Every second Saturday of the month, 4 pm - Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ. Followed by refreshments.
Next Liturgy: Saturday 10th June, 4pm

SSJC Committee Open Meeting: Monday 19th June, Cathedral of the Holy Family. 6-15 Liturgy, Talk at 7-15, followed by meeting.

To purchase The Divine Liturgy: an Anthology for Worship (in English), order from the Sheptytsky Institute here, or the St Basil's Bookstore here.
To purchase the Divine Praises, the Divine Office of the Byzantine-Slav rite (in English), order from the Eparchy of Parma here.

The new catechism in English, Christ our Pascha, is available from the Eparchy of the Holy Family and the Society. Please email johnchrysostom@btinternet.com for details.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Resignation of Melkite Patriarch Gregory III

Gregorios III and Sviatoslav of Kyiv
To His Beatitude Gregory III Laham
Patriarch of Antioche of the Greco-Melkites 
and to all the Bishops of that Church

Beatitude and Venerable Brothers in Christ,

In my sollicitude for all the Churches, I address myself to you, grateful for your service to the People of God and conscious of your responsibility as Pastors.

Following the meeting of the Synod of Bishops last February, during the audience which I granted him, His Beatitude spontaneously presented his resignation from the patriarchal office, and asked me to chose the most favourable moment to accept it. After having prayed and reflected attentively, I have judged it opportune and necessary, for the good of the Greco-Melkite Church, to accept his resignation today.

In thanking His Beatitude, a zealous servant of the People of God, for the years of generous service to his Church and for and for keeping the international community’s attention focused on the tragedy of Syria, I invoke upon you all the intercession of the Holy Mother of God and gladly grant the apostolic blessing to our dear Greco-Melkite Church, as a sign of grace and encouragement for the future of communion and witness to the Gospel.

From the Vatican, 6 May 2017

source: Vatican Radio English section

Many have questioned why The Father and Head of a sui iris Church entrusted this task to the Pope. According to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, it is the prerogative of a patriarch to do so:

CCEO, canon 126 §2. "The synod of bishops of the patriarchal Church is competent to accept the resignation of the patriarch, having consulted with the Roman Pontiff, unless the patriarch approaches the Roman Pontiff directly."

Friday, 28 April 2017


1. We, Francis, Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic Church, and Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, give thanks to God in the Holy Spirit for granting us the joyful opportunity to meet once more, to exchange a fraternal embrace and to join again in common prayer. We glorify the Almighty for the bonds of fraternity and friendship existing between the See of Saint Peter and the See of Saint Mark. The privilege of being together here in Egypt is a sign that the solidity of our relationship is increasing year by year, and that we are growing in closeness, faith and love of Christ our Lord. We give thanks to God for this beloved Egypt, the “homeland that lives inside us,” as His Holiness Pope Shenouda III used to say, the “people blessed by God” (cf. Is 19:25) with its ancient Pharaonic civilization, the Greek and Roman heritage, the Coptic tradition and the Islamic presence. Egypt is the place where the Holy Family found refuge, a land of martyrs and saints.
2. Our deep bond of friendship and fraternity has its origin in the full communion that existed between our Churches in the first centuries and was expressed in many different ways through the early Ecumenical Councils, dating back to the Council of Nicaea in 325 and the contribution of the courageous Church Father Saint Athanasius, who earned the title “Protector of the Faith”. Our communion was expressed through prayer and similar liturgical practices, the veneration of the same martyrs and saints, and in the development and spread of monasticism, following the example of the great Saint Anthony, known as the Father of all monks.
This common experience of communion before the time of separation has a special significance in our efforts to restore full communion today. Most of the relations which existed in the early centuries between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church have continued to the present day in spite of divisions, and have recently been revitalized. They challenge us to intensify our common efforts to persevere in the search for visible unity in diversity, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
3. We recall with gratitude the historic meeting forty-four years ago between our predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III, in an embrace of peace and fraternity, after many centuries when our mutual bonds of love were not able to find expression due to the distance that had arisen between us. The Common Declaration they signed on 10 May 1973 represented a milestone on the path of ecumenism, and served as a starting point for the Commission for Theological Dialogue between our two Churches, which has borne much fruit and opened the way to a broader dialogue between the Catholic Church and the whole family of Oriental Orthodox Churches. In that Declaration, our Churches acknowledged that, in line with the apostolic tradition, they profess “one faith in the One Triune God” and “the divinity of the Only-begotten Son of God ... perfect God with respect to his divinity, perfect man with respect to his humanity”. It was also acknowledged that “the divine life is given to us and is nourished in us through the seven sacraments” and that “we venerate the Virgin Mary, Mother of the True Light”, the “Theotokos”.
4. With deep gratitude we recall our own fraternal meeting in Rome on 10 May 2013, and the establishment of 10 May as the day when each year we deepen the friendship and brotherhood between our Churches. This renewed spirit of closeness has enabled us to discern once more that the bond uniting us was received from our one Lord on the day of our Baptism. For it is through Baptism that we become members of the one Body of Christ that is the Church (cf. 1Cor 12:13). This common heritage is the basis of our pilgrimage together towards full communion, as we grow in love and reconciliation.
5. We are aware that we still have far to go on this pilgrimage, yet we recall how much has already been accomplished. In particular, we call to mind the meeting between Pope Shenouda III and Saint John Paul II, who came as a pilgrim to Egypt during the Great Jubilee of the year 2000. We are determined to follow in their footsteps, moved by the love of Christ the good Shepherd, in the profound conviction that by walking together, we grow in unity. May we draw our strength from God, the perfect source of communion and love.
6. This love finds its deepest expression in common prayer. When Christians pray together, they come to realize that what unites them is much greater than what divides them. Our longing for unity receives its inspiration from the prayer of Christ “that all may be one” (Jn 17:21). Let us deepen our shared roots in the one apostolic faith by praying together and by seeking common translations of the Lord’s Prayer and a common date for the celebration of Easter.
7. As we journey towards the blessed day when we will at last gather at the same Eucharistic table, we can cooperate in many areas and demonstrate in a tangible way the great richness which already unites us. We can bear witness together to fundamental values such as the sanctity and dignity of human life, the sacredness of marriage and the family, and respect for all of creation, entrusted to us by God. In the face of many contemporary challenges such as secularization and the globalization of indifference, we are called to offer a shared response based on the values of the Gospel and the treasures of our respective traditions. In this regard, we are encouraged to engage in a deeper study of the Oriental and Latin Fathers, and to promote a fruitful exchange in pastoral life, especially in catechesis, and in mutual spiritual enrichment between monastic and religious communities.
8. Our shared Christian witness is a grace-filled sign of reconciliation and hope for Egyptian society and its institutions, a seed planted to bear fruit in justice and peace. Since we believe that all human beings are created in the image of God, we strive for serenity and concord through a peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims, thus bearing witness to God’s desire for the unity and harmony of the entire human family and the equal dignity of each human being. We share a concern for the welfare and the future of Egypt. All members of society have the right and duty to participate fully in the life of the nation, enjoying full and equal citizenship and collaborating to build up their country. Religious freedom, including freedom of conscience, rooted in the dignity of the person, is the cornerstone of all other freedoms. It is a sacred and inalienable right.
9. Let us intensify our unceasing prayer for all Christians in Egypt and throughout the whole world, and especially in the Middle East. The tragic experiences and the blood shed by our faithful who were persecuted and killed for the sole reason of being Christian, remind us all the more that the ecumenism of martyrdom unites us and encourages us along the way to peace and reconciliation. For, as Saint Paul writes: “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26).
10. The mystery of Jesus who died and rose out of love lies at the heart of our journey towards full unity. Once again, the martyrs are our guides. In the early Church the blood of the martyrs was the seed of new Christians. So too in our own day, may the blood of so many martyrs be the seed of unity among all Christ’s disciples, a sign and instrument of communion and peace for the world.
11. In obedience to the work of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies the Church, keeps her throughout the ages, and leads her to full unity – that unity for which Jesus Christ prayed:
Today we, Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II, in order to please the heart of the Lord Jesus, as well as that of our sons and daughters in the faith, mutually declare that we, with one mind and heart, will seek sincerely not to repeat the baptism that has been administered in either of our Churches for any person who wishes to join the other. This we confess in obedience to the Holy Scriptures and the faith of the three Ecumenical Councils assembled in Nicaea, Constantinople and Ephesus.
We ask God our Father to guide us, in the times and by the means that the Holy Spirit will choose, to full unity in the mystical Body of Christ.
12. Let us, then, be guided by the teachings and the example of the Apostle Paul, who writes: “[Make] every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:3-6).
Cairo, 28th April 2017.

