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.

Saturday 31 May 2014

Eastern Christian Books: The Immaculate Conception's Roots in Byzantine Theology

Adam DeVille writes:

The Catholic and Orthodox
traditions are a lot closer than some think when it comes to the question of
the conception of the Theotokos. Christiaan Kappes' new book has the details:

Here, Adam DeVille interviews the author


Patriarch Gregorios on the Syrian Crisis

In May 2014, Melkite Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregorios of Antioch gave the annual lecture in London to the aid organisation, Embrace Middle East, the old Bible Lands Society.

Here is the link to his lecture.

Friday 30 May 2014

The Genius of Pope Francis in the Holy Land

Ian Knowles, director of the Bethlehem Icon School, reflects on Pope Francis' visit to the Holy Land in pilgrimage with the Ecumenical Patriarch, on his blog, An Iconographer's Notebook. Ian shows Pope Francis, who had also prayed at the Western Wall of the Temple,now touching the Wall of Separation between the West Bank and Israel. It is on this same Wall opposite the Melkite convent in Bethlehem that Ian painted the Icon of Our Lady of the Wall (see below)

Yisca Harani, an expert on Christianity in the Holy Land, said she was disappointed with the visit. While the pope arrived to celebrate peace, he was instead greeted by two angry parties who tried to pull him in their direction.“I expected someone stronger. I expected some strong words of encouragement or a real push,” she said. “I found a frail pope. There were very few moments when I saw his face lit up. From the moment he landed he looked afraid.”

Well what are we to make of Pope Francis' visit? Was he timid? Afraid? Frail? Or has this 'expert' missed something?

In a snippet of video taken as the Pope was walking to his plane at Ben Gurion airport he is caught in mid conversation with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel. Netanyahu is beaming, and expressing his obvious surprise and excitement that the Pope had actually read his father's book. What book? International best seller? New Your Times list? Well, not exactly. It was a historical treatise on... the Spanish Inquisition and its treatment of... the Jews. The Times of Israel reported back in December  2013 that the PM had given the book as a gift to the Pope when he met him at the Vatican. He obviously didn't actually think the Pope would read it, given the elation and genuine chuffed expression. The pope said twice, 'its a good book', underscoring the sense of respect. It had obviously won Netanyahu round as an admirer, which is no mean feat. It gives a tantalising glimpse as to the way the Pope works, and of what his approach is actually achieving.

I was at the Mass in Bethlehem when he invited President Abbas and President Peres to come and pray with him for peace in his own home in the Vatican. To be honest the sound system was so bad I couldn't hear anything the Pope said, and there was no translation into any other language so few people picked it up at that moment. But the invitation was issued, and Abbas walked up the steps of the Papal sanctuary to exchange the sign of peace with the pope. Previously the two men had hugged when they met at the Presidential palace. Again, a warm, genuine rapport.

Read Ian's full piece here:
The Genius of Pope Francis in the Holy Land

Eastern Ukraine bishop: Catholics are too frightened to attend Mass | CatholicHerald.co.uk

By Jonathan Luxmoore CNS on Thursday, 29 May 2014

A Catholic bishop in eastern Ukraine said church members are afraid to attend Mass in Donetsk and other towns after a priest from Poland was abducted by pro-Russia separatists. “Local Catholics are living in conditions of great danger — the terrorists are doing what they like and shooting at people indiscriminately,” said Bishop Marian Buczek, outgoing bishop of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia, whose diocese includes Donetsk, Luhansk and other conflict-torn cities. “People can do nothing but stay at home and await better times, like everyone else. In places where there’s shooting, the Catholic and Orthodox churches have simply stopped functioning.”

Bishop Buczek spoke to Catholic News Service, a day after Father Pawel Witek, a priest from the Society of Christ for Poles Abroad,was abducted by rebel fighters in central Donetsk.

A statement from the Society of Christ for Poles Abroad said Father Witek had ministered in Kazakhstan since 2003 and had traveled to Ukraine to renew his Kazakh visa. It said he had been visiting order members at a Donetsk parish, and members of the society were working with Polish diplomats to secure his release.

Poland’s Catholic information agency, KAI, reported May 28 Father Witek had disappeared on his way to an ecumenical peace service in Donetsk’s Constitution Square and was believed held in the city’s rebel-occupied Ukrainian Security Service headquarters. Bishop Buczek told CNS there was “no reason why clergy should now become targets,” since “most Catholic priests in this region are Ukrainian citizens simply doing their jobs.”

“Many parishes are functioning normally — with the exceptions of Kramatorsk, where our chapel was machine-gunned by separatists last week, and Sloviansk, where the whole town is blocked,” he added. Confirmation of the abduction came as Ukrainian army units claimed to have restored control of Donetsk’s airport after a two-day battle with separatists. Donetsk Mayor Alexander Lukyanchenko said at least 40 people had been killed May 27, although rebel leaders said the final toll could rise above 100.

Bishop Buczek told CNS the church had continued its charitable work of helping those made homeless or injured in the fighting with food, medicines and other aid. He added that the parish in Donetsk held Masses for local Catholics in Ukrainian and Russian, as well as in English, French and Vietnamese, and had never received complaints. “We’re just a small minority here, so we can do little else,” the bishop said.

Read online here:
Eastern Ukraine bishop: Catholics are too frightened to attend Mass | CatholicHerald.co.uk

Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II enthroned in Damascus, welcomed by Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch John

His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II,

123rd Prince Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, enthroned, 29 May 2014
Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II (Syriac: ܡܪܢ ܡܪܝ ܐܝܓܢܛܝܘܣ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܬܪܝܢܐ Moran Mor[y] Ignaṭius Afrem Trayono, Arabic: مار إغناطيوس أفرام الثاني Mār Iġnāṭīūs Afrām al-Ṯānī; born as Saʿid Karim on May 3, 1965) is the patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church. He is the 123rd Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. He was enthroned as patriarch in Damascus on May 29, 2014.

Before his election to the patriarchate in 2014, he was Archbishop for the Eastern United States of America, and known as Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim in that post.

 Saʿid Karim was born in Qamishli, north-eastern Syria, on May 3, 1965, the youngest son of Issa and Khanema Karim. His family are Syriacs, who came originally from the village Ehwo (Turkish: Güzelsu) in the Tur Abdin region of Mardin Province, Turkey. After primary schooling in Qamishli, in 1977, Karim received his religious secondary education St. Ephrem's Theological Seminary in Atchaneh, Bikfaya, Lebanon. On leaving school in 1982, he worked in Aleppo, Syria, as an assistant to the Archbishop Mor Gregorios Yuhanna Ibrahim. From 1984 to 1988, he pursued his university education at the Coptic Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt, receiving a BA degree in Divinity upon graduation.The young Deacon Aphrem Karim (later Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II) with his predecessor Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, taken in 1985.

In 1985, Saʿid Karim took the vows of a monk, and changed his name to Aphrem (in honor of the 4th-century Syriac poet-theologian Ephrem the Syrian, and of former patriarch Aphrem I Barsoum). He was ordained deacon, and, later that year, was elevated to the sacred priesthood. From 1988 to 1989, he served as both the secretary to his patriarchal predecessor, Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, and as a teacher at St. Ephrem’s Theological Seminary in Damascus, Syria.  In 1989, he entered St Patrick's College in Maynooth, Ireland, from where he received a Licentiate of Sacred Theology(1991) and Doctor of Divinity (1994). His doctoral thesis is titled The Symbolism of the Cross in early Syriac Christianity. During that time, he also served as a priest to the Syriac Orthodox Community in the United Kingdom.  Karim speaks Classical Syriac (Kthobonoyo) as well as Turoyo (a colloquial Neo-Aramaic spoken in his ancestral Tur Abdin), as well as Arabic, French and English.

