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!


  1. Glad I gave you the idea!

    Just for the record, here is my own counter-initiative, emphasizing the divine primacy of PETER in the Universal Church, and thus the primacy of the Roman Church as coming from the Lord, not ancient political priviledge.

    I believe all things which the Most-holy Roman Church teaches, and has taught from the beginning.

    In matters which this Church has not defined by her apostolic authority, theological freedom within the Tradition is upheld.

    Within this principle of Unity in Truth and Charity, the full liberty of the Eastern Churches for preserving their traditional rites, spirituality, theology, and canon law, is to be zealously protected and never over-ridden.

    In accord with the ancient cannons, in the event that any heresy or schism arises to disturb the peace and unity of the Churches, which they cannot resolve by synodal means, recourse for a final judgement is to be made to the Chair of PETER.

    1. I’m sorry but are you responding to the Zoghby initiative, or my revised version of it? I have received private messages similar to this, which I feel speak nothing to my actual revised version.

      Thank you.

      1. There are not two flavors of Catholic truth, one from the first millennium and one from the second, your first statement seems to imply that subsequent developments do not hold the importance of previous one, which is not true. The same is to be said about various aspects of the Pope, including his universal jurisdiction.

  2. Interesting Comments, Noah. My point was that the light of the first millennium is one which shows that the Bishop Rome speaks on behalf of/vetoes his brother Bishops at times. To incorporate the Zoghby initiative within the context of the life of the Catholic Church post-Schism, I tried to make that point in the revised initiative, to stress that there are not two flavors of Catholic truth. In the First Millennium, prior to the Schism, the Pope of Rome negated comments such as those from the Robber Council of 449. In a similar manner, if the Orthodox Church has not embraced the views on contraception or the conception of the Mother of God in the womb of Saint Anne in a manner which is in keeping with the Catholic Church, so too would I say that the whole Church needs the light of the documents from the Pope which speak to these truths.

  3. I think that part two of the revised/reformulated Zoghby Initiative encompasses all of the Papal teachings of the Second Millennium, but states it in a fashion that is more congenial to the Eastern ear without denying any point of the Catholic faith.

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