source: Bulletin of the Holy Roman See

Thursday, 16 February 2017


By Archpriest Andriy Chirovsky (First Things, 16 February 2016)
Like many Ukrainian Greco-Catholics, I am pleased that Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill finally met in Havana February 12, even though the negotiations that preceded this encounter included some unseemly concessions. After all, for the last three decades such an encounter was always described as impossible because of the very existence of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church. I note that Pope Francis praised Patriarch Kirill’s humility, but the latter did not return the favor. After all, it was clearly the Pope who humbly agreed to the time and place for the meeting, in order for it to finally happen after decades of stalling on the part of Moscow. When the two met, Pope Francis tellingly said, “Finally . . .” That is a sentiment that I share. This should have been routine a long time ago. Moscow’s approach of seeking strength through aloofness really does not work in a world of instant communication. They have finally seen the light. Pope Francis favors frank dialogue over confrontation and posturing. But to dialogue, one needs a partner to come to the table. Finally, it has happened. One can only hope that the Patriarch of Moscow will also be open to a meeting with the head of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who has repeatedly called for such an encounter.
The Moscow Patriarchate likes to attack the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church for many things, both real and imagined. At least now the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow have broken the ice and will be able to communicate directly about these and many other matters. Now, it remains to be seen what kind of spin Moscow and its admirers in the media and blogosphere will put on the meeting and the Joint declaration the two signed.
The spin will be important to watch because much of the world press is hopelessly confused in its reporting about the historic meeting between the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Moscow. Endless references to the thousand-year estrangement between Rome and Moscow display ignorance of the fact that 1,000 years ago the Patriarchate of Moscow did not exist. It was created in 1589. Even the position of Metropolitan of Moscow goes back only to 1448. The creation of the Moscow Metropolitanate was a direct reaction to the fact that the Church of Kyiv (Kiev) had re-established full communion with Rome at the Council of Florence through Metropolitan Isidore. The Metropolitan of Kyiv, Petro Akerovych, had attended the First Council of Lyons in 1245. Moscow cannot claim the history of the Kyivan Church as its own and simultaneously ignore such momentous moments in that history. Furthermore, the Kyivan Church re-established full communion with Rome in 1596 through the Union of Brest, an explicit revival of Florentine models of unity, only to be beaten back by rivals who did not accept this Union. Even so, the Orthodox Metropolitan of Kiev, Petro Mohyla in the 1640’s, made contacts with Rome and was the author of yet another proposal for renewing communion with Rome, on what he considered slightly better terms. Now, either the history of the Church of Kiev is a separate reality from that of Moscow, or it is part and parcel of Russian Orthodox identity. Moscow cannot have it both ways. Alas, Moscow does do its best to obfuscate matters. The Moscow Patriarchate (founded 1589) claims to be the Mother Church for the Church of Kiev (founded 988). George Orwell would smile at this sort of Double-speak. That is why Moscow does not correct commentators who talk about the thousand-year estrangement. It all makes Moscow look more exotic, more like a great prize to be wooed at all costs.
Pope Francis’s ecumenical advisors paid an exorbitant cost to get the Patriarch of Moscow to meet. Again, commentators seem to fail to take notice of the fact that Moscow and Rome have had high-level contacts for decades. How quickly we forget that the head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate died in the arms of Pope John Paul I. The Moscow Patriarchate already had official observers at Vatican II in the 1960’s. But because modern efforts at Christian unity are often heavy on symbolism rather than substance (the harder thing to achieve), a meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and the Pope of Rome was held out as a tantalizing prize for Catholic ecumenists, one that could be used to extract concessions at some necessary moment. That moment has come, as Russia faces international isolation and sanctions due to its adventures in invading Ukraine and reckless bombing of Syria that adds to the suffering of Christians there. Vladimir Putin desperately needed something—anything—to make Russia look good. So he sent the chief ideologue of the “Russkiy mir” (Russian world) to this summit. The Patriarch also had good reason to seek enhancement of his position as he jockeys for influence at the upcoming Great and Holy Synod of the Orthodox Churches in June. For Pope Francis, who is devoted to dialogue as process in every area of his papacy, the goal was clearly to open the door to direct contact and frank conversation. And as Papal Nuncio to Ukraine, Archbishop Claudio Guggerotti has emphasized, most people will quickly forget the document the two Church leaders signed. What will be remembered, he says, is the embrace.
Enough about the meeting and its symbolism. Let’s take a look at the Joint Declaration, because it is sure to be a point of reference in Church relations, even if most people will either fail to read it, or will forget its contents in short order. It is a beautiful document, with much to reflect upon in prayer, and it sets a clear agenda for Christian cooperation in the fields of defense of traditional morality, religious liberty in the face of aggressive secularism and life issues. A common front on these issues is incredibly important. It includes an inspiring call to young people. The declaration speaks eloquently and adamantly about the defense of Christians who are persecuted for their faith. All Christians should band together on this last issue, and exercise whatever influence we still have in the various countries in which we live, in order for the governments of this world to mobilize against this genocide. As a Ukrainian Greco-Catholic, I can confidently assert my total agreement with all of these points. 
Yet I am also obligated by my conscience to speak to three paragraphs in the Joint Declaration, which I suspect will be used by the Moscow Patriarchate to interfere, in whatever way possible, in the life and activity of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church. The three paragraphs in question are strategically positioned near the end of the document, but not at its conclusion. By the time most readers get to paragraph 25, they will be positively inclined, and rightly so, because there is so much good in the document. That’s why it is easy not to notice the insidious elements of paragraphs 25 through 27. Let’s examine them in some detail.
Relations between Greek Catholics and Orthodox
Paragraph 25 reads as follows:
25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism,” understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.
In paragraph 25, the Moscow Patriarchate finally acknowledges that Eastern Catholics actually have a right to exist and to minister to their flocks, something the Joint Orthodox-Catholic Balamand Declaration in 1993 clearly stated. Twenty three years later, all of the Eastern Catholic Churches can breathe a sigh of relief that the Church that co-operated in the destruction of Eastern Catholic Churches under the Czars and under Stalin, has finally come into line with world Orthodoxy and no longer denies their very right to live. Interestingly, this paragraph does not mention Eastern Catholic Churches, but only “ecclesial communities.” Anyone versed in Catholic ecclesiological and ecumenical vocabulary will be alarmed at this, since this signals something less than full stature as a Church. There is no doubt at all that Rome views the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches precisely as a Church. In fact Rome refers to 22 Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, a term that means “of their own law” or self-governing. How, then, did this anomalous terminology creep into the document? There is only one answer, I believe. It was inserted by Moscow and Vatican ecumenists either missed it or knowingly made a concession in order to please Moscow. 
This certainly would not be the first time that Rome’s ecumenists have generously sacrificed Eastern Catholics for the sake of their outdated Ostpolitik. While this is unfortunate, it will not fundamentally change anything, except, perhaps, realign the rhetoric coming from Moscow, and especially the head of its Department of External Relations. 
This being a document of a diplomatic nature, it is perhaps overly optimistic to have desired a commitment from both sides to openly and objectively study the so-called 1946 “Council of Lviv,” whose seventieth anniversary will be upon us in a few weeks. This so-called “council” was attended by no Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Bishops. All had been arrested. The Moscow Patriarchate collaborated directly with the Soviet secret police to orchestrate this event, which supposedly put an end to the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church by “re-uniting” it with Russian Orthodoxy. Ukrainian Greco-Catholics have patiently asked for Moscow to join in an objective and transparent scholarly and pastoral examination of this event, its causes and its aftermath. My own Sheptytsky Institute has done so publicly. So far those requests have fallen on deaf ears, as have several offers of mutual forgiveness extended by the heads of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church going back as far as Myroslav Ivan Canrdinal Lubachivsky in 1988, when this Church was still banned and functioning in the underground in the Soviet Union. 