Photo: 29 May'14
United in Christ................In 1995, following the death of Archbishop Mor Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, who had established the Archdiocese of the United States and Canada to minister to the Syriac Orthodox diaspora in 1957 (after his appointment as patriarchal vicar in 1952), it was decided to divide the territory into three new archdioceses: the Eastern United States, Los Angeles and Environs, and Canada. It was to the first of these that Monk Aphrem Karim was appointed as new bishop.  On January 28, 1996, Aphrem Karim was consecrated as Metropolitan Archbishop and Patriarchal Vicar of the Archdiocese for the Eastern United States by Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas at St. Mary’s Syriac Orthodox Church in his home town of Qamishli. Taking the episcopal name Cyril, he arrived in the United States on March 2, 1996, and was officially installed at St. Mark’s Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in Teaneck, New Jersey, as Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim.

On March 21, 2014, Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas died in hospital in Kiel, Germany, after a long illness. Following his death, the Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch was convened to elect a successor. The synod was held at St Jacob Baradeus Monastery in Atchaneh, Lebanon, presided over by Mor Baselius Thomas I Catholicos of India and Mor Severius Jamil Hawa Archbishop of Baghdad and Basra and Patriarchal Locum Tenens (Syriac: ܩܝܘܡܐ Qoyumo, Arabic: قعم مقام Qaʿim Maqām, colloquially قيمقام Qaymaqām; most senior of the bishops by his 1970 consecration), with the latter making the public announcement of the election. The synod duly elected Cyril Aphrem Karim to be the 123rd successor of St. Peter in the Apostolic Sea of Antioch. He was enthroned on May 29, 2014, at St Ephrem's Monastery, Maarat Saidnaya, near Damascus, Syria.

Following the tradition of the church, Karim took the patriarchal name Ignatius (to replace his episcopal name Cyril), and, being the second patriarch to bear the monastic name Aphrem (the first being Ignatius Aphrem I Barsoum), his name became Ignatius Aphrem II. Unlike both Aphrem I Barsoum and Zakka I Iwas, but following older convention, Aphrem II is not using his family name, Karim, in his official title.

Catholic, Orthodox See Ecumenical Significance of Sistine Choir's Moscow Concert | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Metropolitan Hilarion Notes Hope That 'Spiritual Unity' Expressed in Song Will Be Reflected in Churches' Relations - but pours cold water on the meeting of Pope Francis, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Patriarch of Jerusalem


Rome, May 29, 2014 (Zenit.org)

The choir of the Sistine Chapel, together with the Synodal Choir of Moscow, performed a concert of sacred music on Tuesday night in honor of the 5th anniversary of Kyrill’s reign as patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. The concert, held in the Armory Palace in the Kremlin, was organized by the Patriarchate of Moscow and included music of the Orthodox and Catholic traditions.

The Sistine Choir, which left Rome on Saturday, followed an itinerary in Russia which included joint practices with the Synodal Choir of the Patriarchate of Moscow. The concert was directed at different times by the Maestro of the Sistine Choir, Monsignor Massimo Palombella, and by the Director of the Synodal Choir, Alexy Puzakov.

Shortly before the Choir’s departure, ZENIT spoke with Monsignor Palombella, who reiterated the ecumenical importance of this initiative. “We were already in London last year with the Anglican Choir of Westminster Abbey and with the Lutheran Choir of Leipzig, and both have sung with us in Rome. The Anglican in Saint Paul’s Basilica in 2012, on the occasion of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, and then the German Choir came.”

Monsignor Palombella added that during this trip they would practice together “keeping in view the forthcoming June 29, when we will sing in the Eucharistic celebration presided over by Pope Francis, on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.”

After the May 26 concert in Moscow, the audience was addressed by the head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who said in particular:

“We have just heard an amazing concert in which works of Italian and Russian composers of various periods were performed by two choral teams of exceptionally high quality – the famous Sistine Cappella Choir with its ages-old history and the State Tretyakov Gallery Choir, which is not so old but has already written a solid page in the history of our home musical culture. We thank the Sistine Chapel for this remarkable gift with which this choir has come to our country. Never before have I heard the Sistine Cappella singing Bortnyansky’s music, nor do I remember the Tretykov Gallery Choir performing works by Giovanni Palestrina.

“But we know that there is a direct genetic link between our church music and the music of the Catholic Church. The same Bortnyansky, just as other church composers, was a disciple of Italian masters who would leave their Italian opera houses to come to Russia in order to direct our court choir. And we can hear striking parallels in intonation and style in these two musical cultures…

"I would like to express the hope that the spiritual unity revealed in today’s concert will also be reflected in relations between the Russians and the Italians and in relations between the Roman Catholic and the Russian Orthodox Churches. These relations have not always been cloudless and we can see problems arising today too, but we can also see that the Orthodox and Catholic Christians, if there is a wish, know how to work together. And the most important thing is that they know how to glorify God together."

The path toward Catholic-Orthodox unity marked another milestone last weekend as Pope Francis met in Jerusalem with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, commemorating the 50th anniversary of their predecessors’ meeting in the Holy Land.

The Religious Information Service of Ukraine noted, however, that Metropolitan Hilarion spoke of a limited effect of that meeting. According to RISU, "Metropolitan Hilarion said that because Patriarch Bartholomew had not consulted with other Orthodox leaders before scheduling his meeting with the Pope, he would be acting on his own behalf, not as a representative of the world’s Orthodox faithful. Although the Patriarch of Constantinople is traditionally recognized as the 'first among equals' in the Orthodox hierarchy, the Russian Orthodox argues that he exercises that primacy only when other Orthodox patriarchs explicitly authorize him to do so. In the absence of such a mandate, Metropolitan Hilarion said, Patriarch Bartholomew will be representing only his own particular church, the Patriarchate of Constantinople."

(May 29, 2014) © Innovative Media Inc.

Catholic, Orthodox See Ecumenical Significance of Sistine Choir's Moscow Concert | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

EGYPT For Catholic Church spokesman, "al-Sisi's victory is a civil uprising against Islamic extremism" - Asia News

05/29/2014, EGYPT

For Catholic Church spokesman, "al-Sisi's victory is a civil uprising against Islamic extremism". Fr Rafic Greiche speaks to AsiaNews about Egypt's election results. "There has been so much misinformation in recent days, even about the turnout, which was high instead. The new president so far has kept his word. We hope he continues like this. Economic recovery and stability are our shared goals. The Muslim Brotherhood can learn from what happened, and repudiate violence."
Cairo (AsiaNews) - Former General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's victory in the country's presidential election "makes us happy because so far he has kept his word," said Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, who spoke to AsiaNews on the day Egypt's new president was elected in what was akin to a referendum.

"He knows that Christians are an important part of Egypt and he wants to defend religious coexistence. If he can provide security and economic recovery, it will be a huge result. We hope this will happen as soon as possible," Fr Greiche added.

Speaking on the vote itself, the Church spokesman first noted that "the recent reports on a very low turnout election are incorrect. On the second day of the vote (Tuesday), 23 million people had voted."

"I think that the extension of the voting process was decided to give as many people as possible a chance to cast their ballot. However, reports that some polling stations were empty was not true. The fact is that the election Commission set up a large number of polling stations so as not to take any chances. This inevitably led to some empty stations."

From this point of view, it is important to note the attitudes of Egypt's various groups. "Salafis, for example, said they were going to vote, and that they were going to support al-Sisi. But looking at the data, it appears that in Salafi strongholds no one voted. Certainly, leaders posed for pictures at polling stations, but their people did not do their duty."

