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.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Notes on Arab Orthodoxy: An Interview with Bishop Luka Khoury on the Situation in Syria

Notes on Arab Orthodoxy: An Interview with Bishop Luka Khoury on the Situation in Syria

My Brother Andrew - Article by the Vice Chairman on Catholic-Orthodox Relations in Pope Francis papacy


When Benedict XVI resigned, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople expressed more than surprise. There was clearly dismay that their “excellent cooperation”, which had overseen the re-engagement of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in dialogue in 2007, after an impasse lasting seven years, might not fulfil its promise because of a “brief papacy”. The Roman pontiff is still regarded as the first of the patriarchs by Orthodoxy, even if Pope Benedict dropped his title “Patriarch of the West” in 2006 as defunct, standing in the way of realistic ecumenism. So why should a pope retire when urgent labours are in hand and their fruits within reach? “With his wisdom and experience he could have provided much more to the Church and the world”.

The Ecumenical Patriarch is regarded as primus inter pares by many, but not all, of the world’s Orthodox Churches. He is second only in the Universal Church to the Bishop of Rome, but he is not an opposite number, having no immediate jurisdiction beyond his small community in Turkey and parts of north-east Greece, although his general responsibility for Orthodox in diaspora affords him considerable influence. For wider leadership he relies as much on persuasion, prestige and moral authority as canon law. With painstaking plans for a Pan-Orthodox Council making progress, and an abiding sense of affinity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches as both are dispersed alongside each other in every corner of the globe, Bartholomew invested much hope in Benedict’s papacy for mutual support and cooperation in the contemporary setting. Concerned for all Orthodox in diaspora, the continued growth of Christianity in Europe and the very survival of the Churches in their Eastern lands of origin, their joint efforts at solidarity and even communion appeared at risk with the prospect of a new leader.

Thus a statement from the Patriarchate explained Bartholomew’s decision to attend Pope Francis’ inauguration personally: the need for “a profoundly bold step ... that could have lasting significance”. It is the first time the Bishop of Constantinople has attended the inauguration of the Bishop of Rome ever, let alone since the great schism of 1054. Yet the Patriarch has already visited Rome a number of times since Pope Benedict’s visit to Istanbul in 2006. He was the only ecumenical leader invited to make a speech at the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II and there have been annual visits between Rome and Constantinople on the feasts of their apostles for decades. But this latest visit was different: “after such a long division … authentic reunion will require courage, leadership and humility. Given Pope Francis' well-documented work for social justice and his insistence that globalization is detrimental to the poor … the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic traditions have a renewed opportunity to work collectively on issues of mutual concern… But such work requires a first step and it would appear as though Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is willing to take such a step.” In one of those seemingly informal but resonant gestures that we are beginning to expect from Francis, the response was immediate and commensurate. The successor of Peter greeted the successor of the other Galilean fisherman as “my brother Andrew”.

Another dimension was revealed in a press interview within hours of Francis’ election by Patriarch Sviatoslav, Major-Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, by far the largest of the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome, which shares the same origins in Kiev as the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as the same Byzantine Rite and tradition as the Church of Constantinople itself. He revealed that the young Jorge Maria Borgoglio frequently attended the Ukrainian Divine Liturgy served by Fr Stepan Chmil, a great mentor to him: “The Holy Father knows not only of our Church, but also our liturgy, our rites, and our spirituality.” Furthermore, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis was Ordinary for Eastern Catholics. In 2009 Sviatoslav arrived as the auxiliary bishop for the Ukrainian Catholic eparchy in Argentina and tells how his first steps in episcopal ministry were under the Cardinal’s watchful care. They have an even closer bond now, because a year later Sviatoslav was called upon to succeed his revered mentor Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, who retired like Pope Benedict has done. At the age of 41, his election boldly charts a new course for the Ukrainian Catholic Church in service of society and the unity of Churches at home and abroad for decades to come. Pope Francis will be looking East to a dynamic former protégé for inspiration as he charts his own new course.

Whether it concerns a renewed partnership with the historic Eastern Catholic Churches, or forging new bonds hopefully leading to communion with the Orthodox, the model for Pope Francis’s understanding of the Christian East, unlike his predecessors, is not European. They envisaged the re-composition of the old Christendom around the reference points of the Mediterranean. But in world Christianity, Borgoglio has seen that the East is now right across the West, just as the West has suffused the lands of the East and is likewise worldwide. To talk of our respective territories is, as Benedict realised, increasingly beside the point. Anthony O’Mahony, director of the Centre for Eastern Christianity at Heythrop College, estimates that there are now over 4 million Eastern Christians, Catholic and Orthodox across Western Europe.  But the weight of the diaspora seems to be shifting from Europe and North America to the emerging powers in the global south, notably Australia and Latin America. Here these old Churches are young and confident, able both to sustain their tradition as they also become indigenous and move beyond being simply ethnic chaplaincies. They can thus play strong roles alongside others in the work of evangelisation, spiritual renewal, ecumenical engagement and wider social development. This is what Pope Francis is used to and how he will approach the inheritors of Byzantium across Europe too, Catholic and Orthodox alike.

So, what of the Russian Orthodox Church, the largest of all? Moscow regards itself as Third Rome and the decisive player in the future of the Orthodox Church as a whole. It believes an alliance with the Catholic Church in “the struggle for the soul of Europe” is critical, but finds the universal primacy of the Roman see difficult to contemplate. It sent its Head of External Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who did his doctorate in the West at Oxford and is regarded as a likely successor to Patriarch Kirill. The message from Moscow present and future was clear: Pope Francis was firmly addressed as “primate of the Roman Catholic Church” and as Kirill’s peer. Despite progress in Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, which is seeking an agreed view on the Roman primacy in the first millennium as a basis for recovering communion, it feels out of place to the Russian Church, whose consciousness largely relates to the second, during which it has grown considerably, with little awareness of the need for a universal primacy. Its present size, resources and world diaspora mean that it is no longer local but a fact of life to come to terms with, not just for the Catholic Church but other Orthodox jurisdictions too. Importantly, Russia’s activity in the Middle East reanimates an Imperial role as protector of all Orthodox. Given that peace and stability for that region and its Christians will loom as large for Francis as for Benedict, because they directly affect the wellbeing of Europe, the significance of the Moscow patriarchate has to be faced.

Pope Francis’ intention to trust and work with the “local Church” resonates with many Orthodox. They have long been looking for signs that the collegiality set forth at Vatican II will turn into reality. They have noted how he has called himself not supreme pontiff or pope, but Bishop of Rome. They will be looking to see how the primate of the Church “presiding in love” at Rome, will treat the Eastern Catholic Churches: as subsets of the global Roman Catholic organisation, or as honoured Churches, firmly rooted in their local homeland, yet now living side by side with Latin Catholicism’s own diaspora in the emerging societies of the south and throughout the world. It will reveal how the new Pope envisages the restoration of communion between Catholics and Orthodox, since West and East must rely on each other for the future. The Orthodox will be hoping that indeed Pope Francis, Brother Peter to Brother Andrew, “knows our Church”.