The definition of uniatism given by paragraph 25 is rather ambiguous and thus (and I’ll say this with a smile) it appears not to apply to the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church. The text says: “It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity.” Apparently, Ukrainian Greco-Catholics can sigh a great sigh of relief, since this Church came into being through the decision of the bishops of the Orthodox Metropolia of Kiev, and not through “the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church.” This was an action of the whole Kievan Church. Ironically, the two last bishoprics to join the Union (a hundred years later) were those in Westernmost Ukraine, today the region in which Ukrainian Greco-Catholics still constitute a majority of believers. The 1596 Union of Brest was precisely a corporate union of one Church with another, not some peeling off of communities from another Church. Of course, the faithful of this Church have paid a very high price for their choice of unity with Rome, openly persecuted by Russian imperial governments, whether czarist or Bolshevik, whenever they acquired another slice of Belarusian or Ukrainian territory. The narrative presented by most Orthodox authors is that all of this was a plot by Polish Jesuits against the Orthodox Church. Such a narrative denies subjectivity to the Orthodox bishops of the Metropolia of Kyiv. In fact, they were shrewdly acting against plans that many Poles had for turning the Orthodox into Roman Catholics and Poles. None of this is to say that the Union of Brest is a model for Orthodox-Catholic unity in the future. It had numerous flaws, on the side of the Orthodox architects of the union as well as on the side of Rome. A good number—but not all—of them have been corrected. The Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church does subscribe to the Balamand Statement of 1993. It has from the beginning.
Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
The Joint Declaration is an ecumenical document. It is not meant to stray into purely secular political questions. And yet, in paragraph 26, it takes on the war in Ukraine. Of course, it doesn’t call it a war, just a conflict. That calls to mind Vietnam, Korea, and countless other “conflicts” that were not “officially” termed wars. Here is the text:
26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity, and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.
One cannot but be dumbfounded by the failure to mention foreign aggression. Ukraine has been invaded by Russia, not once, but twice with hybrid war. Have we forgotten the occupation and annexation of Crimea? Can we ignore the fact that heavy war materiel of every sort, including the most lethal offensive weapons, have been brought into Ukraine by Russia, often under the guise of “humanitarian aid”? Can anyone still make believe that both special operations and regular army units from Russia are not fighting in Ukraine today? Let’s be very clear. Ukraine has never invaded Russia. It’s the other way around. Peace is much to be desired, of course. But peace without justice is no justice; appeasement without truth is self-deception. 
The Moscow Patriarchate has never condemned the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. In fact, this same body has attacked the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church for supporting Ukraine’s efforts at self-defense (that support is purely in terms that flow from Catholic social teaching). What is going on in Ukraine is foreign aggression; it is by no means a civil war, as Russian propaganda would like the world to believe. Nearly two thirds of Ukrainian government troops are Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine, who are defending their homeland from invasion. The vast majority are Orthodox Christians. Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Chaplains and charitable institutions serve everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, language choice, religious affiliations, or political views. 
The Moscow Patriarchate claims that the only truly Christian option is for the Church to remain entirely neutral, loving both sides equally. This is close to the truth, but not quite close enough. Let me present a simple analogy. If I chance upon a scene where one person is violently attaching another, it is not enough for me to say: “I love both of you! Jesus loves both of you! Can’t we all just get along?” That would be an incredibly cynical response on my part if I did nothing to stop the crime. It would have the veneer of Christian love without the substance. Imagine further if someone else tried to help the victim and I had the audacity to complain that the intervening party was not neutral enough. Wars are more complicated than one-on-one violence, but in some wars there are clear aggressors, and this is one. If Paragraph 26 is calling on the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church to cease from encouraging the people of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression (and that is precisely what it seems to be saying), ignoring clear Catholic teaching on just war, then this paragraph cannot be understood as anything but a clear victory for Vladimir Putin. If, however, this paragraph means that Russian Orthodox bishops and priests should finally stop blessing tanks, missiles and other weapons in the name of some “war of Orthodoxy or of Holy Rus’” against a Western-leaning Ukraine (as they currently do on a regular basis), then that development would be welcome. Should both sides do everything possible to re-establish peace? Absolutely. Should they do so by whitewashing the truth and ignoring basic justice? Hardly.
Ukrainian Orthodoxy
Paragraph 27 of this otherwise inspiring document uses a code language that outsiders will find almost impossible to understand. Interestingly, it is not about Orthodox-Catholic relations. Instead, it has all the characteristics of a concession to Russian ecclesiastical imperialism. Let’s look at the text.
27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.
It is almost impossible to understand this paragraph without reference to the February 5, 2016 Press Conference of Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations. In that Press Conference, Metr. Hilarion attacks the Ukrainian Greco-Catholics for several sins. Among them is that “they have supported the schismatics.” This is a reference to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Patriarchate of Kiev (a rival to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate) as well as the smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. The reference to “support,” as I have explained in other writings, must mean “failure to revile as renegade and deprived of divine grace.” Bishop Yevstariy Zoria, spokesman for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate has already noted, however, that “existing canonical norms” are exactly what his Church appeals to, since according to existing canonical norms, it is the Ecumenical Patriarchate (the Mother Church from which Ukraine received Christianity in 988 AD) and not the Moscow Patriarchate, that should be the arbiter of Orthodox canonical norms with regard to the situation of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. The Ecumenical Patriarchate does not acknowledge Moscow’s claim to jurisdiction over Ukraine.
In the end, Ukrainian Greco-Catholics know that the Ukrainian people and their Churches have long been treated as pawns in international relations. We have survived both czarist and Soviet persecution of the bloodiest sort. We have been reviled by many Orthodox as traitors to Orthodoxy because we are Catholics and by quite a few Roman Catholics as not quite Catholic enough because we retain our Orthodox liturgy, theology, spirituality, and governance. A few ambiguous or even unfortunate paragraphs in the Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill will have little effect on the inner vitality of this Church, which comes from a deep inner calling to bring the Orthodox and Catholic worlds back into communion with each other. That is why I am particularly inspired by the fifth paragraph of the Joint Declaration.
5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you . . . so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).
The Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church has felt the pain of loss of communion more than most. My most sincere hope is that with the revival of the Kyivan Church Study Group that functioned so well in the 1990’s, we might continue to search out how it would be possible for the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church to re-establish full and visible communion with her Mother Church in Constantinople and Orthodoxy worldwide, without losing the full and visible communion she now enjoys with Rome and the worldwide Catholic Church. Among the 33 Articles of the Union of Brest, we find the following in Article 13:
“And if in time the Lord shall grant that the rest of the brethren of our people and of the Greek Religion shall come to this same holy unity, it shall not be held against us or begrudged to us that we have preceded them in this unity.”
In fact, it has almost always been held against us. But that has not stopped us in the past and it will never stop us in the future. We feel called to this unity by the Lord Himself.
Fr. Andriy Chirovsky is the founder and director of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, where he holds the Peter and Doris Kule Chair of Eastern Christian Theology and Spirituality. He is the author of many studies on the Eastern Churches and the editor-in-chief of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Father John Salter, Chairman, stepping down after nearly 20 years

At the June meeting of the Committee of the Society of Saint John Chrysostom Abouna John Salter announced his retirement as the Society's Chairman after nearly two decades of invaluable and dedicated service, effectively re-founding and reviving the work of the historic Society in Britain. The Committee approved a resolution naming Father Salter as honorary Vice President for life.

