Every second Saturday of the month, Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ.
4pm Divine Liturgy. Next: 13th November 2021

Very sadly, the Divine Liturgy in English at 9-30 am on Sundays at the Holy Family Cathedral, Lower Church, have had to be put on hold. Until the practicalities we cannot use the Lower Church space. Hopefully this will be resolved very soon. Please keep checking in here for details.

Owing to public health guidance, masks should still be worn indoors and distance maintained. Sanitisers are available. Holy Communion is distributed in both kinds from the mixed and common chalice, by means of a separate Communion spoon for each individual communicant.

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

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

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

Monday 30 November 2009

Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I on the Feast of St Andrew the First-Called, 2009

To His Holiness Bartholomaios I
Archbishop of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarch

Your Holiness,

It is with great joy that I address Your Holiness on the occasion of the visit of the delegation guided by my Venerable Brother Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to whom I have entrusted the task of conveying to you my warmest fraternal greetings on the Feast of Saint Andrew, the brother of Saint Peter and the protector of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

On this joyful occasion commemorating the birth into eternal life of the Apostle Andrew, whose witness of faith in the Lord culminated in his martyrdom, I express also my respectful remembrance to the Holy Synod, the clergy and all the faithful, who under your pastoral care and guidance continue even in difficult circumstances to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The memory of the holy martyrs compels all Christians to bear witness to their faith before the world. There is an urgency in this call especially in our own day, in which Christianity is faced with increasingly complex challenges. The witness of Christians will surely be all the more credible if all believers in Christ are “of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32).

Our Churches have committed themselves sincerely over the last decades to pursuing the path towards the re-establishment of full communion, and although we have not yet reached our goal, many steps have been taken that have enabled us to deepen the bonds between us. Our growing friendship and mutual respect, and our willingness to encounter one another and to recognize one another as brothers in Christ, should not be hindered by those who remain bound to the remembrance of historical differences, which impedes their openness to the Holy Spirit who guides the Church and is able to transform all human failings into opportunities for good.

This openness has guided the work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, which held its eleventh plenary session in Cyprus last month. The meeting was marked by a spirit of solemn purpose and a warm sentiment of closeness. I extend once again my heartfelt gratitude to the Church of Cyprus for its most generous welcome and hospitality. It is a source of great encouragement that despite some difficulties and misunderstandings all the Churches involved in the International Commission have expressed their intention to continue the dialogue.

The theme of the plenary session, The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium, is certainly complex, and will require extensive study and patient dialogue if we are to aspire to a shared integration of the traditions of East and West. The Catholic Church understands the Petrine ministry as a gift of the Lord to His Church. This ministry should not be interpreted in the perspective of power, but within an ecclesiology of communion, as a service to unity in truth and charity. The Bishop of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity (Saint Ignatius of Antioch), is understood to be the Servus Servorum Dei (Saint Gregory the Great). Thus, as my venerable predecessor the Servant of God Pope John Paul II wrote and I reiterated on the occasion of my visit to the Phanar in November 2006, it is a question of seeking together, inspired by the model of the first millennium, the forms in which the ministry of the Bishop of Rome may accomplish a service of love recognized by one and all (cf. Ut Unum Sint, 95). Let us therefore ask God to bless us and may the Holy Spirit guide us along this difficult yet promising path.

Yet even as we make this journey towards full communion, we should already offer common witness by working together in the service of humanity, especially in defending the dignity of the human person, in affirming fundamental ethical values, in promoting justice and peace, and in responding to the suffering that continues to afflict our world, particularly hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and the inequitable distribution of resources.

Furthermore, our Churches can work together in drawing attention to humanity’s responsibility for the safeguarding of creation. In this regard, I express once again my appreciation for the many valuable initiatives supported and encouraged by Your Holiness which have borne witness to the gift of creation. The recent international symposium on Religion, Science and the Environment dedicated to the Mississippi River, and your encounters in the United States with distinguished figures from the political, cultural and religious spheres, have exemplified your commitment.

Your Holiness, on the solemn Feast of the great Apostle Andrew, I express my respectful esteem and spiritual closeness to Your Holiness and to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and I pray that the Triune God may bestow abundant blessings of grace and light on your lofty ministry for the good of the Church.

It is with these sentiments that I extend to you a fraternal embrace in the name of our one Lord Jesus Christ, and I renew my prayer that the peace and grace of our Lord may be with Your Holiness and with all those entrusted to your eminent pastoral leadership.

From the Vatican, 25 November 2009


Wednesday 25 November 2009

Divine Liturgy by Peter Michaelides: New CD from Capella Romana

Completed in 1960, this outstanding choral setting of the Divine Liturgy is also one of the first to have been written in English. Greek-American composer Peter Michaelides perceptively combines elements of Byzantine chant with modern neo-classicism to create unaccompanied liturgical music of uncommon elegance and spiritual depth.

Included is the Christmas favorite "H Parthenos Simeron" (Today the Virgin) for the Forefeast of the Nativity in Greek, and selections of the Antiphons in Arabic.

The CD comes with a deluxe 20-page booklet with extensive essays and full color photography of the stunning St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Santa Barbara, California, for whose choir Dr. Michaelides wrote several liturgical works, including the Apolytikion in honor of St. Barbara included on this present recording. The priest's part is sung by the Very Rev. Archpriest George A. Gray III, pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Portland, Oregon.
Order from Cappella Romana.

Friday 20 November 2009

Anglicanorum Coetibus: A New Uniatism?

Patriarch Bartholomew I with Cardinal Kasper

When the Apostolic Constitution to provide for ordinariates - ecclesial structures like dioceses - for Anglicans coming into full communion with the Holy See, there was immediate and misleading comment that this was the revived system of so-called Uniatism. The Roman Catholic Church, it is claimed, is proselytising Anglicans like the Orthodox of yesteryear.

