Archive for July, 2009

From the Pontifical Society of St John Chrysostom:

LEADING Latin Rite Bishop in Ukraine has reported that relations with the Russian Orthodox are getting increasingly warmer. Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need during a visit to the charity’s international headquarters in Germany, Bishop Marian Buczek of the Latin-Rite Diocese of Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine gave his positive assessment of ecumenical relations in the east of the country.

He spoke of the appointment of Patriarch Kirill as good news for ecumenism – despite the hard-line stance the patriarch has publicly taken since his election. Bishop Buczek said: “Patriarch Kirill knows the Roman Catholic Church very well, he met Pope John Paul II and also met Pope Benedict XVI while chair of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Relation.

He added: “The relationship between the two churches is getting warmer and warmer.”

The bishop stressed how the diocese has had excellent relationships with Russian Orthodox in Ukraine – when he first came to Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhya, which shares a border with Russia, one of his first moves was to established contacts with the local Orthodox Metropolitan.

In his diocese the Latin Rite Church is a minority – the majority of Christians belong to the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and there are many mixed marriages between members of the two Churches. Bishop Buczek said: “And for this reason we want relationships between the hierarchies to be good, but there is also a sense of unity which comes through mixed Catholic and Orthodox families.” Catechesis classes for Catholic and Orthodox couples who are intending to marry are put on to aid mutual understanding between the spouses of the Catholic partner’s faith. While initially the Orthodox partner may be initially apprehensive, “after the course the Orthodox one says thank you to the priest or nun – as it helps them not only to learn about Roman Catholicism, but Christian faith in general”.

The bishop is also keen to arrange a meeting between Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic youth. He says this would help them to understand each other better, get to know each other, and help them give common testimony of the Christian faith to those who do not go to Church.

Bishop Buczek paid tribute to ACN for the help it had given the diocese of Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhya, which was erected only seven years ago and covers much of eastern Ukraine. He said: “Since 1991 ACN has supported the Latin Rite Church in Ukraine by building new churches and repairing those churches in need of restoration.” The bishop underlined how the aid is particularly important in eastern Ukraine, which suffered under Communism thirty years longer than western Ukraine. Speaking of the Communist era, Bishop Buczek said: “It was a spiritual desert – by and large there were no priests here for 70 years.” There are 20 million people living in the bishop’s diocese, of which 50,000 are Latin Rite Catholics

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On his Ancient Faith Radio podcast, Professor Peter Bouteneff of St Vladimir’s Seminary compares and contrasts the recent “Confession of Faith Against Ecumenism” emanating from one quarter of the Orthodox Church of Greece, with the address of Archbishop Anastasios of Albania’s to the assembly of the Conference of European Churches.

Take a look also at the discussion on the podcast at the AOI Observer.

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The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has decided to bow out of the Meeting of the Combined International Theological Committee for the Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church, which is to be held in Cyprus in October.

The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Church reached its decision, according to the Greek Orthodox news agency Romfea, after expressing concern that “such theological dialogues between Orthodox and Catholics had not led to even the slightest settlement between Roman Catholic and Orthodox Dogmatics.”

The Holy Synod did, however, “express its willingness to discuss other social and humanitarian issues in the future, during such meetings.”

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Via Fr Anthony Chadwick, I present “ΟΜΟΛΟΓΙΑ ΠΙΣΤΕΩΣ Κατά του Οικουμενισμού” (“A Confession of Faith Against Ecumenism” (original Greek text and unofficial English translation), signed by a number of metropolitans, bishops, clergy and monks of the Orthodox Church of Greece.

I tend to agree with Fr Chadwick’s commentary on the text (link, see July 18) –

I see this whole thing in simple terms. The Christian world has been torn between relevance to the world and its specific identity. Ultimately, the whole thing goes back to the Donation of Constantine and “if the salt loses its savour”.

This is a problem that is intrinsic to Christianity. If a religion is to expand and assume a missionary vision, then it must be prepared to compromise its identity and inculturate. Western Catholicism is a missionary religion and addresses itself to the world. Eastern Orthodoxy, like Judaism, is a vast “monastery” and keeps its identity by keeping the infidel out and at arm’s length. The latter vision is coherent if it considers, like Jansenism and Calvinism, that the majority of humanity is nothing more than “hell fodder”. Islam is both “missionary” and medieval hard-line, and will continue to make inroads until it falls victim of its missionary ambitions and goes – – – secular.

