Every second Saturday of the month, 4 pm - Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ. Followed by refreshments.
Next Liturgy: Saturday 13th May, 4pm

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.












Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Synod on the Middle East, October 2010

Archbishop Nikola Eterovic
Preparations continue for next October's special synod on the Middle East. The working document is nearing completion and emphasizes communion within the Church.

The pre-synodal council met in late November, and a communiqué regarding its work was released Monday by the Vatican press office:


The participants in the meeting dedicated ample space to the topic of the deepening of communion in the Catholic Church and, in particular, between the Patriarchal Churches and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, as well as the episcopal conferences of the countries of the Middle East.

The statement stresses the importance of communion with other Churches and the importance of dialogue and collaboration with Jews and Muslims in the social and cultural activities.

In line with Pope Benedict's suggestion, the theme of witness will be important. The secretary-general of the synod of bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, remarked in his opening address to the Pre-Synodal Council:

In this vast region that encompasses the land in which the mysteries of our
salvation were fulfilled, Christians are called to give witness to the death and
resurrection of Christ in virtue of the gift of the Spirit, who inspires
believers to act in communion and unity with the whole Church and not
individually. ... New generat ions must come to know the great patrimony of
faith and witness in the different Churches....

Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of the Peoples, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, were joined by eight Eastern patriarchs in the meeting. Also taking part were the presidents of the episcopal conferences of Iran and Turkey.

Friday, 11 December 2009

The Exodus of Christians from the Holy Land: A Challenge for a Sustainable Peace

Last week on December 4th, Cardinal John Foley, the cardinal protector of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, delivered an address at a conference at the Norwegian School of Theology in Oslo on "The Exodus of Christians from the Holy Land".

Here is his full address, courtesy of Zenit.org.

In summary:

Christianity & the Middle East's Culture
Christians in the Middle East must build bridges with the cultures around them rather than emphasizing differences. Indeed for Christians to thrive in the Middle East, they must integrate more into the culture.

"Christianity is trans-national, trans-ethnic and trans-cultural... It should not be tied to an ethnic group" or "any one culture... It is for the whole world," he affirmed.

"The tendency of Christians in the Middle East is to identify with Western ways and Western styles," but that they "must not cling" to this identity. "One of the problems in the Middle East is that Christians have asserted Western culture against Islamic culture ... It's a sense of, we have to be us and they have to be them."

Cardinal Foley acknowledged that this is "understandable," but that "Christianity doesn't have to be -- and shouldn't be -- tied to the Western way of doing things." And "Christianity is not tied to geography ... Judaism is focused on one piece of land ... the small strip of land, the Holy Land, because of the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, because of the ancient kingdoms of Judah and Israel." And "Islam is very tied to territory, ... "shrine-bound" to places like Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. But Christianity is different, as "Jesus is not buried in the Holy Sepulchre ... We find him everywhere ... Christianity can flourish anywhere."

Yet Christians, especially from the Western world, are a "bridge to the future for the Muslim Arab world." "Christians from the Western world have learned certain things and bring certain values and perspectives that are vitally important for the growth and maturation of the Arab world." Among these ideas are the understanding of the separation between church and state, the prelate pointed out, or the value of reconciliation and forgiveness. "If the Islamic world is to join fully into modern society, it has to integrate these values into its daily life," he said.

Migration
While he expressed concern about dwindling numbers of Holy Land Christians, their emigration is not necessarily negative. Cardinal John Foley said, "I think that we can say without qualification that the presence of Christians in the Holy Land today is a source of hope for understanding, peace and reconciliation." "In the entire traditional Holy Land area you are looking at a population of over 10,000,000 peo ple, and a total Christian population of less than 200,000 [or 2%], the smallest percentage of Christians of any country in the region ... Christians are leaving the Holy Land, leaving the Arab world, leaving the Middle East." "Socially, among Christians, there is a sense of exclusion, if not discrimination, in many countries."

"However, if it should happen that there be not one single Christian left in the Holy Land, it will not hurt Christianity fundamentally, as ... Christianity can flourish anywhere." "When we talk about migration, we need to remember that fundamentally Christianity is a movement. Christians have always spread throughout the world. The mission of Christians is to spread throughout the world. Evangelization is all about spreading the Kingdom of God." "Don't think that the movement of Christians is necessarily bad; the fact that a lot of Christians leave one place and go to another doesn't mean it is an evil, although they may move with regret. It's also a fact of life ... When Christians from Bethlehem emigrate ... they bring their values and history to other lands.

But while emigration is "not necessarily an evil ... it does involve a loss." "There's a patrimony and a culture that is being lost with the exodus of the Christians." "On the other hand, it is understandable that Christians and other people in the Middle East want to seek a better life ... It takes a valiant minority to stay simply for the sake of maintaining the Christian presence when there are jobs, educational opportunities, a future and freedom in other parts of the world." "Migration, by the way, doesn't mean you can't come back. One of the challenges, it seems to me, is to create a climate for safe migration. "

"If we are truly concerned with that part of the world, we need to use some of our influence on the governments of the lands in which we live to affect their national policies about the Middle East," he said. Thus "we help ensure that Christian values, Christian ethics, Christian criteria of judgment are being brought to the table, either directly through our home countries or through the advocacy and work of the local church." "A very practical thing we can do is help those who wish to migrate: Welcome them, facilitate their arrival and the presence and establishment of Middle Eastern Christians who wish to come to our home countries."

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The New Rome-Moscow Alliance to Fight Secularism in Europe

Archibishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk
Robert Moynihan, the seasoned "Inside the Vatican" journalist who authors the blog, The Moynihan Report, detects in the recent establishment of full diplomatic relations between Russia and the Holy See and in the recent publication by the Moscow Patriarchate of a collection of writings by Pope Benedict on the theme of Christianity and its role in shaping civil society in Europe's future "a new alliance on the world stage between two powers that have long distrusted each other: Rome and Russia."

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, 43, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate's department for external Church relations, wrote the introduction for the book, in which he sets forth his vision for Europe and the new "alliance" needed to realize that vision.


Sandro Magister, another highly regarded Vatican journalist and author of the Chiesa blog, was so impressed by this introduction that he wrote:

Those who expect an Orthodox Church removed from time, made up only of remote traditions and archaic liturgies, will come away shaken from reading the introduction to this book. [...] The image that emerges from it is that of a Russian Orthodox Church that refuses to let itself be locked up in a ghetto, but on the contrary hurls itself against the secularist onslaught with all the peaceful weapons at its disposal, not excluding civil disobedience against laws 'that oblige the commission of a sin in the eyes of God.'

Those in the West, both in Europe and in the United States, who feel that unjust laws have been passed that cannot be countenanced by Christians, will find a kindred spirit in Archbishop Hilarion. The title he uses is, The Help That the Russian Orthodox Church Can Give to Europe.

Robert Moynihan (for whose analysis below we are indebted and gratefully acknowledge) describes how it begins with a very candid, and deeply felt, lamentation by an Orthodox leader for the closing of Catholic and Protestant churches in Western Europe:

When traveling in Europe, especially in the traditionally Protestant countries, I am always astonished at seeing not a few churches abandoned by their congregations, especially the ones turned into pubs, clubs, shops, or place of profane activities of yet another kind," Archbishop Hilarion writes. "There is something profoundly deplorable in this sad spectacle.

I come from a country in which for many deca des the churches were used for nonreligious purposes. Many places of worship were completely destroyed. […] Why has the space for religion in Western society been reduced in such a significant way in recent decades?
Then Archbishop Hilarion makes his main point, that Russia and its Orthodox Church, after years of being aided and supported by the Christians of the West, is back on its feets and is ready in return to come to the rescue of the West:

The Russian Orthodox Church, with its unique experience of surviving the harshest persecutions, struggling against militant atheism, reemerging from the ghetto when the political situation changed, recovering its place in society and redefining its social responsibilities, can therefore be of help to Europe.

"The totalitarian dictatorship of the past cannot be replaced with a new dictatorship of pan-European government mechanisms. […] The countries of Orthodox tradition, for example, do not accept laws that legalize euthanasia ... drug trafficking ... and so on.

In short, the archbishop is saying that the Orthodox, including the Russian Orthodox Church which he represents, are ready to fight for Christian values in the West, alongside Catholics and Protestants.

