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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.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Bartholomew and Francis: Unity is necessary - Vatican Insider

From the Phanar, Bartholomew and Francis both called for full communion between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches

Gianni Valente, Istanbul, 11/30/2014

“The one thing that the Catholic Church desires, and that I seek as Bishop of Rome, is communion with the Orthodox Churches,” Pope Francis said in the most important moment of his visit to Turkey. This communion “does not signify the submission of one to the other, or assimilation. Rather, it means welcoming all the gifts that God has given to each.” Underneath the vaults of the Church of St. George, the see of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the beauty of the mysteries of the Christian faith permeate through the liturgy celebrated for the feast of the patron saint Andrew, with the traditional rituals of prayers and litanies chanted by the American choir, lights and candles, incense and the sign of the cross. Words and silence. But what really filled people’s hearts with awe during today’s liturgy at the Phanar, were the words of fraternal charity the Pope and the Patriarch addressed to one another before the congregation. Prophesying full communion between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the two bishop shepherds, the Successors of St Peter and his brother Andrew become pioneers in showing the People of God the path to follow, step by step. “The cold love between us has been rekindled,” Bartholomew said, “while our desire to do everything in our capacity so that our communion in the same faith and the same chalice may once again emerge has been galvanised.” 

The Ecumenical Patriarch had only words of warmth and friendship for his “brother in Christ Bishop of Senior Rome”. Above all, he acknowledged that Francis “offer[s] to [His] Orthodox brothers and sisters the aspiration that during Your tenure the rapprochement of our two great ancient Churches will continue to be established on the solid foundations of our common tradition.”

Pope Francis and Bartholomew then exchanged the kiss of peace before consecrating the holy gifts of the Eucharist.

Pope Francis gave an immediate and generous response to the hope expressed by the Ecumenical Patriarch on behalf of all his Orthodox brothers. In his speech, which he read out in the presence of the Metropolitans of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all faithful gathered – including diplomats, fraternal representatives of other Churches, benefactors of the Patriarchate and political leaders, among them the Greek Minister for Foreign Affairs, Evangelos Venizelos – the Bishop of Rome spoke of the importance of preserving “the rich patrimony of the Eastern Churches,” “This regards not only their liturgical and spiritual traditions, but also their canonical disciplines, sanctioned as they are by the Fathers and by Councils, which regulate the lives of these Churches.” The Pope then assured everyone present that “to reach the desired goal of full unity, the Catholic Church does not intend to impose any conditions except that of the shared profession of faith”. The Pope’s message was unprecedented and crystal clear: the Catholic Church is prepared to put aside any demands and claims to supremacy.

In their addresses, both the Pope and the Patriarch re-evoked the unity of the Eastern and Western Church throughout the first century of existence. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches needs to look back at this time for inspiration, to find efficient ways of re-establishing full communion between them. This proposed trip back in time is not an attempt to foster ancient theological and doctrinal precepts: “For what is the value of our fidelity to the past unless this denotes something for the future?” Bartholomew asked. The leaders of the two Churches also agreed that ecumenism is not an end in itself: the unity of Eastern and Western Christians must be re-established in order to allow the Church to fulfil its mission for the good of today’s men and women in a more efficient way. The emergencies, the tragedies and the miseries of today make the division between those who come in the name of Christ even more scandalous and unacceptable. “Indeed,” Bartholomew said, “ even as we are preoccupied with our own contentions, the world experiences the fear of survival, the concern for tomorrow.” Pope Francis echoed his words, pointing out that the poor, the victims of conflicts and the young, “are among those implore our Churches to live deeply our identity as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Unemployment among youth “can give rise to criminal activity and even the recruitment of terrorists,” the Bishop of Rome pointed out. The young, “who today implore us to make progress towards full communion,” - Francis said referring to the meetings organized by the Taizé community as an example – “do this not because they ignore the differences which still separate us, but because they are able to see beyond them; they are able to embrace what is essential and what already unites us.” 

Patriarch Bartholomew pointed to the new Christian martyrs as leading the way before all other baptised faithful, on the path toward unity, by practicing what Pope Francis defined as “the ecumenism of blood”. “We no longer have the luxury of isolated action,” Bartholomew stressed. “The modern persecutors of Christians do not ask which Church their victims belong to. The unity that concerns us is regrettably already occurring in certain regions of the world through the blood of martyrdom. Together let us extend our hand to people of our time; together let us extend the hand of Him, who alone can save humankind through His Cross and Resurrection.”

Bartholomew and Francis: Unity is necessary - Vatican Insider
See earlier posts for the text of the Addresses and the Joint Declaration.

Common Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew - Unity, Peace, the Middle East's New Martyrs, and Ukraine and

We, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, express our profound gratitude to God for the gift of this new encounter enabling us, in the presence of the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy and the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to celebrate together the feast of Saint Andrew, the first–called and brother of the Apostle Peter. Our remembrance of the Apostles, who proclaimed the good news of the Gospel to the world through their preaching and their witness of martyrdom, strengthens in us the aspiration to continue to walk together in order to overcome, in love and in truth, the obstacles that divide us.

On the occasion of our meeting in Jerusalem last May, in which we remembered the historical embrace of our venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, we signed a joint declaration. Today on the happy occasion of this further fraternal encounter, we wish to re–affirm together our shared intentions and concerns.

We express our sincere and firm resolution, in obedience to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, to intensify our efforts to promote the full unity of all Christians, and above all between Catholics and Orthodox. As well, we intend to support the theological dialogue promoted by the Joint International Commission, instituted exactly thirty–five years ago by the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios and Pope John Paul II here at the Phanar, and which is currently dealing with the most difficult questions that have marked the history of our division and that require careful and detailed study. To this end, we offer the assurance of our fervent prayer as Pastors of the Church, asking our faithful to join us in praying “that all may be one, that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).

We express our common concern for the current situation in Iraq, Syria and the whole Middle East. We are united in the desire for peace and stability and in the will to promote the resolution of conflicts through dialogue and reconciliation. While recognizing the efforts already being made to offer assistance to the region, at the same time, we call on all those who bear responsibility for the destiny of peoples to deepen their commitment to suffering communities, and to enable them, including the Christian ones, to remain in their native land. We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have been forced violently from their homes. It even seems that the value of human life has been lost, that the human person no longer matters and may be sacrificed to other interests. And, tragically, all this is met by the indifference of many. As Saint Paul reminds us, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together” (1 Cor 12:26). This is the law of the Christian life, and in this sense we can say that there is also an ecumenism of suffering. Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity. The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer, but also for an appropriate response on the part of the international community.

The grave challenges facing the world in the present situation require the solidarity of all people of good will, and so we also recognize the importance of promoting a constructive dialogue with Islam based on mutual respect and friendship. Inspired by common values and strengthened by genuine fraternal sentiments, Muslims and Christians are called to work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the dignity and rights of every person, especially in those regions where they once lived for centuries in peaceful coexistence and now tragically suffer together the horrors of war. Moreover, as Christian leaders, we call on all religious leaders to pursue and to strengthen interreligious dialogue and to make every effort to build a culture of peace and solidarity between persons and between peoples. We also remember all the people who experience the sufferings of war. In particular, we pray for peace in Ukraine, a country of ancient Christian tradition, while we call upon all parties involved to pursue the path of dialogue and of respect for international law in order to bring an end to the conflict and allow all Ukrainians to live in harmony.

Our thoughts turn to all the faithful of our Churches throughout the world, whom we greet, entrusting them to Christ our Saviour, that they may be untiring witnesses to the love of God. We raise our fervent prayer that the Lord may grant the gift of peace in love and unity to the entire human family.

“May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you” (2 Thess 3:16).

From the Phanar, 30 November 2014
Apostolic Journey to Turkey: Ecumenical Blessing and signing of the Common Declaration (Istanbul, 30 November 2014)

Address of Pope Francis to the Ecumenical Patriarch at the Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Church of St. George (Istanbul, 30 November 2014)

The one thing that the Catholic Church desires, and that I seek as Bishop of Rome, “the Church which presides in charity”, is communion with the Orthodox Churches.

Your Holiness, beloved brother Bartholomew,

When I was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, I often took part in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox communities there. Today, the Lord has given me the singular grace to be present in this Patriarchal Church of Saint George for the celebration of the Feast of the holy Apostle Andrew, the first-called, the brother of Saint Peter, and the Patron Saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Meeting each other, seeing each other face to face, exchanging the embrace of peace, and praying for each other, are all essential aspects of our journey towards the restoration of full communion. All of this precedes and always accompanies that other essential aspect of this journey, namely, theological dialogue. An authentic dialogue is, in every case, an encounter between persons with a name, a face, a past, and not merely a meeting of ideas.