Father John's lifetime of service to ecumenism, especially his service to the unity of the Eastern and Western churches, have given him an almost unparalleled familiarity with the Eastern Churches, their leaders, life and tradition, for sixty years, not least in moments of historic significance and even danger. As an Anglican priest he served as the Archbishop of Canterbury's apokrisarios on a number of occasions and the solidarity he represented, together with the personal trust and closeness he was able to build, saw him decorated three times with the honour of the Jewelled Cross.

On becoming a priest of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church he was appointed Patriarchal Counsellor for Ecumenical Relations in Great Britain, an office he continues to fulfil, and it was at this point he assumed the leadership of the Society. The Society had somewhat faded into the background of ecumenical consciousness in Britain because of the perhaps more immediate hopes at the time of Anglican-Catholic unity in the West. Nowadays, with the Eastern Churches in global Christianity more prominent than ever before in the media, not least under the scourge of demonic persecution from Islamists, the closeness and mutual need of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches for unity with each other has given the Society a fresh purpose and mission, thanks to the renewed activity and foundations which Father John has laid.

In recognition of Father John's lifelong service to Christian unity, and particularly to the life and mission of the Eastern Catholic Churches, at the Divine Liturgy on 9th October at his cathedral of the Holy Family of London, Bishop Hlib Lonchyna bestowed on Father John the Cross with Adornments by decree of His Beatitude Sviatoslav, Father and Head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Major-Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych.

At the Annual General Meeting of the Society which followed in the Cathedral Hall, the members of the Society elected Father Mark Woodruff, priest of the (Latin) diocese of Westminster and serving in the Ukrainian Eparchy, as chairman of the Society.

We express warmest congratulations to our new chairman, Father Mark, and profound gratitude to Father John Salter, for his dedication. God grant that both continue to serve His Holy Church and to guide the work of our organisation for many years to come.

Во здравіє во спасеніє, сотвори їм, Господи, многая i благая літа!
In health and unto salvation, may God grant them many happy years!

Britain’s first Syro-Malabar bishop ordained in front of 12,000-strong crowd in Preston – CatholicHerald.co.uk (corrected)

Britain’s Syro-Malabar community has taken a major step forward with the ordination of its first bishop.
In a ceremony attended by over 12,000 people, Cardinal George Alencherry, the Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, ordained Mar Joseph Srampickal.

The ordination took place at at Preston North End’s stadium, Deepdale. The eparchy – an area under a bishop, equivalent to a diocese in the Latin church – has been given a cathedral in Preston, the historic Church of St Ignatius, which is now the Cathedral of St Alphonsa.

The Syro-Malabar rite Catholic community, one of the Eastern Catholic churches, originates in India. It traces its origins back to St Thomas the Apostle. Nearly 40,000 Syro-Malabar rite Catholics live in England, Scotland and Wales, served by 23 priests.

Bishop Srampickal, whose title is now Bishop of the Eparchy of Preston of Great Britain of the Syro-Malabar Church, was born in India and was previously vice-rector of Propaganda Fide College in Rome

The Lancashire Evening Post reported that some attendees came from as far as Australia. Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster was one of the co-consecrators. The Catholic Church of England & Wales was represented by the bishops, clergy and parishioners of nearby Latin Catholic dioceses, principally the Archbishop of Liverpool. Also present was the bishop of Britain's other eparchy for Eastern Catholics - the eparchy of the Holy Family of London for the Ukrainian Greek Catholics - Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, and Msgr Keith Newton Prot Ap, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Thus it was fitting that the Image of Our Lady of Walsingham, to whom the British Syro-Malabar faithful have a great pilgrimage devotion, had been brought by Mgr John Armitage, rector of the Basilica at Walsingham. Prior to his ordination, Bishop Joseph venerated this Image, as well as that of St Thomas and St Alphonsa, and also the relics which included those of Blessed John Henry Newman.

At the end of the Holy Qurbana, celebrated by Bishop Joseph in the presence of the Catholicos-Archbishop following his ordination, the new eparch was enthroned, receiving greetings from the Apostolic Nuntiature, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, the Mayor of the City of Preston and HM Deputy Lieutenant.

The above is a corrected version of the following Catholic Herald report: Britain’s first Syro-Malabar bishop ordained in front of 12,000-strong crowd in Preston – CatholicHerald.co.uk

Thursday, 25 August 2016

"Christianity belongs in the Middle East" - Prince Hassan of Jordan & Dr Ed Kessler

Muslims and Jews must combine to champion tolerance and stop the Isil-inspired hatred across the Middle East

Christianity has been part of the essential fabric of the Middle East for two thousand years. Far from being a Western import as some, incredibly, now seem to suggest, it was born here and exported as a gift to the rest of the world. Christian communities have been intrinsic to the development of Arab culture and civilisation.

This central role in our region and civilisation is why it is abhorrent to us, as a Muslim and a Jew, to see Christianity and Christians under such savage assault across our region.

We are appalled not only by the sickening attacks on our fellow human beings. We also know that to lose Christianity from its birthplace would be to destroy the richness of the tapestry of the Middle East and a hammer blow to our shared heritage. The reality is that we are all one community, united by shared beliefs and history. But this is increasingly denied, with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or Daesh as it is known in our region, taking the lead both in justifying and carrying out these attacks. The most recent issue of its publication Dabiq, headlined “Break the Cross”, explicitly rejects the fundamental belief that we are all People of the Book.  

Read full article here:
Muslims and Jews must combine to champion tolerance and stop the Isil-inspired hatred across the Middle East - From the Daily Telegraph, 24.08.2016

Friday, 12 August 2016

Holy Qurbana of Syro-Malabar Church at Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral 2015

In honour of the foundation of the new Syro-Malabar Eparchy in the United Kingdom, we are delighted to share the recording from our member and Syro-Malabar link adviser, Dr Martin Thomas Anthony, of the Holy Qurbana in English at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral at our Festival of the Eastern Catholic Churches last August 2015.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Pope Erects Eparchy of Great Britain of Syro-Malabar with a new Bishop - Vatican Radio

With great joy, the Society welcomes the creation of a diocese in Britain for the Eastern Catholic faithful belonging to the Syro-Malabar Church in the United Kingdom. With particular gladness we welcome the future Bishop Joseph Srampickal, currently Vice-Rector of the Collegio de Propaganda Fide in Rome.

