarch”) als ostepped down some years ago and suggested to be replaced by a young clergyman who could continue the redirection and development process of his Church. This is how Sviatoslav Shevchuk has been elected by the Synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Byzantine Rite and got the official recognition of the full communion with Rome. Retired Cardinal Husar will turn 80 years old on the wake of the election of the new pope and bisho pof Rome and thus will not participate in the vote.
The important aspect of the resignation does not lie in the content of a full embattled situation at the Vatican and inside of the Catholic Church on a wider scale. This does play some role, to some extent. pope Benedict XVI had been chosen against his will and intimate conviction that he could assume such a service for the Church. Again, we live times of deep changes.
In the meanwhile, the first Petrine See of Peter, the one at Antioch also found a new patriarch for the Greek Orthodox See of Antioch and all the East. This can lead to some more insights and reflection. (continued)
av aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)