This is especially true for us Christians, because for us the truth is the person of Jesus Christ. The example of Saint Andrew, who with another disciple accepted the invitation of the Divine Master, “Come and see”, and “stayed with him that day” (Jn 1:39), shows us plainly that the Christian life is a personal experience, a transforming encounter with the One who loves us and who wants to save us. In addition, the Christian message is spread thanks to men and women who are in love with Christ, and cannot help but pass on the joy of being loved and saved. Here again, the example of the apostle Andrew is instructive. After following Jesus to his home and spending time with him, Andrew “first found his brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus” (Jn 1:40-42). It is clear, therefore, that not even dialogue among Christians can prescind from this logic of personal encounter.

It is not by chance that the path of reconciliation and peace between Catholics and Orthodox was, in some way, ushered in by an encounter, by an embrace between our venerable predecessors, Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI, which took place fifty years ago in Jerusalem. Your Holiness and I wished to commemorate that moment when we met recently in the same city where our Lord Jesus Christ died and rose.

By happy coincidence, my visit falls a few days after the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of Unitatis Redintegratio, the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Christian Unity. This is a fundamental document which opened new avenues for encounter between Catholics and their brothers and sisters of other Churches and ecclesial communities.

In particular, in that Decree the Catholic Church acknowledges that the Orthodox Churches “possess true sacraments, above all – by apostolic succession – the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined to us in closest intimacy” (15). The Decree goes on to state that in order to guard faithfully the fullness of the Christian tradition and to bring to fulfilment the reconciliation of Eastern and Western Christians, it is of the greatest importance to preserve and support the rich patrimony of the Eastern Churches. This regards not only their liturgical and spiritual traditions, but also their canonical disciplines, sanctioned as they are by the Fathers and by Councils, which regulate the lives of these Churches (cf. 15-16).

I believe that it is important to reaffirm respect for this principle as an essential condition, accepted by both, for the restoration of full communion, which does not signify the submission of one to the other, or assimilation. Rather, it means welcoming all the gifts that God has given to each, thus demonstrating to the entire world the great mystery of salvation accomplished by Christ the Lord through the Holy Spirit. I want to assure each one of you here that, to reach the desired goal of full unity, the Catholic Church does not intend to impose any conditions except that of the shared profession of faith. Further, I would add that we are ready to seek together, in light of Scriptural teaching and the experience of the first millennium, the ways in which we can guarantee the needed unity of the Church in the present circumstances. The one thing that the Catholic Church desires, and that I seek as Bishop of Rome, “the Church which presides in charity”, is communion with the Orthodox Churches. Such communion will always be the fruit of that love which “has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (cf. Rom 5:5), a fraternal love which expresses the spiritual and transcendent bond which unites us as disciples of the Lord.

In today’s world, voices are being raised which we cannot ignore and which implore our Churches to live deeply our identity as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first of these voices is that of the poor. In the world, there are too many women and men who suffer from severe malnutrition, growing unemployment, the rising numbers of unemployed youth, and from increasing social exclusion. These can give rise to criminal activity and even the recruitment of terrorists. We cannot remain indifferent before the cries of our brothers and sisters. These ask of us not only material assistance – needed in so many circumstances – but above all, our help to defend their dignity as human persons, so that they can find the spiritual energy to become once again protagonists in their own lives. They ask us to fight, in the light of the Gospel, the structural causes of poverty: inequality, the shortage of dignified work and housing, and the denial of their rights as members of society and as workers. As Christians we are called together to eliminate that globalization of indifference which today seems to reign supreme, while building a new civilization of love and solidarity.

A second plea comes from the victims of the conflicts in so many parts of our world. We hear this resoundingly here, because some neighbouring countries are scarred by an inhumane and brutal war. I think in a particular way of the numerous victims of the grotesque and senseless attack which recently killed and injured so many Muslims who were praying in a Mosque in Kano, Nigeria. Taking away the peace of a people, committing every act of violence – or consenting to such acts – especially when directed against the weakest and defenceless, is a profoundly grave sin against God, since it means showing contempt for the image of God which is in man. The cry of the victims of conflict urges us to move with haste along the path of reconciliation and communion between Catholics and Orthodox. Indeed, how can we credibly proclaim the Gospel of peace which comes from Christ, if there continues to be rivalry and disagreement between us (cf. Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 77)?

A third cry which challenges us is that of young people. Today, tragically, there are many young men and women who live without hope, overcome by mistrust and resignation. Many of the young, influenced by the prevailing culture, seek happiness solely in possessing material things and in satisfying their fleeting emotions. New generations will never be able to acquire true wisdom and keep hope alive unless we are able to esteem and transmit the true humanism which comes from the Gospel and from the Church’s age-old experience. It is precisely the young who today implore us to make progress towards full communion. I think for example of the many Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant youth who come together at meetings organized by the Taizé community. They do this not because they ignore the differences which still separate us, but because they are able to see beyond them; they are able to embrace what is essential and what already unites us.

Dear brother, very dear brother, we are already on the way, on the path towards full communion and already we can experience eloquent signs of an authentic, albeit incomplete union. This offers us reassurance and encourages us to continue on this journey. We are certain that along this journey we are helped by the intercession of the Apostle Andrew and his brother Peter, held by tradition to be the founders of the Churches of Constantinople and of Rome. We ask God for the great gift of full unity, and the ability to accept it in our lives. Let us never forget to pray for one another.

30 November 2014

Read online here: Apostolic Journey to Turkey: Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Church of St. George (Istanbul, 30 November 2014)

Address by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to His Holiness Pope Francis during the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of St. Andrew in the Venerable Patriarchal Church

Your Holiness Pope Francis, beloved brother in Christ, bishop of Senior Rome,

We offer glory and praise to our God in Trinity for deeming us worthy of the ineffable joy and special honour of the personal presence here of Your Holiness on the occasion of this year's celebration of the sacred memory of the First-called Apostle Andrew, who founded our Church through his preaching. We are profoundly grateful to Your Holiness for the precious gift of Your blessed presence among us, together with Your honourable entourage. We embrace you wholeheartedly and honourably, addressing you fervently with a greeting of peace and love: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1.7). "For the love of Christ controls us" (2 Cor. 5.14).

We still vividly preserve in our heart the recollection of our encounter with Your Holiness in the Holy Land for a joint pious pilgrimage in the place where the pioneer of our faith was once born, lived, taught, suffered, was risen and ascended as well as for a thankful remembrance of the historical event of the meeting there by our predecessors, the late Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. As a result of their meeting in the Holy City fifty years ago, the flow of history has literally changed direction: the parallel and occasionally conflicting journeys of our Churches have coincided in the common vision of restoring our lost unity; the cold love between us has been rekindled, while our desire to do everything in our capacity so that our communion in the same faith and the same chalice may once again emerge has been galvanized. Thenceforth, the road to Emmaus has opened up before us – a road that, while perhaps lengthy and sometimes even rugged, is nonetheless irreversible – with the Lord as our companion, until He is revealed to us "in the breaking of the bread" (Luke 24.35).

This way has since been followed – and is still being followed – by all of the successors of those inspired leaders, in turn establishing, dedicating and endorsing the dialogue of love and truth between our Churches in order to lift a millennium of burdens amassed in our relations. This dialogue is one that befits friends and not, as in former times, adversaries, inasmuch as sincerely seek to be rightly dividing the word of truth and respect one another as brothers.

In such an atmosphere fashioned by our aforementioned predecessors with respect to our common journey, we too fraternally welcome Your Holiness as bearing the love of St. Peter to his brother, St. Andrew, whose sacred feast we celebrate today. In accordance with a holy custom established and observed for decades now by the Churches of Senior and New Rome, official delegations exchange visits on the occasion of their respective patronal feasts in order to demonstrate by this manner as well the fraternal bond between the two chief Apostles, who together came to know Jesus Christ and to believe in Him as God and Saviour. These Apostles transmitted this common faith to the Churches founded by their preaching and sanctified by their martyrdom. This faith was also jointly experienced and articulated into doctrine by our Church Fathers, who assembled from East and West in ecumenical councils, bequeathing it to our Churches as an unshakable foundation of our unity. It is this same faith, which we have together preserved in both East and West for an entire millennium, that we are once again called to deposit as the basis of our unity in order that, "being in full accord and of one mind" (Phil. 2.2), we may press on with Paul "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead" (Phil. 3.13).

After all, Your Holiness and dear Brother, our obligation is surely not exhausted in the past but primarily extends to the future, especially in our times. For what is the value of our fidelity to the past unless this denotes something for the future? What is the benefit of boasting for what we have received unless these translate into life for humanity and our world both today and tomorrow? "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and to the ages" (Heb. 13.8). And His Church is called to keep its sight fixed not so much on yesterday as on today and tomorrow. The Church exists not for itself, but for the world and for humanity.

Therefore, in directing our sight toward today, we cannot avoid being anxious also for tomorrow. "There is fighting without and fear within" (2 Cor. 7.5) – This recognition of the Apostle Paul about his age is indisputably valid also for us today. Indeed, even as we are preoccupied with our own contentions, the world experiences the fear of survival, the concern for tomorrow. How can humanity survive tomorrow when it is severed today by diverse divisions, conflicts and animosities, frequently even in the name of God? How will the earth's wealth be distributed more equitably in order for humanity tomorrow to avoid the most heinous slavery ever known in history? What sort of planet will future generations inherit when modern man is destroying it so mercilessly and irrevocably through greed?

