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 11th November, 4pm

But see below for the Pontifical Divine Liturgy in Westminster Cathedral on 28th October, to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Ukrainian Exarchate & Eparchy in the UK, served by His Beatitude Sviatoslav, Father & Head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

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.

"It's Now or Never: The Return of the Eastern Christians to Iraq and Syria" - John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need gives the annual Christopher Morris Lecture in the Society's 90th year. Monday 27th November at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family. 6-15 pm Divine Liturgy, 7-15 pm Lecture, 8-15 pm Reception. £10 donation requested. RSVP to johnchrysostom@btinternet.com







Friday, 31 July 2009

Beacons of Peace


The Syrian Catholic Church recently elected its new patriarch. The appointment is important not only because the Syrian Catholics have a significant presence in the Middle East and Asia and a thriving diaspora, but also because of their influence on global Catholic identity, writes Anthony O'Mahoney, lecturer at Heythrop College, University of London.

Overshadowed by the election of a new patriarch for the Russian Orthodox Church, the Syrian Catholic bishops who gathered in Rome in January elected their colleague Ephrem Joseph F. Younan as their new patriarch. Since the resignation in February 2008 of his predecessor Ignace Pierre VIII Abdel-Ahad, the affairs of the Syrian Catholic Church had been governed by a committee of three archbishops. The election of Ignatius Joseph III Younan, who for two decades had been charged with caring for the growing Eastern Catholic community in North America, draws attention to the increasingly complex and diverse nature of the global Catholic Church.

Most national borders in the Middle East are of recent origin and the parameters of the different streams of Christian tradition do not always correspond with the modern nation states. The ecclesial context for Middle Eastern Christianity is one of great complexity. The number of Christians, unfortunately, is very difficult to discern. However, the Middle Eastern church families represent about 30 million Christians, of whom approximately 15 million reside in the Middle East.

The Middle Eastern Christian diaspora in North and South America, Australia and Europe is an important and dynamic reality for all these Churches. Its influence means that Christian identity in the Middle East is often contested between an “Arab” Christian identity and an “Eastern” one. The jurisdiction of each Church normally corresponds to a definite territory, but emigration of numerous faithful has also given it a personal character.

The Churches have responded by creating numerous ecclesial structures in the West to help retain the link between the land of origin and these new Middle Eastern Christian spaces. This renewed ecclesiological link overcomes geography in this case, and the Eastern Churches, with regard to their respective diasporas, behave as though they were independent structures, constituting distinct episcopacies on the same territory. The New Syrian Catholic patriarch’s community is found on five continents, which for a Church with small numbers might seem to offer an overwhelming challenge, but these Churches can have an astonishing resilience.

All previous patriarchs have taken the name “Ignatius” (or “Ignace”) to symbolise their connection with the second-century bishop Ignatius of Antioch, whose ideas have been so important in giving character to the exercise of authority in the Christian Church. Ignatius Joseph III joins four other patriarchs who claim Antioch as their see: Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Maronite Catholic and Syrian Orthodox.

The Antiochene Church is often referred to as the “Church of the Arabs” and although the patriarchates themselves, two of which are based in Beirut and three in Damascus, would see this nomenclature differently, the title does correctly suggest an important religious interface with the Arab and Islamic world.

The rich pluralism of traditions in the ancient Patriarchate of Antioch, that is to say mainly the present states of Lebanon and Syria, has suffered many divisions in the course of history, but recent decades have seen new efforts to re-establish communion among the different traditions. Both Rome and Constantinople have responded by posing the question to Antioch as to whether reestablishment of ecclesial communion on the local level is conceivable without a renewed communion on the universal level.

Meanwhile, increasingly concerned about the diminishing presence of Christians in the lands of the Church’s beginnings, Benedict XVI urged the Patriarch and Syriac Catholics to be beacons of peace in the Middle East, “where the Syrian Church has an appreciated historical presence. My desire is that in the East, from where the proclamation of the Gospel came, the Christian communities continue living and giving testimony of their faith, as they have done throughout the centuries.”

The Syrian Catholic Church has its origins in the eighteenth century, when it emerged from the Syrian Orthodox Church. Today, Syrian Catholics are small in number, some 160,000, which – added to the 350,000 Orthodox – are what remains of this great Christian Church and culture. Between the mass conversion to Islam under the effect of persecutions, or the massacres of the early twentieth-century Ottoman period, which might have numbered well over 100,000, the Syrian Church took refuge, not without a certain grandeur, in its worship, liturgy and sacred Syriac literature. Acknowledging the greatness of the Syriac tradition, Benedict XV, in 1920, proclaimed St Ephrem the Syrian a Doctor of the Universal Church.

In terms of history and theological culture, both the Greek East and the Latin West seem to represent what is essentially a European cultural face of Christianity. This was encapsulated by the notion repeated by John Paul II that “it will be necessary [for the Church] to learn again to breathe fully with two lungs, the Western and the Eastern”, a metaphor which can be traced back to the great Dominican ecumenist Yves Congar. Bede Griffith, who practised the Syrian Catholic Rite, saw it as having a prophetic status for evangelisation in India and hailed the Syriac Christian presence at the Second Vatican Council as a marker that the Church was truly global, and that Asia had found its natural partner in rite and theological culture. Today Syriac Christianity is thriving in modern India. The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, which emerged in the 1930s, has experienced significant growth, with over 500,000 members.

