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Glory Be To Jesus Christ!  Glory Be Forever!

The Institute for Promoting the Gift of Truth, one of the Donum Veritatis- The Gift of Truth Ministries, is an Institute of Christian Research and Education (incorporating the doctoral studies of founder William Baptiste SFO), providing Christian resource materials, education and training in many topics about the Gift of Truth entrusted to Christ’s Church, which, embraced, brings the life-changing Love, power, peace and joy of Jesus!

Our Motto:  CARITAS ET VERITAS – LOVE AND TRUTH “So That The World May Believe” (John 17:21)

Our Goals:

1.  Mature Christian Education in the Life-Transforming Depths of God the Holy Trinity of Love and God’s Plan for His Adopted Family the Church “So That the World May Believe” (see CATCH THE VISION); and

2.  The Institute desires to facilitate today’s divided Christians worldwide working together better for Jesus in the short-term to save HUMAN RIGHTS, RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, and DEMOCRACY ITSELF (ALL of which depend historically and logically on CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES, as demonstrated at our new website Human Rights and Freedoms Forever! ) from all the current and increasing attacks of “Creeping Totalitarianism.” To do this the Institute aims to assist all today’s divided Christians (adopted by God) in better understanding the Lived Reality of the Undivided Early Church of the First Millennium and its particular structure of Family Unity in Diversity (presented on our website Christian Unity in Diversity Central: Teaching Today’s Divided Christians How to Think About Christian Unity Like the Undivided Early Church Lived It “So That the World May Believe”, so that they become better at recognizing each other as brothers and sisters of the same adoptive Father (even organized as different “Sister Churches”) sharing a vast common faith (despite comparatively minor disagreements) and so they become better at acting like God’s one adopted Family on Earth, the Church (bickering and all, like families do!).  In this way we can TOGETHER save Western Civilization from sliding all the way back into the “Pro-Choice-to-Kill-Humans” values and TOTALITARIAN STYLE OF GOVERNMENT which were both NORMAL before Christianity introduced the “Pro-Human-Right-to-Live” Foundational Principles of Human Rights and Democracy into the West (many Western countries have already regressed considerably and are well on the way to losing religious freedom after decades ago eliminating the Inherent Human Right to Live by de-criminalizing abortion which was first criminalized in 318 AD, 5 years after the West stopped persecuting Christians in 313 AD, because the Christian Church taught the West at that time that human life is not cheap, to serve the greater State, but that every human life is EQUALLY precious to God, and the State is OBLIGATED to something higher than the State to PROTECT (and eventually serve) all precious human lives. 

3.  After today’s divided Christians in the short term have learned to recognize each other and work together with a beautiful “unity in love” based on our vast common faith despite our current structural disunity thanks to centuries-old immaturity in love on all sides which was unable to resolve certain misunderstandings and disagreements which are minor compared to our great common faith, after we have together saved Western Civilization from imploding because it abandoned Christianity as the source of its guiding principles (which included the historical and logical Foundational Principles of Human Rights and Democracy), the Institute hopes also to, in the long-term, point the way towards eventual full structural Christian Church reunification modelled after the Undivided Early Church’s Unity in Diversity, though there is no hurry to rush this as long as we have at least established visible unity in love despite our differences for the world’s sake, “so that the world may believe” (John 17:21) when it sees our “love for one another” (John 13:35).  Full structural Christian reunification before all sides are ready for it would fail anyway; but as we come to further understand the Undivided Early Church model of Unity in Diversity and as we get used to working together in Christian Family Love “so that the world may believe” when it sees our “love for one another,” there will eventually be less and less reason to stay committed to centuries-old divisions that all sides should be embarrassed of (as a scholar who during my doctoral studies has read many of the primary historical documents of the various times of Christian schisms, I confirm that all Christians on all sides should be embarrassed by the immaturity in Christian love which characterized these past divisions, and we must not feel obligated to maintain them forever!).

I am pleased to say that although the two oldest and largest separated Christian Communions, the (Western) Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, were the first to break the unity of the Undivided Early Christian Church of the First Millennium when their “Great Schism” turned the one Christian Church into two, they also have been the first to engage in a serious “Dialogue of Love” since 1958, followed up by a serious “Theological Dialogue” since 1982 to sort out theological differences and pave the way towards the full healing of their “Great Schism” which set the bad precedent and the bad tone for the later Christian schisms like the Protestant Reformation.  That first “Great Schism” was fueled by a Satanic principle of “unity equals uniformity” replacing the Undivided Early Church’s wonderful “unity in diversity,” a satanic principle inherited by the Protestant Reformation which eventually splintered the Western Church into one Catholic Church plus 40,000 distinct registered Protestant/Evangelical churches by today because Protestant/Evangelical Christians could not stand to stay in the same Church communion with each other very long unless they remained almost completely like-minded.  The mutually-enriching unity in diversity of the Undivided Early Church had already been forgotten long before Western Church was finally and totally split from the Eastern Church, in a gradual process of East/West estrangement typically symbolized by the 1054 mutual excommunication of the Western Catholic Pope and the Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, although there had been festering East/West tensions since the 9th Century and although this “Great Schism” was never total nor complete until 1453 (not that long before the 1517 start of the Protestant Reformation), with the help of Muslim interference (the Muslim conqueror of Constantinople, Sultan Mohammad II, did not want the Eastern Christians now under his rule to have anything to do with the free Western Christians who sent Crusaders to free the Holy Land from Muslim domination, so he made the most anti-Roman of his conquered slaves, who had been leader of the opposition to the East/West Christian Reunion joyfully proclaimed 14 years earlier at the 1439 Council of Florence, the new Eastern Patriarch of Constantinople, who of course abandoned the recent Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox reunion as the Muslim Sultan wanted – and the East/West dialogue to restore the First Millennium Christian Unity did not start again until 500 years later in 1958).

