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 13th May, 4pm

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.












Monday, 27 September 2010

Communique of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church: Vienna 2010

Communique from the 12th plenary session of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, 22-27 September 2010, Vienna.

* * *

The twelfth meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church took place in Vienna, Austria, a city with a long history, a bridge between West and East, with a rich ecumenical life. The meeting, generously and fraternally hosted by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna, from 20-27 September 2010, in the Kardinal König Haus.

Twenty three Catholic members were present, a few were unable to attend. All the Orthodox Churches, with the exception of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, were represented, namely the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Patriarchate of Serbia, the Patriarchate of Romania, the Patriarchate of Georgia, the Church of Cyprus, the Church of Greece, the Church of Poland, the Church of Albania and the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.

The Commission worked under the direction of its two co-presidents, Archbishop Kurt Koch and Metropolitan Prof. Dr John of Pergamon, assisted by the co-secretaries, Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Rev. Andrea Palmieri (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity).

At the opening plenary session on Wednesday, 22 September, the Commission was welcomed very warmly by the host, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, and by Metropolit an Michael of Austria of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on behalf of all Orthodox Churches present in Austria. Both emphasized the importance of holding the meeting in Vienna, which occupies a particular place in the history of the whole of Christianity. In the evening a reception was given by the Mayor of Vienna, Dr. Michael Häupl, at the Vienna Town Hall. The co-presidents announced that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI had urged intense prayer for the Commission meeting at his Wednesday General Audience and they read a Message to the participants from His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. A letter was sent by the co-presidents on behalf of the Joint Commission to the former President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and co-president of the dialogue, Cardinal Walter Kasper, expressing gratitude and appreciation for his service and for his significant contribution.

On Thursday, 23 September, the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Aus tria met the members of the Joint Commission at Kardinal König Haus. On Saturday, 25 September, the Catholic members celebrated the Eucharist in the Stephansdom in Vienna presided over by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, in the presence of the Orthodox members. In his homily he said that "we have and we need a primacy in the canonical sense, but above all there is the primacy of charity. All canonical dispositions in the Church serve this primacy of love (agape)". Afterwards a reception was offered in the Courtyard of the Archiepiscopal Palace of Vienna.

On Sunday, 26 September, the Orthodox members celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity of the Greek Orthodox Metropolitanate of Austria in Vienna, presided over by Metropolitan John of Pergamon, in the presence of the Catholic members. In addressing those present, Metropolitan Michael of Austria conveyed "the greetings of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and underlined the role and the contribution of the Greek Metropolitanate to the history of Vienna with great eminent personalities". He also referred to "the close collaboration between Orthodox and Catholics in Austria and in Vienna in particular, expressing the wish that the Lord's prayer 'that all may be one' (Jn 17:21) be a reality in the search for the unity of His Church".

During the afternoon, the members paid a visit to the Cistercian Abbey of Heiligenkreuz and attended the service of Vespers. Later in the evening, they visited the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nikolaus.

On the first day of the meeting, as is customary, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox members met separately to coordinate their work. The Orthodox meeting discussed among other things the unfinished draft text produced by the 11th plenary session in Paphos, Cyprus last year, and much time was given to the methodology of the dialogue. The Catholic meeting also considered the draft text, seeking specific ways to improve the text, and reflected on methodological questions.

As was decided at the 10th plenary session in Ravenna, 2007, the Commission is studying the theme "The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium", on the basis of a draft text prepared by the Joint Coordinating Committee, which met in Aghios Nikolaos/Crete, Greece, 2008. During its meeting in Vienna, the Commission continued the detailed consideration of the text which began at last year's plenary session at Paphos, Cyprus. At this stage, the Commission is discussing this text as a working document and it decided that the text must be further revised. It was also decided to form a sub-commission to begin consideration of the theological and ecclesiological aspects of Primacy in its relation to Synodality. The sub-commission will submit its work to the Joint Coordinating Committee of the Commission which will meet next year.

During the meeting the members received the sad news that Mgr Eleuterio Fortino, co-secretary of the Joint Commission since its inception, passed away, after a long period of illness, and prayers were offered for the repose of his soul.

The meeting of the Joint Commission was marked by a spirit of friendship and trustful collaboration. All members greatly appreciated the generous hospitality of the host Church, and they strongly commend the continuing work of the dialogue to the prayers of the faithful.