Christians, Catholics and Copts, voted instead. "I told my parishioners that I wanted to see them with your finger stained (from ink - to avoid multiple voting), because it is always important to make one's voice heard."

According to Fr Greiche, this election also had another, very important aspect. "The votes for al-Sisi are a clear call by Egypt's political and civil society against Islamic fundamentalism, which has tainted the Muslim Brotherhood. The latter chose to boycott the vote, but they cannot ignore the fact that the entire country is sickened by the recent violence. Hopefully, they will soon get the message."

Egypt can now hope for a future after so many years of political turmoil. The goal is "stability and security for every community, and economic recovery. These are the fundamental objectives; this work must unite us all. Only this way can we move out of our current mire and return to the glories of the past, which must be our hope for the future."

Read online:

EGYPT For Catholic Church spokesman, "al-Sisi's victory is a civil uprising against Islamic extremism" - Asia News

Patriarch Kirill accuses Ukrainian Greek-Catholics of Russophobia - Pravmir/Interfax - A Russian Orthodox Church Website

Moscow, May 28, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has sharply criticized the Ukrainian Greek-Catholics Church.

Once again, there is an enduring need to set the context for such remarks as these emanating from the Moscow Patriarchate, point by point. The report on Patriarch Kirill's unprovoked and groundless outburst is at the end. (MW)

1. His Beatitude the Patriarch of Moscow accuses the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of engaging in political activities. Yet from the outset of the recent crisis, it has been a vocal and active advocate of peace. Alongside the three main Orthodox Churches in Ukraine (including clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that is part of the Russian Orthodox Church), the small Roman Catholic community, Protestants leaders and the leaders of the Islamic and Jewish communities it has been a vocal servant of peace and justice and has refused to take political sides. Instead it has demanded peace, justice, and end to corruption, the internationally recognised integrity of the country, and the establishment of democracy and due process. Its presence alongside other Church representatives in Kyiv and other cities where there were demonstrations was to keep the peace at the same time as being with the people - all the people - at difficult period of civil society's history. Orthodox clergy did the same. There are ample pictures of both Orthodox and Greek-Catholic clergy and religious keeping the peace, calling people to prayer, tending those wounded by the regime that the Russian Federation was supporting, and demonstrating their fraternity and solidarity. Meanwhile, Patriarch Kirill has been a closely linked supporter of President Putin's government and he has encouraged its adventures in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine with his promotion of the concept of Russky Mir - Pax Russica - the Russian world under Russian peace - that includes Russia proper, its satellite buffer territories, together with Belorussia and Ukraine.

2. "The UGCC is ... using sharp Russophobic slogans and statements and making sharp statements against the Russian Orthodox Church in its public declarations".  This cannot be evidenced. The Moscow patriarch and patriarchate (through its External Relations chief, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk) feels at complete liberty to say the most disobliging things against the Ukrainian Catholics, the Roman Papacy and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, yet objects to the prospect that they in turn can stand subject to critique and analysis in their words and actions. Far from criticising Russians or Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church, under Patriarch Sviatoslav the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church has been at pains to distinguish between the Russian people both in Russia itself and in Ukraine, and the actions and policies of the Russian government. We have kept a record of everything that Patriarch Sviatoslav has said and all can be discovered by selecting the label "sviatoslav shevchuk" on the right to bring up the list of them. Where the Russian Church has come under criticism it has been for its persistence in its historically false assessment of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, its baseless accusations of proselytism among Orthodox and violent dispossession of Orthodox property and eparchies in Western Ukraine. There were never Orthodox eparchies in the West until imposed by Stalin with the collusion of the Moscow patriarchate, leading to martyrdom, forced conversions, the misappropriation of all Greek Catholic property by the Russian Church, and the legal suppression of the Church from the Second World War to the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Effectively the Greek-Catholic Church in what is now Ukraine, with its roots just like the Russian Orthodox in the Kyivan Church founded at the time when East and West were in union,  was persecuted by a forced alliance between atheist Communism and the Moscow Patriarchate. This is an historical truth that has never properly been faced and come to terms with.Ssince both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Catholic Church recovered their freedom after Sovietism, in this context, characterised by sustained pressure from Moscow upon Rome for the Vatican to repress the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the leaders of the latter have not occupied themselves with recrimination. Instead they have focussed on the spiritual renewal of the Church and the faithful, and the restoration of its life, identity, capacity and worship. Like Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky before them, the two UGCC hierarchs mentioned in the Pravmir report below have repeatedly and consistently called for dialogue and fraternity to resolve problems and disagreements. In the present time, Patriarch Sviatoslav has extended once more the offer of encounter and reconciliation. While Ukrainian Orthodox leaders under the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine itself have maintained positive relationships with fellow hierarchs in the UGCC, it is Moscow itself that has rebuffed and ignored these fraternal and peaceable gestures, preferring itself to pretend that the UGCC is a mere department of the Roman Catholic Church and addressing all its thoughts and remarks upon it to the Vatican.

3. "The UGCC ... has ... cast a very sad shadow on the relations between the Russian Church and the Vatican". Yet it was the Russian Church led by Patriarch Kirill that, having taken part in the Joint International Theological Commission for Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church that formulated the Ravenna Statement, withdrew from the dialogue, preferring outside of the dialogue that is not concluded and is still in progress, to issue its own dogmatic statement on primacy in the universal Church that was charged with painful criticism of the Catholic Church and the papacy that just do not obtain. The Russian Church declares it desires unity with the Catholic Church, but only, it seems, on the Russian Orthodox Church's terms without considering of those of the Catholic Church (which include communion between Latin and Greek Catholics, NB). This is not the path of dialogue and ecumenism, as many Orthodox theologians and hierarchs outside the Russian Church have pointed out. Furthermore, it is the Moscow Patriarchate that, in the words of Metropolitan Hilarion, (press the label to the right marked "hilarion alfeyev") has accused the Roman papacy of maintaining a policy of Uniatism through Greek-Catholic structures to proselytise among Orthodox, despite all evidence to the contrary and agreements (see notably the Balamand Statement) with the Orthodox Church that Uniatism (and there are not a few historical examples of Orthodox Uniatism among Western Christians) belongs to the past and that we are now in the age and stage of ecumenism, ecclesial reconciliation and the dialogue of love. How many times must this be said? The Catholic Church is not seeking jurisdiction over the Orthodox Church. Pope Benedict said specifically that nothing is expected of the Orthodox Church that was in place prior to the Great Schism and nothing more that has developed in the West could therefore be demanded of the East. Lastly, it was Moscow that cast a shadow over its relations with the Vatican - at the same time as a long arranged visit of the Sistine Chapel Choir, with that of the Anglican Westminster Abbey, was visiting the Moscow Patriarchate, and as Pope Francis was meeting Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Patriarch Theophilus of Jerusalem in the Holy City 60 years on from Pope Paul VI's and Patriarch Athenagoras' meeting that inaugurated that "dialogue of love", all Metropolitan Hilarion (who was receiving the choirs) could say, instead of encouraging the encounter and fraternal solidarity of the successors of SS. Peter, Andrew and James, was that the Patriarch of Constantinople represents only his own Church and not the Orthodox Church as a whole. The Moscow Patriarchate, which maintains institutions in the Holy Land and thus serves its faithful there, unlike other out-of-country Churches with diaspora there did not send a representative to join other Orthodox leaders - not to meet the Pope but just to join with him and others on a pilgrimage together. To have done so, it would have been clear that the Patriarchate of Moscow is not, as it likes to give the impression, the direct peer of Rome as the leadership of by far the largest body of Orthodox in the world: its representative would have been placed in the order of commemoration in the diptychs - not beside Bartholomew, but after Jerusalem.