The early Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Early First Millennium Christian Church (which called itself simply the Catholic Church) had theologically and officially defined fundamental Christian doctrines or dogmas like “Jesus is one in being with the Father” (therefore Divine, against the Arian heretics) and “Jesus is fully God and fully man” (against the Monophysite heretics), since the Bible itself, while certainly containing these doctrines, was not so explicitly clear as to prevent heretical Bible interpretations denying traditional core Christian beliefs becoming popular.  But the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council (Vatican II, 1962-65) was the first time in 20 centuries that the Catholic Church had actually theologically and officially defined just what the Church is at an Ecumenical Council.  Vatican II’s detailed formal discussions and definitions of the Church, drawing heavily from Scripture and from that Undivided First Millennium Christian Church with its wonderful unity in diversity, are an important piece in guiding Christians to eventually restore the lost Christian unity in diversity of the First Millennium, which saw the most successful Christian missions in history BECAUSE the Church was a unified Church, and Jesus had linked the world’s belief in Him with the unity and love of His Church, the Body of Christian believers (John 17:21, 13:35).  But Vatican II’s teaching, while making progress, has yet to “trickle down” into the mind and heart of the “average Catholic Christian,” and the Catholic Church is still only in the process of rediscovering its First Millennium reality as a truly Catholic (Greek Katholikos or Universal) Communion of (today) 26 Orthodox (“right-teaching;” non-heretical) Eastern and Western Christian Rites or ‘Sister’ Churches united under the Successor of Peter, the Pope in Rome.  Vatican II was Christian-unity oriented from its first breath (Pope Saint John XXIII announced to his cardinals that he was calling an Ecumenical Council at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity) to its last full day (when, in parallel ceremonies in Rome and in Constantinople, the Western Catholic Pope and the Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch officially lifted and “consigned to oblivion” the 1054 mutual excommunication of their 11th-century predecessors which had become symbolic of the first “Great Schism” of Christianity that split the Undivided Early Catholic/Universal Church Communion of Orthodox “Sister Churches” of East and West into a divided Western Catholic Church Communion and a separate Eastern Orthodox Church Communion).  Vatican II’s Ecclesiology /Doctrine of the Church has already been beautifully further clarified and developed in the official Catholic Church/Eastern Orthodox Church Dialogue towards the healing of the first “Great Schism” of Christianity between these two Churches in 1054, towards healing this “Great Schism” which set the bad precedent and bad tone [ “unity equals uniformity” instead of the Undivided Early Church’s “Unity in Diversity” ] for the many later divisions of Christianity such as the Protestant Reformation).

See Donum Veritatis – The Gift of Truth Ministries Mission Statement

The Gift of Truth from the Father Comes into the world by the Written Word & the Holy Spirit of Jesus the Living Word through His Body the Church

“I love the Church, because Jesus loves the Church as His Bride, and because in the profound marital “one flesh” mystery of “Christ and the Church” (see Ephesians 5:22-32) all of us members of the Bride of Christ the Church become members of the very Body of Christ the Church, we become His hands and feet and heart reaching out to the world with His love.  The Institute for Promoting the Gift of Truth exists to help teach all Christians their true identity as the Bride and very Body of Jesus Christ on Earth “so that the world may believe” when it sees our Beloved Jesus’ Love in us His Bride and Body.”

– Peter William John Baptiste SFO, Founder

(The Following are Quick Links to Topics From the Catalog Published on the Institute’s Christian Unity in Diversity Central Website, followed by an article on Vatican Council II’s Tremendous Contribution Towards Fully Restoring the Undivided Early Church, the Undivided First Millennium Catholic Commmunion of Orthodox Christian Rites or ‘Sister Churches’, and then an article on The Roman Pope’s Roles within the Catholic Communion)

QUICK LINKS: CATCH THE VISION; Vatican II Implementation; Revolutionizing Your Bible Reading; Trinity of Love; the Body of Christ the Church; Power of Prayer; Family Theology; Love Unbounded: How does Jesus’ Death Save Us?; The Universal Call to Holiness; Sacred Tradition is The Bride of Christ Dancing with Him Throughout History; Ecumenism (Recapturing the Early Church’s Unity in Diversity)Divided Christians Must Always Confirm Our Vast Common Ground Before Discussing Our Differences; The Common Creed of Christianity; Together Transforming Culture for JesusDeciphering the ‘Language Barrier’ Between Catholic and Protestant Christians; Evangelicals Believe in Purgatory But Call it by Another Name; The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Univided Early Universal (Catholic) Christian Church; Science & Faith; Bible Inerrancy; the Image and Likeness of God; Adam and Jesus Versus the Dragon; Beauty of Faith; The Gospel of Jesus Christ – You were Made to be Drenched in Love!; Prima Scriptura or Sola Scriptura (the Bible First or Alone); What is Sacred Tradition?; What is the Magisterium?; Prima Scriptura: Closer than We Think; Bible Canon History; Who is Mary in the Church?; WHAT IS THE CATHOLIC CHURCH?; The Patriarchates; Reborn Jewish Christianity; The First “Great Schism” of Christianity and its Precedent in Division and in Healing; The Eastern Churches and the Papacy Throughout History; Proposal for Reunification

Vatican Council II’s Tremendous Contribution Towards Fully Restoring the Undivided Early Church, the Undivided First Millennium Catholic Commmunion of Orthodox Christian Rites or ‘Sister Churches’

To recapture the phenomenal success of the Undivided Early Church which “turned the [pagan] world upside down” with the love of God while pursuing its Mission from Jesus, it is important to understand that the Catholic Church is much more than merely the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church which Protestant Christians broke away from in the 16th Century, which is currently the largest Catholic Rite (though in the Undivided Early Catholic Commmunion of Orthodox Christian Rites or ‘Sister Churches’ only 25% of both Orthodox (non-heretical) and Catholic (Universal) Christians were Roman Catholic Christians, the other 75% being Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christians of different Rites or “Sister Churches” which also recognized the Pope in Rome as the Successor of Peter, Chief of the Apostles).  Today’s ongoing Universal (Greek: Katholikos or Catholic) Christian Communion of Orthodox Sister Churches, since the time of the Apostle John’s direct disciples, the beloved early Christian martyrs Saint Polycarp of Smyrna and Saint Ignatius of Antioch who coined the term, has been known collectively as the Catholic Church.  This Communion of currently 26 ancient and semi-ancient Christian Rites or ‘Sister Churches’ of East and West united under the Successor of Peter, the Pope in Rome, represent different nations/cultures as renewed in Jesus Christ IN FULFILLMENT OF GOD’S PLAN since He told Adam and Noah to “multiply and fill the Earth” and since He scattered the nations at Babel to ensure they would in fact “fill the Earth” with different cultures.  Saint Augustine said, “the Church is the World, redeemed,” and the Rites or Sister Churches which make up the ancient Catholic (Universal) Church Communion are the nations or cultures of the world, redeemed.

