Short tmatt Orthodox comment

popeandpatriarchA reader named Jason Gilbert sent in a crisp little note that said: "Why is Tmatt not commenting on this story?" "This story" is the recent Charlotte Allen piece in the Wall Street Journal in which she offers a very negative review of the book "Encountering the Mystery: Perennial Values of the Orthodox Church," written by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. The headline was blunt: "The Unorthodox Patriarch."

I haven't commented because we really don't focus on book reviews all that much here at GetReligion, as opposed to hard news stories and news features. I know that Orthodox folks online are discussing the article quite a bit, as you would expect, and Rod "friend of this blog" Dreher saluted the article and let his readers chime in.

It really is hard for people to understand that Orthodoxy does not have a pope. Bartholomew I is a symbol of unity, a "first among equals" in a church of patriarchs and councils. But his pronouncements on, say, global warming do not have the same weight as would be claimed by a document coming from Pope Benedict XVI. And, of course, there are varying degrees of authority in papal documents and, of course, millions of Catholics ignore most of those statements anyway.

But Allen's article is must reading, if you are considering reading the patriarch's book. Frankly, there are many others I would recommend over it for those interested in Orthodoxy in the modern world. But that is hardly GetReligion material, is it.

So that's my comment. Oh, and about this statement in the article:

In December 2006, Bartholomew, patriarch since 1991, was thrust under the world-wide media spotlight when he celebrated the Orthodox Divine Liturgy with Pope Benedict XVI. The two met in the tiny Church of St. George in the equally tiny patriarchal compound in Istanbul, all that remains of an Eastern Christian civilization on the Bosporus so glistening and powerful that for more than 1,500 years Constantinople called itself the "new Rome."

Now that would have really been news. Using the word "with" makes it sound as if the pope and the patriarch concelebrated the Divine Liturgy, which they cannot do because Catholicism and Orthodoxy have been in a state of "impaired" Communion since the Great Schism of 1054. It would have been more accurate to say -- check this reference -- that the pope attended a celebration of the Divine Liturgy and, in fact, delivered a short homily. Also, wasn't that liturgy service on Nov. 30?

So, I was not avoiding the article. GetReligion simply focuses, as much as possible, on hard news reports.

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