Islam as a Christian Heresy: 8 Quotes from St. John Damascene A.D. 749

“There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist.”

Listers in one of the earliest polemics against Islam, the “superstition of the Ishmaelites” was viewed as a heresy of Christianity. In his  work The Fount of Knowledge, St. John Damascene (c. 675 or 676 – 4 December 749) gifts the Church with one of the earliest summa theologicas. He is considered the last of the great Early Church Fathers and it would be difficult to exaggerate his influence on the Christian East. He is also esteemed in the Western Church as a forerunner to the scholastics and is considered by some as the first scholastic. St. John Damascene is best known for his fight against iconoclasm.1


The Fount of Knowledge is divided into three categories:

  1. “Philosophical Chapters” (Kephalaia philosophika) – “With the exception of the fifteen chapters that deal exclusively with logic, it has mostly to do with the ontology of Aristotle. It is largely a summary of the Categories of Aristotle with Porphyry’s “Isagoge” (Eisagoge eis tas kategorias). It seems to have been John Damascene’s purpose to give his readers only such philosophical knowledge as was necessary for understanding the subsequent parts of the “Fountain of Wisdom”.
  2. “Concerning Heresy” (Peri aipeseon) – “Little more than a copy of a similar work by Epiphanius, brought up to date by John Damascene. The author indeed expressly disclaims originality except in the chapters devoted to Islamism, Iconoclasm, and Aposchitae. To the list of eighty heresies that constitute the “Panarion” of Epiphanius, he added twenty heresies that had sprung up since his time. In treating of Islamism he vigorously assails the immoral practices of Mohammed and the corrupt teachings inserted in the Koran to legalize the delinquencies of the prophet.”
  3. “An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith” (Ikdosis akribes tes orthodoxou pisteos) – “The third book of the “Fountain of Wisdom”, is the most important of John Damascene’s writings and one of the most notable works of Christian antiquity. Its authority has always been great among the theologians of the East and West. Here, again, the author modestly disavows any claim of originality — any purpose to essay a new exposition of doctrinal truth. He assigns himself the less pretentious task of collecting in a single work the opinions of the ancient writers scattered through many volumes, and of systematizing and connecting them in a logical whole.2


In his passage on Concerning Heresies, his section on the superstition of the Ishmaelites is considerably longer than most. One reason for this attention could be his prolonged battles against iconoclasm, in which the influence of Islam was a significant factor. The following are selected sections from his passage on Islam.


Another depiction of Muhammad in hell for the sin of heresy. He is rendering his body as he rendered the Body of Christ. MS. Holkham misc. 48, p. 42, Bodleian Library in Oxford, England.
Another depiction of Muhammad in hell for the sin of heresy. He is rendering his body as he rendered the Body of Christ. MS. Holkham misc. 48, p. 42, Bodleian Library in Oxford, England.


1. Muhammed devised his own heresy

“There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist. They are descended from Ishmael, [who] was born to Abraham of Agar, and for this reason they are called both Agarenes and Ishmaelites… From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration.”


2. Christ’s shadow was crucified

“He says that there is one God, creator of all things, who has neither been begotten nor has begotten. He says that the Christ is the Word of God and His Spirit, but a creature and a servant, and that He was begotten, without seed, of Mary the sister of Moses and Aaron. For, he says, the Word and God and the Spirit entered into Mary and she brought forth Jesus, who was a prophet and servant of God. And he says that the Jews wanted to crucify Him in violation of the law, and that they seized His shadow and crucified this. But the Christ Himself was not crucified, he says, nor did He die, for God out of His love for Him took Him to Himself into heaven.”


3. Christ denied saying, “I am the Son of God and God.”

“And he says this, that when the Christ had ascended into heaven God asked Him: ‘O Jesus, didst thou say: “I am the Son of God and God”?’ And Jesus, he says, answered: ‘Be merciful to me, Lord. Thou knowest that I did not say this and that I did not scorn to be thy servant. But sinful men have written that I made this statement, and they have lied about me and have fallen into error.’ And God answered and said to Him: ‘I know that thou didst not say this word.” There are many other extraordinary and quite ridiculous things in this book which he boasts was sent down to him from God.”


4. Where did Scripture foretell Muhammad?

“But when we ask: ‘And who is there to testify that God gave him the book? And which of the prophets foretold that such a prophet would rise up?’—they are at a loss. And we remark that Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai, with God appearing in the sight of all the people in cloud, and fire, and darkness, and storm. And we say that all the Prophets from Moses on down foretold the coming of Christ and how Christ God (and incarnate Son of God) was to come and to be crucified and die and rise again, and how He was to be the judge of the living and dead. Then, when we say: ‘How is it that this prophet of yours did not come in the same way, with others bearing witness to him? And how is it that God did not in your presence present this man with the book to which you refer, even as He gave the Law to Moses, with the people looking on and the mountain smoking, so that you, too, might have certainty?’—they answer that God does as He pleases.”


5. Where are the witnesses?

“When we ask again: ‘How is it that when he enjoined us in this book of yours not to do anything or receive anything without witnesses, you did not ask him: “First do you show us by witnesses that you are a prophet and that you have come from God, and show us just what Scriptures there are that testify about you”’—they are ashamed and remain silent.”


6. What do the Muslims call Christians?

“Moreover, they call us Hetaeriasts, or Associators, because, they say, we introduce an associate with God by declaring Christ to the Son of God and God… And again we say to them: ‘As long as you say that Christ is the Word of God and Spirit, why do you accuse us of being Hetaeriasts? For the word, and the spirit, is inseparable from that in which it naturally has existence. Therefore, if the Word of God is in God, then it is obvious that He is God. If, however, He is outside of God, then, according to you, God is without word and without spirit. Consequently, by avoiding the introduction of an associate with God you have mutilated Him. It would be far better for you to say that He has an associate than to mutilate Him, as if you were dealing with a stone or a piece of wood or some other inanimate object. Thus, you speak untruly when you call us Hetaeriasts; we retort by calling you Mutilators of God.’”


7. On Women

“As has been related, this Mohammed wrote many ridiculous books, to each one of which he set a title. For example, there is the book On Woman, in which he plainly makes legal provision for taking four wives and, if it be possible, a thousand concubines—as many as one can maintain, besides the four wives. He also made it legal to put away whichever wife one might wish, and, should one so wish, to take to oneself another in the same way. Mohammed had a friend named Zeid. This man had a beautiful wife with whom Mohammed fell in love. Once, when they were sitting together, Mohammed said: ‘Oh, by the way, God has commanded me to take your wife.’ The other answered: ‘You are an apostle. Do as God has told you and take my wife.’


As shown by the artwork above, the Middle Ages also viewed Islam has a heresy. In Dante’s Inferno, Canto XXVIII, Muhammad is depicted as “twixt the legs, Dangling his entrails hung, the midriff lay Open to view…” Muhammad suffers the punishment of the schismatics: having his body rent from chin to anus for how he rent the Body of Christ. The great Catholic thinker Hilarie Belloc (1870-1953) is also known for his treatise on Islam as The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed.

  1. Fount of Knowledge: A digital download of Catholic University of America’s translation is available (here) and an except may be viewed online (here). Furthermore, a larger excerpt on Islam from Fount of Knowledge may be read on an Orthodox website (here). Another translation is available in its entirety online, but SPL is unfamiliar with the translation (here). []
  2. St. John Damascene Information: Biographical information and the structure of the Fountain of Wisdom is adapted from the Catholic Encyclopedia article. []

8 Odes in Honor of the Dormition of the Mother of God

At your Assumption, O Mother of God, the hosts of Angels in fear and joy covered your body with hallowed wings, that had been spacious enough to receive God.

Listers, while the West celebrates the Feast of Our Lady, the Assumption, our brethren in the East celebrate with us under a different name. Known in the Byzantine theological and liturgical tradition as the Dormition (in Greek, the kimesis, or “falling asleep”), this feast commemorates the death of the Mother of God, as well as her subsequent Assumption into heaven after three days. The feast itself, which originated in the East, likewise entered into the Latin West as the Dormitio B. Mariae Virginis, where after several centuries it assumed its own unique character as a celebration of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

The feast of the Dormition, being one of the more solemn Marian feasts in the Byzantine liturgical calendar on account of its antiquity, is preceded by a period of fasting and spiritual preparation known as the “Dormition Fast.” Of the four annual fasts in the Byzantine tradition, it is the strictest, except of course the Great Fast during Lent. Lasting for fourteen days, it begins with the feast of the Procession of the Cross on the 1st of August, and ends at sundown on the 14th, when the feast of the Dormition officially commences.

The Synaxarion, the martyrology of the Byzantine churches, relates that the dormition and the assumption of Our Lady were announced by an Angel to the Blessed Mother. According to tradition in the East, this final stage of Our Lady’s earthly life took place in Jerusalem, witnessed by all but one of the Apostles, who had been gathered together by Divine power. At the moment decreed beforehand by God, the all-holy Virgin, surrounded by her children committed her spirit into the hands of her Divine Son. A funeral procession followed to Gethsemane, where a tomb had been prepared for her, and with hymns and chants she was solemnly interred in her place of repose.

The Apostle Thomas, however, was making his way from India at the time of her burial. Being greatly saddened at his late arrival, he began to be distressed. The rest of the Apostles decided to open the tomb of the Virgin, in order that he might be able to honor her all-blameless body. But upon opening the tomb, they discovered that she had been taken into heaven, leaving the burial shroud remaining. Throughout the whole tomb, a garden of beautiful and fragrant flowers had bloomed, as a celebration of the miracle of Our Lady’s Assumption. To this day, the tomb of the Virgin remains in the garden of Gethsemane, enclosed in the shrine dedicated to her Dormition.

In honor of this solemn feast, this list will include eight odes in honor of Our Lady’s Dormition, from the Canon sung during Matins and composed by St. John Damascene:


First Ode

I will open my mouth, and it will be filled with the Spirit; and I will utter a word for the Queen and Mother: I will be seen keeping glad festival,and rejoicing, I will hymn her falling asleep.

The divine tabernacles of heaven fittingly received you as a living heaven, O Virgin all-pure; and as a blameless bride, you stand radiantly adorned before your King and God. [1]


Third Ode

O marvelous wonder, to see the living heaven of the King universal going down below the hollows of the earth. How wondrous are Your works: glory to Your power, O Lord!

At your Assumption, O Mother of God, the hosts of Angels in fear and joy covered your body with hallowed wings, that had been spacious enough to receive God. 


Fourth Ode

If her Fruit, who is incomprehensible–because of Whom, she was called ‘Heaven, willingly underwent burial as a mortal–how will she refuse burial, who bore him without wedlock? 


Fifth Ode

The universe was amazed at your glory divine: for you, O Virgin who knew not wedlock, have passed over from earth to mansions eternal and to life without end, as you give salvation as the prize to all who sing your praise.

Let the trumpets of the theologians ring out today, and let the mortal tongue now sound praises with many voices. Let the air re-echo, shining with infinite light. Let angels honor with hymns the Dormition of the Virgin.


Sixth Ode

As we celebrate this divine and honored feast of the Mother of God, come O godly-minded people, let us clap our hands as we glorify God Who was born of her.


Seventh Ode

The most sacred Assumption of Your hallowed and undefiled Mother has gathered the celestial ranks of the Powers on high to rejoice together with those on earth who sing to You: ‘O God, blessed are You!’


Eighth Ode

He, when taking flesh made his dwelling marvelously in your immaculate womb, Himself received your all-holy spirit and, as a dutiful Son, gave it rest with Himself. And so, we praise you, O Virgin, and exalt you above all to all the ages.


Ninth Ode

The angelic Powers were amazed as they looked down on Zion, upon their own Master bearing in His hands the soul of a woman; for as befitted a Son, he was saying to the one who gave him birth without stain:

‘Come, O honored Lady: be glorified with your Son and God.’

The choir of the Apostles shrouded your body, which had received God, as they looked with awe and addressed you with clear voice: ‘As you depart into the heavenly bridal chambers to your Son, may you ever save your inheritance.’


[1] All quotes are taken from Ephrem Lash’s copyrighted translation of the Menaion (with slight modifications), unless otherwise noted. Also, the numbering of the odes – with the missing “second ode” – is intentionally and in accordance with the liturgical tradition.

In Defense of the Papacy: 9 Reasons True Christians Follow the Pope

“And I will place on his should the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house.”

Listers, glory and honor to God for giving us the grace of the papacy. The Pope is the “Advocate of Christian Memory” and he holds the King’s people to the King’s laws until our Savior returns. Each year on February 22nd the Church celebrates the Cathedra Petri – the Chair of St. Peter.

This feast brings to mind the mission of teacher and pastor conferred by Christ on Peter, and continued in an unbroken line down to the present Pope. We celebrate the unity of the Church, founded upon the Apostle, and renew our assent to the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, extended both to truths which are solemnly defined ex cathedra, and to all the acts of the ordinary Magisterium.

