Neo-Orthodox around the blogosphere and social media outlets have been offering up glowing praise for Moscow Patriarch Kirill’s recent Sunday of Orthodoxy homily. (For those unaware, the Sunday of Orthodoxy commemorates the Church’s triumph over Iconoclasm and is celebrated on the first Sunday of Great Lent.) The homily, which can be viewed over at the Byzantine Texas blog here, denounces “false union” with the Catholic Church while upholding Mark of Ephesus as a true champion of Orthodoxy. No doubt Kirill’s words were inspired in part by intra-Orthodox panic over his recent meeting with Pope Francis and the upcoming discussion of ecumenism which will be held at the Great and Holy Council this summer. According to the neo-Orthodox, Mark of Ephesus is a hero for his alleged anti-Latin stance and refusal to cave to “Latin innovations.” Mark, so the story goes, wanted nothing to do with the corrupt, heterodox Latin Church nor did he hold the Petrine Office in any particular esteem. While few neo-Orthodox have ever read a single word penned by Mark, almost all of them are 100% sure of what Mark stood for and why.
Complicating — or, rather, overturning — this simplistic and ahistorical image of Mark is Fr. Christiaan Kappes, professor at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Seminary in Pennsylvania. Kappes latest effort to clarify Mark’s thinking for contemporary audiences, “Mark of Ephesus, The Council of Florence, and the Roman Papacy,” is included in the new SVS Press anthology, Primacy in the Church, and available online for free here. While Kappes stresses that Mark of Ephesus would have serious qualms about the nature of the present-day papacy and the over-centralization of ecclesiastical governance, Mark’s ecclesiology is hardly anti-papal. Moreover, as some of Kappes’s other studies on Mark make clear, the saintly bishop of Ephesus displayed a great deal of charity and respect toward the Latins during the tense debates at the Council of Florence, far more than many Orthodox feel compelled to offer toward their separated brethren today.