The cradle of Syrian Catholicism was Turkey, particularly the province of Tur Abdin. Today this is no more than a memory, and the 2,500 Syrian Catholics who have remained in Turkey are mostly in Istanbul. The main Syrian Catholic homeland today is Iraq (around 65,000). After the massacres of the First World War, numerous Syrians from Turkey found refuge in the north of what is now Iraq, above all in Mosul. Many of these émigrés became Catholics; consequently there are today more Syrian Catholics than Syrian Orthodox in Iraq.

Syriac Christians continue to experience their political weakness, with many of their number having been killed since 2003. The Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Basile Georges Casmoussa, was kidnapped and then released after pressure from the Vatican and other Middle Eastern states in 2006. The other home of the Syrian Catholic Church is Syria-Lebanon with 80,000 adherents. These are mostly of Turkish origin – their forebears moved following the First World War, joining a more ancient population in Syria, where there had been a Syrian Catholic community at Aleppo which went back to the constitution of the Church in the seventeenth century. Numerous Syrian Catholics moved to Lebanon in the eighteenth century to flee the Ottoman persecutions and then moved their Patriarchate to Charfeh in Mount Lebanon.

Elsewhere, Syrian Catholics are very few, about 2,000 in Egypt and 1,500 in the whole of Israel-Palestine-Jordan. And today possibly some 50,000 live in America and Europe. However, the Syrian Catholic Church has not been without influence: the great Patriarch Gabriel Tappouni, condemned to death by the Turks, escaped the gallows it is said by the intervention of the Hapsburg emperor. Tappouni was a good student of the Vatican, knew how to make himself understood in the Curia, and how to deal with the competing Roman institutions. During Vatican II, he was the only dignitary from the Oriental Churches admitted to the Council of Presidents.

Ecumenical dialogue gives a different meaning to the continuing division between Syriac Catholics and Orthodox. In 1971 the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Ya’qub III visited Pope Paul VI in Rome, the first such meeting between the two heads of Churches since their division over the Council of Chalcedon in 451. In 1984, John Paul II and the new Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, signed a “Common Declaration of Faith” which stated: “We find today no real basis for the sad divisions and schisms that subsequently arose between us concerning the doctrine of the Incarnation. In words and life we confess the true doctrine concerning Christ our Lord, notwithstanding the differences in interpretation of such a doctrine which arose at the time of the Council of Chalcedon.” These words, written just over 20 years ago, re-order 16 centuries of division.

War and interreligious conflict in the Middle East have always been of concern to the Vatican. The bishops of Iraq have called for a synod for the Church in the Middle East similar to those in America, Africa, Asia and Europe. The presence of the Syrian Catholic Church has meant that the Syriac Christian Orient cannot be regarded just as a curiosity or as an optional extra on the fringe of the Greek and Latin West, but is rather an integral part of its ecclesiology. Taking place on the borders between religion and culture, between the Greek East and the Latin West, between the Christian world and the Islamic worlds, the election of a new patriarch for the Syrian Catholic Church might prove to be not just a link with an important historical legacy, but
a sign of how complex the future character of global Christianity can be.

The Society is extremely grateful to The Tablet and the author for permission to reproduce this article.

Ukraine: Grass Roots Ecumenism


A LEADING Latin Rite Bishop in Ukraine has reported that relations with the Russian Orthodox are getting increasingly warmer. Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need during a visit to the charity’s international headquarters in Germany, Bishop Marian Buczek of the Latin-Rite Diocese of Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine gave his positive assessment of ecumenical relations in the east of the country.
He spoke of the appointment of Patriarch Kirill as good news for ecumenism – despite the hard-line stance the patriarch has publicly taken since his election. Bishop Buczek said: “Patriarch Kirill knows the Roman Catholic Church very well, he met Pope John Paul II and also met Pope Benedict XVI while chair of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Relation.”

He added: “The relationship between the two churches is getting warmer and warmer.” The bishop stressed how the diocese has had excellent relationships with Russian Orthodox in Ukraine – when he first came to Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhya, which shares a border with Russia, one of his first moves was to established contacts with the local Orthodox Metropolitan.

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

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


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

Religion and Nation in Modern Ukraine, CIUS Press


Serhii Plokhy and Frank E. Sysyn's study of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has been reissued and is available from the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, based at the University of Toronto and the University of Alberta. See this link.

The promotional material from CIUS reads:

"Since Ukrainian independence, the religious situation and religious relations in Ukraine have been the focus of international attention. The rebirth of Churches and religious institutions has been accompanied by vigorous competition for the loyalty of Ukraine's believers. The visit of Pope John Paul II to Ukraine and current visit of the newly elected Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, testify to the centrality of Ukraine both in the Catholic and Orthodox worlds. Ecclesiastical affairs, above all the allegiance of Orthodox believers, have greatly influenced the processes of state-building and nation-building in Ukraine.

"CIUS Press has published a number of monographs and collections of essays on problems of religious history by authors and editors such as Ihor Sevcenko, Yaroslav Isaievych, Geoffrey Hosking, Andrij Krawczuk, Paul R. Magocsi, Bohdan Bociurkiw, and David Goa. To those interested in the current religious situation in Ukraine, the volume of essays by Serhii Plokhy and Frank E. Sysyn, entitled Religion and Nation in Modern Ukraine, has been especially welcome. The over 15 reviews of the volume have praised this edition as a greatly needed authoritative work on modern religious affairs in Ukraine.

