Moving Day

I’m beginning to copy some of the articles on ecumenism over to a new blog called “Eirenikon“, devoted solely to the topic of Orthodox/Catholic rapprochement. I am still setting things up there, so I ask your patience. At this point, Eirenikon is experimental, as I honestly don’t know how much time I will be able to devote to it. I will keep Cathedra Unitatis up as an archive, but I won’t be approving new comments for it.


On Christian Unity

Two days ago began the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity during which Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants, knowing that their divisions constitute an obstacle to the reception of the Gospel, together implore the Lord, in a yet more intense way, for the gift of full communion. This providential initiative was born 100 years ago, when Father Paul Wattson started the “Octave” of prayer for the unity of all the disciples of Christ. Today for this occasion the spiritual sons and daughters of Father Wattson, the friars and sisters of the Atonement, are present in St. Peter’s Square and I greet them cordially and encourage them to pursue the cause of unity with their special dedication.

We all have the duty to pray and work for the overcoming of every division between Christians, responding to Christ’s desire “ut unum sint.” Prayer, conversion of heart, the reinforcement of the bonds of communion, form the essence of this spiritual movement that we hope will soon lead the disciples of Christ to celebrate the Eucharist together, the manifestation of their full unity.

This year’s biblical theme is dense with meaning: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). St. Paul addresses himself to the community of Thessalonica, which was experiencing internal clashes and conflicts, to remind them with insistence about certain fundamental attitudes, among which there stands out, indeed, incessant prayer. With this invitation of his, he wants it to be understood that from the new life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit there flows forth the capacity to overcome all egoism, to live together in peace and fraternal union, to bear in large measure the burdens and sufferings of others. We must never tire of praying for the unity of Christians! When Jesus, during the Last Supper, prayed that his disciples “be one,” he had a precise goal in mind: “That the world believe” (John 17:21).

The Church’s evangelizing mission, therefore, moves along the path of ecumenism, the path of unity of faith, of evangelical witness and authentic fraternity. As is done every year, on Thursday, Jan. 25, I will go to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with solemn vespers. I invite Romans and pilgrims to join with me and with Christians of all the churches and ecclesial communities who will take part in the celebration, to ask of God the precious gift of reconciliation among all the baptized.

May the Mother of God, whose appearance to Alphonse Ratisbonne in the Church of Sant’Andrea delle Frate in Rome we remember today, obtain from the Lord the abundance of the Holy Spirit for all disciples in such a way that we can arrive at perfect unity and in this way offer the witness of faith and life that the world urgently needs.

Pope Benedict XVI (January 20, 2008)

From Byzantine Ramblings comes the sad news of the falling asleep in Christ of a major voice for Orthodox-Catholic unity in our time, the Melkite Catholic Archbishop Elias Zoghby:

His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III, the Bishops of the Holy Synod of the Melkite Catholic Church, His Grace, Elias Rahal, Archbishop of Baalbeck, the Clergy and Faithful of the Eparchy of Baalbeck, His Grace, Bishop Youssef Joel Zraiy, Patriarchal Vicar of Egypt and Sudan, the Clergy and Faithful of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Zoghby Family and their relatives here and abroad, regret to inform you of the passing to the Lord of His Grace, Archbishop Elias Zoghby, on Wednesday, 16 January 2008.

Archbishop Zoghby was Dean of the Holy Synod of Melkite Bishops, Patriarchal Vicar Emeritus of Egypt and Sudan, and Archbishop Emeritus of Baalbeck.

Archbishop Zoghby’s Funeral will take place at St. Paul Basilica in Harissa, on Saturday, 19 January 2008, at 3:00 P.M. Sympathies will be accepted before and after the funeral service at St. Paul Convent in Harissa and on Sunday, 20 January 2008 at the Patriarchal Residence in Rabweh from 11:00 A.M to 6:00 P.M.

Archbishop was perhaps most famous for his controversial proposal known as the “Zoghby Initiative”, approved by the Melkite Holy Synod in 1995 (and politely rejected by the CDF under the presidency of Cardinal Ratzinger):

  1. I believe everything which Eastern Orthodoxy teaches.
  2. I am in communion with the Bishop of Rome as the first among the bishops, according to the limits recognized by the Holy Fathers of the East during the first millennium, before the separation.

Archbishop Elias was a prolific writer on the topic of Orthodox-Catholic relations, including his 1996 book Tous Schismatiques? (“Are We All Schismatics?”, printed in English under the slighly mistranslated title “We Are All Schismatics”). Two of his essays have been featured here: “The Desire for Christian Unity” and “Christian Unity Involves the Whole Church”. Eastern Christian Publications carries a small book of his entitled Ecumenical Reflections, as well as a biography of Archbishop Elias by Suzane Aboueid.

No matter what one thinks of his Initiative and ideas about Christian unity, I hope we can all join in prayer for the repose of his soul and that his memory may be eternal. O Christ God, with the Saints grant rest to the soul of your High Priest Elias in a place where there is no pain, no grief, no sighing, but everlasting life.

The Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity begins tomorrow, January 18, and ends on January 25. The custom was originated by two Anglican priests who advocated corporate reunion with Rome. Of late, the Octave has developed into a more general form of prayer for the reunion of Christendom, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox. You can read more about the history of the Octave here, and about the founders of the Octave here.

I’ve often wondered what ecumenically-minded Eastern Orthodox might do during the Octave, especially now that it’s no longer merely a Roman Catholic or Anglo-Papalist custom. Most of the orders of prayer I’ve seen are really unsuitable for Orthodox use, both the older form (reflective of pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic ecclesiology) and the newer forms (far too contemporary, not reflective enough of Eastern liturgical ethos and piety, and probably a bit more broadly ecumenical than most Orthodox would be comfortable with).