The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Rome has been celebrated from the early days of the Christian era on 18 January, in commemoration of the day when Saint Peter held his first service in Rome. The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Antioch, commemorating his foundation of the See of Antioch, has also been long celebrated at Rome, on 22 February. At each place a chair (cathedra) was venerated which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass. One of the chairs is referred to about 600 by an Abbot Johannes who had been commissioned by Pope Gregory the Great to collect in oil from the lamps which burned at the graves of the Roman martyrs. — New Catholic Dictionary1

To commemorate this holy feast day SPL brings you a defense of the papacy with references to Scripture, the Western Church Fathers, the Eastern Church Fathers, and of course, the Medieval Popes.


The article addresses the following questions:

  1. Did St. Peter hold any primacy amongst the Twelve Apostles?
  2. Did Christ charge St. Peter with the office of the papacy?
  3. Did St. Peter exercise his ministry from Rome?
  4. What about the controversy of Sts. Peter and Paul?
  5. Did the papacy continue after St. Peter and if so, to whom?
  6. Did the Early Church speak of a hierarchal Church with bishops?
  7. What of those who started their own “churches”?
  8. What did the Eastern Early Church Fathers say about the Petrine Ministry?
  9. Are all people subject to the papacy?


The following list is certainly not exhaustive. The Scripture studies alone could fill up volumes and a proper study of Church history is a lifetime of academic work; however, we’ve catalogued a quality sampling of sources with biblical and textual citations in order that you may be able to defend or maybe even discover for the first time the grace of the papacy.


Holy Scripture

1. St. Peter was Prince of the Apostles

“Prince of the Apostles” means that St. Peter held a certain primacy over the other eleven. Understanding St. Peter’s unique position among the twelve and the unique ministries he exercised lays an excellent groundwork for a discussion of Christ’s founding of the Papacy. There are three primary topics of focus for exploring the biblical articulation of the primacy of the Petrine ministry.


St. Peter’s Place of Primacy Among the Twelve

Sts. Peter, James, and John are a special group of disciples that are allowed to witness the Transfiguration2 and accompany Christ to the Mount of Olives.3 In each event, St. Peter, the Rock, is singled out. At the Mount of Olives, Christ finds all three asleep, but it is St. Peter he addresses. During the Transfiguration, it is St. Peter who speaks for the disciples. In St. Luke 5:1-11, Christ calls his first disciples, and the first is Simon Peter. According to Cardinal Ratzinger, the “call of Peter appears as the original pattern of apostolic vocation par excellence.”4 Every time the disciples are listed, St. Peter is listed first.5 Furthermore, when referring to the disciples, sometimes only St. Peter is mentioned by name, e.g., “And Simon and those who were with him,” and “Now Peter and those who were with him”.6 St. Peter is the only one to try to walk on the water (Mt 14:28ff) and he is the one that brings up the famous question of how many times we must forgive.7 Even St. Peter’s shadow was an instrument of healing.8


Significance of the Name Change

While it was common for Rabbis to give nicknames or new surnames to their disciples, e.g., the Sons of Zebedee as the “Sons of Thunder,” it was uncommon to change a disciple’s first name. Christ gives Simon the new name “Peter” or Kephas (or Cephas) meaning rock.9 In the Old Testament, God changing someone’s name denoted a special calling, a new vocation, e.g., Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, etc. St. Peter’s name change denotes that he will have a special vocation among the twelve. Obviously Christ was also referred to as the Rock, because he is the foundation of all things. However, in the rabbinical tradition, Abraham was also referred to as a rock: “Look to the rock from which you were hewn… look to Abraham your father” .10 Cardinal Ratzinger comments:11

Abraham, the father of faith, is by his faith the rock that holds back chaos, the onrushing primordial flood of destruction, and thus sustains creation. Simon, the first to confess Jesus as the Christ and the first witness of the Resurrection, now becomes by virtue of his Abrahamic faith, which is renewed in Christ, the rock that stands against the impure tide of unbelief and its destruction of man.


The Papal Office Given to St. Peter by Christ

After the Resurrection, Christ appears to the Twelve and has a unique conversation with St. Peter. Christ, the Shepherd, asks St. Peter three times if he loves him. St. Peter responds yes all three times – presumably this passage should reflect his three denials. Christ also tell St. Peter and Peter alone: feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep. As the Vicar of Christ, St. Peter must care for the flock.12 In Lk 22:31-34, two major Petrine themes are evident. First, Satan has taken a special interest in St. Peter. He will fail, but will repent. Second, after St. Peter has “turned again” to Christ, Jesus commissions him to “strengthen the brethren.” Another mission given only to St. Peter.

In Matthew 16:13-20, the most famous unique call is given to St. Peter: to be the foundation of the Church and to exercise the authority of keys of the kingdom. The office given to St. Peter is that of the Vicar within the Davidic Kingdom. The Vicar governs in the King’s stead, according to the King’s rules, while the King is gone.13 St. Peter is the Vicar of Christ, the Pope.


Concluding Thoughts and Suggested Reading

For all of this information plus a brief handling of the relationship between Sts. Peter and Paul, please reference 13 Biblical Reasons St. Peter is the Prince of the Apostles. The page citations and Scripture references for this section are taken from Cardinal Ratzinger’s Called to Communion, which was featured in The 6 Books by Pope Benedict XVI All Catholics Should Read.

A selection from “Christ’s Charge to Peter,” Raphael (1515)

2. Jesus Christ Founded the Papacy

According to Holy Scripture, the Office of the Papacy was instituted by Jesus Christ. In fact, he was the only person who had the authority to create such a position. SPL’s article 10 Biblical Reasons Christ Founded the Papacy discusses the following questions:

  1. What type of kingdom did Christ intend to bring?
  2. What role did Christ intend for Saint Peter?
  3. What is the biblical backing for St. Peter’s role in accordance with the Davidic Kingdom?
  4. What is the position and what is its purpose?
  5. What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say about St. Peter and the Papacy?
  6. But in Greek, St. Peter’s name is Petros and Christ says, “upon this petra,” so Christ was not referring to St. Peter, was he?
  7. Isn’t Christ The Rock?
  8. I am a Christian, how can I follow both Christ and the Pope?
  9. How can I have a personal relationship with Christ and have a “middle man,” the Pope?
  10. Scripturally, what would be the overall reason Christ would want a Vicar for his Church?

We will address the first three questions here, because they lay out a proper biblical understanding of the Office of the Papacy.


1. What type of kingdom did Christ intend to bring?

Jesus Christ was descended from King David and referred to as “Son of David”14. King David was promised a descendent who would not only “rule forever,” but would sit on “David’s throne” forever15; thus, any conversation of what is and what is not properly intended by Christ, regarding his Kingdom, must be couched within the template of the Davidic Kingdom16.


2. What role did Christ intend for Saint Peter?

In the district of Caesarea Philippi, Christ asks his disciples “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” St. Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus then says to St. Peter:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Christ’s intention for the role of St. Peter within the kingdom is twofold: Christ changed Simon Bar-jona’s name to Peter meaning rock and he will be a foundation for Christ’s kingdom on earth, the Church, and secondly, St. Peter is given the “keys of kingdom,” which come with great authority17. It is important to note this is one of the few times Christ ever mentions the “Church.”


3. What is the biblical backing for St. Peter’s role in accordance with the Davidic Kingdom?

If Christ is giving St. Peter a role within his Church, his kingdom of God on earth, then it must be part of the Davidic Kingdom. The symbols of authority given to St. Peter are the “keys of the kingdom.” Looking to the Old Testament, it is clear that Christ is rewording a passage from Isaiah that speaks of a position within the Davidic Kingdom:

And I will place on his should the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house.

Here a position within the Davidic Kingdom is described which has the key of authority to open and close, and is considered a position of security and authority when the King is away. Christ, who will sit on David’s throne forever, is using an Old Testament verse to elucidate a New Testament Kingdom position.


A section of the “Martyrdom of St. Peter” by Leonello Spada (1576–1622)

Early Church

3. St. Peter Exercised his Ministry from Rome

Bl. John Henry Newman said it best: “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” History paints an overwhelming picture of St. Peter’s apostolic ministry in Rome and this is confirmed by a multitude of different sources within the Early Church. Catholic Encyclopedia states:

“In opposition to this distinct and unanimous testimony of early Christendom, some few Protestant historians have attempted in recent times to set aside the residence and death of Peter at Rome as legendary. These attempts have resulted in complete failure.”

Protestantism as a whole seeks to divorce Christianity from history by rending Gospel message out of its historical context as captured by our Early Church Fathers. One such target of these heresies is to devalue St. Peter and to twist the authority of Rome into a historical mishap within Christianity. To wit, the belief has as its end the ultimate end of all Catholic and Protestant dialogue – who has authority in Christianity?

The article 11 Reasons the Authority of Christianity is Centered on St. Peter and Rome is a sampling of the praise of and adherence to the Petrine Ministry – The Papacy. While the list gives three quality examples of Scripture connecting St. Peter with Rome, we will look here at a few choice quotes from the Early Church.


Taught in the Same Place in Italy

Bishop Dionysius of Corinth, in his letter to the Roman Church in the time of Pope Soter (165-74), says:

“You have therefore by your urgent exhortation bound close together the sowing of Peter and Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both planted the seed of the Gospel also in Corinth, and together instructed us, just as they likewise taught in the same place in Italy and at the same time suffered martyrdom” (in Eusebius, Church History II.25).


St. Peter Announced the Word of God in Rome

In his “Hypotyposes” (Eusebius, Church History IV.14), Clement of Alexandria, teacher in the catechetical school of that city from about 190, says on the strength of the tradition of the presbyters:

“After Peter had announced the Word of God in Rome and preached the Gospel in the spirit of God, the multitude of hearers requested Mark, who had long accompanied Peter on all his journeys, to write down what the Apostles had preached to them” (see above).


Come to the Vatican and See for Yourself

The Roman, Caius, who lived in Rome in the time of Pope Zephyrinus (198-217), wrote in his “Dialogue with Proclus” (in Eusebius, Church History II.25) directed against the Montanists:

“But I can show the trophies of the Apostles. If you care to go to the Vatican or to the road to Ostia, thou shalt find the trophies of those who have founded this Church.”

By the trophies (tropaia) Eusebius understands the graves of the Apostles, but his view is opposed by modern investigators who believe that the place of execution is meant. For our purpose it is immaterial which opinion is correct, as the testimony retains its full value in either case. At any rate the place of execution and burial of both were close together; St. Peter, who was executed on the Vatican, received also his burial there. Eusebius also refers to “the inscription of the names of Peter and Paul, which have been preserved to the present day on the burial-places there” (i.e. at Rome).


Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us.

4. The Early Church on Sts. Peter and Paul

“Many modern day academics enjoy setting St. Peter and St. Paul in enmity with one another,” states SPL author Catherine, “however, the over emphasis of Galatians 2:11-14 by modern scholarship fails to acknowledge that even though they had a disagreement their mission of spreading the Gospel was the same. In this spirit, I present to you five reflections by members of the early church on the mutual impact that St. Peter and Paul had on the early church. Prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to let St. Peter and St. Paul’s example of faithfulness unto death be your focus today and everyday.” Out of Catherine’s excellent list, we will focus on one particular passage by St. Irenaeus:

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meeting; [we do this, I say] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; also [by pointing out] the faith they preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
Against Heresies 3.3.2.

Along with the above quote, the other four passages from the Early Church demonstrate the Fathers focusing on Sts. Peter and Paul as brothers in the faith and fellow martyrs – not enemies vying for power within the Church. For a more biblical focus of the relationship between Sts. Peter and Paul see the above-mentioned list on St. Peter as Prince of the Apostles.


Crucifixion of St. Peter – Masaccio, AD 1426

5. The First Popes of the Catholic Church

In cataloguing the first ten popes of the Catholics Church, SPL hoped to address a few misconceptions. The first would be that the office of the papacy was simply given to St. Peter and then closed upon his death. The necessity of a Vicar of Christ with the Keys of Kingdom is present until the King returns and the Keys are returned to him. Secondly, we hoped to address the pernicious error that the papacy is a historical fiction within the Early Church and it did not materialize until medieval times. For our purposes, we’ll select the two popes that followed St. Peter from The First 10 Popes of the Catholic Church.


Pope St. Linus (67-76)

All the ancient records of the Roman bishops which have been handed down to us by St. Irenaeus, Julius Africanus, St. Hippolytus, Eusebius, also the Liberian catalogue of 354, place the name of Linus directly after that of the Prince of the Apostles, St. Peter. These records are traced back to a list of the Roman bishops which existed in the time of Pope Eleutherus (about 174-189), when Irenaeus wrote his book “Adversus haereses”. As opposed to this testimony, we cannot accept as more reliable Tertullian’s assertion, which unquestionably places St. Clement (De praescriptione, xxii) after the Apostle Peter, as was also done later by other Latin scholars (Jerome, Illustrious Men 15). The Roman list in Irenaeus has undoubtedly greater claims to historical authority. This author claims that Pope Linus is the Linus mentioned by St. Paul in his 2 Timothy 4:21. The passage by Irenaeus (Against Heresies III.3.3) reads:

After the Holy Apostles (Peter and Paul) had founded and set the Church in order (in Rome) they gave over the exercise of the episcopal office to Linus. The same Linus is mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to Timothy. His successor was Anacletus.

We cannot be positive whether this identification of the pope as being the Linus mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21 goes back to an ancient and reliable source, or originated later on account of the similarity of the name.