The Wisdom of God’s plan for humanity scattered abroad in different cultural groups since Adam and Babel is seen in how each of the different ancient cultures (initially Jewish, Syrian, Egyptian, Roman, and Greek) as renewed in Jesus Christ as different Rites or ‘Sister Churches’ or Patriarchates (Church Provinces, initially centered in Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and Constantinople) of the one Undivided Early Catholic Christian Church had a different cultural perspective on the infinite Truth of God revealed in Jesus Christ.  This meant that each different culturally-based Sister Church lovingly and theologically reflected upon the Bible, the Written Word of God, and upon their living relationship with Jesus the Living Word of God, from different angles of approach, and they emphasized different aspects of this inexaustable Truth and this inexaustable Love relationship in their loving devotional practices and formal worship rituals and liturgies, such that only together did they know the most about God.  Together they were “greater than the sum of their parts” and only together as one Catholic (Universal) Christian Church, one Living Body of Christ the Church with all its parts, could they fight many early heretical interpretations of the Bible and only together, by pooling together their different insights coming from their different cultural perspectives and approaches, could they precisely define the essential content of God’s infinite Self-Revelation in Jesus Christ the Living Word of God and in the Bible, the Written Word of God, in ways that excluded heretical misinterpretation.  This they did at the Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils of the Undivided Early Christian Church, the early Catholic Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches of East and West, which officially and dogmatically defined (against many heretics through the centuries) the only proper way to  interpret the Bible so as to answer the new questions of new eras yet also stay true to the Christian faith as passed down at least implicitly within the Apostolic Christian Church Community since Apostolic times.

The 1st Ecumenical Council, held at Nicea in 325 AD, as an expression of the Church as the Living Body of Christ guided by the Holy Spirit into “all the truth” (John 16:13) as per Jesus’ promise, dogmatically defined, against the Arian Christian heretics with their very thorough and sophisticated but not traditional interpretation of the Bible, that in order to stay true to the Christian faith as passed down within the Living Faith Community of the Church the Bible must be interpreted to mean that Jesus is God, one in being with the Father.  The background painting on this website is of the Early Church Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council together with the ancient Nicene Creed this Council produced (still the minimal common standard of Christian faith used in most Ecumenical events).  The 2nd Ecumenical Council in 381 AD dogmatically defined that the Bible must be interpreted to mean the Holy Spirit is also Divine (updating the Nicene Creed to the form we know today, which includes this), completing the non-negotiable Christian Dogma of the Trinity.  This Council also defined that Jesus had two natures, human as well as Divine, against the Apollinarian Christian heretics who agreed Jesus was God but said He only appeared to be human.  The 3rd Ecumenical Council in 431 AD, presided over by Saint Cyril, the Patriarch of Alexandria who had been deputized by Pope Celestine, dogmatically defined that in order to stay true to the Apostolic faith passed down within the Church the Bible must be interpreted to mean that Jesus is one Person with two natures, Divine and human, against those Nestorian Christian heretics who interpreted that Jesus was two persons, the merely human Jesus possessed by the Divine Christ.

At last dogmatically defining the basic orthodox Christology of the Christian Faith against all heretics, the 4th Ecumenical Council in 451 AD, at Chalcedon, particularly demonstrated the pooling together of the different insights of the different Rites or Sister Churches or Patriarchates in the Ecumenical Councils, in its response to the popular Monophysite (“One-nature”) heresy held by Christians who agreed Jesus had initially been one Person with two natures, Divine and human, but, according to the popular monk Eutyches, interpreted that His finite human nature was immediately swallowed up in the infinite Divine nature “like a drop of water in the ocean,” leaving Jesus with only one nature, the Divine.  The Antiochian Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Church had for centuries previously emphasized and developed the theology of the human nature of Christ (and the Literal Sense of the Scriptures), while the Alexandrian Rite or ‘Sister Church’ had emphasized and developed the theology of the Divine Nature of Christ (and the Spiritual Senses of the Scriptures).  Over the centuries a number of heresies had arisen within the Church when some heretical Christian theologians had emphasized one of Christ’s two natures to the exclusion or diminishment of the other, compromising the Divinely Revealed mysterious but fruiful tension of the two, and the popular Monophysite heresy, as primarily articulated by Eutyches, was the latest example of this.  Pope Saint Leo the Great, who annulled the 449 AD Council called by the Emperor but stacked with Monophysites who had refused to allow Pope Leo’s Tome to be read, Pope Saint Leo who from afar by letter and legates (representatives) directed the Council of Chalcedon, in his famous Tome (or Decree) of Leo which was finally read at the 451 AD Council, drew from the magnificent previous work of both the Antiochian and Alexandrian Schools, adding his Roman Rite perspective as the Patriarch of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, in order to at last relate the theologies of the humanity and Divinity of Jesus to each other in a way that captured the previously more implicit faith of the Church while also specifically excluding any heretical interpretations which failed to properly express Christ’s two natures.  Leo’s Tome, drawing from the theology of both the Antiochian and Alexandrian Schools, brilliantly articulated and explained explicitly the previously more implicit orthodox faith of the Christian Church, clarifying just why Monophysite Christianity (as articulated by its chief exponent, the popular monk Eutyches) was heretical, because it violated the fundamental Christian truth (in the Bible but not explicitly) which Leo had at last clearly articulated and explained: that Jesus Christ is one person in two natures, Divine and human, that exist in Jesus Christ without confusion or change (versus the Monophysite heresy), without division or separation (versus the Nestorian heresy), such that Jesus is consubstantial (of the same substance) with the Father with respect to His Divinity, and consubstantial with us with respect to his humanity.  The 4th Ecumenical Council’s 681 gathered Christian Overseers (Bishops or Eparchs and Patriarchs) from all of the different Eastern and Western Rites or Sister Churches of the Catholic Church, after hearing Pope Leo’s Tome read, unanimously and loudly proclaimed, “this is the faith of the Church, Peter has spoken through Leo (Peter’s current Successor)” and the Council under Leo’s direction went on to dogmatically proclaim this faith, against the Monophysite heresy and any other Christological heresy that subordinates one of Jesus’ natures to the other:  that Jesus Christ is FULLY DIVINE and FULLY HUMAN, which remains the standard mature expression of orthodox, Apostolic Christianity to this day, held by all Catholic, Orthodox, and at least all Conservative/Evangelical Protestant Christians.  The Bride of Christ the Church (in all her Rites) had danced with her Lord for centuries and so together recognized a theological formula that more specifically described Him when they finally heard it, putting to rest the questions raised by the heretics.