Thus writes Dr Timothy Bradshaw, Tutor in Doctrine at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, in The Times of 21 October 2009:

Rome’s move looks like a Western version of the Eastern Orthodox groups that accepted the primacy of Rome, the largest being the Ukrainian. The so-called Uniate churches keep their liturgical local custom and practice, as the Anglican body would be allowed to do under the new offer.

As an Anglican Evangelical member of the Anglican Orthodox Theological Commission, he ought to know that this will not do, unless it is an expression of an old desire for affinity with Orthodoxy because of its coincidence with an Anglican apologetic that it too is historic, apostolic, but non-Papal.

It is clear, however, that the provision of the ordinariates are within the Latin rite, of which the Anglican liturgical and ecclesiastical patrimony is a version. The ordinariates are to be particular churches like dioceses, but non-territorial like the military vicariates. Furthermore, their formation comes as a response by the Holy See to formal, repeated and insistent requests from Anglican bishops and bodies for admission to full Catholic communion by the inclusion of a distinctively Anglican church and liturgical life. So the comparison with Catholic Churches of Eastern Rite is inaccurate.

Secondly, Eastern Catholic Churches - specifically those of Byzantine Rite, such as the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, or the Melkite Greek Catholic Church - are not properly seen as the result of proselytism away from Orthodoxy. They see themselves as Orthodox Churches which historically came into restored communion with the Roman See. Both the Ukrainian and Melkite Churches, furthermore, have a strong record of efforts towards reconciliation with their Orthodox neighbours. In Ukraine, for instance, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky was highly regarded by members and leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church for his practical support and concern during its dark hours after the Russian Revolution. And the Patriarchates of Antioch - Melkite and Greek Orthodox - are renowned for their progressive efforts towards imaginative reconciliation, notably in the famous Balamand initiative. So, again, the misrepresentation of the complex history of Catholic-Orthodox relations and of the real circumstances concerning Eastern Catholic Churches is a false comparison for the forthcoming provisions of Anglicanorum Coetibus.

Professor Nicholas Lash, writing in The Tablet of the 14th November, makes this very clear too:

It has been suggested that the new structures, established by the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, ... should be considered as analogous to those of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Aidan Nichols OP proposed something along these lines in 1993, in The Panther and the Hind and, in 2006, in an article in New Blackfriars entitled: “Anglican Uniatism: A Personal View”. I would make two comments on this. The first concerns the need not to speak of “Uniates”. The schism between Western and Eastern Christianity was not so much a single event as a lengthy process of mutual alienation, culminating in the formal breaking of relations between the patriarchate of Constantinople (drawing the four other, far less powerful, eastern patriarchates in its wake) and the papacy. Over time, many Eastern Churches (of more than 20 types or families) were recon­ciled into full communion with the Holy See. Their Orthodox brethren, seeing this as betrayal, coined the highly pejorative term “Uniate” to describe them. It is a term that Eastern Catholics therefore find offensive. (And, of course, the term is not only offensive but inaccurate when applied to those Churches, such as the Maronites, which never broke off communion with Rome.) Many British Catholics seem unaware of this, perhaps because there are so few Eastern Catholics in this country to complain....

In the second place, the analogy simply does not stand up. Each of the Eastern Catholic Churches is, precisely, a Church: a distinct, episcopally and presbyterally structured body with its own identity, history and character. The proposed ordinariates, however, are not Churches, but groups of disaffected Anglican lay people.

Here is the account of an interview in L'Osservatore Romano of the 15th November with Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, by the commentator Sandro Magister:

Cardinal Kasper was in Cyprus because the island was hosting, from October 16-23, the second round (after the first in Ravenna in 2007) of theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox on how to understand papal primacy. An ecumenical dialogue of capital importance, in which Kasper led the delegation from Rome.


In Cyprus, the news that the Catholic Church is ready to incorporate groups coming from Anglicanism also put the Orthodox on alert. Their fear is that a "Uniate" Church of the Anglican rite will be established and added to the "Uniate" Churches of the various Eastern rites: these are Churches obedient to the pope of Rome but in everything else the equals and rivals of the Orthodox.

In this regard, Kasper says in the interview:

"In Cyprus, in order to avoid misunderstandings, I immediately told our Orthodox counterparts that this is not a matter of proselytism or a new Uniatism. [...] Uniatism is an historical phenomenon involving the Eastern Churches, while the Anglicans are from the Latin tradition. The Balamand document of 1993 is still valid, according to which this is a phenomenon of the past that took place in unrepeatable circumstances. It is not a method for the present or the future. The Orthodox were mainly interested in understanding the nature of the personal ordinariates for the Anglicans, and I clarified that this is not a matter of a Church 'sui iuris', and therefore there will not be the head of a Church, but an ordinary with delegated powers."

In simpler terms: while a "Uniate" Church has its own structured hierarchy, with a patriarch and territorial dioceses, none of this will apply to the former Anglican "personal ordinariates," which will provide pastoral care for the faithful but without their own ecclesiastical territory, a little bit like the military ordinariates.

The new ordinariates will be characterized by the preservation of the Anglican rite for the Mass and the other sacraments – with liturgical books that were approved for the United States in the 1980's by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Patriarch Pavle of Serbia: Memory Eternal

Patriarch Pavle of Serbia died on Sunday aged 95. His funeral took place today, Thursday 19th November, led by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. The Pope was represented by Cardinal Sodano, Secretary of State of the Holy See.

Patriarch Pavle was loved for his humility and holiness as a monk, people recognising that like them he too had been overwhelmed by the atrocity into which Serbia was dragged by Slobodan Milosevic.

He had led the 7-million strong Serbian Orthodox Church for 19 years since 1990. As Yugoslavia collapsed into civil war, critics accused him of failing to rein in bishops and priests who encouraged nationalism. He had also been accused of standing by, and remaining in contact with Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, currently on trial at the Hague for war crimes in Bosnia. But he steadily opposed President Slobodan Milosevic, denying his regime and that of Karadzic in Bosnia, official sanction from the Patriarchate. He expressly condemned violence on all sides, including the destruction and deaths at the hands of Serbs. And under his leadership, the Synod demanded Milosevic's removal.