Nowadays many people place their hope on science; others on politics; still others in technology. Yet none of these can guarantee the future, unless humanity espouses the message of reconciliation, love and justice; the mission of embracing the other, the stranger, and even the enemy. The Church of Christ, who first proclaimed and practised this teaching, is compelled to be the first to apply this teaching "so that the world may believe" (John 17.21). This is precisely why the path toward unity is more urgent than ever for those who invoke the name of the great Peacemaker. This is precisely why our responsibility as Christians is so great before God, humankind and history.

Your Holiness,

Your hitherto brief tenure at the helm of Your Church has already manifested You in people's conscience today as a herald of love, peace and reconciliation. You preach with words, but above and beyond all with the simplicity, humility and love toward everyone that you exercise your high ministry. You inspire trust in those who doubt, hope in those who despair, anticipation in those who expect a Church that nurtures all people. Moreover, You offer to Your Orthodox brothers and sisters the aspiration that during Your tenure the rapprochement of our two great ancient Churches will continue to be established on the solid foundations of our common tradition, which always preserved and acknowledged in the constitution of the Church a primacy of love, honor and service within the framework of collegiality, in order that "with one mouth and one heart" we may confess the Trinitarian God and that His love may be poured out upon the world.

Your Holiness,

The Church of Constantinople, which today for the first time receives You with fervent love and honor as well as with heartfelt gratitude, bears upon its shoulders a heavy legacy, but also a responsibility for the present and the future. In this Church, through the order instituted by the holy Ecumenical Councils, divine providence has assigned the responsibility of coordinating and expressing the unanimity of the most holy local Orthodox Churches. In the context of this responsibility, we are already working very assiduously for the preparation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which – as decided – will convene here, God willing, in 2016. At this time, the appropriate committees are laboring feverishly to prepare this great event in the history of the Orthodox Church, for whose success we also implore Your prayers. Unfortunately, the Eucharistic communion of our Churches that was interrupted one thousand years ago does not yet permit the convocation of a joint Great Ecumenical Council. Let us pray that, once full communion is restored, this significant and special day will also not be prolonged. However, until that blessed day, the participation in one another's synodal life will be expressed through the involvement of observers, as we observe now, with Your gracious invitation to attend Synods of Your Church, just as we hope will also occur when, with God's grace, our Holy and Great Council becomes reality.

Your Holiness,

The challenges presented to our Churches by today's historical circumstances oblige us to transcend our introversion in order to meet them with the greatest degree of collaboration. We no longer have the luxury of isolated action. The modern persecutors of Christians do not ask which Church their victims belong to. The unity that concerns us is regrettably already occurring in certain regions of the world through the blood of martyrdom. Together let us extend our hand to people of our time; together let us extend the hand of Him, who alone can save humankind through His Cross and Resurrection.

With these thoughts and sentiments, once again we express our joy and thanks at the presence here of Your Holiness, even as we pray that the Lord – through the intercessions of the one we celebrate today, the First-called Apostle and brother of the Chief of the Apostles Peter – may protect His Church and direct it to the fulfillment of His sacred will.

Welcome among us, dearly beloved brother!

November 30, 2014

Online here at the Ecumenical Patriarchal website

Phanar: The turning point for ecumenism & the "Ratzinger Proposal" - Vatican Insider

11/29/2014, Gianni Valente, Istanbul

The Catholic Church “does not intend to make any demands” to restore full communion with Orthodox Christians. Pope Francis. Prospects for the new millennium. The “Ratzinger Proposal” is still echoed today

In the efforts to achieve full unity with Orthodox Christians, the Catholic Church “does not intend to make any demands, other than the profession of a common faith”. The Bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, said this in the speech he pronounced before Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar today. He did so in evocative setting of the Divine Liturgy celebrated for the Feast of St. Andrew. His words were few but to the point and suggested an unprecedented step laden with consequences for future relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Churches.

Pope Francis’ words suggest that the current Successor of Peter believes communion between Catholic and Orthodox Christians is possible right now, without the need to impose any theological or legal pre-conditions on his Orthodox brothers. The main reason for this is that the Orthodox Churches “have real sacraments and above all, they have the priesthood and the Eucharist by virtue of the apostolic succession,” the Pope said quoting the Second Vatican Council. In Francis’ opinion, all that is needed to restore full communion between the Churches is to recognise that they share and profess the same faith, the faith of the Apostles. 

With the words pronounced at the Phanar after decades of noble intentions and principles declarations, Francis gave Orthodox Churches the perfect chance to come out of the cocoon-like and sometimes gelatinous environment of ecumenical good manners and take the first concrete steps to overcome the most serious effects of the split that came about in the second millennium. 

Francis points toward the common path to be taken by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, giving pointers as to how to resolve the historical and doctrinal problems that have accumulated over centuries of division. “Bearing in mind what the Scriptures teach us and the experiences of the first millennium, we are ready to search together for ways in which we can guarantee the unity of the Church which is so necessary given the current circumstances.” 

The reference to the first millennium – which Patriarch Bartholomew also made in his recent interview with Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire – is not intended as an expression of a nostalgic wish to turn back time and eliminate the second Christian millennium. Instead, it evokes the image of a Church that did not see itself as a self-founding historical subject but aimed to establish its own relevance in history. A Church that recognised it was growing and flourishing as a reflection of Christ’s presence and grace. Not as a result of the supremacy of heads of Churches which is based on the order of precedence established by the transmission belt of ecclesiastical power. This is why the Church Fathers did not feel the need to elaborate a systematic ecclesiology. They did not have the problem of focusing on the Church, it was not the ecclesiastical institution they were primarily interested in or focused on. 

The bold evangelical message contained in Francis’ words comes through in the comparison and continuity with other proposals and words employed by the Catholic Church to express its desire for unity with its Orthodox brothers. In the Ut unum sint encyclical, John Paul II recognised that he had a responsibility to to “find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.” 

In the same passage, the Polish Pope also recalled that “for a whole millennium Christians were united in a “brotherly fraternal communion of faith and sacramental life ... If disagreements in belief and disciplkine arose among them, the Roman See acted by common consent as moderator." Wojtyla’s statements were based on a way of exercising the papal primacy which in the second millennium took on forms that were not acceptable to the Orthodox Churches. Furthermore, the Pope gave no concrete signs of putting into practice what was said in the encyclical. 

Now, Pope Francis’ words seem to echo the so-called “Ratzinger Proposal”, the proposal penned in 1987 by the cardinal theologian who then rose to the Throne of Peter. In this proposal he wrote: “Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium.”

Read the full article here: Phanar: The turning point for ecumenism - Vatican Insider

Pope Francis at Patriarchal Divine Liturgy and Common Declaration with Ecumenical Patriarch: You Tube

Pope Francis in Turkey - Divine Liturgy and Common Declaration - 2014.11.30 - YouTube

Never before: The Bishop of Rome bows for the blessing of the East on him and his Church - Brothers in 'Faith, Charity and Hope' | ZENIT

Never before: the Bishop of Rome bows his head before the spiritual leader of the Orthodox and asks for his blessing on the Pope and the Church of Rome. He is blessed with the Ecumenical Patriarch's kiss.

This picture, it has been said, is "worth a thousand words. With the Church besieged by modernism, [relativism and unbelieving] secularism on one side and radical Islam on the other, let us all pray for unity between Rome and Constantinople. We are brothers, and we need each other." Amen.

See below, the Zenit reflection on the event, which can be read online here too: A Meeting Among Brothers in 'Faith, Charity and Hope' | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Istanbul, November 29, 2014 (Zenit.org) Junno Arocho Esteves

The relationship between the Bishop of Rome, Successor to St. Peter, and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, successor to St. Andrew, has been a fraternal relationship for the past 50 years.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, it was Peter and Andrew who were the first disciples called by Jesus to become “fishers of men."

Excommunications leveled after the Great Schism of 1054 were nullified when Blessed Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I met in Jerusalem. While not uniting the Churches, it displayed a great desire for reconciliation between them.

Since then, it has been the tradition for a delegation from each Church to celebrate the patronal feast of the other’s Church: Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29th and St. Andrew on November 30th.

On the eve of the feast of St. Andrew, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I joined together for an Ecumenical Prayer service at the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Phanar, Turkey.

While the reverent, prayerful sounds of the Greek Orthodox prayers echoed in the Church, both the Pope and the Patriarch sat side by side, their heads bowed reverently.

Addressing Pope Francis, Bartholomew I welcomed him with “joy, honor and gratitude,” saying that his visit symbolically bridges “West and East through this movement, while translating the love of the Chief Apostle to his brother, the First-Called Apostle.”

The Ecumenical Patriarch also noted that the Holy Father’s visit is a witness of the will of the Church of Rome for the restoration of full communion with the Orthodox Church.

