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 11th November, 4pm

But see below for the Pontifical Divine Liturgy in Westminster Cathedral on 28th October, to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Ukrainian Exarchate & Eparchy in the UK, served by His Beatitude Sviatoslav, Father & Head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

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.

"It's Now or Never: The Return of the Eastern Christians to Iraq and Syria" - John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need gives the annual Christopher Morris Lecture in the Society's 90th year. Monday 27th November at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family. 6-15 pm Divine Liturgy, 7-15 pm Lecture, 8-15 pm Reception. £10 donation requested. RSVP to johnchrysostom@btinternet.com







Sunday, 31 January 2010

Eastern Christian Media - Eparchy of Parma, Ohio

See the new museum of Carptho-Rusyn heritage and the Bishop Emil Mihalik Byzantine Catholic Cultural and Media Centre at the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Parma, Ohio.

Excellent resources, and interesting and informative teaching videos on Eastern Catholicism - and Byzantine Christianity - in the contemporary US.

The Centre is due to open on February 3rd and has the promise of the Society's support and prayers.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

European Court reprimands Romania over Greek Catholic minority

Palace of the Greek Catholic bishop of Oradea Mare, Romania, by night
Ecumenical News International reports, 28th January 2010:

In a ruling that could affect similar disputes, a European court has ordered the government of Romania to compensate a Greek Catholic parish for failing to return to the parish properties seized from it under communist rule. "Legislative shortcomings have helped create a drawn-out preliminary procedure capable of hindering the applicant parish's access to a court," the European Court of Human Rights said in a January 15 judgment. The court said the Romanian government had violated articles of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. It ordered Romania to pay 23,000 euros to the Greek Catholic parish to cover damages and expenses.

The ruling concerned a case brought by Greek Catholics at Sambata in Romania's northern Transylvania region, whose church was placed in Orthodox hands when their community was outlawed in 1948. The Catholics said the local Orthodox parish had refused to allow them to share the building when their church was re-legalized in 1990, or to form a joint Orthodox-Catholic committee, as required by law, to discuss property issues. "Accordingly, the applicant parish was treated differently from other parishes involved in similar disputes, without any objective or reasonable justification," the Strasbourg-based European court ruled. "This was a violation of human rights regulations which prohibit discrimination."

The Greek Catholic Church is loyal to Rome but shares an eastern liturgical and spiritual heritage with Orthodox churches. In Romania, the post-war communist regime forced the church to surrender 2,588 places of worship to state institutions or Orthodox parishes.

Inter-church ties in Romania have been tense since the 1989 collapse of communist rule because the Romanian Orthodox Church, which claims the loyalty of 87 percent of the country's 22 million inhabitants, has refused to return confiscated Catholic properties. These include 1,504 parish houses, and 2,362 schools and cultural centers. Although a Catholic-Orthodox commission was set up in 1998, a year before Pope John Paul II visited Romania, it made little progress and only 160 Greek Catholic churches were returned.

In February 2009, Greek Catholic leaders protested a draft law that would confirm Orthodox ownership over still-disputed Catholic places of worship. In a letter to Romania's President Traian Basescu, the leaders said their church, "reserves the right to use all the legal means, domestic and international," to obtain redress. In an early January 2010 statement, Romania's Orthodox patriarchate said it believed concerns about Greek Catholic properties were "artificial and exaggerated.” It said it was again seeking dialogue with the Greek Catholic Church.

The Greek Catholic bishop of Oradea, Virgil Bercea, told Ecumenical News International that ecumenical ties had deteriorated since the 2007 election of Patriarch Daniel Ciobotea. Bercea said he was worried Catholic Church members could also be denied access to Greek Catholic cemeteries, which could now be reserved for Orthodox burials. "Even now, the Orthodox are waging a psychological war against us; it seems our government leaders do not appreciate the situation's gravity," said Bercea, whose church, according to government data, currently has 654,000 members compared with 1.5 million in 1948.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Conclusion at St Paul's Basilica, Rome

Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul at the
Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Monday, 25 January 2010



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Gathered together in this fraternal liturgical assembly, on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, today we conclude the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I greet all of you warmly, in particular Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the Archpriest of this Basilica, Archbishop Francesco Monterisi, along with the Abbot and the Community of monks whose guests we are. I also extend my cordial thoughts to the Cardinals here present, to the Bishops and to all who represent the Churches and ecclesial Communities of this City who are here today.

Only a few months have passed since the conclusion of the Year dedicated to St Paul, which gave us an opportunity to deepen our awareness of his extraordinary work as a preacher of the Gospel and also of our call to be missionaries of the Gospel, as the theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity reminds us "You are witnesses of these things" (Lk 24: 48). Paul, although he retained an intense memory of his own past as a persecutor of Christians, did not hesitate to call himself an Apostle. For him, the basis of that title lay in his encounter with the Risen One on the road to Damascus, which also became the beginning of his tireless missionary activity. In this he was to spend every ounce of his energy, proclaiming to all the peoples the Christ whom he had met personally. Thus Paul, from being a persecutor of the Church, was in his turn to become a victim of persecution for the sake of the Gospel to which he witnessed: "Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned.... On frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches" (2 Cor 11: 24-25, 26-28). Paul's witness reached its culmination in his martyrdom when, not so far from here, he was to give proof of his faith in Christ who conquers death.

The dynamic of Paul's experience is clearly expressed in the pages of the Gospel that we have just heard. The disciples of Emmaus, after having recognized the Risen Lord, return to Jerusalem and find the Eleven gathered together with the others. The Risen Christ appears to them, comforts them, overcomes their fear and doubts, and eats with them. Thus he opens their hearts to the intelligence of the Scriptures, recalling what had to happen, which would constitute the nucleus of the Christian proclamation. Jesus affirms: "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Lk 24: 46-47). These are the events to which the disciples of the first hour were to bear witness, followed by believers in Christ of all times and places. It is important, however, to emphasize that this witness, then just as now, is born from the encounter with the Risen One, is fed by a constant relationship with him and animated by a profound love for him. One can only be his witness if one has had the experience of feeling Christ alive and present "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself" (Lk 24: 39) of sitting at table with him, of listening as he sets one's heart aflame! For this, Jesus promises his disciples and each of us a powerful aid from on high, a new presence, that of the Holy Spirit, gift of the Risen Christ, who guides us to the whole truth: "And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you" (Lk 24: 49). The Eleven were to spend their whole lives proclaiming the Good News of the death and Resurrection of the Lord. Almost all of them were to seal their witness with the blood of martyrdom, a fertile seed that has produced an abundant harvest.

The choice of the theme of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity the invitation, that is, to a common witness of the Risen Christ in accordance with the mandate he entrusted to his disciples is linked to the memory of the 100th anniversary of the Edinburgh Missionary Conference, in Scotland, widely considered a crucial event in the birth of the modern ecumenical movement. In the summer of 1910, in the Scottish capital, over 1,000 missionaries from diverse branches of Protestantism and Anglicanism, who were joined by one Orthodox guest, met to reflect together on the necessity of achieving unity in order to be credible in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, it is precisely this desire to proclaim Christ to others and to carry his message of reconciliation throughout the world that makes one realize the contradiction posed by division among Christians. Indeed, how can non-believers accept the Gospel proclamation if Christians even if they all call on the same Christ are divided among themselves? Moreover, as we know, the same Teacher, at the end of the Last Supper, had prayed to the Father for his disciples: "That they may all be one... so that the world may believe" (Jn 17: 21). The communion and unity of Christ's disciples is therefore a particularly important condition to enhance the credibility and efficacy of their witness.

Now a century after the Edinburgh event, the intuition of those courageous precursors is still very timely. In a world marked by religious indifference, and even by a growing aversion to the Christian faith, it is necessary to discover a new, intense method of evangelization, not only among the peoples who have never known the Gospel but also among those where Christianity has spread and is part of their history. Unfortunately, the issues that separate us from each other are many, and we hope that they can be resolved through prayer and dialogue. There is, however, a core of the Christian message that we can all proclaim together: the fatherhood of God, the victory of Christ over sin and death with his Cross and Resurrection, and faith in the transforming action of the Spirit. While we journey toward full communion, we are called to offer a common witness in the face of the ever increasingly complex challenges of our time, such as secularization and indifference, relativism and hedonism, the delicate ethical issues concerning the beginning and end of life, the limits of science and technology, the dialogue with other religious traditions. There are also other areas in which we must from now on give a common witness: the safeguard of Creation, the promotion of the common good and of peace, the defense of the centrality of the human person, the commitment to overcome the shortcomings of our time, such as hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and the unequal distribution of goods.

The commitment to unity among Christians is not the work of a few only, nor is it an incidental undertaking for the life of the Church. Each one of us is called to make his or her contribution towards the completion of those steps that lead to full communion among the disciples of Christ, without ever forgetting that this unity is above all a gift from God to be constantly invoked. In fact, the force that supports both unity and the mission flows from the fruitful encounter with the Risen One, just as was the case for St Paul on the road to Damascus, and for the Eleven and the other disciples gathered at Jerusalem. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, grant that her Son's desire may be fulfilled as soon as possible: "That they may all be one... so that the world may believe" (Jn 17: 21).

Archpriest Michael Harper - Memory Eternal!

