(LifeSiteNews) – A Greek Byzantine Rite Catholic bishop criticized the parliamentary model of the upcoming Synod on Synodality being pushed by Rome in the Latin Rite, saying “such synodality” in which “everyone, laity and clergy, acts together to reach some ecclesiastical, doctrinal, canonical, disciplinary decision … does not exist in the East.”
Bishop Manuel Nin, the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church’s Apostolic Exarch to Greece, published comments on the official Greek Catholic Exarchate website in early August addressing errors in the West surrounding the notion of synodality and claiming that Eastern churches have always followed the synodal model.
“I have heard it said, even by persons of recognized validity: ‘You in the East have always had synodality. While we in the West, maybe… ’” the Greek Apostolic Exarch wrote. “But what synodality are we talking about?”
The bishop went on to explain that synodality is being confused with the “episcopal collectivity” of the Eastern Churches, which he said “in the East is associated with the exercise of authority, pastoral ministry, service within Christian Churches that takes place in the assembly of bishops belonging to a particular Church and headed by a patriarch, an archbishop or a metropolitan.”
In contrast with Rome’s currently approved inclusion of laity as members of the synodal assembly enjoying voting rights, the Greek bishop said that in the East “decisions, within these Churches are made by the assembly of bishops (almost always called a ‘synod’ or sometimes a ‘council of hierarchs’), belonging to an Eastern Church.”
Of course, this exercise of ministry/service/authority in the Eastern Churches certainly has a synodal dimension in that decisions taken at a fully collegiate level belong to the synod of bishops, understood as a gathering of bishops together with their superior: patriarch, archbishop or metropolitan … However, if the West perceives synodality as a place or as a moment when everyone, laity and clergy, acts together to reach some ecclesiastical, doctrinal, canonical, disciplinary decision, whatever it may be, it becomes clear that such synodality does not exist in the East.
The sharp criticism of the novel western idea of including laity “to reach some ecclesiastical, doctrinal, canonical, disciplinary decision” under the guise of listening and “walking together,” the Byzantine bishop said was also a misunderstanding of the very word “synod.”
The word ‘synod’ [‘σύνοδος’] comes directly from Greek which means ‘to walk with … ’ But the most important and the most fundamental thing, I would say, that needs to be clarified immediately so that our reflection on synodality does not go astray is the meaning and the real object of the Greek preposition ‘with.’ It does not refer to the path, nor to us Christians, laymen, priests, bishops. This ‘with,’ this Greek preposition connects us Christians and leads us to a Person who is Christ.
Contrasting the use of a modern democratic parliament as a model for ecclesiastical life and governance with the authentically Christian understanding that through baptism we are called to walk with Christ, Bishop Nin said, “it should be clearly emphasized that synodality in all Christian churches, whether Eastern or Western, cannot be an ‘overlay’ that presents us in the modern world, but also among ourselves, as if we are a modern Western democracy, parliamentary perhaps, where everyone can say everything and talk about everything.”
“The life of the Christian Churches has never been a form of democracy in which everyone decides everything on the basis of majority rules,” he added.
“Since our baptism, we have been walking with Christ in the Church, and this is important to underline. And it should be the point from which we bring back to the forefront of our Christian life Him, the Lord Jesus Christ, with whom we walk as Christians,” stated Min.