"The internationally renowned specialist on religious affairs Michael Bourdeaux evaluated the volume in the Slavic Review, in the following manner: "Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been called the 'sleeping giant' of Europe-one of the continent's most populous nations, but one that has so far had minimal impact on international affairs. Far too little is being published, whether in the realm of scholarly studies or in the press, about this vast new independent country. Religion and Nation in Modern Ukraine is, therefore, not only a welcome addition to the literature, but an excellent book in its own right. As scholars conversant with Ukraine will know, the names of Serhii Plokhy and Frank E. Sysyn guarantee the quality of the work. Each has a profound insight into the complex issues facing the country today." Here is the full text of Michael Bourdeaux's review.

"The specialist on religious groups in contemporary Ukraine, above all the Protestants, Catherine Wanner, characterized the topic and volume thusly: "It was not until the late 1980s that many scholars from a plethora of disciplines were forced to concede that they had underestimated the importance of nationality issues, and especially of religion, as forces shaping Soviet history. Few scholars engaged the dynamic interaction of nationality and religion as they played out historically in politics and the daily life of Soviet citizens. The two authors of this book went against this trend and have over the years amassed a distinguished record of scholarship in the fields of Ukrainian history and of religious life over the centuries in this strategically important borderland." Here is the full text of Catherine Wanner's review in the Canadian Slavonic Papers. Other reviews can be read here, where details for ordering a copy at a special rate can also be found.

"CIUS press has decided to respond to the ongoing demand for this book by scholars and a wider public interested in religious affairs in Ukraine and the Eastern Christian world by reissuing the volume."

At the same time, CIUS is offering at a reduced rate, Bohdan Bociukriw's study of the dissolution of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Ukraine by the Soviet authorities, The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Soviet State (1939-1950). Here are reviews and information on obtaining the book.

CIUS Press is the largest publisher of English-language material about Ukraine. It is the publishing arm of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto. The emergence of Ukraine as an independent state has focused general and scholarly interest on Ukrainian studies, and CIUS Press informs us it is meeting that interest and need with a sizeable offering of new, forthcoming, and already published books.

Some further links:
  1. CIUS Press
  2. CIUS Catalogue
  3. CIUS Research Reports
  4. Encyclopedia of Ukraine
  5. CIUS' Journal of Ukrainian Studies
  6. CIUS Home at the University of Alberta

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Patriarch Kirill laments Church disunity


Patriarch Kirill I, on the second day of his first visit to Ukraine as leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, condemned divisions that have shaken the church there since the collapse of the Soviet Union. "How hypocritical, how terrible it is when divisions for the sake of some allegedly supreme purposes take place in the Church," Kirill said on 28 July at the celebration of the feast of St. Vladimir, the prince who brought Orthodoxy to Kievan Rus' from Byzantium.

Further, Associated Press Writer, Maria Danilova, writing from Kiev on 27 July 2009, reports:

"The head of the Russian Orthodox Church rejected calls from Ukraine's president to create a local Orthodox church that would be independent from Moscow, saying he firmly supports the status quo.

"Patriarch Kirill arrived in Ukraine for a prolonged visit, which observers say is aimed at reasserting Moscow's religious and political influence over this predominantly Orthodox nation of 46 million, which is trying to integrate with the West.

"The Ukrainian President, Viktor Yushchenko, has led a campaign to win recognition of a separatist church that broke away from the Moscow Patriarchate in the 1990s.

" "The main aspiration of the Ukrainian people is to live in a united, self-governing Apostolic Orthodox church," Yushchenko said in a speech, standing alongside Kirill.

"Kirill was quick to stress that the dominant Orthodox church in Ukraine, which answers to Moscow, is the only legitimate church here.

" "This church, Mr. President, already exists," Kirill said. "If it didn't exist today, Ukraine wouldn't exist either. But wounds have formed in this church and these wounds must be healed," he said.

"The two leaders made the statements after laying flowers at a memorial commemorating the victims of a 1932-33 famine that killed millions which was engineered by Soviet authorities to abolish private land ownership. Yushchenko is also leading a campaign to win recognition of the famine as an act of genocide; Moscow counters that the campaign was not aimed specifically at Ukrainians. Kirill said that he mourns the tragedy and prays for all those who perished, but stressed that other ethnic groups, including Russians, also suffered.

"The Russian Orthodox Church, as well as the Kremlin, worry about losing dominance in Ukraine. The mainstream, Moscow-aligned church claims about 28 million believers, while the separatist Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate) claims about 14 million followers. Opinion polls show the splinter church's popularity is growing.

"Earlier Monday, Kirill led a service on St. Volodymyr Hill in central Kiev near the statue of Prince Volodymyr, who launched the Slavic world's conversion to Christianity in 988. Kirill called for friendship, brotherhood and unity.

"Yushchenko, who has sought to break free from Russia's centuries-old political dominance and integrate with the European Union and NATO, has appealed to the spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox believers, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, to recognize the separatist church. Bartholomew, who visited Kiev last summer, has not given a clear response.

"Kirill is to visit a number of Ukrainian cities during a prolonged visit that his office says is devoted strictly to pilgrimage. But observers note that his trips to such strongholds of pro-Russian support as the eastern coal-mining city of Donetsk and the port of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula have clear political undertones.

"Before Kirill led the prayers, a group of nationalist activists shouting "Moscow priest get out!" briefly scuffled with his supporters near the St. Volodymyr Hill. The scuffle was broken up by police."

On the other hand Interfax, a news agency in Ukraine, reports, 30 June 2009:

"Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has thanked all residents of Ukraine who preserved their belief in the Moscow Patriarchate during the years of a religious split.

