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Benedict practices 'communion ecclesiology'

On June 29, the Feast of
Sts. Peter and Paul, Benedict XVI imposed the pallium, the symbol of a
metropolitan archbishop's office, on 27 archbishops appointed during the
last year.

The pallium, which also symbolizes the link between the metropolitan
and the See of Peter, is a circular band about two inches wide, with two
pendants hanging down front and back. It's ornamented with six dark
crosses of silk, and is worn over liturgical vestments. The pallium is
given to metropolitan archbishops appointed during the last year, and can
be worn only within their ecclesiastical province.

Like last year, Benedict XVI led the ceremony inside St. Peter's
Basilica, rather than in the square as was customary under John Paul II.
From Benedict's point of view, the basilica, especially the central altar
directly above the tomb of St. Peter, better captures the meaning of the
event.

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It's customary for the Patriarch of Constantinople to send a delegation
to the Vatican for the event, just as the pope sends a delegation to the
Phanar for the Feast of St. Andrew on Nov. 30. (This year, Benedict will
go himself.) The Orthodox delegation was led by Metropolitan John
Zizioulas, who is to some extent an Orthodox analog of Joseph Ratzinger --
one of the most accomplished theologians of his generation, who has been
called into church governance.

As Benedict XVI processed into the basilica, he made a special point of
spotting Zizioulas and smiling at him. Later, the two men exchanged the
Sign of Peace. At the end of the Mass, Benedict and Zizioulas went down
the stairs under the main altar together and prayed before what are
believed to be the bones of St. Peter. The two prelates stood
shoulder-to-shoulder, with no distinction in "rank."

Zizioulas pioneered the concept of "communion ecclesiology," the idea
that the church is constituted by the celebration of the Eucharist around
the bishop, which has had great influence also in Roman Catholicism in the
period after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). In his own theological
work, Joseph Ratzinger has written that the "ecclesiology of communion" is
a useful point of departure, though he's warned that it must not exalt the
local church at the expense of the universal. For his part, Zizioulas has
argued that Orthodoxy can accept the universal primacy of the pope, if it
is "fundamentally qualified," meaning that it respects the autonomy of
local churches and acts through a synodal structure.

In his homily, Benedict ended with a strong ecumenical appeal.

"We share the ardent desire expressed in the past by Patriarch
Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI: to drink together from the same chalice, and
to eat together the bread that is the Lord himself," the pope said. "We
newly implore, on this occasion, that this gift will be conceded to us
soon."

In an audience for the Orthodox delegation, Benedict recalled that
Peter is recalled in Byzantine hagiography as the protocoryphaeus,
literally the "first in the choir," which Benedict defined as "the task of
maintaining the harmony of the voices, for the glory of God and the
service of his people."

The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is href="mailto:jallen@natcath.org">jallen@ncronline.org

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April 11-24, 2014

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