The Society wishes to extend its loving prayers and fraternal wishes to the family of Father Michael and to all his many friends in the Antiochian Orthodox Deanery of the UK and in the Church of England, who died on the Feast of the Theophany. At his Funeral, the Society was represented by Father Deacon Richard Downer.

Father John Salter, chairman, will write an appreciation in the next edition of Chrysostom. In the meantime, here is the obituary carried in The Times on January 27th.

Father Michael Harper was one of the first priests to leave the Church of England for the Eastern Orthodox Church, in protest at the decision to allow women to enter the priesthood.

The vote was the last straw for him in his growing dissatisfaction with the Church, after 40 years as a leader on the Charismatic wing of Anglicanism during which he earned an international regard and following. He said later that his decision had surprised many of his friends, who were ignorant of the Orthodox Church.

In his 15 years as an Orthodox priest he set about trying to dispel some of this ignorance, continuing to describe himself as a charismatic and charting his journey to Orthodoxy in his book, The True Light.

Michael Harper was born in 1931 in London. He was baptised, although he recalled that his parents were not very devout Christians. His father was an entrepreneur at Smithfield Market and his mother a beautician with Elizabeth Arden. His first real exposure to Christianity was through his evangelical nanny, who took him to Baptist churches and encouraged his prayer life. He once said he would write a book about the influence of evangelical nannies, citing Winston Churchill as another who enjoyed that benefit.

He won a scholarship to Gresham’s School, Cambridge, and then went to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, to read law and theology.

It was there that he experienced his adult conversion to Christianity, in a revelation during a Eucharist at King’s College Chapel. The following year he put himself forward for ministry in the Anglican Church and after graduating spent two years training for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.

His first parish was St Barnabas, Clapham Common, London, before he was invited by John Stott to join the staff of the leading evangelical church of All Souls, Langham Place, where he was given special responsibility for the shops along Oxford Street.

While at All Souls he experienced the second turning point along his faith journey, which he described as his “baptism in the Spirit”, the start of his journey as a charismatic. This experience led to a rift between him and Stott for some years.

Harper and his wife Jeanne, a talented musician whom he had married in 1956, left All Souls and dedicated themselves to the renewal movement worldwide. They formed the Fountain Trust, which organised charismatic conferences all over the world at which he addressed thousands of people. Jeanne co-edited the hugely influential songbook, Sound of Living Waters, which is still used by charismatic churches today.

Harper then went on to found Soma (Sharing of Ministries Abroad), which was committed to sharing ministries between the developed and developing world. He was involved for many years with the World Council of Churches. Colleagues remember him as a man with the ability to build friendships across the Christian traditions, and to encourage vocations. A gentle and humble man, Harper was nevertheless a dynamic speaker and networker, able to draw people in whatever their background or differences from himself.

His ministry was recognised in the Roman Catholic renewal; he spoke at several Catholic meetings and he met Popes Paul VI, John Paul and John Paul II. During this time he also edited Renewal, the longest-established charismatic magazine in the world, and he was a canon of Chichester Cathedral. He wrote 18 books, including the bestseller Equal and Different, which set out his views on women’s ordination and the gender debate.

Harper’s final spiritual step was to join the Eastern Orthodox Church. His first experience of Orthodoxy had been 20 years earlier in 1975, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He said he knew even then that Orthodoxy was very important and he would meet it one day. In 1989 he went to his first Byzantine liturgy at the New Valamo monastery at Heinävesi in southeastern Finland, and that, he later described in an interview, it was the “real answer”.

While the ordination of women in the Anglican Church prompted some clergy to convert to Roman Catholicism, Harper was never tempted by this, believing they would find too many problems in Rome. He described himself as “being led to Orthodoxy”, and in 1993 he was made president of the Pilgrimage to Orthodoxy. Two years later he and his wife were received into the Orthodox Church.

When he was first ordained into the Orthodox Church in 1995 he did not have a parish, so he set about forming an English-speaking Orthodox parish in London. Initially it was attached to the Arabic-speaking Antiochian Cathedral parish, and Harper started an English-language liturgy there on Saturday afternoons. This became the core of the now thriving St Botolph’s parish in the City, near Liverpool Street Station.

He was appointed dean of the new Antiochian Orthodox Deanery of the UK and Ireland, and on its tenth anniversary he was raised to become Archpriest. He was committed to educating about Orthodoxy at all levels, and was involved with the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies at Cambridge from its beginnings a decade ago.

He resigned as dean a few months before his death. He had suffered from cancer, but continued to minister at St Botolph’s until a few months ago.

He is survived by his wife, Jeanne.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Pontifical Council on Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity published the following communique on January 26th 2010, following the unhelpful leak by an Italian journalist-blogger of an unadopted document currently under discussion in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue commission:

The council has learned with disappointment that a media outlet has published a text currently being examined by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

The document published is a draft text consisting of a list of themes to be studied and examined in greater depth, and has been only minimally discussed by the said commission.

In the last meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, held in Paphos, Cyprus, last October, it was specifically established that the text would not be published until it had been fully and completely examined by the commission.

As yet there is no agreed document and, hence, the text published has no authority or official status.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Vera Rich RIP - Memory Eternal

Here is The Times obituary, which appeared on 25th January 2010:
Vera Rich was an accomplished translator of Ukrainian and Belarussian literature and poetry. Born Faith Elizabeth Joan in 1936 in Canonbury, North London, but widely known as Vera — the direct Ukrainian translation of Faith — she came into contact with Ukrainian refugees who settled in Britain after the Second World War through her mother's work with the Red Cross.
As a schoolgirl, by now living with her mother and maternal grandparents in their newly built house in Enfield, she saved up pocket money to buy Virgil’s Latin poetry from a secondhand bookshop in Palmers Green. Touring local churches with a Catholic worship group based in Cockfosters, she developed a particular affinity with a Belarussian chapel in Finchley, where Father Ceslaus Sipovich introduced her to the nation’s poetry. A glamorous yet eccentric teenager, she and her quickwitted mother became popular figures in the Ukrainian émigré community in the early 1950s, when the older Ms Rich persuaded nearby factory bosses to accept January 7, the Orthodox Christmas, as an official holiday.


At the age of 20, the younger Rich, who had already started translating French poetry, was encouraged by Wolodymyr Mykula, a Ukrainian friend she met at the University of Oxford, to translate Ukrainian poems into English for a literary magazine. The smitten young translator began to learn Ukrainian, using dictionaries and poetry anthologies as her tools. She juggled these interests with formal studies at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, where she studied, from 1955-57, Old English and Old Norse, and Bedford College, London, from 1958-61, where she read mathematics with an optional course in Ukrainian.

Her first published translation in 1957, of the prologue to the poem Moses by Ivan Franko, was considered such an important milestone in Ukrainian culture that 40 years later the Union of Ukrainian Writers in Kiev presented Rich with a special award in memory of Franko. He was the first of 47 Ukrainian poets and authors she tackled, but it was her translations of one of Ukraine’s most famous sons, the folk poet Taras Shevchenko, who founded the fledgeling people’s literary tradition, that confirmed her credentials.

When her seminal volume, Song out of Darkness, the translation of a collection of Shevchenko’s most influential poems, was published in London in 1961, academics noticed how Rich’s dedication to the feel and rhythm of the poetry distinguished her from the competition. A staged version was presented at the Cripplegate Theatre, London, and an extract from her translation of The Caucusus appears on the monument to Shevchenko in Washington, which was unveiled on June 24, 1964.

A collection of her own poetry, Portents and Images, was published by the Mitre Press in London in 1963. It also included translations of the Belarussian poets, Jakub Kolas and Maksim Bahdanovic. Her translation of the latter’s Zimoj was published the following year in the US poetry magazine, The Muse, and reprinted in her anthology of Belarussian poetry, Like Water, Like Fire (1971), although it was banned by Soviet censors after initial publication under the auspices of Unesco. Rich was no stranger to brushes with heavy-handed authorities behind the Iron Curtain, experienced during her journalistic activities, and she began to distance herself from her wider family, whom she felt might be under threat. In 1969 working as a freelance translator of Russian and Ukrainian physics texts, she met John Maddox, editor of the scientific weekly magazine Nature (obituary April 14, 2009). After a “friendly conversation and a few glasses of sherry”, he appointed her Soviet and East European correspondent, paid per line, plus a £5 weekly retainer. The appointment, which was meant to be for six months, lasted 20 years.

She recalled being “roughed up” by security police in Poland, where her articles supported Lech Walesa’s Gdansk-based Solidarity, the trade union movement suppressed in 1981 by the imposition of martial law. Under pseudonyms, she contributed to dissident journals in Poland and Hungary and supported youth groups planning to overthrow communism in both countries. Rich’s appetite for clandestine escapades led her to slip across the Polish-Soviet border, disguised as a headscarf-wearing Belarussian peasant, to meet fellow activists.

For Nature, she wrote about the abuse of psychiatry in “treating” political prisoners in the Soviet Union such as Leonid Plyushch, a Ukrainian mathematician declared insane and imprisoned together with psychotic patients in Dnipropetrovsk in 1972. After it gained independence from Moscow in 1991, she began to visit Ukraine and her contribution to the country’s culture led to her award, by presidential decree, of the Order of Princess Olha in 2007. She regarded this as the “peak moment” of her life. Friends say she was disappointed not to have been officially recognised by the Belarussian Government, which continued to see her as a thorn in its side.