4. Cardinal Lubomir Husar is happily very much still alive.

5. "They took a very clear stance at the very beginning of this civil conflict, which unfortunately led to a military conflict". We have addressed this outrageous and offensive observation from Metropolitan Hilarion before. At the time he was saying this in March, the Moscow Patriarchate, far from standing above politics, falsely insinuated a connection between the UGCC and fascists. At every stage, Cardinal Husar and Patriarch Sviatoslav appealed to everyone to follow the path of Jesus Christ - peace, truth and justice. It was not the Greek-Catholic Church that fired upon and killed defenceless citizens exercising their democratic rights of freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. It was not the UGCC that sent into Ukraine undercover police, masked soldiers and military assistance to the corrupt regime or to facilitate the annexe Crimea to Russia. Instead, alongside the other Church leaders, the UGCC offered pastoral and spiritual support to its people and those of other Churches without discrimination, and quite uncontroversially and in accord with international treaties called for the territorial integrity of the country, the restraint of foreign armed interference from all quarters, the respect for the rule of law and the observance of truly democratic processes. These aspirations reflect standard Catholic Social Teaching but those of the Russian Orthodox Church itself, as well as the position of the World Council of Church in numerous situations. To say that the Ukrainian Catholic Church was responsible for inflaming civil disorder and an ensuing military conflict is a terrible calumny, when what it has done consistently is to call for peace, truth, justice, law and democracy. Again, the evidence for this is ample.

6. His Beatitude Patriarch Kirill knows full well that the term "Uniate" is designed when used in contemporary discourse to be offensive. It is pejorative, inaccurate and polemical. Before accusing others of "sharp slogans" and "sharp statements" that "cast a very sad shadow", he should remove the beam from his own eye.

7. "False patriarch Filaret". In Ukraine, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, effectively controlled by Moscow although meant to be autonomous, is a minority compared with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church led by Patriarch Filaret. The latter uses Church Slavonic as well as the vernacular, while the Russian Church uses only Church Slavonic in the Liturgy. In other words, in Ukraine a majority of Orthodox wish to have the opportunity to worship in their own language. And as citizens of a different state from Russia, they wish their own Church to rule itself, not to be managed from abroad. Nevertheless a sizeable number of Orthodox in Ukraine, who are ethnic Russians or Russian-speaking ethnic Ukrainians, wish to belong to the Moscow Patriarchate. In such circumstances, there needs to be dialogue and reconciliation for the two constituencies to live in the Body of Christ in harmony and communion. It is difficult, whatever the background issues and antipathies that we need not go into here, to know how this can be achieved if the stock response is "sharp slogans" from Patriarch Kirill.

8. "Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk and false patriarch Filaret (Denisenko) even went to the U.S., went to the offices of the Department of State, and asked the U.S. to intervene in the Ukrainian affairs". The instances of these visits are extensively recorded in the media and on the internet. These were visits to raise international awareness of the corruption, violence and tyranny of the former regime. At every turn they were requests for the international community to intervene in the denunciation of injustice, abuse of power and corruption, and the prevention of civil strife, war and the undercover military destabilisation of Ukraine by the government and armed forces of the Russian Federation outside international law and without mandate from the UN Security Council.

9. "Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholics Church, has recently made very sharp statements about Russia". While Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion have been making abundant "sharp statements" about the UGCC, we can find no instance of criticisms of the Russian Church from Patriarch Sviatoslav or of the denunciations of Russia that have been implied. We leave to him the last word, from an interview this May:

We have significant, fraternal relations with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. All of our activities and our statements which we issued in the last few months, in the period of the Maidan, we always did together. Moreover, it is providential that the current seat of that Ukrainian Council of Churches is held by the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan).
We were united in Ukraine during a very dangerous period in a way that had never really occurred before. Concerning pastoral care for our respective faithful on the Maidan, we were organized in our own way. However, concerning our moral judgments of the civil movement or opposition to the abuses of the Yanukovych government, we always stood together. So I think that there is no reason to fear some “crusade” against the Orthodox. The Maidan was neither a religious nor ethnic protest. It was a “social” protest and almost half of the protesters were Russian-speaking citizens who were faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Of course the Greek Catholics were present along with the Orthodox of the “Kyiv Patriarchate” as well as Jews and Muslims. The Maidan was a sort of “mirror” of the Ukrainian society without any aggression toward the 'Russian' nation or 'Russia' as a state.
Unfortunately, I have to say that there are no direct and open relations between the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate and it is a pity. For the last three years, my heartfelt desire has been to establish such a direct dialogue. However, we are not able yet. But I am still open and I am praying that one day we can sit at the same table, look at one another in the eye, and recognize that we are members of the same body of Christ and that we share the same blood of Christ. We are members of the same Church of Christ. That will be the common basis to start to discuss our disagreements and problems.

“The Ukrainian Greek-Catholics Church is engaging in direct political activities, unfortunately, using sharp Russophobic slogans and statements and making sharp statements against the Russian Orthodox Church in its public declarations,” the patriarch said at a meeting in the Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday.
Patriarch Kirill said “a very sad shadow” has been cast on the relations between the Russian Church and the Vatican.
The Greek-Catholics (Uniates) were earlier criticized by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations.

“Being represented by the Supreme Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk and former Archbishop Lyubomir Guzar, who is now at rest, they took a very clear stance at the very beginning of this civil conflict, which unfortunately led to a military conflict,” Metropolitan Hilarion said on Rossiya 24 channel in March 2014.

Metropolitan Hilarion said the Uniates did not just call for European integration, “but even called on the Western countries to get more actively involved in the situation in Ukraine.”

“Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk and false patriarch Filaret (Denisenko) even went to the U.S., went to the offices of the Department of State, and asked the U.S. to intervene in the Ukrainian affairs,” Metropolitan Hilarion said.

Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholics Church, has recently made very sharp statements about Russia.

Read online at source:
Patriarch Kirill accuses Ukrainian Greek-Catholics of Russophobia - Pravmir: A Russian Orthodox Church Website

Thursday 29 May 2014

Pan-Orthodox Unity: Visit of Coptic Orthodox Bishops to the Mount Athos Orthodox Monastic Republic

Kisha D Dorad ( OCP Delegate of Serbia, Balkans and East European Region),  OCP News Service – 28/5/14

Athens: With the blessings of Pope Tawadros II a high level delegation of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and All Africa made a historic visit to the holy monastic republic of Mount Athos on 25th of May 2014. Archimandrite Ephrem President of the Vatopedi monastery “burning Bush” in northern Greece and Mount Athos received the delagation of the Coptic Orthodox Bishops.

The Coptic delegation was led by Bishop Anba Paulose of Athens and all Greece and included Bishop Julius of Ancient Egypt, Bishop Anba of the Eastern headquarters, Bishop Makary of South Shubra and other prelates.

Detailed discussions on Coptic Monasticism and Eastern orthodox monastic traditions took place. Also the current situation of the life of Coptic Christians in Egypt were also discussed. Special greetings to Pope Tawadros was send by the Abbots in Mount Athos.

The Delegation also met with Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Greece who is the primate of the Church of Greece. The Coptic delegation communicated greetings of love from Pope Tawadros to the Church of Greece and in return special message of greetings was conveyed by Archbishop Ieronymos to Pope Tawadros II.