The relics of St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom, which lie in the Patriarchal Church, are a very sign of the desire for communion and reconciliation between the Orthodox Church and the Church of Rome.

Following a request by the Patriarch, St. John Paul II returned the relics of the two beloved Saints to the Ecumenical Patriarchate on November 27th, 2004. They were previously housed in St. Peter’s Basilica after they were stolen from Constantinople by mercenary crusaders in 1204. It was a gesture that was not forgotten by the Ecumenical Patriarch.

“This year marks the tenth anniversary since the blessed return of the relics of St. Gregory and St. John,” Patriarch Bartholomew said. ”We express to Your Holiness our fervent thanks for this fraternal gesture on behalf of Your Church to our Patriarchate.”

A Brother’s Blessing

For his part, Pope Francis also expressed his gratitude for being present at the prayer service, saying that his “heart awaits the day which we have already begun liturgically: the Feast of the Apostle Saint Andrew, Patron of this Church.”

“Yes, my venerable and dear Brother Bartholomew, as I express my heartfelt ‘thank you’ for your fraternal welcome, I sense that our joy is greater because its source is from beyond; it is not in us, not in our commitment, not in our efforts – that are certainly necessary – but in our shared trust in God’s faithfulness which lays the foundation for the reconstruction of his temple that is the Church.”

Reflecting on the calling of Peter and Andrew, the Pope said that their encounter with Christ transformed them from blood brothers to brothers in faith, charity and especially, hope.

“What a grace, and what a responsibility, to walk together in this hope, sustained by the intercession of the holy Apostles and brothers, Andrew and Peter!” he exclaimed.

After extending his best wishes, the Pope asked a favor from the Ecumenical Patriarch rarely seen. “I ask of you a favor: to bless me and the Church of Rome.”

Pope Francis approached Bartholomew I, who was visibly moved by the gesture. The Patriarch blessed the Pontiff, kissed his forehead and embraced him.

As they exited the prayer service and removed their respective stoles, Patriarch Bartholomew reached over to fix the Holy Father’s pectoral cross as he took his stole off. A gesture that, while significant to some, is common among brothers.

(November 29, 2014) © Innovative Media Inc.

Saturday 29 November 2014

"The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai" with Dr. John Andrew Morrow. on Vimeo

March 5, 2014 – Briefing. The Monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai boasts one of the greatest libraries in the world. One of the most important documents in its collection is the famous "Achtiname of Muhammad," a covenant concluded between the Prophet Muhammad and the monks from the monastery. Is it authentic? Is it a forgery? Dr. Morrow examined the pros and cons of this controversial patent of protection.

"The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai" with Dr. John Andrew Morrow. on Vimeo

Pope Francis' Address at Ecumenical Prayer Service in Phanar, Turkey | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Istanbul, November 29, 2014 (Zenit.org)

Here is the Vatican-provided translation of the address given by Pope Francis at the Ecumenical Prayer in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in Phanar, Turkey.

Your Holiness, my dear Brother,

Each evening brings a mixed feeling of gratitude for the day which is ending and of hope-filled trust as night falls. This evening my heart is full of gratitude to God who allows me to be here in prayer with Your Holiness and with this sister Church after an eventful day during my Apostolic Visit. At the same time my heart awaits the day which we have already begun liturgically: the Feast of the Apostle Saint Andrew, Patron of this Church.

In the words of the prophet Zechariah, the Lord gives us anew in this evening prayer, the foundation that sustains our moving forward from one day to the next, the solid rock upon which we advance together in joy and hope. The foundation rock is the Lord’s promise: "Behold, I will save my people from the countries of the east and from the countries of the west… in faithfulness and in righteousness" (8:7.8).

Yes, my venerable and dear Brother Bartholomew, as I express my heartfelt "thank you" for your fraternal welcome, I sense that our joy is greater because its source is from beyond; it is not in us, not in our commitment, not in our efforts – that are certainly necessary – but in our shared trust in God’s faithfulness which lays the foundation for the reconstruction of his temple that is the Church (cf. Zech 8:9). "For there shall be a sowing of peace" (Zech 8:12); truly, a sowing of joy. It is the joy and the peace that the world cannot give, but which the Lord Jesus promised to his disciples and, as the Risen One, bestowed upon them in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Andrew and Peter heard this promise; they received this gift. They were blood brothers, yet their encounter with Christ transformed them into brothers in faith and charity. In this joyful evening, at this prayer vigil, I want to emphasize this; they became brothers in hope. What a grace, Your Holiness, to be brothers in the hope of the Risen Lord! What a grace, and what a responsibility, to walk together in this hope, sustained by the intercession of the holy Apostles and brothers, Andrew and Peter! And to know that this shared hope does non deceive us because it is founded, not upon us or our poor efforts, but rather upon God’s faithfulness.

With this joyful hope, filled with gratitude and eager expectation, I extend to Your Holiness and to all present, and to the Church of Constantinople, my warm and fraternal best wishes on the Feast of your holy Patron.

And I ask you a favor: to bless me and the Church of Rome.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Pope Francis' Address at Ecumenical Prayer Service in Phanar, Turkey | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Address by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to His Holiness Pope Francis during the Doxology in the Patriarchal Church on His Official Visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate (November 29, 2014)

Your Holiness,

In offering glory to the all-good God in Trinity, we welcome You and Your honorable entourage to this sacred place, the hierarchal See of the historical and martyric Church charged by divine providence with a profoundly responsible ministry as being the First-Throne among the local most holy Orthodox Churches. We welcome You with joy, honor and gratitude because You have deemed it proper to direct Your steps from the Old Rome to the New Rome, symbolically bridging West and East through this movement, while translating the love of the Chief Apostle to his brother, the First-Called Apostle.

Your advent here, being the first since the recent election of Your Holiness to the throne that "presides in love," constitutes a continuation of similar visits by Your eminent predecessors Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but also bears witness to Your own will and that of the most holy Church of Rome to maintain the fraternal and stable advance with the Orthodox Church for the restoration of full communion between our Churches. Therefore, it is with great satisfaction and appreciation that we greet the arrival here of Your Holiness as an historical event filled with favorable signs for the future.

This sacred space, where in the midst of diverse historical challenges Ecumenical Patriarchs have for centuries celebrated and celebrate the holy Mystery of the Divine Eucharist, constitutes a successor to other illustrious places of worship in this City, which have been brightened by renowned ecclesiastical personalities already adorning the choir of great Fathers of the universal Church. Such luminaries include our predecessors Saints Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, whose sacred relics now lie in this holy church, thanks to their gracious return to the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the Church of Rome; their relics are alongside those of Basil the Great and Euphemia the Great Martyr, who validated the Tome of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, as well as other saints of the Church. This year marks the tenth anniversary since the blessed return of the relics of St. Gregory and St. John; wherefore, we express to Your Holiness our fervent thanks for this fraternal gesture on behalf of Your Church to our Patriarchate. May these holy Fathers, on whose teaching our common faith of the first millennium was founded, intercede for us to the Lord so that we may rediscover the full union of our Churches, thereby fulfilling His divine will in crucial times for humanity and the world. For, according to St. John Chrysostom: "This is what ultimately holds the faithful together and upholds love; indeed, this is precisely why Christ said that we should be one." (Homily on Philippians 4.3 PG62.208)

We express once again the joy and gratitude of the most holy Church of Constantinople and of ourselves on this formal and fraternal visit of Your Holiness, and we wish You and Your honorable entourage an altogether blessed sojourn among us so that we may further increase our fraternal relations for the glory of His name.

"Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift." (2 Cor. 9.15)

Welcome, beloved brother in the Lord!

Read online at the Patriarchal website here.

Cardinal Schonborn to Represent Pope at Kiev Event | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

Vatican City, November 29, 2014 (Zenit.org)

In a letter published today, written in Latin and dated Nov. 18, Pope Francis named Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna, as his special envoy at the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the liberation of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine, scheduled to take place in Kiev on Dec. 10.

The mission accompanying the cardinal will be composed of Rev. Yurij Kolasa, vicar for Greek-Catholics in Austria, and Rev. Ihor Sfiaban, head of the Ecumenical Commission of the Curia of the Head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Cardinal Schonborn to Represent Pope at Kiev Event | ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome

The Three Holy Hierarchs at the Patriarchal Church, Phanar (Fener), Istanbul

During his All Holiness' address to Pope Francis, he referred to Saints Gregory Nazianzen, John Chrysostom and Basil the Great, Fathers to both our churches because they are truly one. Here is a photograph of the shrines of the Three Holy Hierarchs, St Basil the Great, St Gregory Nazianzen and St John Chrysostom (the last two restored to the Orthodox Church by St John Paul ten years ago), taken in the Patriarchal Church of St George by our Vice Chairman on his own recent visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch to inform him of the joint efforts of the Society and of the Fellowship of St Alban & St Sergius to foster dialogue and close collaboration between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in England.

He told Fr Mark, "I walk with you. And I follow you with prayer and encouragement."