Fr Mark Woodruff is a Westminster priest and Vice-Chairman of the Society of St John Chrysostom, which promotes Catholic-Orthodox relations and the unity of the Churches of East and West.


Wednesday 27 March 2013

Patriarch Sviatoslav: UGCC Is Approaching Status of Patriarchate

Patriarch Sviatoslav: UGCC Is Approaching Status of Patriarchate

Pan-Orthodox Vespers in London - Sunday of Orthodoxy

On March 24, 2013, the Day of Orthodoxy, the traditional Pan-Orthodox Vespers was celebrated in London.

According to the established procedure, this year the celebration was held at the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Church of St. Sophia. The celebrants were Archbishop Gregory of Thyateira (Patriarchate of Constantinople), Archbishop Elisey of Sourozh (Moscow Patriarchate), Bishop Dositej of Scandinavia and Great Britain (Serbian Patriarchate), Archbishop Anatoly of Kerch, vicar of the Diocese of Sourozh (Moscow Patriarchate), and Bishop Athanasius of Tropea, vicar of the Archdiocese of Thyateira. Among the worshipper were clergy of the Orthodox Churches of Constantinople, Antioch, Georgia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria. Archpriest Maxim Nikolsky and Protodeacon Dimitry Nedostupenko of the Cathedral of the Assumption also participated, representing the Diocese of Sourozh.

The sermon was delivered by Archpriest Gregory Hallam, head of deanery of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Great Britain and Ireland.

The service was adorned by hymns in Greek, Arabic, Church Slavonic, Georgian, Romanian and English sung by parish choirs of all the Orthodox jurisdictions.

The Vespers was organized and conducted by the Pan-Orthodox Pastoral Commission of the Bishops’ Assembly in Great Britain and Ireland, headed at present by Archbishop Elisey. The order of the joint service was coordinated by Rev. Joseph Skinner, secretary of the Pan-Orthodox Pastoral Commission and member of the secretariat of the Pan-Orthodox Bishops’ Assembly.

After the service, the congregation enjoyed traditional Greek hospitality at a common Lenten table, the website of the Diocese of Sourozh reports.

Eastern Catholics express excitement at the nomination of Pope Francis

Eastern Catholics express excitement at the nomination of Pope Francis

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Interfax-Religion: Russian Church hopes new head of Anglican Church will not allow female bishops, same-sex marriage

Interfax-Religion: Russian Church hopes new head of Anglican Church will not allow female bishops, same-sex marriage

Catholic Communities in Holy Land to Celebrate Easter in May with the Orthodox

Unification of Easter Date with Orthodox Church Seen As Eloquent Step At An Ecumenical Level

JERUSALEM, March 26, 2013 tnanks to Zenit.org
Catholic communities in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Cyprus are preparing to celebrate the liturgies of Holy Week in May rather than this Sunday, following the Julian Calendar followed by the Orthodox communities.

According to Fides News Agency, the unification of the Easter dates in most of the area is an application of the directive issued on October 15, 2012, by the Assembly of Ordinary Catholic bishops in Holy Land, where it was established that within two years all Catholics in the Diocese of Latin Rite and the various Eastern rites will celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar, coinciding with the Easter liturgies celebrated in the Orthodox churches.

The adoption of the Easter date according to the Julian calendar (which in 2013 falls on May 5) comes into force ‘ad experimentum’ this year in the whole of the Holy Land, with the exception of the areas of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where the Gregorian calendar will continue to be followed to respect the constraints imposed in the Holy City by the system of the "Status Quo" (which regulates the coexistence of the different Christian Churches in Holy Places).

It also takes into account the arrival of pilgrims from all over the world who come to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. "Even the community of foreign workers in Tel Aviv asked to celebrate Easter according to the Gregorian rite, so they can enjoy some days off to coincide with the Jewish Passover,” Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told Fides.

The unification of the date with which Christians of different confessions celebrate Easter still raises some eyebrows among some Maronite bishops. It is however for Bishop Shomali an eloquent step at an ecumenical and testimonial level: "Members of the same family or the same village belong to different ecclesial realities," the Patriarchal Vicar noted.

"Now they can celebrate on the same days the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In order to also give a witness of unity with our non-Christian neighbors."

By 2015, the provision for a common Easter date should be confirmed or re-calibrated in accordance with the directions also given by the Holy See.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Gift of the Patriarch of Moscow to Pope Francis is handed over to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI


Print This Post
With grateful ackowldgement to the Russian Orthodox Church's Department for External Relations

On 23 March 2013, Pope Francis of Rome met with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo, papal summer residence. It was for the first time that after his election and enthronement the Pope of Rome visited his retired predecessor.

After a short prayer, Pope Francis handed over to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI an icon of the Mother of God, called ‘Look Down with Favour on My Lowliness’, which was presented to him in the end of private audience on March 20 by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. Metropolitan Hilarion said, “the first steps of Your Holiness after the election were marked by lowliness and humility.” Pope Francis replied that he lacked humility and asked for prayers to the Lord to grant it to him.

While giving Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI the icon presented by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, Pope Francis said: I was told that this icon is called ‘Mother of God of Humility’ and I dare say that I thought of you so humble in your pontificate. “Thank you, such a gift!’ replied Pope Emeritus while taking the icon.

Thursday 21 March 2013

The Raven: Patriarch Sviatoslav at the Phanar

The Raven: Patriarch Sviatoslav at the Phanar

Moscow Patriarch's Delegation to the Inauguration of Pope Francis


Print This Post
98765On 20 March 2013, Pope Francis of Rome met with representatives of Christian Churches and world religions who arrived from many countries to attend his enthronement. Taking part in the meeting on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church were Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR), and members of the delegation Metropolitan Anthony of Borispol, Metropolitan Platon of Feodosia and Kerch, Bishop Sergiy of Solnechnogorsk, and hieromonk Anthony (Sevryuk).

His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople greeted the Pope on behalf of the delegated from the Local Orthodox Churches. Pope Francis welcomed them and underscored the importance of inter-Christian and interreligious dialogue.

In the end of the meeting, delegated from the Russian Orthodox Church congratulated the new Pope of Rome and wished many successful years to his pontificate. Pope Francis wished God’s help to the Moscow Patriarchate delegation and expressed his particular joy over meeting with Metropolitan Platon whom he knew during his ministry in Argentina.

After the audience, Metropolitan Hilarion had a short meeting with Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and with Enzo Bianchi, Prior of the monastic community of Bose.

Homily by our Vice Chairman at a Mass to Pray for Pope Francis

If I were to seek my own glory that would be no glory at all
21 March 2013 – Thursday of the Fifth Week in Lent

Fr Mark Woodruff writes:

Our new Holy Father has tagged himself with some luminous markers in his first week in office. His baptismal patron is St George, the soldier-saint chosen as the patron of the Crusades against Islam’s occupancy of the Holy Places; yet for his pontifical name he chose St Francis, who went to speak of the love of Christ to Sultan Malik al-Kamil in Egypt, so as to bring the Crusades to a peaceful end.

Quite apparently chosen by the Conclave to lead the Church in both institutional and spiritual renewal (and to those who were expecting a Vatican placeman this is reminiscent of the emergence of John XXIII from the midst of the Pian Church), the Jesuit might have been expected to look to the patronage of Ignatius of Loyola for reform or Aloysius Gonzaga for purity of life and purpose – and we have known neither a Pope Ignatius nor a Pope Louis before. Instead he lighted upon Francis, “the richest of poor men”, inspired by a fellow Cardinal, we are told, not to forget the poor who are the Church in his native Latin America.

Immediately, however, clever commentators thought he must have more in mind the great Jesuit missionary of Japan, St Francis Xavier, on whose evangelical sanctity and evangelistic labours the Catholic Church in the Far East was built, just at the time a Church apprehensive of true renewal was losing its northern flocks to the Reformation in the West. There could also have been the less than worthy Pope Alexander VI’s grandson, St Francis Borgia, who gave up his dukedom to enter the Society of Jesus, starting out as a cook and waiter at table, until he became a second founder of the Jesuits, consolidating its novitiates and setting up what was to become the Gregorian University. Another remarkable Francis was not a Jesuit, but an Oratorian, the beloved Francis de Sales, the beauty of whose preaching of the love of God, simplicity of life and purity of discipleship won many who had been excited into the ferment of Calvin’s Reform back to the unity of the Church. Although the city of Geneva of which he was bishop was lost to him, his proclamation and living of the gospel was truly the new evangelisation of its day. But all of these saints are named after St Francis of Assisi and modelled themselves on him. Likewise it is to the humble, innocent Poverello whom the Lord commanded to rebuild his Church - the person in whom perhaps more than anyone else Jesus Christ has come again - that our new Holy Father has turned for a pattern in living, inspiration in endeavour and protection in prayer. We have already heard from him that the greatest power in the Church is service; that the Church is a Church of the poor; and that its duty is to protect those whom worldly society rejects and resents, along with the creation God has given to sustain us all alike.

Another one of those luminous markers was the acceptance of a ring once belonging to Pope Paul VI as his own Fisherman’s Ring. After many years, in which the painstaking faithfulness and leadership during an ear of the greatest social changes of such a beautiful and holy soul as Pope Paul have been questioned and even despised, it is a blessing to the Church that Pope Francis has signified the hermeneutic of continuity between his new pontificate and that of the wise, bold popes of the great Second Vatican Council. So the great tradition goes on and the Church brings riches from its treasury both old and new.

Yet another marker is his insistence that he is from the first successor to Peter not with grand titles such as Supreme Pontiff or Universal Pastor but as bishop of the local Church of Rome. Thus he has honoured the remarkable Petrine ministry and teaching office of his predecessor not by reference to him as “the Pope Emeritus”, but as “our retired bishop”. In this he echoes Pope Benedict’s call as successor of the apostle Peter, that Britain heard in Westminster Abbey, to give a convincing account of the hope that lies within us, not by a facile accommodation to the spirit of the age but an ever deeper unity in the apostolic faith in Jesus Christ truly risen from the dead. It is worth noting here that it was the witness to Jesus’ resurrection and the purity of teaching conserved by the Church at Rome, in direct continuity from the apostles Peter and Paul, that caused it to be seen by all, in the words of St Ignatius of Antioch, as “the church that presides in love”. Its prime role in speaking for the whole Church and resolving the authenticity of its teaching was thus respected for a millennium in both East and West. In our own day, Pope Francis is well aware that the Eastern Churches’ diaspora is now everywhere in the West; just as the Latin West is diffused throughout the world of the Christian East too. His apparent expectation that the local Church of Rome will be trusting the Churches locally to respond to the needs of humanity for the gospel by the lights of where and who they are, whether that is Rome or Istanbul, Buenos Aires or Lusaka, Kiev or Beijing, seems to take into account the realities of how the People of God belong in the communion of the Body of Christ, the need for the Churches to act and live in collegial concert, and the urgency of mutual union among Christians for the sake of realising the blessings in the Sermon on the Mount, “on earth as it is in heaven”. Thanks to the openness of his immediate predecessor to the Orthodox Church, which enabled some notable progress in the joint Orthodox-Catholic theological dialogue, the ground has been prepared for a Patriarch of Constantinople to witness for the first time the inauguration of the local bishop of the Church which presides in love. And the real power-wielder in Orthodoxy, the confident and globally expanding but also “local” Russian Orthodox Church, was significantly represented in Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, a likely successor to Patriarch Kirill someday, who studied for his doctorate here in the West in England. The Moscow Patriarchate has long advocated an alliance from Latin West and Russian East in concert across Europe, for recalling it to the faith that once civilised it by bringing it to Christ. In rooting the Roman bishop’s wider ministry, authority and witness in the faith, needs and experience of the City and culture where he is set – serving as its own apostle of the gospel, rather than primarily ruler of the global church - Pope Francis strikes a chord with Orthodox Churches that have a strong sense of their local purpose, and challenges those which are tempted to rival the Roman curia for binding communion to central control, rather than a presidency in love. Perhaps Pope Francis will prove to be as radical for Christian Unity as his predecessor was in ending the existential papacy, so that the primacy of episcopal office might succeed him.

Perhaps the Pope’s most luminous marker is to share the concerns of the poor. Of course it is true to say that the poor are not necessarily poor because of the rich and the rich are not necessarily rich because of their abuse of the poor. The causes are as complex as the solutions are unpalatable to those with the power to deliver them. But poverty is not just economic and social. It is spiritual too. The Holy Father seems to be referring to another great saint of his Church of Rome, the 3rd century deacon, St Lawrence. When commanded by the prefect of Rome to hand over the wealth of the Church, Lawrence distributed it to the poor and told him that the poor, the disabled, the blind and the suffering were the true treasures of the Church. Sealing his own death sentence, he said that in them “the Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor”.

All these markers point to a new course to the Church’s life for sure. In every image that Pope Francis has conjured up, and every holy person whose name he seems to have invoked, he puts us in mind of the Lord’s words in today’s Gospel: “If I were to seek my own glory that would be no glory at all.” Instead, the Jesuit like the Master seeks “the greater glory of God”; and, according to his own motto, is deeply aware that the Master has chosen him not because he has some gifts or characteristics that the Lord could now find useful, but miserando atque eligendo purely out of having mercy upon him.

Patriarch Bartholomew addresses Pope Francis after his Inauguration


On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in a formal reception in honor of the church and religious leaders by Pope Francis, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew represented the christian and faith communities in a special address to the Pope. The Patriarch's attendance at the papal inaugural mass was a historic initiative on the part of Patriarch Bartholomew inasmuch as it was the first time in history that an Ecumenical Patriarch was personally present at a papal installation.

Your Holiness,

In the name of the Lord of powers, we wholeheartedly congratulate You on the inspired election and deserved assumption of Your new high duties as First Bishop of the venerable Church of Senior Rome, defined by the primacy of love.

On this Throne, You succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who boldly retired for reasons of health and fatigue, a man distinguished for his meekness, theology and love. The task and responsibility before You are immense before both God and humankind. The unity of the Christian Churches is surely our foremost concern as one of the fundamental prerequisites for the credibility of our Christian witness in the eyes of those near and afar. In order to achieve this unity, we must continue the inaugurated theological dialogue so that we may jointly appreciate and approach the truth of faith, the experience of the saints, and the tradition of the first Christian millennium shared by East and West alike. It should be a dialogue of love and truth, in a spirit of humility, meekness, and honesty.

After all, the global economic crisis urgently mandates the coordination of our humanitarian action, in which You are well experienced as a result of Your long and fruitful ministry as a Good Samaritan in Latin America, where You pastorally witnessed – like so few others– the bitterness of human pain and suffering. Those who “have” must be motivated to offer – willingly and gladly – to those who “have not.” In this way, peace will be secured through justice as the sole universal request and the basic expectation of all nations. We must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, treat the suffering, and generally care for the needy so that we may hear from our Lord: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” (Matt. 25.34)

The selection by Your beloved and esteemed Holiness of a lifestyle of simplicity has highlighted – and will continue to highlight – your priorityfor what is essential. This fills the hearts of everyone – Your faithful and all people in general – with a sense of hope. It is the hope that this priority will be applied broadly so that judgment and mercy, as the essence the law, may prevail in the Church.

Throughout the two-thousand-year history of the Church of Christ, certain truths of the sacred Gospel were misinterpreted by some Christian groups, resulting in secular misconceptions that have unfortunately spread in Christian circles today. Thus, the burden of our obligation and responsibility is to remind ourselves, each another, and the entire world that God became human in Jesus Christ in order that we may lead a divine way of life. Indeed, “God is the Lord and has appeared to us.” The one who created all things in the beginning, who guides and provides for all things, descended to the depths of death on the cross in order that, through His resurrection, He may demonstrate that “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,” and in His name alone, to serve His people, so that we may all be united, and that Christ may be all things and in all things,

This world is the domain where we realize this spiritual way of life, where we achieve our integration into the body of Christ, and where we are brought through Him into eternal life. TheChurch consecrates this earthly life, although it does not consummate its mission in this earthly life. We all realize and recognize this truth, which is why – as pastors and faithful alike – we travel this way of truth, acquiring the heavenly through the earthly.

As the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the worldwide Orthodox Church of Christ, we are certain that Your venerable and dearly beloved Holiness, who commences this historical journey with such favorable auspices as Bishop of Rome, will – together with all those who are willing and able – exhibit special concern for the reparation of secular trends so that humanity may be restored to its “original beauty” of love. We fervently pray with all Christians as well as with people throughout the world that Your Holiness will prove effective in this deeply responsible and highly onerous task.

May our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed and glorified. Thanks be to God, who in every period of time raises up worthy leaders, deserving of their calling to lead and guide His people, for the adoration of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Patriarch Bartholomew's Attendance at Pope Francis' Inauguration

The Extraordinary Historical Significance of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's Presence at Pope Francis' Installation as Bishop of Rome

George E. Demacopoulos, PhD, Archon Didaskalos tou Genous, Historian for the Order of St. Andrew, Orthodox Christian Studies Center, Fordham University

With grateful acknowledgment to the website of the Ecumenical Patirarchate

Amid the crush of news reports in the past month that followed Pope Benedict's unprecedented resignation from the papacy, one of the most intriguing was the decision by His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, to attend Pope Francis' installation as Bishop of Rome. The occasion is being presented in the media as something that has not happened since the ecclesiastical schism that separated Christian East and Christian West in the eleventh century. But that characterization is almost certainly wrong--this is quite likely the first time in history that a Bishop of Constantinople will attend the installation of a Bishop of Rome. And this is a profoundly bold step in ecumenical relations between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, one that could have lasting significance.

Prior to the sixth century, the election of a Roman bishop was a local affair. In most cases, the new pope was chosen from among the city's clergy and was typically either the eldest priest or the eldest deacon. There were a few exceptions, but this was the typical pattern. News of an election would circulate throughout the Christian world but that news flow would have been too slow to enable high-ranking Church officials from the East to travel to Rome for the event.

Patriarch in BlackDuring the sixth century, Byzantine armies conquered the Italian peninsula, returning the city of Rome to the imperial Roman government, now centered in Constantinople. In this context, which lasted from the mid-sixth century until the loss of Byzantine influence in Italy in the eighth century, the election of a new Roman bishop required the approval of the Byzantine emperor (the same, of course, was true of the election of a new Ecumenical Patriarch). Under such an arrangement, papal elections took longer but there still would be no reason for an Eastern Patriarch to travel to Rome for the installation.

There are a few examples from this Byzantine period, such as the election of Pope Pelagius I in 556, where the man elected to be the Roman bishop was actually in Constantinople at the time of his election. While it is possible that the sacramental ceremony to install the new pope could have occured in Constantinople--whereby the Patriarch of Constantinople would have been present--it is far more likely that the official ceremony would have occurred in Rome and, therefore, would have been conducted without the Patriarch's presence.

At the conclusion of Byzantine influence in papal elections in the eighth century, the election of Roman bishops returned, again, to local considerations. And, as geo-political factors continued to push Italy and the Eastern empire in separate directions, relations between individual popes and patriarchs became more sterile and distant--indeed, between the ninth and fifteenth century there are only one or two occasions where a Roman bishop and an Ecumenical Patriarch ever met in person.
With all of this in mind, His All-Holiness' decision to travel to Rome for Pope Francis' installation as Roman bishop is an extraordinary event in the history of Christianity. And it is significant for reasons far beyond its novelty. First and foremost it is a powerful symbolic gesture for the cause of Christian unity. It demonstrates in unprecedented fashion the extent to which the Ecumenical Patriarch considers the relationship with the Roman Catholic Church to be a priority. For their part, members of the Vatican staff have responded to this grand gesture and have arranged for the reading of the Gospel at the installation to be sung in Greek (rather than Latin) in recognition of the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarch has taken this unprecedented step.

The Christian world has been divided for so long that the establishment of an authentic reunion will require courage, leadership, and humility. It will also require a foundation in common faith and concerns. Given Pope Francis' well-documented work for social justice and his insistence that globalization is detrimental to the poor, it would appear as though the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic traditions have a renewed opportunity to work collectively on issues of mutual concern. With our Lord's assistance, that common cause can be transformed into more substantive theological work. But such work requires a first step and it would appear as though Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is willing to take such a step.
George E. Demacopoulos, PhD

Photo Captions and Credits:

Pope Francis embraces Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, at the Vatican March 20. The pope met with Patriarch Bartholomew before a meeting with the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and Jain delegations that had come to the Vatican for his inauguration. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano) (March 20, 2013) See FRANCIS-DIALOGUE March 20, 2013.

Pope Francis walks with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople at the Vatican March 20. The pope met with Patriarch Bartholomew before a meeting with the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and Jain delegations that had come to the Vatican for his inauguration. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano) (March 20, 2013) See FRANCIS-DIALOGUE March 20, 2013.

Pope Francis' Address to Representatives of the Churches, Ecclesial Communities and Other Religions

VATICAN CITY, March 20, 2013, thanks to Zenit.org

Here is the translation of the address given today by Pope Francis, when he received in audience the fraternal delegates of churches, ecclesial communities and international ecumenical bodies, representatives of the Jewish people and of non-Christian religions, gathered in Rome for the celebration of the official start of his ministry as Bishop of Rome.

The Holy Father delivered his address after His Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, greeted him.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

First of all I thank my Brother Andrew [Bartholomew I] very much for what he said. Thank you very much! Thank you!

It is a cause for particular joy to meet today with you, delegates of the Orthodox churches, the Oriental Orthodox churches and ecclesial communities of the West. Thank you for having wanted to take part in the celebration that has marked the beginning of my Ministry as Bishop of Rome and successor of Peter.

Yesterday morning, during Holy Mass, through your persons I recognized as spiritually present the communities that you represent. In this manifestation of faith, I seemed to experience in an even more urgent way the prayer for unity among believers in Christ and together to see somehow foreshadowed that full realization, which depends on the plan of God and on our loyal collaboration.

I begin my Apostolic Ministry in this year which my venerable predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, with truly inspired insight, proclaimed the Year of Faith for the Catholic Church. With this initiative, which I want to continue and hope is a stimulus for the faith journey of all, he wished to mark the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, proposing a sort of pilgrimage towards that which is most essential for every Christian: the personal and transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, Son of God, who died and rose for our salvation. The heart of the Council's message resides precisely in the desire to announce this perennially valid treasure of faith to the men of our time.

Together with you I cannot forget how much that Council has meant for the road of ecumenism. I would like to recall the words of Blessed John XXIII, the 50th anniversary of whose death we will soon commemorate, which he pronounced in his memorable inauguration speech: "the Catholic Church considers it her duty to actively seek to fulfill the great mystery of that unity which Jesus Christ with most ardent prayers beseeched the Heavenly Father in the imminence of his sacrifice; It enjoys delightful peace, knowing itself to be intimately United with Christ in those prayers» (AAS 54 [1962], 793). This is Pope John.

Yes, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all feel intimately united to the prayer of our Savior in the Last Supper, to his invocation: ut unum sint. Let us ask the merciful Father to live in fullness that faith that we received as a gift on the day of our baptism, and to be able to bear free, courageous and joyful testimony to it. This will be our best service to the cause of unity among Christians, a service of hope to a world still marked by divisions, by contrast and rivalry. The more we are faithful to His will, in our thoughts, words and deeds, the more we will actually and substantially walk towards unity.

For my part, I wish to assure you, in the wake of my predecessors, of my determination to continue on the path of ecumenical dialogue and I would like to thank in advance the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, for the help that it will continue to offer, in my name, for this noble cause. I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to bring my cordial greeting and the assurance of my remembrance in the Lord Jesus to the churches and Christian communities here represented, and request of you the charity of a special prayer for my person, to be a pastor according to the heart of Christ.

And now I turn to you distinguished representatives of the Jewish people, to which we are joined in a very special spiritual bond, since, as the Second Vatican Council affirms, the Church of Christ acknowledges that “the beginnings of her faith and her election are already, according to the divine mystery of salvation, in the Patriarchs, Moses, and the prophets” (Declar. Nostra aetate, 4). Thank you for your presence and I am confident that, with the help of the Almighty, we will be able to continue profitably that fraternal dialogue that the Council advocated (cf. ibid.) and that has actually been accomplished, bringing many fruits, especially in recent decades.

I then greet and cordially thank you all, dear friends belonging to other religious traditions; first of all the Muslims, who worship the one God, living and merciful, and call upon Him in prayer, and all of you. I really appreciate your presence: in it I see a tangible sign of the will to grow in mutual esteem and cooperation for the common good of humanity.

The Catholic Church is aware of the importance of promoting friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions - I wish to repeat this: promoting friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions - it also attests the valuable work that the Pontifical Council for interreligious dialogue performs. It is equally aware of the responsibility that we all have towards this world of ours, towards all of Creation, that we should love and protect. And we can do much for the sake of the poorest, those who are weak and who suffer, to promote justice, to promote reconciliation and to build peace. But, above all, we need to keep alive in the world the thirst for the absolute, not allowing to prevail a one-dimensional vision of the human person, according to which man is reduced to what he produces and consumes: this is this one of the most dangerous pitfalls for our time.

We know how much violence has been produced in recent history by the attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity, and we experience the value of witnessing in our societies to the original opening to transcendence that is inherent in the human heart. In this, we feel close even to all those men and women who, whilst not recognising themselves belonging to any religious tradition, feel themselves nevertheless to be in search of truth, goodness and beauty, this truth, goodness and beauty of God, and who are our precious allies in efforts to defend the dignity of man, in building a peaceful coexistence among peoples and in guarding Creation carefully.

Dear friends, thank you again for your presence. To everyone I extend my cordial and fraternal greeting.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk meets with Pope Francis of Rome


From the website of the Department of External Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church 

On 20 March 2013, Pope Francis of Rome met with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR). The meeting took place at the premises of Vatican Secretariat of State.

At the beginning of the meeting, the DECR chairman conveyed to Pope Francis warm greetings and gratitude for prayers from His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and noted that the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church had closely followed the process of election and enthronement. Metropolitan Hilarion presented the Pope with Patriarch Kirill’s book “Freedom and Responsibility” in the Spanish language. Pope Francis conveyed his sincere best wishes to the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Metropolitan Hilarion told Pope Francis about life and ministry of the Russian Orthodox Church and expressed his hope that good strides in the development of relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church made during the pontificate of Benedict XVI would be ensured. The DECR chairman added that the Moscow Patriarchate attached great importance to the development of relations with the Catholic Church, particularly in the field of social ministry, aid to the poor and the destitute, and protection of the persecuted.

Metropolitan Hilarion also told the Pope about the problems still existing between the two Churches and expressed his hope for finding ways to their solution during the new pontificate.

In conclusion of the meeting, the DECR chairman handed a gift from Patriarch Kirill, an icon of the Mother of God, called ‘Look Down with Favour on My Lowliness’, to Pope Francis, noting that “the first steps of Your Holiness after the election were marked by lowliness and humility.” Pope Francis replied that he lacked humility and asked for prayers to the Lord to grant it to him.

The talk was held in the Russian and Spanish languages and was translated by Miguel Palacio, a DECR staff member.

Oriental Orthodox Church: Delegates of the Catholicosate of Cilicia Present at the Enthronement of Roman Pope Francis I

Oriental Orthodox Church: Delegates of the Catholicosate of Cilicia Present at the Enthronement of Roman Pope Francis I

Rep of UOC-MP Warns UOC-KP That Celebration of Rus Baptism Anniversary Will Be Led by Patriarch Kirill

Rep of UOC-MP Warns UOC-KP That Celebration of Rus Baptism Anniversary Will Be Led by Patriarch Kirill

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Patriarch Sviatoslav hails Pope Francis as a Unifier of Christians


Orthodox Delegations attended enthronement of Pope Francis of Rome


With grateful acknowledgment to the Department of External Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church 

On March 19, 2013, a delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate led by the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, attended the enthronement of Pope Francis of Rome, which took place on St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The delegation included Metropolitan Antony of Borispol, chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; Metropolitan Platon of Feodosia and Kerch; Bishop Sergiy of Solnechnogorsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate administrative secretariat; and Hieromonk Antony (Sevryuk), rector of the church of the Holy Protomartyr Catherine in Rome. The delegation is accompanied by Rev. Milan Zust of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and M. Palacio, DECR staff member.