OCP News Service

Follow the link to see the photographs the visit and its significance:
An historic visit of Coptic bishops to Mount Athos

Repose of HH Moran Mor Baseilos Mar Thoma Didymus I

Photo: 26 May'14
Catholicos Emirate of Malankara Orthodox Church, His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Didymus I passed away at the age of 94.
Our Sincere Condolences .
May His soul Rest in Peace.Catholicos Emeritus of the Malankara Orthodox Church, His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Didymus I has passed away at the age of 94.

May his soul Rest in Peace and may his memory be eternal.

Pope in General Audience: Peace in the Middle East must be 'hand-made'

Wednesday Audience - 2014-05-28

The Holy Father's Catechesis:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
In the past days, as you know, I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was a great gift for the Church, for which I thank God. He led me to that blessed Land, which witnessed the historical presence of Jesus and where fundamental events took place of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I wish to renew my cordial gratitude to His Beatitude, Patriarch Fouad Twal, to the Bishops of the various rites, to the priests and to the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land. These Franciscans are great! The work they do is most beautiful! My grateful thought goes also to the Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian Authorities, who received me with so much courtesy, I would also say with friendship, as well as to all those who cooperated for the realization of the visit.

The main purpose of this pilgrimage was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. That was the first time in which a Successor of Peter visited the Holy Land: thus during Vatican Council II, Paul VI inaugurated the Popes’ trips outside of Italy in the contemporary age. That prophetic gesture of the Bishop of Rome and of the Patriarch of Constantinople was a milestone in the suffering but promising path of unity of all Christians, which since then has taken important steps. Therefore, my meeting with His Holiness Bartholomew, beloved brother in Christ, was the culminating moment of the visit. We prayed together at the Sepulcher of Jesus and, with us, were the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, and the Armenian Apostolic Patriarch, Nourhan, in addition to Archbishops and Bishops of different Churches and Communities, civil Authorities and many faithful. In that place where the proclamation of the Resurrection resounded, we perceived all the bitterness and sufferings of the divisions that still exist between the disciples of Christ; and truly this does so much harm, hurt to the heart. We are still divided; in that place in fact where the proclamation of the Resurrection resounded, where Jesus gave us life, we are still somewhat divided. But above all, in that celebration charged with reciprocal fraternity, esteem and affection, we heard loudly the voice of the Risen Good Shepherd who wishes to make of all his sheep only one flock. We felt the desire to heal the still open wounds and to continue with tenacity on the path towards full communion. Once more, as the preceding Popes did, I asked forgiveness for what we did to foster this division, and I ask the Holy Spirit to help us to heal the wounds that we did to other brothers. We are all brothers in Christ and, with Patriarch Bartholomew, we are friends, brothers and we shared the will to walk together, to do everything that we can do today: pray together, work together for God’s flock, seek peace, protect Creation, so many things that we have in common. And, as brothers, we must go forward.

Another purpose of this pilgrimage was to encourage in that region the path to peace, which is at the same time gift of God and commitment of men. I did so in Jordan, in Palestine and in Israel. And I did so always as a pilgrim, in the name of God and of man, bearing in my heart great compassion for the children of that Land who for too long have coexisted with war and have the right to know, finally, days of peace!

Therefore, I exhorted the Christian faithful to allow themselves to be “anointed” by the Holy Spirit with an open and docile heart, to be ever more capable of gestures of humility, brotherhood and reconciliation. The Spirit enables one to assume these attitudes in daily life, with persons of different cultures and religions, and thus become “artisans” of peace. Peace is made with craftsmanship! There are no industries of peace, no. It is done every day through craftsmanship, and also with an open heart so that God’s gift will come. Therefore, I exhorted the Christian faithful to allow themselves to be “anointed.”

I thanked the authorities and the people in Jordan for their commitment in welcoming the numerous refugees from areas of war, a humanitarian commitment that merits and requires the constant support of the International Community. I was impressed by the generosity of the Jordanian people in receiving refugees, so many fleeing from war in that area. May the Lord bless these hospitable people, bless them very much! And we must pray that the Lord will bless this hospitality and appeal to all international institutions to help these people in the work of hospitality they do. Also during my pilgrimage in other places I encouraged the Authorities concerned to continue their efforts to relax the tensions in the Middle Eastern area, especially in martyred Syria, as well as to continue in their search for a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Therefore, I invited the President of Israel and the President of Palestine, both men of peace and artisans of peace, to come to the Vatican to pray together with me for peace. And I ask you, please, not to leave us alone: you must pray, pray so much to the Lord to give us peace, to give peace to that blessed Land! I am counting on your prayers. Strong, pray, at this time, pray much that peace will come. 

This pilgrimage to the Holy Land was also the occasion to confirm in the faith the Christian communities, which suffer so much, and to express the gratitude of the whole Church for the presence of Christians in that area and in the whole of the Middle East. These brothers of ours are courageous witnesses of hope and charity, “salt and light” in that Land. With their life of faith and prayer and with their appreciated educational and welfare activity, they work in favor of reconciliation and forgiveness, contributing to the common good of the society.

With this pilgrimage, which was a true grace of the Lord, I wished to take a word of hope, but I also received it in return! I received it from brothers and sisters who hope “against all hope” (Romans 4:18), through so many sufferings, such as those of one who has fled his country because of the conflicts; such as those , in different parts of the world, who are discriminated and scorned because of their faith in Christ. Let us continue to be close to them! We pray for them and for peace in the Holy Land and in the whole of the Middle East. May the prayer of the whole Church also support the path towards the full unity of Christians, so that the world will believe in the love of God that came, in Jesus Christ, to dwell among us

And I invite you all now to pray together, to pray together to Our Lady, Queen of Peace, Queen of Christian Unity, the Mother of all Christians: may she give us and the whole world peace, and may she accompany us on this path of unity. [Ave Maria]

[Original text: Italian, Translation by ZENIT]

Read online here:
Pope in General Audience: Peace in the Middle East must be 'hand-made'

Jordan's Prince Hassan Meets Head of Chaldean Catholic Church - AINA News

Amman - His Royal Highness Prince Al Hassan Bin Talal, the president of the Arab Thought Forum and the Royal Institute for Inter-faith Studies received on Wednesday Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the Head of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the accompanying delegation.

Prince Hassan and the patriarch reviewed the importance of interfaith dialogue as well as of rejecting violence through enhancing the concept of citizenship.

They also discussed the Arab Thought Forum's social charter which focuses on political, cultural and social pluralism in a manner that guarantees the elimination of the root causes of racial and sectarian strife that threatens the nation's future and may even lead to its division.

Online here:
Jordan's Prince Hassan Meets Head of Chaldean Catholic Church

Wednesday 28 May 2014

May 27, 2014: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Meets with Israeli and Palestinian Leadership before departing Holy Land - News - Apostolic Pilgrimage of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Jerusalem

May 27, 2014

JERUSALEM – His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of over 300 million Orthodox faithful worldwide, departed Israel today, following successful meetings with Pope Francis.

The Ecumenical Patriarch visited Vad Yashem, where he laid a wreath and prayed for the victims of the Holocaust. In his brief statement delivered outside the children's memorial, His All-Holiness said:

Already 70 years have come and gone, and for some, the Holocaust seems to be a story from the distant past. Yet, we still have not completely healed. What is more tragic is that we have not fully comprehended the lessons of this singular event in world history . . .
We condemn every act of terrorism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia. We must publicly profess that a crime against believers of any faith is an abomination in the face of God.
Afterward, His All-Holiness was received by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Office of the Prime Minister and then met with the President of Israel, Shimon Peres at the Official Residence of the President. Later in the afternoon, His All-Holiness traveled to Ramallah to visit President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian National Authority.

In his conversation with all three political leaders, His All-Holiness stated:

We were delighted that both President Peres and President Abbas accepted the invitation of our brother, Pope Francis, to visit the Vatican in order to reflect on a peace initiative. We assure you that our wholehearted prayers will accompany them in their travels and their deliberations.