This is the second Eastern Catholic diocese or eparchy to be established in Britain covering the same territories as the Latin dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, and in England & Wales. The first was the Eparchy (previously an Exarchate) of the Holy Family of London, for the faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, led by Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, our patron. It was a year ago that Bishop Hlib welcomed Dr Joseph Palackal to serve a Holy Qurbana of the Syro-Malabar Church in English at his Cathedral in Duke Street, Mayfair, London, at the Society of St John Chrysostom's 2015 Festival of Eastern Catholic Churches. The text and manner of serving the Qurbana, incorporating elements in Aramaic and Persian deep within the St Thomas Christians' tradition, had been restored by Fr Joseph, who also wrote the musical setting of the liturgy. For the report and pictures see here.

The new see will be established in Preston, Lancashire. Fr Mark Woodruff, Vice-Chairman, writes, "When I was growing up nearby, Preston was the heart of a vibrant old Catholic recusant Lancashire. the church which is to be the Syro-Malabar eparchy's new cathedral, St Ignatius' Church - affectionately known as St Ig's - was a great Jesuit foundation closely linked with the history of martyrdom and perseverance in penal times, and a centre of great pride for an enduring English Catholicism, as well as the more recent arrivals from other lands, notably Ireland. With considerable demographic change in the population of Preston, especially with the settlement of Asian non-Christian communities, the local Catholic population in the city reduced considerably. Historic St Ignatius' became less viable and, after a review of the need for Church buildings, became surplus to requirements. A new Bishop of Lancaster, however, brought the magnificent closed St Walburga's, whose spire dominates the city centre from beside the railway, back into use for the celebration of the traditional Latin rite, and also assigned St Ignatius, having restored and saved the fabric of the building, to the use of the Syro-Malabar as a desperately needed personal parish, under the patronage of Saint Alphonsa. (Who was St Alponsa?) From possible loss as an historic building, it is now to be a Cathedral. It is wonderful to think that such an important beacon of Catholic faith through dark times will burn as brightly as the Church in Britain sets out on a new journey in its common life and witness, with the permanently established partnership alongside the Latin and other Eastern Catholic Churches of the tens of thousands of St Thomas Christians of the Syro-Malabar Church in Britain."

In Britain the many thousands of Syro-Malabar faithful are served by around 30 priests, but they largely rely on hospitality for the celebrating the Holy Qurbana (the Eucharist) in Latin Catholic churches. A number of the priests are bi-ritual in the Latin rite, enabling them to support their mission from working in the Roman Catholic churches and saying Mass for the parishes where they reside. St Ignatius' Church is one of few entirely dedicated to the Syro-Malabar Church.

The Syro-Malabar Church traces its origins to the mission of St Thomas and his disciples that spread east of the Holy Land, into Mesopotamia and Persia (the Chaldean Catholic Church, centred in Iraq, belongs to the same liturgical tradition and rite as the Syro-Malabar Church), and through land and sea routes into India and beyond. Its heartland is in south west India's Kerala. The vernacular language is Malayalam, but the restoration of the fullness of the rite and its music from the rich patrimony of Syriac Christianity accompanies a pastoral and spiritual renewal in the Church in the present day, as we witnessed at the Qurbana in our 2015 Festival of Eastern Churches. Already, as the Syro-Malabar Church settles as part of Christianity in Britain, English will also form a vernacular tongue for the rite and liturgy.  Hence Dr Palackal's extensive scholarly work to restore the liturgy for use in English and the music with its ancient Aramaic and Persian phrases from the time of India's early evangelisation, and its deep family link with Syriac Christianity, now so gravely under threat in its own homelands, the cradle of Christianity itself.

We repeat our welcome to the new eparchy and its new bishop with great joy as a sign of high hope for the future of the whole Catholic Church in Britain, and encouragement in our witness and service together.

There follows the report from Vatican Radio:

The Holy Father on Thursday, has erected the Eparchy of Great Britain of the Syro-Malabar Church based in Preston and has appointed Dr. Fr. Joseph (Benny Mathew) Srampickal, a member of the clergy of the Eparchy of Palai, until now Vice-Rector of the Collegio De Propaganda Fide in Rome, as the first bishop of the Eparchy.

Msgr. Joseph (Benny Mathew) Srampickal was born on May 30, 1967 in Poovarany, in the Eparchy of Palai. He entered the minor seminary and he studied philosophy at St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Vadavathoor, and theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, where he obtained a licentiate in biblical theology. He continued his studies at Oxford (England). He knows: Malayalam, English, Italian and German.

Ordained a priest on August 12, 2000, he has held the following positions: Professor at the minor seminary and Ephrem Formation Centre of Pala; Director of the Mar Sleeva Nursing College, Cherpumkal; Director of the Evangelization Programme; Secretary of the Bishop; Pastor at Urulikunnam. From 2013, he is Vice Rector of the Pontifical Urbaniana College of the Propaganda Fide, Rome.

The last thirty years have seen a growing influx of immigrants from India to the British Isles. More than 38,000 Syro Malabar faithful reside in England, Scotland and Wales. They are present in twenty-seven dioceses, concentrated mainly in the big cities: London, Birmingham and Liverpool. Twenty-three Syro Malabar priests are engaged in pastoral care, coordinated by Dr. Thomas Parayadiyil, MST, from 2013. In addition to the liturgical celebrations, training programs were established in the faith according to the Syro Malabar tradition for both, adults as well as children, with significant benefits for the involvement of the laity.

The See of the circumscription is in Preston, in the Diocese of Lancaster, where the Cathedral dedicated to St. Alphonsa is located, along with the Registry and the Residence of the new Bishop Joseph (Benny Mathew) Srampickal.
Report online at VR here:
Pope Erects Eparchy of Great Britain of Syro-Malabar with a new Bishop - Vatican Radio

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Joint Declaration by Pope, Ecumenical Patriarch, and Archbishop of Athens

We, Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, have met on the Greek island of Lesvos to demonstrate our profound concern for the tragic situation of the numerous refugees, migrants and asylum seekers who have come to Europe fleeing from situations of conflict and, in many cases, daily threats to their survival. World opinion cannot ignore the colossal humanitarian crisis created by the spread of violence and armed conflict, the persecution and displacement of religious and ethnic minorities, and the uprooting of families from their homes, in violation of their human dignity and their fundamental human rights and freedoms.
The tragedy of forced migration and displacement affects millions, and is fundamentally a crisis of humanity, calling for a response of solidarity, compassion, generosity and an immediate practical commitment of resources.  From Lesvos, we appeal to the international community to respond with courage in facing this massive humanitarian crisis and its underlying causes, through diplomatic, political and charitable initiatives, and through cooperative efforts, both in the Middle East and in Europe.
As leaders of our respective Churches, we are one in our desire for peace and in our readiness to promote the resolution of conflicts through dialogue and reconciliation.  While acknowledging the efforts already being made to provide help and care to refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, we call upon all political leaders to employ every means to ensure that individuals and communities, including Christians, remain in their homelands and enjoy the fundamental right to live in peace and security. A broader international consensus and an assistance programme are urgently needed to uphold the rule of law, to defend fundamental human rights in this unsustainable situation, to protect minorities, to combat human trafficking and smuggling, to eliminate unsafe routes, such as those through the Aegean and the entire Mediterranean, and to develop safe resettlement procedures. In this way we will be able to assist those countries directly engaged in meeting the needs of so many of our suffering brothers and sisters.  In particular, we express our solidarity with the people of Greece, who despite their own economic difficulties, have responded with generosity to this crisis.
Together we solemnly plead for an end to war and violence in the Middle East, a just and lasting peace and the honourable return of those forced to abandon their homes.  We ask religious communities to increase their efforts to receive, assist and protect refugees of all faiths, and that religious and civil relief services work to coordinate their initiatives.  For as long as the need exists, we urge all countries to extend temporary asylum, to offer refugee status to those who are eligible, to expand their relief efforts and to work with all men and women of good will for a prompt end to the conflicts in course.
Europe today faces one of its most serious humanitarian crises since the end of the Second World War.  To meet this grave challenge, we appeal to all followers of Christ to be mindful of the Lord’s words, on which we will one day be judged: “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me …  Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:35-36, 40).
For our part, in obedience to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, we firmly and wholeheartedly resolve to intensify our efforts to promote the full unity of all Christians.  We reaffirm our conviction that “reconciliation (among Christians) involves promoting social justice within and among all peoples… Together we will do our part towards giving migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers a humane reception in Europe” (Charta Oecumenica, 2001).  By defending the fundamental human rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, and the many marginalized people in our societies, we aim to fulfil the Churches’ mission of service to the world.
Our meeting today is meant to help bring courage and hope to those seeking refuge and to all those who welcome and assist them. We urge the international community to make the protection of human lives a priority and, at every level, to support inclusive policies which extend to all religious communities.  The terrible situation of all those affected by the present humanitarian crisis, including so many of our Christian brothers and sisters, calls for our constant prayer.
Lesvos, 16 April 2016
 Ieronymos II                     Francis                          Bartholomew I

