On September 10, the ZOOM format hosted an interconfessional seminar of the Ukrainian Christian Academic Society, devoted to the analysis of the study of the Saint Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group named “Serving Communion: Re-thinking the Relationship between Primacy and Synodality”. Sergii Bortnyk took part in this seminar as a respondent and also answered a number of questions from interested listeners.
The book “Serving Communion: Re-thinking the Relationship between Primacy and Synodality” is a product of St. Irenaeus group, which has existed since 2004 and unites 13 Orthodox and 13 Catholic theologians from around the world. The group was formed in a situation of difficulties in conducting a formal dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches on the global level.
The book was originally published in German, but later was translated into a number of other languages, including Russian and Ukrainian. On our web-site there is a review of this book in Russian, written after its German publication in 2019 ‒ https://www.academic-initiative.org.ua/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/r4.pdf.
At the beginning of the seminar, two members of St. Irenaeus’ group ‒ Johannes Oeldemann and Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun ‒ told about the history of this text and the functioning of the group itself. In his response to the speeches of the group members, Sergii Bortnyk focused on several important theses of this document, trying to see them in the context of the current critical situation in the Ukrainian Orthodoxy. In particular, he identified the following:
- The document rightly states that the principle of locality of national churches has a negative effect on the testimony of the Orthodoxy at the universal level about the unity of the Church. That is why there is a danger that the increase in number of local Churches will not contribute to the union of the World Orthodoxy;
- The document approves the Eucharistic ecclesiology, which weakens national and ethnic factors in the life of the Church. At the same time, according to Sergii Bortnyk, a distorted understanding of this ecclesiology can lead to the self-closure of the local Churches and to strengthening their clericalization;
- The document calls for finding a balance between synodality and primacy. At the same time, on the example of granting autocephaly for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and the reaction to it by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, we can see controversy over the obvious strengthening of primacy by the Ecumenical Patriarchate as opposed to the principle of synodality;
- The document states that simply returning to the model of relationships of local Churches of the period of the undivided Church in the first millennium A.D. will not bring automatic improvement in the existence of Churches in the 21st century. This thesis is especially important in a situation when some representatives of powerful local Churches call for the “return” model.
In general, the seminar took the form of a constructive dialogue with simultaneous translation into Ukrainian and English. You can see the poster UChAS ‒ http://www.ecumenicalstudies.org.ua/sites/default/files/announcement_docs/%205.jpg
and video recording of the seminar on the FB page of UChAS Secretary Taras Kurylets ‒ https://www.facebook.com/taras.kurylets/videos/1532936427042300. The record should later appear on the website of the UCU Institute of Ecumenical Studies ‒ http://www.ecumenicalstudies.org.ua/