Vienna, Austria, 26 September 2010.

Moscow Restores Two Kremlin Wall Icons Hidden by the Soviets

File:Spas Smolensky 2010.jpg
The Icon of the Smolenksy Saviour -
Spas Smolensky on the Spasskaya Tower 

Thanks to Zenit - Two icons covered in plaster on towers of the Moscow Kremlin are being restored.

It is believed the icons of Christ the Savior and St. Nicholas were covered in 1937, as part of celebrations marking 20 years of the Soviet state. Historical documents indicate the icons were still visible in 1918.

The Spasskaya Tower has the icon of Christ the Savior with St. Sergius and St. Varlaam at his feet. It was painted in the early 16th century.

The Nikolskaya Tower's icon of St. Nicholas dates back to the late 15th or early 16th centuries. That icon was damaged by bullets in 1917, but the face survived, which believers hailed as a miracle.

The St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation is funding the restoration project, which it initiated in 2007.


Nicholas Mozhaisk
St Nicholas on the Nikolskaya Tower

More interesting information on the St Nicholas Center site.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Blessed Mother Teresa Cathedral, Pristina

In honour of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, a cathedral has been dedicated in the capital of Kosovo on September 5th 2010, the anniversary of her death. Mother Teresa was an ethnic Albanian. Although Kosovo and Albania are predominantly Muslim, there are significant populations of Orthodox and Catholics.
Several thousand gathered in Pristina for the dedication of the cathedral, which is still partially under construction. According to present plans, it will be the tallest building in Kosovo. It has been financed by the city of Pristina, several European Catholic agencies and a number of private donors.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Metropolitan Hilarion in London - a new Catholic-Orthodox Alliance and hopes that Anglicans will not abandon the Common Tradition

On 10 September, the Moscow Patriarchate Department of External Relations carried the speech of Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk to the Nikaean Club, concerning Orthodox relations with Anglicanism at the invitation of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on 9th September at Lambeth Palace:

Your Grace, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests,

At the outset, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to His Grace Archbishop Rowan Williams for inviting me to address the members of the Nicean Club. Your Grace, we highly value your personal contribution to inter-Christian dialogue and your commitment to keep the Anglican Communion unified. We know your love of the Russian Orthodox Church, of its saints and great theologians, of its spiritual tradition. We assure you of our continual support and prayers.

We also highly appreciate the work of the Nicean Club which aims to strengthen relations and to stimulate beneficial co-operation between the churches of the Anglican Communion and other Christian confessions.

The name of the Club – Nicean – takes us back to that blessed era when Christians throughout the world, both in the East and in the West, were united. At the same time, however, that was a period of bitter struggle with heresies and many church schisms. Thanks to the unanimity both of the Western and Eastern Fathers in understanding Church teaching and in standing together with steadfast faith, the Universal Church at its Council in 325 renounced and condemned a heresy that undermined the very foundations of Christian doctrine. At the same time the Church was able to formulate that faith in the Holy Trinity which has survived throughout subsequent centuries. Archbishop Rowan Williams, in his Arius: Heresy and Tradition, has provided us with a profound analysis of Arianism from historical, theological and philosophical perspectives. He describes Arianism as an ‘archetypal Christian deviation’, which tends to rise again and again under various names.

In 325, the Christian Church, which had latterly emerged from a three-century-long period of persecution, proved itself to be strong and mature enough to discern in Arianism a dangerous digression from Orthodox doctrine. By adopting the Nicean Creed the Church did not introduce anything new to her teaching but rather formulated with clarity what she had believed in from the very beginning of her existence. Subsequent Ecumenical Councils continued to clarify church truth without introducing anything fundamentally new to that confession of faith which sprouted from Christ himself and from his apostles.

Why do the Churches, both East and West, still remember the Fathers of the Nicean and later Ecumenical Councils with such gratitude? Why are the great theologians of the past, the opponents of heresy, revered in the East as ‘great universal teachers and saints’ and in the West as ‘Doctors of the Church’? Because throughout the ages the Church believed it to be her principal task to safeguard the truth. Her foremost heroes were those confessors of the faith who asserted Orthodox doctrine and countered heresies in the face of new trends and theological and political innovations.