Despite a meticulous approach to her work, Rich led a chaotic personal life, never marrying despite several romances. She frequently called publishers with extended rambling excuses for unfiled copy, often related to computer “emergencies”. Her indexed 40-year archive, together with 60 years of files from her late mother, was trashed by burglars in 1993 and she carried on with a “huge mass of papers, stuffed into boxes all higgledypiggledy.” Yet she remained a prolific contributor to publications including New Scientist, the Times Higher Education Supplement, Physics World, The Tablet and Index on Censorship.

When travelling to cover stories, Rich would sleep in deserted railway stations and bus depots, constrained by both a lack of funds and a disregard for luxuries and material trappings. Her stamina for twice-weekly official functions came from years on the road with the East European press corps, where late-night vodka-fuelled card games, interspersed with anecdoteswapping and singing of traditional folk songs, were very much the norm.

From 2006 until her death she contributed a weekly column to Ukrainska Dumka (The Ukrainian Thought), a newspaper for the UK-based Ukrainian diaspora. In 1998 she resurrected her poetry magazine, Manifold, which she had previously edited from 1962 to 1969, combining commissioning duties with free drop-in advice clinics for young, aspiring poets.

Through her illness and treatment, she continued to attend weekly conversation classes at the Ukrainian Institute in Holland Park, West London, where she also performed her translations of Ukrainian poetry in her multi-media event, inspired by the Orange Revolution, From Mazepa to the Maidan. Her lectures on Slavonic literature at the Universities of Birmingham, London and Edinburgh were always well attended.

Rich’s later years were characterised by a passion for analysis of the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident. Through her role in Nature magazine, she had identified contaminated areas. Co-operating with a nuclear physicist, Dr Alan Flowers of Kingston University, she was the driving force behind the eventual establishment and British-led funding of the International Environmental University, bearing the name of the Soviet dissident and Nobel prizewinner Andrei Sakharov, in the Belarussian capital of Minsk. She described the nuclear reactor’s explosion in 1986, and the subsequent pollution and social consequences, as a “tragic sore”, yet to be healed, running through recent Ukrainian and Belarussian history.

At the time of her death, Rich was working to complete the translation of Shevchenko’s Kobzar collection of poetry in time for the 150th anniversary of the poet’s passing in 2011. Led by Shevchenko’s most famous poem, Testament, she wrote: “Then in that great family,/A family new and free,/Do not forget, with good intent /Speak quietly of me.”

Vera Rich, translator, journalist, poet and human rights activist, was born on April 24, 1936. She died of cancer on December 20, 2009, aged 73. She had no regard for material trappings and slept in railway carriages. Rich was a founder of the International Sakharov Environmental University.

Monday, 25 January 2010

French court rules Orthodox cathedral in Nice belongs to Russia

Associated Press reports on January 20th 2010:

A French court ruled Wednesday that a Russian Orthodox cathedral built on the French Riviera nearly a century ago under Czar Nicholas II now belongs to Moscow. The ruling by the Nice court is the latest development in Russia's bid to obtain ownership of Orthodox edifices around the world; Italy last year amicably returned to Russia a church in the southern city of Bari.

Wednesday's ruling was a defeat for an association founded by Russians who fled the Bolshevik Revolution that has been fighting to maintain its control over the Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Nice, and its archbishop is accusing the Russian government of a land grab as part of a national pride campaign.

Father Jean Gueit, the cathedral's archpriest, said the ornate cathedral has become a "political tool" - and he vowed to appeal the court decision. But Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Archpriest Nikolai Balashov said, "We see the ruling of the Nice court as the restoration of historical justice," according to RIA Novosti news agency. Russia said the only change it plans is to stop charging an admission fee to people visiting the building.

The cathedral, with its two pointed spires and five crucifix-topped onion-shaped domes, was built under Nicholas II in 1912 - nearly 50 years after his grandfather, Alexander II, bought the land it sits on. The cathedral was designed to serve Russian holiday-makers and a growing Russian expatriate community.

After a schism in the Russian Orthodox Church during the revolution, the Orthodox community in Nice opted in 1931 to adhere to the Constantinople Patriarchate, said Gueit. He was named along with the Russian Orthodox Cultural Association of Nice in the lawsuit filed by the Russian government.

The association's 99-year lease on the cathedral and its land expired in 2007. The group had argued a statute of limitations had run out - thereby preventing any Russia state claim to the site. The association argued in court that Alexander II made a personal purchase of the land. Russia countered that it was imperial and thus state property.

"Why does the Russian state want this?" said Gueit, whose grandfather, he says, served as a colonel in Russia's Imperial Army. "It is well known they are simply engaged in a policy of domination and reaffirmation of Russian identity."

Russia says the faithful in Nice have little to fear. "Our ambassador has said many times that nothing is going to change at this church - aside from abolishing the entrance fee," said Russian Embassy spokesman Andrei Klimenev. "It's not normal that people are forced to pay to communicate with God." Gueit said between 80,000 and 85,000 tourists visited the cathedral last year. It charges an entrance fee of euro3 ($4.25) per person, though children under age 12 get in free.

Moscow considers the Nice cathedral, the church in Bari and another Orthodox church in Jerusalem among the important symbols of Russia's global presence and influence. Russia has been on a steady march to retrieve holdings in the Russian Orthodox Diaspora. In October, Israel's Cabinet recognized Russia's claim on Sergei's Courtyard, a site in downtown Jerusalem built in 1890 to accommodate Russians making pilgrimages to the Holy Land. That site was named for Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, Nicholas II's uncle. Other religious sites, such as the Alexander Nevski church of 1884 in Copenhagen, always remained Russian. It was built on a request by Czarina Maria Feodorovna, the Danish-born mother of Nicholas II.

The French Riviera is steeped in Russian history. Russian aristocrats began flocking there in the 19th century, and other emigres came after the 1917 Revolution. More than 5,000 Russians were estimated to live in the region in the 1930s, including Nobel Prize-winning author Ivan Bunin. After the 1991 Soviet collapse, the Riviera quickly became popular with Russia's nouveau riche who bought some of the most expensive villas there and held lavish parties.

Pope Benedict's Angelus Meditation for Christian Unity

Towards the close of the 2010 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, on January 24th the Holy Father reflected with pilgrims praying the Angelus that the multiplicity of charisms in the Church enrich it, because Christ is the centre of all:

Among the biblical readings in today's Liturgy is the famous text from the First Letters to the Corinthians, in which St Paul compares the Church to a human body. The Apostle writes: "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body Jews or Greeks, slaves or free and all were made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Cor 12: 12-13). The Church is perceived as a body, of which Christ is the head, and with him she forms a whole. Yet what the Apostle is eager to communicate is the idea of unity among the multiplicity of charisms, which are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Thanks to these, the Church appears as a rich and vital organism not uniform fruit of the one Spirit who leads everyone to profound unity, because she welcomes differences without eliminating them and thus bringing about a harmonious unity. She extends the presence of the Risen Lord throughout history, specifically through the Sacraments, the word of God and the charisms and ministries distributed among the community. Therefore, it is in Christ and in the Spirit that the Church is one and holy, that is, that she partakes in an intimate communion that transcends and sustains human intelligence.

I wish to emphasize this aspect as we are currently observing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which will conclude tomorrow, the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul. In keeping with tradition, I will celebrate Vespers tomorrow afternoon in the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, at which Representatives of other Churches and ecclesial Communities present in Rome will participate. We will ask God for the gift of full unity for all the disciples of Christ and, in particular, in keeping with this year's theme, we will renew our commitment to be witnesses together of the crucified and Risen Lord (cf. Lk 24: 48). The communion of Christians, in fact, makes the proclamation of the Gospel more credible and effective, just as Jesus himself affirmed while praying to the Father on the eve of his death: "That they may all be one... so that the world may believe" (Jn 17: 21).

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irenej: Message of Welcome from Pope Benedict

To His Holiness Irinej
Archbishop of Peč
Metropolitan of Belgrade Karlovci
Patriarch of Serbia

I was glad to learn of your election as Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church and I pray that the Lord may grant you abundant gifts of grace and wisdom for the fulfilment of your high responsibilities in the service of the Church and the people entrusted to you.

You succeed Patriarch Pavle, our brother of happy memory, who was a Pastor both fervent and esteemed, and who bequeathed to you a spiritual inheritance that is rich and profound. As a great pastor and spiritual father, he effectively guided the Church and maintained its unity in the face of many challenges. I feel bound to express my appreciation of his example of fidelity to the Lord and of his many gestures of openness towards the Catholic Church.

I therefore pray that the Lord will grant Your Holiness the inner strength to consolidate the unity and spiritual growth of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as well as to build up the fraternal bonds with other Churches and ecclesial communities. Let me assure you of the closeness of the Catholic Church and of her commitment to the promotion of fraternal relations and theological dialogue, in order that those obstacles which still impede full communion between us may be overcome. May the Lord bless our common efforts in this regard, so that the disciples of Christ may again be united witnesses before the whole world to his salvific love.

