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The recovery of eucharistic and holographic ecclesiology as a promising avenue of ecumenical dialogue and broader mutual recognition.


The 1984 Lima Document of the World Council of Churches (Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry) (1) was the result of decades of intense ecumenical consultations. In spite of the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the W.C.C., Catholic theologians were involved in the redaction process, along with Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, and other Protestant participants. This rich and synthetic text aimed at encouraging the mutual recognition of sacraments and ministries:
 Wherever possible, mutual recognition [of baptism] should be
 expressed explicitly by the churches. (2)

 In order to advance towards the mutual recognition of ministries,
 deliberate efforts are required. All churches need to examine the
 forms of ordained ministry and the degree to which the churches are
 faithful to its original intentions. Churches must be prepared to
 renew their understanding and their practice of the ordained
 ministry. (3)

However, the Lima text did not provided any ecclesiological definitions or framework that would make this process more orderly and realistic. This ecclesiological vacuum is what the present essay addresses with a specific paradigm called "eucharistic-holographic ecclesiology."

I. Ecclesiology, Schisms, and Reconciliation

The 1800's represented a low point in terms of ecumenical awareness and overtures. Christians still thought of "the others" as heretics whose salvation was unlikely, since they were outside "true Church" (4) and therefore had to return to that true Church to be saved. This conviction came with a high level of intellectual certainty on all sides, even though various scientific discoveries and political movements were quickly eroding this serene sense of theological absolutism. A good example of this state of affairs is the 1870 Dogmatic Constitution of Vatican I, Pastor aeternus, (5) which proclaimed the dogma of infallibility. Our point of interest here is that this important document reaches this conclusion on the basis of a particular ecclesiology that we will call "worldwide-Petrineuniversal ecclesiology." Clearly, Pastor aeternus, and with it the proclamation of the dogma of papal infallibility, is the result of a long process of theological development. However, Pastor aeternus was also, and perhaps primarily, the apex of the expression of Roman Catholic ecclesiology in terms of worldwide universalism. In other words, universal ecclesiology seems to result in some concept of infallibility, lest one should think that "the whole Church" could fall into heresy.

However, universal ecclesiology--namely, that the Church established by Jesus Christ according to such texts as Mt. 16:18 is the worldwide society of all those living today who are "in Christ"--is an assumed and comfortable paradigm that has been challenged and compared with another model of ecclesiology.

In Pastor aeternus, ecclesiology is taken for granted rather than explained in the text itself, in contrast with the "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church" of Vatican II (Lumen gentium), (6) which uses such key expressions as the "whole Church," "Catholic Church," "universal Church," and "entire Church." In addition to these expressions, Pastor aeternus uses "Roman Church," "Church throughout the world," "all and each of the Churches," and "Churches scattered throughout the world." Further, it cites the Second Council of Lyons which included the profession, "The Holy Roman Church possesses the supreme and full primacy and principality over the whole Catholic Church." (7) If we compare these texts (and indeed the majority of theological and ecumenical documents, including BEM) with formal diplomatic agreements, it is striking to notice the absence of precise definitions in the ecclesiastical texts for the terms being used. By contrast, political treaties, such as the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969, (8) dedicate several pages of introduction to insure that the terminology used in the text will be crystal clear. In the case of Pastor aeternus, the relationship between "Church" and "Churches" is never explained, but it seems obvious that Pastor aeternus adopts a form of ecclesiology in which the "whole Church" is composed of the sum of all those "Churches scattered throughout the world" that recognize the Roman Church--represented by the Bishop of Rome--as their supreme pastor or head. This approach reflects the traditional Western idea that everything can be analyzed and studied in terms of parts (or portions) and whole. According to this view, the parts are not "whole" individually; one has to take all the parts to have the whole. Reflecting this approach, the Catechism of the Catholic Church uses traditional Western terminology: "[The bishops should rule] well their own Churches as portions of the universal Church." (9)

Here, the Catechism echoes the language of Lumen gentium:
 This collegial union is apparent also [in] the mutual relations of
 the individual bishops with particular churches and with the
 universal Church. The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is
 the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both
 the bishops and of the faithful. The individual bishops, however,
 are the visible principle and foundation of unity in their
 particular churches, fashioned after the model of the universal
 Church, in and from which churches comes into being the one and
 only Catholic Church. For this reason the individual bishops
 represent each his own church, but all of them together and with
 the Pope represent the entire Church in the bond of peace, love and

 The individual bishops, who are placed in charge of particular
 churches, exercise their pastoral government over the portion of
 the People of God committed to their care, and not over other
 churches nor over the universal Church. But each of them, as a
 member of the episcopal college and legitimate successor of the
 apostles, is obliged by Christ's institution and command to be
 solicitous for the whole Church, and this solicitude, though it is
 not exercised by an act of jurisdiction, contributes greatly to the
 advantage of the universal Church. For it is the duty of all
 bishops to promote and to safeguard the unity of faith and the
 discipline common to the whole Church, to instruct the faithful to
 love for the whole mystical body of Christ, especially for its poor
 and sorrowing members and for those who are suffering persecution
 for justice's sake, and finally to promote every activity that is
 of interest to the whole Church, especially that the faith may take
 increase and the light of full truth appear to all men. And this
 also is important, that by governing well their own church as a
 portion of the universal Church, they themselves are effectively
 contributing to the welfare of the whole Mystical Body, which is
 also the body of the churches. (10)

According to this model, the "whole Church" or simply "Church" (capitalized) is a worldwide society that emerges from its constitutive parts (or portions), which are the local or particular churches. It is noteworthy that the Vatican-published text of Lumen gentium does not capitalize "church" when referring to the local or particular church. Remarkably, "Church" is capitalized when Mt. 16:18 is referred to, (11) which provides us with the key to the Roman Catholic understanding of this text.

