Friday, February 05, 2010

Reuniting Orthodoxy with the West?

Recently there has been talks, one may even call them negotiations, between Orthodoxy and the Catholic Church.  Talks about reunification and to try to get back to a united Church as we had for the first millennium of Christianity.  However, not all favor these talks, especially in Orthodoxy.  Many in Orthodoxy do not trust the West, and have deeply rooted feelings - some harboring such feelings generation after generation for more than a millennia.  Most recently, Pope John Paul II tried, but those whom he sent to Russia were seen more as "invaders" and the fact that they were of Polish descent (historic rivals of Russia) did not help matters in the least.  

At talks which were held in Ravenna in 2007 had some detractors:
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 Metropolitan of Pergamon says the following of the monks of Mount Athos:
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!".
Now that sure sounds like a call for a council!  October 16 through the 23rd of 2009 saw a meeting held in Paphos (Cyprus) at which "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" (ibid).  So even as talks continue, there is resistance and distrust - especially among the Orthodox.  

Another sign of Pope Benedict XVI's desire for reunification will be seen in his visit to Cyprus in June of 2010 and in September of 2010 more talks are to take place in Vienna, Austria.  Talking is GOOD!  And as Patriarch Bartholomew I said, "engaging in dialogue is our duty and obligation. Dialogue is a road of no return" (qtd. on ibid).
Now while all these talks are encouraging, it must be noted that nothing is going to just "happen" all of a sudden.  There may indeed be a call for an ecumenical council - a truly ecumenical one to include all of the East along with the West.  Before that can happen, Orthodoxy will need to meet in an official synod and agree as a synod to accept or even make the invitation for an ecumenical council.  At such a council the final disputes can and should be worked out and as the Metropolitan of Pergamon said, "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!"

Let us pray for TRUE ecumenism and a true spirit of harmony and unity can come to East and West and restore the communion the Church saw in the first millennium at this dawning of the third millennium.  Pope Benedict concluded his sermon Feast of the Conversion of St Paul Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls Monday, January 25, 2010:
The commitment to unity among Christians is not the work of a few only, nor is it an incidental undertaking for the life of the Church. Each one of us is called to make his or her contribution towards the completion of those steps that lead to full communion among the disciples of Christ, without ever forgetting that this unity is above all a gift from God to be constantly invoked. In fact, the force that supports both unity and the mission flows from the fruitful encounter with the Risen One, just as was the case for St Paul on the road to Damascus, and for the Eleven and the other disciples gathered at Jerusalem. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, grant that her Son's desire may be fulfilled as soon as possible: "That they may all be one... so that the world may believe" (Jn 17: 21).  (source)
Let us join in that prayer, that we may all be one so that the world may believe! 


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