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The Pope, The Patriarch, and True Ecumenism
Catholic World Report ^
| May 23, 2014
| Adam A. J. DeVille
Posted on 05/24/2014 2:21:01 PM PDT by NYer
Seven things that true ecumenism, which is rooted in the prayer and desire of Jesus Christ, is not.
Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras attend a prayer service in Jerusalem in January 1964. Pope Francis will meet Patriarch Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew May 25 during his three-day visit to the Holy Land. The ecumenical session will mark the 50th anniversary of a 1964 meeting between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)
With the pope of Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople going to Jerusalem this weekend, there is naturally a great deal of conversation and consideration of where Orthodox and Catholic Christians have been and where we might be going. I have discussed some of this elsewhere. Here, however, I want to do something different, following a theological method beloved of many in the Christian East, as well as many Western mystics (St. John of the Cross comes to mind), namely the apophatic or “negative” way. I wish, in other words, to explain what true ecumenism is not.
Let us thus proceed by ruling out seven false forms, or understandings, of Christian unity.
1) Ecumenism is not a Pan-Heresy: Some ignorant and hostile Orthodox bloggers are endlessly recycling the fact-free fantasy of “ecumenism as a pan-heresy.” This ludicrous notionfor which nobody anywhere has ever provided the slightest shred of logical and credible evidenceis used to stir up fear that if Catholics and Orthodox draw closer to one another, it can only mean that one side has destroyed all its truth-claims and given in to the other side. Ecumenism is presented as a zero-sum game; in the words of certain economists: you win, I lose.
If this were, indeed, what the ecumenical task involved, then we could have accomplished it generations, even many centuries, ago: I set a list of demands, and you simply give in to every one completely while, perhaps, scrupling in the mildest possible way about one or two of the least significantjust as the (largely Orthodox) Serbs did before the (largely Catholic) Habsburgs in July 1914.
But the fact that we are still divided should give the lie to this notion: no Catholic or Orthodox hierarch (or theologian) wants to see the other surrendered and lying prostrate before its own side, which is precisely why the search for unity takes so long and is so utterly painstaking. We do not seek the capitulation of the other and the diminution of the truth (the way of the world) but the conversion of ourselves to Christ (the kenotic way), and in so doing we shall discover the unity he demands (about which see #7 below).
2) Ecumenism is not the Pope and Patriarch alone: The last time East and West met in a council of union was in northern Italy in 1438. At Florence, the hierarchs signed agreements and went home thinking that Christian unity had been achieved. Then the people, largely in the East, revolted, and the whole thing collapsed. That should give pause to anyone who believes that those closet Masons, Francis and Bartholomew, will secretly stitch up some sordid scheme to unite Catholicism and Orthodoxy by tea-time on Tuesday. No Christian leader in today's age of Twitter and Facebook is going to attempt such machinations.
Popes and patriarchs may still, as my 2011 book Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy demonstrates, have a good deal of power but today they cannot command Christians to believe by appealing only to the authority of their office: they must show good and compelling reasons to be united (about which see #7 below).
3) Ecumenism is not the truth alone but the truth-in-charity: Who among us, convinced of our own self-righteousness, has not (especially in online “discussions”), reacted with swift sarcasm and sneering about the speck in our opponent's eye while ignoring the massive log in our own? Whom does this convince? Whom does this help? If I insist that my Church alone has the fullness of truth, while yours is but a sect of self-deluded heretics and papists, all equally without grace and all equally damned to hell, can I realistically expect that any human being on the planet will respond by exclaiming, “Of course! I see at once the errors of my ways, and will repent and convert before sunset, so moved am I by your graciously Christ-like countenance and charity.”
You may well have all the arguments on your side, and be utterly convinced of the truth you are defending, but would it kill you to defend it with even a modicum of humility, mercy, charity? A failure to do so guarantees your failure. Put another way, why do you think the Westboro Baptists have a whopping membership of six inter-bred members?