Pope St. Anacletus (Cletus) (76-88)

The second successor of St. Peter. Whether he was the same as Cletus, who is also called Anencletus as well as Anacletus, has been the subject of endless discussion. Irenaeus, Eusebius, Augustine, Optatus, use both names indifferently as of one person. Tertullian omits him altogether. To add to the confusion, the order is different. Thus Irenaeus has Linus, Anacletus, Clement; whereas Augustine and Optatus put Clement before Anacletus. On the other hand, the “Catalogus Liberianus”, the “Carmen contra Marcionem” and the “Liber Pontificalis”, all most respectable for their antiquity, make Cletus and Anacletus distinct from each other; while the “Catalogus Felicianus” even sets the latter down as a Greek, the former as a Roman.


The Martyrdom of Saint Clement c. 1480

6. The Apostles Appointed Bishops

The Early Church was the Early Catholic Church. First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians is an orthodox window into the infancy of the Church (AD 97) and particularly into the structure of the Church. The Early Church is not an ambiguous or mysterious time. It is a well recorded period with a great number of writings from the Early Church Fathers. Clement lived in Rome only a stone’s throw away from the Coliseum. He is seen as a successor to St. Peter and is considered the fourth Pope of Rome, following St. Peter, St. Linus and St. Anacletus.

Chapter XLII outlines a clear theology of succession from Christ to the Apostles to the Bishops of the Church. As an early Christian, how do you know if you belonged to the true Church? Well, does your community have a bishop? Did your bishop come from the Apostles who came from Christ our Lord who came from God the Father? It should be stressed this epistle is dated AD 97.

“The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture in a certain place, I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.”


In Chapter XLIV, St. Clement shuts the book on any doubt that the apostles chose and declared men to lead as bishops after their death. It is apostolic succession in a clear and practical manner articulated in AD 97.

“Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that you have removed some men of excellent behaviour from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honour.”

It is important to note the universal authority in which Pope St. Clement I is writing. One cannot miss how early in the life of the Church this writing is and how the Church is already a hierarchal body that respects the teachings of the Bishop of Rome. Pope St. Clement I even commands the Corinthians at one point – this note and other are commented on in The Apostles Appointed Bishops: 9 Teachings from St. Clement AD 97.


The Schismatics of Dante’s Inferno by Gustave

7. Those Who Start Their Own Church Follow the Voice of Satan

The Pope as the Vicar of Christ and as the Advocate of Christian Memory stands as tent peg holding down the Universal Church of Christ, and no list on Church unity would be complete without the (in)famous epistle of St. Cyprian, AD 250.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is not returning to our world for a harem of “churches.” There is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and it was founded by Christ and charged by him to St. Peter and the Apostles. However, there are now and always have been those groups that attempt to rend Christ from his Church – to recreate that which God gave us, the Church. In AD 250, St. Cyprian wrote an outstanding work entitled On the Unity of the Church. The epistle focuses especially on the topic of schism and those who would set themselves up as Church leaders and/or start their own “churches.” Without question, these groups are proto-protestant groups and the saint’s arguments apply just as much to our modern schismatic and heretical groups as they did to his ancient schismatic groups.18


The New Way of Satan

“He [Satan] has invented heresies and schisms, whereby he might subvert the faith, might corrupt the truth, might divide the unity. Those whom he cannot keep in the darkness of the old way [paganism], he circumvents and deceives by the error of a new way [schism/heresy]. He snatches men from the Church itself; and while they seem to themselves to have already approached to the light, and to have escaped the night of the world, he pours over them again, in their unconsciousness, new darkness.”


Upon This Rock

“There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, “Feed my sheep.”


Can the Spouse of Christ Be Adulterous?

“The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”


Those Who Start Their Own Church Vomit Poison

“These are they who of their own accord, without any divine arrangement, set themselves to preside among the daring strangers assembled, who appoint themselves prelates without any law of ordination, who assume to themselves the name of bishop, although no one gives them the episcopate; whom the Holy Spirit points out in the Psalms as sitting in the seat of pestilence, plagues, and spots of the faith, deceiving with serpent’s tongue, and artful in corrupting the truth, vomiting forth deadly poisons from pestilential tongues; whose speech doth creep like a cancer, whose discourse forms a deadly poison in the heart and breast of every one.”


Priests and Sacrifice

“What sacrifices do those who are rivals of the priests think that they celebrate? Do they deem that they have Christ with them when they are collected together, who are gathered together outside the Church of Christ?”

Without a doubt this epistle of St. Cyprian is one of the most quotable letters of the Early Church Fathers. For more commentary and more unabashed Catholic quotes visit Those Who Start Their Own Church Follow the Voice of Satan: 11 Teachings from St. Cyprian AD 250.


St. John Chrysostom, pray for us.

8. The Eastern Fathers Supported the Petrine Ministry

Often times the papacy is misunderstood a “characteristic” of Western Christianity. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. The Catholic Church embraces the Eastern Catholic Churches along with the Roman Church and they are united in doctrine under the Holy Father, the Pope. SPL has catalogue an extensive collection of quotes from the Eastern Church Fathers supporting the Petrine Ministry.

St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem (d. A.D. 638)

“Teaching us all orthodoxy and destroying all heresy and driving it away from the God-protected halls of our holy Catholic Church. And together with these inspired syllables and characters, I accept all his (the pope’s) letters and teachings as proceeding from the mouth of Peter the Coryphaeus, and I kiss them and salute them and embrace them with all my soul … I recognize the latter as definitions of Peter and the former as those of Mark, and besides, all the heaven-taught teachings of all the chosen mystagogues of our Catholic Church.” – Sophronius, Mansi, xi. 461


St. Theodore the Studite of Constantinople (d. 826)

Writing to Pope Leo III:

Since to great Peter Christ our Lord gave the office of Chief Shepherd after entrusting him with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, to Peter or his successor must of necessity every novelty in the Catholic Church be referred. [Therefore], save us, oh most divine Head of Heads, Chief Shepherd of the Church of Heaven. (Theodore, Bk. I. Ep. 23)


Sergius, Metropolitain of Cyprus (649)

Writing to Pope Theodore:

O Holy Head, Christ our God hath destined thy Apostolic See to be an immovable foundation and a pillar of the Faith. For thou art, as the Divine Word truly saith, Peter, and on thee as a foundation-stone have the pillars of the Church been fixed. (Sergius Ep. ad Theod. lecta in Sess. ii. Concil. Lat. anno 649)


SPL has listed over 50 quotes of the Eastern Church Fathers: The Early Church in Jerusalem Followed the Pope: 7 Quotes from History, Constantinople: 25 Quotes from the Eastern Fathers on the Petrine Ministry, and Rome is the Apostolic Throne: 24 Quotes from Alexandria, Antioch, and Cyprus.


St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, Vicar of Christ, pray for us.


9. All Human Creatures Are Subject to the Pope

The following is a short compilation of quotes taken from previous Ecumenical Pontiffs of Rome: “Outside the Church there is no hope for salvation.” These quotes show us the confidence that our previous Bishops of Rome have had in their authority given by God Himself to be the Vicar of Christ here on Earth. As St. Augustine said, “Rome has spoken, the case is closed.”

“The universal Church of the faithful is one outside of which none is saved.”
Pope Innocent III, ex cathedra, Fourth Lateran Council (1215 AD)


“We declare, say , define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”
Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam (1302 AD)


“You see, dearly beloved sons and venerable brothers, how much vigilance is needed to keep the disease of this terrible evil from infecting and killing your flocks. Do not cease to diligently defend your people against these pernicious errors. Saturate them with the doctrine of Catholic truth more accurately each day. Teach them that just as there is only one God, one Christ, one Holy Spirit, so there is also only one truth which is divinely revealed. There is only one divine faith which is the beginning of salvation for mankind and the basis of all justification, the faith by which the just person lives and without which it is impossible to please God and to come to the community of His children.[Rom 1; Heb 11; Council of Trent, session 6, chap. 8.] There is only one true, holy, Catholic church, which is the Apostolic Roman Church. There is only one See founded in Peter by the word of the Lord,[St. Cyprian, epistle 43.] outside of which we cannot find either true faith or eternal salvation. He who does not have the Church for a mother cannot have God for a father, and whoever abandons the See of Peter on which the Church is established trusts falsely that he is in the Church.[St. Cyprian,de unitat. Eccl.] Thus, there can be no greater crime, no more hideous stain than to stand up against Christ, than to divide the Church engendered and purchased by His blood, than to forget evangelical love and to combat with the furor of hostile discord the harmony of the people of God.[St. Cyprian, epistle 72.]”
Blessed Pope Pius IX, Singulari Quidem

Happy Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, listers. More medieval quotes on the papacy can be found at All Human Creatures Are Subject to the Pope.

  1. Introduction to the Chair of St. Peter – SOURCE []
  2. Mark 9:2-8 []
  3. Mark 14:33 []
  4. Called to Communion, by Cardinal Ratzinger, 54 []
  5. Matt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:14-16; Acts 1:13 []
  6. Mk 1:36; Lk 9:32 []
  7. Mt 18:21 []
  8. Acts 5 []
  9. John 1:42; Mt 16 []
  10. Is 51:1-3 []
  11. 56 []
  12. John 21 []
  13. Is. 22 []
  14. Matt 1:1-2; 9:27-29; Mk 10:47, 48 []
  15. I Chron 17:14; Ps 89:35-36; Luke1:31 []
  16. cf. Is. 9:6-7; 11:1-3; Jer 33:14-15, 17, 19-21, 26; Ps 132:10-14, 17; Luke 1:31-33, 68-71; II Tim 2:8; Rev 5:5, 22:16; Rom 1:3 []
  17. Matt 16:13-20 []
  18. Novatian: Another impetus of the epistle was the first “anti-pope” who attempted to claim he was holier than the rest of the Church and claimed moral superiority, especially in not wanting to ever extend forgiveness to sins post-baptism. []

In Defense of Holy Images: 8 Pearls of Wisdom from St. John Damascene

Listers, in the Eastern churches, the First Sunday of the Great Fast celebrates the triumph of holy images. It commemorates the end of two separate periods of iconoclasm, which took place within the space a nearly hundred years. During the iconoclastic period of Byzantine history, images of Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Angels, and the Saints were consigned to the fire on the charge that they led to idolatry. Known as the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Byzantine liturgy boldly proclaims the triumph of the Church against every false doctrine, and a celebration of the proclamation of faith on the veneration of holy images at the Synod of Constantinople in 842.

Eastern Catholicism on SPL

St. John Damascene was a monk from Damascus, and from his monastery of Mar Saba near Jerusalem, he wrote in defense of the veneration of images. Because iconoclasm, or the destruction of icons, had become official imperial policy since the edict of Emperor Leo III in 726, any cleric, monastic, or layman who refused to abide by the edict was punished severely. Imprisonment, exile, and even martyrdom was the fate of those who defended the Church’s longstanding tradition of sacred images. Seeing the travail of the Church in Constantinople and Asia Minor, the humble monk from Damascus wrote three treatises in defense of holy icons and their veneration. Because he was outside the borders of the Empire, he was able to criticize imperial policy, and speak on behalf of those who were unable or unwilling to do so. [1]

Selection from John of Damascus, icon from Damascus (Syria), 19th c., attributed to Iconographer Ne’meh Naser Homsi. – Wikipedia

Although this work is worth reading in its entirety, in celebration of the Triumph of Holy Images, here are eight pearls of wisdom from St. John Damascene in defense of sacred images:


1) “It is the custom of the wicked and primordially evil serpent (I mean the devil), to fight in many ways against mankind, formed in the image of God; and, through this opposition, to bring about his death.” [2]

2) “Certain men have arisen, saying that it is not necessary [or forbidden] to make images of the saving miracles and sufferings of Christ, and the brave deeds of the Saints against the devil, setting them up to be gazed upon, so that we might glorify God and be filled with wonder and zeal.” [3]

3) “Does any one who has divine knowledge and spiritual understanding not recognize that [iconoclasm] is a ruse of the devil? For he does not want his defeat and shame to be spread abroad, nor the glory of God and his saints to be recorded.” [4]

4) “If we make an image of God who in His ineffable goodness became incarnate and was seen upon earth in the flesh, and dwelt among men, assuming the nature, density, form, and color of flesh, we do not go astray. For we long to see His form, but as the divine Apostle says, ‘now we through a mirror, dimly.’ … For the intellect, greatly fatigued, is unable to pass beyond physical things.” [5]

5) “I am emboldened to depict the invisible God, not as invisible, but as he became visible for our sake, by participation in flesh and blood. I do not depict the invisible divinity, but I depict God made visible in the flesh.” [6]

6) “When you see the Bodiless become man for your sake, then you may depict the figure of a human form; when the Invisible becomes visible in the flesh, then you may depict the likeness of something seen.” [7]

7) “Of old, Israel neither set up temples in the name of men, nor celebrated their memorial—for human nature was still under the curse, and death was condemnation, therefore they were enjoined that one who even touched the body of a dead man was to be reckoned unclean—but now, since the divinity has been united without confusion to our nature, as a kind of life-giving and saving medicine, our nature has been truly glorified and its very elements changed into incorruption. Therefore, temples are raised for [the Saints] and images engraved.” [8]

8) “Since our being is twofold [that is, composite], fashioned of soul and body…just as [through] words perceived by the senses we hear with bodily ears, and understand what is spiritual, so through bodily vision we arrive at spiritual contemplation. For this reason, Christ assumed body and soul, since mankind consists of body and soul; therefore baptism is likewise twofold, of water and the Spirit; as well as communion and prayer and psalmody, all of them twofold, bodily and spiritual, and offerings of light and incense.” [9]


In his arguments against iconoclasm, the Damascene made clear that it the veneration of icons, and the use of sacred images in architecture and worship was not idolatry, but rather a recognition that God uses the physical to make known the intelligible. Just as God the Son took to himself a human form, in order to make the truth of the Father known to man in a way most proper to him, so also does iconography serve to raise the mind to spiritual realities by means of the physical. Far from being a peripheral concern, therefore, sacred images are part and parcel of the authentic Christian worldview; their use and function within the life of the Church is bound up with the mystery of the Incarnation, in which the invisible Word of God became visible, and the incomprehensible Logos of the Father took to Himself a human nature.