These meetings conclude the Apostolic Pilgrimage, the meeting between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the Holy Land and the commemoration of the 1964 meetings of their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. The initiative for this meeting originated during the installation of the new Pontiff in March of 2013. In a manifestation of Christian love and mutual respect, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew personally attended the enthronement of Pope Francis. This was the first time in recorded history that a Primate of Constantinople attended the installation of the Primate of Rome. During those celebratory days, the agreement to commemorate this remarkable anniversary was born in their private meeting.

This afternoon, the Ecumenical Patriarch departs Israel for Istanbul from Ben Gurion Airport._____________________
His All-Holiness Bartholomew is the Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch. He is the 269th successor to the First-Called Apostle Andrew, the founder of the 2,000-year old local Christian Church of Constantinople. The Ecumenical Patriarch is a living witness to the world of Orthodoxy's painful and redemptive struggle for religious freedom and to the innate dignity of humankind. As a citizen of Turkey, His All-Holiness' personal experience provides him a unique perspective on the continuing dialogue among the Christian, Islamic and Jewish worlds. He is known throughout the world as the "Green Patriarch" for his groundbreaking environmental initiatives and ecological theology. For his inspiring efforts on behalf of religious freedom and human rights, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was heralded as a Bridge Builder and Peacemaker and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the U.S. Congress in 1997.

Additional information about the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope may be found at: http://www.apostolicpilgrimage.org
Additional information about the Ecumenical Patriarchate and His All-Holiness maybe found at: http://www.patriarchate.org

May 27, 2014: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Meets with Israeli and Palestinian Leadership before departing Holy Land - News - Apostolic Pilgrimage of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Jerusalem

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Orthodox priest among detained terrorists in Luhansk region

26 May 2014

On May 25 a group of armed members of the terrorist organization "People's Republic of Luhansk" burst into two polling stations, threatening to injure the members of election commission, and tried to disrupt the elections. The Anti-terrorist Operation forces detained 13 people. Among them was a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, Fr. Marecki, who is active in the so-called Don Cossacks, UNIAN informs.

Common Declaration signed by Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

26 May 2014

Below is the full text in English of the Common Declaration of Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, as it was posted on Radio Vaticana:

1. Like our venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras who met here in Jerusalem fifty years ago, we too, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, were determined to meet in the Holy Land “where our common Redeemer, Christ our Lord, lived, taught, died, rose again, and ascended into Heaven, whence he sent the Holy Spirit on the infant Church” (Common communiqué of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, published after their meeting of 6 January 1964). Our meeting, another encounter of the Bishops of the Churches of Rome and Constantinople founded respectively by the two Brothers the Apostles Peter and Andrew, is a source of profound spiritual joy for us. It presents a providential occasion to reflect on the depth and the authenticity of our existing bonds, themselves the fruit of a grace-filled journey on which the Lord has guided us since that blessed day of fifty years ago.

2. Our fraternal encounter today is a new and necessary step on the journey towards the unity to which only the Holy Spirit can lead us, that of communion in legitimate diversity. We call to mind with profound gratitude the steps that the Lord has already enabled us to undertake. The embrace exchanged between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras here in Jerusalem, after many centuries of silence, paved the way for a momentous gesture, the removal from the memory and from the midst of the Church of the acts of mutual excommunication in 1054. This was followed by an exchange of visits between the respective Sees of Rome and Constantinople, by regular correspondence and, later, by the decision announced by Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Dimitrios, of blessed memory both, to initiate a theological dialogue of truth between Catholics and Orthodox. Over these years, God, the source of all peace and love, has taught us to regard one another as members of the same Christian family, under one Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and to love one another, so that we may confess our faith in the same Gospel of Christ, as received by the Apostles and expressed and transmitted to us by the Ecumenical Councils and the Church Fathers. While fully aware of not having reached the goal of full communion, today we confirm our commitment to continue walking together towards the unity for which Christ our Lord prayed to the Father so “that all may be one” (Jn 17:21).

3. Well aware that unity is manifested in love of God and love of neighbour, we look forward in eager anticipation to the day in which we will finally partake together in the Eucharistic banquet. As Christians, we are called to prepare to receive this gift of Eucharistic communion, according to the teaching of Saint Irenaeus of Lyon (Against Heresies, IV,18,5, PG 7,1028), through the confession of the one faith, persevering prayer, inner conversion, renewal of life and fraternal dialogue. By achieving this hoped for goal, we will manifest to the world the love of God by which we are recognized as true disciples of Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 13:35).

4. To this end, the theological dialogue undertaken by the Joint International Commission offers a fundamental contribution to the search for full communion among Catholics and Orthodox. Throughout the subsequent times of Popes John Paul II and Benedict the XVI, and Patriarch Dimitrios, the progress of our theological encounters has been substantial. Today we express heartfelt appreciation for the achievements to date, as well as for the current endeavours. This is no mere theoretical exercise, but an exercise in truth and love that demands an ever deeper knowledge of each other’s traditions in order to understand them and to learn from them. Thus we affirm once again that the theological dialogue does not seek a theological lowest common denominator on which to reach a compromise, but is rather about deepening one’s grasp of the whole truth that Christ has given to his Church, a truth that we never cease to understand better as we follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Hence, we affirm together that our faithfulness to the Lord demands fraternal encounter and true dialogue. Such a common pursuit does not lead us away from the truth; rather, through an exchange of gifts, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it will lead us into all truth (cf. Jn 16:13).

5. Yet even as we make this journey towards full communion we already have the duty to offer common witness to the love of God for all people by working together in the service of humanity, especially in defending the dignity of the human person at every stage of life and the sanctity of family based on marriage, in promoting peace and the common good, and in responding to the suffering that continues to afflict our world. We acknowledge that hunger, poverty, illiteracy, the inequitable distribution of resources must constantly be addressed. It is our duty to seek to build together a just and humane society in which no-one feels excluded or emarginated.

6. It is our profound conviction that the future of the human family depends also on how we safeguard – both prudently and compassionately, with justice and fairness – the gift of creation that our Creator has entrusted to us. Therefore, we acknowledge in repentance the wrongful mistreatment of our planet, which is tantamount to sin before the eyes of God. We reaffirm our responsibility and obligation to foster a sense of humility and moderation so that all may feel the need to respect creation and to safeguard it with care. Together, we pledge our commitment to raising awareness about the stewardship of creation; we appeal to all people of goodwill to consider ways of living less wastefully and more frugally, manifesting less greed and more generosity for the protection of God’s world and the benefit of His people.

7. There is likewise an urgent need for effective and committed cooperation of Christians in order to safeguard everywhere the right to express publicly one’s faith and to be treated fairly when promoting that which Christianity continues to offer to contemporary society and culture. In this regard, we invite all Christians to promote an authentic dialogue with Judaism, Islam and other religious traditions. Indifference and mutual ignorance can only lead to mistrust and unfortunately even conflict.

8. From this holy city of Jerusalem, we express our shared profound concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their right to remain full citizens of their homelands. In trust we turn to the almighty and merciful God in a prayer for peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East in general. We especially pray for the Churches in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, which have suffered most grievously due to recent events. We encourage all parties regardless of their religious convictions to continue to work for reconciliation and for the just recognition of peoples’ rights. We are persuaded that it is not arms, but dialogue, pardon and reconciliation that are the only possible means to achieve peace.