John Thavis, the distinguished Vaticanist for Catholic News Service (of the U.S. bishops' conference) wrote on December 11th:
The Russian Orthodox Church has come forward to propose a strategic alliance
with the Catholic Church aimed, in effect, at saving Europe's soul from 'Western
post-Christian humanism.' The offer came in an introduction written by Russian
Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion to a book of speeches by Benedict XVI on Europe's spiritual crisis, published in Russian by the Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate. In an unusual move, the Vatican newspaper published almost the entire introduction
in its December 2nd edition.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus FoundationArchbishop Hilarion has spoken publicly a number of times of such an alliance. In fact, in May 2006 the Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate held a weeklong conference in Vienna, oulining the framework for such cooperation.

In November 2009, Moynihan reports his travel to Russia and meeting Archbishop Hilarion and his close associates. One of them was Leonid Sevastianov, 31, the executive director of the Russian Orthodox St. Gregory of Nazianzus Charitable Foundation, established with the blessing of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill to help carry out Archbishop Hilarion's vision of working with Western Christians on behalf of Christian values.

"We want your help, the help of Catholics, and of Western Europeans and Americans," Sevastianov told Moynihan. "Patriarch Kirill has called for the moral renewal of Russia, through a return to the deep values of the Christian faith. This is our vision."

The reason St. Gregory of Nazianzus was chosen as patron of the alliance of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians in Europe is because, as a theologian in the 300s, well before the division of the Church into East and West, and because he is venerated both by the Catholics and by the Orthodox, he is a Father of the Church for all Christians. The co-founders of this new foundation are Archbishop Hilarion and Vadim Yakunin, one of the wealthiest businessmen in Russia.

Other wealthy Russians are also prepared to support this foundation. But participation by Americans and Western Europeans would also be very much appreciated, say Archbishop Hilarion and Sevastianov:

We want to try to attract the attention of religious believers, in Russia and abroad, who believe in traditional Christian values, and who want to contribute to making society more just and more moral. We want to promote the idea of the unity between the West and Russia on the basis of common Christian roots.

Pope Benedict XVI praises the spiritual renewal of Albania

The Vatican Information Service reports, 4th December 2009:


The Holy Father today received in audience His Beatitude Anastas, archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania, who was accompanied by other representatives of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania.

"As is well known", said the Pope in his English-language address to the group, "Illyricum received the Gospel in apostolic times. Since then, Christ's saving message has borne fruit in your country down to our own day. As the very earliest writings of your culture bear witness, through the survival of an ancient Latin baptismal formula along with a Byzantine hymn about the Lord's Resurrection, the faith of our Christian forefathers left wonderful and indelible traces in the first lines of the history, literature and arts of your people.

"Yet", he added, "the most impressive witness is surely always found in life itself. During the latter half of the past century, Christians in Albania, both Orthodox and Catholic, kept the faith alive there in spite of an extremely repressive and hostile atheistic regime; and, as is well known, many Christians paid cruelly for that faith with their lives".

The Holy Father went on: "The fall of that regime has happily given way to the reconstruction of the Catholic and Orthodox communities in Albania". In this context he praised the archbishop's missionary activity, "particularly in the reconstruction of places of worship, the formation of the clergy and the catechetical work now being done, a movement of renewal which Your Beatitude has rightly described as 'Ngjallja' (Resurrection).

"Since it acquired its freedom, the Orthodox Church of Albania has been able to participate fruitfully in the international theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. Your commitment in this regard happily mirrors the fraternal relations between Catholics and Orthodox in your country and offers inspiration to the entire Albanian people, demonstrating how it is possible for fellow Christians to live in harmony.

"In this light, we would do well to emphasise the elements of faith which our Churches share: a common profession of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed; a common Baptism for the remission of sins and for incorporation into Christ and the Church; the legacy of the first ecumenical councils; the real if imperfect communion which we already share, and the common desire and collaborative efforts to build upon what already exists".

Benedict XVI then went on to mention two initiatives currently underway in Albania: the establishment of the Inter-confessional Biblical Society and the creation of the Committee for Inter-religious Relations, describing them as "timely efforts to promote mutual understanding and tangible co-operation, not only between Catholics and Orthodox, but also among Christians, Muslims and Bektashi".

Closing his remarks the Pope expressed his joy at the "spiritual renewal" of the Albanian people, and gave assurances to Archbishop Anastas that the Catholic Church "will do all she can to offer a common witness of brotherhood and peace, and to pursue with you a renewed commitment to the unity of our Churches".

Archbishop Anastasios called the meeting a historic event because for the first time the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania was officially represented in a visit to the Roman Catholic Church, making clear that today’s world needs new ties between Christians, because theological dialogue and reconciliation are a basic obligation for leaders of the Churches. Archbishop Anastasios also described how the Orthodox Church in Albania was persecuted and rebuilt from ruins.

On December 9th in Naples, the Pontifical University of Southern Italy awarded Prof. Doctor Archbishop Anastasios with the title Doctor of Theology Honoris Causa for Theology for his long and very scientific contribution as a missionary and pastor. The chancellor, Cardinal Creshenzio Sepe, Archbishop of Naples, also invited His Beatitude to give the Lectio Magistralis, the main speech for the official opening of the new academic year in the Aula Magna of San Tomaso.

Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch sends his Christmas Greetings


Patriarch Gregorios sends his greetings to all for the coming Feast and for 2010.

Christmas Greetings to Priests from His Beatitude Patriarch Gregory of Antioch of the Melkites


The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude Gregory III sends greetings for the coming Feast to all the Church's priests

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Russian Church Wants "Concrete Steps" From Vatican to Solve Interdenominational Tension:

RISU /English /News /Russian Church Wants "Concrete Steps" From Vatican to Solve Interdenominational Tension:

Defining Mary as "Spiritual Mother of All Humanity" - Lambert Beauduin and False Mariology

Pentecost by Duccio di Buoninsegna, Duomo, Siena
On 8th December 2009, the retired Archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez, wrote to the cardinals and bishops of Latin America on the petition to the Pope to define the Blessed Virgin Mary as the "Spiritual Mother of All Humanity, under her threefold aspects of Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate."

Here is the Cardinal's letter:

My Dear Brother Cardinals and Bishops,

On January 1, 2008, five cardinals wrote to all bishops of the world to notify them of the petition made by an international group of cardinals and bishops assembled at Fatima to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, in humble request for the solemn definition of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Spiritual Mother of All Humanity, under its threefold aspects of Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate. Already in the past, hundreds of bishops and millions of faithful have made this appeal. Again many bishops have recently responded. As one of those five cardinals who sent this global petition, I now wish to provide you with an update concerning this universal Church request.

Recently the Philippines submitted to His Holiness a petition for this solemn definition from Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop Lagdameo, President of the Philippine Conference of Catholic Bishops, and several other archbishops and bishops. The petition was accompanied by a personal letter from Philippines President, Madame Gloria Arroyo, in which she strongly supported the request of the bishops.

Also representative groups of cardinals and bishops from India and nearby countries, including Cardinal Vithayathil, President of the National Conference of the Bishops of
India, have submitted their own petition for this fifth Marian dogma to Pope Benedict XVI. A similar petition has been sent from Africa by Archbishop Felix Job, President of the Catholic Conference of the Bishops of Nigeria, and various other African bishops. Bishops from Eastern Europe, including Archbishop Kramberger of Slovenia, have likewise sent in their own petition for this Marian papal proclamation. Along with bishops from numerous countries from Latin America, I have sent in our own petition to Pope Benedict for the papal definition of Our Lady’s Spiritual Motherhood.

All over the world, lay faithful have joined their bishops. Numerous prayer days, conferences, individual prayers and petitions to the Hol y Father from the laity constitute a positive manifestation for this potential Marian dogma from the sensus fidelium.

We all perceive a worldwide urgency for the greatest possible intercession of our heavenly Mother for the unprecedented crises of faith, family, society, and peace, which marks the present human condition. We see the papal definition of Holy Mary's Spiritual Motherhood of all peoples as an extraordinary remedy to these global crises which today threaten a great part of humanity. The more we freely acknowledge Mary’s intercessory power, the more she is able to exercise this power for the peoples of the world entrusted to her care at Calvary.

I therefore invite you, dear brother, to join your brother cardinals and bishops from throughout the world in this renewed petition to our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, by sending in your own letter for his prayerful discernment of what might constitute a next positive step for the solemn proclam ation of the Spiritual Motherhood of Mary. Thank you for your own prayerful discernment of this most important work in honour of Our Lady, which we believe could constitute a historic benefit of grace and blessing for all humanity.