At the same time, Lumen gentium was able to introduce (or reintroduce) the idea that the local or particular church possesses a certain fullness, but the overall ecclesiology remained the same as that of Vatican 1, with the logical consequence that the teaching on papal supremacy and infallibility was strongly reiterated, since particular churches were not considered as parts of the (universal) Catholic Church unless they were in communion with a particular church, that of Rome: "Particular Churches are fully catholic through their communion with one of them, the Church of Rome 'which presides in charity.'" (12)

However, it is certainly noteworthy that "fullness" was recognized to every bishop, notably in terms of sacramental authority: "And the Sacred Council teaches that by Episcopal consecration the fullness of the sacrament of Orders is conferred, that fullness of power, namely, which both in the Church's liturgical practice and in the language of the Fathers of the Church is called the high priesthood, the supreme power of the sacred ministry." (13)

Lumen gentium is careful to any avoid discussion of the episcopal authority of Orthodox bishops, as indicated in the Nota explicativa praevia, no. 4: "These questions are left to theologians to discuss--specifically the question of the power exercised de facto among the separated Eastern Churches, about which there are various explanations."

By considering various separated churches (here even capitalized as "separated Eastern Churches") as authentically worthy of the name "church" and therefore endowed with ecclesial reality, Vatican II would seem to have implied that these "churches" would in some sense have been parts or portions of the Catholic Church. However, this conclusion is never actually taught in Lumen gentium or in the recent and authoritative document Dominus Iesus. As a result, this understanding of the "whole Church" or "Catholic Church" in terms of portions (particular churches) and whole seemed to have reached a certain level of incoherence by being unable fully to account for the existence of portions that would have been genuine churches yet not part of the whole. The need to be consistent with the stricter and more traditional Roman Catholic teachings on this matter, (14) including the view that there is a visible and identifiable "Catholic Church," led to a certain impasse that remains unsolved.

II: The Recovery of Eucharistic Ecclesiology: A Way out of the Impasse?

Cardinal Walter Kasper has cited Fr. George Florovsky's assessment that "Orthodox ecclesiology still finds itself in a pre-theological state." (15) What the Orthodox theologian and Harvard professor was referring to was what he called the "pseudomorphosis" or "Latin captivity" of Eastern Orthodox theology. Along with such theologians as Nicholas Afanasiev, John Meyendorff, and John Zizioulas, he advocated a return to the patristic sources of Orthodoxy and a willingness to challenge Western/Latin assumptions or paradigms. With this ressourcement came a realization and admission that Eastern Orthodox theology had essentially adopted the "parts/whole/worldwide Church" ecclesiology of the West. For instance, the so-called Longer Catechism of the Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church (also known as the Catechism of St. Philaret of Moscow) (16) included the following Questions and Answers:
 How does it agree with the unity of the Church, that there are many
 separate and independent churches, as those of Jerusalem, Antioch,
 Alexandria, Constantinople, Russia?

 These are particular churches, or parts of the one Catholic Church:
 the separateness of their visible organization does not hinder them
 from being all spiritually great members of the one body of the
 Universal Church, from having one Head, Christ, and one spirit of
 faith and grace. This unity is expressed outwardly by unity of
 Creed, and by communion in prayer and Sacraments. (17)

As we can see, this language is exactly the same as that of Vatican I and II. At the same time, the Orthodox Catechism has a clarification that is worth noting:
 Why is the Church called Catholic, or, which is the same thing,

 Because she is not limited to any place, nor time, nor people, but
 contains true believers of all places, times, and peoples. (18)

This definition is both helpful and confusing. What is the Catholic/Universal Church where this expression is used? Is it all true believers in all places and time, including the fullness of all the elect with a certain sense of transcendence and even preexistence, or does the Catholic/Universal Church include only all true believers alive now (universal in a worldwide sense)? As we shall see, the two concepts are close enough to be confusing, since both can be called "universal Church."

In summary, Eastern Orthodox theology gradually adopted an ecclesiological language very similar to that of the Roman Catholic magisterium, at least until the middle of the twentieth century. However, the years following the Russian Revolution and World War II (resulting in massive emigration to the West) saw a progressive rediscovery of another ecclesiology--arguably an earlier one--that also has profound consequences on our understanding of schism, mutual recognition, and reconciliation.