4) Ecumenism is not hectoring and hostile: Every semester I begin my classes with the same story about my maternal grandfather growing up in a small “gospel tabernacle” in inter-war Scotland. Each Sunday evening (for everyone went to churchboth morning and evening!) on his way out of divine service, a crotchety old man accosted my grandfather by the lapels and snarled, “Ay, sonny, 'ave you been saved?” My grandfather, very young at the time, tolerated this for about two weeks and then turned to his father and told him in no uncertain terms that if this man ever accosted him again, he would get a punch in the face and my grandfather would never again set foot in church. My great-grandfather evidently had a word with the “old bugger” (as my grandfather called him in recounting this to me) and the accosting ended.
I recount this to my students to say that my task is not to hector them with hostility and demand, on peril of failing the course, to think exactly like I do. Hostile hectoring and disdainful demands for sycophantic discipleship ultimately convince nobody, and in fact, to paraphrase C. S. Lewis, act like an inoculation against the real truth. Instead, we must all be gentle, tranquil, and charitable: as the beloved Russian Saint Seraphim of Sarov reportedly said, “Acquire the Spirit of peace, and thousands around you will be saved.”
5) Ecumenism is not primarily universal but local: Though, understandably, in a globalized age, the media is fixated on the visit of the pope and patriarch to Jerusalem, it is not therenor primarily among popes and patriarchs, nor even among local bishopsthat the search for Christian unity will bear fruit. The most important people in this search are not bishops or theologians but you and me. If we do not seek out our Christian neighbors in every hamlet, village, town, and city where we live, then unity will never happen.
This need not be complicated or “professional.” It may be something as simple as visiting a church's ethnic food festival or Christmas bazaar, or special anniversary liturgy, and getting to know people there, having coffee with them, chatting about the weather, or something that seems equally “mundane.” As my very gracious friend, the Russian Orthodox historian Antoine Arjakovsky, has put it, if the search for unity is not based on an “ecumenism of friendship”, it will falter. Build up local contacts and local communities, and the universal will take care of itself.
6) Ecumenism is not mainly structural but sacramental: In the search for unity, we are not concerned with making sure that there is one global Toilet Paper Purchaser (to negotiate the best discounts, naturally) for every parish in the world. We are not seeking complete structural unity and the “downsizing” of all apparently “duplicate” employees. What is sought, rather, is sacramental unity: the recognition of everyone's baptism in the name of the Trinity; the ability to go to confession, or get married in front of, this priest or that; and, most important, the ability to celebrate fully in the Eucharist together, giving communion to everybody who, having fasted, confessed, and sought a holy life, approaches the chalice.
We wantwe must haveunity around the one table of the Lord.
7) Ecumenism is not optional but dominical: It was, I think, St. Robert Bellarmine of counter-Reformation Catholicism who quipped that the reason the number of sacraments was fixed at seven in the West by the Council of Trent was that no man could possibly remember a list with more than seven items in it.
Let us, in that spirit, conclude on the seventh and most important note: ecumenism is not optional but commanded by the Lord Himself. A failure to be one as Christians makes it unjustifiably difficult for the world to believe in one God. A failure of ecumenical witness is a failure of theological witness in the strict sense: God is one, and so must we be. Ecumenism, in other words, is evangelism, bringing the world to the good news of the God who is one and who ardently desires that every person be one with and in Him.
I was interviewed last week by a reporter from the Catholic Herald of London last week, and he asked me perhaps the most important question. It is a question which I always love getting from my students in any course, even when expressed flippantly: “So what? Who cares about this stuff?” Is there any more important question? My answer always remains the same since I first encountered the question of ecumenism as a high school geek in 1988: it is a dominical imperativethe Lord gives us no choice.
If you have ever bestirred yourself to read John 17, you will find no wiggle room there. In that great high-priestly prayer, Jesusknowing He is leaving the world and leaving to His disciples the task of bringing the world to the Fatherasks four times for His followers to be one:
Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. … Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth. I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me (Jn 17:11b-23; emphasis added).
TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Ecumenism; Orthodox Christian
Earlier this week, one of our Orthodox brothers forwarded me a link to the following statement on the impending meeting of the Pope and Patriarch.
As instructed by Metropolitan Methodios, we are sharing this letter:
A Joint Letter by Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap. Metropolitan Methodios of Boston on the Meeting of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem
May 21, 2014
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We give thanks to our Lord for the coming meeting of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew which will take place on May 25-26, in the holy city of Jerusalem. We pray that this meeting in the sacred place
of our Lords Death and Resurrection will contribute to the restoration of full communion in faith and sacrament between our churches, and the salvation of the world.
This meeting marks the 50th anniversary since the historic encounter between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964 in Jerusalem which opened a new period in the relationship between our churches. We began a process of reconciliation through prayer, theological dialogue and common witness.
Since that time, Popes and Patriarchs have met together regularly. Our churches have established formal theological consultations in this country in 1965 and internationally in 1979. These dialogues have been nurtured by the prayers of the faithful and countless acts of mutual respect. As Popes and Patriarchs have affirmed, we have come to see ourselves as sister churches who are responsible together for affirming the faith of the Apostles.
The flourishing relationship between clergy and laity of the Archdiocese of Boston and the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston has contributed to the process of reunion. As clergy and laity, we have prayed together,undertaken pilgrimages to Rome and Constantinople and have addressed critical issues facing our society. The brotherhood which has grown here is a treasured gift from above. As Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras said fifty years ago, Having found one another again, we meet the Lord together.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston will sponsor a conference on September 25 to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic encounter of 1964.
We thank God for the work He has begun between us and trust firmly in Him for its completion. In fidelity, we commit ourselves to continue working for His will. In the words of Pope Paul IV, we call our faithful to a love which, learning from the past, is ready to forgive, tends to believe more willingly in good than in evil, and is above all concerned to follow the pattern of its Divine Master and to allow itself to be drawn to Him and transformed by Him.
We ask our clergy and laity to continue to pray for the unity of the Church and the witness of the Gospel in our world.
Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap.
Metropolitan Methodios of Boston
posted on 05/24/2014 2:21:01 PM PDT
To: Tax-chick; GregB; Berlin_Freeper; SumProVita; narses; bboop; SevenofNine; Ronaldus Magnus; tiki; ...
PRAYER FOR THE UNITY OF ALL CHRISTENDOM
We pray to you, our Lord Jesus Christ, for the healing of Your Body, the Church. And that our Protestant and Orthodox brethren will be re-united with us in the Holy Catholic Church. We hope and pray for the fulfillment of Your own prayer: "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one." (John 17:20-22)
posted on 05/24/2014 2:21:29 PM PDT
("You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears." James 4:14)
Good post. We should all pray for Christian unity, which was Christ's desire.
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one 23 I in them and you in meso that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
posted on 05/24/2014 2:31:12 PM PDT
( Isaiah 22:22, Matthew 16:19, Revelation 3:7)
May 21, 2014
This coming Sunday, May 25, Pope Francis is scheduled to meet the Eastern Orthodox Churchs Ecumenical Patriarch (EP) Bartholomew at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem in order to commemorate the golden jubilee of the historic meeting between their respective predecessors, Paul VI and Athenagoras. According to the EPs official website for the event, the occasion is expected to be a strong symbolic confirmation of the commitment and determination to continue the path which the two great Church leaders inaugurated half a century ago. Whether it will amount to anything more than that remains to be seen. In the interim, Orthodox Christians, including its minority contingent in America, are eyeing the event nervously.
