"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Orthodox and Catholic: Sisters Temporarily Separated

I count it as a joy to know the author of a new study whose timeliness, especially in view of ecclesiological debates and controversies at the recently concluded Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Churches, could not be greater. We were doctoral students at the same time a decade ago working in closely overlapping areas, and began communicating then, exchanging draft chapters and bibliographic suggestions. Since that time we have had the great good fortune to meet several times, usually at OTSA gatherings in New York and Boston, and I have always found Will to be an enormously gracious human being.

His new book has just been published in a prestigious series from one of the leading European presses devoted to ecumenism, and I am greatly looking forward to reading Will T. Cohen, The Concept of ""Sister Churches"" in Catholic-Orthodox Relations since Vatican II (Aschendorff Verlag, 2016),

About this book the publisher tells us:
Often used from Vatican II to the end of the 20th century by both Orthodox and Catholic officials, the expression “sister churches” reflected their growing rapprochement, as well as a shift on the Catholic side from a more centralized ecclesiology to one more attentive to the local church and conciliarity.  But in the year 2000, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith put strict limits on how the expression could be used by Catholics.  The move coincided with a bold reassertion in official Catholic documents of the unique identity of the Catholic Church as the only one in which the Church of Christ “subsists” and of the crucial importance of Rome’s primacy for the universal church.  In the Orthodox world, meanwhile, use of “sister churches” in ecumenical exchanges with Rome had always had adamant detractors for a different reason, namely, that the Roman Catholic Church in their view (not shared by all Orthodox) had been in heresy since the schism.  In his comprehensive treatment of the rise and fall of the expression “sister churches” over half a century of Catholic‐Orthodox relations, Dr. Will Cohen explores why the concept developed as it did, why it was so fiercely contested, and what remains vital about the concept today.  In the process, Dr. Cohen illuminates pitfalls of both Catholic and Orthodox ecclesiology in mutual isolation and the promise each holds when open to the authentic gifts of the other.  
I also hope, with the press of the academic year about to begin, that I shall have a chance to interview Will on here, and will post that in due course.

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