The bane of iconoclasm was so tempting to the Imperial court that there were two separate persecutions carried out under official auspices. The first was ended under the patronage of the Empress Irene at the Seventh Ecumenical Council at Nicæa in 787, and the second under the reign of Empress Theodora at the Synod of Constantinople in 842, which dealt the final blow to iconoclasm in the East. To this day, both Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox churches commemorate this event on the First Sunday of the Great Fast, proclaiming the triumph of the Church against the heresies which had plagued it during the first millennium. Let us therefore celebrate the incarnational nature of our Catholic faith, treasuring her art, and through it lift our minds and hearts upwards to Christ, His Holy Mother, and the Saints and Angels in heaven; for indeed, Christ is in our midst: he is now, and ever shall be!



[1] John Damascene, Three Treatises on the Divine Images, trans. Andrew Louth (New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003), Introduction pp. 7-9. All quotes from St. John, some of which have been slightly modified, are taken from this work unless otherwise indicated.

[2] Ibid., III p. 81.

[3] Ibid., p. 82.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., p. 86.

[7] Ibid., pp. 88-89.

[8] Ibid., p. 91.

[9] Ibid., p. 93.

Preparing for Lent: 9 Liturgical Gems from the Byzantine East

“Seeing the dignity to which the humble are raised, and the deep abyss into which the proud fall, let us imitate the virtue of the Publican, and despise the sins of the Pharisee.”

Listers, the season of Lent is fast approaching. Our brethren in the East call the period of Lent the “Great Fast,” or alternatively, “Great Lent.” It is the most important of the four fasting seasons in the Eastern churches, since it is the preparation for the feast of feasts, namely Pascha, or Easter. In the Byzantine rite, the period of Great Lent is preceded by four Sundays (five in the Slavic reckoning), during which the faithful prepare themselves for the asceticism, prayer, and repentance which accompanies the Fast. The first of these is the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, followed by the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the Sunday of the Last Judgment, and then and then the Sunday of Forgiveness.

These last two Sundays are called “Meatfare” and “Cheesefare” Sundays respectively, since the one marks the end of the eating of meat two weeks before Lent, and the other the end of the consumption of dairy products one week before. The Monday after the Sunday of Forgiveness (known as “Clean Monday”) heralds the beginning of the Great Fast proper, after which time wine, oil, and fish, are allowed only on certain days, meat and dairy being excluded altogether. The particulars of the Great Fast are as ancient as they are fascinating, and while certainly meriting their own study, in this list we will be focusing on some of the more general virtues of Lent extolled in the East. In particular, we will cover nine Byzantine liturgical gems of wisdom to gaze upon, as we prepare to enter into the spiritual arena of the Fast. A quote from the hymns of the Byzantine liturgy will be provided, either extolling a particular virtue or repudiating the vice which must be rooted out in order to possess it [1]:


1) Self-Control

The virtue of self-control, as practiced through fasting and temperance in food and drink, is of paramount importance to the Eastern church. According to the Damascene, the passion which this virtue seeks to destroy is that of gluttony, which is considered one of the three chief passions [2], as it was the act of eating the forbidden fruit by which Adam and Eve transgressed the divine Commandment:

“Adam was deprived of the delights of Paradise by the bitterness of the fruit; his gluttony made him reject the commandment of the Lord. He was condemned to work the earth from which he himself had been formed; by the sweat of his brow, he had to earn his bread to eat. Therefore, let us learn self-control, so that we do not have to weep before the gates of Paradise; rather, let us strive to enter therein.” [3]

Through fasting and abstinence, we refrain from good things, in order to more easily concern ourselves with better things. In the Byzantine monastic tradition, abstinence from meat is a reminder of the blessed condition of Adam and Eve before the Fall, where they walked with God, and lived an angelic life of contemplation and grace.

And yet, it is not simply enough to fast or abstain. The key to success in the attainment of self-control, as the Fathers warn us, is that it must be practiced in concert with the other virtues. For as Chrysostom teaches, even the demons fast, being by nature incorporeal; while prayer—as well as all the other virtues of a life lived in communion with God—is obviously neglected by them.


2) Holy Desire

This is a zeal for God, a longing for Him, and a confident hope and longing for the blessings of the world to come. The vice which this virtue seeks to destroy is that of unchastity, by directing the intellect away from the transitory things of this world, and to the promises of the future life of blessedness:

“O beloved Paradise, beauty of Springtime and divinely created abode, unending joy and delight, the glory of all the just, the enchantment of the prophets, and the dwelling-place of the saints, by the rustling of your leaves, implore the Creator of the universe to open the gates that I have closed by my fault; let me partake of the Tree of Life, and share the joy that I once found in you.” [4]


3) Almsgiving

Compassion for the poor, as the Damascene teaches, fights against the vice of avarice. This vice is the one which, according to the ascetic Fathers, is the root of all evil: [5]

“Driven by his love of money, Judas the traitor cunningly planned to sell you, O Lord, the Treasure of life; in his frenzy, he hastened to the impious ones and said: ‘What will you give me, if I will deliver him to you to be crucified?” [6]


4) Charity

In addition to almsgiving, the goodwill and love for all, as exemplified in the virtue of charity fights against the vice of anger. But whoever who seeks the salvation of their neighbor does not have the luxury of harboring rancor or malice, but rather seeks their good, both in reference to their life on earth, and eternal life in heaven:

“O faithful, let us vie with each other in zeal, and let us seek to do good. Let us live together in humility, and may our hearts sigh with tears and prayer so that we may obtain forgiveness from God.” [7]


5) Joy

Although Great Lent is a time of sadness and sorrow for sins, it is a “bright sadness,” because the benevolent Father waits in earnest for the return of His prodigal children. The spiritual joy which comes from God allows us to vie against the vice of worldly dejection, which arises when we find that our efforts go unrecognized and unheralded by the world, or when we are even rejected by it on account of our faith. This divine joy also serves as a healing balm for those who despair of the mercy of God on account of their sins:

“O faithful, let us discover the power of the divine mystery. The Prodigal came back from his sin and returned to his father’s house; in his lovingkindness his father came out to meet him and kissed him. He restored him to the glory of his house, and prepared a mystical banquet on high. He killed the fatted calf so that we might share in his joy; the joy of the Father who offers in love, and the joy of the Lamb who gives himself for us; for He is Christ, the Savior of our souls.” [8]


6) Patience

Constant vigilance and perseverance, with continual thanksgiving to God, fights against the vice of self-love. While avarice is considered the root of all evil by the Fathers, the inordinate love of the body and its pleasures is considered the “mother of vices,” to be striven against mightily during the Great Fast: [9]

“The arena of virtues is now open! Let all who wish to begin training now enter! Prepare yourselves for the struggle of the Fast; those who strive valiantly shall receive the crown! Let us put on the armor of the Cross to combat the Enemy, taking faith as our unshakable rampart. Let us put on prayer as our breastplate, and charity as our helmet. As our sword, let us use fasting, for it cuts out all evil from our hearts. Those who do this shall truly receive the crown format he hands of Christ, the almighty One, on the day of judgment.” [10]


7) Prayer

As was mentioned above, any increase in discipline must be accompanied by increased prayer, marked by a spirit of true compunction, humility, and interior stillness. This virtue combats the vice of arrogance, which ascribes progress to the self rather than to God. In prayer, one remembers that all good comes ultimately from God Himself, and in humility the Christian acknowledges that all he has is a gift from the Creator of all things:

“Let us fall down before God in prayer and tears; with deep sighs, let us imitate the humility of the Publican which lifted him up, so that we may sing in faith: ‘Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our fathers.'” [11]


8) Humility

Although the demons keep vigil in the sense that they do not sleep, and fast in the sense that they do not eat, the virtues of prayer and especially humility make the Christian soul a frightful bane for them to behold. The Damascene, therefore, proscribes this virtue as a remedy against pride. The believer should refrain from judging or despising anyone, emulating the repentant Publican rather than the boastful Pharisee. We must therefore consider ourselves as the “least of all” among our fellow human beings. [12]

“Seeing the dignity to which the humble are raised, and the deep abyss into which the proud fall, let us imitate the virtue of the Publican, and despise the sins of the Pharisee.” [13]


9) Repentance

Although not included in Damascene’s list, it is of course naturally implied, being part and parcel with the other Lenten virtues. Indeed, without true repentance, the other virtues are no longer meritorious. Confession of sin, tears of compunction, and good works are all radiant jewels in the crown of repentance, lauded in the Byzantine liturgy as the “queen of virtues”:

“O faithful, let us purify ourselves with repentance, the queen of virtues. Behold, it brings us an abundance of blessings. It dresses the wounds of passions, it reconciles sinners with the Master. Therefore, let us embrace it with joy, and cry out to Christ our God: ‘You are risen from the dead; keep us free from condemnation, for we glorify you as the only sinless One.” [14]

And so, with our minds firmly fixed on these virtues—and on God, who is the Source of all that is good—let us begin the “bright sadness” of Lent, cleaving firmly to Christ in faith and in love. May God create in us a clean heart, and the governance of His Holy and Life-giving Spirit, that we may enter worthily into the mystery of Our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.



Born in Charleston, S.C., Brian Battersby is a recent graduate from the M.A. program in Theology from Ave Maria University. Originally a convert from Protestantism, he was confirmed into the Church at the Easter Vigil in 2005. In addition to theology, he also has a great love of the liturgy, sacred music, the Church Fathers (especially John Damascene), and the Byzantine East. He currently resides with his beautiful wife in North Carolina.



[1] The list itself is taken from an ascetical work of St. John Damascene, On the Virtues and the Vices (Philokalia, vol. II, p. 338). In addition to writing superb theological treatises, he also composed beautiful liturgical hymns, for which he is somewhat less known in the West. It was he who wrote the famous Canon of Pascha, a work in honor of the Resurrection. It is fittingly called the “Golden Canon” in the Eastern churches, both on account of the magnificence of its imagery and the sublimity of its Subject. Western Christians may already be familiar with this monumental work through the English hymn The Day of Resurrection, a translation of the Canon of Pascha from the original Greek into English verse by the John M. Neale, an Anglican cleric of the nineteenth century.

[2] Theodoros the Great Ascetic, A Century of Spiritual Texts, Philokalia, vol. II, p. 26.

[3] Canon for the Sunday of Forgiveness, Ode 1.

[4] Sticheron from the Vespers of Forgiveness Sunday.

[5] John Damascene, On the Virtues and the Vices, Philokalia, vol. II, 335; cf. 1 Timothy 6:10.

[6] Second Sessional Hymn from Matins of Great and Holy Wednesday.

[7] Canon of the Publican and the Pharisee, Ode 3.

[8] Sticheron from the Vespers of Forgiveness Sunday.

[9] John Damascene, On the Virtues and the Vices, Philokalia, vol. II, 335.

[10] Sticheron from Matins of Forgiveness Sunday.

[11] Canon of the Publican and Pharisee, Ode 7.

[12] John of Damascus, On the Virtues and the Vices, Philokalia, vol, II, p. 338.

[13] Canon of the Publican and Pharisee, Ode 1.

[14] Matins Doxastikon for the Sunday of Judgment.

Rome is the Apostolic Throne: 24 Quotes from Alexandria, Antioch, and Cyprus

“O Holy Head, Christ our God hath destined thy Apostolic See to be an immovable foundation and a pillar of the Faith. For thou art, as the Divine Word truly saith, Peter, and on thee as a foundation-stone have the pillars of the Church been fixed.”

Listers, in cataloguing the quotes from Alexandria, Antioch, and Cyprus we conclude our theme of Early Eastern Church Fathers that supported the Petrine Ministry. Though these quotes have been posted in several places, SPL would like to again give credit to the quality Catholic resource Fisheaters for compiling the list. The quotes focus on imagery distinct to the Petrine Ministry, e.g., the Keys of the Kingdom, Prince of the Apostles, Apostolic Throne, etc., and those unfamiliar with these themes from Sacred Tradition and the Bible should consult the SPL lists below.


True Christians Follow the Pope


A section of the “Martyrdom of St. Peter” by Leonello Spada (1576–1622) 


St. Peter, Bishop of Alexandria (306-311)
Head of the catechetical school in Alexandria, he became bishop around A.D. 300, reigning for about eleven years, and dying a martyr’s death.

