Archive for September, 2010

We “Commend the Continuing Work of the Dialogue to the Prayers of the Faithful”

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 29, 2010 (Zenit.org) – Here is a communique released at the conclusion of the 12th plenary session of the International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, which took place Sept. 22-27 in Vienna.

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The twelfth meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church took place in Vienna, Austria, a city with a long history, a bridge between West and East, with a rich ecumenical life. The meeting, generously and fraternally hosted by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna, from 20-27 September 2010, in the Kardinal König Haus.

Twenty three Catholic members were present, a few were unable to attend. All the Orthodox Churches, with the exception of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, were represented, namely the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Patriarchate of Serbia, the Patriarchate of Romania, the Patriarchate of Georgia, the Church of Cyprus, the Church of Greece, the Church of Poland, the Church of Albania and the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.

The Commission worked under the direction of its two co-presidents, Archbishop Kurt Koch and Metropolitan Prof. Dr John of Pergamon, assisted by the co-secretaries, Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Rev. Andrea Palmieri (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity).

At the opening plenary session on Wednesday, 22 September, the Commission was welcomed very warmly by the host, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, and by Metropolitan Michael of Austria of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on behalf of all Orthodox Churches present in Austria. Both emphasized the importance of holding the meeting in Vienna, which occupies a particular place in the history of the whole of Christianity. In the evening a reception was given by the Mayor of Vienna, Dr. Michael Häupl, at the Vienna Town Hall. The co-presidents announced that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI had urged intense prayer for the Commission meeting at his Wednesday General Audience and they read a Message to the participants from His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. A letter was sent by the co-presidents on behalf of the Joint Commission to the former President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and co-president of the dialogue, Cardinal Walter Kasper, expressing gratitude and appreciation for his service and for his significant contribution.

On Thursday, 23 September, the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Austria met the members of the Joint Commission at Kardinal König Haus. On Saturday, 25 September, the Catholic members celebrated the Eucharist in the Stephansdom in Vienna presided over by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, in the presence of the Orthodox members. In his homily he said that “we have and we need a primacy in the canonical sense, but above all there is the primacy of charity. All canonical dispositions in the Church serve this primacy of love (agape)”. Afterwards a reception was offered in the Courtyard of the Archiepiscopal Palace of Vienna.

On Sunday, 26 September, the Orthodox members celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity of the Greek Orthodox Metropolitanate of Austria in Vienna, presided over by Metropolitan John of Pergamon, in the presence of the Catholic members. In addressing those present, Metropolitan Michael of Austria conveyed “the greetings of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and underlined the role and the contribution of the Greek Metropolitanate to the history of Vienna with great eminent personalities”. He also referred to “the close collaboration between Orthodox and Catholics in Austria and in Vienna in particular, expressing the wish that the Lord’s prayer ‘that all may be one’ (Jn 17:21) be a reality in the search for the unity of His Church”.

During the afternoon, the members paid a visit to the Cistercian Abbey of Heiligenkreuz and attended the service of Vespers. Later in the evening, they visited the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nikolaus.

On the first day of the meeting, as is customary, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox members met separately to coordinate their work. The Orthodox meeting discussed among other things the unfinished draft text produced by the 11th plenary session in Paphos, Cyprus last year, and much time was given to the methodology of the dialogue. The Catholic meeting also considered the draft text, seeking specific ways to improve the text, and reflected on methodological questions.

As was decided at the 10th plenary session in Ravenna, 2007, the Commission is studying the theme “The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium”, on the basis of a draft text prepared by the Joint Coordinating Committee, which met in Aghios Nikolaos/Crete, Greece, 2008. During its meeting in Vienna, the Commission continued the detailed consideration of the text which began at last year’s plenary session at Paphos, Cyprus. At this stage, the Commission is discussing this text as a working document and it decided that the text must be further revised. It was also decided to form a sub-commission to begin consideration of the theological and ecclesiological aspects of Primacy in its relation to Synodality. The sub-commission will submit its work to the Joint Coordinating Committee of the Commission which will meet next year.

During the meeting the members received the sad news that Mgr Eleuterio Fortino, co-secretary of the Joint Commission since its inception, passed away, after a long period of illness, and prayers were offered for the repose of his soul.