… The Orthodox, like the Roman Catholic traditionalists (especially the sedevacantists) have come to this out of an instinct for survival. We traditional Anglicans also to an extent, because we can only survive by our difference from secular humanism. When you look at the historical pattern, we can begin to understand. All this is to say that I understand those Greeks who have had enough of relativism and liberalism. But, where is the love and charity or the will to share the Gospel with the world as Jesus asked of his Apostles?

Veritatem facientes in caritate. Not easy…. I would even say that we all seem to have got it wrong.

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From the blog The American Catholic (July 9th, 2009) –

Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches) truly deserves more attention, as it remains vital to the self-understanding of the Catholic Church and for the prospect of Christian ecumenism in general.

Eastern Catholics are non-Latin Rite Christians who, at some point in the last thousand years, entered into communion with Bishop of Rome—though technically, some like the Italo-Albanian and Maronite churches, may have never left that communion. These Christians of the East are many, part of several churches, in communion with the Roman church. It is often forgotten that the Catholic Church, founded on the See of Peter, is a communion of twenty-two churches.

These Eastern-rite churches are significant to any real ecclesiology because their Catholic reality—their theological tradition, liturgy, spirituality, discipline, and customs—does not derive from Western influence. As a matter of fact, their Catholicism has its own apostolic foundations as old as, or even older than, those of Rome itself. Therefore, the way the Roman church understands its relationship to Eastern churches and the way in which it lives out that understanding is a clear marker to the shape a reunified Church will take in the future.


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Fr Anthony Chadwick, a priest of the Traditional Anglican Communion (currently seeking full communion with Rome), at his always interesting blog “Reflections from Normandy”, points out the following quote from the Pope’s most recent motu proprio (Ecclesiae unitatem, 2 July 2009) –

The duty to safeguard the unity of the Church, with the solicitude to offer everyone help in responding appropriately to this vocation and divine grace, is the particular responsibility of the Successor of the Apostle Peter, who is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of the unity of both bishops and faithful. The supreme and fundamental priority of the Church in all times – to lead mankind to the meeting with God – must be supported by the commitment to achieve a shared witness of faith among all Christians.


In keeping with this, faithfully adhering to that duty to serve the universal communion of the Church, also in her visible manifestation, and making every effort to ensure that those who truly desire unity have the possibility to remain in it or to rediscover it, I decided, with the (…).

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From Fr Pat’s Pastoral Ponderings, June 28, 2009:

Saint Anselm, as we have seen, begins his reflections on soteriology—the theology of salvation—by addressing the question: What is sin? This he identifies as the affront to the honor of God. He then goes on to inquire: What is required to satisfy the offended honor of God. This move from apologetics to theology is known as St. Anselm’s “theory of satisfaction.”

In the history of the theology of salvation, few developments have been more significant than the introduction of “satisfaction” as a category of study. Few likewise, I believe, have proved more troubling.

I concede that some notion of satisfaction was always implicit when Christians thought about “being saved.” That is to say, the very concept of salvation carries with it, at least tacitly, the question, “What was required for us to be saved?”

In fact, that question was raised explicitly in the great Christological controversies of the early Church. For example, a major premise of the orthodox faith affirmed, “Whatever was not assumed was not healed.” This thesis declared that God’s Son, in the Incarnation, took on our full humanity, not selected parts of it. In other words, only the Word’s full assumption of our human nature could satisfy what was needed for human beings to be saved.


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An excerpt from His Beatitude’s address to the First Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America.

We share the hope of full ecumenical relationship and reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church. However, I believe that we are of one mind, the Anglicans and the Orthodox, in that we reject the papal ecclesiology and the theological distortions of papal infallibility, and some of the hypertrophy regarding Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos, the Ever-Virgin Mary. We love the Most Pure Mother of God, but I think we have to remember what is right and decent and in order. And it’s only by, only by the repeal of such doctrines that there is going to be any possibility of reconciliation of the Roman Church with the Orthodox Church… some don’t like that.

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While it is not a popular position for an Orthodox Christian, much less a priest, when I reflect on the history of uniatism—of those communities who left the Orthodox Church and joined themselves to Catholic Church—I am struck less by the machinations of Rome and more the failing of Orthodox Christians. Much of what we call uniatism is the fruit of our failure to be reconciled to each other, to support and encourage each other. How different would events then, and now, have unfolded if the actors had seen each other as the precious, irreplaceable gifts from God that each of us is to the other?

