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Archive for the ‘Reunion’ Category

Recent Meeting Could Mark Turning Point

By Robert Moynihan

WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 21, 2009 (Zenit.org)- Sometimes there are no fireworks. Turning points can pass in silence, almost unobserved.

It may be that way with the “Great Schism,” the most serious division in the history of the Church. The end of the schism may come more quickly and more unexpectedly than most imagine.

On Sept. 18, inside Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer palace about 30 miles outside Rome, a Russian Orthodox Archbishop named Hilarion Alfeyev, 43 (a scholar, theologian, expert on the liturgy, composer and lover of music), met with Benedict XVI, 82 (also a scholar, theologian, expert on the liturgy and lover of music), for almost two hours, according to informed sources. (There are as yet no “official” sources about this meeting — the Holy See has still not released an official communiqué about the meeting.)

The silence suggests that what transpired was important — perhaps so important that the Holy See thinks it isn’t yet prudent to reveal publicly what was discussed.

But there are numerous “signs” that the meeting was remarkably harmonious.

If so, this Sept. 18 meeting may have marked a turning point in relations between the “Third Rome” (Moscow) and the “First Rome” (Rome) — divided since 1054.

Archbishop Hilarion was in Rome for five days last week as the representative of the new Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

One key person Archbishop Hilarion met with was Cardinal Walter Kasper. On Sept. 17, the cardinal told Vatican Radio that he and Archbishop Hilarion had a “very calm conversation.”

Cardinal Kasper also revealed something astonishing: that he had suggested to the archbishop that the Orthodox Churches form some kind of “bishops’ conference at the European level” that would constitute a “direct partner of cooperation” in future meetings.

This would be a revolutionary step in the organization of the Orthodox Churches.

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Say what?

I’m not one to speak of “insurmountable” obstacles between East and West, and I’ve never been able to subscribe fully to the notion (oft-repeated throughout the Orthodox blogosphere) that, in order for reunion to take place, one side would have to annihilate itself by becoming part and parcel of the other (actually, my view is that both sides would have to undergo fairly significant changes, repent of many things, and be converted one to another).

But this kind of bizarre, Pollyanna-esque commentary from the Roman Rite Archbishop of Moscow (well meaning as he most certainly is) does nothing to help the cause of Orthodox-Catholic rapprochement.

I would really like to think that there’s some mistranslation or misquotation going on here (remember that weird story, over a year ago, about the Ecumenical Patriarch and “dual communion”?), but the Archbishop is Italian and he made his comments to an Italian newspaper.

Any ideas as to what the good Archbishop was thinking?

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On the Present Apparent Conflict Between “Orthodoxy” and “Catholicism

From Dissertations on Subjects Relating to the “Orthodox” or “Eastern-Catholic” Communion (1853), by William Palmer, M.A., Fellow of St. Mary Magdalene College, Oxford, and Deacon.

As there is one God and Father, one Lord Jesus Christ, one Holy Ghost, and one Baptism, so also there is One Body of the Church, the essential attributes of which are all inseparably united together. The Church is Holy: the same Church is Catholic, or Universal: the same is Apostolic: the same is Orthodox, or rightly-believing: the same is One. If there can be two Gods, one Almighty and the other all-merciful, then there may be two Churches, one Catholic or Universal, and the other Orthodox.

Yet at a certain point of time, or between two certain points of time, we see that great body of the visible Catholic or Oecumenical Church, which from the division of the Oecumenical Roman Empire (tes oikoumenes) was distinguished superficially into two branches, Eastern and Western, Greek and Latin, without detriment to its essential unity, splitting into two separate and hostile communities, one of which insisting upon “Orthodoxy'” was nevertheless unable to enforce that Orthodoxy upon the consciences of men by the weight of manifest Catholicism, the other insisting at the time on the Roman pre-eminence and the indivisible unity of the Church (and now also upon the note of a greater appearance of Catholicism,) was little careful or able to meet the charge brought against it with regard to Orthodoxy.