+Luis Cardinal Aponte Martinez
Archbishop-Emeritus,
San Juan, Puerto Rico,
email:cardinalaponte@gmail.com


There is nothing new under the sun. In November 1915, the faculty of theology at Louvain, the oldest Catholic University in the world, wrote to Rome supporting the dogmatic definition of the universal mediation of Mary. By 1921, the Belgian Redemptorists persuaded Cardinal Mercier to lend his weight to the campaign, which he did, out of a kind of theological romanticism.

Yet he was also actively encouraging the work of the Benedictine monks at Mont-Cesar (Keizersberg) in promoting the Liturgical Movement, to transform and deepen the spirituality and participation of the people in the worshipping life of the Church at the Mass and the Divine Office. This movement had formally begun in 1909 and central to its work was the distinction between true and false devotion - that based on the Liturgy, the Scriptures, the Church's Doctrine and Tradition, as opposed to that based on merely private devotionalism and its risk of slender resources based on feeling, opinion and current culture. The applied no less to Marian devotion. So piety towards the Mother of God must be above all be liturgical from its roots.

At the heart of the Liturgical Movement stood Dom Lambert Beauduin. For him, a liturgically faithful Marian theology was crucial designing people’s active participation in the Church’s worship to the cultivation of a “true devotion” that could nourish their faith, discipleship, proclamation and mission. And the problem for him was that the devoutly proposed titles, conveying a substantial development of the doctrine concerning Mary's role in the work of redemption - such as "Co-Redemptrix" and "Mediator of all Graces" or "Universal Mediatrix" are not found anywhere in Scriptures, or the Liturgy of the Latin Rite, or in any of the decrees of the Councils of the Church. At stake was therefore the propsect of reconciliation between the Latin Catholic and Orthodox Churches, as well as the "deviation" of the doctrine of the Latin West from the norms of the 900 years since the so-called Great Schism in the 11th century. He wrote:

In the liturgy we find that we have but one way – none other than Jesus Christ.

Whether in our liturgy or our personal devotions, we must never allow the priesthood of Christ to get too far away, he insisted:

He is our chargé d’affaires … every thing to be done we leave to him.

Otherwise, the temptation is to seek an advocate elsewhere. Beauduin believed that, lacking receptivity to the dogmatic balance of the East, which ensured a Christocentric devotion to Mary, pre-eminently in its liturgy as the fount of popular piety, the thinking of nineteenth century Latin Christianity possessed no counterweight to an exaggerated view concerning God the Son. This left the humanity of Christ in the shade of his divinity, and it had caused people to let Jesus slip away from them. The reaction in both theological circles and popular devotion was a disproportionate recourse to Mary. Beauduin’s work on the Liturgical Movement directly confronted such “false devotion” because it was harmful to the faith of the people and the proclamation of the Gospel that the world could accept. He wrote:

No creature at all can intervene to add any efficacy whatever to the
Redemption of the Eternal Priest alone.

But he had his work cut out, as we have seen. A theologically ambiguous devotion – the Universal Mediation of Mary – enjoyed wide popular appeal at the time. A whole generation of priests, religious and theologians had been formed by it and there was now a movement to have it recognised it as a necessary dogma of the Faith. But it was not in the liturgy; it was not in the Scriptures; it was not in the common tradition – these were the grounds on which Beauduin with all his strength tried in vain to prevent those zealous petitions going off to Rome.

Rome kept to the tradition, of course, not least because successive popes had now committed the Church to the direction set by the Liturgical Movement. But the devotion had got under the skin and it has continued to surface in various forms from time to time. The year after the 1950 dogmatic definition of the Assumption Beauduin reflected:

To assign “an essential role to Mary – the role par excellence – in God’s work of redemption – co-redeemer, co-mediator (where will it end?) – it may be pious,
but it is dangerous. It risks modifying the Christian mystery to its depths.

And he lays the blame firmly at the feet of those whose responsibility it is more than anyone else’s to ensure that the people’s faith and prayer is orthodox - the bishops:

“The Word incarnate is still so far from us because he is God. But Mary, being human, is much nearer to us.” That is a phrase from a bishop’s pastoral letter! … And yesterday I read this phrase: “The best way to be children of the Father is to be children of Mary.” This is a blasphemy to the Sole Mediator.

He did not spare his friends and supporters. In 1951, Léon-Joseph Suenens, auxiliary of Malines and his keen disciple, published The Theology of the Apostolate of the Legion of Mary. Beauduin wrote him a severe letter, singling out this phrase:

“Through her are distributed for us all gifts, all virtues, all graces, to
whom she wishes, as much as she wishes and the way she wishes.”

He makes it clear to Suenens that, in abandoning the Catholic Church’s fidelity to the tradition it has received, he is distorting the faith it is bound to hand on. He reminds him that it is necessary always to distinguish the mediation of redemption - to know that the priesthood of Christ is what unites humanity to the Father - on one side from the mediation of intercession on the other. And thus in the whole of the ancient tradition:

Mary is always in the first rank of the mediation of intercession.

By placing her firmly within the mediation of redemption, Suenens was accused by Beauduin of insinuating an invisible new priesthood above the visible ministerial priesthood of the Church.

At the Second Vatican Council, it is well known that many of the Fathers had been pressed by their faithful to secure a new doctrinal definition on the Virgin Mary, and the long standing movement for the declaration of the Mother of God as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all Graces was prominent. But in the discussions the led to the formulation of the Dogmatic Constituion on the Church, Lumen Gentium, it was clear that this was not the only avenue for honouring her. The refreshed doctrine of the Church placed Mary at the heart and so a popular understanding from antiquity and the Middle Ages was revisited - "Mary, type of the Church". But although it intended to sum up the whole of humanity in her as the New Eve, some Fathers felt that it fell short of her due honour. So the title "Mary, Mother of the Church", with its scriptural and liturgical, as well as devotional, resonances, was preferred. It was not left to stand on its own in a separate decree, but integrated into Lumen Gentium.

The community which Lambert Beauduin founded (Chevetogne), however, prayed that the new title would not secure final approval. for the straightforward reason that “Mother of the Church” is nowhere to be found in the Liturgy and therefore posed an additional obstacle to rapprochement with the Orthodox Church. In any case it was open to significant doctrinal misconception. The Orthodox theologian Alexis Kniazeff has handily outlined the reservations, while constructively examining how the new title, drawing from his own inventive tradition, could be understood positively:

This formula seems to place the Mother of God above the Church. But she is in the Church and not above the Church, considered as a distinct entity. One could even say that she is the Church in that, by dint of her role as Mother towards all the redeemed, she bears within her the mystery of the Incarnation, which is also that of the Church. So she is the mystical centre of the Church, its archetype, its personification, the Mother of the living people called to be the Church, but not the Mother of the Church.

Cardinal Aponte Martinez' campaign to have the Blessed Virgin Mary defined formally as "Spiritual Mother of All Humanity" is devout, but it also stands in a long tradition of exaggeration of the tradition the Latin West has received in common with the East. It risks, at least in the mind of those whose liturgical and doctrinal formation is not well developed, taking Mary out of her true context within the Church. It further risks placing her role within the mediation of redemption, rather than at the head of the mediation of intercession, thus risking the Christian belief in the mystery of Christ.

And even where the devotional titles cannot be said or seen to distort the mystery of redemption - after all Pope John Paul discussed Mary's motherhood and intercession for all humanity (General Audience, 24th September, 1997) - the Orthodox Church, together with the Eastern Catholic Churches, and the Latin tradition of the Church of Rome itself, asks - why define such things as doctrines and add to the accretions that mark our differences while we are trying to understand and overcome them? Why, when we already believe she shares in Christ's work of redemption and mediation for all humanity, is Mother of God and Mother in and of the Church, define what we live and experience in any case through our worship, our veneration, our faith and our discipleship?

For a full treatment of this matter see Arca Foederis (Mark Woodruff) in Further Prospects of Mary, Ecumenical Marian Pilgrimage Trust, 2009 Walsingham Pilgrimage, to be published in 2010.



Saturday, 5 December 2009

Homily for the Feast of St John Damascene, Westminster Cathedral, 4 December 2009

It is not May that is "Mary's Month", but Advent. And it is no accident that we keep today in its first week the feast of St John of Damascus - St John Damascene. Nor is it an accident that the Church provides for today's Gospel the story of the blind men who see by faith (Matthew 9.27-31); but I shall come back to that.

St John was a Syrian monk who had worked as an economic official in the court of the Muslim Caliph. When he entered the monastery of St Saba near Jerusalem around the year 700, he gave up not only earthly fame, power and influence in the empire of a relatively tolerant Islam, but also the wealth of his own Christian family. His Christian spirit of renunciation of worldliness will thus have been impressed by the absolute submission of the many Muslims he knew and worked with to the spiritual life, to God who is Spirit, to God who cannot - must not - be tied down to a merely human way of looking at things.

Too often, we think of God as simply a vastly larger version of us; so the way we imagine him actually diminishes him. (This is the spiritual blindness which today's Gospel contrasts against.) Here St John - like all orthodox Christians - was at one with the Jewish people and the Muslims all around him.

But then he parts company with Islam, with Judaism and the "Puritan" tendency in Christianity. It was over the question of the veneration of our sacred images of Christ and the saints in this world, and our need for them as an intimate link to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, his taking real physical flesh right from in the midst of the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, truly the Mother of God.

A great controversy about all this disturbed the Church through much of the eighth Christian century; it has bubbled up occasionally ever since. It poses the questions whether it is right or wrong to depict Christ in his Passion on his Cross, Christ in his Power, the Mother of God and indeed any of the saints. Do these statues and icons not merely cut our God down to our size? Do they not merely make the great mysteries of the Incarnation and the Resurrection bite-sized? Do they not merely make the saints into objects of admiration and devotion at the level of basic fellow-human attraction? Should we not tear them aside as barriers to God in heaven?

No, says St John Damascene: it is essential that we have these images. They are not mere snapshots of people long dead, or events long past. They are there to make an impression on us in this world, from the life of the world that is beyond us. Did not Christ say, "The Kingdom of God is among you"? So it is with icons and statues and images. Behind and within them are the great cloud of witnesses, surrounding us, pressing on us with the life of heaven, making an impact upon us with the imminent reality of the Resurrection itself. Our eyes, which are for this world, may be blind to the world that is to come; but our faith sees what and who is bearing upon us.

So we cannot fail to speak to Christ's image on the crucifix. We cannot fail to adore Christ making contact with us through the image of the Lord in his Power that you see in every Orthodox Church and many of our own too. You cannot fail to address the image of the Mother of God wherever you see her, holding her Son to us and bearing his life into our midst.

Rightly we love these images and pour out our prayers and praises, our griefs and hopes before them, not because we are deluded, but because they are evidence - hard, tangible evidence - that the Incarnation is more than an event in history: it is a fact of nature. God takes real, physical things and unites them with heaven, so that they can become holy in the world and thus conduct us into the next. In the same way, he took the humanity of the Virgin and united it with the Divine Nature of his Son. She is truly Mother of God, not only because of her relation to her Son and his work of redepemption on the Cross and the Emptied Tomb, but because she as Mother of the Church, is the instrument of our own union with her Son in that Church too.

Thus it was that above all St John Damascene defended the veneration of the image of the Mother of God. More than all the saints, it is she who brings through the icon and the statue this immediate, imminent presence of the Kingdom of God itself -it is in her womb, it is her very life. No saint can be considered "dead" or coming to us from the past. They are all participants in the Resurrection and above all it is the Mother of God, assumed into heaven, whose purpose it is to see us assumed into heaven's Kingdom too, as she brings to us her Son with every glance of ours at her image and at every Advent, the true "Month of Mary".

So with our Orthodox and Eastern Catholic fellow-Christians, in the words of a hymn for St John's feast,

Let us sing praises to John, worthy of great honour,
the composer of hymns,
the stare and teacher of the Church, the defender of her doctrines:
through the might of the Lord's Crss he overcame heretical error
and as a fervent intercessor before God
he entreats that forgiveness of sins may be
granted to all.

And may the Mother of God pray that this be so.


Fr Mark Woodruff
Vice Chairman of the Society

Friday, 4 December 2009

Patriarch Filaret: Moscow Patriarchate has No Monopoly for Canonicity:

RISU /English /News /Patriarch Filaret: Moscow Patriarchate has No Monopoly for Canonicity:

Holy See and Russia Establish Full Diplomatic Relations

The Press Office of the Holy See Press Office released the following communique yesterday evening (3rd December 2009):

This afternoon, 3 December 2009, His Holiness Benedict XVI received in audience
Dimitri Medvedev, president of the Russian Federation. The president had previously met with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions pleasure was expressed on both sides at the cordial relations that currently exist between them, and it was agreed to establish full diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Russian Federation.

Following an exchange of opinions on the international economic and political situation - also in the light of the Encyclical Caritas in veritate, of which the Holy Father presented the president with a copy in Russian - attention turned to the challenges currently facing security and peace. The talks then turned to cultural and social questions of mutual interest, such as the value of the family and the contribution believers make to life in Russia.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

UAOC Archbishop: UOC’s Condition of Repentance of “Schismatics” Should Envisage Compromise Solution:

RISU /English /News /UAOC Archbishop: UOC’s Condition of Repentance of “Schismatics” Should Envisage Compromise Solution:

Deputies Call Government to Help Return St. Nicholas Church in Kyiv to Roman Catholics:

RISU /English /News /Deputies Call Government to Help Return St. Nicholas Church in Kyiv to Roman Catholics:

Pope Benedict thanks the Russian Orthodox Church

Zenit.org reports, December 3rd:

Pope Benedict XVI is expressing gratitude to the Russian Orthodox Church and all those who collaborated in publishing a book with texts from the Pontiff on European culture. The book, Europe, Spiritual Homeland, marks the first time the Moscow Patriarchate is publishing a compilation of texts from a Pope. It contains addresses that Joseph Ratzinger wrote over the past decade regarding Europe.

The presentation of the work, which was published in Russian and Italian, took place Wednesday in Rome in connection with the Italian-Russian Civil Society Dialogue Forum. A message from the Holy Father, sent through his Secretariat of State, was read at the event. It affirmed Benedict XVI's gratitude "for the devout and significant gesture, toward all those who have contributed, and for the sentiments that gave rise to it."

Pierluca Azzaro, professor of politics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, and the book's editor, announced that the Vatican Publishing House now plans to publish a book by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and of All Russia titled, Liberty and Responsibility in the Search of Harmony (Liberta e Responsabilita alla Ricerca dell'Armonia). The book will be presented next April at that university in Milan, in the presence of the chairman of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk.

At Wednesday's presentation, the Italian minister of culture, Sandro Bondi, affirmed that the newly published book shows how "the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are great sources of meaning, sources of the spiritual bread that man needs to live, so much more than material bread." The Russian minister of culture, Mikhail Shvydkoi, said that "without the values of Christian humanism, Europe is lost."

He added, "This book speaks to us of the importance of integrating into Europe the different ways in which one can and must honor the presence of God in society. Europe, Spiritual Homeland affirms that "it is possible to honor God in society without the plurality of creeds and confessions of Europe becoming a reason for conflict."

Lorenzo Ornaghi, rector of the Sacred Heart university, pointed out that this volume indicates clearly the path to be followed so that a truly creative culture will again be able to make Europe flourish. "Faith is the source of a living culture and of life, that which most corresponds with man's truest desires," he said.

Jesuit Father Milan Zust, secretary of the Catholic committee for cultural collaboration with Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that the book is "a most important step for building that trust and mutual esteem that makes clear and limpid our common witness in Europe."

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

St Irenaeus of Lyon Working Group - 6th Annual Session

The working group of St. Irenaeus of Lyon was established in 2004 at the Johannes Moehler Institute in Paderborn, after the official dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches was paused. Since then, every year 25 leading ecumenical theologians of the Orthodox and Catholic world gather in one of the European cities for discussion of theological and topical issues, not least the question of primacy in the Church at both regional and universal levels.

It focuses its attention on theological issues which can facilitate the official dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. In spite of the fact that the official negotiations have meanwhile resumed, these leading theologians continue their dialogue in support. It has two co-chairpersons - Catholic and Orthodox, the latter now being the representative of the Orthodox
Church of Antioch in Paris, Bishop John.

The Kyiv meeting of the St. Irenaeus of Lyon Working Group from November 4th will last three days.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I on the Feast of St Andrew the First-Called, 2009

To His Holiness Bartholomaios I
Archbishop of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarch


Your Holiness,

It is with great joy that I address Your Holiness on the occasion of the visit of the delegation guided by my Venerable Brother Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to whom I have entrusted the task of conveying to you my warmest fraternal greetings on the Feast of Saint Andrew, the brother of Saint Peter and the protector of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

On this joyful occasion commemorating the birth into eternal life of the Apostle Andrew, whose witness of faith in the Lord culminated in his martyrdom, I express also my respectful remembrance to the Holy Synod, the clergy and all the faithful, who under your pastoral care and guidance continue even in difficult circumstances to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The memory of the holy martyrs compels all Christians to bear witness to their faith before the world. There is an urgency in this call especially in our own day, in which Christianity is faced with increasingly complex challenges. The witness of Christians will surely be all the more credible if all believers in Christ are “of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32).

Our Churches have committed themselves sincerely over the last decades to pursuing the path towards the re-establishment of full communion, and although we have not yet reached our goal, many steps have been taken that have enabled us to deepen the bonds between us. Our growing friendship and mutual respect, and our willingness to encounter one another and to recognize one another as brothers in Christ, should not be hindered by those who remain bound to the remembrance of historical differences, which impedes their openness to the Holy Spirit who guides the Church and is able to transform all human failings into opportunities for good.

This openness has guided the work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, which held its eleventh plenary session in Cyprus last month. The meeting was marked by a spirit of solemn purpose and a warm sentiment of closeness. I extend once again my heartfelt gratitude to the Church of Cyprus for its most generous welcome and hospitality. It is a source of great encouragement that despite some difficulties and misunderstandings all the Churches involved in the International Commission have expressed their intention to continue the dialogue.

The theme of the plenary session, The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium, is certainly complex, and will require extensive study and patient dialogue if we are to aspire to a shared integration of the traditions of East and West. The Catholic Church understands the Petrine ministry as a gift of the Lord to His Church. This ministry should not be interpreted in the perspective of power, but within an ecclesiology of communion, as a service to unity in truth and charity. The Bishop of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity (Saint Ignatius of Antioch), is understood to be the Servus Servorum Dei (Saint Gregory the Great). Thus, as my venerable predecessor the Servant of God Pope John Paul II wrote and I reiterated on the occasion of my visit to the Phanar in November 2006, it is a question of seeking together, inspired by the model of the first millennium, the forms in which the ministry of the Bishop of Rome may accomplish a service of love recognized by one and all (cf. Ut Unum Sint, 95). Let us therefore ask God to bless us and may the Holy Spirit guide us along this difficult yet promising path.

Yet even as we make this journey towards full communion, we should already offer common witness by working together in the service of humanity, especially in defending the dignity of the human person, in affirming fundamental ethical values, in promoting justice and peace, and in responding to the suffering that continues to afflict our world, particularly hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and the inequitable distribution of resources.

Furthermore, our Churches can work together in drawing attention to humanity’s responsibility for the safeguarding of creation. In this regard, I express once again my appreciation for the many valuable initiatives supported and encouraged by Your Holiness which have borne witness to the gift of creation. The recent international symposium on Religion, Science and the Environment dedicated to the Mississippi River, and your encounters in the United States with distinguished figures from the political, cultural and religious spheres, have exemplified your commitment.

Your Holiness, on the solemn Feast of the great Apostle Andrew, I express my respectful esteem and spiritual closeness to Your Holiness and to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and I pray that the Triune God may bestow abundant blessings of grace and light on your lofty ministry for the good of the Church.

It is with these sentiments that I extend to you a fraternal embrace in the name of our one Lord Jesus Christ, and I renew my prayer that the peace and grace of our Lord may be with Your Holiness and with all those entrusted to your eminent pastoral leadership.

From the Vatican, 25 November 2009

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Divine Liturgy by Peter Michaelides: New CD from Capella Romana

Completed in 1960, this outstanding choral setting of the Divine Liturgy is also one of the first to have been written in English. Greek-American composer Peter Michaelides perceptively combines elements of Byzantine chant with modern neo-classicism to create unaccompanied liturgical music of uncommon elegance and spiritual depth.

Included is the Christmas favorite "H Parthenos Simeron" (Today the Virgin) for the Forefeast of the Nativity in Greek, and selections of the Antiphons in Arabic.

The CD comes with a deluxe 20-page booklet with extensive essays and full color photography of the stunning St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Santa Barbara, California, for whose choir Dr. Michaelides wrote several liturgical works, including the Apolytikion in honor of St. Barbara included on this present recording. The priest's part is sung by the Very Rev. Archpriest George A. Gray III, pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Portland, Oregon.
Order from Cappella Romana.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Anglicanorum Coetibus: A New Uniatism?

Patriarch Bartholomew I with Cardinal Kasper

When the Apostolic Constitution to provide for ordinariates - ecclesial structures like dioceses - for Anglicans coming into full communion with the Holy See, there was immediate and misleading comment that this was the revived system of so-called Uniatism. The Roman Catholic Church, it is claimed, is proselytising Anglicans like the Orthodox of yesteryear.

Thus writes Dr Timothy Bradshaw, Tutor in Doctrine at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, in The Times of 21 October 2009:

Rome’s move looks like a Western version of the Eastern Orthodox groups that accepted the primacy of Rome, the largest being the Ukrainian. The so-called Uniate churches keep their liturgical local custom and practice, as the Anglican body would be allowed to do under the new offer.

As an Anglican Evangelical member of the Anglican Orthodox Theological Commission, he ought to know that this will not do, unless it is an expression of an old desire for affinity with Orthodoxy because of its coincidence with an Anglican apologetic that it too is historic, apostolic, but non-Papal.

It is clear, however, that the provision of the ordinariates are within the Latin rite, of which the Anglican liturgical and ecclesiastical patrimony is a version. The ordinariates are to be particular churches like dioceses, but non-territorial like the military vicariates. Furthermore, their formation comes as a response by the Holy See to formal, repeated and insistent requests from Anglican bishops and bodies for admission to full Catholic communion by the inclusion of a distinctively Anglican church and liturgical life. So the comparison with Catholic Churches of Eastern Rite is inaccurate.

Secondly, Eastern Catholic Churches - specifically those of Byzantine Rite, such as the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, or the Melkite Greek Catholic Church - are not properly seen as the result of proselytism away from Orthodoxy. They see themselves as Orthodox Churches which historically came into restored communion with the Roman See. Both the Ukrainian and Melkite Churches, furthermore, have a strong record of efforts towards reconciliation with their Orthodox neighbours. In Ukraine, for instance, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky was highly regarded by members and leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church for his practical support and concern during its dark hours after the Russian Revolution. And the Patriarchates of Antioch - Melkite and Greek Orthodox - are renowned for their progressive efforts towards imaginative reconciliation, notably in the famous Balamand initiative. So, again, the misrepresentation of the complex history of Catholic-Orthodox relations and of the real circumstances concerning Eastern Catholic Churches is a false comparison for the forthcoming provisions of Anglicanorum Coetibus.


Professor Nicholas Lash, writing in The Tablet of the 14th November, makes this very clear too:

It has been suggested that the new structures, established by the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, ... should be considered as analogous to those of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Aidan Nichols OP proposed something along these lines in 1993, in The Panther and the Hind and, in 2006, in an article in New Blackfriars entitled: “Anglican Uniatism: A Personal View”. I would make two comments on this. The first concerns the need not to speak of “Uniates”. The schism between Western and Eastern Christianity was not so much a single event as a lengthy process of mutual alienation, culminating in the formal breaking of relations between the patriarchate of Constantinople (drawing the four other, far less powerful, eastern patriarchates in its wake) and the papacy. Over time, many Eastern Churches (of more than 20 types or families) were recon­ciled into full communion with the Holy See. Their Orthodox brethren, seeing this as betrayal, coined the highly pejorative term “Uniate” to describe them. It is a term that Eastern Catholics therefore find offensive. (And, of course, the term is not only offensive but inaccurate when applied to those Churches, such as the Maronites, which never broke off communion with Rome.) Many British Catholics seem unaware of this, perhaps because there are so few Eastern Catholics in this country to complain....

In the second place, the analogy simply does not stand up. Each of the Eastern Catholic Churches is, precisely, a Church: a distinct, episcopally and presbyterally structured body with its own identity, history and character. The proposed ordinariates, however, are not Churches, but groups of disaffected Anglican lay people.

Here is the account of an interview in L'Osservatore Romano of the 15th November with Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, by the commentator Sandro Magister:

Cardinal Kasper was in Cyprus because the island was hosting, from October 16-23, the second round (after the first in Ravenna in 2007) of theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox on how to understand papal primacy. An ecumenical dialogue of capital importance, in which Kasper led the delegation from Rome.

...

In Cyprus, the news that the Catholic Church is ready to incorporate groups coming from Anglicanism also put the Orthodox on alert. Their fear is that a "Uniate" Church of the Anglican rite will be established and added to the "Uniate" Churches of the various Eastern rites: these are Churches obedient to the pope of Rome but in everything else the equals and rivals of the Orthodox.