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch at St George's Patriarchal Church, Fener (Phanar), Istanbul

The Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope prayer together for unity on the eve of the Feast of St Andrew, apostolic founder of the See of Byzantium, Constantinople. They pray the Lord's Prayer in Latin and pronounced a blessing together at the end, before their private meeting at the Patriarchate.

▶ Pope Francis in Turkey - Ecumenical Prayer - 2014.11.29 - YouTube

Pope' Homily at Holy Spirit Latin Cathedral, Constantinople: Throw off our defensiveness and be led by the Spirit

Istanbul, 29 November 2014

In the Gospel, Jesus shows himself to be the font from which those who thirst for salvation draw upon, as the Rock from whom the Father brings forth living waters for all who believe in him (cf. Jn 7:38). In openly proclaiming this prophecy in Jerusalem, Jesus heralds the gift of the Holy Spirit whom the disciples will receive after his glorification, that is, after his death and resurrection (cf. v. 39).

The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. He gives life, he brings forth different charisms which enrich the people of God and, above all, he creates unity among believers: from the many he makes one body, the Body of Christ. The Church’s whole life and mission depend on the Holy Spirit; he fulfils all things.

The profession of faith itself, as Saint Paul reminds us in today’s first reading, is only possible because it is prompted by the Holy Spirit: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3b). When we pray, it is because the Holy Spirit inspires prayer in our heart. When we break the cycle of our self-centredness, and move beyond ourselves and go out to encounter others, to listen to them and help them, it is the Spirit of God who impels us to do so. When we find within a hitherto unknown ability to forgive, to love someone who doesn’t love us in return, it is the Spirit who has taken hold of us. When we move beyond mere self-serving words and turn to our brothers and sisters with that tenderness which warms the heart, we have indeed been touched by the Holy Spirit.

It is true that the Holy Spirit brings forth different charisms in the Church, which at first glance, may seem to create disorder. Under his guidance, however, they constitute an immense richness, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which is not the same thing as uniformity. Only the Holy Spirit is able to kindle diversity, multiplicity and, at the same time, bring about unity. When we try to create diversity, but are closed within our own particular and exclusive ways of seeing things, we create division. When we try to create unity through our own human designs, we end up with uniformity and homogenization. If we let ourselves be led by the Spirit, however, richness, variety and diversity will never create conflict, because the Spirit spurs us to experience variety in the communion of the Church.

The diversity of members and charisms is harmonized in the Spirit of Christ, whom the Father sent and whom he continues to send, in order to achieve unity among believers. The Holy Spirit brings unity to the Church: unity in faith, unity in love, unity in interior life. The Church and other Churches and ecclesial communities are called to let themselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, and to remain always open, docile and obedient.

Ours is a hopeful perspective, but one which is also demanding. The temptation is always within us to resist the Holy Spirit, because he takes us out of our comfort zone and unsettles us; he makes us get up and drives the Church forward. It is always easier and more comfortable to settle in our sedentary and unchanging ways. In truth, the Church shows her fidelity to the Holy Spirit in as much as she does not try to control or tame him. We Christians become true missionary disciples, able to challenge consciences, when we throw off our defensiveness and allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit. He is freshness, imagination and newness.

Our defensiveness is evident when we are entrenched within our ideas and our own strengths – in which case we slip into Pelagianism – or when we are ambitious or vain. These defensive mechanisms prevent us from truly understanding other people and from opening ourselves to a sincere dialogue with them. But the Church, flowing from Pentecost, is given the fire of the Holy Spirit, which does not so much fill the mind with ideas, but enflames the heart; she is moved by the breath of the Spirit which does not transmit a power, but rather an ability to serve in love, a language which everyone is able to understand.

In our journey of faith and fraternal living, the more we allow ourselves to be humbly guided by the Spirit of the Lord, the more we will overcome misunderstandings, divisions, and disagreements and be a credible sign of unity and peace.

With this joyful conviction, I embrace all of you, dear brothers and sisters: the Syro-Catholic Patriarch, the President of the Bishops’ Conference, the Apostolic Vicar Monsignor Pelȃtre, the Bishops and Eparchs, the priests and deacons, religious, lay faithful, and believers from other communities and various rites of the Catholic Church. I wish to greet with fraternal affection the Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew I, the Syro-Orthodox Metropolitan and the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchal Vicar, as well as the representatives of the Protestant communities, who have joined us in prayer for this celebration. I extend to them my gratitude for this fraternal gesture. I wish also to express my affection to the Armenian Patriarch, His Beatitude Mesrob II, assuring him of my prayers.

Brothers and sisters, let us turn our thoughts to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. With her, who prayed with the Apostles in the Upper Room as they awaited Pentecost, let us pray to the Lord asking him to send his Holy Spirit into our hearts and to make us witnesses of his Gospel in all the world. Amen!

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Throw off our defensiveness and be led by the Spirit

Spotlight on ecumenical and interfaith relations in Turkey: Vatican Radio

28 November 2014, Vatican Radio

Catholic-Orthodox relations and dialogue with the Muslim world are the two main issues under the spotlight as Pope Francis travels to the Turkish capital of Ankara on Friday for his 6th international journey. The Pope will then spend Saturday and Sunday in Istanbul where he was invited by the Orthodox leader, Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew 1st to celebrate the feast of St Andrew on November 30th.

Just six months ago, the two leaders met in Jerusalem and signed a joint declaration marking half a century since the lifting of mutual excommunications and the beginning of a new era of improved relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. So what are the expectations ahead of this latest encounter in the Patriarch’s headquarters at the Phanar in Istanbul? And how can the tiny Christian minority in Turkey help to promote better relations with the wider Muslim world?

To find answers to those questions, Philippa Hitchen spoke with Dominican Father Claudio Monge, director of a Centre for Cultural and Interreligious Dialogue in Istanbul….

The radio interview and full article are here:
Spotlight on ecumenical and interfaith relations in Turkey

Pope Francis presides at Mass in the Istanbul Vicariate's Cathedral of the Holy Spirit with the Latin, Armenian, Syriac and Chaldean Catholic communities.

The arrival of the Ecumenical Patriarch is greeted with applause from 6:20. Entrance Procession from 13:50 includes Eastern Catholic Bishops, including the Armenian Catholic archbishop of Constantinople (Archbishop Hovhannes Tcholakian) and the Apostolic Vicar for the Latin Roman Catholics of Turkey (Bishop Louis Pelatre). But the successor of St Peter is accompanied to the altar (15:20) by the Bishop of the local diocese: the successor of St Andrew, Bartholomew of Chalcedon, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarch. The ecclesiology that is expressed powerfully - he is not a guest in his own diocese, but always its bishop, even when visiting among the Catholics.

Thus the Holy Father gives the peace to the Ecumenical Patriarch first (1:24:30), even before the Apostolic Vicar, the Armenian Catholic archbishop and the deacons.

The joint benediction of the Successors of Peter and Andrew is at 1:43:00. At 1:46:00 His Holiness greets the Armenian Apostolic Archbishop Aram Atesyam, representing the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople (Patriarch Mesrob II Metafian, who is too frail to leave his hospital), and the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar, Metropolitan Filuksinos Yusuf Cetin.

▶ Pope Francis in Turkey - Holy Mass in Istanbul - 2014.11.29 - YouTube

Museum or Mosque? In Hagia Sophia, the Mother of God above it all

▶ Pope Francis inTurkey - Visit to Saint Sofia Museum and Sultan Ahmet Mosque - 2014.11.29 - YouTube

As can be heard, when His Holiness sits to sign the Visitors' Book, the call to prayer can be heard.  Aya Sofya is no longer strictly kept as a Museum in a secular, ex-Islamic republic. When our Vice Chairman, Fr Mark Woodruff, visited the week beforehand, the Call to Prayer from the Sultanahmet Mosque was answered from one of the minarets at Aya Sofya. It is known that President Erdoghan regards it as a place of worship and rumours that it will be restored as such are strong, and its history as a building from which the worship of BOTH Christians and Muslims is excluded will end. Another rumour is that the deal could be that the nearby Church of Hagia Eirene, in the first courtyard of the Topkapi Palace, will be restored to the use of the Orthodox. It would take an immense amount of work but, even then, they would never own it. Meanwhile, on the highest hill on the opposite Asian shore of the Bosphorus, Erdoghan is planning a larger mosque than any already in Istanbul - with public funds in a secular republic. The state sponsorship and recovered confidence of public Islam in Turkey is notable.

It is interesting that while the Pope was accompanied by Cardinal Koch as president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, there appeared to be no Byzantine Catholic ecumenists in his party.

▶ Pope Francis inTurkey - Visit to Saint Sofia Museum and Sultan Ahmet Mosque - 2014.11.29 - YouTube

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Pays Historic Visit to Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will attend the Papal Mass at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul today.

Patriarch Bartholomew will be received by Pope Francis at the entrance and the two leaders will jointly process into the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, where the Pope is to celebrate Mass for the Roman Catholic community of Istanbul. During the service, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will exchange the kiss of peace and offer a common blessing to the congregation.