III. Beyond Parts and Whole." A New Paradigm for Ecclesiology

A. Catholicity and the Local Church

The rediscovery of the ecclesial fullness was not only an Orthodox endeavor, since leading Roman Catholic theologians, Henri De Lubac and Yves Congar, were also involved in this process. On the Orthodox side, the leading factor in this ecclesiological paradigm shift was the rediscovery of what has come to be called "eucharistic ecclesiology," notably by Afanasiev (19) and Zizioulas. (20) According to this model of ecclesiology, the Church (if it is not the transcendent Body of Christ embracing space and time as in Ephesians 1) is always the Church in a particular city, which is indeed the biblical pattern and language. As a result, the "whole Church" (the expression used in Acts 5:11 and Rom. 16:23) is the fullness of the eucharistic community in a given place under the presidency of the bishop. Further, the expression "catholic Church" (or Catholic Church) refers to the local Church since the Church is always constituted by the eucharist. Beyond that, there are Churches, and these Churches (if they are indeed Churches--we shall discuss the criteria) are individually whole, forming a common union of Churches, not a bigger universal (worldwide) Church. In other words, there is no such thing--theologically speaking--as the Church of Greece or Orthodox Church (or Roman Catholic Church), since these are not single eucharistic assemblies but groups of Churches.

This ecclesiology was carefully expounded by Zizioulas in his now-classic Bishop, Eucharist, Church. (21) In His Broken Body, (22) one of the present authors further suggested that the word "catholic" does not simply mean "whole/lacking nothing" (as opposed to "worldwide/universal") but also that it is best illustrated by the concept of hologram that was thus explained by the late Michael Talbot:
 ... A hologram is a three-dimensional photograph made with the
 aid of a laser.

 If a hologram of a rose is cut in half and then illuminated by a
 laser, each half will still be found to contain the entire image of
 the rose.

 Indeed, even if the halves are divided again, each snippet of
 film will always be found to contain a smaller but intact version
 of the original image. Unlike normal photographs, every part of a
 hologram contains all the information possessed by the whole.

 The "whole in every part" nature of a hologram provides us with
 an entirely new way of understanding organization and order. For
 most of its history, Western science has labored under the bias
 that the best way to understand a physical phenomenon, whether a
 frog or an atom, is to dissect it and study its respective parts.

 A hologram teaches us that some things in the universe may not
 lend themselves to this approach. If we try to take apart something
 constructed holographically, we will not get the pieces of which it
 is made, we will only get smaller wholes. (23)

This paradigm, which replaces the whole-and-part understanding of universalistic ecclesiology, sheds new light on certain liturgical texts, such as the rite of fraction of St. John Chrysostom: "The Lamb of God is broken and distributed; broken, but not divided. He is forever eaten yet is never consumed, but He sanctifies those who partake of Him." (24)

The holographic implications of this rite are striking. By contrast, the paradigm of Western science is also that of Western theology, and we can paraphrase Talbot as follows: "Western theology has labored under the bias that the best way to understand a physical phenomenon, whether a frog or an atom (or the Church), is to dissect it and study its respective parts." Since the Church is a reality constituted or made manifest in the eucharistic celebration ("when you come together as a Church"), (25) these holographic properties are confirmed and extremely important.

B. Church and Catholicity in Acts 9:31

Indeed, it would seem that the word "catholic" (first used by St. Ignatius of Antioch circa 115 C.E.) can be traced back to Acts 9:31, a verse which--interestingly--has a major variant:

31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was built up; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it was multiplied. (R.S.V.--following the Critical Text)

31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. (N.K.J.--following the Byzantine Text)

It seems very likely that the Critical Text is the original reading, although it was an unusual phrase for traditional Byzantine ecclesiology, according to which Church was connected to a locale, not a region. But, the interesting aspect of this text is that "church throughout" renders the Greek "ekklesia kath 'holis," which can be translated "church catholic." However, the Greek text does not use "kath'holis" in our common sense of the term, which is catholic-universal (worldwide).

In summary, eucharistic and holographic ecclesiology suggests that the Church is a supernatural reality that transcends space and time and is manifested in full (like a hologram) in a given place and time, wherever and whenever the eucharist is validly (26) celebrated by the people with their deacons, presbyters, and bishop. In this system, the expressions "whole Church" and "universal Church" (applied to a worldwide organism) are theologically incorrect and misleading, since the first can only be applied to the local Church (now often called diocese) and the second to the Body of Christ in its fullness, transcending place and time.

C. Catholic as "Holographic"

This allows us to understand the expression "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" in a new light. The Church is the transcendent gathering of the elect and thus the entire body of Christ, which is by definition one. This organism has a property that we can call holographic or distributive wholeness, in the sense that its essential attributes can be made fully manifest in every place and time where this manifestation occurs. This appears to be the usage of ekklesia kath'holis in Acts 9:31. That this manifestation is intimately linked with the celebration of the eucharist is made obvious by the fact that "this is my Body" refers equally to this sacrament as well as to the Church. As Zizioulas could write in his summary of I Corinthians 11: "Thus, in the thought of Paul and the Churches which read his Epistles, the terms 'coming together' or 'coming together in the same place' (epi to auto), 'the Lord's supper' (i. e. Divine Eucharist) and 'the Church' (ekklesia) or 'the Church of God' mean the same thing." (27)

Finally, it may be suggested that this comparison between holographic properties, which belong to the realm of physics, and the adjective "catholic," which is theological, is more than a helpful illustration. After all, if science now supports the idea that both the universe and the human brain are fundamentally holographic entities, (28) it is reasonable to suggest that the Church may also be--not metaphorically, but actually--a holographic reality.

This focus on the local Church does not mean that there is not such a thing as a worldwide common union of Churches or the need for headship at the regional and worldwide level. However, it is a paradigm that allows us to go beyond the part-and-whole dichotomy with its limitations and possible incoherence.