source: The Ecumenical Patriarchate

Saturday, 27 February 2016

On the Declaration of the Pope and Patriarch Kirill

A week on for the encounter between the Pope and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, there have been several telling responses from Ukrainian Catholics from Ukraine itself, and North America.

We have posted these on our website as important, indeed urgent, first assessments of the historic Joint Declaration, what it represents and what it will result in.

These are, for ease of reference:

Already Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev has lamentably abandoned the tone of the Joint Declaration by observing, "The Unia brought so much suffering to the Orthodox in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Union continues to be an open wound on the skin of Christianity." This despite it being the Tsarist Empire that not only brought suffering to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but abolished it. This statement cited widely online has proved difficult to source since. But these three other interview-statements from His Eminence at around the time address the same theme:

Here is a link to an interview with Metropolitan Hilarion prior to the meeting on Mospat.ru, dated February 5th 2016,in which he warms to his usual theme, attacking the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with scant regard to history, charity or the truth. For the record let us state again:
- The Metropolitanate of Kiev/Kyiv restored its earlier unity with the See of Rome in the sixteenth century when (a) it was isolated both from its mother Church of Constantinople under the Ottomans and also fellow Orthodox in Muscovy under a hostile ruler attacking the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth of which Ukraine was part, and (b) there was no such thing at the time as a distinct "Russian Orthodox Church"  (the state was Muscovy before it only later took exclusive use of the name "Russia" from Rus', the land and people round Kiev/Kyiv, and its mother Church was Constantinople at the time, just the same as Kiev/Kyiv), nor did the only recently founded Moscow patriarchate have canonical patriarchal jurisdiction over the Metropolitanate of Kyiv/Kiev, which was explicitly not part of its so-called "territory". The Ecumenical Patriarchate's recognition of a patriarchate for Moscow in the 16th century concerned only the territory of Muscovy and did not include the Metropolitanate of Kiev/Kyiv. The renaming of Muscovy and its conquests as Russia dates from the later time of Czar Peter the Great, as does the history of the forced conversion of Greek Catholics in what are now western Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and elsewhere in Poland and the Baltics where the Russian Empire took control.
- There were no Moscow dioceses in western Ukraine, previously part of Poland-Lithuania and later the Habsburg Empire, until the Ukrainian Catholic Church was suppressed by Stalin and its remaining assets were given as a reward to the Moscow patriarchate for its support in the Second World War - receiving and using huge amounts of property and resources that did not belong to it, during the sore oppression and persecution by the Soviet atheists of the Catholic faithful, and the martyrdom of its religious, priests and bishops.
- The accusation that representatives of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church took part in anti-Russian and Russophobic action in the "Maidan" events of 2014-15, which cannot be substantiated and evidence to the directly opposite is abundant - including public statements from His Beatitude Sviatoslav and other bishops, together with photographic evidence of respectful relations between Catholic and Orthodox leaders as well as their clergy serving alongside each other in aid of the people under attack from the forces of the former regime - is known to be untrue by His Eminence Hilarion.
- The resentment at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church conducting its life and mission in the south and east of Ukraine, and restoring its primatial see to Kiev/Kyiv from the centre in which it was exiled in Lviv, as these are supposed to be on Russian Orthodox canonical territories, seems to be an admission that western Ukraine is not, yet where the Moscow patriarchate feels itself justified in conducting its own life and mission, just as it does throughout the world, even on the traditional territory of other Orthodox Churches, and especially in the Latin west without restriction or objection from the Catholic hierarchies. This is a complete double-standard. Surely in charity people are free to follow their own religion and the Churches recognised each other's right and duty to serve their faithful wherever they are.
- The objection to Ukrainian Greek Catholics supporting schismatics is another double-standard. In practice the Orthodox adhering to the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine conduct relations with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kievan Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, even to the exchange of gifts and greetings, and contacts in relation to the civil sphere and government. The Ukrainian Catholic Church is no different in conducting such relations, in the hope of future reconciliation and restoring Christian unity on the basis of mutual respect and integrity. Instead of a continual barrage of attack upon the Catholic Church on account of schisms within Orthodoxy that have arisen for whatever reason, this  distinguished representative of the Moscow Patriarchate ought surely to be concerned with mending its own fences with its neighbours and pursuing reconciliation in mutual charity, trust, forgiveness and desire for recovered unity, rather than blaming those who never caused the division in the first place.

Here, from 18th February, Metropolitan Hilarion returns to his baseless and untrue attacks on the Ukrainian Catholic Church, as well as the fantasy that it can be "brought to reason" by a joint Commission of the (sic) Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Church. The question from Alexey Sosedov of Interfax, was, "What joint steps are needed now to bring Uniates to reason?" His Eminence replied "The way that the Pope and the Patriarch offer, is a way of cooperation in the areas in which it is possible. It is a way of rejection of competition and of establishment of brotherly relations. The Greek Catholics do not need that at all. Their rhetoric is aggressive, hostile, cheeky, and it stands in a sharp contrast not only to the declaration’s content, but even to its style, to its pastoral message, to the reconciling spirit that emanates from it." See here what His Beatitude Sviatoslav actually said about the Pope-Patriarch meeting in Cuba. Metropolitan Hilarion asserted that in the 1990s there had been a quadripartite commission towards Catholic-Orthodox coexistence in Ukraine (Ukrainian Greek Catholic, the Latin Roman Catholics (including the Vatican), the Moscow Patriarchate and the local Ukrainian Orthodox hierarchs) and that the Greek Catholic Church had walked out of it unilaterally. What he failed to mention were the repeated personal attacks, untruthful assertions of aggression and dissimulation, none of which could be substantiated, the failure to recognise the part played by the Orthodox Church in expropriation and oppression of the Catholic Church for nearly five decades on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate Orthodox Church, and the insistence of the Russian Orthodox Church on treating the Greek Catholic Church, only recently allowed to resume its life and freedom of religion after half a century of enforced conformity to Russian Orthodoxy, not as a Church but as a subject of the Vatican.