Other invited guests include heads of the other Christian Communities in the city. The Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, built in 1846, is located near the Beyoglu District of Istanbul.

Statement from the Ecumenical Patriarchate online here

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Welcomes Pope Francis at Istanbul International Airport

News.va English's photo. 

ISTANBUL – His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of over 300 million Orthodox faithful worldwide, welcomed His Holiness Pope Francis at Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul.

"Your Holiness, beloved brother in Christ, we welcome you with great joy, esteem and love. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on greeting the Pope.

This warm embrace of the two Prelates of the Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church, as well as the visit of Pope Francis to Istanbul in general, brings a message of love and peace for millions of Christians around the world.

The last Pope to visit Istanbul was Benedict VI in 2006; prior to that, Patriarch Demetrios welcomed Pope John Paul II in 1979.

Accompanying the Ecumenical Patriarch to the airport were Elder Metropolitan John of Pergamon (co-chairman of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches), Archbishop Demetrios of America and Grand Archdeacon Andreas Sofianopoulos.

Statement online here.

World evangelical group head meets Ecumenical Patriarch on Syria, Iraq - Pravmir

Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance has recently met with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, in Istanbul, Turkey. Together they discussed the current crisis and the plight of Christians in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East region.

“This was an important meeting where we able discuss areas of common concern,” said Tunnicliffe. “We spent a considerable amount of time discussing the current crisis in the Iraq and Syria where thousands of Christians as well as other minorities are at great risk. We agreed this was an important moment for the global church to stand united with our brothers and sisters who are facing great hardship.”

A specific emphasis of the conversation was on the importance of responding to the increasing number of refugees, ensuring their protection in the short-term and creating ways for them to later return to their homeland.

The meeting was built on a long-term relationship between the WEA’s Theological Commission and the Patriarch, who is often seen as the first among equal representing some 300 million Orthodox Christians in the world.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate belongs to the World Council of Churches.

In recent years, the WEA and its International Institute for Religious Freedom have also been active in defending the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarch and Orthodox Churches in places where they faced persecution.

Tunnicliffe was accompanied by members of the WEA’s Theological Commission, Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher and Dr. John Baxter-Brown.

Together with leading theologians of the Patriarchate, they started talks on formalizing the dialogue into an in-depth long-term working group that will establish what evangelicals and Orthodox Christians have in common, and where they disagree.

“The meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch resulted in a similar achievement as the meeting with Pope Francis only a few weeks earlier,” Tunnicliffe noted.

He said, “Persecution of Christians matters to all of us and we can accomplish more, if we work together with those of other Christian confessions.”

Source: World evangelical group head meets Ecumenical Patriarch on Syria, Iraq - A Russian Orthodox Church Website

Before Being Killed, Children Told ISIS: ‘No, We Love Jesus’

Andrew White, an English clergyman known as the Anglican “Vicar of Baghdad,” has seen violence and persecution against Christians unprecedented in recent decades.

In the video embedded below, he recounts the story of Iraqi Christian children who were told by ISIS militants to convert to Islam or be killed. Their response? “No, We Love Yeshua (Jesus).”

Find out more about Andrew White’s ministry, The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, which provides humanitarian assistance to many of the Christians under attack by ISIS.

Be sure to watch his interview below, and spread the word about the horrific persecution going on today.

Read online here:
Before Being Killed, Children Told ISIS: ‘No, We Love Jesus’

Friday 28 November 2014

Statement of Ecumenical Patriarchate ahead of Papal Visit

(Courtesy of Vatican Radio) Ahead of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Voyage, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has issued the following statement:

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of over 300 million Orthodox faithful worldwide, will receive Pope Francis on November 29-30, 2014, at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.

Pope Francis' visit to Istanbul comes at the personal invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch on the occasion of the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, the older brother of Saint Peter. St. Andrew is considered the first-century founder of the Church of Constantinople, the former name for present-day Istanbul. The invitation was originally extended by Patriarch Bartholomew to Pope Francis at the papal inaugural Mass on March 19, 2013. Both prelates are noted throughout the world as peacemakers and bridge-builders of truth and love across religious, cultural and ethnic divides.

"We are eagerly awaiting the visit of our brother, Pope Francis," said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. "It will be yet another significant step in our positive relations as sister Churches."

On Saturday afternoon, November 29th, Pope Francis will arrive at the Phanar and be received by His All-Holiness in order to participate in a Doxology of peace and thanksgiving at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George. The prayer service will be followed by a private meeting between the two Church leaders. Prior to this event, His All-Holiness will attend Mass at the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul.

On Sunday morning, November 30th, Pope Francis will attend the Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral, where both prelates will deliver official addresses, exchange the kiss of peace and together bless the faithful. After the Divine Liturgy, a joint declaration will be signed and the Patriarch will host a luncheon for the Pope at the Patriarchate.

His All-Holiness Bartholomew is the Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch. He is the 269th successor of the 2,000-year old local Christian Church founded by St. Andrew. As a citizen of Turkey, His All-Holiness's personal experience offers a unique perspective on the vital dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims. For his inspiring efforts on behalf of religious freedom and human rights, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal in 1997.

Online here: Statement of Ecumenical Patriarchate ahead of Papal Visit

Thursday 27 November 2014

St Andrew's head: Paul VI returned to the Greeks - Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio, 27 November 2014)

Pope Francis on Wednesday said he was going as Successor of Peter to the land of his Brother Andrew, a reference to his forthcoming Apostolic journey to Turkey from November 28th to the 30th. The Saint's feast day falls on Novermber, 30th.

With a stretch of imagination, in a related story of sorts, our popular 'Latin Lover' Carmelite Father Reginald Foster tells how Pope Pius II, had part of the cranium of Saint Andrew brought back to Rome in 1461 and placed in Saint Peter's Basilica.

Listen to our Popular 'Latin Lover' Carmelite Father Reginald Foster in a programme produced by Veronica Scarisbrick at the link below.

In this conversation Father Foster tells Veronica Scarisbrick how in 1964 Blessed Pope Paul VI returned the head to the Orthodox Church of Patras in Greece, from where it had been removed, "in fulfilment of a centuries old promise and as a sign of respectful love for the Greek Orthodox Church".

At the time the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council was in full swing and a solemn celebration to mark the occasion took place in Saint Peter's Basilica on September 26th of that year. While across the sea in Patras a procession wound through the streets of the city led by the Metropolitan and the Bishops and clergy of the Orthodox Church together with the Catholic delegation.

St Andrew's head: Paul VI returned to Patras - Vatican Radio

Turkey visit to deepen friendship between Pope and Patriarch; support for Halki: Cardinal Koch

25 November 2014, Vatican Radio

Pope Francis travels from Ankara to Istanbul on Saturday where he’ll visit the famous Hagia Sophia museum and the Blue Mosque. Later in the day he’ll celebrate Mass at the Catholic Cathedral and participate in an ecumenical prayer liturgy with Ecumencial Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world. The two men, who’ve met several times since the start of Francis’ pontificate, will also sign a joint declaration after celebrating a Divine Liturgy marking the feast day of St Andrew on Sunday.

Accompanying Pope Francis on this journey to Turkey is the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch. Before leaving, he sat down with Philippa Hitchen to share his hopes ahead of this latest encounter between the Pope and the Patriarch ….

The visit comes just six months after the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch met together in Jerusalem and singed a Joint Declaration about their commitment to the search for Christian unity. Speaking of his hopes and expectations of the upcoming visit to Turkey, Cardinal Koch says that first of all it will be another step in deepening the good relations that already exist between Rome and Constantinople.

He also points out that since Pope Paul VI went to Constantinople in 1967, every Pope had made a visit in the 2nd year of his pontificate: Saint John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Francis: this – he says “is a very beautiful idea”.

The Cardinal speaks of a long tradition of mutual visits: “The Catholic Church visits Constantinople on the Feast of Saint Andrew on November 30, and a high delegation comes to Rome to celebrate the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29.

Koch agrees that the strong personal friendship between the Pope and the Patriarch can help strengthen this engagement because – he says – the Ecumenical Patriarch is a very good help for me: “there are some tendencies in the International Commission that say we must leave the ecumenical theological dialogue and have a good collaboration in other issues. But the Patriarch says we have the duty to deepen the theological questions, and that is also my opinion and commitment and I am very grateful for the help of the Ecumenical Patriarch”.

Asked whether the Pope’s presence in Istanbul can help the Orthodox Church with its demands, for example, for legal recognition or for the reopening of the Orthodox Seminary for training new priests, Koch says that his hope is that after “this long time that the theological school of Halki has been closed, the new Government may have a new opportunity to open it”.

He says he has heard from government sources that they will be able to do so when there is a change also in Athens, because there is no Mosque in Athens. But, Koch points out: “this is a little strange because the Ecumenical Patriarch has no responsibility in Athens”.