From the Vatican, 22 January 2010

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI


Radio Free Europe reported:


The bells at Belgrade's Cathedral Church rang out to announce that Bishop Irinej of Nis had been elected patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, signaling that 79-year-old Irinej would be the Serbian Orthodox Church's 45th patriarch. The veteran bishop, known to be relatively moderate, was picked at a gathering of dozens of bishops and other clergy at the Patriarchate in Belgrade on January 22.

“What is most important now is that we all show love, respect, and gratitude for getting the new patriarch so quickly and in such a miraculous way," Bishop Irinej Bulovic said in announcing the result.

Irenej of Nis was then enthroned on January 23 in a ceremony broadcast on television, with the second part of a new two-step ritual slated for Pec, in western Kosovo, at a date that has yet to be announced.

Irenej will replace Patriarch Pavle, who died in November following a long illness at the age of 95. Pavle had headed the church for almost 20 years, a period that included the ethnic wars of the 1990s, which accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia.
In a statement issued by the Belgrade patriarchate, Irinej said he would carry the "burden and all the problems of my awesome and difficult duty together with my fellow bishops." The new patriarch will have to face long-lasting issues such as relations with the Vatican and churches in Macedonia and Montenegro that are seeking independence. Observers see Irinej as seeking compromise between conservatives - who are opposed to openness to other churches and Western influences in Serbian society - and reformists, who want the church to be more open and modern. In a recent interview, Irinej said he would not oppose a visit to Serbia by the Roman Catholic pope. The hard-liners of the church have long opposed such a visit.

Bishop Amfilohije Radovic, who is seen as an anti-Western hard-liner,
has served as caretaker for much of the past two years, during Pavle's long
hospitalization.

Church historian Milorad Tomanic gave his reaction to Irinej's election in an interview with RFE/RL's Balkan Service, saying, "I have to admit that he is not one of those bishops who have been in the spotlight. Beside such 'loud' people as [Bishop] Artemije, [Bishop] Amfilohije, not to mention [Bosnian Bishop] Vasilije Kacavenda, Irinej is truly a man who ordinary people know as someone who does not cause conflicts, a man no one associates with any incident."

Today's election was held behind closed doors amid reports of feuding and jostling among the voters. Under the complex system, each member of the Holy Assembly of Bishops chooses three preferred names from the list of potential candidates. Any names selected by more than half the assembly members then move to a short list limited to three candidates. The process can be slow. For the election of Patriarch Pavle in 1990, the vote was taken nine times before a short list was achieved. Once the list is in hand, the names of the final three candidates are put in three unmarked, sealed envelopes and placed inside a Bible. A monk selected by the assembly then takes the three envelopes from the Bible, selects one at random, and gives it to the presiding bishop, who announces the name of the new patriarch. The so-called apostolic vote was introduced in 1967 to prevent Yugoslavia's secular authorities from meddling in church affairs. Church leaders said it was the Holy Spirit that guided the monk in selecting an envelope, thereby eliminating human interference from the final stage of the process.

The Serbian Orthodox Church is the second-oldest Slavic Orthodox Church in the world and the westernmost Eastern church in Europe. It is believed to have between 7 million and 14 million followers, located primarily in the republics of former Yugoslavia.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Pope Benedict XVI - "When He Wishes and When We Are Prepared, God Will Create Unity"

At the general audience on 20th January 2010, Pope Benedict gave this address in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity:


Dear brothers and sisters,

We are in the middle of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an ecumenical initiative, which has been in the making now for more than a century, and which every year attracts attention to a topic: that of the visible unity between Christians, which calls to consciences and stimulates to commitment for all those who believe in Christ. And it does so above all with the invitation to prayer, in imitation of Jesus himself, who prays to the Father for his disciples: "That they may all be one ... so that the world may believe" (John 17:21).

The persistent call to prayer for full communion among the followers of the Lord manifests the most authentic and profound orientation of the whole ecumenical quest, because unity, before anything else, is a gift of God. In fact, as the Second Vatican Council affirms: "Human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective -- the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ" (Unitatis Redintegratio, 24). Hence, what is necessary, beyond our effort to carry out fraternal relations and to promote dialogue to clarify and resolve the differences that separate the Churches and ecclesial communities, is confident and concordant invocation of the Lord.

The theme of this year is taken from the Gospel of St. Luke, from the last words of the Risen One to his disciples: "You are witnesses of these things" (Luke 24:48). The proposal of the theme was requested by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unit y, in agreement with the Faith and Order Commission of the Ecumenical [World] Council of Churches, from an ecumenical group of Scotland. A century ago, the World Mission Conference for the consideration of problems in reference to the non-Christian world took place in fact in Edinburgh, in Scotland, June 13-24, 1910.

Among the problems discussed then was that of the objective difficulty of Christians divided among themselves credibly proposing the evangelical proclamation to the non-Christian world. If Christians present themselves disunited, moreover, often in opposition, will the proclamation of Christ as the only Savior of the world and our peace be credible to a world that does not know Christ or that has distanced itself from him, or that appears indifferent to the Gospel?

The relation between unity and mission since that moment has been an essential dimension of the whole ecumenical effort and its point of departure. And it is because of this specific contribution that the Edinburgh Conference remains as one of the firm points of modern ecumenism. At Vatican II, the Catholic Church took up and reaffirmed vigorously this perspective, affirming that the division between the disciples of Jesus "openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature" (Unitatis Redintegratio, 1).

Situated in this theological and spiritual context is the theme proposed in this week for meditation and prayer: the need of a common witness of Christ. The brief text proposed as theme, "You are witnesses of these things," must be read in the context of the whole of Chapter 24 of the Gospel according to Luke.

Let us recall briefly the content of this chapter. First the women go to the sepulcher, see the signs of the resurrection of Jesus and announce what they have seen to the apostles and to the other disciples (verse 8); then the Risen One himself appears to the disciples of Emmaus along the road, he appears to Simon Peter and, successively, to "the Eleven and those with them" (verse 33). He opens the mind to the understanding of Scriptures on his redeeming death and his resurrection, affirming that "repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations" (verse 47). To the disciples who are "gathered" together and who have been witnesses of his mission, the Risen Lord promises the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. verse 49), so that together they will give witness of him to all peoples. From this imperative -- "of these things" you are witnesses (cf. Luke 24:48), which is the theme of this Week for Christian Unity -- two questions arise for us. The first: What are "these things"? The second: How can we be witnesses of "these things"?

If we look at the context of the chapter, "these things&q uot; means above all the cross and resurrection: The disciples have seen the Lord's crucifixion, they see the Risen One and thus begin to understand all the Scriptures that speak of the mystery of the passion and of the gift of the resurrection. "These things," therefore, is the mystery of Christ, of the Son of God made man, who died for us and was resurrected, is alive forever and thus the guarantee of our eternal life.

However, by knowing Christ -- this is the essential point -- we know the face of God. Christ is above all the revelation of God. In all times, men have perceived the existence of God, an only God, but who is far away and does not show himself. In Christ this God shows himself; the distant God becomes close. "These things," therefore, above all with the mystery of Christ, is that God has become close to us. This implies another dimension: Christ is never alone; he came in our midst, died alone, but resurrected to attract everyon e to himself. As Scripture says, Christ created a body for himself, gathers the whole of humanity in his reality of immortal life. And thus, in Christ who gathers humanity, we know the future of humanity: eternal life. All this, therefore, is very simple, in the last instance: We know God by knowing Christ, his body, the mystery of the Church and the promise of eternal life.

We now come to the second question: How can we be witnesses of "these things"? We can be witnesses only by knowing Christ and, knowing Christ, also knowing God. But to know Christ certainly implies an intellectual dimension -- to learn what we know of Christ -- but it is always much more than an intellectual process: It is an existential process, it is a process of an opening of my "I," of my transformation because of the presence and strength of Christ, and thus it is also a process of openness to all others, who must be body of Christ. In this way, it is evident that know ing Christ, as an intellectual and above all an existential process, is a process that makes us witnesses. In other words, we can be witnesses only if we know Christ first hand, and not only through others -- from our own life, from our personal encounter with Christ. Finding him really in our life of faith, we become witnesses and can contribute to the novelty of the world, to eternal life.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also gives us an indication for the content of "these things." The Church has gathered and summarized the essential of what the Lord has given us in Revelation, in the "creed called Niceno-Constantinopolitan, (which) draws its great authority from the fact that it stems from the first two Ecumenical Councils (in 325 and 381)" (CCC, No. 195). The Catechism specifies that this Symbol "remains common to all the great Churches of both East and West to this day" (ibid.) Hence, in this Symbol are found the truths of the faith which Christians can profess and witness together, so that the world will believe, manifesting, with the desire and commitment to overcome existing differences, the will to walk toward full communion, the unity of the Body of Christ.

The celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity leads us to consider other important aspects for ecumenism -- above all, the great progress made in relations between Churches and ecclesial communities after the Edinburgh Conference of a century ago. The modern ecumenical movement has developed so significantly that, over the last century, it has become an important element in the life of the Church, recalling the problem of union among all Christians and also supporting the growth of communion among them. This not only favors fraternal relations between the Churches and ecclesial communities in response to the commandment of love, but it also stimulates theological research. Moreover, it involves the concrete life of th e Churches and of the ecclesial communities with topics that touch upon pastoral care and the sacramental life as, for example, the mutual recognition of baptism, the issues relating to mixed marriages, the partial cases of comunicatio in sacris in well-defined particular situations. In the wake of this ecumenical spirit, contacts have spread also to Pentecostal, evangelical and charismatic movements, for greater reciprocal knowledge, though serious problems are not lacking in this sector.