Present at the ceremony of enthronement were His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, His Beatitude Tikhon, Archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of All America and Canada; Supreme Catholicons-Patriarch of All Armenians Karekin II, as well as delegations from Local Orthodox Churches, representatives of the Anglican Communion churches, various Protestant denominations and other religious confessions. There were 132 representatives of states including heads of states and governments who have diplomatic relations with the Vatican. The Russian Federation was represented at the ceremony by Sergey Naryshkin, chairman of the State Duma.

The solemn ceremony began with presentation of the papal insignia to the newly-elected pontiff. Cardinal Protodeacon Jean-Louis Tauran placed the pallium (omophoros) on the pontiff’s shoulders, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, placed upon his finger the fisherman’s ring with an image of St. Peter. Then Pope Francis, assisted by cardinals, celebrated the mass in Latin. Some prayers and readings were pronounced in Italian, English, French, Greek and other languages. After the Reading of the Gospel, Pope Francis addressed himself to the hundreds-of-thousands-strong crowd in St. Peter’s Square with a sermon devoted to St. Joseph the Worker whose memory falls in the Catholic calendar on March 19. After the singing of the Lord’s Prayer, Patriarch Bartholomew and Catholicos-Patriarch Karekin II came up to the pontiff to exchange kiss of peace with him. The service ended with the solemn singing of the Latin hymn ‘Salve, Regina’ (‘Rejoice, O Queen’) devoted to the Most Holy Mother of God.

Russian Orthodox Delegation welcomed by Pope Francis to be present at the Inauguration of his Petrine Ministry


Print This Post
With grateful acknowledgement to the Department of External Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church 

On 18 March 2013, a delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate headed by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR), arrived in Rome to attend the enthronement of Pope Francis. The DECR chairman and Bishop Sergiy of Solnechnogorsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Administrative Secretariat were met at the airport by the Rev. Milan Žust of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and hieromonk Antoniy (Sevryuk), rector of the Church of St. Catherine in Rome and secretary of the administration of the Moscow Patriarchate’s parishes in Italy.

Members of the delegation were accommodated at the House of St. Martha, where the new Pope is residing. A short meeting with Pope Francis took place at the refectory. The Pope warmly greeted Metropolitan Hilarion who introduced members of the delegation and conveyed cordial best wishes to Pope Francis from His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. The Pope said that he had offered special prayers for Patriarch Kirill at the divine service as it is a commemoration day of St. Cyril of Jerusalem according to the Julian calendar. He thanked Metropolitan Hilarion for the exhibition of Russian icons held in Buenos Aires last autumn with the St. Gregory the Theologian Charity Foundation’s assistance. The future Pope visited the exhibition and keeps warm recollections of it.

The DECR chairman greeted other guests who arrived in Rome to attend the enthronement: Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Metropolitans John of Pergamon and Emmanuel of France (Patriarchate of Constantinople), Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral (Serbian Orthodox Church), John of Korça (Albanian Orthodox Church), and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna.

Attending the enthronement of Pope Francis as honorary guests will also be Metropolitan Anthony of Borispol, chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and Metropolitan Platon of Feodosia and Kerch, who served in Argentina during many years and was well acquainted with the new Pope.

Appeal of the Catholic Patriarchs in the Middle East for Peace

On the occasion of the ceremony of papal inauguration in Rome of His Holiness the new Pope Francis, their Beatitudes the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs

  • Nerses Bedros XIX: Catholicos Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church
  • Gregorios III: Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church
  • Mar Ignatius Joseph III Younan: Patriarch of Antioch for the Syriac Catholic Church
  • Cardinal Beshara Boutros Rai: Patriarch of Antioch and all the East for the Maronite Church
  • Louis Raphael I Sakko: Patriarch for the Chaldean Catholic Church
  • Ibrahim Ishaq:Patriarch for the Coptic Catholic Church
  • with apologies for absence from Fouad Twal: Patriarch of Jerusalem for the Roman Catholic Church
met together in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, the church in Rome assigned to the use of the patriarchate of Antioch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.
They presented, in their name and in the name of the holy synods of their Churches, their congratulations to His Holiness Pope Francis on the occasion of his election and inauguration as successor of Peter, Bishop of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity. They offered their prayers for His Holiness to be able to take on the challenges facing the Church worldwide and in the Middle East in particular, where Christians’ lives are endangered and their future threatened. These Christians need His Holiness’ solidarity, help and prayers. They also affirmed their ecclesial communion with His Holiness, so that the Church can breathe with both lungs, the Eastern and the Western. They saluted His Holiness for choosing the name Francis in order to be Pope for the poor, for peace and universal brotherhood, and wished his papal ministry to be exemplary in its service, enabling him to fulfil the Lord’s wishes, which he has at heart.
Then they discussed the alarming situations in their countries, as they have at heart the concerns and sufferings of their sons and daughters and fellow-citizens, and prayed for world peace, renewing their call for dialogue and reconciliation as the only way out of the current crises. They emphasised rejection of violence and killing and urged seeking conflict resolution through serious negotiations and peaceful, just, and permanent solutions. They condemned all acts of kidnapping, torture, killing, and the targeting of holy places and well-known figures.
They also expressed their solidarity with the dramatically increasing numbers of refugees and displaced persons in the region, especially in Syria. They are working and will continue to work with social and humanitarian organisations to help them alleviate the tragic situation. They acknowledged the just aspirations of the people of their countries to political, social and economic reforms, which are basic elements paving the way for democracy and enhancing universal freedom and civil rights.
In the name of the common citizenship which Muslims and Christians enjoy, the Patriarchs called upon all inhabitants of the Arab world to enhance their living together by enriching their societies with spiritual and human values, and preserving the dialogue of religions and civilizations that has been present throughout history, in order to build a better future, in which young people can realize their aspirations and hopes.
As glorious Pascha draws near, the Patriarchs address every faithful person saying, “You have a resurrection!” And they address the Arab world saying, “You have a resurrection too.” They hope that the peace of the Resurrection of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ will fill our Arab world and all citizens, both Christian and Muslim, so that we can say, “as we have walked together on the way of the cross and suffering, we shall walk together on the roads of the joyful resurrection.”

Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hopes that Pope Francis Will Not Support Greek Catholics

The Religious Information Service of Ukraine reports, 18 March 2013:

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed the hope that Pope Francis will continue the policy of rapprochement with the Orthodox Church and will not support, as he calls it, the expansion of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, the site of Pravoslavie i Mir reports.

“The union is the most painful topic in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, in relations between the Orthodox and the Catholics. If the pope will support the union, then, of course, it will bring no good," he said in a program on the channel Rosiya-1.

One of Pope Francis’s teachers was a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest, and the pope belongs to the Jesuit Order.

Metropolitan Hilarion noted that the Orthodox often had a suspicious attitude toward the Jesuits.

