This past week the pope said protestant churches weren’t “real” because they didn’t have, among other things, apostolic succession. We Orthodox faired better. Our only defect was our failure to acknowlege the Pope’s authority above all others. At least we know where we stand. The Pope is Catholic and isn’t about to change that. Somehow, I’m not surprised. This isn’t much different than this statement about Christian Unity from 50 years ago:
All Christians should seek Unity. On the other hand, we feel that the whole program of the forthcoming discussion has been framed from a point of view which we cannot conscientiously admit. “The Unity we seek” is for us a given Unity which has never been lost, and, as a Divine gift and an essential mark of Christian existence, could not have been lost. This unity in the Church of Christ is for us a Unity in the Historical Church, in the fullness of faith, in the fullness of continuous sacramental life.
To me, getting worked up about these statements seems rather foolish. I’m Orthodox because I don’t accept the primacy of the Pope, but I crave the sacramental life of the Church. My friends and family are Protestant because they see these claims of authority as, at best, un-necessary and, at worst, divisive power grabs. In fact, contrary to what some have claimed, the Pope did not say those outside the Roman Catholic Church aren’t “saved”: In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using [protestants and Orthodox] as instruments of salvation. The Pope is Catholic. I’m impressed.