" "I'm addressing you and those who, through the strength of their belief, preserved the unity of the church here, on Ukrainian land. The whole Russian Orthodox Church bows to you and expresses the patriarch's gratitude to you for your brave stand for your beliefs, and for your loyalty to God and the Savior!" he said on Thursday after conducting a divine liturgy in Sviatohirsk Monastery in Donetsk region.

"The sermon by the patriarch was interrupted for several minutes by thousands of people who gathered near the monastery shouting "Our Patriarch is Kirill." "

Friday, 24 July 2009

Russian Orthodox Patriarch visits Ukraine


A 10-day trip to Ukraine by Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church is to include visits to a monument to victims of the Stalin-era famine, a Liturgy expected to draw thousands to the tense, scenic Crimean peninsula. The visit that starts on 27 July will also include a pilgrimage to Pochaev, one of the most important monasteries in the Orthodox church, located in the heart of western Ukraine, which is also the heartland of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Patriarch Kirill says that the visit is spiritual and not political. Nevertheless, it is important to the Moscow patriarchate that the Orthodox Church in Ukraine remains firmly within its jurisdiction. The Church in Muscovy and the rest of Russia owed its origins to Kievan Rus' adoption of Orthodox Christianity and the primacy of the see of Moscow derived from that of the original Metropolitanate in Kiev. And a very large proportion of the Russian Orthodox Church are in Ukraine. Some observers believe that the Moscow patriarchate's continued hold on the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine enables the Kremlin to ensure continued influence over the affairs of the Russia's large, resource-rich and westward-leaning neighbour.

But in line with other Orthodox countries, there is a strong movement for the Church to achieve self-governing autocephaly, with the lead taken not by a Metropolitan of Kiev appointed under the Patriarch in Moscow, but a by a patriarch of their own in Kiev. Moscow is vigourously resisting this and imposing its authority over the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the name of the territorial integrity of the Moscow patriarchate and Orthodox unity led by the Russian Orthodox Church, the largest and they would say leading Church in the Orthodox world. But already a significant group of Orthodox have broken away from Moscow and established with the backing of the state a Kiev patriarchate, which is not officially recognised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, but is treated pragmatically. There are other groups too. Resolving this division within Orthodoxy which has disturbed fullness of communion has been discussed by Patriarch Kirill and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople at their recent meeting. Perhaps it may be addressed towards a settlement at the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council.

Given the sensitivity of this question for the Orthodox of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, largest of the Eastern Churches in communion with the Holy See, has not succeeded in having its leader designated as Patriarch, like the Melkite and Chaldean primates. Nor is the 'patriarchal movement' within the Ukrainian Catholic community seen at Rome as opportune, where the major strategic ecumenical objective is the restoration of communion with the Orthodox. So the leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, even though he presides over a 'patriarchia', is known as a 'major archbishop'. And although not called a patriarch, he is addressed as one: 'His Beatitude'.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Melkite Patriarch Gregorios of Antioch's report on the Year of St Paul


Here is Patriarch Gregorios' General Report on the Bimillennial Year of the Birth of St Paul. It contains reference to an important conference in Damascus in April 2009, convened by the Custody of the Holy Land and the Cairo Franciscan Centre of Christian Oriental Studies, Reading St Paul from the East. Here is the link to the Conference website.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Western Front of the Eastern Church: Uniate and Orthodox Conflict in Eighteenth Century Ukraine, Belarus and Russia


"This impressive volume provides valuable empirical research on the competition of the Uniate and Orthodox churches. It offers a rich new perspective on such critical issues as confessionalization, religious identity, and politics in East Europe and Russia. It is an essential monograph for scholars in the field." - Gregory Freeze, Brandeis University


Eastern Orthodox Librarian writes:

"This book addresses the shifting identity of Ruthenians on both sides of Orthodox/Uniate divide. The dissolution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the late 18th century and the incorporation of the majority of the Ruthenians - ethnic Ukrainians and Belarusians - into the Russian Empire from the backdrop for confessional history critical to modern Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Russian identities. In a region long shaped by religious and cultural tensions between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, the creation in 1596 of the Uniate church, which retained the Eastern rite but accepted Catholic doctrine, cut a new religious fault line through Ruthenian communities that set the stage for religious and political conflict. Drawing on archival sources from Russia, Poland, and Ukraine, "The Western Front of the Eastern Church" addresses the shifting identity and fate of Ruthenians on both sides of the Orthodox/Uniate divide during the politically charged era of the partitions of Poland. Skinner investigates diverging components of these faith communities in the 18th century, the changing political landscape as the Russian Empire expanded its borders, and the religious tensions and violence that occurred as a result. She reveals cultural influences that shaped Ukrainian and Belarusian identities and sheds light on aspects of Russian imperial identity and mythology as it laid claim to its western borderlands. The confessional focus critiques the nationalist perspective that has dominated the presentation of Ukrainian and Belarusian history, and Skinner's treatment brings the region into the broader discussion of confessional development in Europe as a whole. The narrative culminates in the Uniate conversions under Catherine II, providing new insight into the limits of religious toleration in Catherinian Russia. This book is essential reading for Russian and East European historians and those interested in the history of relations between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, as well as those studying the tensions between Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus today. " Available October 2009.

Turkey "to allow Christian worship at birthplace of St Paul"


Turkey's government has agreed to extend indefinitely permission for Christian worship at an historic church in Tarsus, the birthplace of St Paul, says the head of the country's Roman Catholic bishops' conference.

