Dr. Paul McPartlan

Dr. Paul McPartlan Discusses “The Promise and Challenge of Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue”
at Annual SS. Cyril and Methodius Lecture

A gathering of more than 100 people attended the Seventh Annual SS. Cyril and Methodius Lecture, sponsored by the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of SS. Cyril & Methodius and the bestowal of diplomas upon the 2007 graduates of the Seminary on Tuesday, May 1.  After an opening hymn led by Prof. J. Michael Thompson, Seminary rector Fr. John G. Petro offered opening comments in welcoming the assembly. In his remarks, Fr. John acknowledged the graduation ceremony today as a tangible fruit of the degree-granting status of the Seminary by the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2003 and the agreement, reached in 2001, between the Byzantine Catholic Seminary and Duquesne University, to work together in offering the Masters degree in Theology.

Metropolitan Archbishop Basil then conferred the M.Div. degree on Brother Jerome Wolbert, O.F.M. Br. Jerome, a professed Byzantine Franciscan friar, had earned a doctorate in mathematics prior to coming to the Seminary  Also recognized was Mr. Steve Puluka, who completed all his studies for the M.A. in Theology through the joint Duquesne University/Byzantine Catholic Seminary program and looks forward to graduating in the summer.


The guest lecturer was Fr. Paul McPartlan, Ph.D., Carl J. Peter Professor of Systematic Theology and Ecumenism at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He is a prolific author and editor; among his latest offerings are Communion and Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church (with the Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas) and An Introduction to Vatican II.

In his lecture, entitled “The Promise and Challenge of Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue,” Fr. McPartlan addressed the various issues that still separate the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. In identifying the role of the Roman pontiff as the primary divisive matter standing in the way of re-unification, he raised the possibility of using Eucharistic ecclesiology to solve the problem of primacy in a re-united Church.

“The papacy,” he said, “is the most thorny issue in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue. But the Eucharist is the center of the Church and of church life… it’s the common theological matrix within which the problems besetting Roman Catholic and Orthodox relations can most profitably be addressed.” He pointed out that local churches cannot be reduced to being simply parts of a whole; rather, the structure of the Church must rise from and correspond to the one Eucharist being celebrated around the world. While the West had developed a highly hierarchical structure, the East had maintained a synodal organization.

It is these disparate organizational characteristics that have contributed to the estrangement between East and West, and which continue to thwart attempts at reaching a mutually satisfactory and theologically sound agreement. In conclusion, Fr. McPartlan said that while Roman Catholics must recognize that universal primacy of the Bishop of Rome does not necessarily include universal jurisdiction over all local churches, the Orthodox, for their part, must solve their own internal problems of jurisdictionalism before any real progress can be made. “In 1952, Fr. Yves Congar famously observed that between East and West, ‘Everything is similar, yet all is different.’ There is a close link between the Eucharist and the salvation of creation,” he continued. “All of creation is presented to the Father through the death and resurrection of Christ. We, as Roman Catholics, need to recover this cosmic dimension of the Eucharist.”

The participants who attended the lecture came from a number of Churches and jurisdictions, from the academic community and others interested in theology and ecumenism.  Among the dignitaries present were Metropolitan Archbishop Basil of the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, and Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos, hierarch of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese (Ecumenical Patriarchate).

Fr. David Sedor
Instructor, Moral Theology
Byzantine Catholic Seminary


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