9. In an historical context marked by violence, indifference and egoism, many men and women today feel that they have lost their bearings. It is precisely through our common witness to the good news of the Gospel that we may be able to help the people of our time to rediscover the way that leads to truth, justice and peace. United in our intentions, and recalling the example, fifty years ago here in Jerusalem, of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, we call upon all Christians, together with believers of every religious tradition and all people of good will, to recognize the urgency of the hour that compels us to seek the reconciliation and unity of the human family, while fully respecting legitimate differences, for the good of all humanity and of future generations.

10. In undertaking this shared pilgrimage to the site where our one same Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and rose again, we humbly commend to the intercession of the Most Holy and Ever Virgin Mary our future steps on the path towards the fullness of unity, entrusting to God’s infinite love the entire human family.

“ May the Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!” (Num 6:25-26).

Jerusalem, 25 May 2014

One the Embrace, Many the Divisions - Catholic and Orthodox Schisms, Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem - and Moscow

The encounter between Francis and Bartholomew at the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. But there's rupture between the Greek Orthodox patriarchs of Jerusalem and Antioch. And open conflict between Constantinople and Moscow, on the question of primacy. The anti-papal sentiment of Eastern Christians. By Sandro Magister

ROME, May 26, 2014 – The images of Pope Francis in front of the western wall of the temple in Jerusalem, just as, on the previous day, in silence and stillness in front of the dividing wall of Bethlehem have polarized the attention of the media all over the world.

But it is another wall that gave rise to the voyage of pope Jorge Mario Bergogio to the Holy Land.

It is the wall that divides Christians among themselves. Exactly fifty years ago, on January 5, 1964, the embrace in Jerusalem between Paul VI and patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras marked the beginning of a journey of reconciliation between the Church of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Just as back then the proposal was made by Athenagoras to the pope, this time as well it was his successor Bartholomew who proposed to Francis the renewal of that encounter in Jerusalem.

The pope accepted the proposal right away. And for the first time in history a papal voyage was planned by common agreement with the patriarchate of Constantinople, in the part concerning the two Churches.

With two important innovations with respect to the encounter fifty years ago between Paul VI and Athenagoras:

- the participation of representatives of other Christian Churches and denominations at the event, not only Eastern but also belonging to the lineage of the Protestant Reformation,

- and the place of the encounter, the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, with the rock of the cross and the stone rolled away at the resurrection, a foundation of the faith of all Christians.

Both of these innovations mark the progress that has been made over half a century in the ecumenical journey between the Christian Churches.

But both also bear witness to how arduous and obstacle-ridden this journey still remains.

The basilica of the Holy Sepulchre is the living symbol of the extent to which the historical divisions between the Churches complicate their coexistence, and at times lead to conflict. On the basis of a “status quo” dating back to 1753 and the Ottoman empire, the ownership of the basilica is assigned to the Greek Orthodox patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, and the Armenian Apostolic patriarchate. But use of the basilica is also permitted for Coptic, Syriac, Ethiopian Christians. For all with a meticulous allotment of times and places, failure to respect which not rarely unleashes conflicts that can even be physical between one side and another, within the sacred space, with the Israeli police rushing in to quell the tumult.

The very fact that the pope of Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople have been welcomed peacefully into the basilica and have performed a liturgy there, in an exemption from the rules of the “status quo,” is certainly an important sign.

At the same time, however, the very person who on the evening of Sunday, May 25 welcomed into the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre the two illustrious guests from Rome and Constantinople, Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, is a living witness of the divisions that separate not only the Latin Church from Orthodoxy, but also the Eastern Churches among themselves.

The Greek Orthodox patriarchate of Jerusalem, of the Byzantine rite, the origins of which go back to apostolic times, is the Christian community most present in the Holy Land. But last April 29 the patriarch of this church, Theophilos III, was liturgically outlawed by another historic patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, that of Antioch and all the East, John X. Since then, in celebrating the divine liturgy John no longer includes the name of Theophilos among those of the Orthodox Churches in communion with each other.

The reason for this rupture, declared unilaterally by the synod of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, was the creation of a new diocese in Qatar by Theophilos one year ago, in a territory that the patriarchate of Antioch considers its own. But the consequences immediately went beyond this clash between the two patriarchates. And have overrun the entire field of orthodoxy.

On March 9 the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, called the heads of all the Orthodox Churches to Istanbul, to announce in agreement with all of them the convocation in 2016 of the pan-Orthodox council that had been awaited for decades but never agreed upon. In the Byzantine liturgical calendar, March 9 was also the Sunday "of Orthodoxy.” Both John X and Theophilos III were present in Istanbul. But the former did not sign the declaration setting 2016 for the convocation of the pan-Orthodox council. Nor did he participate in the divine liturgy.

Another sign of division was that the encounter in Jerusalem between Francis and Bartholomew was not attended by any leading representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, by far the largest in the field of Orthodoxy. In his discourse at the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, pope Bergoglio renewed “the hope for a continued dialogue with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, aimed at finding a means of exercising the specific ministry of the Bishop of Rome which, in fidelity to his mission, can be open to a new situation and can be, in the present context, a service of love and of communion acknowledged by all."

A new meeting has already been scheduled for next September in Jerusalem, for the joint team of bishops and theologians called the “joint international commission for theological dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church," which is supposed to continue the study of the question of papal primacy in the footsteps of the document approved in Ravenna in 2007 by all the members of the commission. But the Russian Church was absent from Ravenna, and over the subsequent years has always stressed its disagreement with that document. Not only that. In a document approved by its synod last winter the patriarchate of Moscow flatly ruled out any type of “primacy” - whether of the head of the Church of Rome, or of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople among the Orthodox Churches - that is not purely honorific and among equals. The patriarchate of Constantinople replied to this document in a no less decisive fashion.

But there's more. There is the fear that the progress made so far in ecumenical dialogue between Rome and the Eastern Churches belongs to a narrow and enlightened elite and is far from being accepted by the bulk of the Orthodox hierarchy and faithful. One indication of this is a long-winded open letter, in Italian and English, sent last April 10 to the pope - or more exactly “to the most illustrious Francis, head of Vatican State" - by two metropolitan bishops of the Orthodox Church of Greece, Seraphim of Piraeus and Andrew of Konitsa. The letter is an interminable and unabashed assembly of accusations, culminating in those of heresy and idolatry, in support of the idea that “There can exist no form of compromise between Orthodoxy and Papism.”

The two authors are the most prominent representatives of the traditionalist wing of the Greek Orthodox Church. But according to Professor Enrico Morini, “they reflect the positions of a large part of the Orthodox hierarchy in Greece but also in Russia and Romania, and to an even greater extent of the most conscientious and fervent Orthodox faithful.” Morini is a professor of the history and institutions of the Orthodox Church at the state university of Bologna and the theological faculty of Emilia Romagna, and president of the commission for ecumenism of the archdiocese of Bologna.

Read online with further links here:

One the Embrace, Many the Divisions

WCC general secretary sees positive outcomes from meeting of Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch — World Council of Churches

A Protestant, rather than an ecumenical, take on ecumenism and the Papacy. NB the Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC because it does not accept the principle of legitimate separateness of Churches or that the WCC can be seen as their umbrella body or means of communion and coordination - hence uneasiness with such phrases as "legitimate diversity" and "reconciled diversity" which the Catholic Church can be used to institutionalise schism. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church is a full member of the Faith & Order Commission, which preceded the foundation of the WCC. Indeed the WCC in part grew from it. It is in this forum that the Catholic Church conducts theological and ecclesiological dialogue and discusses collaboration and mutual/collective relations with other Churches on the global level. Faith & Order is maintained and serviced by the WCC.