“We must resolve the problem in Greece and we must resolve the problem in Turkey. And hopefully the visit of the Holy Father can help resolve relationships between the Church and the government” he says.

The journey will also provide a strong focus on Catholic Muslim relations and on the Syrian and Iraqi refugee crisis on the country’s border. Cardinal Koch says the pressing situations in the Middle East, including the persecution of Christians and other minorities, will clearly be a main issue in the conversation as both the Patriarch and the Pope are very engaged in these problems and they can raise a common voice against these situations.

To hear the interview by Philippa Hitchens see online here: Turkey visit to deepen friendship between Pope and Patriarch


Monday 24 November 2014

Syrian Christians: 'Help us to stay - stop arming terrorists' - Telegraph

Christianity is being extinguished in the land of its birth and the West is to blame, say Syria's faithful By Ruth Sherlock, Izraa, Deraa, 22 Nov 2014
Outgoing artillery shook St Elias church as the priest reached the end of the Lord's Prayer. The small congregation kept their eyes on the pulpit, kneeling when required and trying to ignore the regular thuds that rattled the stained glass windows above them. Home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, the hard to reach Syrian agricultural town of Izraa has stood the comings and goings of many empires over the centuries.

But as the country's civil war creeps closer, it is threatening to force the town's Christians into permanent exile: never to return, they fear.  "I have been coming to this church since I was born," said Afaf Azam, 52. "But now the situation is very bad. Everyone is afraid. Jihadists control villages around us." 

A Canaanite city that was mentioned in the Bible, Izraa has lived through Persian and Arab rule, with St Elias's Church being built in 542AD - 28 years before the birth of the Prophet Mohammed in Mecca.

During the past four years of Syria's war, its Christian population has largely stayed put, despite the war destroying much of the surrounding province of Deraa.

In the last two weeks however, men from the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra and other rebel groups have captured the nearby towns of Nawa and al-Sheikh Maskin, bringing the frontline to less than two miles away. They are now trying to assault Izraa.

Some of the rebels were vetted by the CIA as "moderate Muslims" and subsequently trained and armed in Jordan, as part of a US-led program to bolster a non-sectarian opposition to President Bashar-Assad. 

But past experience has rendered such distinctions irrelevant to Izraa's Christians. After all, in Syria - and on this frontline - the "moderates" continue to work in alliance with Nusra. And the conquest of other Christian villages by the opposition has shown that more moderate factions frequently do little to stop the jihadists imposing their will.

"It's simple," said Father Elias Hanout, 38, who led the prayers at Sunday's service. "If the West wants Syria to remain a country for Christian people, then help us to stay here; stop arming terrorists."

The pews were sparsely occupied for last Sunday's service in St Elias, with the choir missing its tenors and altos. Mrs Azam, who led the hymns, was reluctant to acknowledge the exodus at first, saying the singers were absent "because of work". But as the tempo of the falling shells increased outside, she admitted: "People from here are leaving. Many are applying to emigrate."

Exactly how many Christians have left Syria is difficult to say, but according to the Christian charity Open Doors, some 700,000 have left the country, which equates to some 40 per cent of Syria's pre-war Christian population.

Christian leaders in the country warn of an exodus on the scale of Iraq, where the 1.5 million-strong community that lived there prior to the first Gulf War is now down to as little as a tenth of its former size. 

The threat to towns like Izraa will be uppermost in the mind of the Pope during his visit to Turkey this week, amid warnings from Christian leaders worldwide that their religion might soon lose its foothold in the very region where it was born.

Looking around his 1,500 year old church, Mr Hanout warned: "In this land the Word started. And if you delete the Word here, then Christianity across the world will have no future."

Evidence of the Church's heritage is everywhere in Izraa's narrow streets. Across from St Elias, lies the chapel of St George, an octagonal stone building that is said to be one of the most ancient churches in the world. Dating to 515 AD, it was originally converted from a pagan temple, and an inscription on its stone lintel reads: "Hymns of cherubs replaced sacrifices offered to idols and God settles here in peace, where people used to anger him."

Today, Izraa remains a mixed down of both Christians and Muslims. And in early 2011, when the uprising in Syria was defined by popular protests rather than war, a small number of Christians had welcomed the calls for regime change.

That changed when the Islamists began to dominate the rebel ranks.

"Nobody wants these men to advance," said one resident said, who asked not to be named. "They are frightened of their town being overrun by Islamists,"

Instead Izraa's Christians have sought solace in the government's defences, and increasingly blame the West for their suffering.

Mrs Azam added: "When evil comes you have to defend your country. We love our government, just as we love our country."

The picture in Izraa is one repeated across other Christian pockets of Syria. Christian homes in Deir Ezzour, Raqqa, and in Hassakeh, home to the Syriac Christians, the oldest denomination on earth, are all devoid of their inhabitants. From Homs too, a major Christian stronghold, many have left. 

Some Christian residents initially remained in the Christian town of Ghassaniyeh in northern Latakia province when it first fell to the rebels in mid-2012. A few weeks later however, Islamic extremists took control of the terrain. Christian men were kidnapped, captured or forced to flee. They desecrated the church, ransacked homes and murdered the priest.

Even in Bab Touma, the Christian quarter in the old city of Damascus, residents told the Telegraph they were looking to leave.

Eva Astefan, 43, said she applied to the United Nations for asylum, after her 14-year-old daughter, Adel was shot and killed by a rebel sniper in 2012. 

The family had been driving down the highway back to Damascus after attending the "Feast of the Holy Cross" in nearby Maaloula, when a hail of bullets pierced their vehicle, one entering her daughter's skull who was sitting in the back.

Mrs Astefan's nephew, Joseph Haroun, 29, said: "Its our country and we love it, but we feel we have little choice.

"The terrorists - referring to the opposition rebels - kidnap and kill our men and dangle the holy cross over their bodies."

It is not just Christian's who are suffering. The war in Syria is political as well as sectarian, and, as it draws closer to Izraa, the town's schools and municipal offices have become impromptu shelters for thousands of refugees from all sects.

Only a small number of the fighters near Izraa are from Nusra, with many of those fighting coming from local Sunni families.

Abo Mohammed, a frail Sunni man in his early sixties - who spoke using a pseudonym - told how of men who were his neighbours, fellow Sunnis, killed his "whole family" in revenge because his son is serving in the Syrian military.

"They entered our house in al-Sheikh Maskin and attacked my son, my brother, my brother's children and my nephew. They broke their arms and legs and then threw them from the roof. I am the only one who escaped," he said, tears welling in his eyes.

It is precisely because al-Qaeda is weak in the south of Syria, that the West and its allies have concentrated on sending weapons to rebels in this area. 

Residents from other sects have been able to return to their homes, even when they are in rebel control, but Christians fear that if they leave and their town is then captured by the opposition - even one led by western trained groups - they will never be able to return.

So, they put their hopes in the Syrian military that is now protecting the town. At the main entrance to the town are sandbagged army checkpoints, plastered with posters of President Bashar al-Assad. Military vehicles, laden with weapons, drive full-pelt across the intersection down the road that marks the beginning of the frontline.

In Izraa, shop fronts have been painted in the Syrian flag to rouse nationalist fervour, the graffiti of past anti-government protests has been scrubbed out or painted over.

Instead, the sense is of having been abandoned by other "Christian nations" such as America and Britain, no matter what the promises of their leaders are.

As another priest in Izraa, who asked not to be named, put it: "Please tell Mr Cameron, we don't want any help or donations - but please, equally, stop arming terrorists."

Read online here, with pictures, maps and video:
Syrian Christians: 'Help us to stay - stop arming terrorists' - Telegraph

Thursday 13 November 2014

Homily for the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Holy Family Cathedral, London, 9th November 2014

Galatians 6.11-18 – Luke 8.26-39

Picture Saint Paul dictating his letter to the Church in Galatia. When his assistant has finished, Paul takes up the pen personally, and adds some final thoughts. He speaks of writing with large letters. Perhaps he is losing his eyesight, for he was once an expert writer and religious official himself; or, perhaps, writing as small as his scribe could, to get as much wording on the page of the expensive parchment as possible, was now too painful for him – he speaks of being unable to deal with the Church troublemakers, because he bears the marks of Jesus on his own body.

These are very interesting last few sentences, conveying the thoughts right at the forefront of St Paul’s mind. He compares and contrasts outward physical appearances with the inner truths that last because they mean something. He begins with the outsize appearance of his handwriting; and he ends with the outward appearance of wounds upon his skin. But he turns to attention to the greater fact of life that lies among and within what we experience as real in the world. Thus he questions the Galatian Christians, a community of Jews and Gentiles alike, if they have lost sight of what being a Christian is all about. Christ was circumcised not because it was a cultural convention, but because from time immemorial it had been a sacramental sign of the people’s faith in their covenant with God. “An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace,” it was the mark of an undertaking by the Hebrews and the Jews to take the law of God to their own hearts and keep it as the light of their lives. But here were people who did not take the law of God seriously themselves, yet insisted that the new people who wanted to follow Christ’s conform to an outward appearance, an appearance that on its own meant nothing without the inner meaning of love, obedience, and bonding with our God.