The Eastern section of Christendom in condemning the Latins urged openly that they had become heterodox, and assumed or implied tacitly that therefore they could not be Catholic, while their own Eastern Church, in spite of any appearances to her disadvantage, must be also Catholic, because she was unquestionably Orthodox. The Latins retorted that having on their aide the See of Peter (to which was attached the unity and Catholicity of the Church), they must therefore, in spite of any appearances to their disadvantage, be also Orthodox, while the Easterns refusing to follow them, and so breaking off from unity, could not really have any advantage in respect of Orthodoxy, whatever appearances they might think they had in their favour.

Each side had its own strong point, on which it insisted: neither side answered fairly or adequately to the objection of the other. Each alike dissembled the point of its own apparent disadvantage, and trusted to that point on which it felt itself strong to overbalance and hide its weakness.

Under such circumstances if the two contending bodies had been at the first equal in strength the one to the other, and had remained so since, the two forces would have absolutely neutralized one another, and it would have seemed to us now that cither there is no such thing in existence as the Church of the Creed, at once Orthodox and universal, (the two destroying one another,) or else that the two conflicting bodies are both equally the Church, that is parts of the Church, their conflict and external separation being only a superficial accident and disease, and not reaching to the essential orthodoxy and Catholicity inherent in them both.

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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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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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The very problem of Christian reconciliation is not that of a correlation of parallel traditions, but precisely that of the reintegration of a distorted tradition.  The two traditions may seem quite irreconcilable, when they are compared and confronted, as they are at the present.  Yet their differences themselves are, to a great extent, simply the results of disintegration: they are, as it were, distinctions stiffened into contradictions.

– Fr. Georges Florovsky, “The Ethos of the Orthodox Church” (an address to the World Council of Churches given in 1960); emphasis in original

From Torn Notebook

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This is the strangest news story I’ve come across in a while. I can’t help but think that there is something seriously wrong with the English translation (hint: I’m guessing “1st century” means “1st millennium”). Anyhow, here’s the story from the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU):

Munich — In a recent interview with the German ecumenical journal Cyril and Methodius, the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Constantinople Bartholomew I invited Eastern Catholic Churches to return to Orthodoxy without breaking unity with Rome. He noted that “the Constantinople Mother-Church keeps the door open for all its sons and daughters.” According to the Orthodox hierarch, the form of coexistence of the Byzantine Church and the Roman Church in the 1st century of Christianity should be used as a model of unity. This story was posted by KATH.net on 16 June 2008.

At the same time, the patriarch made positive remarks about the idea of “dual unity” proposed by the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Archbishop Lubomyr (Husar). Patriarch Bartholomew I noted in particular that this model would help to overcome the schism between the Churches.

I don’t quite understand what the EP is getting at here. Is he proposing dual communion just for the Eastern Catholics after they have returned to Orthodoxy (which makes no ecclesiological sense for either side), or dual communion for all of Orthodoxy, this side of the eschaton?

Has His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, been possessed by the spirit of Archbishop Elias Zoghby? Assuming that His All-Holiness is really proposing the concept of dual communion, what will be the response of the other local Orthodox Churches, particularly Moscow? What will the monks of Mount Athos do … not to mention the Orthodox convert blogosphere?

Unfortunately, I don’t read German, but perhaps the original Kath.net story referenced in the RISU article could shed some light on what the EP is talking about (Babelfish helps a little bit).

Hat tip to Byzantine Texas and to Rorate Caeli.

UpdateThis Catholic World News article has a bit more detail. Still, it would be helpful to have what the Patriarch said verbatim.

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I have been remiss in posting about the recent act of reunion between the Assyrian Diocese of Mar Bawai Soro and the Chaldean Catholic Church in union with Rome. The Mar Bawai Soro blog, as well as the Ab Oriente Weblog (written by Anthony, a subdeacon under Mar Bawai Soro), has assembled a great deal of information about this event.

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