Since Vatican II and thereafter, the Catholic Church has entered into fraternal relations with all the Churches of the East and the ecclesial communities of the West, organizing, in particular, with the majority of them, bilateral theological dialogues, which have led to the finding of convergences and even consensus on several points, thus deepening the bonds of communion.

In the year that just ended, these dialogues have achieved positive steps. With the Orthodo x Churches, the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue has begun, in the 11th Plenary Session held in Paphos (Cyprus) in October of 2009, the study of a crucial topic in the dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox: the role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church in the first millennium, that is to say, at the time in which Christians of the East and West lived in full communion. This study will be extended later to the second millennium. I have already asked Catholics many times for prayer for this delicate and essential dialogue for the whole ecumenical movement. Also with the Ancient Orthodox Churches of the East (Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian, Armenian), the similar Mixed Commission met from the 26th to the 30th of January of last year. These important initiatives attest that at present there is a profound dialogue rich in hopes with all the Churches of the East not in full communion with Rome, in their own specificity.

Examined during last year, with the ecclesial communities of the West, were the results reached in the different dialogues over the past 40 years, reflecting in particular on those held with the Anglican Communion, with the World Lutheran Federation, with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and with the World Methodist Council. In this regard, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity made a study to see the points of convergence that have been reached in the respective bilateral dialogues, and to point out, at the same time, the remaining problems, about which a new phase of meeting will have to be initiated.

Among the recent events, I would like to mention the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, celebrated by Catholics and Lutherans together on Oct. 31, 2009; to stimulate the continuation of dialogue, as well as the visit to Rome of the archbishop of Canterbury, Doctor Rowan Williams, who has also held conversations on the particular situation in which the Anglican Communion finds itself. The common commitment to continue relations and dialogue are a positive sign, which manifest how intense the desire for unity is, despite all the problems that oppose it. Thus we see that there is a dimension of our responsibility to do everything possible to really attain unity, but that there is another dimension, that of divine action, because only God can give unity to the Church. A "self-made" unity would be human, but we want the Church of God, made by God, who -- when he wishes and when we are prepared -- will create unity.

We must also keep in mind the real progress reached in collaboration and fraternity in all these years, [and] in these last 50 years. At the same time, we must know that the ecumenical endeavor is not a lineal process. In fact, old problems, born in the context of another time, lose their weight, while in the present context new problems and new difficulties arise. Therefore, we must always be ready for a process of purification, in which the Lord will make us capable of being united.

Dear brothers and sisters, because of the complex ecumenical reality, because of the promotion of dialogue, and also so that Christians of our time can give a new common witness of fidelity to Christ before this world of ours, I ask for everyone's prayer. May the Lord hear our invocation and that of all Christians, which in this week is raised to him with particular intensity.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Special Synod for the Middle East

Zenit.org carries here the Lineamenta, or Guidelines, now agreed for the Special Synod on the Catholic Churches in the Middle East, which will take place in October 2010. The theme will be "The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness".

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Codex Pauli Furthers Ecumenism

A 424-page Codex Pauli dedicated to Benedict XVI is honouring the Apostle to the Gentiles with illustrations and writings in the spirit of the ancient monastic codices. The work will be presented in Rome on Wednesday 13th January, in preparation for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Only 998 copies of the volume will be created. A special font, called “Paulus 2008,” was designed for the work. The font mirrors the handwriting of the scribe who copied the 9th century Carolingian Bible.

The "Codex Pauli" includes original contributions from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I; Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow; Gregorios III Laham, patriarch of Antioch for the Greek Melkite Church; and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams.

The book’s first part, "Annus Pauli," considers the year dedicated to the 2,000th anniversary of the Apostle's birth. There are reflections by Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone, Ennio Antonelli, Raffaele Martino, Jean-Louis Tauran, Jozef Tomko, Antonio Rouco Varela, André Vingt-Trois and Walter Kasper.

The second part, "Roma Pauli," is a look at the spiritual, liturgical and artistic tradition of the Benedictine monks who for three centuries have been the caretakers of the sepulcher of St. Paul in Rome.

"Evangelium Pauli," the book’s third part, presents the figure and message of the great Apostle in dialogue with the cultures and sensibilities of our time. Cardinal Kasper considers the figure of St. Paul between East and West; and other scholars reflect on St. Paul's relation to Europe's Christian roots, Judaism and Islam. Other reflections look at St. Paul as cosmopolitan, traveller, missionary, apostle and model of interreligious dialogue.

The next part, "Vita Pauli," focuses on the identity of Saul/Paul after 2,000 years of interpretation, exaltation, aversion and instrumentalization.

The texts of Paul's 13 epistles, the Acts of the Apostles, the Letter to the Hebrews and a selection of little-known apocryphal works about St. Paul or attributed to him make up the final section. Each of these texts begins with an exegetical presentation and concludes with a page of lectio divina, following the ancient monastic practice.

According to Abbot Edmund Power, of the Benedictine Community of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the codex is both a tribute to St. Paul and an invitation to approach God. For him, Paul is


a man who knows how to be ironic, even sarcastic, and yet there is always an affectionate, inspired, majestic element that makes us see in him a man 'obsessed with Christ'. Thus the Codex Pauli is also a magma of human creativity from which beauty and love flow.

According to the monastic tradition, art is the effort to incarnate an interior vision, an attempt to express a Beauty that is inexpressible in itself. Not everyone succeeds in being able to clearly perceive it: This is why every work of art tries to move those
who contemplate it to turn toward the one God, who is the source of all beauty.

Those who seek and love beauty through the language of art are moving toward the Divine. This work proposes the same goal.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Patriarch Gregorios III Visits Alexandria

The visit of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III to Alexandria, 8-11 January 2010



  • His Beatitude arrived on the evening of Friday 8 January at the Patriarchal Residence in Fleming, Alexandria. He went on to meet on some forty-eight young people from Alexandria, and congratulated them on having successfully graduated from university.

  • On the morning of Saturday 9 January, His Beatitude visited the Sanctuary of the Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Dormition in the presence of Fathers Joseph Andraos, Georges Behnan and Deacon Mario Abou Daher. He then visited the Patriarchal School in the presence of Fathers Samir Saadeh, principal of the school, Joseph Andraos, Georges Behnan and Deacon Mario Abou Daher. His Beatitude was then invited by Mr. Edward Dallal to dine at the Sheraton Montazah Hotel, together with Fathers Samir Saadeh, Joseph Andraos and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.

  • In the evening after Vespers, His Beatitude met a group of Catholic priests from various confessions and religious orders on the occasion of the Year for Priests. This was followed by a presentation by His Beatitude, a discussion and a meal at the Patriarchate.

  • On the morning of Sunday 10 January, His Beatitude, accompanied by Father Joseph Andraos and Deacon Mario Abou Daher, visited the Church of the Immaculate Conception (Al Ibrahimia) where he was received by the parish priest, Father Samir Saadeh and preached a sermon. Next, His Beatitude, still with Fathers Joseph Andraos and Deacon Mario Abou Daher, visited the Governor of Alexandria, Mr. Adel Labib.

  • Afterwards, His Beatitude presided at the Divine Liturgy at the Church of Saint Peter (Debbaneh) with concelebrant Fathers Joseph Andraos and Georges Bannah and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.

  • His Beatitude then dined at the Azur Hotel with two couples (Mr. and Mrs. George Iskander and Mr. and Mrs. Paul Farahat) and Fathers Joseph Andraos, Samir Saadeh and Deacon Mario Abou Daher. His Beatitude, with Father Joseph Andraos, went on to visit three families (those of Edward Fakahany and his brother, and Jamil Genadri and Adel Rabaah.)

  • On the morning of Monday 11 January, His Beatitude returned to Cairo.
Coptic Bishop Suriel

From Ecumenical News International:

Australian Christians from many denominations are set to rally with the country's Coptic community against violence directed towards Christians in Egypt.

A specially-organised liturgy and demonstration is to start on 14 January at St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral in Melbourne, Australia's second largest city, process to the Egyptian consulate and then on to offices of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.

"We want the whole world to know what is happening in Egypt to the Christian community: that every week, every month, there are continuing attacks against Christians and it's escalating," Coptic Bishop Suriel of Melbourne and Affiliated Regions told Ecumenical News International.

The prayer service and demonstration are being held in response to the reported killing of six Coptic Christians and a Muslim security officer who were sprayed with gunfire in a drive-by attack in the southern Egyptian city of Nag Hamadi, on 6 January, the Coptic Christmas Eve.

Australia has an estimated 20 000 Coptic Christians, "and about 10 000 of them will be there" at the rally, Bishop Suriel said. After the service, the congregation will follow six black coffins through the streets of Melbourne to the Egyptian consulate. A delegation of ecumenical leaders will call on the consul-general, "demanding that the Egyptian Government act against the persecution against Christians", Bishop Suriel said. The bishop said he was "very shocked" at the killings, "especially as people were leaving church so happy on Christmas Eve only to be met with bullets and violence".