Patrick Barnes, an Orthodox convert, author, and maintainer of the polemical website The Orthodox Information Center has come out swinging against the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America for promoting the meeting. Additionally, Barnes is directing his readers to a series of links condemning false union with Rome despite the fact Francis and Bartholomews get together wont do anything of the sort. Dont tell that to certain pockets of the online Orthodox community, however. A cursory Google or Bing search quickly reveals panicked blog and message board comments, many of which assume that Black Bart (the reactionaries uncharitable name for their spiritual leader) is going to sellout world Orthodoxy with a stroke of his pen. If only. More likely than not this Sunday will be the occasion for the issuing of some hortatory statements by both leaders about their shared patrimony; the crisis facing Christians worldwide; the need for peace; and so on, and so forth. In other words, it will be the same old positive claptrap that typically emanates from official Catholic/Orthodox engagements which, for better or worse, leads nowhere on the practical front. The Great Schism, much to the delight of many in the East, isnt at risk of being mended anytime soon.
Of course, one canand shouldhope and pray that both Francis and Bartholomew might have some strong words for Western powersincluding the United Stateswhich have failed to properly support the Middle Easts historic Christian populations while sitting on the sidelines as the region descends into further turmoil. Then there is also the messy matter of Ukraine and the future of its four Apostolic churchesone Catholic and three Orthodoxwhich currently find themselves caught up in a showdown between a resurgent Russia and an understandably nervous Europe. The Moscow Patriarchate (MP) of the Russian Orthodox Church, which controls the largest body of Ukrainian Orthodox believers, has not been shy about blaming the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) for Ukraines woes. In a recent interview, the MPs Chairman for External Relations and potential heir apparent to the Patriarchal throne, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfayev, had this to say:
The main problem that remains in our bilateral relations is the situation in Western Ukraine, relations between the Orthodox and Greek Catholics. These relations soured at the end of the 1980s, when Greek Catholics seized Orthodox churches. I do not want to get into the history now: views of history always differ between conflicting parties. But the conflict has not been overcome: in Western Ukraine there are many places where the Orthodox, as before, have been deprived of their churches, as we regularly remind our partners in the Roman Catholic Church.
What Alfayev omits from his narrative is any mention of the Soviet-backed MPs seizure of UGCC properties in the 1940s and the fact that good relations with Ukrainian Catholics ended in the late 1980s only after Gorbachev, following a meeting with Pope St. John Paul II, agreed to let Catholics practice their faith without fear of violent persecution. In an earlier interview, Alfayev blasted the UGCC (Uniates) for being people who wear Orthodox clothes, observe Orthodox rites while remaining Catholic, as if holding fast to the Slavo-Byzantine Rite and the Easts spiritual and theological patrimony is somehow the exclusive province of the Orthodox, specifically the Russian Orthodox. These statements were issued against the backdrop of Catholics being persecuted in the recently annexed Crimea.
Will Francis or, more importantly, Bartholomew have anything to say about the MPs ethno-nationalistic outlook concerning Ukrainian Catholics? Although he didnt identify the MP by name, Bartholomew has recently gone on record criticizing what he sees as nationalist and racialist tendencies in some segments of the Orthodox Church. Its important to bear in mind that the MPs uncharitable attitude toward the UGCCa body which has existed for more than 400 yearsis not dissimilar to its negative appraisal of Ukraines two independent Orthodox churches, neither of which wants to find itself under the thumb of the Russian Orthodox Church nor part of a geographical-political buffer zone between Russia and the West. It is for the sake of both Catholics and Orthodox then that Francis and Bartholomew should consider speaking out against the aggression of the Russian state and its vassal church.
Beyond present political difficulties, it is hard to see what else might come out of the Jerusalem meeting. With the Orthodox in the midst of planning for a Great and Holy Council scheduled to take place in 2016, the EP knows that it cannot appear to draw too close to Rome without compromising its stature among the more insular regions of the Orthodox ecclesial confederacy. At the same time, Rome should be leery of taking any action, or issuing any statement, which would appear to play favorites among the Orthodox. The last time that happened, which occurred during the run-up to the Second Vatican Council when certain Catholic prelates wanted to secure limited participation from representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, the EP and other local Orthodox churches refused to participate. As Roberto de Mattei recounts in his The Second Vatican Council: An Unwritten Story, it was only the 1964 Paul VI/Athenagoras Jerusalem summit which ultimately smoothed the matter over.