Peter, set above the Apostles. (Peter of Alexandria, Canon. ix, Galland, iv. p. 98)


St. Anthony of Egypt (330)

Peter, the Prince of the Apostles (Anthony, Epist. xvii. Galland, iv p. 687)


St. Athanasius (362)

Rome is called the Apostolic throne. (Athanasius, Hist. Arian, ad Monach. n. 35)

The Chief, Peter. (Athan, In Ps. xv. 8, tom. iii. p. 106, Migne)


St. Macarius of Egypt (371)

The Chief, Peter. (Macarius, De Patientia, n. 3, p. 180)

Moses was succeeded by Peter, who had committed to his hands the new Church of Christ, and the true priesthood. (Macarius, Hom. xxvi. n. 23, p. 101)


St. Cyril of Alexandria (c. 424)

He suffers him no longer to be called Simon, exercising authority and rule over him already having become His own. By a title suitable to the thing, He changed his name into Peter, from the word ‘petra’ (rock); for on him He was afterwards to found His Church. (Cyril, T. iv. Comm. in Joan., p. 131

He (Christ) promises to found the Church, assigning immovableness to it, as He is the Lord of strength, and over this He sets Peter as shepherd. (Cyril, Comm. on Matt., ad loc.)

Therefore, when the Lord had hinted at the disciple’s denial in the words that He used, ‘I have prayed for thee that thy faith not fail,’ He at once introduced a word of consolation, and said (to Peter): ‘And do thou, when once thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.’ That is, ‘Be thou a support and a teacher of those who through faith come to me.’ Again, marvel also at the insight of that saying and at the completeness of the Divine gentleness of spirit. For so that He should not reduce the disciple to despair at the thought that after his denial he would have to be debarred from the glorious distinction of being an Apostle, He fills him with good hope, that he will attain the good things promised. …O loving kindness! The sin was not yet committed, and He already extends His pardon and sets him (Peter) again in his Apostolic office. (Cyril Comm. on Luke’s Gospel)

For the wonderous Peter, overcome by uncontrollable fear, denied the Lord three times. Christ heals the error done, and demands in various ways the threefold confession … For although all the holy disciples fled, …still Peter’s fault in the threefold denial was in addition, special and peculiar to himself. Therefore, by the threefold confession of blessed Peter, the fault of the triple denial was done away. Further, by the Lord’s saying, Feed my lambs, we must understand a renewal as it were of the Apostleship already given to him, washing away the intervening disgrace of his fall, and the littleness of human infirmity. (Cyril, Comm. on John’s Gospel).

They (the Apostles) strove to learn through one, that preeminent one, Peter. (Cyril, Ib. 1. ix. p. 736).

And even blessed Peter, though set over the holy disciples, says ‘Lord, be it far from Thee, this shall be done to Thee. (Cyril, Ibid. 924).

If Peter himself, that prince of the holy disciples, was, upon an occassion, scandalized, so as suddenly to exclaim, ‘Lord, be it far from Thee,’ what wonder that the tender mind of woman should be carried away? (Cyril, Ibid, p. 1064)

That the Spirit is God we shall also learn hence. That the prince of the Apostles, to whom ‘flesh and blood,’ as the Savior says, ‘did not reveal’ the Divine mystery, says to Ananias, ‘Why hath Satan tempted thy heart, (Cyril, T. v. Par. 1. Thesaur. p. 340)

Besides all these, let there come forward that leader of the holy disciples, Peter, who, when the Lord, on a certain occassion, asked him, ‘Whom do men say that the Son of man is?’ instantly cried out, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ (Cyril, T. v. P.2, Hom. viii. De Fest. Pasch. p. 105)

‘If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me.’ When the Coryphaeus (Peter) had heard these words, he began to change. (Cyril, Ib. Hom.)

This bold man (Julian), besides all this, cavils at Peter, the chosen one of the holy Apostles. (Cyril, T. vi.l. ix. Contr. Julian. p. 325).


Eulogius of Alexandria (581)
Born in Syria, he became the abbot of the Mother of God monastery at Antioch. In 579, he was made Patriarch of Alexandria; and became an associate of St. Gregory the Great while visiting Constantinople. Much of their subsequent correspondence is still extant.

Neither to John, nor to any other of the disciples, did our Savior say, ‘I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,’ but only to Peter. (Eulogius, Lib. ii. Cont. Novatian. ap. Photium, Biblioth, cod. 280)



Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus in Syria (450)
A native of Antioch, Theodoret ruled under the Antiochean Patriarch.

The great foundation of the Church was shaken, and confirmed by the Divine grace. And the Lord commanded him to apply that same care to the brethren. ‘And thou,’ He says, ‘converted, confirm thy brethren.’ (Theodoret, Tom. iv. Haeret. Fab. lib. v.c. 28)

‘For as I,’ He says, ‘did not despise thee when tossed, so be thou a support to thy brethren in trouble, and the help by which thou was saved do thou thyself impart to others, and exhort them not while they are tottering, but raise them up in their peril. For this reason I suffer thee also to slip, but do not permit thee to fall, thus through thee gaining steadfastness for those who are tossed.’ So this great pillar supported the tossing and sinking world, and permitted it not to fall entirely and gave it back stability, having been ordered to feed God’s sheep. (Theodoret, Oratio de Caritate in J. P. Minge, ed., Partrologiae Curses Completus: Series Graeca).

I therefore beseech your holiness to persuade the most holy and blessed bishop (Pope Leo) to use his Apostolic power, and to order me to hasten to your Council. For that most holy throne (Rome) has the sovereignty over the churches throughout the universe on many grounds. (Theodoret, Tom. iv. Epist. cxvi. Renato, p. 1197).

If Paul, the herald of the truth, the trumpet of the Holy Spirit, hastened to the great Peter, to convey from him the solution to those in Antioch, who were at issue about living under the law, how much more do we, poor and humble, run to the Apostolic Throne (Rome) to receive from you (Pope Leo) healing for wounds of the the Churches. For it pertains to you to have primacy in all things; for your throne is adorned with many prerogatives. (Theodoret Ibid, Epistle Leoni)



St. Epiphanius, Archbishop of Salamis (385)

Holy men are therefore called the temple of God, because the Holy Spirit dwells in them; as that Chief of the Apostles testifies, he that was found to be blessed by the Lord, because the Father had revealed unto him. To him then did the Father reveal His true Son; and the same (Peter) furthermore reveals the Holy Spirit. This was befitting in the First of the Apostles, that firm Rock upon which the Church of God is built, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The gates of hell are heretics and heresiarchs. For in every way was the faith confirmed in him who received the keys of heaven; who looses on earth and binds in heaven. For in him are found all subtle questions of faith. He was aided by the Father so as to be (or lay) the Foundation of the security (firmness) of the faith. He (Peter) heard from the same God, ‘feed my lambs’; to him He entrusted the flock; he leads the way admirably in the power of his own Master. (Epiphanius, T. ii. in Anchor).


Sergius, Metropolitain of Cyprus (649)
Writing to Pope Theodore:

O Holy Head, Christ our God hath destined thy Apostolic See to be an immovable foundation and a pillar of the Faith. For thou art, as the Divine Word truly saith, Peter, and on thee as a foundation-stone have the pillars of the Church been fixed. (Sergius Ep. ad Theod. lecta in Sess. ii. Concil. Lat. anno 649)

Constantinople: 25 Quotes from the Eastern Fathers on the Petrine Ministry

“Since to great Peter Christ our Lord gave the office of Chief Shepherd after entrusting him with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, to Peter or his successor must of necessity every novelty in the Catholic Church be referred. [Therefore], save us, oh most divine Head of Heads, Chief Shepherd of the Church of Heaven.”

Listers, St. Peter is the Prince of the Apostles and our First Pope. SPL has reproduced a portion of a popular article that has been shared on many Catholic sites – though we think it originated with Fisheaters – cataloguing the Eastern Fathers of the Church and their statements on St. Peter and his keys. Below are the historical comments of those who served Holy Mother Church in Constantinople. Many of the quotes focus on St. Peter as the Prince of the Apostles and the Keys of the Kingdom given to him by Christ Our Lord. Those unfamiliar with the biblical imagery and significance may struggle to understand why many of these quotes are articulating a strong historical support for the Primacy of Peter. SPL has published many lists on the topic of the Petrine Ministry – both from a biblical and historical perspective – and highly suggests the following lists to those who wish to know more about the Church Christ founded.1


True Christians Follow the Pope


Constantinople & The Primacy of St. Peter


1. St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. 407)

Peter himself the Head or Crown of the Apostles, the First in the Church, the Friend of Christ, who received a revelation, not from man, but from the Father, as the Lord bears witness to him, saying, ‘Blessed art thou, This very Peter and when I name Peter I name that unbroken Rock, that firm Foundation, the Great Apostle, First of the disciples, the First called, and the First who obeyed he was guilty …even denying the Lord.” (Chrysostom, T. ii. Hom)

Peter, the Leader of the choir of Apostles, the Mouth of the disciples, the Pillar of the Church, the Buttress of the faith, the Foundation of the confession, the Fisherman of the universe. (Chrysostom, T. iii Hom)

Peter, that Leader of the choir, that Mouth of the rest of the Apostles, that Head of the brotherhood, that one set over the entire universe, that Foundation of the Church. (Chrys. In illud hoc Scitote)

(Peter), the foundation of the Church, the Coryphaeus of the choir of the Apostles, the vehement lover of Christ …he who ran throughout the whole world, who fished the whole world; this holy Coryphaeus of the blessed choir; the ardent disciple, who was entrusted with the keys of heaven, who received the spiritual revelation. Peter, the mouth of all Apostles, the head of that company, the ruler of the whole world. (De Eleemos, iii. 4; Hom. de decem mille tal. 3)

In those days Peter rose up in the midst of the disciples (Acts 15), both as being ardent, and as intrusted by Christ with the flock …he first acts with authority in the matter, as having all put into his hands ; for to him Christ said, ‘And thou, being converted, confirm thy brethren. (Chrysostom, Hom. iii Act Apost. tom. ix.)

He passed over his fall, and appointed him first of the Apostles; wherefore He said: ‘ ‘Simon, Simon,’ etc. (in Ps. cxxix. 2). God allowed him to fall, because He meant to make him ruler over the whole world, that, remembering his own fall, he might forgive those who should slip in the future. And that what I have said is no guess, listen to Christ Himself saying: ‘Simon, Simon, etc.’ (Chrys, Hom. quod frequenter conveniendum sit 5, cf. Hom 73 in Joan 5).

And why, then, passing by the others, does He converse with Peter on these things? (John 21:15). He was the chosen one of the Apostles, and the mouth of the disciples, and the leader of the choir. On this account, Paul also went up on a time to see him rather than the others (Galatians 1:18). And withal, to show him that he must thenceforward have confidence, as the denial was done away with, He puts into his hands the presidency over the brethren. And He brings not forward the denial, nor reproches him with what had past, but says, ‘If you love me, preside over the brethren …and the third time He gives him the same injunction, showing what a price He sets the presidency over His own sheep. And if one should say, ‘How then did James receive the throne of Jerusalem?,’ this I would answer that He appointed this man (Peter) teacher, not of that throne, but of the whole world. (Chrysostom, In Joan. Hom. 1xxxviii. n. 1, tom. viii)


2. St. Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. c. 446)

A disciple of St. John Chrysostom

Peter, the coryphaeus of the disciples, and the one set over (or chief of) the Apostles. Art not thou he that didst say, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’? Thou Bar-Jonas (son of the dove) hast thou seen so many miracles, and art thou still but Simon (a hearer)? He appointed thee the key-bearer of Heaven, and has though not yet layed aside thy fisherman’s clothing? (Proclus, Or. viii In Dom. Transfig. t. ix. Galland)


3. St. John Cassian, Monk (d. c. 435)

That great man, the disciple of disciples, that master among masters, who wielding the government of the Roman Church possessed the principle authority in faith and in priesthood. Tell us, therefore, we beg of you, Peter, prince of Apostles, tell us how the Churches must believe in God (Cassian, Contra Nestorium, III, 12, CSEL, vol. 17, p. 276)


4. St. Nilus of Constantinople (d. c. 430)

A disciple of St. John Chrysostom

Peter, Head of the choir of Apostles. (Nilus, Lib. ii Epistl.)

Peter, who was foremost in the choir of Apostles and always ruled amongst them. (Nilus, Tract. ad. Magnam.)


5. Macedonius II, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. 517)

Macedonius declared, when desired by the Emperor Anastasius to condemn the Council of Chalcedon, that ‘such a step without an Ecumenical Synod presided over by the Pope of Rome is impossible.’ (Macedonius, Patr. Graec. 108: 360a; Theophan. Chronogr. pp. 234-346 seq.)


6. Emperor Justinian (Reigned: 527-565)

Writing to the Pope:
Yielding honor to the Apostolic See and to Your Holiness, and honoring your Holiness, as one ought to honor a father, we have hastened to subject all the priests of the whole Eastern district, and to unite them to the See of your Holiness, for we do not allow of any point, however manifest and indisputable it be, which relates to the state of the Churches, not being brought to the cognizance of your Holiness, since you are the Head of all the holy Churches. (Justinian Epist. ad. Pap. Joan. ii. Cod. Justin. lib. I. tit. 1).