In this regard, Kasper says in the interview:

"In Cyprus, in order to avoid misunderstandings, I immediately told our Orthodox counterparts that this is not a matter of proselytism or a new Uniatism. [...] Uniatism is an historical phenomenon involving the Eastern Churches, while the Anglicans are from the Latin tradition. The Balamand document of 1993 is still valid, according to which this is a phenomenon of the past that took place in unrepeatable circumstances. It is not a method for the present or the future. The Orthodox were mainly interested in understanding the nature of the personal ordinariates for the Anglicans, and I clarified that this is not a matter of a Church 'sui iuris', and therefore there will not be the head of a Church, but an ordinary with delegated powers."

In simpler terms: while a "Uniate" Church has its own structured hierarchy, with a patriarch and territorial dioceses, none of this will apply to the former Anglican "personal ordinariates," which will provide pastoral care for the faithful but without their own ecclesiastical territory, a little bit like the military ordinariates.

The new ordinariates will be characterized by the preservation of the Anglican rite for the Mass and the other sacraments – with liturgical books that were approved for the United States in the 1980's by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Patriarch Pavle of Serbia: Memory Eternal



Patriarch Pavle of Serbia died on Sunday aged 95. His funeral took place today, Thursday 19th November, led by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. The Pope was represented by Cardinal Sodano, Secretary of State of the Holy See.

Patriarch Pavle was loved for his humility and holiness as a monk, people recognising that like them he too had been overwhelmed by the atrocity into which Serbia was dragged by Slobodan Milosevic.

He had led the 7-million strong Serbian Orthodox Church for 19 years since 1990. As Yugoslavia collapsed into civil war, critics accused him of failing to rein in bishops and priests who encouraged nationalism. He had also been accused of standing by, and remaining in contact with Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, currently on trial at the Hague for war crimes in Bosnia. But he steadily opposed President Slobodan Milosevic, denying his regime and that of Karadzic in Bosnia, official sanction from the Patriarchate. He expressly condemned violence on all sides, including the destruction and deaths at the hands of Serbs. And under his leadership, the Synod demanded Milosevic's removal.

The Patriarch was also criticised for associating with the Croatian Catholic hierarchy, but it did not deter him from trying to build bridges and peace with Catholics and Muslims. He opposed the independence of Kosovo (which was in his former diocese), with its deep historical significance for Serbian Orthodoxy and the importance of its monasteries for Serbian spiritual life, the preservation and renewal of which he had made a priority during his patriarchate. A good number of Kosovo churches and monasteries were destroyed or damaged, but Pavle resisted the urge to enmity and the calls to retribution, at the same time as trying to ensure that Serbian Orthodox monks, nuns and lay people could remain in the hope of better times, peace and and even reconciliation. He was after all aware of the hundreds of mosques and Catholic churches destroyed at Serbian hands in Bosnia and Croatia.

At the funeral Liturgy, Patriarch Bartholomew described Pavle as a "great spiritual leader" during the turbulent era for the nation.

"His face and appearance were radiant with holiness and righteousness," he said. "He was a true monk, a man of endless prayers, kind and calm but also a fighter who does not back down and is ready for any sacrifice when needed."

Serbia's President Boris Tadic, who attended the Liturgy, thanked the late Patriarch "for having been there for us with his deeds and message that we should always be human and never respond to the evil in the others with the evil within us."

Even though, Pavle was symbolically still head of the church, he had given up the day-to-day running last year because of ill health. There were rumours of attempts formally to remove him, but these were overcome. During his illness. the Church was led by Metropolitan Amfilohije, who may possibly succeed him as Patriarch.

Here is the obituary from The Times. And here is the obituary from the Daily Telegraph.

We will post an appreciation in due course from the Chairman, Fr John Salter.

Memory Eternal!







Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Hope for the Holy Land

Hope for the Holy Land is a weekend festival - "Celebrating Palestinian Christianity" - taking place 28-29 November in Pimlico, at Holy Apostles Church Hall, Cumberland Street, London SW1V 4LY.

There will be food, music, talks, wines, films, crafts - all at a fair presenting the work of Christians and their church organisations in the land of Christ. Visit the website for full details.

And at the nearby Church of St Barnabas, Pimlico Road near Sloane Square, every Sunday the Greek Catholic Melkite Parish of St John Chrysostom for Christians from the Holy Land and other parts of the Middle East, meets for the Divine Liturgy at 11-30 am, worshipping in both Arabic and English.

New Charity: Friends of the Holy Land

The Friends of the Holy Land, a new Charity set up to support the Christians in the Holy Land, was launched last weekend, 14-15 November, in the two Archdioceses of Birmingham and Liverpool.

On Saturday the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, visited Birmingham and concelebrated Mass at 1.30pm in St Chad’s Cathedral with Bishop Philip Pargeter.

On Sunday he concelebrated Mass at 3pm in the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool with The Most Reverend Patrick Kelly, the Archbishop of Liverpool.

The Patriarch is encouraging all Parishes in England & Wales to establish a Friends of the Holy Land Parish Group. Pilot groups have been successfully set up in both Dioceses in the last 12 months and received much support. The Patriarch says: “I ask you to encourage and support this initiative. We need your help more than ever”.

National Chairman of the Friends of the Holy Land, Dr Michael Whelan, says: “We are delighted and privileged to welcome the Latin Patriarch to launch the Friends of the Holy Land in these first two Dioceses. Our target is to have an FHL Group in every Parish in England and Wales within the next few years. There is a real need to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by the Christian Community in the Holy Land, to provide financial support to aid their wellbeing and to encourage prayers to be offered for their intentions”.

On Monday, the Patriarch delivered an address to the Bishops' Conference of England & Wales at their meeting in Leeds: download his address here.


About the Friends of the Holy Land

The Friends of the Holy Land (FHL) was established in England and Wales in 2009. It is a registered charity and assists the Christian Community in the Holy Land, working in close cooperation with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The objectives are to raise awareness of the difficulties experienced by the Christian Community in the Holy Land, to encourage and to provide for prayers to be offered for their intentions and to create financial support to aid their well-being.

Financial support is provided to Parishes and Schools and families within the Christian Community to enable them to live a fruitful and rewarding life in their homeland.

This is carried out through funding for Parish activities, assistance to Schools, financing small self-help projects in the community and providing humanitarian aid to the needy.

This is all achieved with the backing and blessing of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. The FHL is a non-political organisation.

Contacts

Dr Michael Whelan KSG, KGCHS
Trustee and National Chairman FHL
Tel: 01926 857580
Mobile: 07802 871610

Alexander DesForges
Director of News and Information
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
Tel: 020 7901 4800

Peter Rand MBE
Executive Committee Member
Tel: 01926 852163
Mobile: 07879 422866

Address

Friends of the Holy Land
2 Station Road
Kenilworth
Warwickshire
CV8 1JJ

Email

Registered Charity Number 1130054

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Christianity in the Middle East, Heythrop College, 24 November 2009

On Tuesday 24th November, Bishop Antoine Audo SJ, Bishop of Aleppo of the Chaldeans in Syria, will be leading two sessions at Heythrop College, Kensington Square, London W8.

  • 11.15 - 12.30 - Christianity in the Middle East - Present & Future Perspectives
  • 2.15 - 4.00 - Isaac the Syrian, John of Dalyatha & Eastern Christianity
The lectures will be in the Charlwood Room and those wishing to attend should contact Anthony O'Mahony at Heythrop College.

Apostolic Visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the United States

His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, made an Apostolic Visitation to the United States October 20 to November 6 2009. A superb website has been created to commemorate the visit, together with the meetings he had with President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton.

See also the videos of his addresses to the Brookings Institution (on Saving the Soul of the Planet), Fordham and Georgetown Universities and at the US Capitol.

Perhaps the warmest and most telling welcome was expressed by Vice President Joe Biden. The Patriarch Bartholomew had just concluded his Eighth Religion, Science and Environment Symposium in New Orleans, focusing on the Mississippi River.

“We are with you, [and] we support the Ecumenical Patriarch as a leader of global standing,” said Vice President Biden addressing the Ecumenical Patriarch and quoting the Ancient Greek fabulist Aesop who said “It is easy to be brave from a safe distance,” the Vice President said to His All Holiness: “You have always been brave and never from a safe distance. You have stared down those who seek to erode the authority of the Church tirelessly, professing the Greek Orthodox way for millions of followers.”

“Your Holiness I am truly grateful for your work on environmental awareness across the United States of America... You delivered a moving address in New Orleans and in New York, and you have inspired hundreds of thousands of Americans along the way,” continued Mr. Biden and added “you have been a champion for tolerance and interfaith dialogue reaching out to both the Catholic Church and the Moslem community, both in your native country Turkey and throughout the world.”

