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 9th September, 4pm

To purchase The Divine Liturgy: an Anthology for Worship (in English), order from the Sheptytsky Institute here, or the St Basil's Bookstore here.

To purchase the Divine Praises, the Divine Office of the Byzantine-Slav rite (in English), order from the Eparchy of Parma here.

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




Saturday, 21 May 2011

"Western Rite" Orthodoxy - Patriarchate of Antioch and ROCOR and the comments of Dr Geoffrey Rowell of the Anglican Church

Our friends at SSJC Youngstown Chapter have carried this news item in Light of the East, May-June 2011.

It is worth pointing our that the Western Rite in neither jurisdiction actually celebrates a canonically authorised liturgy of the Latin Church, but a confection of various past, or projected, elements drawn from the Roman Mass, Celtic texts, the Byzantine liturgy and (for elements of the language) the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. It is also worth pointing out that Dr Geoffrey Rowell is actually having a little dig at the liturgical and ecclesiological provisions for Anglicans desiring coming into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, as set out in Anglicanorum Coetibus. He is not wrong in what he lists, but he is misrepresenting it in his allusion to its most well known phrases, as the Apostolic Constitution intends thoroughly to be an ecclesial and ecclesiological document. Living in the Church through a patrimonial Rite, be it Anglican, Latin or Byzantine, is far more than "a sacramental living out a Catholic identity" (let alone aspiring to doctrinal, community, pastoral or moral "ideals") - you cannot have a personal Catholic identity unless the Church and its bishops you belong to - the people of God - has an ecclesial Catholic identity. With the best will in the world, it is difficult to recognise more than the remains of such an identity in Anglicanism. Hence the impulse to seek an ever deeper unity in the apostolic faith in which the Church reveals itself as one. It is notable how a significant Anglican bishop speaks positively of what is essentially a kind of Ordinariate for attracting ex-Anglo-Catholics and ex-Roman Catholics in the Orthodox Church, and virtually no Anglican leader has been prepared to recognise the positive ecumenical import of the Catholic Ordinariate for those of Anglican tradition, not as a form of the discredited and repudiated uniatism, nor as a means of proselytism, but as a declaration of acceptance that aspects of Anglican rite and pastoral (and ecclesiological and canonical) practice have a place in their own right in the Catholic Church if it is to be true to manifesting the Church's universality in all her bearings.

On Monday, 14 February, Father Edward Hughes, Vicar General of the Western Rite Vicariate of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and his duly appointed assistant, Father John W. Fenton, met at the Russian Synod chancery with His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral), First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR); His Grace Bishop Jerome (Shaw), Bishop of Manhattan and vicar of the Eastern-American diocese (ROCOR); and the V. Reverend Anthony Bondi, Pastoral Vicar for the Western Rite (ROCOR).

This meeting was the first between the hierarchy and leadership of the jurisdictions which oversee all canonical Orthodox parishes in North America which are exclusively Western Rite. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the present situation, and to compare visions in order to foster cooperation in furthering Western Rite Orthodoxy in America. During the meeting, several items of mutual interest were discussed including issues relating to the Western Rite in the committees of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America; the reception of parishes and clergy from other ecclesial groups; the education of laity in Western Rite parishes; the education of current and future Western Rite clergy; the liturgical norms and usages in the jurisdictions; and the planting of Western Rite missions.

A spirit of fraternal openness permeated the meetings, with the often repeated desire that the Western Rite parishes and clergy of both jurisdictions need to grow closer together. Toward this end, Metropolitan Hilarion encouraged Fr. Anthony and Fr. Edward to explore specific ways in which the clergy from both jurisdictions might regularly meet together.

Fr. Hughes and Fr. Fenton wish to express their deepest gratitude to Metropolitan Hilarion and Bishop Jerome for their gracious hospitality and for generously sharing their time. Their interest and desire for Western Rite Orthodoxy was inspiring. They also thank Fr. Anthony Bondi for his many kindnesses, and his earnest desire for increased cooperation.