Almost 1700 years have elapsed since the Council of Nicaea, but the criteria that were used by the Church to distinguish truth from heresy have not changed. And the notion of church truth remains as relevant today as it did seventeen centuries ago. Today the notion of heresy, while present in church vocabulary, is manifestly absent from the vocabulary of contemporary politically-correct theology – a theology that prefers to refer to “pluralism” and to speak of admissible and legitimate differences.

Indeed, St Paul himself wrote that ‘there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval’ (1 Cor. 11:19). But what kind of differences was he referring to? Certainly not those which concerned the essence of faith, church order or Christian morals. For, in these matters, there is only one truth and any deviation from it is none other than heresy.

At the time of the Council of Nicaea, the Church was united in East and West. But at the present time, there is a multitude of communities each of which claims to be a church even though approaches to doctrinal, ecclesiological and ethical issues among them often differ radically.

Nowadays it is increasingly difficult to speak of ‘Christianity’ as a unified scale of spiritual and moral values, universally adopted by all Christians. It is more appropriate, rather, to speak of ‘Christianities’, that is, different versions of Christianity espoused by diverse communities.

All current versions of Christianity can be very conditionally divided into two major groups – traditional and liberal. The abyss that exists today divides not so much the Orthodox from the Catholics or the Catholics from the Protestants as it does the ‘traditionalists’ from the ‘liberals’. Some Christian leaders, for example, tell us that marriage between a man and a woman is no longer the only way of building a Christian family: there are other models and the Church should become appropriately ‘inclusive’ to recognize alternative behavioural standards and give them official blessing. Some try to persuade us that human life is no longer an absolute value; that it can be terminated in a mother’s womb or that one can terminate one’s life at will. Christian ‘traditionalists’ are being asked to reconsider their views under the slogan of keeping abreast with modernity.

Regrettably, it has to be admitted that the Orthodox Church and many in the Anglican Church have today found themselves on the opposite sides of the abyss that divides traditional Christians from Christians of liberal trend. Certainly, inside the Anglican Community there remain many “traditionalists”, especially in the South and the East, but the liberal trend is also quite noticeable, especially in the West and in the North. Protests against liberalism continue to be heard among Anglicans, as at the 2nd All African Bishops’ Conference held in late August. The Conference’s final document stated in particular, ‘We affirm the Biblical standard of the family as having marriage between a man and a woman as its foundation. One of the purposes of marriage is procreation of children some of whom grow to become the leaders of tomorrow’.

Among the vivid indications of disagreement within the Anglican Community (I am reluctant to say ‘schism’) is the fact that almost 200 Anglican bishops refused to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference. I was there as an observer from the Russian Orthodox Church and could see various manifestations of deep and painful differences among the Anglicans.

Today the Orthodox-Anglican Dialogue itself has come under threat. It is especially lamentable because this dialogue has had a long and rich history, beginning with the numerous talks at various levels held between Orthodox and Anglicans from the 17th century. In the 19th century, after the Anglicans founded the bishoprics of Jerusalem in 1841 and Gibraltar in 1842, meetings took place and relations were established between representatives of the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in America and the Orthodox Church. The first official message came in a letter of Archbishop Howley of Canterbury (1828-1848) to the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1840, assuring Orthodox hierarchs that the Anglicans would never engage themselves in proselytism and calling for co-operation in a spirit of Christian love.

In 1868, the first Lambeth Conference was held. Acting on behalf of Archbishop Tait of Canterbury, this Conference sent a message, written in a spirit of Christian love and friendship, to the patriarchs and bishops of the Orthodox Church. That same year, at the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Patriarch Gregory VI of Constantinople permitted the Orthodox clergy to administer the rite of burial to Anglicans if a priest of the Church of England were not available.

The second such agreement was made in 1874 when Patriarch Joachim II of Constantinople gave permission to the Orthodox clergy to baptize and marry Anglicans. These agreements were exceptional developments in the history of relations between the Churches of East and West.

Between 1874 and 1875, representatives of the Orthodox Church, Anglicans and Old Catholics met for the first time at the Bonn Conferences to discuss issues such as the Filioque, the authority of the Ecumenical Councils and the validity of Anglican priesthood. In 1898, Bishop Wordsworth of Salisbury, in pursuance of a resolution of the 4th Lambeth Conference in 1887 on the need to intensify relations with the Orthodox Church and to set up a special committee for it, visited Patriarch Constantine V of Constantinople and other hierarchs. Patriarch Constantine appointed a special commission for studying the Anglican confession. In the years that followed, Frederick Temple and Constantine V initiated regular correspondence.