The Associated Press news agency reported that the attack may be to avenge the alleged rape of a 12 year old Muslim girl by a Christian man in Nag Hamadi. Bishop Suriel described the slayings as the latest in a string of attacks on Copts, "which amounts to religious persecution and harassment - but these attacks are not taken seriously" by the Egyptian police, he said.

Leaders of Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches are planning to join the Coptic Christians at the Melbourne church service and rally in the Australian state of Victoria. "It will be far better that justice and peace comes with integrity rather than authorities 'turning the other way' as if nothing was happening," the president of the Victorian Council of Churches, the Rev. Jason Kioa, told ENI. Kioa, a leader of the protestant Uniting Church in Australia, said, "We offer our prayers for peace, justice and goodwill for all. But for that to occur, people of peace, justice and goodwill must act together, to bring these things into reality."

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Patriarch Gregorios III’s visit to Egypt

His Beatitude arrived on the evening of 23 December at Cairo airport where he was welcomed by H.E. Mgr. Georges Bakar and Rev. Frs. Amer Tawil and Boulos Koureit.

On 24 December, His Beatitude met with a delegation of the Patriarchal School’s management team at the office of H.E. Mgr. Georges Bakar. His Beatitude also met Sr. Marcelle and Sr. Roula from the congregation of Salvatorian Basilian Sisters who look after the retirement home of the Holy Immaculate Virgin.


  • On the morning of 24 December, HIs Beatitude celebrated the Royal Hours of the Nativity at the Chapel of the Archangel Michael in the Cathedral, in the presence of H.E. Mgr. Paul Antaki and Rev. Frs. Boulos Koureit, Georges Fayek and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.

  • He then received a telephone call from H.E. Shaykh Akl of the Druzes of Lebanon. He also received a call from former President Mr. Emile Lahoud and another call from the current President of the Lebanese Republic Mr. Michel Sleiman.

  • On the evening of 24 December, His Beatitude celebrated Matins and the Divine Liturgy at midnight in the presence of H.E. Mgr. Georges Bakar and the Rev. Frs. Boulos Kourait and Deacons Nabil Ishaaya and Mario Abou Daher. The Divine Liturgy was to be broadcast on Sat-7 on 6 January.

  • On the morning of 25 December, His Beatitude received congratulations in the reception hall of the Patriarchate from 11 until 14 hours.

  • On the morning of 26 December, H.E. Mgr. Georges Bakar was obliged to go to hospital for an operation, so was unable to participate in visits or accompany His Beatitude. In the afternoon, His Beatitude met a number of priests individually.

  • On the evening of 26 December, His Beatitude celebrated the Divine Liturgy on the occasion of the Jubilee of the School of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, in the presence of the Superior General of the Paulist Congregation, Fr. Elia Aghia, Fr. Rafiq Greish and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.

  • On the morning of 27 December, His Beatitude celebrated the Divine Liturgy on the occasion of the Feast of St. Joseph at the Church of St. Joseph, Zeitoun, in the presence of the parish priest Rev. Fr. Cyril (Alexios) Moushantaf and Deacon Mario Abou Daher, and commemorated Mgrs. Joseph Kallas, Joseph Absi and Joseph Zerey on their patronal feast.

  • On the evening of 27 December, His Beatitude celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Immaculate Virgin in the presence of the parish priest Fr. Maurice Khoury and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.

  • On 28 December, His Beatitude was invited to dinner with Mr. Roger Shakal, one of the dignitaries of the Syriac Catholic Church in honour of Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, the Apostolic Nuncio in Egypt, H. E. Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, H.E. Mgr. Youssef Hannoush and Rev. Fr. Rafiq Greish were present. Then His Beatitude met individually Rev. Frs. Rafiq Greish, Farid Ata and Joseph Andraos.

  • On 28 December, at 17 hours, His Beatitude attended a show at the School of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

  • The 29 to 30 December, His Beatitude participated in the Meeting of the Council of Patriarchs and Bishops at the Coptic Catholic Church – Maadi.

  • On the morning of 29 December, Rev. Fr. Xavier Eid died in hospital. At midday on 31 December, His Beatitude celebrated the funeral of Fr. Xavier Eid at the Church of St. Mary of Peace, Garden City. Also present were Mgrs. Joseph-Jules Zerey, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem, Francois Eid, Bishop of the Maronites, Joseph Hannoush, Bishop of the Syriac Catholics, together with all the priests of the Eparchy and of other confessions. His Beatitude accompanied the body to the cemetery.

  • His Beatitude then went to the Patriarchal School – New Egypt with Mgr. Joseph Zerey and Rev. Fr. Amer al Tawil, principal of the school. There he met with the teachers and employees at the Patriarchal School and proclaimed the school’s first centennial jubilee, then dined at the school.

  • In the evening, His Beatitude celebrated Vespers at the Church of the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on the occasion of the end of 2009. Mgr. Joseph Zerey and Fr. Amer al Tawil also took part, in the presence of the sisters.

  • On 1 January, His Beatitude participated in the Divine Liturgy for peace in the presence of Coptic Catholic bishops.

  • His Beatitude, with Mgr. Joseph Zerey, was invited to dinner on St. Basil’s Day at the School of the Holy Family with the Jesuit Fathers, the Maronite Fathers and the Syriac Catholic Fathers. In the evening, His Beatitude celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of St. Mary of Peace, Garden City and at the end of the Liturgy a panikhida for the late Fr. Xavier Eid.

  • On 2 January, His Beatitude laid the foundation stone for the School in New Cairo of the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in the presence of the Mother General of the Order, Christiane Mezaaber, all the sisters, some teachers, Fr. Amer al Tawil and Deacon Mario Abou Daher.

  • The same day, at noon, His Beatitude participated in the funeral of Mgr. Joseph Sarraf, Bishop of the Chaldean Catholics, celebrated by Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Emmanuel III (Delly), with the participation of several other bishops and priests.

  • On the evening of 2 January, His Beatitude attended a show prepared by the young people of the St. Cyril’s Church and proclaimed the centennial Jubilee of the Church of St. Cyril (1910-2010.)

  • On 3 January, His Beatitude celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation in the presence of Fr. Farid Ata and Deacons Nabil Ishaaya and Mario Abou Daher.

  • At midday on the same day, His Beatitude visited Mr. Hamdi Zakzouk, Minister of the Awqafs, accompanied by Frs. Maurice Khoury and Farid Ata.

Light of the East - SSJC US Western Region Winter 2010

Download here.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Pope received the new Ambassador of Turkey to the Holy See, Kenan Gursoy, and impressed on him and his government the need for religious liberty and freedom of worship (including the ownership of Church buildings) in the Republic, a desire shared by all Christian communities and other religious minorities. Pope Benedict especially noted the Catholic Church's lack of juridical recognition and the importance of Turkey as a bridge between East and West, not only between Islam and the West, but also the importance of Constantinople as the seat of the Oecumenical Patriarchate at the heart of Eastern Chrisianity in a long history and into the present day.

For the full text of Zenit's report, see here.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

New Eastern Catholic & Ecumenical appointments in Vatican dicasteries

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed several new members to various Vatican dicasteries, assigning positions mainly to the newest cardinals created in the recent consistory.

Among these, he  appointed Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and to the Congregation for Eastern Churches as well, along with Cardinal Antonios Naguib, patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt; and Cardinal Francesco Monterisi, archpriest of Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

Cardinal Naguib was also named to the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Christmas Message of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia

Here follows the Christmas Message of Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow, thanks to Interfax:


Beloved of the Lord archpastors, all-honourable presbyters and deacons, God-loving monks and nuns, dear brothers and sisters! On the radiant of the Nativity of Christ I cordially congratulate you on this great feast day.

For two thousand years Christians throughout the world have turned, with joy and hope, their mental gazes to the event which has been decisive for the history of mankind. Our contemporary reckoning of time, which begins with the Nativity and is the reckoning of time for the Christian era, testifies to the exceptional meaning of the coming of Christ the Saviour.

The cave in Bethlehem, where the animals took refuge from the cold of the winter night, has become the image of a world that has abandoned its Creator and felt the pain and darkness of being abandoned by God. However, the radiant night of the Nativity filled with light not only the cave which gave refuge to the Most Pure Virgin Mary, but also all creation, for through the birth of the Son of God every man that comes into the world is illumined by the Light of truth, as witnessed by St. John (Jn 1: 9).

We may ask: what does the Light of truth mean? We find the answer to this question in the same Gospel narrative of John. The Light of truth is the Lord, the Divine Word who was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth (Jn 1: 14).

Through the Saviour's birth people have been given the chance to possess grace and Truth (Jn 1: 17). Grace is the divine power granted to man by God for salvation. It is through this power that people vanquish sin. Without grace it is impossible to vanquish evil, and so we cannot vanquish all that darkens our lives.

Truth is the fundamental value of existence. If at the foundation of our lives there is untruth, error, then our lives are not realized. Of course, the life of a person who has gone astray may outwardly seem to be a successful one. Yet this does not mean that error is without consequence: sooner or later it will manifest itself, including in the tragedy of human destinies.