Anglicanism - Western Orthodoxy

(from http://philorthodox.blogspot.com/)

by Bishop Geoffrey Rowell:

When, in the sixteenth century, ecclesia Anglicana – ‘the English Church’ – was reformed, those, like Bishop John Jewel, who defended that reformation, did so not by saying it was adapted to contemporary culture, but by a return to the faith and order of the early church. Very deliberately, unlike the Protestant reformers of continental Europe, the Church of England maintained the historic, apostolic, three-fold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons. The Church of England did not abandon the historic apostolic ministry but sought to reform it. Ever since Anglicans have held that those ordained as bishops, priests and deacons, are ordained as bishops, priests and deacons of the Church of God. Change in that ordering of ministry is therefore a matter not just for the Church of England or the Anglican Communion but for all those churches who claim to share that ministry. Developments in faith and order need this wider reference....


The Anglican patrimony is not just a matter of hymn-books and liturgy, of Evensong and the English choral tradition, important as those things are. It is a sacramental way of living out a catholic identity, expressed in relation to the community and in a wise application of moral ideals to personal and pastoral realities. It is what the churches of the East have sometimes recognized as a Western Orthodoxy. Above all it is about a faithfulness in a way of Christian living that expresses the beauty of holiness, which is about transfiguration into the likeness of Christ, living out the maxim often attributed to St Augustine but originating in the theological conflicts of Reformation Europe – ‘in essentials unity, in doubtful things liberty, and in all things charity.’

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Eternal Memory: Archbishop Salim Ghazal


In Memoriam Archbishop Salim Ghazal, B. S.

(7 July 1931-29 April 2011)


Funeral Oration, preached on 2 May, 2011, at St. Nicholas’ Cathedral, Saida, Lebanon,

for my brother, friend and companion on the way,

Archbishop Salim Ghazal of happy memory,

Titular Archbishop of Edessa in Osrhoene,

Emeritus Curial Bishop of Antiochia and Emeritus Patriarchal Auxiliary

 

“Today is the day of Resurrection... the Pascha of the Lord!” It is also Archbishop Salim’s Pascha or Passover (Pesach). Jesus is risen and has brought our brother Salim “from death to life, and from earth to heaven.” Father Salim, as it were, speaks to the risen, living Jesus, saying, “Yesterday, O Christ, was I was buried with thee, and today I rise again with thy rising. Yesterday I was crucified with thee. Glorify me with together with thyself, O Saviour, in thy Kingdom.” (Paschal Canon, various)

 

Today we are met together, dear brothers and sisters, my brother bishops, members of our Holy Synod, representatives of various beloved Churches, Father General John Faraj of the Basilian Salvatorian Order - of which this very worthy son, was formerly Father General - relatives, friends, Your Excellencies the sheikhs and ulemas, Your Excellencies, the ministers and members of Parliament, representatives of the army and security forces, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of this resistant South, sons and daughters of this archeparchy of Saida, with, at their head, Archbishop Elie Beshara (Haddad) of Saida and Deir al Qamar, and beside him the bishops of this region, companions of the way of our Archbishop Salim, who has quit this perishable earth for an eternal country.

 

Brothers and sisters, I am here before you, saying, in your name, “Until we meet again.” I am bidding farewell to a monk, my brother in the religious, monastic life, in the Order of the Holy Saviour, our very dear “mother,” farewell to a brother, an itinerant apostle. Our way together began in 1961, after my return from Rome. We walked some way together, in the Shouf, east of Saida, as far as the border of Southern Lebanon.

 

Farewell to a brother and companion of the way in social work in this region! He was alongside me in founding the Salvatorian Social Union, the Home for Girls, and indeed the Providence Home, and the Apostolic and Religious Training Centre.

 

Farewell to the Superior General of the Basilian Salvatorian Order! After having finished his term of office, he returned immediately to the work of the apostolate, as before, the work that he preferred above all. After that he founded the Dialogue and Development Centre, right beside the Providence Centre.