Let your Apostleship show that you have worthily succeeded to the Apostle Peter, since the Lord will work through you, as Surpreme Pastor, the salvation of all. (Coll. Avell. Ep. 196, July 9th, 520, Justinian to Pope Hormisdas).


7. St. Maximus the Confessor (d. 662)

A celebrated theologian and a native of Constantinople

The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High. (Maximus, Opuscula theologica et polemica, Migne, Patr. Graec. vol. 90)

How much more in the case of the clergy and Church of the Romans, which from old until now presides over all the churches which are under the sun? Having surely received this canonically, as well as from councils and the apostles, as from the princes of the latter (Peter and Paul), and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues in synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her pontificate …..even as in all these things all are equally subject to her (the Church of Rome) according to sacerodotal law. And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers (the popes) are of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic Church of Rome. (Maximus, in J.B. Mansi, ed. Amplissima Collectio Conciliorum, vol. 10)

If the Roman See recognizes Pyrrhus to be not only a reprobate but a heretic, it is certainly plain that everyone who anathematizes those who have rejected Pyrrhus also anathematizes the See of Rome, that is, he anathematizes the Catholic Church. I need hardly add that he excommunicates himself also, if indeed he is in communion with the Roman See and the Catholic Church of God …Let him hasten before all things to satisfy the Roman See, for if it is satisfied, all will agree in calling him pious and orthodox. For he only speaks in vain who thinks he ought to pursuade or entrap persons like myself, and does not satisfy and implore the blessed Pope of the most holy Catholic Church of the Romans, that is, the Apostolic See, which is from the incarnate of the Son of God Himself, and also all the holy synods, accodring to the holy canons and definitions has received universal and surpreme dominion, authority, and power of binding and loosing over all the holy churches of God throughout the whole world. (Maximus, Letter to Peter, in Mansi x, 692).


8. John VI, Patriarch of Constantinople (Enthroned: 712)

The Pope of Rome, the head of the Christian priesthood, whom in Peter, the Lord commanded to confirm his brethren. (John VI, Epist. ad Constantin. Pap. ad. Combefis, Auctuar. Bibl. P.P. Graec.tom. ii. p. 211, seq.)


9. St. Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. 828)

Without whom (the Romans presiding in the seventh Council) a doctrine brought forward in the Church could not, even though confirmed by canonical decrees and by ecclesiastical usuage, ever obtain full approval or currency. For it is they (the Popes of Rome) who have had assigned to them the rule in sacred things, and who have received into their hands the dignity of headship among the Apostles. (Nicephorus, Niceph. Cpl. pro. s. imag. c 25 [Mai N. Bibl. pp. ii. 30])


10. St. Theodore the Studite of Constantinople (d. 826)

Writing to Pope Leo III:
Since to great Peter Christ our Lord gave the office of Chief Shepherd after entrusting him with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, to Peter or his successor must of necessity every novelty in the Catholic Church be referred. [Therefore], save us, oh most divine Head of Heads, Chief Shepherd of the Church of Heaven. (Theodore, Bk. I. Ep. 23)

Writing to Pope Paschal:
Hear, O Apostolic Head, divinely-appointed Shepherd of Christ’s sheep, keybearer of the Kingdom of Heaven, Rock of the Faith upon whom the Catholic Church is built. For Peter art thou, who adornest and governest the Chair of Peter. Hither, then, from the West, imitator of Christ, arise and repel not for ever (Ps. xliii. 23). To thee spake Christ our Lord: ‘And thou being one day converted, shalt strengthen thy brethren.’ Behold the hour and the place. Help us, thou that art set by God for this. Stretch forth thy hand so far as thou canst. Thou hast strength with God, through being the first of all. (Letter of St. Theodore and four other Abbots to Pope Paschal, Bk. ii Ep. 12, Patr. Graec. 99, 1152-3)

Writing to Emperor Michael:
Order that the declaration from old Rome be received, as was the custom by Tradition of our Fathers from of old and from the beginning. For this, O Emperor, is the highests of the Churches of God, in which first Peter held the Chair, to whom the Lord said: Thou art Peter …and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Theodore, Bk. II. Ep. 86)

I witness now before God and men, they have torn themselves away from the Body of Christ, from the Surpreme See (Rome), in which Christ placed the keys of the Faith, against which the gates of hell (I mean the mouth of heretics) have not prevailed, and never will until the Consummation, according to the promise of Him Who cannot lie. Let the blessed and Apostolic Paschal (Pope St. Paschal I) rejoice therefore, for he has fulfilled the work of Peter. (Theodore Bk. II. Ep. 63)

In truth we have seen that a manifest successor of the prince of the Apostles presides over the Roman Church. We truly believe that Christ has not deserted the Church here (Constantinople), for assistance from you has been our one and only aid from of old and from the beginning by the providence of God in the critical times. You are, indeed the untroubled and pure fount of orthodoxy from the beginning, you the calm harbor of the whole Church, far removed from the waves of heresy, you the God-chosen city of refuge. (Letter of St. Theodor and Four Abbots to Pope Paschal)

Let him (Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople) assemble a synod of those with whom he has been at variance, if it is impossible that representatives of the other Patriarchs should be present, a thing which might certainly be if the Emperor should wish the Western Patriarch (the Roman Pope) to be present, to whom is given authority over an ecumenical synod; but let him make peace and union by sending his synodical letters to the prelate of the First See. (Theodore the Studite, Patr. Graec. 99, 1420)

  1. Edits: Listers, certain dates have been either corrected or changed for uniformity sake from the original Fisheater list; if there are any other corrections or quotes, please share them in the comment box below. Thank you. []

7 Photos of the New Eastern Catholic Cardinal Baselios Cleemis

Listers, His Beatitude, Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum in India and head of the Syro-Malankara Church is now the youngest member – at age 53 – of the College of Cardinals.

Listers, His Beatitude, Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum in India and head of the Syro-Malankara Church is now the youngest member – at age 53 – of the College of Cardinals. The ubiquitous Rocco Palmo comments:


Perhaps fittingly for an intake that was decidely Eastward-looking – or, as the Italians would have it, “soli stranieri” (read: “all strangers”) – it bears noting that this morning brought the elevation of the youngest member of the Pope’s Senate in the figure of the 53 year-old head of India’s Syro-Malankara Catholics, now Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, shown above making the rounds following his induction.

Granted self-governing status only in early 2005 – and, thus, Catholicism’s youngest sui iuris Eastern church – the first-ever red hat for the 600,000-member community comes as a rather rapid triumph on several accounts. Over the last two decades, all of two clerics were younger still on entering the College: the Hungarian primate Peter Erdö (now head of the European bishops’ conference) at 51 in 2003 and Sarajevo’s Vinko Puljic, who John Paul II elevated at 49 in 1994 as the late pontiff’s sign of solidarity with the war-torn city, to which he was unable to travel amid the conflict over the breakup of Yugoslavia.

An alum of Rome’s Angelicum – where he received his doctorate in ecumenical theology in 1997 – Cleemis is a full two years’ junior to the next-youngest “prince” of the church, Manila’s Chito Tagle, who was likewise created today. As previously noted, the “50 barrier” last broken by Puljic is next expected to lift in the mid-term future with the all-but-certain elevation of the leader of the largest Eastern fold: the major-archbishop of the 6 million-member Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church, 42 year-old Sviatoslav Shevchuk.


Cardinal-designate Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Syro-Malankara archbishop of Trivandrum, India, smiles during an interview Wednesday after being named a cardinal at the Vatican. (CNS/Paul Haring)


New Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal of India (C) is congratulated by an unidentified cardinal during a consistory ceremony in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican November 24, 2012. Pope Benedict XVI installed 6 new Roman Catholic cardinals from around the world on Saturday. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (VATICAN – Tags: RELIGION)


India’s Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal receives his hat as Pope Benedict XVI (L) appoints him one of six non-European prelates to become a Cardinal during a ceremony at St Peter’s basilica at the Vatican. Source: AFP





Baselios Cleemis, head of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church, named as a cardinal. File Photo: S. Gopakumar


Pre-Cana with St. John Chrysostom: 7 Tips to a Successful Marriage

In this stream of thought, I am going to list 7 quotes from the man who possibly saved my marriage before I even met my husband.

Listers, next to converting to Catholicism, the second best choice of my life was marrying my husband. Before I converted and before I met my husband, I did not believe that marriage was a sacrament. Not recognizing this great mysterious gift as one of the major sources of grace caused me to think all sorts of other errant nonsense. For example, I believed that divorce was okay and that contraception was not only permissible but essential to a happy marriage. Fortunately I met St. John Chrysostom before I met my husband.

There was a stat floating around on the internet that said that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Whether that is true I am not sure. However, it got me thinking. If this stat is true, then why is this the case? I think that part and maybe the whole problem of it is most people don’t understand how serious marriage is. We see youtube videos of these kind of goofy weddings where people are dancing hamfistedly down the aisles, but as cute and adorable and unique as that may be it’s not serious enough for what the occasion is all about. Marriage is a sacrament. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about what that means.

In this stream of thought, I am going to list 7 quotes from the man who possibly saved my marriage before I even met my husband.1

1. Pick Virtue Rather than Riches When Selecting a Good Husband

First, look for a husband who will really be a husband and a protector; remember that you are placing a head on a body. When your daughter is to be married, don’t look for how much money a man has. Don’t worry about his nationality or his family’s social position […] When you are satisfied that the man is virtuous and decide what day they will be married, beseech Christ to be present at the wedding. He is not ashamed to come for marriage is an image of His presence in the Church. Even better than this: pray that your children will each find such a virtuous spouse; entrust this concern of yours into His hands. If you honor Him in this way, He will return honor for honor. — Sermon on Marriage

2. Advice on How to Pick a Wife

Since we know all this, let us seek just one thing in a wife, virtue of soul and nobility of character, so that we may enjoy tranquility, so that we may luxuriate in harmony and lasting love. The man who takes a rich wife takes a boss rather than a wife. If even without wealth women are with pride and prone to the love of fame, if they have wealth in addition, how will their husbands be able to stand them? The man, however, who takes a wife of equal position or poorer than himself takes a helper and ally and brings every blessing into his house. Her own poverty forces her to care for her husband with great concern, to yield to him and obey him in everything. It removes every occasion of strife, battle, presumption, and pride. It binds the couple in peace, harmony, love, and concord. Let us not, therefore, seek to have money, but to have peace, in order to enjoy happiness. Marriage does not exist to fill our houses with war and battles, to give us strife and contention, to pit us against each other and make our life unliveable. It exists in order that we may enjoy another’s help, that we may have a harbor, a refuge, and a consolation in troubles which hang over us, and that we may converse happily with our wife. How many wealthy men who have taken rich wives and increased their substance have yet destroyed their happiness and harmony, as they contend in daily battles at table?How many poor men who have taken poorer wives now enjoy peace and look upon each day’s  sun with joy? –How to Choose a Wife

3. The Two-Fold Purpose of Marriage

Marriage was not instituted for wantonness or fornication, but for chastity. Listen to what Paul says: “Because of the temptation of immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her husband.” There are two purposes for which marriage was instituted: to make us chaster, and to make us parents. Of these two, the reason of chastity takes precedence. — Sermon on Marriage

4. Weddings Should Be Christ-Focused

Marriage is not an evil thing. It is adultery that is evil, it is fornication that is evil. Marriage is a remedy to eliminate fornication. Let us not, therefore, dishonor marriage by the pomp of the devil. Instead, let those who take wives now do as they did at Cana in Galilee. Let them have Christ in their midst. “How can they do this?” someone asks. By inviting the clergy. “He who receives you,” the Lord says, “receives Me.” So drive away the devil. Throw out the lewd songs, the corrupt melodies, the disorderly dances, the shameful words, the diabolical display, the uproar, the unrestrained laughter, and the rest of the impropriety. Bring in instead the holy servants of Christ, and through them Christ will certainly be present along with His mother and His brothers. For He says, “Whoever does the will of My Father is My brother and sister and mother.” — Sermon on Marriage

5. Fidelity Is an Equal Responibility in a Marriage

In this passage [1 Corinthians 7:1-2], however, there is no mention of greater or lesser authority. Why does he speak here in terms of equality? Because his subject is conjugal fidelity. He intends for the husband to have greater responsiblity in nearly every concern, but fidelity is an exception. “The husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does.” Husband and wife are equally responsible for the honor of their marriage bed. — Homily on 1 Corinthians 7

6. Love is More Powerful than Fear

Notice, however, that Paul explains love in detail, comparing it to Christ’s love for the Church and our love for our own flesh, saying for this reason a man leaves his father and mother but he does not elaborate concerning fear. Why so? He would much prefer love to prevail, because where there is love, everything else follows, but where love is absent, fear will be of no use. If a man loves his wife, he will bear with her even when she isn’t very obedient. How difficult it is to have harmony when husband and wife are not bound together by the power of love! Fear is no substitute for this. That is why he speaks at greater length about the stronger force. So if you think that the wife is the loser because she is told to fear her husband, remember that the principal duty of love is assigned to the husband, and you will see that it is her gain. “And what if my wife refuses to obey me?” a husband will ask. Never mind! Your obligation is to love her; do your duty! Even when we don’t receive our due from others, we must always do our duty. –Homily on Ephesians 5:22-23

7. The Love between a Husband and Wife is a Vital to the Success of Humanity

The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together. Men will take up arms and even sacrifice their lives for the sake of this love. St. Paul would not speak so earnestly about this subject without serious reason; why else would he say, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord?” Because when harmony prevails, the children are raised well, the household is kept in order, and neighbors, friends, and relatives praise the result. Great benefits, both of families and states, are thus produced. When it is otherwise, however, everything is thrown into confusion and turned upside-down. –Homily on Ephesians 5:22-23

For all married couples, St. John Chrysostom, pray for us!