The meeting of the Joint Commission was marked by a spirit of friendship and trustful collaboration. All members greatly appreciated the generous hospitality of the host Church, and they strongly commend the continuing work of the dialogue to the prayers of the faithful.

Vienna, Austria, 26 September 2010.

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Via Byzantine Texas, a “robo-translation” of this news article from the of the Moscow Patriarchate [a few comments in blue]:

As the President of the Department for External Church Relations of Moscow Patriarchate popular idea several media working document of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church does not reflect the position of the Orthodox parties on the issue of primacy of the Roman bishop, and can only be seen as merely auxiliary material for further work. [Compare this judgment of Met. Hilarion with the words of Met. John Zizioulas, that “On the whole the basic ideas of Ravenna are accepted by all the orthodox churches.” Met. Hilarion, on behalf of the Russian Church, also voiced his disagreement with Ravenna as well.]
Contrary to the assertions of the press, at the meeting of the Orthodox-Catholic Theological Commission in Vienna, there were no “breakthroughs” made. [“The press”, of course, were following the lead of both Met. John Zizioulas and Archbishop Kurt Koch. Met. Hilarion is suggesting, I think, that Met. John shouldn’t be speaking for the Orthodox.] All the session was devoted to discussion of the role of the bishop of Rome in the first millennium. On this subject the steering committee of the Commission had earlier prepared a document discussed in the last year in Cyprus . A draft version of the document “flowed” [“leaked”?] in the media and has been published.
It was assumed that Vienna will be able to finish the discussion of this document. But nothing happened: It took a lot of time discussion of the status of the text. Orthodox members from the very beginning of the meeting insisted that “the Cyprus document” can neither be formally issued on behalf of the Commission, nor signed by its members. From our perspective, this paper needs substantial revision, but after treatment he may have only the status of “working document” that is merely auxiliary material (instrumentum laboris), which can be used to prepare the following documents, but he will not have any official status.
“The Cyprus paper has strictly historical in nature and, speaking about the role of the bishop of Rome, almost no mention of the bishops of other Local Churches of the first millennium, creating misconceptions about how to distribute power in the early Church. In addition, the document is not clear and precise allegations that the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome in the first millennium did not extend to the East. It is hoped that these gaps and omissions will be filled in the finalization of the text.
After a lengthy discussion, the Commission decided that the document needed more work and that a final decision on his status will be made at the next plenary meeting of the committee, ie expected in two years. By this time, will be drafted a new document, which will consider the same issues, but only from the theological point of view.
For the Orthodox participants [All of them? Who is speaking for them, Met. Hilarion or Met. John Zizioulas?] is obvious that the first millennium jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome was distributed solely to the West, whereas in the East territories were divided between the four Patriarchy – Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. The Bishop of Rome had no direct jurisdiction of the East [would very many Catholic theologians and historians argue that he did?], despite the fact that in some cases Eastern hierarchs spoke to him as an arbiter in theological disputes. Data treatment did not have a systematic character and in no way be interpreted in the sense that the bishop of Rome was seen in the East as the holder of the supreme authority throughout the universal Church.
I hope that in subsequent meetings of the commission the Catholic side would agree with this position, as evidenced by numerous historical evidence. [Met. Hilarion is certainly right in wanting to have his Church’s ecclesiological views reflected in the work of the Commission, especially since his Church is by far the largest Orthodox Church: its views are those of the Orthodox majority!  At the same time, I do think Met. Hilarion’s words are as much about the continued ecclesiological spats with Constantinople, as they are about old ecclesiological spats with Rome.]

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The blog of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (also known as the Transalpine Redemptorists), of Papa Stronsay, Orkney, Scotland, features an interesting document: a 1908 letter from Pope Pius X (not exactly an “ecumaniac” or champion of “indifferentism”) to Andrei Sheptyts’kyi (1865–1944), the saintly Greek Catholic Metropolitan of Kiev, explicitly permitting communicatio in sacris with Orthodox Christians.

N.B. I post this merely for informational purposes; the Catholic and Orthodox faithful should always respect the eucharistic disciplines imposed by the hierarchy of their respective communions.

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By Tom Heneghan of Reuters FaithWorld

September 24, 2010

[A few comments in blue.]

Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologians reported promising progress on Friday in talks on overcoming their Great Schism of 1054 [well, not to be pedantic, but how about 1484?] and bringing the two largest denominations [Apostolic communions of Churches] in Christianity back to full communion. Experts meeting in Vienna this week agreed the two could eventually become “sister churches” that recognize the Roman pope as their titular head but retain many church structures, liturgy and customs that developed over the past millennium.

The delegation heads for the international commission for Catholic-Orthodox dialogue stressed that unity was still far off, but their upbeat report reflected growing cooperation between Rome and the Orthodox churches traditionally centred in Russia, Greece, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

“There are no clouds of mistrust between our two churches,” Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon told a news conference. [Would that this were true!] “If we continue like that, God will find a way to overcome all the difficulties that remain.” Archbishop Kurt Koch [who stands in very sharp contrast to his far more liberal predecessor, Cardinal Kasper. This means (1) that relations with the Orthodox are primary, and (2) relations with Protestants will now be an “ecumenism of return” (see Anglicanorum coetibus)], the top Vatican official for Christian unity, said the joint dialogue must continue “intensively” so that “we see each other fully as sister churches.”


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I don’t intend to start a combox debate on the topic of the Procession of the Holy Spirit, but I couldn’t resist posting this funny story from Fox News’s coverage of the Papal visit to the UK:

It’s not every day you see Latin on a placard protesting the Pope. When the anti-papal crowd of several thousand atheists, radical feminists and gay activists gathered in London this weekend, most of the banners were pretty simple: stuff like “Nope to the Pope” and “Papa Don’t Preach.”

But later in the afternoon, on the edges of the papal motorcade, and amidst a number of cheering fans of Benedict, there was a poster raised demanding, “DROP THE FILIOQUE.”

What? You have to know a little bit of Latin, and a lot of theology and history to get that one.

It wasn’t really a poster; it more like Magic Marker theology on a pizza box. And a young man named Toby Guise was happy to explain where, in his opinion, the Catholic Church had gone wrong.

“Filioque” means “And the Son,” and refers to a centuries-old debate between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, about whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, as the Orthodox believe, or from the Father and the Son, which is the Catholic teaching.

That’s tough stuff, material for smart folks debating in a graduate school seminar. Perhaps it’s too bad the Pope didn’t see the pizza box; he would have been amused.

And in his former career as a professor and not a pontiff, he probably would have liked to talk to the young man holding it up.

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Dr Adam deVille, at his blog Eastern Christian Books, raises the question of rethinking Eucharistic discipline between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, from the perspectives of two Orthodox authors: historian Antoine Arjakovsky, and philosopher/theologian David Bentley Hart.

As I said in my review in Logos (vol. 49 [2008]), Arjakovsky is someone who knows how to be at once faithfully Orthodox and fully ecumenical, not a common combination today, alas. In his essay “On Eucharistic Hospitality” [in Church, Culture, and Identity: Reflections on Orthodoxy in the Modern World (UCU Press, 2007), 231pp.], Arjakovsky proposes that the ban on eucharistic hospitality between Catholics and Orthodox be re-examined and changed where possible. I confess that prior to reading this essay, I was in favor of maintaining the traditional position, but after reading and considering the Arjakovsky’s arguments, I have changed my mind and can now see why eucharistic sharing between Catholics and Orthodox would be beneficial and could very well be justified. Arjakovsky is aware that some, perhaps most, of his fellow Orthodox will not agree with him, but he does cite as support the considered thought of such important figures as Olivier Clément and the Armenian Catholicos Aram of Cilicia, who in 1993 argued in favor of eucharistic sharing.

Perhaps the strongest argument Arjakovsky advances for revising the traditional ban on eucharistic sharing among Catholics and Orthodox is that first put forward by Nikos Nissiotis in 1968. To the usual argument that one cannot share the Eucharist because one is not fully united on each and every detail of each and every doctrine, Nissiotis retorted that such an argument is historically unsupportable (divisions in the early Church did not prevent eucharistic sharing in most instances) and, moreover, is currently belied by the fact that certain Orthodox Churches, who do enjoy a unity of faith on doctrinal questions, nonetheless do not practice eucharistic hospitality among themselves. Michael Plekon in his preface to this volume, and Arjakovsky in his antepenultimate essay “Porto Alegre’s Redefinition of Ecumenism and the Transformation of Orthodoxy,” both note that at a recent WCC gathering in Porto Alegere, the Orthodox were unable to come together to concelebrate the Eucharist, instead having two separate liturgies of the Moscow and Ecumenical patriarchs. How can these Churches turn around and maintain that doctrinal agreements are the sine qua non for eucharistic hospitality when plainly they are not among the Orthodox themselves, whose lack of eucharistic sharing must be explained by other reasons?

Nissiotis additionally notes that such an argument flies in the face of very traditional eucharistic theology and spirituality, which holds that the Eucharist is the medicine of immortality, the means of the healing of body and soul, the gift of the Divine Physician who binds all wounds and makes all whole. The Eucharist, according to Nissiotis, is not merely the fruit of unity but “also the God-given means of maintaining unity and of healing divisions if this unity is at stake or if the appropriate conditions for restoring it exist.” If that is the case, how much sense does it make to deny this most vital of all medicines to the most evangelically destructive of all diseases, viz., Christian disunity?

Such questions acquire even greater force when one considers the arguments of another Orthodox theologian, David Bentley Hart. In his “The Myth of Schism,” Hart asks pointedly: “not how we can possibly discover the doctrinal and theological resources that would enable or justify reunion, but howe we can possibly discover the doctrinal and theological resources that could justify or indeed make certain our division. This is not a moral question–how do we dare remain disunited?–but purely a canonical one: are we sure that we are? For, if not, then our division is simply sin, a habit of desire and thought that feeds upon nothing but its own perverse passions and immanent logic, a fiction of the will, and obedience to a lie.” Hart’s essay is in Francesca Aran Murphy and Christopher Asprey, eds., Ecumenism Today: the Universal Church in the 21st Century (Ashgate, 2008), viii+222pp.

Hart argues that the so-called East-West Schism no longer exists, if it ever did. Hence he can ask: are we really sure that we are really and truly divided? He’s not being flippant, either, but notes the serious canonical questions in support of his position: first, it was a “local” issue insofar as it was 2 hierarchs (Cardinal Humbert and Patriarch Cerulerius) excommunicating each other, not formally confecting a division between two churches. Second, there is extensive evidence of communicatio in sacris down through the ages, including into the 20th century. Third, the mutual liftings, in 1965, of the excommunications by the pope of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch should have resolved any lingering question. In the end, then, Catholics and Orthodox are (to use a Freudian heuristic) divided on a manifest level, but not at a latent level. And if that is so–and I think it is–then there is nothing to stop each from sharing the Eucharist with the other. One of the reasons Florence failed was that it did not have the people onside. Perhaps it is time for the people to push the hierarchs towards finally healing this division, and to do so by simply disregarding any sacramental-eucharistic distinction between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and instead receiving the sacraments in both. This is what I would call the Lev Gillet solution, and I think Orthodox and Catholics who are serious about unity should start availing themselves of this whenever and wherever possible. In a rebarbative world we can no longer afford the luxury of division.

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Via Rorate caeli comes this interesting quote from Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk:

“All current versions of Christianity can be roughly divided into two main groups: traditional and liberal. The difference today is not so much between Orthodox and Catholics, or between Catholics and Protestants, but precisely between Traditionalists and ‘Liberals’. Some Christian leaders, for instance, tell us that marriage between a man and a woman is no longer the only way to build a Christian family: there are other available models, and the Church should become sufficiently ‘inclusive’ in order to recognize alternative behavioral standards and to grant them official blessing. Some try to persuade us that human life is no longer an absolute value, and that life in the womb may be ended at will. Traditionalist Christians are in fact being asked to reconsider their views under the pretext of keeping up with modern times.”

Original source in Italian.

UPDATE: The full English text of Met. Hilarion’s address to the Annual Nicean Club Dinner, Lambeth Palace, 9 September 2010.  The address was given in the presence of Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.

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Dr. Adam de Ville informs us of his new blog, Eastern Christian Books: “I hope to feature brief notices of new books in Eastern Christian Studies, with links to their publisher; short reviews of my own of new books; long reviews of my own; and then links to long reviews published in LOGOS: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, of which I am editor.”

De Ville is a professor at St Francis University (Fort Wayne, IN), and author of The Roman Papacy and the Orthodox Churches: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity (to be published by the University of Notre Dame Press in early 2011). He received his doctorate from Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, St Paul University, Ottawa.