This being said, there is still some debate among Orthodox scholars on these topics. Eucharistic ecclesiology has been very well received, even though not all Orthodox seminaries have adopted Bishop, Eucharist, Church as a required textbook on ecclesiology. Holographic ecclesiology is an even newer approach that builds upon eucharistic ecclesiology and provides it with a conceptual framework that harmonizes "Church" and "Churches" while affirming the wholeness of every local Church. It does seem that the "Zizioulas school" is extremely influential, if only because Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon is the head of the Orthodox delegation of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. In the past, the Greek Orthodox theologian Panagiotes Trembelas (d. 1977) had attempted to maintain a universalistic (yet nonpapal) ecclesiology, although with limited success and reception.

IV. Reception of Eucharistic Ecclesiology in the Ecumenical Dialogue

A. In the Roman Catholic World

The elegance and success of eucharistic ecclesiology have not been lost on senior Roman Catholic theologians and prelates, including cardinals Kasper and Ratzinger who engaged in a public and friendly debate on the topic of the ecclesiology prior to the latter's election to the pontificate in 2005. (29) In 2001, then-Cardinal Ratzinger had offered his assessment of how eucharistic ecclesiology (in his own words: "that Orthodox theologians so convincingly developed") (30)--at that time in a very early stage of rediscovery--had been incorporated at Vatican II in Lumen gentium:
 ... In Orthodox theology the idea of Eucharistic ecclesiology was
 first expressed by exiled Russian theologians in opposition to the
 pretensions of Roman centralism. They affirmed that insofar as it
 possesses Christ entirely, every Eucharistic community is already,
 in se, the Church. Consequently. external unity with other
 communities is not a constitutive element of the Church.

 Therefore, they concluded that unity with Rome is not a
 constitutive element of the Church....

 If we go back now to the Council text certain nuances become
 evident. The text does not simply say, "The Church is entirely
 present in each community that celebrates the Eucharist", rather it
 states: "This Church of Christ is truly present in all legitimate
 local communities of the faithful which, united with their pastors,
 are themselves called Churches". Two elements here are of great
 importance: to be a Church the community must be "legitimate"; they
 are legitimate when they are "united with their pastors". (31)

These last comments are fairly close to the Orthodox approach, with the caveat that Pastor aeternus and Lumen gentium insisted that "their pastors" must have included by divine will the Bishop of Rome. In the same address, Ratzinger also made a comment on the 1992 clarification regarding the relationship between universal and local Church:
 Faced with the post-1985 reduction of the concept of "communio",
 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith thought it
 appropriate to prepare a "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic
 Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion". The
 Letter was issued on 28 May, 1992. Today, any theologian concerned
 about his reputation feels obliged to criticize all documents from
 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Our Letter met with
 a storm of criticism--very few parts of the text met with approval.
 The phrase that provoked the most controversy was this statement:
 "The universal Church in her essential mystery is a reality that
 ontologically and temporally is prior to every particular Church"
 (cf. n. 9).... The ontological priority of the universal
 Church--the unique Church, the unique Body, the unique
 Bride--vis-a-vis the empirical, concrete manifestations of various,
 particular Churches is so obvious to me that I find it difficult to
 understand the objections raised against it. (32)

This position would certainly be consistent with Orthodox theology, which sees the Church as a transcendent pre-existing reality that is actualized and manifested in the local Church. However, we have now come full circle and are faced with the problem that "universal" Church is sometimes used as "spacetime" universal and sometimes as "worldwide." What may be criticized in this concept of priority (of universal over local) is the possible (and seemingly irresistible) shift from "space-time" universal to "worldwide." This shift would then lead one to argue that the worldwide Church (a theologically incorrect concept in eucharistic ecclesiology) precedes the local/catholic Church and has priority over it--in other words, that the Petrine office of supreme pastors has priority over the episcopate and that the bishops essentially derive their authority and legitimacy from the Roman Pontiff. (33) It is this shift from "space-time" universal to "worldwide" universal that is subtle and problematic from the Orthodox perspective of eucharistic ecclesiology, and it is often made subconsciously. In his remarkable book Called to Communion, Ratzinger was explicit on his close identification of "universal" with "worldwide":
 The Church embraces the many languages, that is, the many cultures,
 that in faith understand and fecundate one another. In this respect
 it can be said that we find here a preliminary sketch of a Church
 that lives in manifold and multiform particular Churches but that
 precisely in this way is the one Church. At the same time, Luke
 expresses with this image the fact that at the moment of her birth,
 the Church was already catholic, already a world Church. Luke thus
 rules out a conception in which a local Church first arose in
 Jerusalem and then became the base for the gradual establishment of
 other local Churches that eventually grew into a federation. Luke
 tells us that the reverse is true: what first exists is the, one
 Church, the Church that speaks in all tongues--the ecclesia
 universalis; she then generates Church in the most diverse locales,
 which nonetheless are all always embodiments of the one and only
 Church. The temporal and ontological priority lies with the
 universal Church; a Church that was not catholic would not even
 have ecclesial reality. (34)

This paragraph presents the enduring emphasis of Roman Catholic ecclesiology. As we have emphasized, the problem is the potential lack of clarity of the words we use: "ecclesia universalis" seems to be both a "world Church" and, perhaps, what we have called the eschatological Church, in which case the Orthodox supporters of eucharistic ecclesiology would wholeheartedly agree. However, where the Orthodox would say that every (local) Church (which is whole and complete) has a universal, missionary vocation, Roman Catholic theologians tend to see universality or internationalism as an ontological requirement from the start. The result of this second view is that the Church (Catholic or universal) is first and foremost a "world Church," not the local Church: "This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him." (35)

In others words, the reality of the Church is the big picture, the worldwide organism (centered in Rome), which is made manifest as more local churches are created. Indeed, Called to Communion rejects the idea that the universal mission of the local Church generates a federation of Churches that could improperly be called "Church." It is this picture of the Church that, while not denying the ecclesiality of non-Roman Catholic churches, yet cannot make them formal "portions" of the Catholic Church (understood as a worldwide society).