 

Farewell to my Patriarchal Auxiliary! I wanted him to be beside me, right from the first year of my patriarchal service. He was the first bishop that I consecrated. I laid my hand on his head for the episcopal consecration on the Eve of the Transfiguration and Feast of Holy Saviour, (5 August) 2001. After he had resigned for health reasons, he returned with the strength and enthusiasm of youth to his preferred work, to become once again an itinerant apostle, whence he had first set out, on the way of people, on the way of God and man.

 

In the verses of Holy Scripture, the living Word of God, especially in the Gospels and the Epistles of Saint Paul, we find the finest, most eloquent and apt verses to describe the way of this monk, priest and bishop, this teacher and friend of children and young people, this apostle of peace and love, dialogue and understanding, living together, respect, fellowship, inclusive participation, reconciliation, this go-between at frontiers and checkpoints, bridge-builder, saviour of deprived detainees and victims of injustice, this fiery preacher, speaking the word of truth, frank and brave, without counting the cost. He was alongside every man, no matter of what party or religion, stance or viewpoint, with sincerity, frankness, veracity and absolute impartiality. He was the faithful friend who loved others.

 

Our dear departed brother bishop found the best guidance in the Word of God, the guide for his Christian religious, priestly and episcopal life. He said to Jesus, like Saint Peter, full of enthusiasm, “To whom shall we go, Lord, for thou hast the words of life.” (John 6: 68) And for his part, he heard the words of Jesus guiding him in all the stages of his life. He read, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16: 15) Take nothing for your journey, no staves nor anything else with you. (cf. Matthew 10: 10) Go and find the lost sheep. (cf. Matthew 18: 12) Go into the villages; go everywhere. (cf. Mark 11: 2) That was his preferred work, to go into the villages. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10: 11) (There was a lovely photograph of him when young, carrying a lamb in his arms.) Another saying was his guide in life: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1: 21) “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15: 13) And he heard the words of Saint Paul, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season...” (2 Timothy 4: 2) “Yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9: 16) “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9: 22)

 

And with Saint Paul, he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord...shall give me.” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8) And despite illness and suffering, he remained until the end on that course. He struggled for the Word of God, and I heard that at the end of his life, he said to his companion, Father Sharbel in the hospital, “I’ve fulfilled my mission,” like Jesus, who said on the cross, “It is finished.” (John 19: 30) All is finished.

 

Thank you for the care that was given at the hospital, Dr. Ghassan Hammoud and all the doctors.

 

We, now in the church, with the verses of Scripture and the Divine Liturgy, say the last farewell to our friend the Archbishop, “Blessed be the way that thou hast taken, for the God of Peace is with thee.” May the Christ whom thou hast loved and served in these brothers and sisters of all Muslim and Christian denominations, give thee rest, our father and brother bishop, in the city of the living. May he open for thee the doors of Paradise and make thee a fellow-citizen of his Kingdom. May he grant thee forgiveness of thy sins, since thou art a lover of Christ.

 

Brothers and sisters, accept my condolences, to each and all in your position, especially relatives, friends, brothers and sisters, and the Basilian Salvatorian Order, and may the soul of Archbishop Salim be with the saints. Accept brother Salim, these words of condolence, this funeral oration, from your loving brother monk and Patriarch. Until we meet again. May thy memory be eternal, everywhere that thou hast loved and served!

                                                                                                Amen.

                                                                                                                + Gregorios III, Patriarch

 

Translation from French: V. Chamberlain

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Inauguration of the Liqaa International Centre for Dialogue


Inauguration of the Liqaa International Centre for Dialogue

(in Rabweh, Lebanon at 5p.m. on Tuesday 10 May 2011)

 

On Tuesday, 10 May 2011, in Rabweh (Lebanon), Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, inaugurated "in the name of Christ the Saviour, risen from the dead," the Liqaa International Centre for Dialogue, in the presence of the President of the Lebanese Republic, General Michel Sleiman and Sheikh Abdullah Bin Muhammad As-Salemi, Minister of the Awqaf and Religious Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman.