We are reminded of the words of the Prophet Micah, expressing the patience of God at humanity’s continual cycle of betrayal, disobedience and trying to buy back God’s favour with a surfeit of religion and sacrificial offering. The Lord asks, “O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you?” The response is predictable: the offer of year-old calves, rams in their thousands, rivers of oil to burn the Temple lamps, even a human sacrifice. Wearily, Prophet Micah explains it all over again: “You have been told what would be good; you have been told what the Lord requires: to do justice, to love goodness, and to work humbly with your God.” (Micah 6. 3, 8)

It is, of course, easier to perform the outward appearance of religion – the customs, the behaviours; the fretting over the way other people bow, or make the sign of the Cross; the sharp eye on other people’s morals, while presuming forgiveness for one’s own shortcomings; the profession of righteous activity backed up with a word of criticism (a hint of our own insecurity perhaps) for those who we want to show are not up to the mark. There is nothing new under the sun; and St Paul was as worn down by self-righteous troublemakers as his successors have been right down the ages to this day. He told the Church at Corinth that people like that are like brass gongs – a lot of sound is made when the hammer strikes, but they make no music of their own: much reverberation, but no heart; much noise, but no love (cf. I Corinthians 13.1). Pope Francis says exactly the same about the poison of gossip, telling religious superiors this week that it actually be more honest to come to blows, so much more insidious and harmful is the hidden attack of pitiless, unloving gossip (Address to 54th National Assembly of Religious Superiors of Italy, 7 November 2014).

He has spoken, too, of Christians who are lukewarm and mediocre, people who look like Christians, but who are really worldly. He says, “They are enemies of the Cross of Christ. They take the name but they do not follow the responsibilities of Christian life. Do I like to brag? Do I like money? Do I like pride, arrogance?... These types of people get corrupted bit by bit and end up becoming pagan Christians” (Homily on 8 November, 2014, Santa Marta, Rome on Philippians 3.18). He is quoting St Paul, who saw the remedy to all this in self-giving love. For he points all those people who make trouble - all those obsessed with outward form, all those intruding their own anxieties into the souls of others - to the only thing that matters, to Jesus Christ on his Cross, the Cross that makes everything else beside the point. Appearance, law, immemorial custom, personal identity, self-realisation, individual spiritualities: all these mean nothing, unless we have become a new creation at the hand of Christ nailed to its Cross.

It is no accident that St Paul seizes on what must have seemed to be an endless and enervating fine argument about circumcision. It is as though he is saying, “Do you foolish Galatians not realise that when Jesus was circumcised, it was the first time He shed His blood for us? Do you not realise you are arguing about the Cross itself? Do you not see that all this argument about who gets to belong to the people of God - who can and can’t come in - has itself been crucified. With Christ’s death it has been killed off and, unlike Him it has not risen from the dead. Only Christ is alive and His resurrection is what has freed us to be made into new creations.

He tells them that marks he bears in his body are those caused by a Cross that ended his old life. They are also caused by the Resurrection freeing him to be made into something different now. “I have been crucified with Christ,” he has explained to them. “It is not any more I who live, but Christ who lives within me” (Galatians 2.20). His parting word is that this grace, the very living of Christ in a human soul, will be in their spirit too.

And what of us, with our conflicting thoughts, wants, feelings, grudges, self-pity, words, thoughts, excuses, dreams, conceit and sin? Are we the pagan Christians of which Pope Francis spoke, gradually corrupted by mediocrity, settling for less when we are free to have everything if, like the Lord we follow, we did but do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God? The devil would certainly like us to think so, crowding into us so many of his unclean spirits, to make us feel defeated and overwhelmed, tormented even by the attempt of Christ at relief, neuralgic even at the thought of his touch.

Instead, let us be the ones who call out “Save us,” to the one we can see is not the Punisher but the Lover of Mankind (Kontakion of Sunday, Tone 5). Let us long even to endure that crucifixion with Christ that made St Paul into a new creation. Let it be that just one spirit casts out all else, one spirit that dwells in us richly: Christ who is God’s love, Christ who is our unbreakable bonding with His Father. 

Fr Mark Woodruff

Saturday 8 November 2014

Is There a Place for The Russian Orthodox Church in Post-Maidan Ukraine? / Sputnik International

(updated 06.11.2014)
28th of July is celebrated in Russia as the Day of Baptism of ancient Rus (the proto-state of Eastern Slavs with the capital in Kiev). Although the original event took place in the 10th century A.D., its importance is being exalted today, as Russia is facing multiple challenges over the civil war in neighboring Ukraine, whose capital Kiev happens to be now.

On this day, the Russian Orthodox Church marks the 1025thanniversary of Kiev’s residents being baptized by St. Vladimir, the Kievan prince who opted for Orthodox Christianity, the Eastern branch of Christian faith. According to the legend, St. Vladimir was visited also by representatives of the Roman Catholic Pope and of the Islamic religion, but he chose Constantinople, which was at the time the most civilized city in Europe and the cradle of Eastern Christianity.

In 1988, the celebrations of the 1000th anniversary of Rus’s baptism marked the “rehabilitation” of the Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union, where it had faced enormous pressure from the officially atheist state until then. So, the holiday is rich in symbolism for the middle-aged generation of Orthodox believers.

However, for the first time in many years the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, which unites millions of Orthodox believers in both Russia and Ukraine, was unable not travel to Kiev, the original site of baptism. The reason was the poor state of relations between Russia and Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill was strongly recommended not to visit the Ukrainian territory by the Ukrainian ministry of culture. In the Ukrainian nationalist circles Patriarch Kirill is dismissed as “Putin’s ally” and a carrier of anti-nationalist ideology of the “Russian world” (this ideology, stressing the “spiritual unity” of Orthodox nations of the former Soviet Union became anathema to the new authorities in Kiev).

Kirill, who marked the day by officiating at a church service in Moscow, was visibly disappointed about not being able to travel to Kiev. Formally, his sotracism by Kiev is undeserved. Throughout the months of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict he did not say a single word in support of Crimea’s merger with Russia, he also left the Orthodox churches in Crimea under the jurisdiction of Kiev’s metropolitan. The branch of Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine (officially called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate) expressed its dissatisfaction with the Ukrainian culture ministry’s interdiction of the Patriarch’s visit to Kiev, calling it an interference into the Church’s internal affairs.

In Public, Patriarch Kirill himself did not say a word about his own pain, but from the very beginning of the rule of the new nationalist government in Kiev, he did not make a secret out of his opposition to pressure on Moscow-connected Orthodox church of Ukraine.

Here is what he had to say regarding the “cold war” between the state and Orthodox Church in Ukraine: “I want to address all of the Ukrainian people today. The authorities, the state bodies should not interfere into the Church’s internal affairs. Church issues can’t be resolved by force and pressure. Church ‘s unity cannot be brought about by violent action. Never in human history were spiritual problems successfully resolved by coercion.”

In this speech of the Patriarch, he was referring to several attempts by Ukrainian nationalist activists to seize from the Ukrainian branch of the Russian Orthodox Church several important premises belonging to it, including the famous Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. (In translation it means “Kiev Monastery on the Caves” and includes several important relics of Holy Rus’s saints.) The attempt failed because of resistance from the parishioners and monks, but the attitude of the Ukrainian state to the Moscow-connected church has been deteriorating since the moment of the Maidan revolution in February this year.

Archpriest Andrei Tkachyov, formerly the head priest in one of Kiev’s biggest parishes, had to move to Moscow after speaking critically about the violent takeover of power in Kiev by the nationalist activists from the Maidan movement. Now archpriest Andrei Tkachyov is concerned about the future of his fellow Orthodox priests in new, reportedly “European” Ukraine.

“As far as the church is concerned, I think the infantile nationalists, who came to power in Kiev, they will put on the church all the blame for what they perceive as Ukraine’s backwardness. Those Ukrainians inside the church who accept this view, they will soon reject all of the church’s traditional ties to Moscow. There will be some who disagree, who will just try to wait it out keeping silence. As for those who are openly and strongly opposed to severing ties with Moscow – these people will become open enemies of the new regime. I shudder at the thought of what will await them, I am too scared to imagine the details of that”, archpriest Andrei Tkachyov said.

The fate of archpriest Andrei Tkachyov is not a unique one. Several other dissenting Ukrainian priests, who fell out with the new regime, also had to leave Ukraine and move to Russia. For instance, Maxim Volynets, a priest from the embattled Lugansk region, had to leave the region with his wife and five children. He now lives in the Moscow region. The most painful consequence of the civil war for him was his quarrel with the parents who live in Kiev and share the new government’s point of view. The civil war in Ukraine divides not only churches and confessions, but even the priests’ families.

This article was written by Vyacheslav Tyapkin

Is There a Place for The Russian Orthodox Church in Post-Maidan Ukraine? / Sputnik International