B. In the Orthodox and Evangelical Protestant World

On the Eastern Orthodox side, eucharistic ecclesiology has been embraced by those who have received a fairly extensive and scholarly theological training, but the operative terminology is still Latin and universalistic. The Orthodox still speak of the "Russian Orthodox Church" instead of the "Patriarchate of Moscow," or of the "Church of Greece" instead of the "Archdiocese of Athens and All Greece." Old paradigms die hard, especially when they are constantly reinforced by convenient and entrenched expressions.

In summary, there is a growing awareness and reception of eucharistic ecclesiology, both in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, but this is a process that has to face the obstacle of long-established paradigms and expressions. Certainly, Eastern Orthodoxy--with its characteristic fragmentation along geographic, ethnic, and national lines--is bound to be more comfortable with eucharistic (and holographic) ecclesiology as a theological system. However, there might be a temptation to use it as a total against a form of universal primacy and to preserve the dangerous identification of "Church" with a particular nation or ethnic affiliation.

In the Evangelical Protestant world, one notices an increasing interest in the field of ecclesiology, and it is significant that a major textbook (36) incorporates a presentation of eucharistic ecclesiology as an important new paradigm.

V. Eucharistic/Holographic Ecclesiology as an Ecumenical Framework

Although it is somewhat outside the scope of this essay, it should be noted that eucharistic ecclesiology--in its Eastern Orthodox articulation--also comes with three additional proposals or paradigm shifts.

The first one is the direct consequence of the "wholeness" of the local Church. Eucharistic ecclesiology implies that the head of the "whole Church/catholic Church"--the bishop--is the one who holds the chair or place of Peter in the Church. (37) In other words, Peter's successor is the bishop, and the successors of the Apostles are the presbyters. This traditional Eastern and Byzantine approach--documented extensively by Meyendorff in his Primacy of Peter (38) and Byzantine Theology (39)--is of course at odds with the universalistic picture presented by Lumen gentium:
 This Council is resolved to declare and proclaim before all men the
 doctrine concerning bishops, the successors of the apostles, who
 together with the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ, the
 visible Head of the whole Church, govern the house of the living
 God. (40)

 And just as the office granted individually to Peter, the first
 among the apostles, is permanent and is to be transmitted to his
 successors, so also the apostles' office of nurturing the Church is
 permanent, and is to be exercised without interruption by the
 sacred order of bishops. Therefore, the Sacred Council teaches that
 bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the
 apostles. (41)

 Just as in the Gospel, the Lord so disposing, St. Peter and the
 other apostles constitute one apostolic college, so in a similar
 way the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the
 successors of the apostles, are joined together. (42)

We must therefore discuss the possible reconciliation of Petrine succession at the local and universal levels hereafter.

The second implication of eucharistic ecclesiology is that we must distinguish among three types of schisms. The first type involves a cessation of communion between local catholic Churches or groups of Churches. This was the case between Rome and Carthage at the time of the rebaptism controversy or several times between Rome and Constantinople during the ninth century. The second type concerns a schism within a (local) catholic Church (such as in Rome at the time of Cornelius and Novatian, or Antioch at the time of Meletius and Paulinus). In this case, we typically see two or more bishops and, therefore, several eucharistic centers competing in the same locale. The third form of schism can be expressed as a departure from the catholic Church when breakaway groups are created with little ecclesial reality. This distinction has important implications when we apply it to assess past schisms (which may have been resolved) and those that are still in effect and even entrenched.

Finally, the third implication of eucharistic ecclesiology is a shift from the legal concept of validity to the idea of assurance. Zizioulas has proposed this shift in his Bishop, Eucharist, Church, on the basis that the Greek word "bebaia," often translated "valid," really means "firm/assured." (43) His approach allows for a less legalistic or black-and-white classification of "valid orders and sacraments" and replaces it with the idea of a specific and localized ecclesial reality that is "more or less assured" based on certain criteria, notably the relationship with the historic eucharistic community.

A. The Importance of Ecclesiology in the Study of Schisms and Reunion

Eucharistic ecclesiology, with its focus on the local Church as the whole Church, does not mean that neighboring Churches are not important or even vital to the life of the Church under consideration. However, it does allow us to look at historic schisms of the three kinds listed above and at their healing. It is interesting, for instance, to see how the schism of the Church at Antioch under Meletius and Paulinus was solved or how the First Council of Nicea invited the Novatians to be reunited to their local catholic Church. A detailed review is beyond the scope of this essay, but focusing on the local Church, both in terms of internal unity ("there must be one bishop in the catholic Church") (44) and communion among Churches, has been historically successful. What is significant is that in most cases, the separated parties recognized each other as estranged but still authentic manifestations of the Church. It is only after the failure of the Council of Florence (1445) that the various sides (formerly "Latins," "Greeks," "Armenians") could see each other as "Church" on the one side and "schismatics outside the Church" on the other.