At the 1930 Lambeth Conference, after the Anglicans essentially agreed to the Orthodox affirmation that communion in the Sacraments should be preceded by unity in doctrine, it was decided to set up an Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission, which included representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Church of England. The commission began working in 1931. The 1948 Lambeth Conference gave unanimous support to the further development of relations with the Orthodox.

After World War II, dialogue between our Churches was resumed in 1965. The modern stage in the Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue was opened by a visit of Archbishop Michael Ramsey to Patriarch Athenagoras (Spirou) of Constantinople in 1962. The heads of the two Churches came to an agreement on the need to restore the Joint Theological Commission for studying the doctrinal differences which blocked progress towards unity that had begun in the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries.

In November 1964, the 3rd Pan-Orthodox Conference on Rhodes discussed, among other things, relations with Western Churches. The question of establishing relations with Canterbury did not raise any difficulties. It was unanimously agreed that ‘an inter-Orthodox theological commission be established immediately, consisting of theological experts from each Orthodox Church’. After preliminary meetings and talks, a dialogue began in 1976. A regular session of the dialogue completed its work only a few days ago.

We are concerned about the fate of this dialogue. We appreciate the proposal Archbishop Rowan Williams made this year to exclude from the dialogue those Anglican churches which failed to observe the moratorium on the ordination of open homosexuals. But we regard this proposal as not quite sufficient to save the dialogue from an approaching collapse. The dialogue is doomed to closure if the unrestrained liberalization of Christian values continues in many communities of the Anglican world.

We are equally concerned about the fate of bilateral relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of England. Contacts between the Russian Church and the Anglican Church began as far back as the 19th century. In 1912, the Sacred Governing Synod adopted the statute of a Society of Zealots of Unity between the Eastern Orthodox and the Anglican Churches. In 1914, a Synodal Commission was established for considering interrelations with the Anglican Church. In May 1922, when Patriarch Tikhon was imprisoned, Archbishop Randall Davidson of Canterbury protested to the Soviet government against the persecution of the Church. The archbishop raised this matter twice in the parliament and urged the British government to apply pressure on the Soviet authorities (Kerson’s Note).

The relations between the Russian Church and the Church of England were strengthened by the visit of the Archbishop Cyril Garbett of York to Moscow in 1943. After the end of World War II relations between our Churches intensified and contacts became regular.

The first difficulties in relation to the Church of England emerged in 1992 when its General Synod agreed to ordain women to the priesthood. The Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church came out with an official statement expressing regret and concern over this decision as contradicting the tradition of the Early Church.

One might ask why our Church should have concerned itself at all with this matter? By the early 90s the Protestant world had already ordained many women pastors and even women bishops. But the unique point here was that the Anglican Community had long sought rapprochement with the Orthodox Church. Many Orthodox Christians recognized the existence of apostolic continuity in Anglicanism. From the 19th century, Anglican members of the Association of Eastern Churches sought ‘mutual recognition’ with the Orthodox Church and its members believed that ‘both Churches preserved the apostolic continuity and true faith in the Saviour and should accept each other in the full communion of prayers and sacraments’.

Much has changed since. The introduction of the female priesthood in the Church of England was followed by discussions on the female episcopate. In response to the positive decision made by the Church of England’s General Synod on this issue, the Department for External Church Relations published a new statement saying that this decision ‘has considerably complicated dialogue with the Anglicans for Orthodox Christians’ and ‘has taken Anglicanism farther away from the Orthodox Church and contributed to further division in Christendom as a whole’.

We have studied the preparatory documents for the decision on female episcopate and were struck by the conviction expressed in them that even if the female episcopate were introduced, ecumenical contacts with the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches would not come to an end. What made the authors of these documents so certain? There was a second controversial statement. The same document argued that despite a possible cooling down in relations with Catholics and Orthodox, the Church of England would strengthen and broaden its relations with the Methodist Church and the Lutheran Churches in Norway and Sweden. In other words, the introduction of the female episcopate ‘will bring both gains and losses’. The question arises: Is not the cost of these losses too high? I can say with certainty that the introduction of the female episcopate excludes even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognize the apostolic continuity of the Anglican hierarchy.