The Light of truth is the Divine light; it is the righteousness of God. It is immutable and eternal, and does not depend upon whether we accept it or not. When we accept God's truth it defines in the first instance the nature of our relationship with others, the ability to bear, as St. Paul says, one another's burdens (Ga. 6: 2), that is, to show solidarity by sharing both their joy and pain. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (Jn 13: 35), says the Lord. However, these eternal Divine truths, which can but only transform our lives, today have ceased to be ideals. They are persistently expunged from modern man's consciousness by the propaganda of moral irresponsibility, egoism, consumerism and the negation of sin as the fundamental problem of human existence.

It is the substitution of true values by false values that largely explains the ever-growing significance of the so called 'human factor' in tragic events that take away hundreds of lives. It is this that explains the crises which have had a global impact on the economy, politics, the environment, family life, the generation gap, and many other things.

To celebrate Christ's Nativity is to bring us closer to the Saviour, to help us seen more clearly his countenance, to be immersed in his good news. The Lord is born ever anew mysteriously for us in the depths of our souls so that we may have life more abundantly (Jn 10: 10). The event of that night in Bethlehem enters our life today, helps us to see it from another perspective, at time unusual and unexpected. That which seemed important and great suddenly becomes trivial and transient, making way for the majesty and beauty of eternal Divine truth.

It is with especial power that the words of the Saviour today resound: I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Mt 28: 20). These words give hope based on the firm conviction that no matter what temptations befall us in this life the Lord will never abandon his inheritance.

The past year in the life of the Church has been highlighted by many important events. The Local Council convoked in Moscow in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour elected the successor of the late His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II. Fortified by the prayers and support of the episcopate, clergy and numerous flock, I placed my hopes in the Lord and accepted the lot of the Patriarchal ministry. Worshipping in Moscow, in a number of Russian dioceses, as well as in Ukraine, Byelorussia and Azerbaijan, I experienced the joy of prayerful communion with our pious Orthodox people, with the young and the elderly, with the middle aged and with children. Everywhere I saw the radiant faces of people, the sincere expression of deep faith. This was a powerful spiritual experience for me and a visible testimony to the unity of Holy Russia, which through the strength of the faith of its multinational people is overcoming the restrictions of society, property, age, ethnic origin and so on to preserve its spiritual unity in the conditions of contemporary political realities.

This unity is strengthened by the one Church in which all that is temporary and transient is overcome by the grace of God. It is here that before human eyes the majesty of unchanging values appears. This is why the Divine truth ought to be the main compass for all human activity, for growth and movement forwards.

It is a joy to see that an ever greater number of our contemporaries are becoming aware of their spiritual roots, are valuing their religious and cultural tradition. The festive solemnities today are shared not only by the faithful who are firmly rooted in the Orthodox Church but also by those who find themselves on the path to the discovery of saving faith and who may cross the threshold of the church for the first time, their hearts responding to the call of the Gospel.

In prayer I wish you, your Graces, all-honourable fathers, dear brothers and sisters, the abundant mercies of the Divine Infant Christ who was born in Bethlehem so that your joy is increased by the grace of God, that your infirmities are healed and your pain comforted. May the light of the star of Bethlehem be the guide of each and everyone of us, and may the Lord bless your labours in the field of building up the life of the Church and countries where we live, our societies, and may he grant that we abide constantly in the Gospel Truth.


+ KIRILL
PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA
The Nativity of Christ, 2009/2010

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

French Seminary Trains for Orthodox Resurgence

Ecumenical News International reports from Epinay-sous-Senart, France, January 5th 2010:

Inside a plain stone building that was once a Catholic convent in the center of town, a dozen black-robed seminarians struggle over French theological phrases. The nuns are long gone, their Catholic crucifixes replaced by Russian icons and incense that form the trappings of a bold experiment: the Russian Orthodox Church's first seminary outside the former Soviet Union.

Officially launched in November, the small Paris-area school nurses big ambitions: to train a new generation of Orthodox priests capable of serving Russia's growing Diaspora. Even more, the school hopes to foster exchanges between Europe's Christian East and West; and, more specifically, help nurture warming ties between Moscow and the Vatican.

"The Russian Orthodox Church needs good specialists who know foreign languages and the life of Christian churches in the West and how they face secularization," said the Rev. Alexander Siniakov, the seminary's affable young director, who is also the Russian church's point person for interchurch relations in France. "Our seminary," he added, "is sort of a bridge between the Western Christian culture and the Eastern Orthodox one."

The pupils enrolled in the school's five-year program hail mostly from Russia and former Soviet republics. There are plans to diversify and grow the student body to 40 over the next few years, with the seminarians also earning master's degrees in theology from the Sorbonne in Paris. "It's a nice possibility to study French and to know how Western people live in France and in other Western countries," said Andrew Serebrych Anekcandroviych, a 25-year-old seminarian from Ukraine, who sports a dark ponytail and spectacles.

Some graduates will return to parishes in their home countries. But others are being groomed to serve Russia's far-flung Diaspora that has ballooned since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The seminary is the brainchild of Patriarch Kirill, who was elected head of the Moscow Patriarchate last February. "When the Iron Curtain fell, the Russians went everywhere," said the Rev. Stephen Headley, a Russian Orthodox priest and researcher on Russian Orthodoxy at the French National Center for Scientific Research. Kirill's idea was to "follow our people and open Orthodox churches for them wherever they are," said Headley, who also teaches at the seminary. That meant training priests qualified to serve them.

Millions of Russians settled in western Europe, bringing their newly rediscovered faith with them. But their culture and practices often clashed with Russia's more established expatriate population, who fled the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. Many of the earlier ex-pats joined the New York-based Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, which formally reconciled with Moscow in 2007 after 90 years of mutual suspicion. But others switched allegiance to the rival Patriarchate of Constantinople, based in modern-day Istanbul, which is seen as the spiritual heart of much of Eastern Orthodoxy.

Tensions between Moscow and Istanbul peaked a few years ago in London, home to some 200,000 new Russian expatriates. Kirill's hardline predecessor, Patriarch Alexy II, forcibly retired the head of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in London, after he indicated he wanted to join the Constantinople branch. "They are Russian nationalists, basically," said Michael Bourdeaux, president of the Keston Institute in Oxford, England, and an expert on Russian Orthodoxy. The new emigres "want Russian services for Russian people. They don't want to make any compromises with local languages." Relations between the ex-pat groups are also bumpy in France, where a large slice of the Russian community hails from the Soviet era and is affiliated with Constantinople.

But at the Epinay-Sous-Senart seminary, Siniakov appears to be trying to heal the rift. Instructors of a Constantinople-affiliated institute in Paris now teach at the seminary. And, Siniakov said, the seminary is open to students from all Orthodox churches. "It offers the possibility for them to know more about our Russian Orthodox tradition," he said. Anton Sidenko, a tall, lanky seminarian in his early 20s, said he was particularly interested in learning about the history of other Orthodox churches. Speaking shyly in French, he described an earlier stint in France where he studied engineering. "There's a big respect for the church in Russia," Sidenko said. "Here, the view of the church is more based on tradition."

Divisions between Moscow and the Vatican are far more sizable and stretch back centuries. Even so, Moscow reached out to French Catholic bishops for help establishing the seminary, a gesture underscoring warming ties between the two churches, particularly under their current leaders, Kirill and Pope Benedict XVI. The French bishops put the Russians in touch with elderly nuns in Epinay-Sous-Senart, who were moving out of their convent. The nuns now return to teach the seminarians French. "We need, as Europeans, as Christians, to gather all the Christian churches of all European countries," said Catholic Bishop Michel Dubost, who leads the local Evry-Corbeil-Essonnes diocese. Dubost has visited the seminary and will host the students at his cathedral in the coming weeks. "Clearly there are differences," he added. "But we need to know each other, to build something together."

The foundations are being reinforced on a larger scale. Kirill and Benedict, who have met several times in the past, hold similarly conservative views on matters like euthanasia, abortion and homosexuality. Both have urged Europeans to reclaim their Christian heritage at a time when secularity and immigration are transforming the region. "I think there was a conscious decision on the part of the Vatican and the Moscow patriarchate to try to cooperate on the social level, which talks about the ... Christian roots of western Europe," said Headley, the Orthodox priest. "There's a political side to this," Headley added of Kirill and Benedict. "They both have strong lobbies at the Council of Europe and the European Union ... when key issues come up, they can lobby together and have more influence."

Bourdeaux, the Oxford scholar, agreed. "If the Catholic and Orthodox churches came closer together," he said, "they would form a huge beacon for conservatism in the world today."

Monday, 4 January 2010

Introduction to Liturgical Services and their Symbolism in the Eastern Church, by Patriarch Gregorios III

Introduction to Liturgical Services and their Symbolism in the Eastern Church
by Patriarch Gregorios III (Laham)

This book, hitherto only available in Arabic, is a wonderful educational summary of many traditions of the Eastern Christian Churches by Patriarch Gregorios III, head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. He covers liturgy, sacraments, feast day celebrations, church architecture, iconography, religious vessels, vestments, foods and other topics, in an informative way to educate and inspire. This edition contains a completely new section on the development of liturgy from its Antiochian roots, a revised section on liturgical music and many new illustrations.

Paperback. 204 pages. US $20.00

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Zizioulas defends the work of the Joint Commission for the Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Catholics

Metropolitan John of Pergamon and HH Pope Benedict XVI



Our SSJC friends at Youngstown Ohio Chapter report:


Following the modest but solid progress to the renewed Orthodox-Catholic dialogue at Ravenna in 2007, the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue has met in plenary session at Paphos, Cyprus, October 16 to 23, 2009.
 