What concerns me as well is that even among those Orthodox Christians who left and joined themselves to Rome the same divisions still exist among Eastern Catholics. Forgive me for speaking so plainly, but I cannot help wonder at times at the tribalism that seems so deeply rooted in Eastern Christianity. Whether we are Orthodox or Catholic, we seem to prefer to be with “our people” rather than “those people.” This preference for our own comes at the expense of the Gospel and is in stark contrast to the beauty and wisdom I have found in Eastern Christianity.

The documents of the Second Vatican Council figured prominently in my own journey to the Orthodox Church. Not, as some might imagine, in a negative way, but in positive way. Reading the Council Fathers, looking at the reforms that they struggled to articulate and implement, was struck by the the prominence of the Christian East. To take but two examples, Vatican II’s emphasizes the conciliar nature of the Church on the universal level and the celebration of the Eucharist in the vernacular on the parochial level. I could add to this the renewed emphasis on the Liturgy of the Hours (or the daily cycle of services) and the universal call to holiness as the foundation of the life of the Church. Granted these elements were not always embodied with equal success, but the attempt was made and I saw in the attempt a turn to the East that lead me naturally to the Byzantine Catholic Church and ultimately to the Orthodox Church.

The Church of Rome looked to renew herself by looking East to re-appropriate for her own life the importance of the local Church. I wonder if it isn’t necessary for the Orthodox Church to look West and re-appropriate for ourselves the importance of the universal Church? Part of this process would , I think, require from us a sober reflection on the failures of uniatism not simple in the pejorative sense of the term, but also at the failure of Orthodox Christians then (and also now) to be true to our own ecclesiological vision. It is this failure I would suggest that failure that made reasonable the departure of some of us to Rome.

Let me be clear, I do not think that re-union with Rome is the answer. Yes, there must be reconciliation between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and I hope for this in my lifetime.

But while reconciliation with the Church of Rome is essential, there is another, internal reconciliation that must happen as well. If it doesn’t then I am afraid we will see deeper divisions not only within the Church but from the Church as well. Even during the relative calm of recent years some 60% of those who join the Orthodox Church as adults leave us. Add to this the young people who leave as adults and the number of adults whose participation in the life of the Church is nominal at best, and the need for renewal and reconciliation on all levels of the Church becomes painful obvious.

Fr Gregory Jensen (Orthodox Church in America)

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A common understanding of the role the bishop of Rome played in the united Christianity of the first millennium is essential for resolving the question of the primacy of the pope in a united church, Pope Benedict XVI said.The pope met June 27 with Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, Bishop Athenagoras of Sinope, who serves as the assistant metropolitan of Belgium, and Deacon Ioakim Billis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The three Greek Orthodox represented Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople at the evening prayer service closing the year of St. Paul June 28 and at the pope’s Mass for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul June 29.Meeting the delegation privately before the festivities began, the pope said the year of St. Paul was a year “of prayer, of reflection and of exchanging gestures of communion between Rome and Constantinople.”The pope said the joint activities were the best way to honor St. Paul, who urged Christians “‘to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace,’ teaching us that there is ‘only one body and one spirit.'”

The participation of the Orthodox delegation in the late-June liturgies “reminds us of our common commitment to the search for full communion,” Pope Benedict said.”You already know this, but I am pleased to confirm today that the Catholic Church intends to contribute in every way to making it possible to re-establish full communion in response to Christ’s will for his disciples,” he said.Pope Benedict said the international Catholic-Orthodox dialogue commission would meet in October in Cyprus “to face a theme crucial for relations between the East and West, that is the ‘role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of the church in the first millennium.'” Ecumenical experts believe agreement on how the pope, the bishop of Rome, exercised his ministry before Christianity split into East and West is essential for discovering the way the papacy could be exercised in the church if Catholics and Orthodox successfully reunite.

“I want the participants in the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue to know that my prayers accompany them and that this dialogue has the complete support of the Catholic Church,” Pope Benedict told the Orthodox delegation.”With all my heart, I hope that the misunderstandings and tensions encountered by the Orthodox delegates during the last plenary session of the commission have been overcome in fraternal love so that this dialogue will be more broadly representative of Orthodoxy,” the pope said.At the last plenary gathering, held in Italy in 2007, the Russian Orthodox delegation walked out to protest the presence of a delegation from the Estonian Orthodox Church, recognized as autonomous by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople but not by the Russian Orthodox Church.

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