Here, from an interview with Russia-24 TV on 13th February, Metropolitan Hilarion, opines: "I can note that the Primates have to a large extent similar views on the situation in Ukraine, as well as on the measures that should be taken to stop the fratricidal confrontation. Both the Pope and the Patriarch called on the faithful of the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches to exert every effort to restore peace in the Ukrainian land. Of course, the declaration also focused on the unia, which remains a problem dividing our Churches. While preparing the meeting, we would often say that the problem of “uniatism” and of the Uniates’ actions in Western Ukraine is what divides our Churches. Regrettably, this problem has not been solved, and Greek Catholics go on saying very unpleasant and unjust things about the Russian Orthodox Church and continue to stir up the inter-confessional strife." Again, the reality of what the leaders and representatives of the the Ukrainian Catholic Church has consistently said of the Russian Orthodox Church is not as the Metropolitan states and he never substantiates his assertions. Again, the so-called "unia" was never against the Orthodox Church - there was neither a Russian Orthodox Church nor did the see of Moscow have any canonical jurisdiction in the Kyiv/Kiev Metropolitanate of the patriarchate of Constantinople when it came into effect. His Eminence goes on to say, "there are no plans regarding the unification of the two Churches". Since he is actively involved in the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, and seeing that our Lord prayed "that they all may be one", this is a bold thing to say. There must always be in hand a plan towards unification of Churches and the reintegration of all Christians.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Between Cuba and Crete: A Storm Ahead for the Russian Orthodox? - Fr Cyril Hovurun

Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views, February 26, 2016

It seems that Cuba and Crete, two islands as remote from each other as can be, both geographically and culturally, have recently become connected by an invisible thread. One hosted a surprise meeting between Pope Francis with Patriarch of Moscow Kirill. The other is to host the Pan-Orthodox Council in June, an event that has been in preparation since the 1960s. Apart from the common pioneering character of these two events, there are other connections between them.

It has been repeated several times that the meeting in Havana, in addition to its ecumenical appearance, had many non-theological and even non-ecclesial subtexts. Among other rationales, it was supposed to enhance the positions of the Russian delegation at the All-Orthodox meeting in Crete.

Indeed, it has become a commonplace notion that the relations of the local Orthodox Churches are framed by the antagonism of two of them, Constantinople and Moscow, which goes back to the period of the Cold War. Such antagonism is not unusual in the Christian world: in different historical periods it existed between Alexandria and Constantinople, Constantinople and Rome, and now Moscow and Constantinople. This last one, however, is not as old as the previous ones and, hopefully, will not lead to the same consequences: the great schisms between the Oriental, Byzantine, and Latin Churches.

Since then, the Orthodox Churches in their policies have often embarked on political patterns that are often poorly understood and clumsily implemented. The Churches may deny this and assure everyone that their policies stem exclusively from the divine Revelation, but history indicates otherwise. For instance, the modern idea of autocephaly (i.e., “self-government”) is closer to modern political theories of the sovereignty of states than to the original concept promulgated by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431). The present dominant attitude of the Orthodox Churches to their “diaspora” Churches more closely resembles the principles of colonial thinking than it does with Orthodox canon law. Geopolitical rather than Gospel thinking makes the Orthodox Churches keep silent about the outrageous war in Ukraine, where the Orthodox kill other Orthodox.

In this vein one may understand the antagonism between Moscow and Constantinople today. Surprisingly, it is relatively new. It did not exist in the 19th century, when the Russian Church, for instance, supported the Church of Constantinople in its struggle over the independence of the Church of Greece. It was exacerbated, however, after World War II, when the Moscow Patriarchate allowed itself to be used by the Soviet state for pursuing post-Yalta politics in the freshly cut pieces of the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

The wrestling between the two Churches has not disappeared since the post-WWII era, and it has been accelerated by the policies of isolationism and anti-westernism on the part of the current Russian government. This geopolitical thinking inspires some Churches to imagine the Pan-Orthodox meeting as an opportunity for pursuing their political agendas. These agendas have already moved the location of the Council from Istanbul (the home of the Ecumenical Patriarch) to Crete, giving as a reason the downing of the Russian military airplane by Turkish air forces. The same political imagination made Cuba Moscow’s choice for the site of a meeting with Pope Francis. The Patriarchate of Constantinople, in the imagination of Moscow, not only stands for Turkey — even though, in reality, the Patriarchate and the Turkish government have a long record of harsh relations — but is also an ally and proxy of the United States.

Indeed, the meeting in Cuba will make the positions of Moscow at the Pan-Orthodox gathering in Crete even stronger. If Rome had insisted that the meeting should take place after, not before, Crete, this have would minimized the embarrassment for Constantinople and would not have insulted the relations between the Holy See and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Since the historic meeting of Pope Paul VI with Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in 1965, the relations between the two Churches have been cordial and intense. Constantinople, however, had to pay for them. This Church was often criticized by conservative and ultra-conservatives of the Greek and other Orthodox Churches for its special relations with Rome. Good relations with Rome demanded Constantinople to sacrifice a lot. Rome, in the way it was led to the meeting in Havana, struck a blow to those good relations. It also struck a painful blow to Ukrainian Greek Catholics, who both officially and unofficially objected to the highly political paragraph on the Ukrainian conflict in the Joint Declaration of Francis and Kirill. Ukraine and Constantinople became victims of the way in which the Havana meeting was handled.

It seems that Rome is not the only one who will have to pay for the Havana meeting; it will be expensive for Moscow, too. For many years, Moscow’s excuse not to meet the pope was the argument that such a meeting would be opposed by the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, still angered by the reemergence in the early 1990s of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is in union with Rome.

As it turns out, there are no such objections recorded so far. There are, however, voices among the Orthodox objecting to the participation of the top hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in the meeting, which produced a declaration that is deemed anti-Ukrainian by many. What this means is that the “existence of the Greek Catholic Church” argument against a meeting with the pope was merely an instrument of propaganda and not a genuine reason for refusing to meet. Moscow’s real fear was that radical conservative groups within the Russian Church would object to any encounter of the Russian Orthodox Primate with the pope.

This fear turned out to be well founded. Immediately after the Havana meeting, the fundamentalist voices against it rose loudly. All sorts of conservatives, from mild to hard, started expressing their dissatisfaction. Here are only three examples. A lecturer at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Olga Chetverikova, called the Patriarch “a heretic” and urged the Christians to choose between him and Christ. A priest of the Moscow Patriarchate, Dmitri Nenarokov, has called the meeting in Havana a “new milestone in the history of the apocalyptic processes.” Twelve priests and two monasteries from the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate in Moldova have ceased commemorating the Patriarch because of the Havana meeting.

The same kind of objections have been uttered against the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete, for the same reason: an alleged compromise regarding the purity of the Orthodox faith. Thus, the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), Metropolitan Onufry, openly criticized the Council, which he called “a temptation.” Later on, after he attended the January 2016 Synaxis of the Orthodox Primates in Chambésy, he changed his mind. Many of his followers, however, did not. The two “compromising” events, the meeting in Cuba and the Council in Crete, will have a cumulative effect of further angering radical conservatives.

Every Church has such folks. However, some Churches try to tackle radical conservatism, and some yield to it. Patriarch Kirill, who never sincerely sympathized with this phenomenon, decided to instrumentalize it. In Russia (and not only there), the radical conservatives are in favor of Mr. Putin. In Ukraine, they are against independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and against Ukraine as an independent state. They thus became useful for the Church in Russia to pursue two tasks: legitimization of the current political regime in the Kremlin, and undermining the independence and pro-western orientation of Ukraine. For these purposes, the Russian Church decided to support the radical conservative movement and effectively lead it.

In Ukraine, this support led to a conflict situation. While the Ukrainian Church (Moscow Patriarchate) under the previous primate, the late Metropolitan Volodymyr, tried to tackle radical conservatism and condemned it at the Council of Bishops in 2007, Moscow supported it in various ways, including financial and ideological. With the beginning of the war in the east of Ukraine, many Orthodox radicals took guns into their hands and began fighting on the separatist side. They have been largely inspired by the ideology of “Russkiy Mir” (the “Russian world”), which the Russian Church produced and fed to them. This ideology was designed to fit the agenda of the radical religious groups and created Frankenstein’s-monsters like the “Russian Orthodox Army.”

