Clarifying the Zoghby Initiative-a Proposal

What is the Zoghby Initiative? Why clarify it? As a brief background-Bishop Elias Zoghby was a Melkite bishop who fell asleep in the Lord in 2008. While on earth, he answered the call of Eastern Catholics to help be a conduit of unity between all Catholics and Orthodox. His initiative is below, which has been considered not nuanced enough by many, including possibly the See of Rome.

Bishop Zoghby wrote:

  1. I believe everything which Eastern Orthodoxy teaches.
  2. I am in communion with the Bishop of Rome as the first among the bishops, according to the limits recognized by the Holy Fathers of the East during the first millennium, before the separation.

Some friends and I have discussed this and the shortcomings of it, in that it relegates all things that the Catholic Church (Latin or otherwise) has stated/done/declared after the first millennium to a strange….limbo. What do we make of declarations about the role of the Papacy at Vatican I (and Vatican II, for that matter)? What do we make of dogmatic declarations about the conception of the Mother of God, or the teachings on contraception in Humanae Vitae, as well? If we only understand the role of the Pope from the first millennium, do we miss out on some the doctrinal and dogmatic developments from the second millennium (not to mention the findings from this 3rd millennium after the birth of Christ)?

It has led me to discuss this with some close friends, and in response to this I have tried to refine the Zoghby Initiative after much discussion, prayer and reflection on the original text. Mirroring the first declaration, please read the following proposal:

1. I believe in everything which Eastern Orthodoxy teaches, particularly in the light of the Undivided Church of the first millennium.

2. I am in communion with the Bishop of Rome as the first among bishops, according to the limits and privileges of his conciliar leadership. This includes the right to speak on behalf of or to veto his brother bishops, which was exercised during the first millennium, before the separation.

How might this clarified statement help drive dialogue to be more fully aware of how the Catholic Church has lived in history? How might dialogue and reconciliation be more a matter of understanding one another more honestly, vs. through concessions that deny the realities of the Church’s living and breathing in time?

How does the Eastern Orthodox faith collide with the Catholic Church’s teachings in the centuries after the schism? In contrast, how is this collision merely one of appearances and perceived contradictions?

Time and more dialogue will tell.

Through the prayers of our holy fathers O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us!

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