“It is believed that a Jesuit is someone who on the outside is one person, but inside someone else, says one thing, but means something else. This idea has been confirmed in real life by Jesuits and through our experience with such representatives,” said Metropolitan Hilarion.

He also said that the head of the Catholic Church must take care of the whole church and its relations with other churches, not protect the interests of a particular order or region.

“I hope that the positive momentum that we have had in our relations with the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVI will continue under Pope Francis,” summed up the hierarch.

UOC-MP Is Prepared for Dialogue with UAOC and UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate

UOC-MP Is Prepared for Dialogue with UAOC and UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate

Thursday 14 March 2013

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow greets Pope Francis

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill’s greeting to the new Primate of the Roman Catholic Church

Print This Post
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia congratulated the Pope of Rome, Francis, on his election as the head of the Roman Catholic Church. The text is given below.

To His Holiness Francis, Pope of Rome

Your Holiness:

I congratulate you on your election to the eminent and responsible position of being the First Hierarch of the Roman Catholic Church.

Under your predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the relationships between our churches received a new momentum and were characterized by a positive dynamism. I sincerely hope that Your Holiness would promote co-operation between our two churches in the spirit of brotherly love and mutual understanding.

At your accession to the papacy you chose the name Francis, which recalls famous Catholic saints who have served as an example of sacrificial devotion to alleviating people’s suffering and zealous preaching of the Gospel. In your choice one can see your desire to continue to care for the poor and the afflicted, which you showed in compassion and love over the many years of your service in Argentina, carrying the message of Christ crucified and risen to the modern world.

This same mission is now a priority for the Russian Orthodox Church, opening the possibility for co-operation and interaction with the Roman Catholic Church.

Orthodox and Catholics should be determined to combine their efforts to protect harassed and persecuted Christians in various parts of the world, as these people need our support and aid. We need to labour together for the affirmation of traditional moral values ​​in modern secular societies.

Please accept, Your Holiness, my best wishes for peace, spiritual strength and physical vigour, so that the generous support of God would come to you in the carrying out of your responsible ministry.

With fraternal affection in the Lord,


Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

Metropolitan Hilarion greets Pope Francis on his Election

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, sent greetings to the new Primate of the Roman Catholic Church with his election to the chair of bishops of Rome. The text is given below.

To His Holiness Francis

The Pope of Rome

Your Holiness,

Kindly accept my most heartfelt congratulations and good wishes on the occasion of your election to the chair of bishops of Rome.

During your ministry in Argentine, you have succeeded in establishing good and trustful relations with the local Orthodox community. I hope that your work in the new important field will contribute to the development of Orthodox-Catholic dialogue and further cooperation between our two Churches called to defend together the gospel’s values in the modern secular society.

I respectfully wish Your Holiness peace, good health and God’s help in your important primatial ministry.

With love in the Lord,

+ Hilarion

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk


Department for External Church Relations

Moscow Patriarchate

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Newly elected Pope Francis "knows our Church" - Patriarch Sviatoslav


The Religious Information Service of Ukraine reports, 13 March 2013,

RISU correspondent in Rome Oksana Shkodziska took the commentary of Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk about newly elected Pope Francis I.

"I would first like to say that the newly elected Pope Francis was mentored by one of our priests, Stepan Chmil who is now buried in the basilica of St. Sophia in Rome. Today’s Pope, during his time as a student of the Salesian school, awoke many hours before his classmates to concelebrate at our Divine Liturgy with Fr. Stepan. He knows our Tradition very well, as well as our Liturgy.

The last time I had an opportunity to see him was as I was preparing to leave Argentina for Ukraine. I asked him to bear witness to the process of beatifying Fr. Stepan Chmil, to which, he gladly agreed. The Holy Father very well knows not only of our Church, but also our liturgy, our rites, and our spirituality.

Apart from this, Pope Francis, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, was assigned as ordinary for Eastern Catholics, specifically those who at the time did not have members of their own hierarchy. Our Eparchy in Argentina is, let’s say, suffragan to the Archbishop’s seat of Buenos Aires. In this way, Cardinal Bergoglio, always took care of our Church in Argentina; and as a young bishop, I took my first steps in episcopal ministry under his watchful eyes and help. Because of this, I am positive that the Holy Father will be a great help to our Church, and I expect that great things await our Church with this Pope.

In regards to the personality of the new Holy Father - he is an incredibly modest person. For example, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he never relied on his own automobile, rather relying on public transportation, always in simple clothing. He mostly stands out in his enormous care for the less-fortunate, visiting the most impoverished neighborhoods. He is a person, I would say, of great pastoral foundation.

As a Jesuit, Pope Francis is an incredibly deep intellectual. I can attest to the fact that his homilies are quite short, sometimes no longer than five or six sentences, but he manages to fill them with such deep meaning, always leaving the faithful in silent contemplation upwards of five-to-seven minutes". (Translation by Julian Hayda)

The Ecumenical Patriarch congratulates the newly elected Pope Francis

Immediately following the election of Pope Francis on the evening of March 13, His All-Holiness communicated the following congratulatory message to the Vatican:

In the joy and jubilation of Your election as the pastoral leader of Roman Catholic Christians throughout the world, we are communicating with Your Holiness in order to express to You and the devout faithful of Your blessed Church our wholehearted congratulations and sincerest salutations on this special day.
Permit us also, on this historic occasion, to convey our unfeigned wishes and fervent prayers that your papal tenure may prove to be a source of peace in our world of turmoil and division, a refuge and consolation for our Lord’s poor and suffering brothers and sisters, as well as a continuation of our journey toward reconciliation and consolidation of the dialogue for the unity of our Sister Churches.
May God grant Your Holiness many years of healthy and fruitful ministry to serve His people with Your distinctive humility, simplicity, and charity.
At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, on March 13th, 2013
Your Holiness’ beloved brother in Christ
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
and Ecumenical Patriarch

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Habemus Papam

Axios! Axios! Axios!

To Pope Francis, Many Years!

12 Dead in Attack on Egyptian Christian Churches

Muslim Fanatics Urged to Reject Violence

IMBABA, Egypt, MAY 10, 2011 thanks to Zenit.org

Attacks on several Christian churches over the weekend in Imbaba left 12 dead and up to 200 injured. Aid to the Church in Need reported that the violence erupted on Saturday after 500 Selafist Muslim extremists amassed outside the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Mina claiming that Christian leaders were detaining a woman who wanted to convert to Islam. ttackers used guns, grenades and stones against this church, the Coptic Orthodox church of the Virgin Mary, and a Catholic church in that locale.

Father Luciano Verdoscia, a Comboni missionary stationed in nearby Cairo, reported to Fides: "A group of Salafis came shooting in the church and killed the father of one of our postulants, who is in Uganda. The man was hit by se veral shots to the chest." The missionary explained: "The excuse used by the Salafis to commit these crimes is the story of Kamilia, the wife of an Orthodox priest who wanted to divorce her husband. Since the Orthodox Church is very strict in matters of divorce, the woman had converted to Islam to escape from her husband. "The Salafis claim that the woman is held prisoner and was brought back to the Coptic faith against her will."

