Thursday, October 8, 2009
After having a close study of the political, cultural & economic situation in the globe today, I can only propose one proposal for the survival of Christians: All Christian Churches and Communions should be in full communion with the successor of Peter, the pope of Rome. There are a few simple reasons for this:
1) Morally: The only voice that can be listened to in the world is that of the pope.
2) Economically: All Eastern Churches are suffering an Islamic revival against Christianity (Middle East?). The only Church that has enough power to rescue them is the "Roman" Catholic Church. Union agendas between Eastern Catholics and Orthodox have failed (e.g. Balamand declaration, the Zoghby project...etc.)
3) Population: The largest Church in the world that is still expanding is the Catholic Church (Over a billion faithful). Recent statistics suggest that Africa is being won by Catholic missionaries.
4) Although Western Europe is losing its formal Christian affiliation, there is now more than ever an awareness in modern Europe that they need to face down Islam.
5) The only other force consists of thousands of fragmented Protestant Christian communities in Europe and the Bible Belt in America. However they compete with each other. No unity exists among Protestant or Orthodox churches.
6) Anthropologically, based on Girard's work, selfishness seems to be the rule of humans in the world although goodness is the root of their nature. Only saints are able to conform to God's grace and will. It follows that unity under one man (the pope) is practically more feasible than puritan dogmatic speculation. Although Christian unity efforts have been tried for half a century, no one Church has made real steps for rapproachment with other churches except Rome. The rest is bogus! As an example the Eastern Orthodox Churches agreed with the Ancient Oriental Churches on all doctrines of faith since 1988. Twenty one years later, none of them has really reunited with any of its sisters!
7) All churches except for the Catholic Church suffer from a nationalist cultural imprint on their current reality be it in the East or in the West. On the contrary the Catholic Church expanded through inculturalization (adapting, for example, to the cultures in Africa & Asia.)
8) The Old Oriental Churches recognize only the first three Ecumenical Councils up to 431 AD, the Eastern Orthodox Churches recognize 7 Ecumenical Councils up to 787 AD. Only the Catholic Church confesses continuity until today - It held 21 Ecumenical Councils, the most recent was held from 1962 to 1965. It is simple: Each Church recognizes Councils until its separation from the universal Catholic Church. And only the Catholic Church continues to hold Ecumenical Councils.
9) Only in the Catholic Church there is a development of doctrine: The Old Oriental Churches still celebrate the same liturgy as they had it in the 5th century. The Eastern Orthodox Churches still celebrate the same liturgy as they had it in the 10th century. Tradition cannot be static, otherwise it dies. According to Cardinal Newman (19th century) there is a development of doctrine based on tradition. One example: icons were not known in Christ's time, but were adopted in the Eastern & Western Churches since the 3rd-4th century; Statues were used in both Christian East & West until Islam in the 7th century attacked the East. Since then the Eastern Church has kept icons only. The Western Church continued the tradition of both icons and statues.The idea is simple: A picture does not change but human perception of the picture develops as humans come closer to the picture. No change in dogma - only development in understanding them. This is not limited to thought. It involves experience which develops as we grow in faith. It can be represented by artistic works such as music and paintings. As much as arts developed in the West, they were hindered in the East due to the presence of Islam.
10) Only the Catholic Church recognizes formally the advances made by modern Biblical scholarship. Catholic Biblical scholars use historical criticism and other tools to decipher more fully the meaning of Scriptures in the context of the cultures in which they were written under God's inspiration.
11) In the Catholic Church there is recognition that scientific advances can lead to a limited understanding of the truth since the author of both Revelation and science is God. Since 1988, there has been 6 international conferences on science & religion sponsored by the Vatican.
12) The Catholic Church is the only Church that recognizes the validity of Orthodox Churches. On the other hand, Orthodox Churches do not recognize the validity of the Catholic Church. Of course we can do nothing without Christ. We need Christ's Spirit who is already working in so many Christian commmunities for the unity of all Christians. It is only obvious to me - and I may be wrong - that full unity will require more than prayers and theological dialogue. It requires, to borrow a word from Islam, submission to God. If all heads of Christian Churches & Communions agree to meet, pray and dialogue, it may be a first step, but there must be a spirit of commitment to unity. The only Church that enjoys full unity is the Catholic Church. Based on the above, it follows that the unique approach for Christian survival is to unite under the leadership of the pope of Rome. Pope Benedict XVI predicted in 1999 (when he was still a cardinal) that Christians will become small communities. He thinks that Christianity will revive and live in its own apparent defeat! In fact, it is in persecution more than in good times that the body of Christ grows.