"I'm confident the church in Tarsus could soon change from being a museum to a centre of spiritual pilgrimage," said Bishop Luigi Padovese, speaking after the close of worldwide commemorations to mark the 2000th anniversary of the birth of St Paul.

Here is the link to Christopher Landau's report and broadcasts on the BBC website. In October 2008 the Turkish authorities turned down a request from the Roman Catholic community in and around Tarsus to use St Paul's Church, currently a museum. But the question was reopened following the intervention of the Archbishop of Cologne, Mgr Joachim Meisner, who has been at the forefront of promoting friendship in Germany between Christians and Muslims, most of whom originate from Turkey, and warmly supported the plan to build a fine new mosque in his own city. He has contrasted the rights and freedoms Turks and Muslims enjoy in Germany with the restrictions and discrimination Christians face in Turkey - especially the deprivation of churches. It appears the leaders of Cologne's Turkish community have communicated this to the authorities in Turkey, citing the generosity and support of the city's Catholic community towards them.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Orthodox Patriarch wants Euro-body with Catholics, Protestants


The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I has called for the creation of a churches' umbrella body in Europe to include Roman Catholics alongside Anglicans, Orthodox and Protestants.

"It is only by engaging in dialogue and by closely cooperating that the churches will prove capable of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to the world in a convincing and effective way," the Orthodox leader said in a 19 July address in Lyon, France, to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Conference of European Churches.

Ecumenical News International further reports:

CEC now has about 120 member churches, principally Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant, but Bartholomeos said that Europe needs a grouping that includes the Catholic Church.

This would help to promote unity between churches and enable them to act jointly on issues in Europe such as secularisation, human rights violations, racism, the economic crisis, and threats to the environment.

"I am convinced that a conference of all the European churches, and I underline, all the European churches, working in harmony will be able to respond better to the sacred command to re-establish communion between the churches and to serve our contemporaries confronted as they are with so many complex problems," said Bartholomeos to applause.

"It will then be possible to promote more effectively the dialogue of the churches of Europe with the European institutions and the European Union," said the Patriarch, who is based in Istanbul, formerly Constantinople and one-time capital of the Byzantine Empire.

The Orthodox leader asked Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, who was present in the audience, to transmit the proposal to "where it needs to go", in an apparent reference to the Vatican.

Bartholomeos warned that the failure of churches in Europe to match their statements about unity with specific actions calls into question their credibility.

"Procrastination cannot be justified," he said. "The future of the new Europe that is under construction is sombre and, indeed, uncertain, being built as it is without Christian spiritual values which touch on everything concerning the support and protection of human beings and their dignity."

The 50th anniversary celebrations for CEC came during the church grouping's once-every-six-years assembly being held from 15-21 July in Lyon. This has gathered 300 delegates from CEC member churches and 500 other participants.

Bartholomeos said there is an obligation to, "re-establish full communion between the Christian churches in Europe". Orthodox Christians and Catholics separated from one another several centuries before the 16th-century Reformation and the rise of Protestantism.

The Patriarch noted efforts made in recent decades to overcome divisions. These include the Charta Oecumenica, a document signed in Strasbourg in 2001 by CEC and the Council of European (Catholic) Bishops' Conferences, and intended to boost inter-church cooperation.

However, many of its proposals have not been implemented by churches, and many Christian faithful are unaware of its recommendations, said Bartholomeos.

"The result is that what we have said is not matched by our actions, which damages the credibility of our churches, and gives the impression … that we are incapable of finding solutions to current problems," the Patriarch stated.

In February 2008, the president of CEC, the Rev. Jean-Arnold de Clermont, proposed the creation of a Council of European Churches that would also include the Catholic Church.

Speaking to journalists at the start of the Lyon assembly, de Clermont, a French Protestant pastor, urged steps to increase collaboration with the Catholic Church as well as with Evangelical groups.

"There is already a structure for cooperation between CEC and the Roman Catholic Church but this is not enough," said de Clermont. "The world of today couldn't care less about our [Christian] disputes. We need to have a common voice of the Christian churches in Europe."

The history of CEC goes back to January 1959, when representatives from 45 Protestant and Orthodox churches in 20 countries in Eastern and Western Europe gathered in Nyborg, Denmark.

During the Cold War, CEC helped bridge the divide between East and West. In recent years, the church grouping has played an active role in representing churches to institutions such as the European Union, the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Leaders of the Conference of European Churches are looking to find ways to resolve a dispute that has led to the Russian Orthodox Church staying away from the once-every-six-years assembly of the church grouping in Lyon, France. "We are not witnessing a fundamental split within CEC but a temporary disengagement of representation," assembly vice-moderator Bishop Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church told journalists on 16 July. "We are maintaining dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church. This has not been suspended."

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Pope's concern over attacks on churches in Iraq


The Vatican Information Service reports, 14th July 2009:


Pope Benedict XVI has expressed his concern over last weekend's attacks on eight Christian churches in Baghdad and Mosul, Iraq, which left four people dead and many injured.


In a telegram sent to Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. says that the Pope "prays for a conversion of heart in the authors of this violence, and encourages the authorities to do everything possible to promote just and peaceful coexistence among all sectors of the Iraqi population".


The Holy Father, says the telegram, "also gives assurances of his prayers and his spiritual closeness to the Catholic and Orthodox communities of the Iraqi capital".

