If indeed Pope Benedict’s dropping of the title of “Patriarch of the West” was an opening gesture to the Eastern Orthodox (which no one has verified yet), it looks like some of the Orthodox at least are not impressed.The Moscow Patriarchate, perhaps the most contentious of the lot, says it opens up new problems.
“It remains a mystery how the omission of the Patriarch of the West title can improve relations between the Holy See and the Orthodox Church. On the contrary, this omission could be viewed as further claims to the church’s worldwide jurisdiction, which is reflected in the pontiff’s other titles,” Bishop of Vienna and Austria Hilarion, the Russian Church’s envoy to European institutions, said in a statement on Friday. The Patriarch of the West was one of the most problematic titles from an Orthodox standpoint, he said, adding that the origin of the pontiff’s other titles is also disputable.
So which is it? If the title of Patriarch is the most problematic, then shouldn’t they be happy he’s dropping it? Yet when he does drop they say it’s a claim to worldwide jurisdiction. This appears typical of the Russian Orthodox who are constantly complaining that the tiny Catholic presence in Russia is an attempt to proselytize in “historically Russian Orthodox” territory, but yet they don’t seem to think that their presence in places like Cuba, Europe, or North America constitutes a similar problem.
Patriarch(s) of the West
Meanwhile, some people are speculating that the dropping of the title has less to do with reconciliation with the East than with reorganizing the Church in the West.