We are also extremely concerned and disappointed by other processes that are manifesting themselves in churches of the Anglican Communion. Some Protestant and Anglican churches have repudiated basic Christian moral values by giving a public blessing to same-sex unions and ordaining homosexuals as priests and bishops. Many Protestant and Anglican communities refuse to preach Christian moral values in secular society and prefer to adjust to worldly standards.

Our Church must sever its relations with those churches and communities that trample on the principles of Christian ethics and traditional morals. Here we uphold a firm stand based on Holy Scripture.

In 2003, the Russian Orthodox Church had to suspend contact with the Episcopal Church in the USA due to the fact that this Church consecrated a self-acclaimed homosexual, Jim Robertson, as bishop. The Department for External Church Relations made a special statement deploring this fact as anti-Christian and blasphemous. Moreover, the Holy Synod of our Church decided to suspend the work of the Joint Coordinating Committee for Cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Episcopal Church in the USA, which had worked very successfully for many years. The situation was aggravated when a woman bishop was installed as head of the Episcopal Church in the USA in 2006 and a lesbian was placed on the bishop’s chair of Los Angeles in 2010.

Similar reasons were behind the rupture of our relations with the Church of Sweden in 2005 when this Church made a decision to bless same-sex “marriages”. And recently the lesbian Eva Brunne has become the “bishop” of Stockholm.

What can these churches say to their faithful and to secular society? What kind of light do they shine upon the world (cf. Mt. 5:14)? What is their ‘salt’? I am afraid the words of Christ can be applied to them: If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men (Mt. 5:13).

We are aware of the arguments used by proponents of the above-mentioned liberal innovations. Tradition is no authority for them. They believe that to make the words of Holy Scripture applicable to modernity they have to be ‘actualized’, that is, reviewed and interpreted in an appropriate, ‘modern’ spirit. Holy Tradition is understood as an opportunity for the Church to be continually reformed and renewed and to think critically.

The Orthodox, however, have a different understanding of Holy Tradition. It is aptly expressed in the words of Vladimir Lossky: ‘Tradition is the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church – the life giving to every member of the Body of Christ the ability to hear, accept and know the Truth in its inherent shining, not in the natural light of human reason’.

It is impossible to pass silently by the liberalism and relativism which have become so characteristic of today’s Anglican theology. From the time of Archbishop Michael Ramsay of Canterbury, the Church of England saw the emergence of so-called modernism which rejected the very foundations of Christianity as a God-revealed religion. Among its most eloquent representatives was the Anglican Bishop of Woolwich, Dr. I. A. T. Robinson, the author of the sensational book Honest to God. The Bishop of Woolwich’s worldview can be described as ‘Christian atheism’. Indeed, he rejected the existence of a personal God, of the Creator of the world and of Providence. He also denied the existence of the spiritual world in general and of the future life in particular. It should be admitted that these views provoked protests on the part of some Anglican bishops, led by Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury.

It is appropriate to recall here the words of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia at the Bishops’ Conference in February 2010. Concerning the liberal novelties introduced by some Protestant communities, he stated: ‘What has happened reveals only too clearly a fundamental difference between Orthodoxy and Protestantism. The principal problem lying at the basis of this difference is that Orthodoxy safeguards the norm of apostolic faith and order as fixed in the Holy Tradition of the Church and sees as its task to actualize this norm continually for the fulfilment of pastoral and missionary tasks. On the other hand, in Protestantism the same task allows for a theological development that can remodel this same norm. Clearly, the search for doctrinal consensus, as was the case with regard to Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry in the multilateral dialogue initiated by the World Council of Churches, has lost its meaning precisely because any consensus may come under threat or may be destroyed by innovation or interpretation that will challenge the very meaning of these agreements’.

Regrettably, what His Holiness the Patriarch says about Protestantism can be applied equally to many Anglican communities. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Orthodox communities discussed seriously the recognition of Anglican priesthood based on its recognized apostolic continuity. Now we are very far from this. And the gap between the liberal Anglicans and the Orthodox keeps growing.

One of the priorities in the work of the Russian Church today is to bear witness to the eternal significance of Christian spiritual and moral values in the life of modern society. In 2000 our Church already made a considerable contribution to the systematization of Orthodox tradition in this area by adopting a Basic Social Concept and, in 2008, a Basic Teaching on Human Dignity, Freedom and Rights. Today the Church is engaged in major work to compile a Catechesis which will give a clear exposition of Christian doctrine, on the one hand, and will respond to the burning problems of today on the other.