At some point, of course, Rome will have to reach a decision about how it wishes to proceed in its relations with the Orthodox. Ever since the 1993 Balamand Declaration, the Catholic Church has steered clear of Uniatism, the often pejorative term used to describe the localized reunification efforts which began at the Union of Brest in 1596the agreement which established both the UGCC and the Belarusian Greek Catholic Church. The Balamand Declaration was aspirational, not binding, and the present realities of world Orthodoxy ought to give even the most ecumenically minded Catholic pause concerning the prospects of big bang reunification. If the East/West rift is to be corrected, it will more likely than not have to be done stich by stich. We just shouldnt expect the sewing to begin this Sunday.
John 17:11 Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.
John 17:21 ... so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.
Eph 4:4 - 5 There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all.
1 Cor 10:17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
John 10:16 (Jesus said) “there shall be one flock, one shepherd.”
posted on 05/24/2014 3:22:07 PM PDT
("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
And here it seems opportune to expound and to refute a certain false opinion, on which this whole question, as well as that complex movement by which non-Catholics seek to bring about the union of the Christian churches depends. For authors who favor this view are accustomed, times almost without number, to bring forward these words of Christ: "That they all may be one.... And there shall be one fold and one shepherd," with this signification however: that Christ Jesus merely expressed a desire and prayer, which still lacks its fulfillment.
Mortalium Animos, Pope Pius XI, 1928
posted on 05/24/2014 5:17:05 PM PDT
posted on 05/25/2014 2:50:14 AM PDT
(Go, do not be afraid, and serve-Pope Francis)
True Ecumenism in also not only what was presented in this article, but also honoring the true meaning of John 17.
posted on 05/25/2014 2:54:48 AM PDT
(Go, do not be afraid, and serve-Pope Francis)
To: Brian Kopp DPM
Consider what is going on between the Pope and the Patriarch to be like a flower/or veggie garden, for those who garden. Events like what is going on in the Holy Land and the meeting between the Pope and Patriarch is like watching plants grow. It takes time.
posted on 05/25/2014 3:00:46 AM PDT
(Go, do not be afraid, and serve-Pope Francis)
But all we see is false ecumenism. Never do you hear about unity in the Catholic Church only. Never do you hear that all must be Catholic. We constantly hear about how we all need to unite as if there is no unity found already. That goes against the Faith for 1900+ years. That goes against what Pope Pius XI wrote in 1928. That is heresy.
posted on 05/25/2014 4:23:17 AM PDT
Rather this is the will of God as found in John 17 which is Jesus prayer for His followers that all will be one.
God Bless both Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew.
posted on 05/25/2014 3:23:54 PM PDT
(Go, do not be afraid, and serve-Pope Francis)
.....And NO this is NOT a heresy.
posted on 05/25/2014 3:25:37 PM PDT
(Go, do not be afraid, and serve-Pope Francis)
Clearly most of the post Vatican II Catholics here do not care what the popes prior to Vatican II has said about ecumenism and what constitutes religious unity. The post Vatican II popes teach a different religion.
posted on 05/26/2014 4:44:24 AM PDT
Well at least you could pray for Christian unity, which is much more needed today as Christians around the world are attacked.
posted on 05/26/2014 4:54:23 AM PDT
(Go, do not be afraid, and serve-Pope Francis)
I will pray for the conversion of others to the Catholic Faith where unity is already found per Pope Pius XI.
posted on 05/26/2014 4:57:40 AM PDT
Christians around the world are attacked.
Maybe if the Pope would quit spray painting graffiti on walls that would stop.
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