The Patriarch was also criticised for associating with the Croatian Catholic hierarchy, but it did not deter him from trying to build bridges and peace with Catholics and Muslims. He opposed the independence of Kosovo (which was in his former diocese), with its deep historical significance for Serbian Orthodoxy and the importance of its monasteries for Serbian spiritual life, the preservation and renewal of which he had made a priority during his patriarchate. A good number of Kosovo churches and monasteries were destroyed or damaged, but Pavle resisted the urge to enmity and the calls to retribution, at the same time as trying to ensure that Serbian Orthodox monks, nuns and lay people could remain in the hope of better times, peace and and even reconciliation. He was after all aware of the hundreds of mosques and Catholic churches destroyed at Serbian hands in Bosnia and Croatia.

At the funeral Liturgy, Patriarch Bartholomew described Pavle as a "great spiritual leader" during the turbulent era for the nation.

"His face and appearance were radiant with holiness and righteousness," he said. "He was a true monk, a man of endless prayers, kind and calm but also a fighter who does not back down and is ready for any sacrifice when needed."

Serbia's President Boris Tadic, who attended the Liturgy, thanked the late Patriarch "for having been there for us with his deeds and message that we should always be human and never respond to the evil in the others with the evil within us."

Even though, Pavle was symbolically still head of the church, he had given up the day-to-day running last year because of ill health. There were rumours of attempts formally to remove him, but these were overcome. During his illness. the Church was led by Metropolitan Amfilohije, who may possibly succeed him as Patriarch.

Here is the obituary from The Times. And here is the obituary from the Daily Telegraph.

We will post an appreciation in due course from the Chairman, Fr John Salter.

Memory Eternal!

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Hope for the Holy Land

Hope for the Holy Land is a weekend festival - "Celebrating Palestinian Christianity" - taking place 28-29 November in Pimlico, at Holy Apostles Church Hall, Cumberland Street, London SW1V 4LY.

There will be food, music, talks, wines, films, crafts - all at a fair presenting the work of Christians and their church organisations in the land of Christ. Visit the website for full details.

And at the nearby Church of St Barnabas, Pimlico Road near Sloane Square, every Sunday the Greek Catholic Melkite Parish of St John Chrysostom for Christians from the Holy Land and other parts of the Middle East, meets for the Divine Liturgy at 11-30 am, worshipping in both Arabic and English.

New Charity: Friends of the Holy Land

The Friends of the Holy Land, a new Charity set up to support the Christians in the Holy Land, was launched last weekend, 14-15 November, in the two Archdioceses of Birmingham and Liverpool.

On Saturday the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, visited Birmingham and concelebrated Mass at 1.30pm in St Chad’s Cathedral with Bishop Philip Pargeter.

On Sunday he concelebrated Mass at 3pm in the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool with The Most Reverend Patrick Kelly, the Archbishop of Liverpool.

The Patriarch is encouraging all Parishes in England & Wales to establish a Friends of the Holy Land Parish Group. Pilot groups have been successfully set up in both Dioceses in the last 12 months and received much support. The Patriarch says: “I ask you to encourage and support this initiative. We need your help more than ever”.

National Chairman of the Friends of the Holy Land, Dr Michael Whelan, says: “We are delighted and privileged to welcome the Latin Patriarch to launch the Friends of the Holy Land in these first two Dioceses. Our target is to have an FHL Group in every Parish in England and Wales within the next few years. There is a real need to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by the Christian Community in the Holy Land, to provide financial support to aid their wellbeing and to encourage prayers to be offered for their intentions”.

On Monday, the Patriarch delivered an address to the Bishops' Conference of England & Wales at their meeting in Leeds: download his address here.

About the Friends of the Holy Land

The Friends of the Holy Land (FHL) was established in England and Wales in 2009. It is a registered charity and assists the Christian Community in the Holy Land, working in close cooperation with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The objectives are to raise awareness of the difficulties experienced by the Christian Community in the Holy Land, to encourage and to provide for prayers to be offered for their intentions and to create financial support to aid their well-being.

Financial support is provided to Parishes and Schools and families within the Christian Community to enable them to live a fruitful and rewarding life in their homeland.

This is carried out through funding for Parish activities, assistance to Schools, financing small self-help projects in the community and providing humanitarian aid to the needy.

This is all achieved with the backing and blessing of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. The FHL is a non-political organisation.


Dr Michael Whelan KSG, KGCHS
Trustee and National Chairman FHL
Tel: 01926 857580
Mobile: 07802 871610

Alexander DesForges
Director of News and Information
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
Tel: 020 7901 4800

Peter Rand MBE
Executive Committee Member
Tel: 01926 852163
Mobile: 07879 422866


Friends of the Holy Land
2 Station Road


Registered Charity Number 1130054

Thursday 12 November 2009

Christianity in the Middle East, Heythrop College, 24 November 2009

On Tuesday 24th November, Bishop Antoine Audo SJ, Bishop of Aleppo of the Chaldeans in Syria, will be leading two sessions at Heythrop College, Kensington Square, London W8.

  • 11.15 - 12.30 - Christianity in the Middle East - Present & Future Perspectives
  • 2.15 - 4.00 - Isaac the Syrian, John of Dalyatha & Eastern Christianity
The lectures will be in the Charlwood Room and those wishing to attend should contact Anthony O'Mahony at Heythrop College.

Apostolic Visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the United States

His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, made an Apostolic Visitation to the United States October 20 to November 6 2009. A superb website has been created to commemorate the visit, together with the meetings he had with President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton.

See also the videos of his addresses to the Brookings Institution (on Saving the Soul of the Planet), Fordham and Georgetown Universities and at the US Capitol.