B. Modern Implications in Terms of Ecclesiality and Recognition

In terms of ecumenical relations, can it be said that the paradigm of eucharistic/holographic ecclesiology is helpful and possibly satisfactory for all sides, notably Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox, but also Oriental Orthodox and Anglican? Our assessment is that it is the case.

If the local Church (the "diocese") is "the catholic Church," it contains in itself the fullness of means of grace, sanctification, and salvation, whether or not "united" into a particular universal superstructure. It may be functionally deficient on account of its separation to an international point of reference (that is, Rome from a Roman Catholic perspective) but still--soteriologically and ontologically--the Church.

In other words, Cyprian of Carthage, Stephen of Rome, and Firmilian of Caesarea can still be bishops of the catholic Church and saints in spite of their ruptures of communion. The Churches of St. Thomas in India, or those of Ethiopia can be seen as always "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic" even when disconnected from Rome or Constantinople. It also means that the saints (of East and West--for instance, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Sergius) do not drop in and out of the catholic Church because their patriarchs are in a state of temporary or permanent schism. Likewise, the idea that salvation is tied to a particular worldwide organism becomes obsolete, and this was the carefully worded conclusion of Lumen gentium.

Thus, this paradigm allows us to move beyond the Lumen gentium impasse of a Catholic Church with clear portions (the Roman Catholic dioceses and eparchies as "particular Churches" for Vatican I/II) and other genuine "churches" in which "the Church of Christ is present and operative," (45) which are nevertheless not part of the Catholic Church.

This leads us to look at the current state of affairs (with a focus on the Roman Catholic and Eastern/Oriental Orthodox Churches) as presenting us with several common unions of Churches, in which there may be certain defective elements (lack of communion with the Bishop of Rome from a Roman Catholic perspective, defective ecclesiology of supremacy and infallibility for the Orthodox) where, nevertheless, the transcendent Body is still actualized and manifested.

This ecclesiology also leads us to make a crucial distinction between "catholic Church" and "orthodox Faith" (in a generic, not capitalized sense). In order words, Eastern Orthodox bishops cannot send a bishop to Rome or Paris and claim that this eucharistic community automatically becomes the "true/catholic Church." Generally speaking, Orthodox patriarchates have not given the name of the local city to Orthodox bishops serving territories that are still considered canonical territories of the Roman Patriarchate. Doing this may simply create a "schism in the Church" as was the case at Antioch under Meletius and Paulinus. In fact, history tells us that a local Church can experience some level of heresy or corruption and still remain "the Church of God in that place." This was obviously the case of Constantinople under iconoclasm, and the Orthodox would argue that the Church of Rome (or any Church anywhere) is not immune to this problem.

This approach also leads us to consider the status of many Anglican (or even Lutheran) communities, especially if we move away from a "lumped" legal assessment in terms of validity to a local evaluation of assurance based on specific criteria. After all, there are many places where Anglican communities were established first--and with a credible claim to apostolic continuity and a satisfactory form of the eucharistic liturgy. As a result, these communities--as long as certain criteria are maintained--have a respectable claim of being the catholic Church in certain places.

C. Ecclesiology and the Ravenna Agreement of 2007

In terms of recognition that eucharistic ecclesiology has great ecumenical potential, the Ravenna Agreement of 2007 constitutes, in our view, an extraordinarily positive development. Obviously, this is not a document of the Roman Catholic magisterium, which gave Kasper a certain leeway, since the agreement does not formally bind the Holy See. Indeed, the Ravenna agreement seems to embrace eucharistic ecclesiology and the priority of the local Church over the worldwide/universal Church: "Each local Church, when in communion with the other local Churches, is a manifestation of the one and indivisible Church of God. To be "catholic" therefore means to be in communion with the one Church of all times and of all places." (46)

There are signs, then that the recovery of eucharistic ecclesiology may have been a providential means to recognize the ongoing ecclesial reality of "separated Churches" and possibly to integrate some of the intuitions of Vatican I and Lumen gentium regarding the need for universal primacy and coordination in a new paradigm that may prove to be a lot more intellectually and pastorally successful than the failed proposals of Lyons or Florence. After all, Meyendorff was aware that Petrine succession in the episcopate did not exclude another analogical and secondary Petrine succession at the universal level:
 There exists, however, another succession, equally recognized by
 the Byzantine theologians, but only on the level of the analogy
 existing between the apostolic college and the episcopal college,
 this second succession being determined by the need for
 ecclesiastical order. Its limits are determined by the Councils,
 and--in the Byzantine perspective--by the "very pious emperors."