However, Aid to the Church in Need reported that this woman appeared on television defending her Christian faith; at that, the mob responded that they were in search of another woman in a similar situation.

Father Luciano asserted, "Beyond the story of this woman, considerations must be taken to understand what is happening in Egypt." He reported that "the neighborhood of Imbaba is a poor area and fanaticism flourishes where poverty and ignorance reign." The missionary continued: "The Salafis are a group that is not the majority, but make themselves heard, even with violent actions. "According to some commentators, these groups are controlled by the old regime, who want to make others believe: 'Look what is happening without us. A strong government is needed to rule with an iron hand.'"

Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina of Guizeh said to Aid to the Church in Need: "The police need to say clearly to those who have done this: 'You cannot do this. It is not allowed.' "Without action from the police and the army, it will be chaos, complete anarchy." The Egyptian army is reporting that 200 people were arrested in connection with the violence, and  security has been increased around Cairo churches. However, Bishop Aziz stated that restoring law and order is insufficient.

"We cannot make peace and reconciliation without first bringing people to justice," he stated. "Otherwise, the reconciliation is just theatre and the problems will remain." The bishop expressed the concern that "the army will not stand up against the people who do this sort of thing." He added: "The police appear but very slowly. They are frightened. They have not been strong enough." Yet, Bishop Aziz said, the violence is also "too much for Christians to bear."

Bishop Joannes Zakaria of Luxor told the aid agency that despite this, the faithful are continuing to persevere. He said: "Last weekend I was celebrating Masses in our villages and I expected that they would be afraid and that it would be necessary to encourage the faithful. "But it was they who encouraged me. It is not our character to give up. Next day, we pick up the pieces and start again." he prelate reported that "people are determined to bear witness to Christ in the lands where he lived."
Father Luciano urged Muslims in that land to "reject violence based on religion." Islam, he said, "must evolve." The missionary continued: "I hope that moderate Muslims can go beyond certain readings of Islam. "These killings happen because in Islam when a group of people are expressed as 'kuffar' (infidels), they can be killed and deprived of all their property. Interpretations of this type should be reviewed by the same Islamists."

Friday 8 March 2013

New Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Appeals to Faithful Not to Flee

By John Pontifex, Aid to the Church in Need

ROME, March 07, 2013 thanks to Zenit.org - THE new leader of the largest Church in Iraq has told his dwindling faithful to stop emigrating, warning them that Christianity in the Middle East risks becoming “a distant memory”.

Speaking yesterday (Wednesday, 6th March) at his installation as Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, Louis Raphael I Sako said Christians in Iraq should overcome their fears and work together to build a new future.

Raphael I, whose election as head of the Eastern-rite Catholic Church was confirmed by Benedict XVI on 1st February, called for a dialogue “of peaceful coexistence” with Muslim leaders at a time of increasing concern about extremism and violence.

In his address, a copy of which he sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the patriarch, 64, stressed the need to work for unity with Orthodox Christians in regions marked by ecumenical tensions in recent years.

In comments aimed specifically at Christians present at the service in Baghdad’s St Joseph’s Cathedral, the patriarch said: “Why are you so afraid today?

“Do not withdraw or emigrate in time of great pressure. This is your country and your land.

“If emigration continues God forbid, there will be no more Christians in the Middle East. [The Church] will be no more than a distant memory.”

The patriarch’s comments, given on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War and the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein, come after a decade of massive emigration of Christians from the country.

In 1987, Christians in Iraq totalled 1.4 million according to the last census, but now there could be fewer than 250,000, with the greatest decline in numbers taking place after 2003.

Since 2003, fundamentalism and a breakdown in law and order have shaken the Church to its foundations.

More than 700 Christians had been killed (including 17 priests) in religious and politically motivated attacks and 71 churches attacked – 44 in Baghdad and 19 in Mosul.

The biggest crisis of confidence for Christians came after the 31st October 2010 attack on Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Syrian Cathedral during Sunday evening Mass, when 45 people were killed (including two priests) and 100 were injured in a four-hour siege.

Asking Christians to draw a line under the past, Patriarch Raphael told them: “These past years have been full of events and dangers and still the shadow of fear, anxiety and death is hanging over our people.”

He told his faithful: “Change your view of yourselves and your identity.

“Look deeper into the reality we face today and understand the importance of your presence and witness.

“Live together and build a future for yourselves in your country.”

Patriarch Raphael, who was Archbishop of Kirkuk (2003-13) after being rector of St Peter’s Seminary, Baghdad, stressed the need for “renewal”.

He said: “… The world around us has changed and we must change. The Church should change.

“So we will renew our liturgy, our method of religious instruction and update our ecclesiastical structures with courage and clarity according to the Second Vatican Council.

“This renewal is aimed at helping the faithful’s understanding and participation in the Christian way of life and their attachment to Christ and his Church.”


John Pontifex is the UK Head of Press for Aid to the Church in Need. 

Sunday 3 March 2013

Review: The Philokalia: Exploring the Classic Text of Orthodox Spirituality

We are grateful to Fr Deacon Richard Downer, who writes:
The Philokalia: Exploring the Classic Text of Orthodox Spirituality (eds. Brick Bingaman & Bradley Nassif) appears to be a commentary by various theologians (Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant) on particular aspects of the Philokalia. If one goes to Amazon, one can see inside the book and look at its Contents. Hopefully, it will prove to be a useful supplement to the 4 volumes of the Philokalia in English (when will we get vol. 5?), Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart (from the ‘Dobrotolubiye’), etc
In an article on Myriobiblos entitled "The inner unity of the Philokalia and its influence in East and West", Metropolitan Kallistos notes that on the final page of the original edition of the Philokalia published in Venice in 1782 there is an Imprimatur issued by the University of Padua, that reads:

”What kind of a book is the Philokalia? In the original edition of 1782, there is a final page in Italian: this is a licenza, a permission to publish, issued by the Roman Catholic censors at the University of Padua. In this they state that the volume contains nothing 'contrary to the Holy Catholic Faith' (contro la Santa Fede Cattolica), and nothing 'contrary to good principles and practices' (contro principi, e buoni costumi). But, though bearing a Roman Catholic imprimatur, the Philokalia is in fact entirely an Orthodox book. Of the thirty-six different authors whose writings it contains - dating from the fourth to the fifteenth century - all are Greek, apart from one, who wrote in Latin, St John Cassian (d. circa 430) or 'Cassian the Roman' as he is styled in the Philokalia; and this exception is more apparent than real, for Cassian grew up in the Christian East and received his teaching from Evagrios of Pontus, the disciple of the Cappadocian Fathers.”
Moreover, it would appear that Metropolitan Kallistos has incorporated certain aspects of The inner unity of the Philokalia and its influence in East and West into the first chapter entitled ‘St Nikodimos and the Philokalia’ of the above book. In that chapter, as in the article, he draws the reader’s attention to the monastic/Philokalic nature of Byzantine theology, a point that Andrew Louth makes elsewhere (pg 57 of ‘The Reception of Dionysius in the Byzantine World’ in ‘Re-Thinking Dionysius the Areopagite’......................).