Perhaps the warmest and most telling welcome was expressed by Vice President Joe Biden. The Patriarch Bartholomew had just concluded his Eighth Religion, Science and Environment Symposium in New Orleans, focusing on the Mississippi River.

“We are with you, [and] we support the Ecumenical Patriarch as a leader of global standing,” said Vice President Biden addressing the Ecumenical Patriarch and quoting the Ancient Greek fabulist Aesop who said “It is easy to be brave from a safe distance,” the Vice President said to His All Holiness: “You have always been brave and never from a safe distance. You have stared down those who seek to erode the authority of the Church tirelessly, professing the Greek Orthodox way for millions of followers.”

“Your Holiness I am truly grateful for your work on environmental awareness across the United States of America... You delivered a moving address in New Orleans and in New York, and you have inspired hundreds of thousands of Americans along the way,” continued Mr. Biden and added “you have been a champion for tolerance and interfaith dialogue reaching out to both the Catholic Church and the Moslem community, both in your native country Turkey and throughout the world.”

Joint Commission: Further Progress and Next Meeting in Vienna 2010

Nat da Polis of AsiaNews reports from Paphos, 27 October:

"The work of the first phase of meetings post Ravenna 2007, between Orthodox and Catholics for the unity of two churches concluded in Paphos, Cyprus with a common assertion of willingness to go forward "at all costs”. In Ravenna, Catholics and Orthodox had signed a text which recognized that primacy and collegiality are interdependent concepts. For this reason, the primacy in the life of the Church at all levels - regional and universal - must always be seen and examined in the context of collegiality (synodal) and at the same time, the collegiate (the Synod) in the context of the primacy.

As was agreed in the Ravenna meeting, where, as rightly pointed out by the Catholic Bishop Dimitri Salachas for the first time after centuries of misunderstanding serious discussion about the unity of the two Churches began, the commission discussed the role of the Bishop of Rome in the first millennium based on a text prepared by the Joint Committee in October 2008 in Crete, Greece. The text, entitled "The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium " tries to address the attitudes of the personalities who marked the history of the Church of the first millennium, united at the time, and investigate it in light of the historical, social and cultural context of that period.

The reason for starting discussions with the examination of the status of the Church in the first millennium, as agreed by all, lies in the fact that there is the intention of both sides to start from what historically unites the two Churches, in order to then come to a better understanding, in the socio-cultural historical context, of the reason for the division, despite the need for unity of the two Churches.

Of course the road is long, it was commented in Paphos, but there is the will of both sides to move forward at all costs, trying to soften the fears of those in their flock opposed to the prospect of unity. In the Orthodox world there are some areas that delight in their independence, however, characterized by a provincial culture, whereas in the Catholic world some sectors languish in a exaggerated dogmatic rationalism, which blocks a greater willingness to address the various issues. We suffer from an exaggerated Popery, a Catholic prelate revealed, at a time, he said, where even Benedict XVI himself often refers to the texts of the great fathers of the United Church. No small number in the ecumenical movement agree on the fact that in the management of Church affairs a more despotic rather than Episcopal notion has prevailed. Which is why we arrived at a catastrophic second millennium, with all its consequences for the universal Church.

In short, attempts are being made to address the nefarious second millennium - that of division and excommunication - as late as possible, by taking on the considerations of the great German physicist Max Planck, as maliciously observed in Cyprus, who maintained that new theories are accepted not because their creators accept them, but because new generations grow and are formed in these. In other words, time is the best doctor.

And there were those who recalled the words spoken by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Rome in 2004 during a meeting with a crowd of young people in the church of the Apostle Bartholomew on Tiber Island, organized by the Community of St. Egidio. Responding to their question as to when there will finally be unity between the two Churches, Bartholomew said, to resounding applause, that "if unity depends on us priests the road will be long. But it will be you, the faithful of the Church, who will force us to speed up the process”.

The Joint Commission, finally, has announced the next round of discussion and correction of the text of Crete, for September (20-27) 2010 in Vienna. It will be organised by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn."

Wednesday 11 November 2009

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

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 focussing 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, 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 judgement 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."

The use of the word 'Allah' by Christians in history and today

The late Metropolitan Elias of Tripoli and Koura blessing the choir of the Institute of Theology of the University of Balamand on the Feast of St John of Damascus, December 2004

The Catholic authorities in Malaysia are appealing against a decision to prevent the import of Bibles that use the Arabic word 'Allah' with reference to God on the ground that this is exclusive to Islam. The bishops contend that it is in common use among the population, Muslims and others alike, as the word that simply means 'God'.

It is, after all, the word used for God in Catholic Malta, where the language is closely related to Arabic. Perhaps more importantly, it is used by the Arab Christians of the Middle East and belongs no less to the Syriac Christian tradition, as well as tracing its history to before Mohammed.

Follow this link to YouTube for a video of the Trisagion in the Divine Liturgy at the Monastery of our Lady of Balamand (Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch), served by the late Archbishop Elias Kurban of Tripoli and Koura, on the feast of St John of Damascus, in December 2004. It is sung in Greek (Hagios ho Theos) and Arabic (Kudouson Illah).

The excellent new blog, Notes on Arab Orthodoxy, goes into further detail:

"In the comments to an earlier post, Fr. Andrew asks:

Would you be willing to do a post on the history of the Arabic Orthodox Christian use of Allah to refer to the One True God? When was that word first used by Arabic-speaking Orthodox? What is its pre-Christian and pre-Muslim history?

and then adds:

The issue came up recently on an email list I'm on—a poster claimed that Allah as a word was somehow tainted due to its association with Islam and pre-Christian, pre-Islamic Arabic paganism.

Of course, the argument on that email list is nonsense, because all the words we have for God, whether it's God, Theos, Deus, Bog, or what have you, all have pagan backgrounds and are used in modern times to describe non-Christian gods. Arguing that the word for God should be untainted by other cultures would put you in company with the darker side of 16th century Catholicism.

