Rome must reckon … with the probable continuance and even accentuation, within Orthodoxy, of a vigorous ecclesiastical nationalism, and, from her viewpoint, little seems more depressing … Until those attitudes are purified, and replaced by an inter-nationalism, a catholicity, better befitting the pattern of the Christian koinonia, there can be no place within Orthodoxy for a Roman see embodying the universal pastorate of Peter and the apostolate to the Gentiles of Paul.
Rome looks at this important aspect of contemporary Orthodoxy with such dismay because she not only desires but needs reunion with the Orthodox East. In the face of her own numerous theological liberals and the innovationist tendencies of churchmen (and churchwomen) in various portions of her far-flung ‘Western’ patriarchate, from Santiago de Chile to Manila, from Melbourne to Detroit, Catholicism’s grasp of the historic Christian tradition can only be strengthened by the accession of Orthodoxy to communion with Rome.
In such matters as: the upholding of the transcendentality of revelation vis-à-vis human understanding, the defence of the Trinitarian and Christological doctrine of the first Seven Councils, a perception of the nature of salvation as more than temporal alone, the maintenance of a classical liturgical life, the nourishment of group and personal devotion to Mary and the saints, the preservation of the threefold apostolic ministry of bishops, presbyters, and deacons (in that same gender in which the incarnate Word exercised his own high priesthood), the encouragement of the consecrated life, especially in its most basic form, monasticism, and the preservation of the ascetic dimension in spirituality – in all of these the present struggle of the Papacy to uphold Catholic faith and practice in a worldwide communion exposed to a variety of intellectual and cultural influences often baleful, if sometimes also beneficient, can only benefit from Orthodox aid.
The energies of authentic Catholicism can only be increased by the inflow of Orthodox faith and holiness: the precious liquid contained within the not seldom unattractive phial of Orthodoxy’s canonical form. Can this greatest of all ecclesiastical reunions can be brought off? The auguries are not good, yet the Christian lives from hope in the unseen.
– Aidan Nichols, OP