 

Many distinguished figures, both civil and religious, accepted the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch’s invitation.  Present were the Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic, Sheikh Muhammad Rashid Qabbani, Sheikh Akl of the Unitarian Druze community, the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, representatives of the other Catholic Patriarchs of Lebanon, Pastor Selim Sahyouni, President of the Supreme Council of Evangelical Churches in Lebanon and Syria, as well as many Melkite Greek Catholic, Maronite and Orthodox bishops, not to mention the superiors general and mothers general of the main Lebanese religious orders.

 

Also present were Ministers Michel Pharaon, Tarek Mitri, Selim Wardeh and Hassan Mneimneh, as well as Members of Parliament Hagop Pakradounian, Michel Moussa, Ghassan Moukheiber and Marwan Fares, military leaders, heads of university and leading representatives of the judiciary.

 

The international community was very well represented by some 29 Western and Arab ambassadors and the Sultanate of Oman by a delegation led by the Secretary-General of the Sultan Qaboos Centre for Islamic Culture, Mr. Habib Bin Mohammed Al-Riyami.

 

The ceremony was introduced and presented by Father Michel Sabee. The Apostolic Nuncio read a letter from Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Then Mr. Habib Bin Muhammad Al-Riyami gave a speech for the occasion, and H. B. Gregorios III gave a speech that can be found on the Patriarchate’s website (in English, French and Arabic.) http://www.pgc-lb.org/english/index.shtml  

 

At the end of the ceremony, the Patriarch, the President and the Omani Minister unveiled the commemorative plaque of the event, then together cut the ribbon to the entrance to the Centre’s main hall, where a cocktail was offered to all the attendees.

 

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Patriarch Gregorios' Speech at the Inauguration of the Liqaa Meeting Centre, Rabweh, Lebanon


Inaugration of the Liqaa Centre for Dialogue, Lebanon

Rabweh, Lebanon - 10 May 2011

In the name of Christ the Saviour, risen from the dead, we are inaugurating the Liqaa Meeting Centre for the dialogue of civilisations beside the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate in Rabweh.

We are inaugurating this Liqaa Meeting Centre in your presence and under your patronage, Your Excellency, General Michel Sleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic. Your presence is the sign of your love for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and of the very special concern you have for the spiritual and social values of dialogue in Lebanon, and your appreciation of the goals that the Liqaa Centre seeks to realise, as a place for the expression and development of those values.

The Liqaa Centre has taken as its object to be a local and international centre for dialogue between people in their religion, faith, civilisation, culture, industry, politics, thought, vision, outlook and perspectives of their whole life.

Though born today, it is in the very old, traditional line of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which has always been considered as a Church without borders, that makes every possible effort to build bridges in a divided world, through dialogue without frontiers – a religious, cultural dialogue that embraces the whole of civilisation.

Meeting has always been an object of very special concern to me. We were one of the first founders of the Al-Liqa Center in Jerusalem in 1983, together with its longstanding current Director, Dr. Geries Khoury, one of our faithful from Upper Galilee. We founded it together with a select group of Palestinian Christian and Muslim thinkers, university teachers. I was head of its board of trustees until my election as Patriarch in 2000. Palestine’s Al-Liqa Center remains to this day its dialogue centre par excellence.

We chose the term Liqaa, wishing to express through this the essential goal of this institution: that of meeting, in the absolute sense. We call men and women to meet, without determining the aim or objective of the meeting. The meeting takes place within the bounds of human perspectives, whatever their scope or range.

Liqaa is a centre for meeting between God and man, through faith, religion and belief. It is a religious meeting, of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faith, and moreover, of meeting with all sorts of convictions, even outside those of church, synagogue or mosque. It is an encounter in the vast sanctuary or temple of the world, a meeting of people with one another in the world which is both God’s and man’s; limited by neither time nor place, nor confined to an East-West theme, nor to the civilisation and culture of our Eastern Arab world, nor to the cultural and intellectual ambiance of the Mediterranean basin nor even that of Europe and the West. In fact our Middle East was and still remains the road to the Far East. The world is the purview for our Liqaa Centre, which will be an open academic centre and a global platform. It is an intellectual, academic centre of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Arab countries, emigration countries and throughout the whole world and through this Church, a platform for everyone.