We are not alone in our concern for the preservation of Christian values. Liberal tendencies in Protestant and Anglican communities present a challenge to those Christians and churches that have remained faithful to Gospel principles in doctrine, church order and morality. Certainly, we seek and find allies in opposing the destruction of the very essence of Christianity. One of the major tasks in our inter-Christian work today is to unite the efforts of Christians for building a system of solidarity on the basis of Gospel morality in Europe and throughout the world. Our positions are shared by the Roman Catholic Church, with which we have held numerous meetings and conferences. Together we are considering the possibility of establishing an Orthodox-Catholic alliance in Europe for defending the traditional values of Christianity. The primary aim of this alliance would be to restore a Christian soul to Europe. We should be engaged in common defence of Christian values against secularism and relativism.

Today, European countries as never before need to reinforce moral education, since its absence leads to dire consequences such as accelerating extremism, a decline in the birth rate, environmental pollution and violence. The principles of moral responsibility and of freedom should be consistently implemented in all spheres of human life – politics, economics, education, science, culture and the mass media.

We should not remain silent and look with indifference at a world that is gradually deteriorating. Rather, we should proclaim Christian morality and teach it openly not only in our churches, but also in public spaces including secular schools, universities and in the arena of the mass media. We do not presume to impose our views on anybody but we wish that our voice be heard by those who want to hear it. Unfortunately, we cannot convert the whole world to God, but we should at least make people think about the meaning of life and the existence of absolute spiritual and moral values. We are obliged to bear witness to the true faith always and everywhere so that at least some may be saved (1 Cor. 9:22).

Summing up, I wish to assert that today we have new divisions in Christendom, not only theological but also ethical. Regrettably, many Christian communities, which once maintained fraternal relations with the Orthodox Church for many years and were in dialogue with it, have shown themselves to be incapable or unwilling to assume obligations stemming from our dialogue. We accompany our reactions to these developments with assurances of respect for the right of all churches and communities to make decisions which they deem to be necessary. Yet, at the same time, we state with sadness that neither the official dialogue nor the most valuable relations and contacts in the past have kept some of our Anglican brothers and sisters from steps which have taken them even farther away from our common Christian Church Tradition.

On behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church I would like to stress that we continue to be fully committed to the dialogue with the Anglican Church and will do our utmost to keep this dialogue going. We do not betray our commitment to the dialogue. However, we feel that many of our Anglican brothers and sisters betray our common witness by departing from traditional Christian values and replacing them by contemporary secular standards. I very much hope that the official position of the Anglican Church on theological, ecclesiological and moral issues will be in tune with the tradition of the Ancient Undivided Church and that the Anglican leadership will not surrender to the pressure coming from liberals.

Our faithful cherish the memory of the visit made by the Church of England’s delegation led by Archbishop Cyril Garbett to Moscow in 1943. Then Patriarch Sergiy, who had been enthroned a few days earlier, remarked, ‘The English have come defying the dangers of travelling at a time of war and the entire insidiousness of the enemy’. Addressing himself to Archbishop Garbett, he said, ‘The old archbishop teaches us by his example to forget one’s own interests and conveniences and one’s own life when the truth of Christ and the welfare of our neighbours… call us to serve higher values’.

Today, too, we do not abandon Christian love for our Anglican brothers and sisters. We do not abandon the hope that they, who once defied every danger during the hard years of war, will share with us that trust in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which rests on the solid foundation of the faith of holy apostles, the Fathers of the Nicean Council and the tradition of the Undivided Church.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Cardinal Sandri: The Importance of the Melkite Church

CORDOBA, Argentina, SEPT. 2, 2010, thanks to Zenit.org


Cardinal Leonardo Sandri is calling for a rediscovery of the contributions offered by the Melkite Church, particularly leading up to the October synod of bishops for the Middle East.

The prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches said this Tuesday in an address to bishops of the Melkite Church who are working in Argentina.

The cardinal was present at a Eucharistic celebration held in Cordoba, along with Gregorios III Laham, patriarch of Antioch for the Greek Melkite Church; Melkite Bishop Abdo Arbach, head of the apostolic exarch in Argentina; and Archbishop Carlos José Ñáñez of Cordoba. 