N.B. Keep in mind that St. John Chrysostom lived from 347-407 AD, so this was clearly a different age and different part of the world. Arranged marriages were a more common place occurrence. Also, the structure of marriages were different in those days. So, please hear out all of what St. John Chrysostom has to say because his intent is not misogyny but to help married couples flourish in their vocation.


More from SPL:
Splendor of the East: 5 Byzantine Hymns All Catholics Should Know
8 Quotes from St. John Chrysostom on How to Raise Children
6 Things You Should Know About the Melkite Catholic Church
Lists referencing “Holy Matrimony”
More lists with recourse to the Early Church Fathers

  1. All quotes were taken from the following compilation of Chrysostom writings:
    Chrysostom, St. John. On Marriage and Family Life. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1986. []

6 Things You Should Know about the Melkite Catholic Church

As you know, the universal Catholic Church is comprised of 23 sui iuris (self-governing) ritual Churches united by their communion with each other and with the See of Rome

Listers: as you know, the universal Catholic Church is comprised of 23 sui iuris (self-governing) ritual Churches united by their communion with each other and with the See of Rome. Though the Roman Church is the largest, the 22 Eastern Churches play a significant and necessary role in the universality of Catholicism. One of these Churches, the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church, is the ritual Church to which the author of this post belongs. Today, we will examine six historical and theological distinctives of the Melkite Church.

 1. Petrine and Patriarchal

The Melkite Church is historically associated with the See of Antioch. This See, established by the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 together with the Sees of Rome and Alexandria, traces its history and episcopal succession to St. Peter. Prior to journeying to Rome and establishing the bishopric there, we know that St. Peter travelled to Antioch and ordained a bishop for that city. St. Paul tells us of this trip in his epistle to the Galatians, and the mediaeval Liber Pontificalis claims that St. Peter served seven years as Antioch’s primate. Antioch was thus the first Petrine See, and to this day the Patriarchs of Antioch trace their apostolicity to the Prince of the Apostles. Antioch was also part of the original Patriarchal Pentarchy (together with Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Alexandria). Today, the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch is also titular Patriarch of Alexandria and Jerusalem.

2. First Called Christians

“So that at Antioch the disciples were first named Christians.” Thus writes the author of the Acts of the Apostles, 11:26. The Antiochean Church, already having been established by St. Peter, saw the origin of the term Christian applied to the followers of Christ. It was also here that the third Bishop of Antioch, St. Ignatios, provides us with the first written record of the term catholic used to describe the Church: “wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8).

3. The King’s Men

The origin of the word “Melkite” speaks to the steadfastness of this ancient see in maintaining the Orthodox faith. In the aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451), the Byzantine Emperor and many of his subjects readily accepted the decrees of the Council concerning the nature of Christ. The generally-provincial Eastern Christians who opposed these decrees pejoratively referred to those city-dwelling Christians loyal to the Emperor as “King’s men,” malko in Syriac. It was from this term that the Chalcedonian Christians of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem became known as “Melkites”. When the Church of Antioch restored full communion with Rome in 1729, it retained the name “Melkite,” whereas those Antiochean Orthodox Christians who did not embrace the communion dropped the term.

4. Quddûsun Allâh!

The Melkite Church, derived as it is from the original Greek-speaking inhabitants of Antioch, spent many hundreds of years under the yoke of Islam. Unlike the Constantinopolitan Church, the Church of Antioch never really adapted much imperial ritual into its early liturgy – preferring instead to retain more Rabbinic and Syrian traditions. As Islam began to subjugate the area, Mohammad and his followers adopted many of the liturgical traditions of the Melkites, as is most notably seen in the Islamic prostrations, which are identical to those of Byzantine Christian practice. In like manner, several Islamic customs influenced the development of the Antiochean Church. Among these is the adoption of the ritual use of Arabic in the Divine Liturgy. From about the middle of the seventh century, Arabic language and culture fused with that of the Greek Melkites, further establishing the uniqueness of this Church within Byzantine Christianity. To this day, the official ritual languages of the Church are Greek and Arabic, so it is not uncommon to hear the liturgical use of the word Allah in the Divine Liturgy of the Melkites.

5. Sisters in Faith

The Melkite Church, a sui iuris patriarchal Church, is not merely a subset of the Roman Church. Indeed, it is a Church with its own history, theology, spirituality, and liturgy. The Melkite Church, being of Eastern origin, thus zealously guards her Byzantine approach to the Faith, seeing herself as a sister of the Roman Church. In times past, this defense of her heritage put some strain on the Church’s relationship with Rome. For example, at the First Vatican Council, Melkite Patriarch Gregory II Youssef refused to sign the decree of Pastor Aeternus concerning the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. When questioned by Rome on the matter, the Patriarch determined that he would only sign the decree with this caveat added: “except the rights and privileges of Eastern patriarchs,” as he knew he must protect the prerogatives of the Eastern hierarchy. Though this action won him the enmity of Pope Pius IX, the Patriarch was vindicated by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Orientalium Dignitas, as well as in his expansion of the Melkite patriarchate’s jurisdiction in the Middle East. In the century that followed, relations with Rome improved considerably. Those Melkite parishes that previously had been forcefully Latinized saw the beginning of a return to their authentic traditions, and the Church expanded into North and South America. At the Second Vatican Council, Melkite Patriarch Maximos IV spoke on behalf of the “absent members” of the Council: the Orthodox Churches. He did this with the complete approbation of Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. Maximos argued against the Latinization of the Eastern Churches, and in favour of the use of vernacular languages in all the liturgies of the Catholic Church. For his outstanding work at the Council, he was awarded with the Cardinalate. Following the Council, the Roman Church returned to the more ancient ecclesiological perspective of viewing its relationship with the Eastern Churches as one of sisters, rather than of mother and daughters.

6. Voice for Orthodoxy

As one of the oldest Sees in Christendom, the Antiochean Church has inherited a long and rich theological tradition distinct from (though complementary to) that of the Latin Churches.  Because of the unfortunate events of the eleventh century, the Melkites were for a period out of communion with Rome, and as such continued to develop their ecclesial life within the Greek/Arabic tradition. When this communion was restored in the 18th century, the Melkites took great pains to ensure that their particular Byzantine theological and spiritual structures remained relatively free of Latin influences. Thanks to the efforts of the Patriarchs and Popes Benedict XIV, Leo XIII, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, the Melkite Church has come to be an outspoken voice of Eastern Orthodoxy in the midst of the Catholic communion. In 1995, through the tireless work of Archbishop Elias Zoghby, a two-point profession of faith was presented to the Melkite Synod of Bishops. Known as the “Zoghby Initiative,” it states the following:

I believe in everything which Eastern Orthodoxy teaches.

I am in communion with the Bishop of Rome, in the limits recognized as the first among the bishops by the holy fathers of the East during the first millennium, before the separation.

The initiative was put up for vote, and all but two bishops supported its application and provided their signatures. Furthermore, the initiative was embraced by Melkite Patriarch Maximos V and Orthodox Antiochean Patriarch Ignatius IV. While there is still much to be done in re-establishing full intercommunion with the Antiochean Orthodox Church, the acceptance of this initiative demonstrates the degree to which the Melkite Church intends to remain true to her Orthodox heritage. This is a gift of untold treasure for the larger Catholic Church, and one which Rome has in recent times taken great care to ensure is protected and made to flourish. The Melkite patriarchs, striving to be truly “Orthodox in communion with Rome,” hope to one day re-establish sacramental participation with the Antiochean Orthodox Church, thus creating a bridge to help restore full union between East and West. Ut unim sint.

Pray for the peace of Syria.


For more information:

Light for Life, Volumes 1-3, God With Us Publications.

Tous Schismatiques? Archbishop Elias Zoghby, Sophia Press.

American Eastern Catholics, Fred J. Saato, Paulist Press.

Melkite Eparchy of Newton

St. Ignatios of Antioch Melkite Church

Splendour of the East: 5 Byzantine Hymns All Catholics Should Know

“We, who mystically represent the cherubim, and sing to the life-giving Trinity the thrice-holy hymn:let us lay aside all earthly cares, that we may welcome the King of All, invisibly escorted by angelic hosts. Alleluia.”

1. Axion Estin (It Is Truly Meet)

It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos,
ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
More honorable than the cherubim,
and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim.
Without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

The Axion Estin is the great hymn of praise to the glorious Theotokos, found in nearly every major service of the Byzantine rites. Believed composed in the 8th century by St. Cosmas the Hymnographer, it is ancient tradition that the first verse (“It is truly meet…”) was revealed by the Archangel Gabriel to a holy monk on Mount Athos, and this tradition is celebrated in a feast on June 11th each year.

2. Trisagion (The Thrice Holy)

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

One of the oldest texts in the Divine Liturgy, it is believed that this hymn was supernaturally revealed by an heavenly voice during the reign of Emperor Theodosius II in the early 5th century. We know that it was used by the Fathers of the Council of Chalcedon, and it once had a presence in the ancient Latin-rite Gallican liturgy of France. Many modern Roman-rite Catholics will be familiar with this hymn through its inclusion in the popular Divine Mercy devotion of St. Maria Faustina.

3. Cherubikon (The Cherubic Hymn)

We, who mystically represent the cherubim, and sing to the life-giving Trinity the thrice-holy hymn:let us lay aside all earthly cares, that we may welcome the King of All, invisibly escorted by angelic hosts. Alleluia.

One of the most sublime hymns of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the Cherubic Hymn occurs during the procession of the Holy Gifts from the altar of preparation, through the nave, to the altar of sacrifice. It represents the uniting of ourselves with the hosts of heaven, in preparation for the great and awesome Mystery that will soon be made present in our midst. This hymn, of ancient origin, was added to the Liturgy by Emperor Justin II in the late 6th century.

4. Vasilieu Ouranie (O Heavenly King)

O Heavenly King, the Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, the Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life: come, dwell within us, cleanse us of all stain, and save our souls, O Good One!

Part of the “Usual Beginning,” this hymn occurs in the midst of a number of prayers used to open most of the Byzantine Divine Services. It is also a proper hymn of Pentecost, and is thus not sung during the Easter Season, being instead replaced with the great “Christos Anesti”.

5. Phos Hilaron (O Gladsome Light)

O Gladsome Light of the holy glory of the Immortal Father, heavenly, holy, blessed Jesus Christ. Now we have come to the setting of the sun and behold the light of evening. We praise God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For it is right at all times to worship Thee with voices of praise, O Son of God and Giver of Life, therefore all the world glorifies Thee.

This incomparable hymn, also known as the “Lamplighter Hymn” of Great Vespers, is the oldest recorded hymn in Christianity outside of the Scriptures. It was first referenced in the Constitutiones Apostolicae of the 3rd century, and St. Basil the Great considered the singing of this hymn to be one of the most cherished traditions in the Church. To this day, it is recited daily during Vespers by all those of the Byzantine rites.


More Music and Hymns from CL Davis:

5 English Hymns All Catholics Should Know
Glory of Rome: 5 Latin Hymns Every Catholic Should Know
4 Musical Analogies in the Writings of the Early Church

24 Points from His Beatitude Patriarch Gregory III on the Crisis in Syria (2012)

The crisis in Syria has escalated to a civil war standards and has claimed the lives of thousands. Amongst those most marginalized by the conflict are our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters.

Listers, the crisis in Syria has escalated to a civil war standards and has claimed the lives of thousands. Amongst those most marginalized by the conflict are our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters. The spiritual leader for many of those Catholics is His Beatitude Patriarch Gregory III (Laham), Patriarch Of Antioch and All the East, Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. He has released a 24 point statement which SPL now presents in full.1 Those unfamiliar with the other churches and rites within the Catholic Church can find more information at 5 Questions About the Eastern Catholic Churches.

A demonstration against Assad in Homs, Syria. Edited from Wikipedia entry on the Syrian Conflict (2011-Present)

His Beatitude Patriarch Gregory III (Laham), of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Syria, has imparted these reflections and observations as a vademecum to throw light on the attitudes of the local Church towards the dramatic events in Syria and on certain moral contortions in relation to these events.

Dear friends,

1. The greatest danger in Syria at present is anarchy, lack of security and the massive influx of weapons from all sides. Violence is, alas, the dominant language today and violence begets violence. In Syria, this danger is ensnaring and affecting all citizens, regardless of race, religion or political persuasion.

2. Christians, too, are exposed to this same danger, but they are the weak link. Defenceless, they are the group most liable to exploitation, extortion, kidnapping, torture and even elimination. But they are also the peace-making, unarmed group, calling for dialogue, reconciliation, peace and unity among all the sons and daughters of the same homeland. This is the rarest kind of talk that many do not wish to hear. We Christians, to whom was entrusted the Gospel of Peace, feel ourselves called to further it.