Allow me, Your Excellency, President of the Lebanese Republic, to say with pride that the Liqaa Centre is at the service of your thought and vision. In fact, it was you who launched the idea that Lebanon is the centre of meeting and dialogue of civilisations, from the highest global platform at the United Nations. In fact this Liqaa Centre is at the service of your congresses for implementation of your guidelines and for your dialogue programmes. Furthermore, we place the Liqaa Centre at the service of Lebanon’s mission, which is itself the mission. In fact we can say that Lebanon itself is essentially and entirely a dialogue centre for the Arab world and for the whole world.

Your Excellency, President of the Republic, ladies and gentleman, my brothers and sisters, this great association, this Liqaa Centre, would not have seen the light of day, without the generosity of a great person, who has a broad, humane vision, a man of immense horizons, with an enlightened mind and large heart, engaged in dialogue and government, a wise leader, open to his people and citizens and to the Arab world and indeed the whole world: I mean the great Sultan Qaboos, Sultan of Oman, may God, in his protection and concern, preserve him.

It is thanks to the generosity of His Majesty and his hand, heart and mind that this Liqaa Centre was able to be built. Moreover a unique project has been realised in this way, a joint project between the Sultanate of Oman and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. It is a project of charity, of love, that links the Patriarchate to the Sultanate of Oman, and the Patriarch and the Sultan. It is a project built through the stones of that love. The stone building was completed with God’s blessing and the generosity of the Sultan’s gift. There still remains the joint project between the Patriarchate and the Sultanate and its representatives, a continuation through the Liqaa Centre’s projects, congresses, perspectives, spirituality and vision. This link between the Patriarchate and the Sultanate will be recorded in letters of gold in the registers of the Patriarchate’s history and the memories of its generations to come. Here too, prayers and invocations will be continually raised in the church of Our Lady of the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary whom, as the Qur’an says[1], “God chose and purified, chosen above all women of the nations.” The Virgin Mary, our Lady of the Annunciation, who is the patron of this new church that overlooks the Liqaa Centre and that will be inaugurated very soon, will be the protector of His Majesty, the Sultan, his collaborators and all his people. She will bless him and all those who have worked and will continue to work in this centre, and all those who will benefit from the services of this centre.

The church of Our Lady of the Annunciation that we shall soon be inaugurating is linked to the mission of this Liqaa Centre. Indeed, the Feast of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary was declared a national religious holiday for the whole of Lebanon and for all Lebanese citizens, both Christian and Muslim. It is a feast of dialogue, and in its Greek expression evangelismos, an announcement of beautiful, joyful news.

So from this Church of the Annunciation and this Liqaa Centre will be continually propagated pleasant news to people, to every person in the whole world, both in Lebanon and in the Sultanate of Oman. The venerable Qur’an says, “We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other,”[2] and Saint John, the Beloved Disciple and Evangelist says, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt (set up his tent) among us[3],” and in these two venerated verses we find a summary of the Liqaa Centre’s programme – a programme of politics, culture, industry and sociology.

God, may his name be praised, founded the first liqaa centre by creating man in his image and likeness, and by becoming incarnate he called the world, its people, humanity to meeting with him and his love. He called them to love and he made this love the condition for following him and the foundation of his commandments and the holy teachings of his Gospel. In fact, he said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.[4]

“For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.[5]

I would like to give hearty thanks to the basic team who accompanied the realisation of this unique dream: bringing this dream to the attention of His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos, preparing the architectural plans and following all the stages of its realisation. This team comprises: Rev. Dr. Michel Sabee, Head of our Patriarchal College in Beirut, who was the contact messenger, bringing this dream of the Patriarch to His Majesty the Sultan; then there is the Patriarchate’s Economos, Rev. Economos Elie Shatawi, who undertook the supervision of the project on the spot; the architect, Mr. Elie Abou Hala and his wife Rosi, who expended all their experience, art, enthusiasm and faithfulness to make this Centre our Patriarchate’s finest realisation. Our thanks also go to the engineers and workers who have worked generously, for the excellent quality of their work. We give our blessing to the centre’s leadership team who will be working for the centre’s aims. We wish them success! May the bountiful Saviour amply reward them!