Leaving that aside, the history of the word Allah is rather prosaic. The generic Arabic word for 'a god' is ilah. This is cognate to the most common Semitic word for a god and is thus related to the Hebrew Elohim (and possibly El), the Syriac/Aramaic Alaha, and the Old South Arabian 'lh-- so basically all the Semitic languages outside of Ethiopia. Ilah is used by Christian Arabs in compounds like walidat al-ilah (the Theotokos) and ilahu abaina (God of our Fathers).

The Arabic word for the one God, in the use of any Arabic-speaking religion, is of course Allah. This word either comes from a contraction of ilah with the definite article, al-ilah, or is a borrowing from the Syriac Alaha (the latter opinion is sustained by early 20th century scholars like von Gruenbaum, Cheikho, Mingana, and Jeffery). It could just as easily be the mutual influence of the two, as the line between borrowings and cognates among Semitic languages is notoriously hard to determine.

Allah was of course used by the pre-Islamic pagans of Arabia, at least those whose cult center was Mecca. For them, Allah was the supreme god and was worshipped at the Ka'ba with his three daughters Allat (fem. of Allah), Manat, and 'Uzza. As far as I know-- and I say this without having the labyrinthine works of Irfan Shahid in front of me-- we do not have any extent literary or epigraphic texts from pre-Islamic Christian Arabs.

We do have pre-Islamic poems composed by poets from Christian tribes and transmitted orally until written down in the early Islamic period. (And whose authenticity, of course, has been much-debated). They make very rare mention of any religious theme, but do sometimes use the word Allah.

However, we can turn to the Qur'an as evidence for pre-Islamic use of the word Allah by Christians and Jews. That is, the Qur'an was not composed in dialogue only (and I would argue even chiefly) with the pagans of Mecca. Rather, Muhammad was much more interested in delivering his message to the Jews (primarily) and to some degree Christians. Since Allah is used of God in Qur'anic passages like Surat al-Ikhlas* which are addressed specifically to Christians, it seems that Muhammad assumed that the Christians he was addressing would understand Allah to mean their own God, since it was almost certainly the word they used themselves for Him. (A possible case where the Qur'an actually does co-opt a foreign word for a god is the epithet 'al-Rahman', which was likely the name of the chief god among the South Arabians).

At no point in the literary history of Christian Arabic am I aware of any word other than 'Allah' used for God (that is, where Greek would use ο θεος). Nor am I aware of it having been controversial among Christian Arabs or non-Arab Christians who came in contact with the usage. After all, Byzantine refutations of Islam talk about what the blasphemies Muslims say about ο θεος, not what they say about αλλα........

*German scholar of the Qur'an and (incidentally) Orthodox Christian, Angelika Neuwirth argues that Surat al-Ikhlas is a point-by-point refutation of the first part of the Nicene Creed."

Tuesday 10 November 2009

US Catholic and Orthodox Bishops respond to the Ravenna Statement

Catholic Culture reports, 5 November 2009:

Abandoning the diplomatic language typical of ecumenical pronouncements, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, chaired by Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh, has issued a candid critique of the 2007 “Ravenna document,” a modest milestone in Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical relations.

The Ravenna document, while not purporting to be the Church’s official teaching, was issued by the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, chaired by Cardinal Walter Kasper and Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamon. A month after the document was issued, Cardinal Kasper told other cardinals that “for the first time the Orthodox representatives recognized a universal level of the Church and admitted that at this level there also exists a Protos, a Primate, who can only be the Bishop of Rome according to the taxis [order] of the ancient Church. All the participants are aware that this is only a first step and that the journey toward full ecclesial communion will be long and difficult; yet, with this document we have set a base for future dialogue.”

After praising aspects of the Ravenna document, the North American Catholic and Orthodox participants in ecumenical dialogue issued their candid critique:

[O]ur Consultation also judges that some issues mentioned in the text are in need of further dialogue and clarification. Like any analogy between the eternal God and created beings, the analogy between the order (taxis) which exists among the three persons of the Holy Trinity and the order (taxis) which exists among local Churches requires further explanation and development. The Ravenna text does not make sufficiently clear the ecclesiological status of regional expressions of primacy and synodality. Even at regional levels, and not only at the universal level, the limits and exercise of authority by the “first” are also not made clear. The document’s historical treatment of apostolic succession and of ecumenical councils lacks precision and may occasion oversimplification and misunderstanding. The understanding of the local parish within the context of the modern diocese or local Church is in need of study.

Finally, we take exception to the contents of the Ravenna document’s sole footnote: “Orthodox participants felt it important to emphasize that the use of the terms ‘the Church’, ‘the universal Church’ and ‘the Body of Christ’ in this document and in similar documents produced by the Joint Commission in no way undermines the self-understanding of the Orthodox Church as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, of which the Nicene Creed speaks. From the Catholic point of view, the same self-awareness applies: the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church ‘subsists in the Catholic Church’ (Lumen Gentium, 8); this does not exclude acknowledgement that elements of the true Church are present outside the Catholic communion.”

We find this footnote inaccurate. First, we think that its two assertions do not adequately represent the ecclesiology of either the Orthodox or the Catholic Church. The Orthodox Church’s self-understanding as the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is not understood by all Orthodox in exclusivist terms. Throughout the centuries, significant currents within Orthodox ecclesiology have recognized the presence of the Church’s reality outside the canonical, visible boundaries of the Orthodox Church. Also, to assert that “from the Catholic point of view the same self-awareness applies” misrepresents Catholic ecclesiology at and since the Second Vatican Council, in spite of the Ravenna document’s reference to Lumen Gentium 8. Because of apostolic succession and the Eucharist, Vatican II did not hesitate to recognize that the Orthodox constitute “Churches,” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 14) that they are “sister Churches,” and to assert that in their celebration of the Eucharist, the Church of God is being built up and growing.

The Ravenna document’s footnote, which the new North American Catholic-Orthodox statement criticized as “inaccurate,” appears to find ample grounding in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s definitive interpretation of the meaning of the words “subsists in."

Here is the Catholic and Orthodox bishops' joint statement in full.

Bulgarian Orthodox Leader Affirms Desire for Unity

Bishop Tichon at the Church of SS. Vincenzo e Anastasio by the Trevi Fountain in October

On October 22, Zenit reported the recent visit of Bishop Tichon of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to Pope Benedict, which took place as the Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue was due to meet in Cyprus to discuss Primacy in the Church, following the positive experience of discussions in 2008 at Ravenna.
A Bulgarian Orthodox prelate has told Benedict XVI of his desire for unity, and his commitment to accelerate communion with the Catholic Church.

At the end of Wednesday's general audience, Bishop Tichon, head of the diocese for Central and Western Europe of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, stated to the Pope, "We must find unity as soon as possible and finally celebrate together," L'Osservatore Romano reported.

"People don't understand our divisions and our discussions," the bishop stated. He affirmed that he will "not spare any efforts" to work for the quick restoration of "communion between Catholics and Orthodox."

Bishop Tichon said that "the theological dialogue that is going forward in these days in Cyprus is certainly important, but we should not be afraid to say that we must find as soon as possible the way to celebrate together."

"A Catholic will not become an Orthodox and vice versa, but we must approach the altar together," he added.

The prelate told the Pontiff that "this aspiration is a feeling that arose from the works of the assembly" of his diocese, held in Rome, in which all the priests and two delegates from every Bulgarian Orthodox parish took part.

"We have come to the Pope to express our desire for unity and also because he is the Bishop of Rome, the city that hosted our assembly," he stated.

Friday 6 November 2009

"Christ is the Head of the Church, not the Pope"

Metropolitan John of Pergamon, Co-Chairman of the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Catholics, at the 11th Plenary Session at Paphos, Cyprus. Left, Gennadios of Sassima. Right, Archbishop Chrysostom of Cyprus

On 16 October 2009, the Greek newspaper, Orthodox Press, carried this commentary on the Ravenna statement from the Joint International Commission for the the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, written by Metropolitan Paul of Kyrenia.

It is not clear whether it predates the response from Metropolitan John of Pergamon (John Zizioulas) to those Metropolitans of the Church of Greece who had openly criticised the Oecumenical Patriarchate (as though it were acting ultra vires) and by implication the involvement of Metropolitans John and Kallistos (Ware) without authority. Metropolitan John reminded the complaining hierarchs that the dialogue, and the terms on which it has been deliberating, were expressly authorised and proposed by the primates and Synods of all the participating Orthodox Churches together - including those of the Churches of Greece and Cyprus. See the letter of Metropolitan John Zizioulas here.

But it was meant as an argument the work and joint statement on progress in the Dialogue at its plenary meeting in Cyprus this October past.

Here is the Metropolitan of Kyrenia's critique (from the website calling itself the Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatie Enquiries):

"On the 8th to the 14th of October in 2007, the 10th plenary session of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics had convened in Ravenna of Italy. At the end of the session, a document was issued which included everything that was agreed upon and is known as the "Ravenna Document".


The basic error of the Ravenna Document is that the Orthodox members of the Joint International Commission of Orthodox and Roman Catholics had regarded their heterodox interlocutors as belonging to the same Church, thus giving the impression that between the Orthodox Church and Roman Catholicism there actually exists an ecclesiological unity, albeit without the necessary theological prerequisites.

The attempt by members of the Orthodox Representation to suppress or bypass the dogmatic diversification between Orthodoxy and heterodoxy as something secondary is undermining the self-awareness of the Orthodox Church as the only true Church - which is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church - and is giving the impression that the Roman Catholics comprise a partial or local Orthodox Church.

Even though the interruption of sacramental intercommunion is attributed to the Roman Catholics' diversifications from the common Faith of the first centuries, nevertheless, in the Ravenna Document it is mutually confessed by both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic members of the Joint Commission that their faith is common. In this way, the discussion and settlement of organizational and administrative issues have been set forth, as, for example, the matter of the Pope's primacy, while the theological issues have been bypassed and left pending. As a consequence of this, the Ravenna document concluded with the statement that "It remains for the question of the role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of all the Churches to be studied in greater depth." (Ravenna Document, para.45)

It is therefore imperative that the serious dogmatic issues be discussed first, and furthermore, a framework be determined with the necessary prerequisites that should be based on Patristic criteria, which will ensure that the Dialogue will be conducted on a sound and immovable dogmatic basis and not on unstable secular grounds. It is only with persistence in the precision (akriveia) of the Orthodox dogma and the dogmatic teaching of the Orthodox Church that we can be certain we are working towards the re-induction of the strayed into Christ's Flock.

Upon examining the Document of the Coordinating Committee for the theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholics, which was prepared in Crete in October 2008, with the title "The role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church during the first millennium" and which only recently reached us, the projection of the positions of the Roman Catholics is quite evident. The projection of the position that "...unity in variety was positively accepted at the Synod of Constantinople, which took place in 879-880" (Crete, para.32), reveals the ulterior motives of the Roman Catholics. They are preparing the backdrop for a Uniate-style union.

The Pope - whose See is regarded in the Crete Document as the "source of episcopal unity" (Crete, para.10) - appears as Christ's substitute, from whom everything flows forth, since - according to the words of Pope Gelasius: "The first See is judged by no-one" (EP.4, PL 58, 28B, Ep.13, PL 59, 64A) - (see Crete, para.11). Despite the attempt to present the absolute dominance of the Pope as a primacy of deaconship by projecting him as the "servant of servants" (Crete, para.14), nevertheless, the serious dogmatic slippages and the erroneous approach by the Orthodox Representatives on the issue of primacy cannot be concealed. "Being a Successor, the Pope becomes apostolic and also inherits the common element of inseparable unity between Christ and Peter" (Crete, para.17). How is it possible to accept that a Pope expresses the unity between Christ and the Apostle Peter? By persisting in the primacy of Peter (based on the words of the Lord that "you are Peter, and on this rock shall I build Me the Church" (Matthew 16:18)), they have misinterpreted the words of Christ, Who was referring to the "faith of that admission" (Chrysostom, On Matthew, 54, 2, PG 58,534) and not implying that specific Apostle as the rock. After all, both the rock and the cornerstone are the Lord Himself, according to His own words (Matthew 21:42).

While the papal institution scorns the Holy Bible and Sacred Tradition and establishes absolutism (since the Pope, not Christ, appears to be the "source of episcopal unity" - Crete, para.10), it is evident that the composers of the Document are attempting to present the Pope as a defender of conciliarity in order to obviously calm the fears of the Orthodox and preclude any objections and reactions.

It is furthermore mentioned in the Crete Document that "the unity of the Episcopate and the Church are symbolized in the person of Peter" (Crete, para.10) and that "Peter speaks through the Bishop of Rome" (Crete, para.19). Why would the canonicity of the Church depend on Her relationship to the Pope? Why is it necessary for every local Church to agree with the church of Rome, instead of all the Churches agreeing together as one Body? The triple question posed by the Lord to the Apostle Peter was not intended as a conferral of a nonexistent primacy - for which he would have rejoiced - but was intended to heal Peter's triple denial - for which we should note "he was sorrowed" (John 21:17). "The triple denial was ostracized, by the benevolent Father's triple condescension", notes Saint Isidore Pelousiotes (†435). (Epistle 1, 103, PG 48, 632).

The anti-conciliar spirit of the Roman Catholics has no historical backing. The ancient Church has the Ecumenical Synod, not the Pope, as its supreme principal. The Ecumenical Councils were not convened by Popes, who, let it be noted, neither headed all of the Ecumenical Councils nor issued any dogmatic rulings for the entire Church (which were actually validated by all the local Churches). However, when the papal system was first proposed in theory, Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) had repulsed it. (Karmiris, Orthodoxy and Old Catholicism, B' Athens 1967, p.69). And yet, in the Crete Document is states that "no Synod was recognized as Ecumenical, without having received the consent of the Pope". (Crete, para.12).

The conclusion of the Crete Document, that "the first millennium, which was being studied during this stage of our dialogue, is about the common tradition of both our Churches", and that "in the basic theological and ecclesiological principles that have coincided here, this common tradition should serve as a model for the restoration of full communion" (Crete, para.32), should both raise concerns in us, inasmuch as the Orthodox members of the Commission are rushing ahead of things.

It is worth noting here that the administration of Ecclesiastic affairs - and more so when they pertain to the Orthodox Faith - cannot be left in the hands of appointed Professors or even Bishops, who may of course formally represent the local Orthodox Churches, but might nonetheless act on their own initiative by expressing their personal views because of a lack of synodical strategy on the part of their local Church. The avoidance of convening Synods, or, in cases where they are convened but the conveners are deprived of the ability to freely express their views and positions, or, the delayed briefing of the responsible parties of the special Committees for the preparation of various proposals to the Holy Synod needed for decision-making, all constitute deviations from the synodical system of administration of the Church and do not secure the ability to shape Orthodox positions. Furthermore, the attempted imposition of an externally designed guideline also undermines ecclesiastic order.

The attempts by the theologians representing the Orthodox Church to characterize Roman Catholicism as a Church is a provocation to the Orthodox sentiment."

Metropolitan John Zizioulas writes to the Metropolitans of Greece

In July we carried a report on the Metropolitans of the Orthodox Church of Greece, who had denounced the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its 'heresy of ecumenism', specifically the work of the dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church (see here).

In September, the Greek Ecclesiastical News Agency, Zoiforos, posted this response from Metropolitan John of Pergamon (John Zizioulas) on behalf of the dialogue itself and also for all the Orthodox Churches and their hierarchs whose official commission it bears:

Your Eminence,

Given that much turmoil has been unduly created by certain circles, on the subject of the official theological Dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics, and that views have also been expressed, which often range between inaccuracy and open falsehood and slander, I am hereby addressing Your affection in order to clarify the following:

  1. The aforementioned theological Dialogue does not constitute a concern of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and much less, that of a specific person, but is something that is taking place upon the decision of all the autocephalous and autonomous Orthodox Churches without exception. Specifically with regard to the present period of the Dialogue, during which the undersigned has the co-chairmanship from the Orthodox side, the agreement of all the Orthodox Churches for the continuation of the Dialogue has been recorded in Memoranda signed by the venerable Primates of the Orthodox Churches, which are hereto attached in photocopy. As Your Eminence will see when reading these Memoranda, even the most holy Church of Greece - and in fact with a Synodical decision - has admitted that "despite the existing difficulties, which spring from the provocative activities of Unia to the detriment of the flock of the Orthodox Church, the said Theological Dialogue must continue." Consequently, those opposed to the said theological Dialogue are doubting and judging pan-Orthodox decisions, which have been reached synodically. By claiming solely as their own the genuine conscience of Orthodoxy, these people are in essence doubting the Orthodoxy not only of certain persons - as they misguidedly insist - but of the very Primates and sacred Synods of all the most holy Orthodox Churches.
  2. The same things apply in the case of the said Dialogue. We are informed that a certain professor in his letter to the Reverend Hierarchs is censuring the topic of primacy [of the Apostolic See of Rome] as a chosen topic for the theological Dialogue, and believes that the Dialogue should be concerning itself with other matters. But the said professor is either ignorant of, or indifferent to, the fact that - again - the topic of the Dialogue was decided on at a pan-orthodox level. The attached Memoranda, signed by all the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, testify to and verify this. The most holy Church of Greece thus accepts that "this discussion (regarding Unia) can, for the sake of facilitating the course of the Dialogue, be conducted within the framework of ecclesiology through the prism of the primacy". This is precisely what we normally intend to do, during the forthcoming discussion of the subject "The Primacy during the 2nd Millennium", which is also when Unia first appeared. The remaining topics that the said professor referred to will by no means be overlooked by the Dialogue. However, during the present phase, as decided at an inter-orthodox level from the beginning of the Dialogue, the focal point of the discussion is Ecclesiology. It is duly respected and legitimate, for the said professor - or anyone else - to have a different point of view, but it is inadmissible to be crying out that Orthodoxy is in danger because the Primates who are shepherding Her do not share his opinion. Where are we heading as a Church, my Reverend holy brother?
  3. It is being propagated very falsely and conspiringly that the signing of the union of the Churches is imminent! A professor emeritus of Theology, who is well known for his ill-will towards my person, had visited a Hierarch of the Church of Greece and had told him that he knew with certainty (!) that the union had already been signed (in Ravenna!) and that the relative announcement was a matter of time!!! Clergy and laity have approached me and asked me if it is true that the union is to be signed in Cyprus, in October! Obviously, a feeling of unrest is being attempted among the people of God through this behaviour, with unpredictable consequences for the unity of the Church. However, those who are disseminating these things are fully aware (as long as they have not been blinded by empathy, fanaticism or a mania for self-projection), firstly, that the ongoing theological Dialogue has yet to span an extremely long course, because the theological differences that have accumulated during the one thousand years of division are many; and secondly, that the Committee for the Dialogue is entirely unqualified for the "signing" of a union, given that this right belongs to the Synods of the Churches. Therefore, why all the misinformation? Can't the disseminators of these false "updates" think of what the consequences will be for the unity of the Church? «He who agitates (God's people) shall bear the blame, whoever he may be» (Galatians 5:10).
Your Eminence, The responsibility of all of us, and mostly of the bishops who have been appointed by God to cater to the safeguarding of the canonical unity of their flock, is an immense one. What is being jeopardized is ecclesiological: What is the authority and the prestige of Conciliar decisions? Do we conform to the Conciliar decisions as we are already doing - and being attacked for doing so - or do we conform to the "zealots" of Orthodoxy? Can there be an Orthodoxy and Dogmas without any Conciliar rulings? We ask you to please place yourself on the matter, before we are led to a complete demerit of Conciliar decisions, and before Your flock disintegrates because of negligence on our part.

In humility and in awareness of episcopal responsibility, we submit the above to Your affection and judgment and remain in Athens the 26th of September 2009

With Respect, honour and love in the Lord

+ John of Pergamon
Orthodox Co-Chairman of the Committee for the Theological Dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics

Thursday 5 November 2009

Newsletter of the Youngstown-Warren Ohio Branch in the US

Here is Autumn issue of Light of the East, the newsletter of our friends in the Society in Ohio, as usual full of interesting news, events and articles.

The Pontifical Society and the Pontifical Commission For Russia

Bishop Michel d'Herbigny SJ, the Holy See's Trojan Horse into Russia

In 1925 Pope Pius XI created the Pontifical Commission Pro Russia, which was responsible for all matters concerning Catholics of all rites inside the Soviet Union and Russians in the Diaspora. Refounded the following year, the Pontifical Society of St. John Chrysostom attempted to support some of the Commission's initiatives.

The Commission's secretary and later president, Michel d'Herbigny, sponsored a Russian-language religious journal
Bogovjest. The section of the Pro Russia Commission's papers found in the Archives of the Oriental Congregation reveal a brief correspondence between the heads of the two Pontifical entities. On 5 June 1931, the Society's Chairman, Monsignor Barton, sent a letter to Bishop d'Herbigny, together with an donation of £40, in order to ensure a more frequent publication of the Russian journal. A bulletin dated April 1931 commemorating the Society's fifth anniversary was also enclosed. D'Herbigny sent a letter of thanks to Monsignor Barton the following 12 June.

Future research could reveal if the Society or its members had any other contact with the Pontifical Commission For Russia. This small detail is part of a larger direction of historical analysis of the
Pro Russia Commission and of leading churchmen connected with the Catholic outreach to Russia, men such as Andrei Sheptytsky, Cyrille Korolevskij, Lev Gillet, Michel d'Herbigny and Eugène Tisserant.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Russian and Polish Hierarchs Strive for Reconciliation

Archbishop Henryk Muszyński of Gniezno and Archbishop Evgeniy, rector of the seminary at the Moscow Academy of Theology in January 2008

Our friends in SSJC Youngstown in the US have let us know about this interesting encounter between Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholics in Poland, which took place in early October:

The extraordinary visit of a delegation from the Russian Orthodox Church to Poland can be the starting point for a real reconciliation of the two nations. The delegation of the Orthodox Church in Russia led by Archimandrite Arkadiusz, superior of the St. Nil monastery on Stolobienskoje island, stayed for almost a week on the invitation of the Roman Catholic episcopate. They met Archbishop Henryk Muszyński, general secretary of the Bishops' Conference Bishop Stanisław Budzil, and the president of the Bishops' Conference Archbishop Jozef Michalik.

The representatives of the two Churches discussed how to improve the cool relations between Poland and Russia. In the talks the issue of a common declaration arose. The declaration will include the appeal for reconciliation, as in the famous letter of Polish bishops to the Germans from 1965 - “We forgive and ask for forgiveness”.

The Orthodox monks were given at Jasna Górat a copy of the icon of Mother of God from Częstochowa. The icon will be placed in the chapel which was built in the monastery near Ostaszków, close to the place where Polish officers were imprisoned in the time of the Second World War.

Sunday 1 November 2009

Light of the East - SSJC Western Region US - Fall 2009 Newsletter

Here is Light of the East, the Fall (October-December) 2009 Newsletter of the Western Region of SSJC in the US.