Toreby, Denmark 25th March 1997.
Open letter: To the bishop of Rome, His Holiness Pope John Paul II.
From Pastor Svend Aage Nielsen, Toreby, Denmark.
Chairman of the Kennedy Society of Denmark.
At your General Audience 7th November 1990, printed in L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO 12th November 1990, you gave
instruction on the issue “The Spirit and the “Filioque” debate.”
In the Weekly Edition in English it was stated, that your instruction
included that the “…conciliar formula of 381 goes thus “We believe in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son“.”
In answer to my letter of 8th June 1993 a secretary from PONTIFICIUM CONSILIUM AD CHRISTIANORUM UNITATEM FOVENDAM in
a letter 30 June 1993 sent me the original Italian text of your instruction. He told me in his letter, that the “discrepancy “and the Son” – not in the original Italian version – could be a rushed rendition.” He also told me:
“At the eucharistic celebration at St. Peter’s in the presence of Patriarch Dimitrios on December 6, 1987, the Pope and the Patriarch recited together the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, in the original Greek.” I should like to support this ecumenical celebration!
But an incorrect translation of great importance could and should be corrected in L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO – better late than never. In your instruction it also is strange to read, that the “Filioque” formula “was adopted by the Greeks and the Latins at the ecumenical councils of Lyons (II, 1274) and Florence (1439)”.
According to a book written by the Danish bishop D. G. Monrad –
“Den første kamp om den apostolske trosbekendelses oprindelse”, “The First Dispute about the Origin of the Apostolic Creed.” Copenhagen 1875, D. G. Monrad also informs about the Filioque-negotiations of Florence:
1) That they in Florence gave up the position, that Filioque was accepted by the Greeks at an earlier council.
2) That the Florence Council agreed, that the authority to be pastor in the whole church is given… by Our Lord Jesus Christ, as it is also in the acts of the ecumenical councils!
3) In the final decision at the Florence Council only 13 persons from the whole Orthodox part of Christianity voted to accept the use of the
Filioque – in the Western Church.
4) These few votes were never accepted nor ratified by the Greeks nor by others in the Orthodox church.
If this is true, it gives the words in your instruction – about this adoption at two councils in Lyon II and in Florence – a serious lack of credibility!
This should be tested – and corrected, if need be – as soon as possible.
Important in your instruction are your words:
“Regarding the procession and the origin of the Holy Spirit from the Son the New Testament text, while not openly speaking of them, still stresses the very close relationship between the Spirit and the Son.”
Would it not be of great ecumenical importance, if you admitted as soon as possible that the words -“not openly speaking of them” – mean, that the New Testament neither uses “processio” nor “ekporeusis” about the relationship between the Son and the Holy Spirit?
You also leave a gap between your mention of the words in the Gospel of John 14,26 to John 16,7. In John 14,26 it is said of Jesus, that the Holy Spirit will “bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you.”
THE LITTLE CREED
And in – THE LITTLE CREED – John 15,26 it is said of Jesus: “… the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” Let us remember what Jesus said, both in 14, 26 and in 15, 26, and in the chapter 15, 5 – 6 in the Gospel of John!
I note also that you state your conviction about the “Filioque” as follows:
“It was a clarification that changed nothing in terms of the substance of the ancient faith”. Together it stands with your quotation from the statement at the Florence Council, which you call “a doctrinal declaration”:
“The Latins state that by saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son they do not mean to exclude that the Father is the source and the principle of all divinity, that is, of the Son and the Holy Spirit; nor do they wish to deny that the Son learned from the Father that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, nor do they hold that there are two principles or two spirations; rather they assert that one only is the principle
and one only the spiration of the Holy Spirit, as they have asserted up to now.” When this also is your doctrinal declaration, you come to the final conclusion that “since the time of the Second Vatican council a fruitful ecumenical dialogue has been developing: it seems to have led to the conclusion that the formula “Filioque” does not constitute an essential obstacle to the dialogue itself and to its development, which all hope for and pray for to the Holy Spirit.”
But as developed, if you and your part of the universal Church do not demonstrate from your own conclusions, that the original version of the old Nicene creed says exactly the same as the extended form, and then give up the filioque-extension, the question is: Will the dialogue stop because of lack of sincerity?
Appeal to you to bring the use of Filioque to an end in general in the Catholic Church
– In the “Catholic International. Volume 7, Number 1” it is stated that in your homily delivered in St. Peter’s Basilica on June 29, 1995 in the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world, you urged that “the traditional doctrine of the Filioque, present in the liturgical version of the Latin Credo be clarified in order to highlight its full harmony with what the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople of 381 confesses in its creed: the Father as the source of the whole Trinity, the one origin both of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
In the clarification that the Pontiff has asked for, prepared by the “Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity”, it is stated:
“The Catholic Church acknowledges the conciliar, ecumenical, normative and irrevocable value, as expression of the Church and of all Christians, of the Symbol professed in Greek at Constantinople in 381 by the Second Ecumenical Council.”
It is also stated in the clarification: “Since the Latin Bible the Vulgate has translated John 15,26 by “qui a Patre procedit” … a false equivalence was involuntarily created with regard to the eternal origin of the Spirit between the Oriental theology of the ekporeusis (in Greek) and the Latin theology of the processio.” Being aware of this, the Catholic Church has refused the addition of kai tou Uiou… in the Churches, even of Latin rite, which use it in Greek.
The liturgical use of this original text remains always legitimate in the Catholic Church.” With this climax of the clarification I appeal to you to bring the use of Filioque to an end in general in the Catholic Church and to be aware, that it should be prepared as soon as possible to be the greatest ecumenical contribution from the Catholic Church to a common celebration of the “TERTIO MILLENNIO ADVENIENTE”. Because it is true about all Christians confessing THE GREAT CREED:
United we stand – divided we fall.
This has already been concluded by Biskop Pataki of the Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, USA in 1990, noting that the Vatican II has directed Eastern Churches to be faithful to their own traditions. He has made the decision to return to the recitation of the Creed in its original form.
Now I ask you to be faithful to your own clarification, and I ask: Is it not a matter of sincerity not only for you but for the whole leadership of your Holy See? Let my appeal conclude with President John F. Kennedy’s words, when in 1961 he requested cooperation between East and West:
“So let us begin anew – remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.” Svend Aage Nielsen Copyright: Svend Aage Nielsen.