[Before continuing on to describe how Vatican II / the 21st Ecumenical Council has officially recaptured the ideal of the Undivided Early Catholic Church, the Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches of East and West, as lived in the First Millennium Ecumenical Councils described above, I insert here a discussion of the parallel and intertwined development of the authority of the Ecumenical Councils within the Early Church, and the authority of the Roman Papacy which was always an integral part of it.  I have since developed this inserted discussion into a longer Part II: The Development of the Authority of the First Millennium Ecumenical Councils of the World’s Christian Bishops East to West (Beginning in the 4th Century) Was Always Intertwined in Integral Fashion with the Older Papal Authority Rooted in the Commissions of Jesus to Peter in the Gospels, as Reflected in Vatican II’s Ecclesiology as Clarified with Eastern Orthodox Help in the Official Orthodox/Catholic Theological Dialoguethis being “Part II” of a greater article

“Tell His Disciples and Peter” (Mark 16:7):   Christian Unity with One College of Apostles (Later Bishops), With Peter (Later his Successor) at Their Head — The Intertwined Development of the Papacy and the Ecumenical Councils to Safeguard Christian Orthodoxy and Unity in the First Millennium Points the Way to Overcome Past East/West Prejudice and Restore Christian Unity Today.  This article appears in full on the “Featured Article” Tab]

The Ecumenical Councils were unprecedented before the (still officially pagan head of the pagan Roman Senate, unbaptized until on his death-bed) Roman Emperor Constantine (who represented the secular pagan Roman authority up until recently the biggest persecutor of Christians) called the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea.  The authority of such an Ecumenical Council to settle anything, never mind definitively for the whole Christian Church for all time, had not been yet established, which caused nearly a century of chaos that temporarily split the Church in two because the Arian heretics condemned by Nicea rejected the authority of this completely unprecedented Council.  The authority of Ecumenical Councils was only ever recognized universally in the Christian Church by later relying on the ratification of the Roman Pope, whose authority, though more implicit than explicit before this time, could be shown to have been exercised throughout the centuries back to apostolic times and was rooted on Christ’s several unique commissions to Peter who died in Rome.  So there never were any Ecumenical Councils of the First Millennium Church which did not have the older authority of the papacy intertwined with them in integral manner, as demonstrated below.

In fact the authority of Ecumenical Councils, that is, of gatherings of the worldwide ordained overseers (bishops or eparchs), successors to the Apostles, to be the official mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit to definitively end disputes within the Christian Church (patterned after the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council of Apostles, which together proclaimed what Peter had first proclaimed), developed out of necessity during the early centuries in an organic process of the Living Body of Christ the Church and never existed without the previously recognized authority of the Bishop of Rome as the Successor of Peter the Chief Apostle, who died there, his successors affectionately called “Papas” or Popes in recognition of the loving fatherly nature of this role in God the Father’s adopted Family the Church.

The First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325 AD was called, to end the politically disruptive Arian controversy, by politically-motivated Roman Emperor Constantine shortly after the official persecution of Christianity by the pagan Roman Empire finally stopped in 313 AD.  It was the first time conditions had ever been peaceful enough to have a truly ecumenical or worldwide council of the apostolic successors, the bishops, but it was called by the Roman Emperor, representing a secular Roman Government that, as mentioned above, up until very recently had been the primary persecutor of Christians, therefore the authority of this very first, Ecumenical Council, when there had never even been one before, was disputed.  In fact the Arian heresy was far stronger and more numerous after the Council of Nicea in 325 AD than before, precisely because the Arians claimed this unprecedented first Ecumenical Council did not have the authority to declare the Bible must be interpreted to mean Jesus was “one in being” or “consubstantial” (Greek homoousios) with the Father, when the Bible itself did not use this clarifying word. As they also rejected the long interpretetive tradition handed down within the Church since apostolic times which was aptly summarized and clarified by the word homoousios, the Arian heretics can be described as the first “Bible Alone” Christians, rejecting both the Sacred interpretive Tradition handed down within the Living Body of Christ the Church and the Magisterium or Teaching Office of the Church’s ordained overseers/bishops gathered in Ecumenical Council, as did the Protestant Reformation 12 centuries later. The Protestant Reformation explicitly declared “the Bible Alone” (and not Tradition nor Magisterium) to be the sole source of a Christian’s faith – therefore it is no surprise that the majority of the oldest and largest Protestant “mainline” denominations today have gone “doctrinally liberal,” doubting or denying traditional Christian faith, and include a great number of modern-day Arian heretics who deny the divinity of Jesus, since the Protestant Reformation worked from principles very similar to those of the Arian heretics.  The Arian heretics had a very thorough and sophisticated interpretation of the Bible Alone, one which did not appropriately consider the living Sacred interpretive Tradition handed on within the Living Church as one generation of Christians introduced the next personally to Jesus, and an interpretation which did not submit itself to the judgement of the Living Church’s Magisterium or Teaching office of the ordained overseer/bishops, successors of the Apostles, gathered in Ecumenical Council (patterned after the Acts 15 Apostolic Council of Jerusalem) and there “guided into all the truth” (John 16:13) according to Jesus’ promise to His Apostles, so as to settle a major dispute as did the Jerusalem Council.

With the Arians thus disputing the not-yet-established authority of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 AD which had condemned Arianism as heretical, the Arian heresy grew bigger and more powerful after the Council of Nicea, and the Christian Church was so rocked by this controversy that through the 4th Century a temporary majority of Christians were uncertain whether they should believe the Council of Nicea or the Arians, and some adopted a “compromise formula” between the two positions.  This majority in the East were perhaps unfairly called “Semi-Arians” by those who were firmly committed to Nicene orthodoxy, but they were eventually persuaded to accept Nicea’s definition by the Eastern Saints and Doctors of the Church Athanasius, Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, and the younger Cappadocian Fathers (whom Athanasius had helped convert from the “middle position”).  To help bring this “convincing” process to a close, one of the Cappadocians, Saint Gregory Nazianzen, “the Theologian,” initially led a local Eastern council at Constantinople in 381 AD, which reaffirmed the teaching of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea which had first condemned Arianism.   Less than half the number of bishops, and no Western bishops at all, attended this council, so it was in no sense an “Ecumenical Council” as Nicea had been, and in any case 325 AD Nicea’s authority to settle the Arian dispute had not been at all universally recognized, which is why there even was another, local Eastern council in 381 AD in another attempt to settle the very same Arian dispute.  So how did the Arian dispute within the Roman Empire finally end and how did the authority of Ecumenical Councils to definitively end disputes finally become firmly established, with the local Eastern Council of 381 AD eventually becoming known to history as the Second Ecumenical Council?

Nicea’s authority was initially bolstered by the Pope in Rome’s adoption of it and his sheltering of Eastern Patriarch Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, its greatest defender, during his exile (one of several as Arian-sympathetic Emperors exiled him five times).  It is also in the mid-fourth century, in the very middle of the crisis over whether to believe Nicea or the Arians, that there first comes to be abundant explicit evidence (in letters) of the Roman popes’ view of Rome as the supreme arbiter for the whole Church.  This view was not at all new but based on the previously more implicit Sacred Tradition of Roman, papal authority over the whole Church (not just the territory of Rome) which had actually been practised earlier by Popes Clement (1st Century, very possibly the same Clement mentioned in the Bible in Phillipians 4:3) and Victor (2nd Century) and others throughout early Christian history.  This authority over the rest of the Church located in Rome had been testified to by the early Saints Ignatius of Antioch (one of the most beloved early Christian martyrs, who one early account says was the child Jesus pointed out in the Gospels (Matthew 18:2-3), and who certainly died for the faith in his old age in a Roman Arena circa 107 AD) and Irenaeus (the Church’s first systematic theologian) and others.  This authority of Rome (where Peter died) was rooted in the New Testament’s unique commissions by Christ to Peter including giving Peter the Keys of the Kingdom (Matthew 16:18-19; see also John 21:15-17, Luke 22:31).  It is very significant that this papal tradition becomes so much more explicit during the fourth century when the Ecumenical Councils began, but were so sorely challenged, Ecumenical Councils having no such previous tradition, implicit or explicit, as the papacy had enjoyed, and had in fact practised in various ways since the time of Pope Saint Clement I while the Apostle John was still alive (Clement was so highly regarded in the primitive Church his letters were even included in very early New Testaments before the traditional New Testament Canon as we all know it was first proposed by Saint Athanasius in 367 AD and ratified by Pope Innocent I in 405 AD!).  So in the fourth century the pope lent his still largely implicit yet much more established authority to bolster the cause of the Ecumenical Councils.  Thus the First Ecumenical Council of 325 AD was only universally recognized as an Ecumenical Council with authority to define things forever for the whole Church after the Second Ecumenical Council in 381 AD which upheld its decisions, but the Second itself was not even at all Ecumenical but was only attended by local Eastern bishops, half the number as at Nicea, and it was only ever universally recognized as an Ecumenical Council at all after Pope Damasus in his 382 AD Decree of Damasus declared it had such authority, and without his ratification and endorsement as so authoritative, 381 would have only been a local, entirely Eastern, Council.

Since both the First and Second Ecumenical Councils were only universally recognized as even having authority to once-and-for-all settle disputes for the whole Church after the Pope in Rome ratified them, using his own authority as Peter’s Successor rooted in Christ’s unique New Testament commissions to Peter which had been practised in more or less subtle ways in the centuries between, it is no surprise then that when there was a need for a Third Ecumenical Council to settle the next major Christological dispute, the Nestorian heresy, it was the Pope in Rome who deputized Patriarch Saint Cyril of Alexandria to preside over the Council at Ephesus in his absence.  The Petrine Primacy they represented was clearly declared by the papal legates who attended and recorded in the 3rd Ecumenical Council’s Acts (quoted below), and the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon would later refer to that Third Council “whose leaders of most holy memory were Celestine of Rome and Cyril of Alexandria.”  The 4th Ecumenical Council formally recognized the Pope as the first leader of the Third Ecumenical Council even though he wasn’t there!  His primatial authority as Pope, the Petrine Successor, had given Saint Cyril (mentioned second as leader) the right to actually preside over the Council, and one of the papal legates representing Celestine at the 3rd Ecumenical Council introduced the papal delegation with the following very explicit declaration of the doctrine of the authoritative Petrine Office of the pope:

Philip the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See said: There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince (ἔξαρκος) and head of the Apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation (θεμέλιος) of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors. The holy and most blessed pope Coelestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place, and us he sent to supply his place in this holy synod.

This explicit affirmation of the Petrine primacy of the Pope, who was recognized by the Fathers of the 4th Ecumenical Council as the first leader of this 3rd Ecumenical Council, was not disputed at all by the Eastern and Western Fathers of the 3rd Council, who after this introduction simply proceeded to deal with the business of the Council, condemning the Nestorian heresy.

The next big Council held to settle a major dispute (over Monophysitism) was in 449 AD, and even though this Council was called and supported by the Emperor, Pope Saint Leo the Great’s declaration of that Council as an invalid “robber Council” (because it refused to read Pope Leo’s famous Tome and instead promoted the Monosphysite heresy) trumped the Emperor.  The 451 Council Leo insisted be held to replace the 449 Council declared that “Peter had spoken through Leo” after his Tome was finally read, and went on to adopt his definition of Jesus as (in brief) “fully God and fully man,” after which he of course ratified the 4th Ecumenical Council as a truly Ecumenical Council (unlike the 449 Council which had not received his papal ratification).

All the later Ecumenical Councils of the First Millennium were similarly presided over by the papal legates, and as earlier, the Pope (though physically absent except at the 5th Ecumenical Council) was recognized as the true leader of them all.  Thus Emperor Justinian felt motivated to pressure the pope to get the result he wanted (the condemnation of the “Three Chapters”) from the reluctant pope in the 5th Ecumenical Council of 553 [The Pope was not reluctant to oppose the heretical notions written in the “Three Chapters,” but was reluctant to do it in the unprecedented way it was done.  The long-dead authors of these Three Chapters had died in the peace of the Church before the Church had ever formally declared such notions ultimately heretical, at least when taken to their full logical conclusions as later formal heretics had taken them.  Thus it might be said today that they had held theological opinions which were incorrect but in their time not yet formally heretical since the Church had not yet judged on them.  These long-dead authors thus had no opportunity to explain what they meant when they wrote these works; they had no opportunity to recant or withdraw any heretical meaning of their works now that the Church had formally judged on these matters, and it was their condemnation as heretics alongside gross, obstinate, formal heretics in these unusual (and unfair) circumstances which the Pope was reluctant about].  Thus during the 6th Ecumenical Council, the Synod of Bishops at the Council wrote a letter to Pope Saint Agatho, calling him the ‘Head of the Church” and his chair, ‘The First See of the Ecumenical Church.’ Pope Saint Agatho, similar to Pope Leo at the 4th Ecumenical Council, then directed the Council to condemn the Monothelite heresy, ending the controversy (Leo and Agatho, similar to Peter in the Acts 15 Proto-Council, speaking the final judgement of the Council before the Council was completed).  After the 7th Ecumenical Council, Saint Nicephorus (758-828 AD), Patriarch of Constantinople and Secretary of the 7th Ecumenical Council, wrote,

“Without whom [the Roman papal legates presiding in the seventh Council] a doctrine brought forward in the Church could not, even though confirmed by canonical decrees and by ecclesiastical usage, ever obtain full approval or currency. For it is they [the Roman Popes] who have had assigned to them the rule in sacred things, and who have received into their hands the dignity of headship among the Apostles.”

Thus there never were any Ecumenical Councils even among the 7 recognized by the Eastern Orthodox which were apart from the Petrine ministry of the Pope of Rome; the very authority of Ecumenical Councils, so revered by the Eastern Orthodox, was from the beginning only recognized universally because it was intertwined with the Papal authority which had been implicitly recognized and practised since apostolic times and was rooted in the New Testament special commissions of Jesus to Peter (alongside the New Testament precedent of the apostolic Jerusalem Council, in which Peter also played a very prominent role).  As the Eastern Orthodox are thus, without a universal-level protos (first or chief) like the pope among their 16 Patriarchs, unable to agree to ever have another Ecumenical Council (and if somehow they ever managed to, without the pope it thus would not be like any of the 7 Ecumenical Councils), it is hoped that the recognition of just how integrally necessary the papacy is to the very origin and concept of an Ecumenical Council, as shown in this reflection, will eventually motivate Eastern Orthodox to fully participate with the Catholic Church (and its Pope) in another fully Ecumenical Council of East and West, to finally and forever formally end the schism and reestablish union, for the benefit of both sides, and for the sake of the Church’s mission to the world “so that the world may believe” through our common loving witness of the One God in Three Persons who is Love.

[end of inserted discussion, and on to:]

Vatican II

Like the First Millennium Ecumenical Councils which were attended by both Eastern and Western overseers (bishops) and presided over by the Pope or his legates/representatives, Vatican Council II, the 21st Ecumenical Council, was also attended not only by all the Roman Catholic Overseers (Bishops) including the Chief Bishop, the Pope, but also by all the Eastern Catholic Overseers (Bishops or Eparchs) who remain within the ancient and ongoing Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Christian ‘Sister Churches.’  This latest Ecumenical Council (which even invited Protestant Christians to attend as observers) listened to the legitimate concerns of the Protestant Reformation and Protestant Christians since and, once its ecclesiology (teaching on the Church) is fully known and properly understood (by Catholic Christians as well as non-Catholic Christians), it may well help the Catholic Church and its “separated brothers” in non-Catholic churches to together succeed in what the 16th Century Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation attempted to do but failed in – restoring the Church to its Undivided First Millennium ideal, when the Church was One as Jesus prayed for and the whole ancient pagan world was “turned upside down” and transformed with the love of God the Holy Trinity expressed in orthodox Christian faith. The Oneness was never a uniformity within one single monolithic Church body, but a unity in diversity — a unity of faith expressed in a great and mutually-enriching diversity of ways within the Undivided First Millennium Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Christian ‘Sister Churches’ of East and West.  Since the decimation or forced separation of the majority of the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches from the Catholic Communion by militant Islam, the huge Catholic Church has been “overly Roman” in its numbers and has not readily displayed its continuing true Catholicity or Universality (although there are still enough Eastern Catholic Christians to populate entire countries).  Since Vatican Council II the Catholic Church is in the process of rediscovering itself as the truly Catholic or Universal Christian Communion of Orthodox Sister Churches of East and West.  The Institute for Promoting the Gift of Truth exists in large part to aid and support the full implementation of Vatican II’s dogmatic ecclesiology within the Catholic Church’s structure and within the minds and hearts of all Catholic Christians through education, “so that the world may believe” in Jesus Christ our Head when we His Body the Church are more fully displaying the beauty of our Christian Communion in the Love of the Holy Trinity.

The Roman Pope’s Roles within the Catholic Communion

The current Pope of Rome, Pope Francis [photo not updated], is the Chief Overseer and Head Pastor of the entire Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches of East and West (commonly known simply as the Catholic Church).  The Pope of Rome is also the Patriarch (Head Overseer) of the ancient Patriarchate of Rome, the Western, Roman Rite or Roman Sister Church of the Catholic Communion (commonly called the Roman Catholic Church) which is currently by far the largest Sister Church in the Catholic Communion of Sister Churches gathered around the Pope as Successor of Peter, though in the Undivided Early Church only one quarter of all Catholic Christians were Roman Catholic Christians, the rest of the Catholic Church being made up of Christians who were not Roman Catholics but who were both Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christians of the various Eastern Rites, from the other four ancient Sister Churches and Patriarchates of the one, Undivided Early Church.  That is to say, the other three quarters of the Undivided Early Catholic Church were not Roman Catholics but rather were: Antiochian/Syrian Catholics (like Saint Ephrem the Syrian and Saint John Damascene, both Doctors of the Catholic Church); Byzantine/Greek Catholics (like Saint Basil the Great and Saint John Chrysostom, also Doctors, and like me!); Alexandrian/Egyptian Catholics (like Alexandrian Patriarch Saint Athanasius, the very first “Doctor” (Latin for Teacher) of the Catholic Church, who was the greatest defender of the Divinity of Jesus against the Arian heretics, and who even was the first to put together the New Testament Canon as we know it in 367 AD, ratified for the whole Universal/Catholic Church by Pope Innocent I in 405 AD); and Catholics of the Jerusalem Rite, like Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, the Catholic “Doctor of Catechesis”).

In addition to his roles as Universal/Catholic Pope and particular Roman Patriarch, the Pope of Rome is also the local Christian Overseer (usually translated Bishop or Eparch, from the New Testament Greek title Episkopos) of the City of Rome.  Although the Pope (only since 2000) no longer uses his ancient traditional title of “Western Patriarch” (which previously had been proclaimed every year in the papal yearbook Annuario Pontificio) because it is vague and potentially misleading in the current ecumenical dialogue (since the Pope, as he is more than a bishop, is also more than a Patriarch), the Pope remains, in his secondary office, the specific Patriarch of the specifically Roman Patriarchate, the first of the Patriarchates or Church ‘Provinces’ recognized by the very first Ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325 AD.  In his tertiary office the Pope also remains the specific local bishop of the specific local city of Rome, a role not to be overlooked since recent Catholic and Orthodox ecclesiology (doctrine of the Church) has emphasized the both local and universal/catholic character of every local worshipping Christian Church gathered around its local bishop/eparch (which was first so emphasized by the beloved very early martyr Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who one tradition says was the child on Jesus’ knee in the Gospels, and who certainly died for the faith in his old age in a Roman Arena circa 107 AD).  The Universal Church of Christ has not “abstract” existence but exists concretely within each local worshipping community of Christians gathered around its overseer (bishop or eparch) ordained in line of succession from the Apostles.

In his capacity as Chief Overseer, Successor to Peter the  “First” or “Chief” Apostle (Greek Protos in Matthew 10:2), the Pope is the Head Pastor of the entire Catholic Communion; in his capacity as Roman Patriarch the Pope is one of the ancient Catholic Patriarchs of East and West. The majority of the things the Pope does, he does in his capacity as Roman Patriarch, not “as Pope,” that is, not as head of the entire Catholic Communion of East and WestFor example, most things to do with Liturgy or Canon Law (the current guidelines or regulations for worship practices and clerical disciplines within one Rite or one Sister Church) are Patriarchal functions, which each Patriarch looks after for their own Sister Church within the Catholic Communion, the Pope as Roman Patriarch ordinarily looking after these matters for the Roman Rite only (the Patriarchates or Church Provinces pastorally guided by a Patriarch first developed in the Early Church to settle disputes and to set guidelines to ensure no heresies crept into the worship practices of each Sister Church of the Catholic Communion, that is, of each distinct cultural response to and celebration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whether Roman or Eastern).  This is why the Code of Canon Law, in its very first Canon (Canon 1), states “The canons of this Code regard only the Latin Church” (that is, the Roman Catholic Church, not the Eastern Catholic Churches, which have their own Eastern Code of Canon Law, a separate code which has been ratified by the Pope in his “1st Crown” (see below) capacity as Universal Protos of the entire Catholic Church, whereas the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church is the Pope’s direct purview in his “2nd Crown” capacity as Patriarch of the specific Latin, Roman Church).  In his  “3rd Crown” capacity as local Overseer of the City of Rome, the Pope casts only one vote in an Ecumenical (worldwide) Council of Christian Overseers (Bishops or Eparchs), like any other Overseer.

The three distinct offices of Christian overseership the Pope holds, as local Overseer (Bishop) of Rome; as Patriarch (Head Overseer) of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church; and “as Pope,” as Chief Overseer (Successor of Peter) and Head Pastor of the entire Catholic Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches of East and West (commonly known simply as the Catholic Church), are traditionally represented by “the Papal Tiara,” a bishop’s mitre (special hat) with three crowns denoting the Pope’s three distinct offices.  This symbol still appears on the Vatican Flag (above), although it is no longer worn by popes since this headgear came into use when political leaders also typically wore crowns to represent their offices, but today crowns are considered antiquated and even pretentious.  At the Institute for Promoting the Gift of Truth we highly recommend that “the Papal Tiara” be updated to have three “bands” of office in place of crowns, and once again be regularly worn by the Pope, since it is such a powerful and important symbol of the structure of the Catholic Church as the Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches This structure has been constant throughout history though hidden for many centuries since the decimation or forced separation of the majority of the Catholic Eastern Orthodox Churches by militant Islam (Eastern Orthodox means “not Eastern Heretic,” it does not mean “not Catholic.”  All of the Eastern Orthodox Churches were part of the Undivided First Millennium Catholic Church Communion of East and West and at least portions of all of them remain ‘Sister Churches’ within today’s ongoing Catholic Church Communion – see Chapter 5: The Papacy’s Solid Foundation in Undivided Early Church History Since Apostolic Times: The Papacy’s Long and Wide Acceptance in the East Before the 2nd Millennium Schism of the Largest Portions of the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches from the Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion of Orthodox Eastern and Western Catholic Sister Churches Collectively known as the Catholic Church).

At the Institute we suggest that the Pope’s regularly wearing the Papal Tiara again, in an updated form, will remind the world that the Catholic Church is not just the Roman Catholic Church which Protestant Christians broke away from during a difficult time in its history and which the no-longer-Catholic Eastern Orthodox Churches were forced by their Muslim conquerors to break Communion with, but is in fact (and has always been) the truly Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches.  For more detailed suggestions of how to update the Papal Tiara, see Discussion 4, the last of the Four Discussions to Help Roman Catholic Christians to Fully Adopt the Catholic Church’s Self-understanding (based on the Undivided Early Catholic Church) Irrevocably Decreed at its 21st Ecumenical Council of Vatican II (And to Help Non-Catholic Christians Fully Understand the Official Catholic Understanding of the Structure of Christ’s Church), within Chapter 6:  The Full Implementation of Vatican Council II, the 21st Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, Will Make Roman Catholic Christians Generally Much More Truly Catholic (Universal) and less Roman in Their Understanding of Their Church, Which Will Aid the Restoration of the First Millennium Christian Unity in Diversity in One Undivided Catholic (Universal) Church.

The traditional Papal Tiara is particularly significant in light of the most recent Joint  Agreed Statement of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church together in the official Catholic/Orthodox dialogue, produced at Ravenna in 2007 after 25 years of loving and patient formal theological dialogue since 1982 rooted in a previous 24 years of a less theological “Dialogue of Love” since 1958.  In this 2007 document both sides agree that in the Undivided Early Church there were (and there continue to be) three levels of Christian Church communion: the local, regional, and universal; and that at each level there is a Protos (Greek for First or Chief) among the ordained clergy at each level.  The local bishop or eparch is the Protos of all the ordained priests of the diocese/eparchy at the level of local Church communion; the Patriarch (or otherwise-titled Head of Rite) is the Protos of all the bishops of the Patriarchate /Rite /Sister Church at the level of regional Church communion; the Pope is the Protos of all the Patriarchs (or otherwise-titled Heads of regional Patriarchates, Sister Churches or Rites) at the level of Universal Church Communion, by virtue of his being successor of Peter who the Bible describes as the Protos (First or Chief) of the Apostles (Matthew 10:2).  The Pope was recognized as such a Protos by both East and West throughout the period of the first Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided First Millennium Church, the Eastern Catholic Churches today are still in full communion with the Pope as their Universal level Protos, and the traditional Papal Tiara simply marks the Pope as holding the office of Protos at all three levels of Church communion identified by the official Catholic/Orthodox dialogue: local (City of Rome), regional (Roman Patriarchate), and universal (Catholic Church).  More generally speaking, a Bishop is a priest and the protos (first or chief) of all the ordained priests in the local diocese/eparchy; a Patriarch is a bishop and the protos (first or chief) of all the bishops in the Patriarchate/Sister Church/particular Church region; the Pope is a Patriarch and the protos (first or chief) of all the Patriarchs of all the Patriarchates/regions within the Universal Church.

The agreement with this understanding of Church structure and Church authority (which is for service) of the best and brightest of the Eastern Orthodox Communion who sit on the Joint Commission which drafted this Joint Agreed Statement shows just how close to the Church reunification both sides know Jesus desires for them this official Catholic/Orthodox dialogue has come towards achieving this goal by taking its time in love to talk with each other since 1958.  The Orthodox agree that the Pope was indeed the universal level Protos of the Church in the First Millennium (which cannot be denied by anyone who knows history – see Chapter 5: The Papacy’s Solid Foundation in Undivided Early Church History Since Apostolic Times ) and would continue to be the universal Protos in any reunified Church.  The Catholic Church has declared in Vatican II’s Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum the proper “fully equal dignity” of all of the Eastern Rites/Sister Churches in its communion with the majority Roman Rite/Sister Church, and that the Patriarchs of the Eastern Rites/Sister Churches are the normal highest authority for any business affecting only their own Patriarchate, Sister Church, or Rite within the Catholic Communion, admitting in the Catholic/Orthodox dialogue that past Roman Catholic pressure on the Eastern Catholic Churches to “Romanize” themselves was inappropriate (not to mention literally un-Catholic, un-Universal!) – and this was the biggest thing the Orthodox had to fear in any reunion with the Catholic Church which recognized the Roman Pope as Head of the entire Church. 

So the main issue still to be resolved in the dialogue before the formal reunification both sides are committed to seeking can happen is just precisely what should be the prerogatives of the Pope as Universal-level Protos in a reunified Church?  While there can be no doubt the Pope actually served as the universal-level Protos in the Undivided First Millennium Church, there is also no doubt that the Pope in the First Millennium did not actually exercise all the same prerogatives he has now, especially over the Eastern Churches, and in any case the Pope’s exercise of his actually universal office was very rare, most of his day-to-day activities concerning only the Roman Patriarchate.  The Pope’s current prerogatives developed over the course of the Second Millennium while the Catholic Church was mostly separated from the Eastern Churches and consisted mostly of only the Roman Patriarchate (even Eastern Catholic Churches which can be considered to have never been “out” of the Catholic Communion gathered around the Pope, such as the Maronite and Malabar Catholic Churches, were nevertheless so remote and isolated that they were out of contact and communication with the Pope and the Roman Sister Church for centuries while the Second Millennium papal prerogatives were developing).  Thus the questions remain: which of the Pope’s current prerogatives might be legitimate developments of the ancient universal Petrine office, which he should continue to exercise in relation to all the Rites/Sister Churches/Patriarchates in a reunified Church? (note that just modern travel and communications would make the pope’s exercise of universal functions, even just papal visits, easier and more frequent than in the First Millennium);  and which of the Pope’s current prerogatives might actually be developments of his secondary Patriarchal office, which would be entirely appropriate for him to continue to exercise over his own Roman Patriarchate, which still contains the vast majority of Catholics, but which may not be appropriate to apply to the Eastern Sister Churches returning to the Catholic Communion, as the Pope’s regular Patriarchal functions were of course not exercised in relation to the Eastern Patriarchal Churches in the First Millennium of the Undivided Catholic Church?  These are questions that remain for the ongoing Catholic/Orthodox dialogue to answer, but they can now be discussed in the most fruitful and loving context possible because of the great progress made in the dialogue with the Ravenna 2007 publication of the document Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority by the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.  For more on this fruitful official Catholic/Orthodox dialogue see The First “Great Schism” of Christianity and its Prededent in Division and in Healing.

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Note on the Background Painting

The background painting is of The Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council (held at Nicea in 325 AD), together with their famous Nicene Creed, which is still the standard Creed of orthodox Christianity used for Ecumenical events today (click here for a more detailed modern Common Creed of Christianity).  In this first of the Ecumenical Councils, patterned after the Acts 15 Council of Jerusalem, the Living Body of Christ the Church, organized in the world as the Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches, declared, against the Arian Christian heretics with their thorough and sophisticated but not traditional Bible interpretation, that the only proper way to interpret the Bible so as to answer the new questions of the day yet also remain true to the sense of the Apostolic Deposit of Christian Faith handed down within the Church, the Bible must be interpreted to mean that Jesus is God, one in being with the FatherVatican Council II is the 21st Ecumenical Council of the same ongoing Catholic Christian Communion of Orthodox Sister Churches of East and West, and the very first Ecumenical Council ever to dogmatically define the nature and structure of Christ’s Church as it manifested itself in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church, a particular and particularly beautiful kind of unity in diversity which has tremendous and wonderful implications for the unity of Jesus’ Church which He prayed for “so that the world may believe” (John 17:21-23).  As it took a long time for the 1st Ecumenical Council to be fully implemented within the Church (Arian Christian heretics remained powerful for most of the 4th Century within the Roman Empire and continued to exist beyond the Roman Empire until the time of Charlemagne in the 9th Century), so it will take time for the 21st Ecumenical Council’s Holy-Spirit-guided teaching to fully take root and blossom in the minds and hearts today’s divided Christians.  The Institute for Promoting the Gift of Truth exists in large part to aid and support the full implementation of Vatican Council II, the 21st Ecumenical Council within today’s Catholic Communion of 26 Orthodox Christian Rites or Sister Churches (the Roman Catholic Church is only the largest of these Rites) and to share Vatican II’s wonderful teaching with the non-Catholic Christian sects orginally “sectioned off” of the ongoing Catholic Communion in history, so that we might work together to restore what we lost in the Second Millennium of Christian Divisions and become all that Jesus meant us to be as His Church testifying in the world to the Loving Communion of the Holy Trinity of Eternal Divine Love through our loving Communion with each other.

© 2011 Peter William John Baptiste SFO

 

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