D. Practical Criteria for Mutual Recognition

The idea that non-Roman Catholic/non-Eastern Orthodox communities (notably Lutheran or Anglican) may in fact be the catholic Church (or Catholic Church), even with certain theological defects and apart from formal communion with Rome or the Orthodox patriarchates, may be perplexing and challenging for some. But, for all practical purposes, this has been acknowledged for the Oriental Orthodox communities in their historic lands. This leads to the question of what objective criteria could be used to assess the "assurance" of particular communities. On the basis of historic precedent, the following could be suggested, in this specific order:

1. Ability of the eucharistic liturgy to manifest and actualize the Church (48)

2. The legitimate succession in the community

3. The recognition of the neighboring bishops and co-consecrators

4. The orthodoxy of faith and morals, including on the issue of qualification for ordinations (49)

5. Communion with the principal Churches, including that of Rome

6. The personal sanctity of the bishop and clergy

Where a schism exists, the concern of the Churches should be, now as before, to achieve unity of faith (as at Nicea) and to find generous and flexible ways to reunite the faithful and clergy of separated communities into one eucharist, under one bishop, without mention of a prior "loss of salvation" and without imposing reordination (50) or severe sanctions (in the spirit of Canon 8 of Nicea).


Eucharistic and holographic ecclesiology is a fairly recent theological idea, but it can be convincingly argued that it is the original model and one that is able to open new directions in ecumenical dialogue. A number of insights related to this paradigm have been adopted at Vatican II and in ecumenical agreements signed by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. A universal Petrine primacy for the Bishop of Rome can certainly be articulated within this paradigm, but it is also certain that healing these schisms among Churches (and within Churches) will take a supernatural amount of wisdom and humility, coupled with the great theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.

(1) Baptism. Eucharist, and Ministry, Faith and Order Paper 111 (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1982): availabe at (hereafter, BEM).

(2) BEM, Baptism, no. 15.

(3) BEM, Ministry, no. 51.

(4) E.g., Pope Plus XI's Mortalium animos (1928) (available at http://www.vaticanva/holy_father/pius_xi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p- xi_enc_19280106_mortalium-animos_en.html.

(5) Available at

(6) See Austin Flannery, ed., Vatican Council II. Vol. 1: The Conciliar and Postconciliar Documents, new rev. ed. (Northpon, NY: Costello Publishing; Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1975, pp. 350-426; quotations herein are from the online version, available at council/documents/vat- ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html.

(7) Pastor aeternus, c-hap. 4, no. 2.

(8) United Nations Treaty Series, vol. 1155, p. 331, published by the U.N. in 2005; available at conventions/1_1_1969.pdf.

(9) Catechism of the Catholic Church, E.T., 2nd ed., from 1997 online version, available at, no. 886; emphasis added.

(10) Lumen gentium, no. 23; emphasis added.

(11) Cf. Lumen gentium, no. 22.

(12) Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 834

(13) Lumen gentium, no. 21.

(14) For instance, Pope Leo XIII, Satis cognitum, 1896, no. 15: "From this it must be clearly understood that Bishops are deprived of the right and power of ruling, if they deliberately secede from Peter and his successors; because, by this secession, they are separated from the foundation on which the whole edifice must rest. They are therefore outside the edifice itself; and for this very reason they are separated from the fold, whose leader is the Chief Pastor; they are exiled from the Kingdom, the keys of which were given by Christ to Peter alone.... No one, therefore, unless in communion with Peter can share in his authority, since it is absurd to imagine that he who is outside can command in the Church" (available at lxiii_enc_29061896_satis-cognitum_en.html); emphases in original.

(15) Walter Kasper, "Communio: The Guiding Concept of Catholic Ecumenical Theology," in his That They May All Be One. The Call to Unity Today, A Continuum Imprint (London and New York: Bums & Oates, 2004), p. 59.

(16) Orthodox Catechism of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow; available at of Philaret.htm.

(17) Ibid., question 261; emphases added.

(18) Ibid., question 270; emphases added.

(19) Fr. Nikolai/Nicholas Afanasiev (1893-1966) was a Russian emigre and a professor of theology at Saint Sergius Orthodox Theological Seminary in Paris* He was an official ecumenical observer at Vatican II. His work (which presents a version of eucharistic ecclesiology that was somewhat embryonic and slightly different than Zizioulas's) was known by many of the Vatican II Fathers. He was cited in the Conciliar Acta.

(20) John Zizioulas (b. 1930) is a Greek Orthodox theologian, Metropolitan of Pergamon (a titular see) in the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Orthodox chairperson in the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

(21) John D. Zizioulas, Eucharist, Bishop, Church: The Unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop during the First Three Centuries, tr. Elizabeth Theokritoff (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2001).

(22) Laurent Cleenewerck, His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches (Washington, DC: Euclid University Consortium Press, 2008).

(23) Michael Talbot, "The Amazing Holographic Universe," 2006 01 02, available at; emphasis added.

(24) John Chrysostom, "Divine Liturgy, Rite of Fraction of the Lamb"; see

(25) 1 Cor. 11:18 (synercomenon ymon en ekklesia).

(26) The criteria of validity (or, better, "assurance") would be the topic of a separate reflection.

(27) Zizioulas, Eucharist, Bishop, Church, pp. 48-49; emphasis in original.

(28) Cf. David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order (London and Boston, MA: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980); Wilder Penfield, The Mystery of the Mind: A Critical Study of Consciousness and the Human Bram (Princeton, N J: Princeton University Press, 1975); and Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe (New York: Harper Collins, 1991).