The Greek Melkite Church is an Eastern Catholic Church of the Byzantine rite, that is, a particular Church of the Catholic Church, which enjoys autonomy and is in full communion with the Pope. 

The Melkite Church originates in the Middle East, but today its members, which number 1.5 million, have been dispersed on other continents. Originally, its members were Arab-speaking. The See of the Patriarch is in Damascus. 

Cardinal Sandri noted that "important contributions have already been made by the Melkite Church in the preparatory phase of the synod and they have been included in the instrumentum laboris (working document)."

He continued: "The topic, which is the real objective of the synod, must be kept constantly in mind: 'Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul.' 

"This is of course the commitment of every Christian community, in every place and every time of Christian history. However, it can never be taken for granted. Rather, it must represe nt a stimulus that we cannot ignore."

The cardinal insisted that communion is indispensable to sustain the evangelical mission. He affirmed that the episcopal synods must always try to be "only one heart and one soul," so that each of the communities will be so around their bishop and their parishes and their priests. 

Collegiality

The prelate added: "It is a very delicate responsibility that I entrust to you in a spirit of episcopal fraternity and collegiality. 

"We bishops before our faithful, through the adherence to Christ that we are requested to renew day after day, cannot exempt ourselves from this mandate: the mandate to the Church of internal communion, so that she will always grow more decidedly."

The cardinal pointed out that unity always begins with Christ, but "it calls for our personal conversion."

He explained that "conversion to communion is a daily cross that mus t be carried so that the Church will be yeast of unity for the whole human race."

After recalling that the Oct. 10 opening of the synod is just over a month from now, Cardinal Sandri pointed out that Melkite Catholics "are very rooted in the Eastern world but also traditionally united to the See of Peter, of which they acknowledge the responsibility proper to it: that of communion."

He then invited the bishops to keep alive the physiognomy of the Church in the diaspora, so that the faithful will not forget their spiritual roots. 

"I think of the spiritual efforts that were asked of them to keep the second and third Melkite generation in America in the authentic Eastern identity," the prelate affirmed, "especially in the realm of the liturgy, but not because of that failing to adopt, at the same time, the necessary openness to the new ecclesial and social context."

Because of this, he stressed the urgency of & the renewal of family, youth and vocational ministry, also in the heart of your Church." 

Catechesis

There are sectors "that must be addressed jointly, also with an incisive and complete catechesis attentive to the real situation of the faithful," specified the cardinal.

This commitment to a more effective catechesis is urgent above all "to address the grave problem of sects and of some forms of religiosity," he said.

Cardinal Sandri added that it must be joined with the appropriate formation of priests, "as educators of the People of God, so that they will have adequate doctrinal knowledge and be sustained by a solid spirituality and good human maturity."

"Vocational discernment, the formation of candidates to Holy Orders, and the permanent formation of presbyters, are an undeniable priority," he said.

The cardinal highlighted the fraternity with which the people and the Church in Argentina received the Melkite Catholics in the country. 

"The solidarity demonstrated by the faithful is indispensable to build a future of hope for those who abandoned their homeland in search of security and material and spiritual dignity," he said.

The prelate continued, "The challenges of our time need the solidarity of all the components of the Catholic community and that of other Christians, as well as of other religions, to influence the social fabric, which experiences such evident changes in the Argentine homeland itself."

"I do not want to go more deeply into this particularly delicate realm," he admitted, "but I cannot fail to ask the Melkite Church and Eastern Catholics, so convinced of the supreme good constituted by the family -- first cell of society and of the Church -- to continue giving an effective contribution so that it will be respected and so that the union of man and woman, with the sacre d bond of sacramental marriage, is defended, especially when it is gravely wounded."

Cardinal Sandri concluded by reminding the Melkite Catholics of their vocation to be a bridge of communion between East and West. 

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Fr Taft calls on Catholic and Orthodox Churches to Restore Communion

The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches should own up to their past misdeeds and work to restore communion, according to a Jesuit liturgical expert. Robert F. Taft  S.J., a former professor of Eastern liturgy at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, said that the rift between the churches was sustained primarily by offensive actions — not theological differences. "The main problem that we Catholics and Orthodox face in our ecumenical dialogue is not doctrine but behavior," Father Taft said. "The issue is not that Catholics and Orthodox do not know how to pray and believe and live Christianity in the right and true apostolic way. The problem is that we do not know how to act."