3. Nevertheless, there is no Muslim-Christian conflict. Christians are not targeted as such, but can be reckoned among the victims of chaos and lack of security.

4. The greatest danger is interference from Arab or Western foreign elements. This interference takes the form of weapons, money and one-sided, programmed, subversive means of communication.

5. Such interference is harmful even to what is called the opposition. It is injurious to the just claims that are expressed more or less everywhere. This interference harms national unity at home by mixing up the cards.

6. This interference also weakens the specifically Christian voice of moderation and more particularly, the voice of the Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs in Syria. Local Churches have made their voices heard on several occasions and the declarations of the heads of the Christian Churches are characterised by moderation and the call for reform, freedom and democracy and for fighting corruption, supporting development and freedom of speech and the promotion of dialogue.

7. Nowhere in these declarations is there any allusion to the persecution of Christians, who, as we have seen, are not targeted as such. Neither is there any allusion to concepts of “Muslims,” “Salafists,” “fundamentalists,” “opponents,” “fear,” “regime” or “Party.” The declarations called for more dialogue and more reforms and participation in parliamentary parties and elections.

8. The language of the declarations was always positive, peaceable, calling for love and dialogue and rejecting resorting to arms. It advocated protecting defenceless citizens and not involving civilians in fighting. In short, the declarations are very remote from extremism of any kind. Though civic, they are in no way against such and such a group, either at home or abroad.

9. I don’t know what the reason is for the campaign against the leaders of the Churches in Syria and against their standpoints. I wonder from where come the labels that are stuck on them of compromise, exploitation and collusion with the regime, of time-serving, servitude or laziness?

10. It should be known that the State and its leaders have never addressed to Church leaders any directive or inducement to make a statement or adopt a particular position. The freedom of Church leaders was everywhere assured and still is to this day, whether in their behaviour or their private or public statements. In March 2012, I made a personal tour of European capitals. I asked no permission or guidance from anybody and no-one asked me to adopt any particular stance. I outlined that in a paper that summarised most of my convictions with regard to the situation prevailing in Syria.

11. It is possible for everyone to see the papers I’ve published with successive calls for fasting, prayer, dialogue, reconciliation, rejection of violence and avoiding resorting to arms…There are also the statements of the Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs in Syria and the declarations of the three Patriarchs whose patriarchal headquarters are in Syria: namely the Greek Orthodox, the Syriac Orthodox and the Greek Catholic Patriarchs (cf.

12. These leaders and the communiqués that they have published are the official voice of the Churches in Syria. Further, as Patriarch and President of the Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs in Syria, I call upon everyone to consider this voice as the authoritative stance of the Church in Syria. We allow no-one to speak in our name or in the name of Syria’s Christians, mar our statements or label us with charges of any kind whatever.

13. Similarly, it is subversive to doubt the credibility of the Church’s leaders or their transparency, fidelity and objectivity, the veracity of their sources of information or the news that they broadcast. The Church leaders don’t rely on the media, but they are in continual contact with their priests, monks and nuns and lay-people and all other citizens. They are leaders who look after the concerns of the Christian faithful and are also in contact with citizens of all denominations and with well-known leading members of the country. In all these situations they are free in their behaviour, movements and statements. They always call for mutual edification, dialogue and solidarity among all.

14. On the other hand, we think that the attitudes of certain persons and particular institutions, and the press campaign, are harming Christians in Syria and exposing them to danger, kidnapping, exploitation and even death. These attitudes heap false accusations on Christians, sowing doubt in their hearts and spreading fear and isolation. As a result, they help their exodus both inside the country and abroad…

15. These very attitudes claiming inopportunely to be interested in Christians can increase the radicalism of certain armed factions against Christians. They exacerbate relations between citizens, especially between Christian and Muslim citizens, as was the case in Homs, Qusayr, Yabrud and Dmeineh Sharqieh, etc…

16. That is why we are inviting these institutions and persons to concern themselves rather with civil peace in Syria. Let them support the call for dialogue and reconciliation, and the rejection of violence. Let them work to preserve the security of defenceless civilians in the current conflict, so as not to expose them to danger, lest they become the target of attacks of one faction or another…and so succumb, as victims of anarchy, insecurity, terrorism, exploitation, kidnapping and liquidation, as we mentioned above.

17. These reflections and observations spring from our Christian faith and patriotic convictions together with our knowledge of our Christian history and Syrian heritage, particularly with regard to living together, openness and mutual respect, despite the difficult period which our country is going through, during which relations between civilians have been abused, whether they are Christian, Muslim or other.

18. Our positions and reflections spring from our conviction that, despite the abundant bloodshed and hatred that have been shown, with feelings of enmity and rancour, Syrians, because of their long history, remain experts in living together and can resolve this dangerous crisis, unique in their history, helping one another, loving each other and forgiving and working together for the common future.

19. We also put a lot of hope in the initiatives of civil society to strengthen love and links among Syrians whom the conflict threatens to destroy. We pray for the success of the Mussalaha (reconciliation) movement in which delegates from all Churches are active alongside members of other denominations. This represents a foundation for effective resolution of the tragic events.

20. Similarly, we believe, hope and expect the Ministry of Reconciliation, created especially for the Mussalaha movement, to succeed in its mission of bringing back unity and love to the hearts of all: it prepares the way to resolve the conflict. We place a lot of hope in the creation of the new Ministry of Reconciliation.

21. Naturally, we are still calling once more for the rejection of violence and for stopping the cycle of killings and destruction, especially of destitute civilians, who are really defenceless victims, whether they are Christian or Muslim.

22. We should like to state truly and frankly that our position as Christians stems from the fact that we are Christian citizens in a secular society. The so-called prerogatives supposedly enjoyed by Christians in Syria are only the universal rights of all Syrian citizens regardless of the denomination or faith to which they belong. There is an historical basis for that in the confessional “millet” system dating back to the time of Ottoman rule. The Patriarch was then head of his Church in both the religious and secular sense. The business of private Church jurisprudence developed during the French protectorate, then under successive Syrian governments up to the present one, so the assertion that the status of Christians is the fruit of their adherence to the regime and will fall with it is absolutely false!

23. The Islamic world needs the Christian presence alongside it, with it and for it, in liaison and interaction, as was the case historically. This presence will and must continue. I say that Islam needs Christianity and that Muslims need Christians and we shall stay with them and for them as we have done in the past and throughout 1433 (Islamic) years of common history.1


24. To conclude: As Christians we address our big appeal to the Arab world to call it to unity: the division of the Arab world has always been the major target at home and abroad. This division is the reason for the dangers that are lying in wait for the region and is the cause of the absence of a just and comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This conflict is the basis and primordial cause of the majority of misfortunes, crises and wars in the Arab world. This conflict, according to the testimony of His Holiness the Pope, of many churchmen, Apostolic Nuncios, and even of Jewish Israeli politicians, is the primordial cause of the Christian exodus. Yes, the division of the Arab world, according to the testimony of the persons cited above, has been hindering a solution to this conflict for sixty-four years! (cf. the opinion of Tzipi Livni2 in The Financial Times 13/07/2012).

Peace lies in the unity of the Arab world and the safety of Christians can only be assured by the unity of the Arab world, from which flow the circumstances favourable to living together and Muslim-Christian and inter-Muslim dialogue. The greatest danger in this field affects Islam itself when it is divided along the fracture lines of the Arab world, evidence for that being the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict. This phenomenon is more dangerous than the danger that Christians or other denominations are incurring in Syria and the region.

Crises and wars are the cause of the exodus of Christians and the cause of the deterioration of Muslim-Christian relations.

Europeans, take an interest in the unity of the Arab world, if you want to help Christians.

Europeans, solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if you want to help Christians.

Europeans, work for peace in the Middle East, if you want to help Christians.

Our common destiny for us all, Arab Christians and Muslims…is the same. Don’t cut us off from our Arab community environment, nor from our Muslim community environment.

Help us to play our role and fulfil our mission in the Arab world so that we can be present in it, with it and for it…and there be as light, salt and leaven.

Take an interest in us in and because of our community environment. In your analyses don’t make us out to be intruders in our Arab Muslim-Christian world, nor agents in it, dhimmis protected by you or others than you.

Help us to be Christians of the Church of the Arabs and Church of Islam.

Europeans: don’t hide your interests behind your zeal for Christians!

We invite our brothers and sisters in the Arab East and in Europe and everywhere else, states, religious or humanitarian institutions to help us in this unity undertaking and we say: “One united Arab voice and one united Western voice can return security and safety to Syria and all the Middle East, as we walk together towards a better future.” Thank you in advance to all who will respond to this call.

We need the unique role of the Pope and the Vatican and hope that the visit of the Pope to Lebanon next September will be a support for these reflections that I’ve drafted on the situation in the Arab world and more precisely in Syria.

May the Lord of history grant us his Holy Spirit to guide us on the paths of good! Amen.

+Gregorios III (Laham)
Melkite Greek Catholic
Patriarch Of Antioch and All the East,
Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

  1. Source: The document was brought to our attention by Rorate Caeli and originally taken from the eparchy website. []

5 Questions About the Eastern Catholic Churches

There are 20 different Eastern Catholic Churches with 16 million members.

Listers, let us consider the simple but much needed work of Deacon Ed Faulk: 101 Questions and Answers on Eastern Catholic Churches. Deacon Faulk has dual faculties: Roman Catholic and Melkite-Greek Catholic, and has produced a wondrous primer to understanding our Eastern brothers and sisters.

The following is a very basic introduction to the topic.

1. What is the difference between the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Church?

Many are aware that in AD 1054 the Church suffered a “Great Schism,” and the churches in the East became known as the “Orthodox Churches” and the Church in the West retained the name “Catholic.” Over the years, certain orthodox churches – for various reasons – began to “petition Rome for union.” The Deacon explains “the first of these was the Chaldean Church and, later, the Union of Brest (1595), which led to a long period of “Uniatism.” In time, every single tradition within the orthodox church came to have a counterpart that had returned to Rome. These returned Orthodox churches are known as “Eastern Catholics Churches.”

Two “Eastern Catholic Churches” do not have an orthodox equivalent: the Maronites and the Italo-Albanians.

2. So we are not all Roman Catholics?

The deacon explains: “Yes, that’s true, the term Roman Catholic was first coined by the Church of England (Anglican Church) as a way of distinguishing between themselves (Anglican Catholics) and the Catholics who followed the pope in Rome (Roman Catholics).”

All Catholics are in communion with Rome and the Pope. However, Roman Catholics are those who pull from a Western tradition – Latin Rite – while Eastern Catholics have various eastern traditions.

3. How many Eastern Catholic Churches are there?

There are 20 different Eastern Catholic Churches, and they total about 16 million members.

4. What is the relationship between the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Churches?

As stated, two of the Catholic Churches do not have Orthodox counterparts. The reason is that neither the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church nor the Maronite Catholic Church ever broke communion with Rome.

All the other Eastern Catholic Churches follow a similar pattern: they broke communion with Rome at the Great Schism, then at some point broke away from their Orthodox Churches, and returned to full communion with Rome.

In general, Catholics generally see the Eastern Catholics as a bridge between Rome and the Orthodox East; however, the Orthodox have a very negative view of these “break away” churches – “they are no longer ‘graced,’ meaning they have separated themselves from the source of grace, the Orthodox Church.”

The Melkite Catholics actually proposed at one point to have communion with both Rome and Moscow, but that was rejected by both Rome and Moscow. They do however see themselves as a bridge between the two, and they are often the “voice of the Orthodox in Rome.”1

5. Can Eastern Catholic priests be married?

Yes. The answer is a bit more complicated, as different traditions have different standards, but overall the answer is yes. “Once a man has been ordained to the diaconate,” says the Deacon, “he may not marry. However, a married man may be ordained to the priesthood.”

The Eastern Churches pull this tradition from Scripture, where it is clearly stated that St. Peter had a mother-in-law. Moreover, St. Paul specifies that “a man who is being considered for ecclesial office (bishop, priest, deacon) should not have been married more than once. Eventually, the office of bishop was reserved to monastics, which, by definition, meant men who were not married.”

The Latin Church – Roman – “enacted several different laws that, from the latter fourth century, created a celibate priesthood.”

“The basic teaching of the church is that marriage is not an impediment (block) to orders, but rather, that orders is an impediment to marriage.”

The topic of Eastern Catholic Church is a very complicated one with a history of triumph and tragedy. I can assure the Listers that we will be returning to this excellent primer to explore many of the more complex issues.

In the mean time, pray for Christian Unity and learn more about our Eastern brothers and sisters.

  1. Rome & the Eastern Catholic Churches: Though a different question, I do not want to present the Orthodox as the only side that has had problems with the Eastern Catholics. The Eastern Catholics have suffered a “Latinization” over the centuries, which at times was forced. Though their traditions were valid, they were forced into abandoning them for Roman/Latin practices. Moreover, America was one of the worst agents in this tragedy, and the Eastern Catholic Churches in America have a tragic history due to several unfortunate choices by Roman bishops.

    I am happy however to note that Vatican II exhorted the Eastern Catholic Churches to reclaim their own traditions. The call of the council has led to a renewal in many Eastern Catholic Churches – including those in the United States. []