Joint Commission: Further Progress and Next Meeting in Vienna 2010

Nat da Polis of AsiaNews reports from Paphos, 27 October:

"The work of the first phase of meetings post Ravenna 2007, between Orthodox and Catholics for the unity of two churches concluded in Paphos, Cyprus with a common assertion of willingness to go forward "at all costs”. In Ravenna, Catholics and Orthodox had signed a text which recognized that primacy and collegiality are interdependent concepts. For this reason, the primacy in the life of the Church at all levels - regional and universal - must always be seen and examined in the context of collegiality (synodal) and at the same time, the collegiate (the Synod) in the context of the primacy.

As was agreed in the Ravenna meeting, where, as rightly pointed out by the Catholic Bishop Dimitri Salachas for the first time after centuries of misunderstanding serious discussion about the unity of the two Churches began, the commission discussed the role of the Bishop of Rome in the first millennium based on a text prepared by the Joint Committee in October 2008 in Crete, Greece. The text, entitled "The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium " tries to address the attitudes of the personalities who marked the history of the Church of the first millennium, united at the time, and investigate it in light of the historical, social and cultural context of that period.

The reason for starting discussions with the examination of the status of the Church in the first millennium, as agreed by all, lies in the fact that there is the intention of both sides to start from what historically unites the two Churches, in order to then come to a better understanding, in the socio-cultural historical context, of the reason for the division, despite the need for unity of the two Churches.

Of course the road is long, it was commented in Paphos, but there is the will of both sides to move forward at all costs, trying to soften the fears of those in their flock opposed to the prospect of unity. In the Orthodox world there are some areas that delight in their independence, however, characterized by a provincial culture, whereas in the Catholic world some sectors languish in a exaggerated dogmatic rationalism, which blocks a greater willingness to address the various issues. We suffer from an exaggerated Popery, a Catholic prelate revealed, at a time, he said, where even Benedict XVI himself often refers to the texts of the great fathers of the United Church. No small number in the ecumenical movement agree on the fact that in the management of Church affairs a more despotic rather than Episcopal notion has prevailed. Which is why we arrived at a catastrophic second millennium, with all its consequences for the universal Church.

In short, attempts are being made to address the nefarious second millennium - that of division and excommunication - as late as possible, by taking on the considerations of the great German physicist Max Planck, as maliciously observed in Cyprus, who maintained that new theories are accepted not because their creators accept them, but because new generations grow and are formed in these. In other words, time is the best doctor.

And there were those who recalled the words spoken by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Rome in 2004 during a meeting with a crowd of young people in the church of the Apostle Bartholomew on Tiber Island, organized by the Community of St. Egidio. Responding to their question as to when there will finally be unity between the two Churches, Bartholomew said, to resounding applause, that "if unity depends on us priests the road will be long. But it will be you, the faithful of the Church, who will force us to speed up the process”.

The Joint Commission, finally, has announced the next round of discussion and correction of the text of Crete, for September (20-27) 2010 in Vienna. It will be organised by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn."

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Zizioulas defends the work of the Joint Commission for the Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Catholics

Metropolitan John of Pergamon and HH Pope Benedict XVI

Following the modest but solid progress to the renewed Orthodox-Catholic dialogue at Ravenna in 2007, the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue has met in plenary session at Paphos, Cyprus, October 16 to 23, 2009.

Several points to note:

  1. The Russian Orthodox Church withdrew from the 2007 Dialogue, partly owing to a disagreement over the inclusion of Orthodox from Estonia and the canonical justification for their doing so. Nevertheless, the Russian Orthodox Church has taken part in the Commission's subsequent work while the controversy is resolved and have played a full part in the Dialogue up to and including the Cyprus meeting.
  2. The Ravenna meeting deliberately approached the question of primacy in the Universal Church not in terms of later and current disagreements from the second millennium, but through an examination of common practice and agreement on the role of a figure who is protos in the first millennium, which was recognised as belonging at the universal level to the bishop of the Church at Rome. This exploration was mandated by the primates and synods of all the participating Orthodox Churches in concert. The Cyprus meeting takes the subject of primacy at the Church's universal level forward to meet some of the difficulties experienced in the second millennium, but on the basis of what can be recognised as agreement over what was accepted in the first.
  3. Metropolitans in the Church of Greece during summer 2009 denounced ecumenism and especially conversations with the Roman Catholic Church as if the integrity of Orthodox faith was at stake and the Dialogue was an error leading to the subjugation of the Orthodox Church direct to the Roman primacy. In fact the Dialogue is not with the Roman Catholic Church but with the Holy See, represented by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, on behalf of all Catholics - Latin Catholics and Eastern Catholics of various Churches and rites. Furthermore, Metropolitan John of Pergamon (John Zizioulas) has written to the Metropolitans concerned insisting that the Commission is founded on the express and canonical mandate of all the local Churches of the Orthodox Church, as are the particular terms and scope of the Dialogue itself.
  4. The Joint Committee of Catholic and Orthodox Bishops in the United States have recently issued a critical response to the Ravenna Statement. This is however an important part of the process by which the Dialogue is received and the progress towards unity based on agreement in doctrine is achieved in the years ahead.
  5. Demonstrations interrupted the proceedings of the 11th Plenary Session of the Dialogue Commission in Cyprus, again focussing on suspicion of the threat to Orthodox faith from Catholic error and of the motivation of Catholics seeking to undermine the integrity of the Orthodox Church. Metropolitan John of Pergamon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has however strongly defended the Theological Dialogue as part of the agreed objective of the all the Orthodox Churches towards the recovery of communion between the Catholics and the Orthodox - and the value of the Dialogue to Orthodoxy.
AsiaNews carries this report by Nat da Polis, dated 19 October, of an interview given to Cypriot journalist Aris Viketos, with Metropolitan John of Pergamon (John Zizioulas), Orthodox Co-Chairman of the Commision. He strongly defends the value of the Dialogue and the progress it has been made, together with its value for Orthodoxy, whatever the reactions of a small minority:

"The second meeting for dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, taking place in Cyprus, sees strong protest and progress at a standstill for fear of "subjugating the Orthodox to the Pope in Rome." Even among Catholics there is dogmatic resistance. A call to all from Johannes Zizoulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon, tenacious advocate of the value of dialogue.
Paphos (AsiaNews) - The 2nd round of dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox is being held in Paphos (Cyprus) from October 16 to 23. Progress, however, appears a distant goal. Two days ago, groups of traditionalist Orthodox monks and Orthodox priests from Larnaca interrupted the meeting of the Joint Commission, asking Archbishop Chrisostomos to stop it. They believe that dialogue between the two Churches is designed to "subjugate the Orthodox to the pope in Rome". Yet it is to this very island, a martyred land of ancient Christian traditions, divided by the last wall in Europe, the one between Greece and Turkey, that Benedict XVI will come on a papal visit in June 2010.

The dialogue of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches began in Ravenna in 2007 where a road map for process towards full unity was signed. The Ravenna document, of great importance, is based on the ecclesiology of the first millennium, when the two churches were in full communion, although even then differences arose from time to time.

The Ravenna document was not signed by the Russian Orthodox Church, which withdrew over differences with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on the question of the Church in Estonia. But these days it was involved in the work. Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople confirmed two days ago that "engaging in dialogue is our duty and obligation. Dialogue is a road of no return".

The issue of dialogue is the theme of an in depth interview that the Metropolitan of Pergamon, John Zizoulas, gave to Cypriot journalist Aris Viketos. Zizoulas is Co-chairman - along with the card. Walter Kasper - of the Joint Commission, an eminent theologian and a charismatic figure, as well as a strong supporter of dialogue.

In ecumenical circles it is said that with this interview Zizoulas is sending an important signal to certain areas of the Orthodox world. They, although a minority, are loudly contesting the dialogue, because they themselves are victims of a traditionalist narcissism bordering on infallibility. The interview also criticizes certain sectors of the Catholic Church who impose a disproportionate dogmatic rationalism, and who want nothing to change.

With acuity, the same Zizoulas, commenting to AsiaNews on the situation of the "Christian world" of today, said: "The Christian world today has many bishops, a few theologians and even less ecclesiological knowledge”.

Dialogue and the Ecumenical Patriarchate

Returning to the interview, Zizoulas immediately clarifies that "the decision to participate in dialogue with the Catholic Church was 'unanimously’ made by all Orthodox churches. Therefore inveighing against dialogue, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and my person is unfair. All Orthodox churches were in agreement on the importance of dialogue and the fact that it must continue".