On this blog’s former incarnation, we featured a review by de Ville of Michael Whelton’s Popes and Patriarchs: An Orthodox Perspective on Roman Catholic Claims.

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From the website of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations [with a couple of my comments in blue]:
On 27 August 2010, the eve of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk officiate at the All-Night Vigil at the church of the “Joy to All the Afflicted” Icon in Bolshaya Ordynka Street in Moscow.
Concelebrating were Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, a vicar of Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain (Patriarchate of Constantinople), president of the “The Friends of Mount Athos” charity society, clerics of the church, and a well-known Swiss theologian, hieromonk Gabriel (Bunge) who became an Orthodox before the divine service. [Presumably he was “vested” and concelebrated, according to the long-standing Russian custom.]
Many parishioners worshipped at the church together with the members of “The Friends of Mount Athos” representing Great Britain, the USA, Greece and other countries. The object of the society is to promulgate knowledge about monastic tradition and the Holy Mountain and, promote restoration of the monasteries there, and to attract pilgrims. The delegation is on a visit to Russia with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. The pilgrims venerated holy sites in Uglich, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Rostov the Great, Nizhniy Novgorod, Gorodets, Kalyazin, and the Laura of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius.
After the divine service, Metropolitan Hilarion addressed his archpastoral words to the worshippers, congratulating them on the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God. He said: “Today we glorify her Dormition and contemplate our life and death. Our life on the earth should be full, spiritual and divine, while our death should not be a tragic event, but a natural passing to life eternal; it should be dormition, rather than death.
By her tomb that emanates grace, peace and love, the Most Holy Mother of God testifies that the mortals can pass from death to life, from sin to grace, from human life to divine life.
The Church believes that the Mother of God never sinned even in her thoughts. We are sinful people, but the way to the Heavenly Kingdom is not closed to us. This way leads through death that could become Dormition in case we live in accordance with the commandments of God and pray to the Lord and His Most Precious Mother to grant us shameless and peaceful death leading us to life eternal.”
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk addressed Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, saying: “I cordially greet Metropolitan Kallistos, a hierarch of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and a teacher at the University of Oxford in Great Britain for over forty years.  Fifteen years ago I was fortunate to be his student. He was my supervisor when I worked at my thesis on St. Simeon the New Theologian. Today Metropolitan Kallistos is a most renowned theologian of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. He has arrived in Moscow as head of the group of pilgrims that includes clergymen, professors, and laymen. For ten days they have visited Russian cities, venerated holy sites of our land, and have get to know our religious culture. Tomorrow Metropolitan Kallistos will concelebrate with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia at the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Moscow Kremlin.
“I greet you not only as a hierarch and an outstanding theologian, but also as my teacher and friend. I wish you a blessed stay in Russia and God’s help in your archpastoral ministry and scholarly work. May He keep you for many and good years.”
Metropolitan Hilarion presented Metropolitan Kallistos with a mitre made at the workshops of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The DECR chairman cordially greeted hieromonk Gabriel (Bunge) who has lived a solitary life in the Swiss mountains for over thirty years. [I believe he was a monk of Chevtogne, who was blessed to pursue the eremitical life in 1980. A noted patrologist, he is the author of numerous books and articles on Eastern Christian monasticism and spirituality.] Metropolitan Hilarion said to him, “Your have been a Catholic, but an Orthodox deep in your heart. Today, before the All-Night Vigil, you have become an Orthodox, thus naturally completing a long spiritual way.” [My best guess is that this is a conversion akin to that of Lev Gillet or George Maloney S.J. In other words, don’t expect a stream of anti-Roman tracts or the standard convert rhetoric coming from Fr Gabriel’s kellion. I sincerely hope that Orthodox will not capitalize on this to score a couple of cheap points.]
While congratulating Fr Gabriel on this move, Metropolitan Hilarion presented him with an icon of the Mother of God called  “Joy of All the Afflicted” to which the church in which Fr Gabriel joined the Orthodox Church is dedicated.
Metropolitan Kallistos said to Metropolitan Hilarion that it was a great joy and privilege to concelebrate with him on the eve of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God. Adding that Metropolitan Hilarion’s ministry in this church and for Orthodoxy in the world will be blessed with grace from the Lord through the intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God.

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