26 May 2014

The weekend meeting of Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople holds significance for global churches and the ecumenical movement beyond the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

Referring to the text of the Common Declaration issued by the two church leaders on Sunday, 25 May, Tveit pointed to their confirmation of the call to church unity, the importance of their meeting in Jerusalem and the Holy Land and their shared conviction that we are all on our way as pilgrims together on a pilgrimage of justice and peace.

In their common declaration Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew pledged to continue on the path toward unity between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. “Our fraternal encounter today is a new and necessary step on the journey towards the unity to which only the Holy Spirit can lead us, that of communion in legitimate diversity,” the document said.

“It is important that the Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople met to confirm this calling of the church toward unity just as their predecessors did 50 years ago,” Tveit said. “And that this is viewed as a necessary step toward communion in ‘legitimate diversity.’”

“The need for and understanding of respectful diversity within the church was confirmed at our 10th Assembly in October last year, where both Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders were present together with representatives of all the WCC member churches and beyond,” Tveit said. “To hear this directly from them adds to the inspiration we experienced at the assembly.”

The document also pointed toward the importance of their having met in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, and the significance of this fact for churches in the region of the Middle East. The two leaders said, “We express our shared profound concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their right to remain full citizens of their homelands. In trust we turn to the almighty and merciful God in a prayer for peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East in general.”

“Their meeting in Jerusalem this past weekend and their joint prayer is a strong sign of commitment to justice and peace for all people in the region. It strengthens the church in the region, even while the church continues to struggle under pressure of conflict in the region, suffering under occupation, as with the Christians in Palestine, and regional economic hardship,” Tveit said.

Tveit also expressed hope in the two leaders’ declaration concerning the role of inter-religious dialogue. “This is of vital importance to our entire fellowship of churches, whether they are a religious majority or religious minority in their societies,” Tveit said. “This dialogue is of particular importance in a setting such as the Middle East.”

Tveit said the meeting of the two church leaders “is a sign of hope and inspiration for churches around the world as our unity, even in diversity, allows the church to move together on its common pilgrimage of justice and peace.”

The WCC is a global fellowship of 345 churches including nearly all of the world’s Orthodox churches as well as Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Reformed Churches. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was one of the founding members of the WCC in 1948, and as early as 1920 had invited all Christian churches to form together a League of Churches similar to the League of Nations. Through its member churches the WCC represents more than 560 million Christians in more than 100 countries around the world.

While the Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC, the two work formally in close cooperation on projects related to Christian unity, common witness, inter-religious dialogue and relations, ecumenical formation, human rights, migration and peace and justice.

Full text of Joint Declaration by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis
Cooperation between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church
WCC member churches in the Middle East
WCC general secretary sees positive outcomes from meeting of Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch — World Council of Churches

Papal visit leads to embrace between Christian, Jew and Muslim at Wailing Wall


Pope Francis, Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud collapsed in a heartfelt embraced before the Western Wall. As they hugged each other, they exclaimed, "We did it!”

The Rabbi, the Muslim leader and the Pope met each other in Buenos Aires. For years, the three have worked together to foster greater understanding between their faiths.With this simple gesture, they showed that this type of action is possible.

Papal visit leads to embrace between Christian, Jew and Muslim at Wailing Wall

Holy See Press Office: Pope Francis' private visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch

Vatican City, 26 May 2014 (VIS) – At 11.45 a.m., after a five-kilometre journey by car, the Holy Father arrived at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre where he received in audience the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. An hour and a half later, the Pontiff was scheduled to lunch with the papal entourage, but instead he changed his plans and decided to eat in the refectory of the Convent of San Salvador with the Franciscans. At 2.15 p.m., after blessing the Tabernacle of the chapel in the centre built by the Legionaries of Christ in Galilee, he left the centre for the small Greek Orthodox “Viri – Galilaei” church on the Mount of Olives. From there he paid a brief private visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, after which they both blessed a group of faithful gathered outside the church. The Pope departed for the Gethsemane church, located on the slopes of the Mount of Olives and entrusted to the Custodian of the Holy Land. Upon entry, he venerated the rock upon which Jesus prayed before his arrest, situated at the foot of the altar. He then entered, where he was awaited by priests, consecrated persons and seminarians.

“At the hour which God had appointed to save humanity from its enslavement to sin, Jesus came here, to Gethsemane, to the foot of the Mount of Olives”, said the Pope. “We now find ourselves in this holy place, a place sanctified by the prayer of Jesus, by his agony, by his sweating of blood, and above all by his 'yes' to the loving will of the Father. We dread in some sense to approach what Jesus went through at that hour; we tread softly as we enter that inner space where the destiny of the world was decided. In that hour, Jesus felt the need to pray and to have with him his disciples, his friends, those who had followed him and shared most closely in his mission. But here, at Gethsemane, following him became difficult and uncertain; they were overcome by doubt, weariness and fright. As the events of Jesus’ passion rapidly unfolded, the disciples would adopt different attitudes before the Master: attitudes of closeness, distance, hesitation.

“Here, in this place, each of us – bishops, priests, consecrated persons, and seminarians – might do well to ask: Who am I, before the sufferings of my Lord? Am I among those who, when Jesus asks them to keep watch with him, fall asleep instead, and rather than praying, seek to escape, refusing to face reality? Or do I see myself in those who fled out of fear, who abandoned the Master at the most tragic hour in his earthly life? Is there perhaps duplicity in me, like that of the one who sold our Lord for thirty pieces of silver, who was once called Jesus’ 'friend', and yet ended up by betraying him? Do I see myself in those who drew back and denied him, like Peter? Shortly before, he had promised Jesus that he would follow him even unto death; but then, put to the test and assailed by fear, he swore he did not know him. Am I like those who began planning to go about their lives without him, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, foolish and slow of heart to believe the words of the prophets?

“Or, thanks be to God, do I find myself among those who remained faithful to the end, like the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John?” he continued. “On Golgotha, when everything seemed bleak and all hope seemed pointless, only love proved stronger than death. The love of the Mother and the beloved disciple made them stay at the foot of the Cross, sharing in the pain of Jesus, to the very end. Do I recognise myself in those who imitated their Master to the point of martyrdom, testifying that he was everything to them, the incomparable strength sustaining their mission and the ultimate horizon of their lives? Jesus’ friendship with us, his faithfulness and his mercy, are a priceless gift which encourages us to follow him trustingly, notwithstanding our failures, our mistakes, also our betrayals.”

Pope Francis emphasised that “the Lord’s goodness does not dispense us from the need for vigilance before the Tempter, before sin, before the evil and the betrayal which can enter even into the religious and priestly life. We are all exposed to sin, to evil, to betrayal. We are fully conscious of the disproportion between the grandeur of God’s call and of own littleness, between the sublimity of the mission and the reality of our human weakness. Yet the Lord in his great goodness and his infinite mercy always takes us by the hand lest we drown in the sea of our fears and anxieties. He is ever at our side, he never abandons us. And so, let us not be overwhelmed by fear or disheartened, but with courage and confidence let us press forward in our journey and in our mission”.

He reminded those present that they were called to follow the Lord with joy in this holy land. “It is a gift and also a responsibility. Your presence here is extremely important”, and added that the whole Church was grateful for their work and sustains them with her prayers. He also offered his greetings to all Christians in Jerusalem: “I would like to assure them that I remember them affectionately and that I pray for them, being well aware of the difficulties they experience in this city. I urge them to be courageous witnesses of the passion of the Lord but also of his resurrection, with joy and hope”. He concluded, “let us imitate the Virgin Mary and Saint John, and stand by all those crosses where Jesus continues to be crucified. This is how the Lord calls us to follow him: this is the path, there is no other! 'Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also'”.

See online: