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.

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Synod on the Middle East, October 2010

Archbishop Nikola Eterovic
Preparations continue for next October's special synod on the Middle East. The working document is nearing completion and emphasizes communion within the Church.

The pre-synodal council met in late November, and a communiqué regarding its work was released Monday by the Vatican press office:

The participants in the meeting dedicated ample space to the topic of the deepening of communion in the Catholic Church and, in particular, between the Patriarchal Churches and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, as well as the episcopal conferences of the countries of the Middle East.

The statement stresses the importance of communion with other Churches and the importance of dialogue and collaboration with Jews and Muslims in the social and cultural activities.

In line with Pope Benedict's suggestion, the theme of witness will be important. The secretary-general of the synod of bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, remarked in his opening address to the Pre-Synodal Council:

In this vast region that encompasses the land in which the mysteries of our
salvation were fulfilled, Christians are called to give witness to the death and
resurrection of Christ in virtue of the gift of the Spirit, who inspires
believers to act in communion and unity with the whole Church and not
individually. ... New generat ions must come to know the great patrimony of
faith and witness in the different Churches....

Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of the Peoples, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, were joined by eight Eastern patriarchs in the meeting. Also taking part were the presidents of the episcopal conferences of Iran and Turkey.

Friday 11 December 2009

The Exodus of Christians from the Holy Land: A Challenge for a Sustainable Peace

Last week on December 4th, Cardinal John Foley, the cardinal protector of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, delivered an address at a conference at the Norwegian School of Theology in Oslo on "The Exodus of Christians from the Holy Land".

Here is his full address, courtesy of Zenit.org.

In summary:

Christianity & the Middle East's Culture
Christians in the Middle East must build bridges with the cultures around them rather than emphasizing differences. Indeed for Christians to thrive in the Middle East, they must integrate more into the culture.

"Christianity is trans-national, trans-ethnic and trans-cultural... It should not be tied to an ethnic group" or "any one culture... It is for the whole world," he affirmed.

"The tendency of Christians in the Middle East is to identify with Western ways and Western styles," but that they "must not cling" to this identity. "One of the problems in the Middle East is that Christians have asserted Western culture against Islamic culture ... It's a sense of, we have to be us and they have to be them."

Cardinal Foley acknowledged that this is "understandable," but that "Christianity doesn't have to be -- and shouldn't be -- tied to the Western way of doing things." And "Christianity is not tied to geography ... Judaism is focused on one piece of land ... the small strip of land, the Holy Land, because of the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, because of the ancient kingdoms of Judah and Israel." And "Islam is very tied to territory, ... "shrine-bound" to places like Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. But Christianity is different, as "Jesus is not buried in the Holy Sepulchre ... We find him everywhere ... Christianity can flourish anywhere."

Yet Christians, especially from the Western world, are a "bridge to the future for the Muslim Arab world." "Christians from the Western world have learned certain things and bring certain values and perspectives that are vitally important for the growth and maturation of the Arab world." Among these ideas are the understanding of the separation between church and state, the prelate pointed out, or the value of reconciliation and forgiveness. "If the Islamic world is to join fully into modern society, it has to integrate these values into its daily life," he said.

While he expressed concern about dwindling numbers of Holy Land Christians, their emigration is not necessarily negative. Cardinal John Foley said, "I think that we can say without qualification that the presence of Christians in the Holy Land today is a source of hope for understanding, peace and reconciliation." "In the entire traditional Holy Land area you are looking at a population of over 10,000,000 peo ple, and a total Christian population of less than 200,000 [or 2%], the smallest percentage of Christians of any country in the region ... Christians are leaving the Holy Land, leaving the Arab world, leaving the Middle East." "Socially, among Christians, there is a sense of exclusion, if not discrimination, in many countries."

"However, if it should happen that there be not one single Christian left in the Holy Land, it will not hurt Christianity fundamentally, as ... Christianity can flourish anywhere." "When we talk about migration, we need to remember that fundamentally Christianity is a movement. Christians have always spread throughout the world. The mission of Christians is to spread throughout the world. Evangelization is all about spreading the Kingdom of God." "Don't think that the movement of Christians is necessarily bad; the fact that a lot of Christians leave one place and go to another doesn't mean it is an evil, although they may move with regret. It's also a fact of life ... When Christians from Bethlehem emigrate ... they bring their values and history to other lands.

But while emigration is "not necessarily an evil ... it does involve a loss." "There's a patrimony and a culture that is being lost with the exodus of the Christians." "On the other hand, it is understandable that Christians and other people in the Middle East want to seek a better life ... It takes a valiant minority to stay simply for the sake of maintaining the Christian presence when there are jobs, educational opportunities, a future and freedom in other parts of the world." "Migration, by the way, doesn't mean you can't come back. One of the challenges, it seems to me, is to create a climate for safe migration. "

"If we are truly concerned with that part of the world, we need to use some of our influence on the governments of the lands in which we live to affect their national policies about the Middle East," he said. Thus "we help ensure that Christian values, Christian ethics, Christian criteria of judgment are being brought to the table, either directly through our home countries or through the advocacy and work of the local church." "A very practical thing we can do is help those who wish to migrate: Welcome them, facilitate their arrival and the presence and establishment of Middle Eastern Christians who wish to come to our home countries."

Thursday 10 December 2009

The New Rome-Moscow Alliance to Fight Secularism in Europe

Archibishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk
Robert Moynihan, the seasoned "Inside the Vatican" journalist who authors the blog, The Moynihan Report, detects in the recent establishment of full diplomatic relations between Russia and the Holy See and in the recent publication by the Moscow Patriarchate of a collection of writings by Pope Benedict on the theme of Christianity and its role in shaping civil society in Europe's future "a new alliance on the world stage between two powers that have long distrusted each other: Rome and Russia."

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, 43, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate's department for external Church relations, wrote the introduction for the book, in which he sets forth his vision for Europe and the new "alliance" needed to realize that vision.

Sandro Magister, another highly regarded Vatican journalist and author of the Chiesa blog, was so impressed by this introduction that he wrote:

Those who expect an Orthodox Church removed from time, made up only of remote traditions and archaic liturgies, will come away shaken from reading the introduction to this book. [...] The image that emerges from it is that of a Russian Orthodox Church that refuses to let itself be locked up in a ghetto, but on the contrary hurls itself against the secularist onslaught with all the peaceful weapons at its disposal, not excluding civil disobedience against laws 'that oblige the commission of a sin in the eyes of God.'

Those in the West, both in Europe and in the United States, who feel that unjust laws have been passed that cannot be countenanced by Christians, will find a kindred spirit in Archbishop Hilarion. The title he uses is, The Help That the Russian Orthodox Church Can Give to Europe.

Robert Moynihan (for whose analysis below we are indebted and gratefully acknowledge) describes how it begins with a very candid, and deeply felt, lamentation by an Orthodox leader for the closing of Catholic and Protestant churches in Western Europe:

When traveling in Europe, especially in the traditionally Protestant countries, I am always astonished at seeing not a few churches abandoned by their congregations, especially the ones turned into pubs, clubs, shops, or place of profane activities of yet another kind," Archbishop Hilarion writes. "There is something profoundly deplorable in this sad spectacle.

I come from a country in which for many deca des the churches were used for nonreligious purposes. Many places of worship were completely destroyed. […] Why has the space for religion in Western society been reduced in such a significant way in recent decades?
Then Archbishop Hilarion makes his main point, that Russia and its Orthodox Church, after years of being aided and supported by the Christians of the West, is back on its feets and is ready in return to come to the rescue of the West:

The Russian Orthodox Church, with its unique experience of surviving the harshest persecutions, struggling against militant atheism, reemerging from the ghetto when the political situation changed, recovering its place in society and redefining its social responsibilities, can therefore be of help to Europe.

"The totalitarian dictatorship of the past cannot be replaced with a new dictatorship of pan-European government mechanisms. […] The countries of Orthodox tradition, for example, do not accept laws that legalize euthanasia ... drug trafficking ... and so on.

In short, the archbishop is saying that the Orthodox, including the Russian Orthodox Church which he represents, are ready to fight for Christian values in the West, alongside Catholics and Protestants.

John Thavis, the distinguished Vaticanist for Catholic News Service (of the U.S. bishops' conference) wrote on December 11th:
The Russian Orthodox Church has come forward to propose a strategic alliance
with the Catholic Church aimed, in effect, at saving Europe's soul from 'Western
post-Christian humanism.' The offer came in an introduction written by Russian
Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion to a book of speeches by Benedict XVI on Europe's spiritual crisis, published in Russian by the Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate. In an unusual move, the Vatican newspaper published almost the entire introduction
in its December 2nd edition.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus FoundationArchbishop Hilarion has spoken publicly a number of times of such an alliance. In fact, in May 2006 the Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate held a weeklong conference in Vienna, oulining the framework for such cooperation.

In November 2009, Moynihan reports his travel to Russia and meeting Archbishop Hilarion and his close associates. One of them was Leonid Sevastianov, 31, the executive director of the Russian Orthodox St. Gregory of Nazianzus Charitable Foundation, established with the blessing of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill to help carry out Archbishop Hilarion's vision of working with Western Christians on behalf of Christian values.

"We want your help, the help of Catholics, and of Western Europeans and Americans," Sevastianov told Moynihan. "Patriarch Kirill has called for the moral renewal of Russia, through a return to the deep values of the Christian faith. This is our vision."

The reason St. Gregory of Nazianzus was chosen as patron of the alliance of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians in Europe is because, as a theologian in the 300s, well before the division of the Church into East and West, and because he is venerated both by the Catholics and by the Orthodox, he is a Father of the Church for all Christians. The co-founders of this new foundation are Archbishop Hilarion and Vadim Yakunin, one of the wealthiest businessmen in Russia.

Other wealthy Russians are also prepared to support this foundation. But participation by Americans and Western Europeans would also be very much appreciated, say Archbishop Hilarion and Sevastianov:

We want to try to attract the attention of religious believers, in Russia and abroad, who believe in traditional Christian values, and who want to contribute to making society more just and more moral. We want to promote the idea of the unity between the West and Russia on the basis of common Christian roots.

Pope Benedict XVI praises the spiritual renewal of Albania

The Vatican Information Service reports, 4th December 2009:

The Holy Father today received in audience His Beatitude Anastas, archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania, who was accompanied by other representatives of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania.

"As is well known", said the Pope in his English-language address to the group, "Illyricum received the Gospel in apostolic times. Since then, Christ's saving message has borne fruit in your country down to our own day. As the very earliest writings of your culture bear witness, through the survival of an ancient Latin baptismal formula along with a Byzantine hymn about the Lord's Resurrection, the faith of our Christian forefathers left wonderful and indelible traces in the first lines of the history, literature and arts of your people.

"Yet", he added, "the most impressive witness is surely always found in life itself. During the latter half of the past century, Christians in Albania, both Orthodox and Catholic, kept the faith alive there in spite of an extremely repressive and hostile atheistic regime; and, as is well known, many Christians paid cruelly for that faith with their lives".

The Holy Father went on: "The fall of that regime has happily given way to the reconstruction of the Catholic and Orthodox communities in Albania". In this context he praised the archbishop's missionary activity, "particularly in the reconstruction of places of worship, the formation of the clergy and the catechetical work now being done, a movement of renewal which Your Beatitude has rightly described as 'Ngjallja' (Resurrection).

"Since it acquired its freedom, the Orthodox Church of Albania has been able to participate fruitfully in the international theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. Your commitment in this regard happily mirrors the fraternal relations between Catholics and Orthodox in your country and offers inspiration to the entire Albanian people, demonstrating how it is possible for fellow Christians to live in harmony.

"In this light, we would do well to emphasise the elements of faith which our Churches share: a common profession of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed; a common Baptism for the remission of sins and for incorporation into Christ and the Church; the legacy of the first ecumenical councils; the real if imperfect communion which we already share, and the common desire and collaborative efforts to build upon what already exists".

Benedict XVI then went on to mention two initiatives currently underway in Albania: the establishment of the Inter-confessional Biblical Society and the creation of the Committee for Inter-religious Relations, describing them as "timely efforts to promote mutual understanding and tangible co-operation, not only between Catholics and Orthodox, but also among Christians, Muslims and Bektashi".

Closing his remarks the Pope expressed his joy at the "spiritual renewal" of the Albanian people, and gave assurances to Archbishop Anastas that the Catholic Church "will do all she can to offer a common witness of brotherhood and peace, and to pursue with you a renewed commitment to the unity of our Churches".

Archbishop Anastasios called the meeting a historic event because for the first time the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania was officially represented in a visit to the Roman Catholic Church, making clear that today’s world needs new ties between Christians, because theological dialogue and reconciliation are a basic obligation for leaders of the Churches. Archbishop Anastasios also described how the Orthodox Church in Albania was persecuted and rebuilt from ruins.

On December 9th in Naples, the Pontifical University of Southern Italy awarded Prof. Doctor Archbishop Anastasios with the title Doctor of Theology Honoris Causa for Theology for his long and very scientific contribution as a missionary and pastor. The chancellor, Cardinal Creshenzio Sepe, Archbishop of Naples, also invited His Beatitude to give the Lectio Magistralis, the main speech for the official opening of the new academic year in the Aula Magna of San Tomaso.

Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch sends his Christmas Greetings

Patriarch Gregorios sends his greetings to all for the coming Feast and for 2010.

Christmas Greetings to Priests from His Beatitude Patriarch Gregory of Antioch of the Melkites

The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude Gregory III sends greetings for the coming Feast to all the Church's priests

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Russian Church Wants "Concrete Steps" From Vatican to Solve Interdenominational Tension:

RISU /English /News /Russian Church Wants "Concrete Steps" From Vatican to Solve Interdenominational Tension:

Defining Mary as "Spiritual Mother of All Humanity" - Lambert Beauduin and False Mariology

Pentecost by Duccio di Buoninsegna, Duomo, Siena
On 8th December 2009, the retired Archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez, wrote to the cardinals and bishops of Latin America on the petition to the Pope to define the Blessed Virgin Mary as the "Spiritual Mother of All Humanity, under her threefold aspects of Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate."

Here is the Cardinal's letter:

My Dear Brother Cardinals and Bishops,

On January 1, 2008, five cardinals wrote to all bishops of the world to notify them of the petition made by an international group of cardinals and bishops assembled at Fatima to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, in humble request for the solemn definition of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Spiritual Mother of All Humanity, under its threefold aspects of Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate. Already in the past, hundreds of bishops and millions of faithful have made this appeal. Again many bishops have recently responded. As one of those five cardinals who sent this global petition, I now wish to provide you with an update concerning this universal Church request.

Recently the Philippines submitted to His Holiness a petition for this solemn definition from Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop Lagdameo, President of the Philippine Conference of Catholic Bishops, and several other archbishops and bishops. The petition was accompanied by a personal letter from Philippines President, Madame Gloria Arroyo, in which she strongly supported the request of the bishops.

Also representative groups of cardinals and bishops from India and nearby countries, including Cardinal Vithayathil, President of the National Conference of the Bishops of
India, have submitted their own petition for this fifth Marian dogma to Pope Benedict XVI. A similar petition has been sent from Africa by Archbishop Felix Job, President of the Catholic Conference of the Bishops of Nigeria, and various other African bishops. Bishops from Eastern Europe, including Archbishop Kramberger of Slovenia, have likewise sent in their own petition for this Marian papal proclamation. Along with bishops from numerous countries from Latin America, I have sent in our own petition to Pope Benedict for the papal definition of Our Lady’s Spiritual Motherhood.

All over the world, lay faithful have joined their bishops. Numerous prayer days, conferences, individual prayers and petitions to the Hol y Father from the laity constitute a positive manifestation for this potential Marian dogma from the sensus fidelium.

We all perceive a worldwide urgency for the greatest possible intercession of our heavenly Mother for the unprecedented crises of faith, family, society, and peace, which marks the present human condition. We see the papal definition of Holy Mary's Spiritual Motherhood of all peoples as an extraordinary remedy to these global crises which today threaten a great part of humanity. The more we freely acknowledge Mary’s intercessory power, the more she is able to exercise this power for the peoples of the world entrusted to her care at Calvary.

I therefore invite you, dear brother, to join your brother cardinals and bishops from throughout the world in this renewed petition to our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, by sending in your own letter for his prayerful discernment of what might constitute a next positive step for the solemn proclam ation of the Spiritual Motherhood of Mary. Thank you for your own prayerful discernment of this most important work in honour of Our Lady, which we believe could constitute a historic benefit of grace and blessing for all humanity.

+Luis Cardinal Aponte Martinez
San Juan, Puerto Rico,

There is nothing new under the sun. In November 1915, the faculty of theology at Louvain, the oldest Catholic University in the world, wrote to Rome supporting the dogmatic definition of the universal mediation of Mary. By 1921, the Belgian Redemptorists persuaded Cardinal Mercier to lend his weight to the campaign, which he did, out of a kind of theological romanticism.

Yet he was also actively encouraging the work of the Benedictine monks at Mont-Cesar (Keizersberg) in promoting the Liturgical Movement, to transform and deepen the spirituality and participation of the people in the worshipping life of the Church at the Mass and the Divine Office. This movement had formally begun in 1909 and central to its work was the distinction between true and false devotion - that based on the Liturgy, the Scriptures, the Church's Doctrine and Tradition, as opposed to that based on merely private devotionalism and its risk of slender resources based on feeling, opinion and current culture. The applied no less to Marian devotion. So piety towards the Mother of God must be above all be liturgical from its roots.

At the heart of the Liturgical Movement stood Dom Lambert Beauduin. For him, a liturgically faithful Marian theology was crucial designing people’s active participation in the Church’s worship to the cultivation of a “true devotion” that could nourish their faith, discipleship, proclamation and mission. And the problem for him was that the devoutly proposed titles, conveying a substantial development of the doctrine concerning Mary's role in the work of redemption - such as "Co-Redemptrix" and "Mediator of all Graces" or "Universal Mediatrix" are not found anywhere in Scriptures, or the Liturgy of the Latin Rite, or in any of the decrees of the Councils of the Church. At stake was therefore the propsect of reconciliation between the Latin Catholic and Orthodox Churches, as well as the "deviation" of the doctrine of the Latin West from the norms of the 900 years since the so-called Great Schism in the 11th century. He wrote:

In the liturgy we find that we have but one way – none other than Jesus Christ.

Whether in our liturgy or our personal devotions, we must never allow the priesthood of Christ to get too far away, he insisted:

He is our chargé d’affaires … every thing to be done we leave to him.

Otherwise, the temptation is to seek an advocate elsewhere. Beauduin believed that, lacking receptivity to the dogmatic balance of the East, which ensured a Christocentric devotion to Mary, pre-eminently in its liturgy as the fount of popular piety, the thinking of nineteenth century Latin Christianity possessed no counterweight to an exaggerated view concerning God the Son. This left the humanity of Christ in the shade of his divinity, and it had caused people to let Jesus slip away from them. The reaction in both theological circles and popular devotion was a disproportionate recourse to Mary. Beauduin’s work on the Liturgical Movement directly confronted such “false devotion” because it was harmful to the faith of the people and the proclamation of the Gospel that the world could accept. He wrote:

No creature at all can intervene to add any efficacy whatever to the
Redemption of the Eternal Priest alone.

But he had his work cut out, as we have seen. A theologically ambiguous devotion – the Universal Mediation of Mary – enjoyed wide popular appeal at the time. A whole generation of priests, religious and theologians had been formed by it and there was now a movement to have it recognised it as a necessary dogma of the Faith. But it was not in the liturgy; it was not in the Scriptures; it was not in the common tradition – these were the grounds on which Beauduin with all his strength tried in vain to prevent those zealous petitions going off to Rome.

Rome kept to the tradition, of course, not least because successive popes had now committed the Church to the direction set by the Liturgical Movement. But the devotion had got under the skin and it has continued to surface in various forms from time to time. The year after the 1950 dogmatic definition of the Assumption Beauduin reflected:

To assign “an essential role to Mary – the role par excellence – in God’s work of redemption – co-redeemer, co-mediator (where will it end?) – it may be pious,
but it is dangerous. It risks modifying the Christian mystery to its depths.

And he lays the blame firmly at the feet of those whose responsibility it is more than anyone else’s to ensure that the people’s faith and prayer is orthodox - the bishops:

“The Word incarnate is still so far from us because he is God. But Mary, being human, is much nearer to us.” That is a phrase from a bishop’s pastoral letter! … And yesterday I read this phrase: “The best way to be children of the Father is to be children of Mary.” This is a blasphemy to the Sole Mediator.

He did not spare his friends and supporters. In 1951, Léon-Joseph Suenens, auxiliary of Malines and his keen disciple, published The Theology of the Apostolate of the Legion of Mary. Beauduin wrote him a severe letter, singling out this phrase:

“Through her are distributed for us all gifts, all virtues, all graces, to
whom she wishes, as much as she wishes and the way she wishes.”

He makes it clear to Suenens that, in abandoning the Catholic Church’s fidelity to the tradition it has received, he is distorting the faith it is bound to hand on. He reminds him that it is necessary always to distinguish the mediation of redemption - to know that the priesthood of Christ is what unites humanity to the Father - on one side from the mediation of intercession on the other. And thus in the whole of the ancient tradition:

Mary is always in the first rank of the mediation of intercession.

By placing her firmly within the mediation of redemption, Suenens was accused by Beauduin of insinuating an invisible new priesthood above the visible ministerial priesthood of the Church.

At the Second Vatican Council, it is well known that many of the Fathers had been pressed by their faithful to secure a new doctrinal definition on the Virgin Mary, and the long standing movement for the declaration of the Mother of God as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all Graces was prominent. But in the discussions the led to the formulation of the Dogmatic Constituion on the Church, Lumen Gentium, it was clear that this was not the only avenue for honouring her. The refreshed doctrine of the Church placed Mary at the heart and so a popular understanding from antiquity and the Middle Ages was revisited - "Mary, type of the Church". But although it intended to sum up the whole of humanity in her as the New Eve, some Fathers felt that it fell short of her due honour. So the title "Mary, Mother of the Church", with its scriptural and liturgical, as well as devotional, resonances, was preferred. It was not left to stand on its own in a separate decree, but integrated into Lumen Gentium.

The community which Lambert Beauduin founded (Chevetogne), however, prayed that the new title would not secure final approval. for the straightforward reason that “Mother of the Church” is nowhere to be found in the Liturgy and therefore posed an additional obstacle to rapprochement with the Orthodox Church. In any case it was open to significant doctrinal misconception. The Orthodox theologian Alexis Kniazeff has handily outlined the reservations, while constructively examining how the new title, drawing from his own inventive tradition, could be understood positively:

This formula seems to place the Mother of God above the Church. But she is in the Church and not above the Church, considered as a distinct entity. One could even say that she is the Church in that, by dint of her role as Mother towards all the redeemed, she bears within her the mystery of the Incarnation, which is also that of the Church. So she is the mystical centre of the Church, its archetype, its personification, the Mother of the living people called to be the Church, but not the Mother of the Church.

Cardinal Aponte Martinez' campaign to have the Blessed Virgin Mary defined formally as "Spiritual Mother of All Humanity" is devout, but it also stands in a long tradition of exaggeration of the tradition the Latin West has received in common with the East. It risks, at least in the mind of those whose liturgical and doctrinal formation is not well developed, taking Mary out of her true context within the Church. It further risks placing her role within the mediation of redemption, rather than at the head of the mediation of intercession, thus risking the Christian belief in the mystery of Christ.

And even where the devotional titles cannot be said or seen to distort the mystery of redemption - after all Pope John Paul discussed Mary's motherhood and intercession for all humanity (General Audience, 24th September, 1997) - the Orthodox Church, together with the Eastern Catholic Churches, and the Latin tradition of the Church of Rome itself, asks - why define such things as doctrines and add to the accretions that mark our differences while we are trying to understand and overcome them? Why, when we already believe she shares in Christ's work of redemption and mediation for all humanity, is Mother of God and Mother in and of the Church, define what we live and experience in any case through our worship, our veneration, our faith and our discipleship?

For a full treatment of this matter see Arca Foederis (Mark Woodruff) in Further Prospects of Mary, Ecumenical Marian Pilgrimage Trust, 2009 Walsingham Pilgrimage, to be published in 2010.

Saturday 5 December 2009

Homily for the Feast of St John Damascene, Westminster Cathedral, 4 December 2009

It is not May that is "Mary's Month", but Advent. And it is no accident that we keep today in its first week the feast of St John of Damascus - St John Damascene. Nor is it an accident that the Church provides for today's Gospel the story of the blind men who see by faith (Matthew 9.27-31); but I shall come back to that.

St John was a Syrian monk who had worked as an economic official in the court of the Muslim Caliph. When he entered the monastery of St Saba near Jerusalem around the year 700, he gave up not only earthly fame, power and influence in the empire of a relatively tolerant Islam, but also the wealth of his own Christian family. His Christian spirit of renunciation of worldliness will thus have been impressed by the absolute submission of the many Muslims he knew and worked with to the spiritual life, to God who is Spirit, to God who cannot - must not - be tied down to a merely human way of looking at things.

Too often, we think of God as simply a vastly larger version of us; so the way we imagine him actually diminishes him. (This is the spiritual blindness which today's Gospel contrasts against.) Here St John - like all orthodox Christians - was at one with the Jewish people and the Muslims all around him.

But then he parts company with Islam, with Judaism and the "Puritan" tendency in Christianity. It was over the question of the veneration of our sacred images of Christ and the saints in this world, and our need for them as an intimate link to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, his taking real physical flesh right from in the midst of the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, truly the Mother of God.

A great controversy about all this disturbed the Church through much of the eighth Christian century; it has bubbled up occasionally ever since. It poses the questions whether it is right or wrong to depict Christ in his Passion on his Cross, Christ in his Power, the Mother of God and indeed any of the saints. Do these statues and icons not merely cut our God down to our size? Do they not merely make the great mysteries of the Incarnation and the Resurrection bite-sized? Do they not merely make the saints into objects of admiration and devotion at the level of basic fellow-human attraction? Should we not tear them aside as barriers to God in heaven?

No, says St John Damascene: it is essential that we have these images. They are not mere snapshots of people long dead, or events long past. They are there to make an impression on us in this world, from the life of the world that is beyond us. Did not Christ say, "The Kingdom of God is among you"? So it is with icons and statues and images. Behind and within them are the great cloud of witnesses, surrounding us, pressing on us with the life of heaven, making an impact upon us with the imminent reality of the Resurrection itself. Our eyes, which are for this world, may be blind to the world that is to come; but our faith sees what and who is bearing upon us.

So we cannot fail to speak to Christ's image on the crucifix. We cannot fail to adore Christ making contact with us through the image of the Lord in his Power that you see in every Orthodox Church and many of our own too. You cannot fail to address the image of the Mother of God wherever you see her, holding her Son to us and bearing his life into our midst.

Rightly we love these images and pour out our prayers and praises, our griefs and hopes before them, not because we are deluded, but because they are evidence - hard, tangible evidence - that the Incarnation is more than an event in history: it is a fact of nature. God takes real, physical things and unites them with heaven, so that they can become holy in the world and thus conduct us into the next. In the same way, he took the humanity of the Virgin and united it with the Divine Nature of his Son. She is truly Mother of God, not only because of her relation to her Son and his work of redepemption on the Cross and the Emptied Tomb, but because she as Mother of the Church, is the instrument of our own union with her Son in that Church too.

Thus it was that above all St John Damascene defended the veneration of the image of the Mother of God. More than all the saints, it is she who brings through the icon and the statue this immediate, imminent presence of the Kingdom of God itself -it is in her womb, it is her very life. No saint can be considered "dead" or coming to us from the past. They are all participants in the Resurrection and above all it is the Mother of God, assumed into heaven, whose purpose it is to see us assumed into heaven's Kingdom too, as she brings to us her Son with every glance of ours at her image and at every Advent, the true "Month of Mary".

So with our Orthodox and Eastern Catholic fellow-Christians, in the words of a hymn for St John's feast,

Let us sing praises to John, worthy of great honour,
the composer of hymns,
the stare and teacher of the Church, the defender of her doctrines:
through the might of the Lord's Crss he overcame heretical error
and as a fervent intercessor before God
he entreats that forgiveness of sins may be
granted to all.

And may the Mother of God pray that this be so.

Fr Mark Woodruff
Vice Chairman of the Society

Friday 4 December 2009

Patriarch Filaret: Moscow Patriarchate has No Monopoly for Canonicity:

RISU /English /News /Patriarch Filaret: Moscow Patriarchate has No Monopoly for Canonicity:

Holy See and Russia Establish Full Diplomatic Relations

The Press Office of the Holy See Press Office released the following communique yesterday evening (3rd December 2009):

This afternoon, 3 December 2009, His Holiness Benedict XVI received in audience
Dimitri Medvedev, president of the Russian Federation. The president had previously met with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions pleasure was expressed on both sides at the cordial relations that currently exist between them, and it was agreed to establish full diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Russian Federation.

Following an exchange of opinions on the international economic and political situation - also in the light of the Encyclical Caritas in veritate, of which the Holy Father presented the president with a copy in Russian - attention turned to the challenges currently facing security and peace. The talks then turned to cultural and social questions of mutual interest, such as the value of the family and the contribution believers make to life in Russia.

Thursday 3 December 2009

UAOC Archbishop: UOC’s Condition of Repentance of “Schismatics” Should Envisage Compromise Solution:

RISU /English /News /UAOC Archbishop: UOC’s Condition of Repentance of “Schismatics” Should Envisage Compromise Solution:

Deputies Call Government to Help Return St. Nicholas Church in Kyiv to Roman Catholics:

RISU /English /News /Deputies Call Government to Help Return St. Nicholas Church in Kyiv to Roman Catholics:

Pope Benedict thanks the Russian Orthodox Church

Zenit.org reports, December 3rd:

Pope Benedict XVI is expressing gratitude to the Russian Orthodox Church and all those who collaborated in publishing a book with texts from the Pontiff on European culture. The book, Europe, Spiritual Homeland, marks the first time the Moscow Patriarchate is publishing a compilation of texts from a Pope. It contains addresses that Joseph Ratzinger wrote over the past decade regarding Europe.

The presentation of the work, which was published in Russian and Italian, took place Wednesday in Rome in connection with the Italian-Russian Civil Society Dialogue Forum. A message from the Holy Father, sent through his Secretariat of State, was read at the event. It affirmed Benedict XVI's gratitude "for the devout and significant gesture, toward all those who have contributed, and for the sentiments that gave rise to it."

Pierluca Azzaro, professor of politics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, and the book's editor, announced that the Vatican Publishing House now plans to publish a book by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and of All Russia titled, Liberty and Responsibility in the Search of Harmony (Liberta e Responsabilita alla Ricerca dell'Armonia). The book will be presented next April at that university in Milan, in the presence of the chairman of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk.

At Wednesday's presentation, the Italian minister of culture, Sandro Bondi, affirmed that the newly published book shows how "the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are great sources of meaning, sources of the spiritual bread that man needs to live, so much more than material bread." The Russian minister of culture, Mikhail Shvydkoi, said that "without the values of Christian humanism, Europe is lost."

He added, "This book speaks to us of the importance of integrating into Europe the different ways in which one can and must honor the presence of God in society. Europe, Spiritual Homeland affirms that "it is possible to honor God in society without the plurality of creeds and confessions of Europe becoming a reason for conflict."

Lorenzo Ornaghi, rector of the Sacred Heart university, pointed out that this volume indicates clearly the path to be followed so that a truly creative culture will again be able to make Europe flourish. "Faith is the source of a living culture and of life, that which most corresponds with man's truest desires," he said.

Jesuit Father Milan Zust, secretary of the Catholic committee for cultural collaboration with Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that the book is "a most important step for building that trust and mutual esteem that makes clear and limpid our common witness in Europe."

Tuesday 1 December 2009

St Irenaeus of Lyon Working Group - 6th Annual Session

The working group of St. Irenaeus of Lyon was established in 2004 at the Johannes Moehler Institute in Paderborn, after the official dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches was paused. Since then, every year 25 leading ecumenical theologians of the Orthodox and Catholic world gather in one of the European cities for discussion of theological and topical issues, not least the question of primacy in the Church at both regional and universal levels.

It focuses its attention on theological issues which can facilitate the official dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. In spite of the fact that the official negotiations have meanwhile resumed, these leading theologians continue their dialogue in support. It has two co-chairpersons - Catholic and Orthodox, the latter now being the representative of the Orthodox
Church of Antioch in Paris, Bishop John.

The Kyiv meeting of the St. Irenaeus of Lyon Working Group from November 4th will last three days.