Several points to note:
 
1. The Russian Orthodox Church withdrew from the 2007 Dialogue, partly owing to a disagreement over the inclusion of Orthodox from Estonia and the canonical justification for their doing so. Nevertheless, the Russian Orthodox Church has taken part in the Commission's subsequent work while the controversy is resolved and have played a full part in the Dialogue up to and including the Cyprus meeting.
 
2. The Ravenna meeting deliberately approached the question of primacy in the Universal Church not in terms of later and current disagreements from the second millennium, but through an examination of common practice and agreement on the role of a figure who is protos in the first millennium, which was recognised as belonging at the universal level to the bishop of the Church at Rome. This exploration was mandated by the primates and synods of all the participating Orthodox Churches in concert. The Cyprus meeting takes the subject of primacy at the Church's universal level forward to meet some of the difficulties experienced in the second millennium, but on the basis of what can be recognised as agreement over what was accepted in the first.
 
3. Metropolitans in the Church of Greece during summer 2009 denounced ecumenism and especially conversations with the Roman Catholic Church as if the integrity of Orthodox faith was at stake and the Dialogue was an error leading to the subjugation of the Orthodox Church direct to the Roman primacy. In fact the Dialogue is not with the Roman Catholic Church but with the Holy See, represented by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, on behalf of all Catholics - Latin Catholics and Eastern Catholics of various Churches and rites. Furthermore, Metropolitan John of Pergamon (John Zizioulas) has written to the Metropolitans concerned insisting that the Commission is founded on the express and canonical mandate of all the local Churches of the Orthodox Church, as are the particular terms and scope of the Dialogue itself.
 
4. The Joint Committee of Catholic and Orthodox Bishops in the United States have recently issued a critical response to the Ravenna Statement. This is however an important part of the process by which the Dialogue is received and the progress towards unity based on agreement in doctrine is achieved in the years ahead.
 
5. Demonstrations interrupted the proceedings of the 11th Plenary Session of the Dialogue Commission in Cyprus, again focusing on suspicion of the threat to Orthodox faith from Catholic error and of the motivation of Catholics seeking to undermine the integrity of the Orthodox Church. Metropolitan John of Pergamon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has however strongly defended the Theological Dialogue as part of the agreed objective of the all the Orthodox Churches towards the recovery of communion between the Catholics and the Orthodox - and the value of the Dialogue to Orthodoxy.
 
AsiaNews carries this report by Nat da Polis, dated 19 October 2009, of an interview given to Cypriot journalist Aris Viketos, with Metropolitan John of Pergamon (John Zizioulas), Orthodox Co-Chairman of the Commision. He strongly defends the value of the Dialogue and the progress it has been made, together with its value for Orthodoxy, whatever the reactions of a small minority: "The second meeting for dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, taking place in Cyprus, sees strong protest and progress at a standstill for fear of "subjugating the Orthodox to the Pope in Rome." Even among Catholics there is dogmatic resistance.
 


A call to all from Johannes Zizoulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon, tenacious advocate of the value of dialogue
Paphos (AsiaNews)

The 2nd round of dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox is being held in Paphos (Cyprus) from October 16 to 23. Progress, however, appears a distant goal. Two days ago, groups of traditionalist Orthodox monks and Orthodox priests from Larnaca interrupted the meeting of the Joint Commission, asking Archbishop Chrisostomos to stop it. They believe that dialogue between the two Churches is designed to "subjugate the Orthodox to the pope in Rome". Yet it is to this very island, a martyred land of ancient Christian traditions, divided by the last wall in Europe, the one between Greece and Turkey, that Benedict XVI will come on a papal visit in June 2010.

The dialogue of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches began in Ravenna in 2007 where a road map for process towards full unity was signed. The Ravenna document, of great importance, is based on the ecclesiology of the first millennium, when the two churches were in full communion, although even then differences arose from time to time. 

The Ravenna document was not signed by the Russian Orthodox Church, which withdrew over differences with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on the question of the Church in Estonia. But these days it was involved in the work. Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople confirmed two days ago that "engaging in dialogue is our duty and obligation. Dialogue is a road of no return".

The issue of dialogue is the theme of an in depth interview that the Metropolitan of Pergamon, John Zizoulas, gave to Cypriot journalist Aris Viketos. Zizoulas is Co-chairman - along with the card. Walter Kasper - of the Joint Commission, an eminent theologian and a charismatic figure, as well as a strong supporter of dialogue.

In ecumenical circles it is said that with this interview Zizoulas is sending an important signal to certain areas of the Orthodox world. They, although a minority, are loudly contesting the dialogue, because they themselves are victims of a traditionalist narcissism bordering on infallibility. The interview also criticizes certain sectors of the Catholic Church who impose a disproportionate dogmatic rationalism, and who want nothing to change.
 
With acuity, the same Zizoulas, commenting to AsiaNews on the situation of the "Christian world" of today, said: "The Christian world today has many bishops, a few theologians and even less ecclesiological knowledge".


Dialogue and the Ecumenical Patriarchate


Returning to the interview, Zizoulas immediately clarifies that "the decision to participate in dialogue with the Catholic Church was 'unanimously’ made by all Orthodox churches. Therefore inveighing against dialogue, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and my person is unfair. All Orthodox churches were in agreement on the importance of dialogue and the fact that it must continue".
 
"The Ecumenical Patriarchate – he continues - as in all other Orthodox matters, has only a coordinating role and we, like the other members of the Commission, are the engaged executors, according to our own conscience, of the mandate that was assigned to us. We are open to criticism because we are not infallible, just as our critics are not infallible. Those who do not want dialogue, are opposed to the common will of all Orthodox Churches. "

 
Regarding the positions of the monks of Mount Athos – staunchly opposed to dialogue - the Metropolitan of Pergamon is explicit: "I respect their opinion and their feelings on matters of faith. But why should they have the monopoly of truth on matters of faith? Are the other leaders of the churches perhaps lacking this sensitivity? All the faithful of the Church have the right to express their thoughts. But all opinions should be subject to scrutiny of the synods. If the great Father of the Church St. Basil put his opinion to the judgment of synods, we can do no less!".


Petrine primacy

The monks of Mount Athos and some conservative sectors of the Orthodox world accuse the Ecumenical Patriarchate of yielding to Rome on the question of Petrine primacy. Called upon to answer this question, Zizoulas says, "to the monks, whom I consider no less infallible than my own modest self, I would like to reply that the question of primacy is an ecclesiological one. And ecclesiology as we know, is part of dogma, part of faith. When we dialogue on this issue, we look at our own dogmatic divergence. There is no intention of neglecting other matters of dogma ... Quite simply, our experience has shown us that we must first agree on basic issues of' ecclesiology, because the question of primacy has been fatal and tragic in relations between the Catholic and Orthodox world. "
 
"The Ravenna text - continues Zizoulas - is very important, but unfortunately it has not received due attention and disclosure. It was agreed that the primacy at any level it is exercised, should be understood in its synodal character. This is what the Orthodox Church maintains and applies and it has its roots in the 34th Apostolic Canon ... The Orthodox Church also has its primus, but they can not decide without the synod, nor the synod without them. This focal point was accepted at the Ravenna meeting, although it does not agree with [the concept of] the primate, as monarch. The second point of the Ravenna document is that the primate is linked to the concept of the pentarchy of the patriarchates [1]. This was true during the first millennium, and this should apply even if the remaining assumptions of the first millennium will retain their validity. Which is why their [the monks of Mount Athos] opposition to dialogue is incomprehensible. We all have to accept [these findings] and where the pope accepts the canonical structure of the Church as it was configured in the first millennium, we should all be happy ... The Ravenna text adopts the basic principles of the Church of the first millennium".


The Uniates

Regarding the Uniate question and the resulting differences that emerged with the Catholic Church, the Metropolitan of Pergamon responds that the Uniate question "has never ceased to be a serious issue for us Orthodox. There has been much discussion in the context of dialogue and we agree with the Catholic Church not to take uniatism as a model towards unity and not to use it as a model of proselytism. The Uniate issue will be taken into account when the issue of the primacy in the 2nd millennium is addressed, when in fact the phenomenon was born".

Ecumenism: Heresy?
 
Asked whether ecumenism is a heresy, Zizoulas replied: "In defining someone as a heretic, one must consider if that person rejects the principles endorsed by ecumenical synods. Among those Orthodox participating in the ecumenical dialogue I have not found any deviation from the principles of faith. Moreover knowing how to dialogue with those who oppose your beliefs does not make you a heretic. Ecumenical dialogue has nothing to hide and our journey is still a long one".
 
On the prospects of dialogue, Zizoulas concludes by saying: "History is guided by God. Those who proclaim that the Church's unity is impossible, are trying to take the place of God. Who are we to predetermine the future? We are called to tirelessly work so we all may be one. If we do not enact this, or we do so at the expense of the faith of our fathers, then we will be called to answer to God. The final outcome is in His hands. He will find a way to see His will is done, so we may all be one. We simply have to work for unity".

[1] The Church of the first millennium was administered by 5 Patriarchs: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch. Rome held primacy.