Now, after the Havana meeting and leading up to the Crete council, the radical conservatives seem to be firing back. Some of the subscribers to the “Russian world” concept, who had fought in the east of Ukraine, inspired by the idea of a holy mission, seem to be dissatisfied with the recent ecumenical initiatives of the Russian Primate. They are like a genie released from the bottle, and are now turning against Aladdin.

Fr Cyril Hovurun is a senior lecturer at Sankt Ignatios Academy/Stockholm School of Theology

To read the article on line at Catholic World Report, please visit: Between Cuba and Crete: A Storm Ahead for the Russian Orthodox? | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views

Monday, 22 February 2016

The Road from Rome to Moscow: Kirill and Francis meet in Cuba - Dr Brandon Gallaher

In around 1515, the Monk Filofei of Pskov wrote to Grand Duke Vasily III of Moscow calling him to the high office o Emperor (Tsar) of the Third and Final Rome. The first two Romes, Filofei told him, had fallen due to corruption and heresy but “the third stands [firm] … And there will not be  a fourth. No one will replace your Christian tsardom.”

The outcome of the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow at Havana’s José Martí airport cannot be properly understood without an awareness of this theory of the “third Rome”. It is at the heart of the ideology of the “Russian world” (Russkii Mir) that has been promoted by church and state in Russia in recent years. Indeed, the Pope and the Patriarch’s joint declaration can be read as a sort of tacit summary of all the major points in the Russian world ideology –from the uniqueness of Russia as a Christian civilisation and its miraculous rebirth to its understanding of itself as the saviour of “the Christian soul of Europe”.

The “Russian world” ideology is a sort of nationalism with a markedly Messianic character. It has been developed by Kirill and President Vladimir Putin in numerous speeches and church-state initiatives since shortly before Kirill’s election as Patriarch in 2009. It sees “Russia” as a civilisation with a common language, religion and culture whose borders go way beyond the Russian Federation. Kirill described himself in his remarks to the press in Havana as the Patriarch of “All Russia”. This is a historical idea of Russia that includes Ukraine and Belarus, and sometimes even Moldova and Kazakhstan. These ideas are supported by the TV network RT and by the Russkiy Mir Foundation, started by Putin to nurture Russian culture and language worldwide.

In this view of the world, Orthodox Russia is taken to be a twenty-first century “third Rome” to rival (and perhaps save) the corrupt and de-Christianised West. Patriarch Kirill is considered to be the real leader of the Orthodox churches, rather than Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople (the “second Rome”), with his relatively modest number of followers. Thus, Kirill, not Bartholomew, should be the primary negotiator with the first Rome, and lead partner in reaching out together to the lost West. This “Russian world” is seen as a providential civilisation that has undergone an “unprecedented renewal of Christian faith” after years of state atheism.

This view is reflected in the joint declaration. So is the idea that its Eastern Orthodox values, knowledge and experience of the “first millennium of Christianity” give the Russian world a singular – and divinely ordained – position of undistorted Christian witness in a contemporary world dominated by secularisation. It has a God-given role to fight terrorism, to protect Christian victims of violence in the Middle East and North Africa, to bring peace and justice and do everything possible to avoid a “new world war”. One is reminded of Shatov in Dostoyevsky’s novel Demons: “I believe in Russia … I believe that the second coming will take place in Russia.” A lasting peace cannot be found in secularism but only in what the joint declaration calls the “common values” of Orthodoxy. Sadly, the reasoning goes, Europe has lost touch with its Christian “roots”, and must be saved. Above all, the family is under attack by a crisis wrought by secularisation leading to the “banishment from public conscience” of the “distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage” through gay unions being considered on a par  with heterosexual marriage. With the loss of the natural heterosexual family comes contraception, abortion, euthanasia and the “manipulation of human life”.

The Russian world is bonded together by a common language, a common faith with common values, a common canonical Church and a common Patriarch, who works in symphony with a common leader or “tsar” (as Putin is called by his inner circle). It follows that the separation of Russia from Ukraine is quite unnatural. Finally, while recognising that the Greek Catholic “ecclesial communities” have a right to exist, the joint declaration rejects “uniatism” as a thing of the past. So the “we” of the joint declaration could easily refer solely to the Russian and not the Catholic Church.

Why would the
Vatican sign a document that, while it does not contradict its official teaching, seems to reflect one Church more than the other? Some observers have suggested that Francis has been “played” by Kirill and his assistant, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev. This is, it is said, akin to how Moscow had earlier “played” Patriarch Bartholomew by receiving promises from him at the Pre-Conciliar Primates Meeting in January in Chambésy, Switzerland, that he would not intervene in Ukraine in exchange for allowing the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council to take place in Crete in June.

According to this narrative, the Vatican was so desperate for dialogue after years of being told the relationship was merely “strategic” that it ended up signing a statement that was more for the benefit of Moscow than for itself. Indeed, already the declaration has deeply hurt churches such as the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, with its demotion of them to “ecclesial communities”, and the call for them to refrain from political involvement, such as the protests in Maidan Square.

But the Vatican is not nearly so naive as it is sometimes being portrayed. Despite Francis’ broad liberal gestures –“Who am I to judge?” –the two churches share a common moral vision, a fear of increasing secularisation and a heartfelt concern for the suffering of Christians in the Middle East. There is also a real acknowledgement by Moscow of the Roman Catholic Church as the Christian body closest to Orthodoxy.

In fact, the desperation for a meeting is more likely to be on the part of Moscow. The Orthodox Primates Meeting in January was marked by Kirill’s speech on the sufferings faced by his “canonical” church in Ukraine. It is said that it is haemorrhaging parishioners daily to the more nationalistic (and “uncanonical”) Kyivan Patriarchate. In December, the leader of Moscow’s autonomous church, Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev, as a compromise allowed priests to serve the Divine Liturgy without commemorating Kirill by name.

He needs help from a hugely popular international figurehead such as Francis to raise his profile in Ukraine, where he is deeply unpopular and forbidden by the government to visit. He can also in this way prove to President Putin that he is useful in opening up links with the West while Russia is becoming increasingly politically isolated. Lastly, meeting with Francis as an equal – even though traditionally it is Patriarch Bartholomew not Kirill who is the spiritual head of the Orthodox Churches – will give Kirill increased stature at the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council and head off any attempts by the other churches at the Council to intervene in Ukraine.

But what are the future prospects for the relationship? If Kirill is desperate, fearful he will lose his church in Ukraine, and thinks that the relationship with Francis can help him, then this declaration needs to be seen as a calculated risk. He has staked the imperial vision of his primacy of the “third Rome” on the opening of a window to the West through the first Rome.

It seems likely that Francis and his advisers knew that Kirill needed their help, and was fearful of his future and the future of Russia. They have given him leeway in the declaration so he can more easily justify this meeting back home, where some still call the Pope a “Catholic heretic”. Moscow can continue to make bold symbolic claims of uniqueness, but these will be just so many words. But now it is bound to an ecumenical process that it cannot withdraw from without serious embarrassment. In these bleak days, it is important for Rome to throw open a window on Russia so that, as John XXIII said of the Second Vatican Council, the fresh air of the Spirit may be allowed to flow.

Dr Brandon Gallaher is lecturer in systematic and comparative theology at the University of Exeter. This article first appeared in The Tablet on 20th February 2016 and was since republished on Academia.edu. It is reproduced with the agreement of the author with grateful acknowledgement to the publishers.