Father Taft delivered "Perceptions and Realities in Orthodox-Catholic Relations Today," on June 28 at Fordham University's Rose Hill campus. He pointed to Catholic "uniatism" — aggression against another church—as a major problem blocking fruitful dialogue between the religions. He added that although the Orthodox faith has been victimized, it also refuses to admit its own misdeeds. "Western Christianity’s historic defects of imperialism, power and domination led to the crimes for which Pope John Paul II asked pardon in Rome on the first Sunday of Lent in 2000," Father Taft said. But "Metropolitan Kallinikos of Piraeus — an official spokesman of the Orthodox Church of Greece — responded … by declaring there was nothing for which Orthodoxy had to ask pardon."

Father Taft advocated a system of "ecumenical scholarship and theology" — a new way to study Christian tradition that seeks to reconcile and unite, rather than to confute and dominate. To accomplish this, the Catholic and Orthodox churches must recognize one another as historic apostolic sister churches, he said. "For Catholics, such an 'ecumenical theology' must mean an end to declarations on the nature of the priesthood that exalt the celibate clerical state of the Latin tradition in a way that is demeaning to the thousands of legitimately married eastern clergy," he said. "It might also mean Catholic theologians realizing that Latin scholastic theology of the Eucharist is 'a' theology and not 'the' theology." The point of this new ecumenical theology is not that Catholics and Orthodox never disagree. "What it does mean, is that at the official level, disagreements can be discussed truthfully and courteously, without invective, rudeness and slander," Father Taft said.

His was the first keynote at "Orthodox Constructions of the West," a three-day conference that examined how Orthodox authors created artificial categories of "East" and "West" and then used that distinction as a basis for self-definition. The event was supported by the Patterson Triennial Conference Endowment for Orthodox/Catholic Relations as well as several units at Fordham University, including the Center for Medieval Studies and Orthodox Christian Studies Program.

Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to approximately 14,700 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in Westchester, the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., and a London Centre at Heythrop College in the United Kingdom.

Russian Roman Catholics and Orthodox

Papal trip to Moscow and the number of parishes in the capital. Moscow (thanks to AsiaNews) - June 9, 2010
 
 
"The Catholic community in Russia is a minority and must cooperate with the Orthodox only then we'll be able to develop to the utmost. So, let's say we are interested in strong Orthodoxy". These are the words of the Secretary General of the Conference of Russian Catholic Bishops Fr. Igor Kovalevsky, interviewed by the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper.

In the interview the priest stresses the similarities rather than the differences between the two Churches: "We have almost the same teachings on many issues" and "the only thing that divides us is basically the role of the Pope, the bishop of Rome." The two communities, continues Fr Kovalevsky, have the same values and should protect them facing the challenges of modern secularism. For the priest, Europe today needs a re-evangelization after having lost its Christian roots, "It 'a very serious problem, the greatest challenge from contemporary European culture is its anti-religiosity, a front on which Benedict XVI has always been committed. Catholics - he added - are also having to disprove the stereotype that links Catholicism to contemporary Western culture, which instead tends to keep God out of society.

On the age old question of a possible meeting between Pope and Patriarch of Moscow Kirill, Fr. Kovalevsky reiterates positions already expressed by the Russian Orthodox Church: "Neither Catholics nor Orthodox want the meeting to be mere protocol. And this is why, it is up to God to decide when this will be".

In the interview another age-old problem also emerges; that of a lack of parishes in Moscow. Today in Russia most Catholics are concentrated in the capital, where - the secretary of the Bishops' Conference points out - two churches and a third under construction "are too few." In Moscow and its environs, there are about 50 thousand faithful, but there are fewer churches than in St. Petersburg. "It's our main problem in the capital. Until the 1917 Revolution there was the church of St. Ludwig and the parish of Saints Peter and Paul in Moscow. The latter was confiscated and a new place of worship, the church of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, was erected, which today is our cathedral. The church of Saints Peter and Paul, unfortunately, was privatized and the courts gave legitimacy to this act". The majority of Catholics are not Russian citizens, but Polish, German or Lithuanian and celebrations are all in Russian.

Light of the East, September-October 2010 Newsletter from SSJC Youngstown

Light of the East, September-October 2010, the newsletter of the Youngstown Ohio Chapter of the Society is now available here.