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Out of the question: Clerics with beards

07 January 2009

Your answers

Where does the Orthodox clergy’s insistence on growing beards derive from?

The Quinisext Council of 691-92 was convened by the Emperor Justinian II to carry forward the work of the two previous ecumeni­cal councils by deciding disciplinary matters that had been left unre­solved.

Many of its provisions affected details of clergy life, such as that they might not own taverns, lend money at interest, change diocese without permission, fail to mix water with eucharistic wine, or fail to preach on the scriptures at least on Sundays. One of these was that clergy must be bearded, though obviously this was ratifying what was already customary in the East.

The acts of the Council were signed by all four Eastern patriarchs and the papal legates, but when they were sent to Rome, Pope Sergius I refused to sign them, stating that they were at variance with Western tradition. Unsuccessful negotiation over signature went on for some 30 years. As a result, the Council is accepted as a properly convened and authoritative ecumenical council by the Orthodox, but not by the Western Church.

Conversation with Orthodox friends indicates that a priest with a beard is seen as being visually the icon of Christ as he leads his people in celebrating the divine liturgy.

Christopher Haffner (Reader)
East Molesey, Surrey

Cardinal Kasper is reported as saying that the Church of England/Anglican Communion must decide whether it is Catholic or Protes­tant. How may these terms be defined? [Answers, 19/26 December 2008]

As far as the Church of England is concerned, Protestant means anti-papal, not anti-Catholic — it is, after all, the office of the papacy rather than the Bishop of Rome which forms the stumbling-block — and that which is by law established in this country is the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church of the Nicene Creed, which our com­munions share.

In the Coronation of the Sover­eign, at the investiture, the ring is presented with the words: “Receive the Ring of kingly dignity and of Defence of the Catholic Faith . . . so may you continue stedfastly as the Defender of Christ’s Religion. . .”

Will someone remind Cardinal Kasper that the Established Church is both Catholic and Protestant: the terms are not opposites.
Chris Nottage
London NW5

Your questions

During the last year of our pre­vious incumbent, presumably as a result of his looking for greener pastures, average attendance at the main Sunday service declined by four per cent. During the eight-month interregnum, despite the active work of an NSM and church­wardens, it declined by a further ten per cent. With the appointment of a new and enthusiastic incum­bent, it rose rapidly by nine per cent, still five per cent lower than the starting point, to which it has never since recovered. How can it be right to say, as bishops often do, that an interregnum is good for a parish? C. H.


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