"The Ecumenical Patriarchate – he continues - as in all other Orthodox matters, has only a coordinating role and we, like the other members of the Commission, are the engaged executors, according to our own conscience, of the mandate that was assigned to us. We are open to criticism because we are not infallible, just as our critics are not infallible. Those who do not want dialogue, are opposed to the common will of all Orthodox Churches. "

Regarding the positions of the monks of Mount Athos – staunchly opposed to dialogue - the Metropolitan of Pergamon is explicit: "I respect their opinion and their feelings on matters of faith. But why should they have the monopoly of truth on matters of faith? Are the other leaders of the churches perhaps lacking this sensitivity? All the faithful of the Church have the right to express their thoughts. But all opinions should be subject to scrutiny of the synods. If the great Father of the Church St. Basil put his opinion to the judgement of synods, we can do no less!".

Petrine primacy

The monks of Mount Athos and some conservative sectors of the Orthodox world accuse the Ecumenical Patriarchate of yielding to Rome on the question of Petrine primacy. Called upon to answer this question, Zizoulas says, "to the monks, whom I consider no less infallible than my own modest self, I would like to reply that the question of primacy is an ecclesiological one. And ecclesiology as we know, is part of dogma, part of faith. When we dialogue on this issue, we look at our own dogmatic divergence. There is no intention of neglecting other matters of dogma ... Quite simply, our experience has shown us that we must first agree on basic issues of' ecclesiology, because the question of primacy has been fatal and tragic in relations between the Catholic and Orthodox world. "

"The Ravenna text - continues Zizoulas - is very important, but unfortunately it has not received due attention and disclosure. It was agreed that the primacy at any level it is exercised, should be understood in its synodal character. This is what the Orthodox Church maintains and applies and it has its roots in the 34th Apostolic Canon ... The Orthodox Church also has its primus, but they can not decide without the synod, nor the synod without them. This focal point was accepted at the Ravenna meeting, although it does not agree with [the concept of] the primate, as monarch. The second point of the Ravenna document is that the primate is linked to the concept of the pentarchy of the patriarchates [1]. This was true during the first millennium, and this should apply even if the remaining assumptions of the first millennium will retain their validity. Which is why their [the monks of Mount Athos] opposition to dialogue is incomprehensible. We all have to accept [these findings] and where the pope accepts the canonical structure of the Church as it was configured in the first millennium, we should all be happy ... The Ravenna text adopts the basic principles of the Church of the first millennium".

The Uniates

Regarding the Uniate question and the resulting differences that emerged with the Catholic Church, the Metropolitan of Pergamon responds that the Uniate question "has never ceased to be a serious issue for us Orthodox. There has been much discussion in the context of dialogue and we agree with the Catholic Church not to take uniatism as a model towards unity and not to use it as a model of proselytism. The Uniate issue will be taken into account when the issue of the primacy in the 2nd millennium is addressed, when in fact the phenomenon was born".

Ecumenism: Heresy?

Asked whether ecumenism is a heresy, Zizoulas replied: "In defining someone as a heretic, one must consider if that person rejects the principles endorsed by ecumenical synods. Among those Orthodox participating in the ecumenical dialogue I have not found any deviation from the principles of faith. Moreover knowing how to dialogue with those who oppose your beliefs does not make you a heretic. Ecumenical dialogue has nothing to hide and our journey is still a long one".

On the prospects of dialogue, Zizoulas concludes by saying: "History is guided by God. Those who proclaim that the Church's unity is impossible, are trying to take the place of God. Who are we to predetermine the future? We are called to tirelessly work so we all may be one. If we do not enact this, or we do so at the expense of the faith of our fathers, then we will be called to answer to God. The final outcome is in His hands. He will find a way to see His will is done, so we may all be one. We simply have to work for unity".

[1] The Church of the first millennium was administered by 5 Patriarchs: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch. Rome held primacy."





The use of the word 'Allah' by Christians in history and today

The late Metropolitan Elias of Tripoli and Koura blessing the choir of the Institute of Theology of the University of Balamand on the Feast of St John of Damascus, December 2004

The Catholic authorities in Malaysia are appealing against a decision to prevent the import of Bibles that use the Arabic word 'Allah' with reference to God on the ground that this is exclusive to Islam. The bishops contend that it is in common use among the population, Muslims and others alike, as the word that simply means 'God'.

It is, after all, the word used for God in Catholic Malta, where the language is closely related to Arabic. Perhaps more importantly, it is used by the Arab Christians of the Middle East and belongs no less to the Syriac Christian tradition, as well as tracing its history to before Mohammed.

Follow this link to YouTube for a video of the Trisagion in the Divine Liturgy at the Monastery of our Lady of Balamand (Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch), served by the late Archbishop Elias Kurban of Tripoli and Koura, on the feast of St John of Damascus, in December 2004. It is sung in Greek (Hagios ho Theos) and Arabic (Kudouson Illah).

The excellent new blog, Notes on Arab Orthodoxy, goes into further detail:

"In the comments to an earlier post, Fr. Andrew asks:

Would you be willing to do a post on the history of the Arabic Orthodox Christian use of Allah to refer to the One True God? When was that word first used by Arabic-speaking Orthodox? What is its pre-Christian and pre-Muslim history?

and then adds:

The issue came up recently on an email list I'm on—a poster claimed that Allah as a word was somehow tainted due to its association with Islam and pre-Christian, pre-Islamic Arabic paganism.

Of course, the argument on that email list is nonsense, because all the words we have for God, whether it's God, Theos, Deus, Bog, or what have you, all have pagan backgrounds and are used in modern times to describe non-Christian gods. Arguing that the word for God should be untainted by other cultures would put you in company with the darker side of 16th century Catholicism.

Leaving that aside, the history of the word Allah is rather prosaic. The generic Arabic word for 'a god' is ilah. This is cognate to the most common Semitic word for a god and is thus related to the Hebrew Elohim (and possibly El), the Syriac/Aramaic Alaha, and the Old South Arabian 'lh-- so basically all the Semitic languages outside of Ethiopia. Ilah is used by Christian Arabs in compounds like walidat al-ilah (the Theotokos) and ilahu abaina (God of our Fathers).

The Arabic word for the one God, in the use of any Arabic-speaking religion, is of course Allah. This word either comes from a contraction of ilah with the definite article, al-ilah, or is a borrowing from the Syriac Alaha (the latter opinion is sustained by early 20th century scholars like von Gruenbaum, Cheikho, Mingana, and Jeffery). It could just as easily be the mutual influence of the two, as the line between borrowings and cognates among Semitic languages is notoriously hard to determine.

Allah was of course used by the pre-Islamic pagans of Arabia, at least those whose cult center was Mecca. For them, Allah was the supreme god and was worshipped at the Ka'ba with his three daughters Allat (fem. of Allah), Manat, and 'Uzza. As far as I know-- and I say this without having the labyrinthine works of Irfan Shahid in front of me-- we do not have any extent literary or epigraphic texts from pre-Islamic Christian Arabs.

We do have pre-Islamic poems composed by poets from Christian tribes and transmitted orally until written down in the early Islamic period. (And whose authenticity, of course, has been much-debated). They make very rare mention of any religious theme, but do sometimes use the word Allah.

However, we can turn to the Qur'an as evidence for pre-Islamic use of the word Allah by Christians and Jews. That is, the Qur'an was not composed in dialogue only (and I would argue even chiefly) with the pagans of Mecca. Rather, Muhammad was much more interested in delivering his message to the Jews (primarily) and to some degree Christians. Since Allah is used of God in Qur'anic passages like Surat al-Ikhlas* which are addressed specifically to Christians, it seems that Muhammad assumed that the Christians he was addressing would understand Allah to mean their own God, since it was almost certainly the word they used themselves for Him. (A possible case where the Qur'an actually does co-opt a foreign word for a god is the epithet 'al-Rahman', which was likely the name of the chief god among the South Arabians).


At no point in the literary history of Christian Arabic am I aware of any word other than 'Allah' used for God (that is, where Greek would use ο θεος). Nor am I aware of it having been controversial among Christian Arabs or non-Arab Christians who came in contact with the usage. After all, Byzantine refutations of Islam talk about what the blasphemies Muslims say about ο θεος, not what they say about αλλα........


*German scholar of the Qur'an and (incidentally) Orthodox Christian, Angelika Neuwirth argues that Surat al-Ikhlas is a point-by-point refutation of the first part of the Nicene Creed."