Volume 1, Number 1, May 16, 1870.
San Francisco, California.
RE-UNION OF CHURCHES.
To show the nature of the union with the Russian Church, that is being sought by some members of the Anglican Church, we commend to our readers the following petition, composed by the champion leader of the re-unionist party, J. J. Overbeck, and which has obtained a very considerable number of signatures in England:
"Petition to the Most Holy Governing Synod of the Russian Church.
The undersigned most humbly beg to lay before the Holy Governing Synod the following urgent request and Petition:
"Having come to the firm conviction that the pure faith and legitimate Church constitution have only been preserved by the Eastern branch of the Catholic Church, while the Western branch, yielding to doctrinal innovations and anti-canonical abuses, has fallen into heresy and schism, we feel the necessity of suing for communion with the Eastern Church, which has continued undefiled and truly Catholic from the beginning.
"We receive all the dogmas and holy canons taught and prescribed by the seven Oecumenical Synods, as the Eastern Church receives them, rejecting at the same time not only the doctrine of Papal supremacy, but also all the Papal changes in the Catholic faith and Church constitution contrary to the continuity and perpetuity of Catholic Orthodoxy.
"However, though the actual Western Church is not the genuine Catholic Church, but is disfigured by fatal innovations and gross abuses, there was a time when the East and West, both Orthodox alike in faith and Church constitution, constituted the great Catholic Church, and recognized each other as the two living branches of the one tree of life.
"Both Churches professed the same faith and Church constitution. This was the divine bond of duty. But both Churches, equally, watched jealously their peculiarities as traditions from time immemorial, i. e. introduced by the Apostolic founders of their Churches. How intense and legitimate this jealousy was, we see e. g. from the Paschal question, which kept the Church for a time in a state of great excitement, but did not break the bond of unity.
"Thus, unity not being uniformity, we appeal to the Holy Eastern Church to admit us into Church communion without demanding our conformation to the Eastern Rite, but rather assist us to build up again the Orthodox Western Church, to give us priests who will celebrate the Western liturgy and administer the sacraments according to the Western Rite. If the Holy Governing Synod accedes to our request, we will hasten to lay before them our venerable Western liturgy, and the other Church formularies, for examination and approbation.
"We are Westerns, and must remain Westerns; yea, God's Providence framed the true Western Church (which the Holy Governing Synod is called up to restore by brotherly assistance and co-operation) on the Western mind, and by so doing showed that it is not desirable to be transplanted into a heterogeneous soil. We belong to the Church of SS. Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Leo, Gregory the Great, and are as proud of them and faithful to them as our Eastern sister is proud of and faithful to SS. Athanasius, the Cyrils, Basil, Chrysostom, the Gregories, etc. We recognize the excellence of the Eastern liturgies and other Church formularies, as we appreciate the excellence of our own, well knowing that each is the best in its own sphere. We do not wish to intrude our liturgy, formularies, and rite on the sister Church of the East, it would be strange to their character and frame of mind, because it has not grown up in the soil of their Church. The same we ask in return from our beloved sister Church.
"If we are bidden simply to join the Eastern Church and renounce our Western claims, we must plead an inalienable right to remain Westerns; we must plead the duty, or rather the honor, of the Eastern Church in reinstating her legitimate sister Church in all her rights forfeited since more than eight centuries by the Papal aggression.
"The momentous question raised by the present Petition is not the gain of a few members to the Eastern Church, but the re-establishment of the Western Orthodox Catholic Church. This Church must grow from small beginnings, from single individuals. But as soon as the establishment of our Western Orthodox Church, by authority of the Eastern Church, is accomplished, a considerable number of Roman Catholics, presently dissatisfied, and groaning under the Papal yoke, but not knowing whither to turn, will undoubtedly flock to their own regenerated Church.
"The reunion of the East and the West, comprising, the whole of both Churches, is an absolute impossibility, since the Western Church adopted as a binding dogma the Pope's supremacy and divine vicarship of Christ, which the Eastern Church justly condemns as a heresy.
"Thus all the attempts at reunion originating from the Roman Church were sure to fail; for if she gave up her dogma of the Pope's supremacy she would proclaim her apostasy from the infallible Church, her heresyin short, her non-existence as Catholic Church. There is, consequently, no other way how to attain the most desirable end of reunion than to drive a wedge into the Roman Church by the establishment of a Western Uniate Church which is in communion with the Eastern Church.
"Our Savior, praying for the unity of His Church, prays also for us who wish sincerely to be admitted into the Holy Catholic Church.
"Yet, not only we, but numbers of Catholic minded Westerns, who do not know our proceedings, virtually beseech the Holy Governing Synod to fulfill their wish and see the Western Church once more restored to truth, holiness, and Catholic Orthodoxy. Amen."
We have learned that in furtherance of the object of the petitioners the most Holy Synod in St. Petersburg has convened a committee of seven, who are at present engaged in revising the mass of the Orthodox Church, to the end of establishing a Western branch thereof in England.