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Conversations with Lubomyr Cardinal Husar - Towards a Post-Confessional Christianity


Conversations with Lubomyr Cardinal Husar - Towards a Post-Confessional Christianity
By Antoine Arjakovsky, Foreword by Father Boris Gudziak, Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University of Lviv. Ukrainian Catholic University Press, Lviv 2007

Book Review by Fr John Salter

My first meeting with Cardinal Patriarch Lubomyr Husar was in 1995 at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic centre in Rome, the College of SS. Sergius and Bacchus near the Coliseum and down the hill from Santa Maria Maggiore and the Russicum, or Russian College. We were on an excursion together on a 64 ’bus to the Leonine bookshop opposite St. Peter’s basilica. He was enthusiastic about finding some books by “Dr. Timothy Ware”. Mission accomplished we travelled back together for supper at SS. Sergius and Bacchus. It became apparent in the bookshop that Father Lubomyr’s eyesight was far from strong and that he was going blind. He found it difficult to read and to recognize faces.

I discovered that Father Lubomyr was the igumen or abbot of the Studite community in Rome, but had returned to the Ukraine and was back in the Eternal City on a visit. I had no idea that he was a secret bishop. He and two others had been secretly consecrated to the episcopate by Cardinal Patriarch Josyf Slipyj, whilst the latter was in exile in the Vatican City after years spent in the Soviet gulags. Slypyj was determined that Vatican ostpoliticking should not cause the total liquidation of his Church, which had suffered so much because of its loyalty to the Apostolic See in general and to the person of the Holy Father in particular. Validly but illicitly consecrated as far as the Holy See was concerned, the Cardinal Patriarch had ensured by his unilateral action that the Greek Catholic hierarchy would be secure when Ukraine’s liberation was at hand. Lubomyr Husar had kept his secret in a City where ecclesiastical secrets are notoriously hard to keep.

Dining in Rome in 1995 with Father Lubomyr and Bishop Basil Losten, then the Exarch for Ukrainians in Stamford, Connecticut, I learned that they were concerned as to how they might celebrate the following year the 400th anniversary of the Union of Brest, without antagonizing the Orthodox. Father Lubomyr was anxious that the Orthodox might be involved in some way. I saw at once that he was a true heir and successor to the great ecumenist and irenecist, Metropolitan Count Andrei Sheptytsky. Having survived the horrors of Nazism, seeing men murdered on his way to school, and Communism, which almost destroyed his beloved Church, he saw that there was a better way and that Christians ought to be leading along it.

The restoration of the so-called Uniate hierarchy had commenced with the arrival from exile of Cardinal Patriarch Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky (Patriarch 1984 – 2000), who was greeted by tens of thousands of Greek Catholics on his arrival in Lviv, an event which surprised the government and the Vatican.

The person who interviewed Cardinal Lubomyr for this fascinating book is Professor Antoine Arjakovsky, an Orthodox Frenchman, but of Russian extraction, who in his well chosen texts and spoken interviews brings out the down-to-earthness of the Cardinal, and his quiet sense of humour. Arjakovsky is a professional diplomat, a theologian and historian, and an interpreter of some of the great Russian thinkers of the twentieth century; he is the grandson of the recently canonised Orthodox martyr, Archpriest Dmitri Klepinin. He gives an amusing account of the story Cardinal Lubomyr told him of the latter's grandfather, a Greek Catholic priest, who developed an unpleasant rash on his face. On consulting his doctor he was told to grow a beard and this relieve the scraping of a razor every day. Permission for this Uniate priest to grow a beard had to be sought from far-off Rome! Lubomyr gives this as an example of the worst for of 'Uniatism'.

Dr Arjakovsky has produced a lively book in which the humanity and humour of Cardinal Lubomyr shine through, despite the trials he has endured and is now going through with the gradual loss of his sight. He will be like his predecessors in Lviv and no in Kiev a Confessor of the faith and a witness to Christian Unity through his total loyalty to the Apostolic See, won after much persecution and misunderstanding.

Cardinal Lubomyr, like the great Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, makes one thing clear: namely that Union with the Universal-Catholic Church does not mean submission to the Pope as to the Patriarch of the West (a title now dropped from the Annuario Pontificio), but an acceptance of his supreme authroity as Father and Pastor of the Universal Church, over and above any concept of a Western Patriarchate. The difference is fundamental: the Pope as Pope is not Latin, but Catholic.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Greek clergy denounce 'heresy of ecumenism'


A group of Orthodox clergy in Greece, led by three senior archbishops, have published a manifesto pledging to resist all ecumenical ties with Roman Catholics and Protestants. "The only way our communion with heretics can be restored is if they renounce their fallacy and repent," the group said in a "Confession of Faith against Ecumenism" that they circulated recently.

This approach is at variance with the policy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and, increasingly, the body of local Orthodox Churches which are involved in the painstaking dialogue and progress towards restoring communion between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church undertaken by the International Theological Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue, and with the active participation of the Orthodox Church in the work of the World Council of Churches and the Faith and Order Commission. For these a 'theology of return' has been set aside, as in Roman Catholic circles, it being recognised that visible Christian unity and re-integration is unlikely to be achieved by insisting that the various sides abandon their tradition and positions and convert to others. Instead, it is envisaged that through dialogue and friendship, no tradition should surrender its integrity but, instead, grow in theological, spiritual and pastoral awareness of the others towards finding a common mind in Christ, reflected faithfully in each Christian tradition, and towards realising greater unity and ultimately communion. Furthermore, it cannot be a threat to tradition and integrity to receive from others what accords, or comes to accord, with them through this growth.

For more from the viewpoint of the six Metropolitans concerned, including Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus (pictured), read the blog at ROCOR United.