(29) Cf., e.g., "Cardinal Dulles Weighs in on Ratzinger-Kasper Debate," a Zenit Daily Dispatch, May 28, 2001, available at

(30) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "The Ecclesiology of Vatican II: The Body of Christ, the People of God, and Communion," lecture to Pastoral Congregation of the Diocese of Aversa, September 15, 2001; published as "The Ecclesiology of Vatican II" in L'Osservatore Romano (Weekly Edition in English), January 23, 2002, p. 5; available at

(31) Ibid.; emphasis in original.

(32) Ibid

(33) This was Leo XIII's position articulated in Satis cognitum; see note 14, above.

(34) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today, tr. Adrian Walker (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1996 [orig: Zur Gemeinschaft gerufen: Kirche heute verstehen, 2nd ed. (Freiburg i. B.: Herder, 1991)]), pp. 43-44: emphasis added.

(35) Lumen gentium, no. 8.

(36) Veli-Matti Karkkainen, An Introduction to Ecclesiology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002).

(37) Cf. St Cyprian's De Unitate.

(38) John Meyendorff, The Primacy of Peter: Essays in Ecclesiology and the Early Church (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1992), notably pp. 67-90.

(39) John Meyendorff; Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes (New York: Fordham University Press, 1979).

(40) Lumen gentium, no 18.

(41) Ibid., no. 20.

(42) Ibid., no. 22

(43) E.g., in the popular translation of Ignatius (of Antioch) to the Smyrneans: "The only Eucharist you should consider valid (bebaia) is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him" (Smyrneans 8:2 [SC 10:96]). See 2 Cor. 1:7; Heb. 9:17.

(44) From the Epistle of Cornelius of Rome to Fabian of Antioch, as cited by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History (c. 258).

(45) Dominus Iesus (On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church), 2000), no. 17; available at con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html.

(46) Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. "Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesial Communion. Conciliarity. and Authority," 2007, no. 11 available at ch_orthodox_docs/re_pe_chrstuni_doc_20071013_documento-ravenna_en.html. This was also strongly affirmed by the Joint Commission in their 2009 document_ "Nature. Constitution. and Mission of the Church," no. 33: "The local church is centred around the bishop, who builds up the unity of all and who guarantees the presence of the fullness of the Church in it. Particularly when gathered around her bishop for the celebration of the Eucharist, the local church makes manifest the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ"; available at chdocs/rc_pc_christuni_doc_20090129_mission-church_en.html.

(47) Meyendorff, Primacy of Peter, p. 89; emphases added.

(48) Here, tile Orthodox would express concern at the ethos of liturgical celebration in certain parts of the Roman Catholic world, especially since the introduction of the Novus Ordo. This was not a concern during earlier centuries.

(49) From a Catholic and Orthodox perspective, this would have to exclude any community where women are ordained as presbyter or bishop.

(50) In cases where existing ordinations meet certain criteria of acceptability (see n. 49, above).

Laurent Cleenewcrck (Eastern Orthodox) is a priest ordained in 2004 in the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, now serving as Acting Rector of Saint Innocent's Orthodox Church in Eureka, CA. He teaches as extension faculty in economics and sciences at Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA, and as professor of theology and international administration for Euclid University. Prior to 2004, he held managerial and technological positions in Paris and California, while involved with organizations in refugee assistance and bioethics. After holding technical positions at IBM and Neurones in the early 1990's, he pursued work in applying Internet technologies to social programs. He graduated from two national programs and from the University of Montpellier, France, in 1989 with degrees in computer science, international affairs, finance, and business administration. He has a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute, Paris (2004), and received an honorary Doctorate in Applied Sciences from the Universite Francophone Internationale in Brussels for his work in bioethical reflection and diplomacy. He pursued further studies at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary, South Canaan, PA, 2002-04, and currently at the Ukrainian Catholic University and at the St. Gregory Nazianzen Orthodox Theological Institute. He is the author of His Broken Body--Understanding and Healing the Schism between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches (Euclid University Consortium Press, 2008); In a Cycle of Light: An Anthology of Homilies in Honor of Archbishop Vsevolod of Scopelos (sell-published, 2005); co-author (with Roberto M. Rodriguez) of Japan on the Edge." An Inquiry into the Japanese Government's Struggle for Superpower Status and UN Security Council Membership at the Edge of Decline (EUC Press, 2009); and co-author of two papers accepted tot publication by the Journal of Religion and Health. He is the New Testament editor of the Eastern/Greek Orthodox Bible and is interested in constructive dialogue between Christianity and Islam.

Ernst Ruediger von Schwarz (Roman Catholic) has been the Medical Director of Multidisciplinary Heart Failure Research at the Cedar Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles and Professor of Medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and at the University of California in Los Angeles since 2006. He was Professor of Medicine and director of the Cardiology Clinics at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX, 2003-06. Previous appointments were at the University Hospital in Aachen, 1996-2003; and at a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 2000-03. His Ph.D. is from the University of Vienna (1987); his M.D., from Philipps University, Marburg (1989). He has been a reviewer or a member of the editorial boards for several dozen scientific journals and has received numerous research grants and served as a reviewer for the National Institute for Health. He has delivered some 200 international or regional plenary lectures and grand rounds. He has authored or coauthored well over 100 articles and several dozen abstracts in medical journals and a dozen book chapters. His Sex and the Heart was published by Friedel & Ernst Academic Publishing in 2006. He is especially interested in the interconnections among philosophy, science, and medicine.
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Author:Cleenewerck, Laurent; von Schwarz, Ernst R.
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Date:Sep 22, 2010
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