Your Excellency, President of the Republic, my brothers and sisters, here is your centre, ready to welcome you and to host your activities. We hope that you will support this centre by all means, spiritual and material, at your disposal and through your thoughts and proposals, and also by finding sponsors for its congresses and activities. So the Liqaa Centre will be able to realise those projects through the blessing of the Saviour and through your work and fellowship.

To you all, my friendship and blessing,

                                                                                                Gregorios III

                                                                                                Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,

of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

 

 

Translation from French: V. Chamberlain

 



[1] The House of ‘Imran 3: 42
[2] The Chambers 49: 13
[3] John 1: 14
[4] John 13: 35
[5] Ephesians 2: 14-15

Light of the East - SSJC US Western Region Spring 2011 Newsletter

Download here.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Diptychs: Orthodox Unity and Ecclesiology

Sophia Kishkovsky of ENI News reports, 22 March 2011
 
 
Diptychs, an arcane liturgical term that describes the order in which Orthodox churches commemorate each other at their services, is one of the tangled issues blocking plans for what could be the first great church council in 1,200 years. Some Orthodox leaders say the churches need to get together to discuss common issues and speak with one voice on such important topics as bioethics, sexuality and the environment, but differences over arcane church issues such as diptychs and autocephaly (the independent status of Orthodox churches) run deep. There are about 250 million Orthodox Christians in the world, belonging to 14 or 15 independent Orthodox churches, depending on which church is counting. The Patriarchate of Constantinople, for example, does not recognize the autocephaly (independence) granted by Moscow to the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in 1970, and does not commemorate the OCA in its diptychs.
 
Diptychs are not a question of dogma, but they are at the heart of church protocol. A leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church cited its founding in the fifth century in explaining why his church won't back down in its demands for greater recognition. If the Georgian church agrees to the current ninth place it holds in the diptychs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, or Ecumenical Patriarchate, and most other Orthodox churches, Metropolitan Theodore of Akhaltsikhe and Tao-Klarjeti told ENInews, "This means that we cross out our entire history. That is why we cannot agree with this under any circumstances." The Patriarchate of Georgia is sixth in the diptychs of the Russian Orthodox Church, with which it is very close despite overall Georgian-Russian tensions.
 
Theodore was among representatives of 14 Orthodox churches who gathered at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambesy, Switzerland in late February in the latest attempt to hammer out a consensus in preparation for a pan-Orthodox council. However, the Chambesy meeting ended without further agreements. Consultations to hold a modern-day council began in the 1970s, with a hiatus following Communism's collapse as churches struggled with newfound freedom and jurisdictional issues. The post-Soviet Russian Orthodox Church has emerged as the largest in the world and chafes at any suggestion that the Patriarch of Constantinople, also known as the Ecumenical Patriarch for his role as the symbolic leader of Orthodoxy, is comparable to a pope. The Russian church received its independence from Constantinople in the 16th century.
 
Seven great councils, known as ecumenical councils, at which doctrine was confirmed, are Orthodoxy's foundation. The last was held in 787. Both Moscow and Constantinople agree that Orthodoxy needs to streamline procedures for making statements and granting independence. "This is exactly why the Catholic Church had the Second Vatican Council, because it clarified many questions," Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, who represented Constantinople at Chambesy, told ENInews. "It's not because the Catholic Church had its synod that we have got to have ours, but I think everyone agrees to the need for a clear unanimous position of our church. We cannot just be preparing for 50 years and not come to an agreement."
 
Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, who represented the Russian church at Chambesy along with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, told ENInews that statements that are presented as the unified position of Orthodoxy should not come across as solely the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarch. "In order for the Ecumenical Patriarch to speak on behalf of all the churches, they should be convened before to exchange opinions," he said. Emmanuel said the procedure for granting independence discussed at Chambesy would have the Ecumenical Patriarch proclaim autocephaly and sign a tomos, or declaration of independence, that would then be forwarded for signing by primates of all the other churches.
 
He said that not all the churches agreed with the form the signatures would take. That question appeared to raise, once again, tensions between Moscow and Constantinople that seem minor to outsiders but are of great symbolic importance within Orthodoxy and a vestige of its tumultuous history. The Georgian church's 11th century tomos, for example, disappeared during 13th century wars with Turks and Persians. Balashov said Moscow has no qualms with the Ecumenical Patriarch signing first, but that discussion arose over whether his signature "should in some other way fundamentally stand out from that of all the other primates."
 
Archbishop Jeremiasz of Wroclaw and Szczecin of the Polish Orthodox Church cautioned that Orthodoxy should not necessarily emulate Rome in articulating positions on politics, sexuality and other social issues. "If each local church is a full, universal, united apostolic church, it means that God's grace is present in it, the Holy Spirit is moving in it, and the Holy Spirit will show the Polish church, the churches of Alexandria, Constantinople and Russia how to act in given conditions," he told ENInews.

Ratzinger & Ecumenism

From Light of the East, newsletter of the Youngstown SSJC Chapter for May-June 2012

Much of Ratzinger’s approach to ecumenism evidences a concern to avoid relativist tendencies. Aidan Nichols attributes to Ratzinger the aim of experiencing separated confessions becoming authentic, concrete embodiments of the Church. To be coupled with this is Ratzinger’s clear assertion that theological, liturgical and spiritual uniformity of expression are not his intention, nor the rejection of one’s own faith history. To Ratzinger, an expression of a relativist tendency would be any sort of indifferentism (wherein division appears a practical problem solved by compromise). While indifferentism is to be avoided, so is any sort of confessional chauvinism wherein one’s customs, rather than the truth itself, is given primacy. Wanting to avoid both indifferentism and chauvinism, Ratzinger argues that ecumenism appropriately pursued evidences movement from maximum demands placed on another, towards an exchange of gifts, wherein others make available their riches, and experience Catholicism’s. Maximum demands offer no real hope of unity, and as long as (and to the extent that) maximum demands are regarded as a requirement for unity, Ratzinger observes that "no other recourse [exists] than to simply strive to convert one’s partner in the debate."
While Christian faith excludes relativist tendencies, Ratzinger observes that a consequence of its own definite context is its search for unity, its openness to purification and deepening, and its hope that others experience the same purification and deepening.

Truth is not identical to the various historical developments which manifest it in degrees. Ratzinger’s view is that far from relativizing Catholicism, this contributes to its view that while the Church of Christ subsists only in the Catholicism, nonetheless elements necessary for Catholicism’s flowering may be sought beyond her visible boundaries. 

Ratzinger notes how following Vatican II, hope for division’s speedy end seemed well founded. However, there was disillusion when divisions persisted, and a willingness (on the part of some) to take short-cuts. Of these, one is a false egalitarianism which views neutrally as de facto traditions, any thought or practice, even if it might not necessarily be grounded to much extent in either the Scripture or Tradition.

Citing the division of a thousand years, Ratzinger notes that what once seemed impossible, no longer needs to be. One is to hope. Christianity rests on the victory of improbability. Confidence is to be placed in the Holy Spirit, who motivates hope for the unity of the Church, and the dedication towards ecumenical dialogue.

April 26, 2012
Kelly Wilson is a Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Winnipeg (Manitoba).

Light of the East, May-June 2011, SSJC Youngstown

Light of the East for May-June 2011, the newsletter from SSJC Youngstown Chapter, is now available here.