Read here the 'Confession of Faith Against Ecumenism'.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Moscow and Constantinople Orthodox Patriarchs meet


Asia News reports, 7 July 2009:

For his first foreign trip since his election Kyrill, Patriarch of Moscow, picked Constantinople. His visit was dominated by a desire among Orthodox to consolidate the spirit of a new journey together, a process which began back in October at the pan-Orthodox meeting in Geneva.

Based on Kyrill’s and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s remarks it is clear that the journey together, mutual respect and a consolidated Orthodox unity are important goals. Both leaders stressed the importance of the pan-Orthodox meeting in October, which laid down the grounds on which Christian Orthodoxy can develop its roadmap for the future.

Their respective address clearly expressed a strong desire to accelerate the ecumenical dialogue, a necessity in today’s world whose challenges only a united Universal Church can meet.

Bartholomew began his homily by stressing the long and important witness of faith of the Russian Church, which survived 70 years of Communist captivity under an atheist regime, to begin its journey anew.

He also noted the personality of the new Patriarch of Moscow, Kyrill, expressing his gladness at his election not only because he is a man of deep religiosity but also because he is a great expert of the Christian world.

“Dear brother! Even though the atheist regime has fallen, the atheist practices of hedonism and religious indifference flourish everywhere with all its consequences,” the Patriarch said.

“Mass murder is committed in God’s name and entire populations are uprooted from their land. There is a disgraceful trade in human beings and an upsurge in nationalism and religious fanaticism. [. . .] Instead of standing united and offering convincing responses to the challenges of a desperately troubled world, we Christians are troubled by intrigue and divisions, scornfully unwilling to be conscious of our responsibility towards Our Pastor Jesus Christ, who wants to see love, peace and unity prevail among us. For only then, shall we be able to set a good example for the nations [of the world] and thus for the Father of Light! [. . .] Indeed our last meeting in Geneva, which took place in an atmosphere of unity, stands as an example and a point of reference, and this not only for Orthodox Christians.”

Kyrill’s homily followed in the same spirit. In it the Patriarch of Moscow stressed the deep historical ties that link the two Churches, noting the gratitude the Russian people towards the Church of Constantinople, the Great Church of Christ.

Into his address the Patriarch turned to the spiritual contribution of the Russian Church. He described how the 70 years of captivity in which it was held helped it understand the importance of freedom and human rights.

“May our painful stories be useful; may they constitute the contribution the Russian Church can make to a world that is losing its way,” Kyrill said.

“With our mind turned to the journey already undertaken we can say that the seed of Salvation that the missionaries of Constantinople sowed has given life to a rich and blessed fruit. This constitutes Christian Orthodoxy’s shared inheritance.”

“Our visit represents a good beginning to renew the fraternal relations between the two Churches on the path towards the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ,” he said.

“From the bottom of our heart we agree with what you told every Orthodox at the pan-Orthodox meeting in October when you urged us to be conscious of our tradition and work for a united Church,” the Patriarch of Moscow said by way of conclusion as he addressed Bartholomew.

In view of the new climate the issue of the Estonian Church appears to be on its way towards a peaceful resolution. Until now it had been a major stumbling block in relations between Moscow and Constantinople.

“The strength of our shared tradition of faith is stronger than any human division,” the Ecumenical Patriarch told the press. Kyrill agreed.

Bartholomew invited Kyrill to take part in next year’s pilgrimage in Cappadocia, cradle of Christianity, a land rich in Christian vestiges.

Some pundits also noted how Kyrill showed what he is made of, not submitting to political pressures, a sign that he is a true man of the Church.

Lastly, Kyrill met Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Religious Affairs Secretary Ali Baltakoglu.

Turkish sources reported that during the meeting Erdogan said that the Theological School in Chalki would open soon.

The Communio blog comments:

"Why is this event important? Past tensions and subsequent lack of cooperation between the two Sees have stunted the fruitful proclamation of the Gospel. Unity suffered. Also ... the gesture of the two patriarchs' meeting opens the possibility significant dialogue with the See of Rome.

"The homilies of each patriarch was a stunning example of grace at work. Content could not be out done but the promise of the Halki's school of theology on the part of the Turkish government is impressive. I pray that it comes about."

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Fourth Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference completes its work


The Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate reports that the 4th Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference, which took place at the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Orthodox Centre in Chambesy near Geneva, completed its work on 12 June 2009. The delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church led by Archpriest Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, included Archbishop Mark of Berlin, Germany and Great Britain, Russian Church Outside Russia and Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, DECR vice-chairman.

The conference was chaired by Metropolitan John of Pergamon. Metropolitan Jeremiah of Switzerland, Patriarchate of Constantinople, acted as its secretary. It was attended by delegations from the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Georgia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria as well as from the Orthodox Churches of Cyprus, Greece, Albania, Poland, Czech Lands and Slovakia. They were led by their hierarchs.

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia addressed a message of greetings to the conference.

As had been agreed by primates and representatives of Local Orthodox Churches at their meeting in October 2008 at the Phanar and reaffirmed by subsequent correspondence, the 4th Conference focused on the canonical order of the Orthodox diaspora. This decision on the agenda was made by the participants in the beginning of their work. The rest of the agenda items for Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences, including a procedure for declaring authocephaly and autonomy and the diptych order, will be considered in the sessions to follow the preparatory work to be done by the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission.

The participants considered documents prepared by the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission at its meetings on 10-17 November 1990 and 7-13 November 1993 and the conference of canon law experts that took place on 9-14 April 2009 in Chambesy. The documents were clarified and amended by consensus.

The conference agreed that the problem concerning the canonical order of the Orthodox diaspora, that is, those faithful who reside beyond the traditional boundaries of Local Orthodox Churches, should be dealt with on the basis of ecclesiology, canonical tradition and the practice of the Orthodox Church. To this end, it was agreed to set up bishops’ assemblies consisting in all the canonical Orthodox bishops who take pastoral care of the community in a given locality. The task of bishops’ assemblies will be to ascertain and consolidate the unity of the Orthodox Church, to provide common pastoral care for Orthodox people in a region and to bear common witness before the external world. The assemblies’ decisions are to be made on the basis of consensus reached by the Churches whose bishops are represented in them. The authority of a bishops’ assembly excludes interference in the diocesan jurisdiction of each of the bishops and does not restrict the rights of a bishop’s Church including her relations with international organizations, governments, social institutions and mass media as well as other confessions, governmental and inter-confessional organizations and other religions.

The conference also adopted a revised draft procedure defining the foundations for the work of regional bishops’ assemblies in the Orthodox diaspora. According to the Eastern Orthodox Librarian, there will be 12 areas for the Regional Episcopal Assemblies:

1. North and Middle America
2. South America,
3. Australia, New Zealand and Oceania
4. Great Britain and Ireland
5. France
6. Benelux countries
7. Austria
8. Italy and Malta
9. Switzerland and Liechtenstein
10. Germany
11. Scandinavian countries (apart from Finland)
12. Spain and Portugal

The assemblies must commence their work before the Pan-Orthodox Council. All bishops from all Churches in communion with mainstream Eastern Orthodoxwill be members. Retired and guest hierarch can be allowed to participate, without the rightto vote.

The main goals are to promote unity between Churches and to formulate joint statements in respect of non-Orthodox Churches. The Assemblies will also discuss issues and relationships with Churches outside canonical Orthodoxy. There must be at least one assembly a year.

Monday, 6 July 2009

The tomb of St Paul


The Vatican Information Service reports, 3 June 2009:


In the Holy See Press Office this morning Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the papal basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, and Professor Ulderico Santamaria, director of the scientific laboratory of the Vatican Museums, hosted a presentation on the sarcophagus of St. Paul.


Cardinal Cordero explained how two years ago he had suggested to the Pope that the tomb of St. Paul be subject to a scientific examination. Benedict XVI accepted the proposal but ordered that the outcome only be announced at the end of the Pauline Year. Hence it was necessary to keep the results secret until then.


Professor Santamaria dwelt on the technical aspects of the survey, explaining how a small hole was made in the sarcophagus through which a probe was then introduced. Fragments of blue linen, purple linen interwoven with gold thread, grains of red incense and bone fragments were discovered. Carbon dating on organic elements from these finds suggest that they belong to a person who lived in the first or second centuries. "This", the Pope said on 28 June during the closing ceremony for the Pauline Year, "seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul, and it fills our heart with profound emotion".


The cardinal also explained how the Pope does not exclude the possibility of undertaking a more detailed examination of the sarcophagus of St. Paul. However, he went on, the Holy Father did not wish this to take place during the Pauline Year because, in order to open the sarcophagus, it would be necessary to dismantle the papal altar and the thirteenth-century baldachin by Arnolfo di Cambio which, he concluded, would be a difficult and delicate task.


SSJC Youngstown-Warren Chapter Newsletter

Here is the June 2009 Newsletter - Light of the East - of the Youngstown-Warren Chapter of the Society of St. John Chrysostom in the US.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Halki Seminary may reopen following success of Year of St Paul for Turkey


Christians in Turkey say the Year of St. Paul has helped enhance their image in the Muslim-majority country, according to Ecumenical News International. And a government leader has indicated chances are increasing for the opening of an Orthodox seminary that was shut down in 1971. In a 28 June interview with the daily newspaper Milliyet, the minister for culture and tourism, Ertuðrul Günay, said he was "personally convinced" the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate's Halki seminary in Istanbul would be allowed to re-open.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Interconfessional Seminar on "The Common Date of Easter"


  On the 15th of May, 2009, the Institute of Ecumenical Studies at the Ukrainian Catholic University organized an international, inter-confessional seminar on the topic, “The Common Date of Easter is Possible: The Aleppo Consensus of 1997”.
The seminar w
as organized within the framework of the Master’s degree program of Ecumenical Studies of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies with the participation Rev. Dagmar Heller (Pastor of the Evangelical Church of Germany), professor of the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey and representative of the commission Faith and Order of World Council Churches in Geneva; Fr. Dr. Milan Zust SJ (Catholic Church), representative Pontifical Council for the Promoting of Christian Unity (Vatican); and Dr. Kostjantyn Sigov, director of the Center of St. Clement Center in Kyiv, and representative of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). Walter Cardinal Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of Christian Unity and Metropolitan Antony Antony Scharba of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (USA – Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) sent letters of blessing to the participants of the seminar. The seminar also gathered the representatives of the main Christian Churches of L’viv: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow and Kyiv Patriarchates), Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Armenian Apostolic Church, and Protestant and Evangelical Churches.
The participants of the seminar supported the consensus given in Aleppo in 1997 during the meeting organized by the World Council of Churches which proposed to calculate the common date for the celebration of Easter. The participants of the seminar also supported the proposition to promote the information about this consensus and organize more meetings on the topic within universities, parishes, and the mass media with the aim of creating an atmosphere of trust among Christians who belong to different confessions and to promote the appearance of the fruits of ecumenical dialogue.