The website Ancient and Future Catholics presents a version of the Octave primarily devoted to the intention of Orthodox-Catholic unity, but with a secondary focus on the unity of all Christians and the conversion of non-Christians.

We believe the best way to achieve unity between Orthodox and Catholics is twofold: prayer and mutual understanding. This is also how we will accomplish greater unity with our Protestant brothers and sisters. On Ancient and Future Catholics we have always worked towards mutual understanding and now we want to make prayer for visible unity another primary focus. What better way to achieve that goal than to start with the octave of Christian unity? We have several suggestions for these 8 days. The first obvious activity is prayer. Each day we will post prayer suggestions, but above all, we must pray for visible unity between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, and with other churches as well. Secondly, we will provide a reading from both Eastern and Western Christian writers. This purpose is to help each side become more acquainted with the riches involved in the Western and Eastern heritage. This will also include liturgical texts. Finally, we will give practical suggestions for better relations with individual Orthodox and Catholics, principles which apply also to our relationships with Protestants. Although we are primarily focusing on Catholic-Orthodox relations, our secondary focus will be prayer for the unity of all Christians and the conversion of non-Christians. This effort is not officially associated with any diocese or parish and we are loyal to the Magisterium and our bishops. We are simply laymen trying to live out our faith.

I particularly like the patristic readings assigned for each day. I’d imagine that this form of the devotion would be more accessible to the Orthodox, although, again, it would be better to have a form more reflective of Eastern ethos and piety (I wonder if the various families of Eastern Catholics have a form of prayer for the Octave?).

An update

My apologies for the lack of activity here since the beginning of the Nativity Fast.

Cathedra Unitatis has been around now for a year (it premiered on January 12, 2007). I originally started the blog for a very selfish reason: I wanted answers to my own questions about the differing ecclesiological visions of Rome and the Eastern Churches. I wanted smart Orthodox and Catholics to come together and engage in an honest yet charitable dialogue on ecclesiology, and specifically, the issue of the Papacy and primacy in the Universal Church.

When I started the blog, I was an Orthodox convert seriously contemplating the possibility of coming into the communion of the Church of Rome. Today, a year later, I remain an Orthodox Christian, and I am determined to remain in this faith and communion until I die (a fact which will, no doubt, dismay both my Catholic friends and my Orthodox critics alike!).

The question now is whether to abandon the blog, or to keep it going albeit in a somewhat different form. I am still very interested in ecclesiology and the Papacy, but perhaps at this point the blog would work better as a place for discussion of Orthodox-Catholic rapprochement. It seems to me that ecumenically-minded Orthodox are woefully under-represented in the blogosphere (two exceptions being the wonderful blogs by Fr Gregory Jensen and Peter Gilbert).

I am grateful for your readership and especially for your insightful comments during the past year. I have learned a great deal, and I look forward to learning more from the discussions here, God willing.

While I was gone …

I’m catching up on interesting posts bearing on Orthodox-Catholic relations on some of my favorite blogs. Here are some of the juiciest highlights:

From Fr Gregory Jensen’s ‘Koinonia’ comes a smorgasborg of excellent posts on Orthodox ecumenism:

Some More Thoughts on Ravenna (November 16, 2007):

Reading through the Ravenna statement on ecclesiology, I find it to be well balanced and consistent with an Orthodox understanding of the Church. Rightly understood, and the document addresses this, there is not a single primacy in the Church, but rather primacies. Moving from the “bottom up,” each primacy becomes part of a synod with its own primate, who in terms is in another, more expansive synod with its own primate, etc. Moving from the “top down,” these different levels of primacy nest in each other—each primate having a responsibility to care for the primacy of those in the “lower” level … As I have said in other venues, before the Great Schism can be healed we—Orthodox Christians and Catholics—must desire reconciliation. For that desire to be born in our hearts we need at least some mutual understanding or sympathy for each other’s ecclesiology. On that score, I think, the Ravenna document represents a significant advance in Catholic/Orthodox ecumenical relations.

Answering Critics (December 12, 2007):

Ecumenical work is not something that can be engaged in simply out of a personal interest—one needs to have the blessing of the Church in order to represent her in ecumenical contacts. It is, I would suggest, a vocation, a ministry to which one is called by Christ and which must be confirmed by the Church. There are those in the Church who Christ calls to help heal the wounds on the Body of Christ. Much like the priest in confession, ecumenical healing requires that we examine ourselves and our respective communities carefully. This is done not simply to root out sin but also to uncover God’s hidden mercy in the midst of human failings and shortcomings. As presented in [the Basic Principles of the Attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church Toward the Other Christian Confessions], ecumenical work participates in the larger therapeutic work of Christ and His Church.

Conversion or Reconciliation? (December 13, 2007):

This therapeutic approach to ecumenicism is rooted, I would argue, in the more general, therapeutic approach of Eastern Church to the spiritual life. In my experience, the Orthodox tendency to see Christian faith and morality in therapeutic terms is very powerful. For many Roman Catholics and Protestants however, the therapeutic emphasis of Orthodoxy is one of the most attractive and life-giving aspects of Holy Tradition. It is with some irony then that when the topic turns to ecumenicism many Orthodox Christians, especially in America, eschew any language that suggests that reconciliation or healing is what is called for in our conversation and witness to Christians in other confessions. The bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate however take the high road and refuse to acquiesce to those strident and sectarian voices that would counsel a simplistic reduction of ecumenical work to “us” vs. “them” or “Orthodox” vs. “heterodox.” Instead, BPA challenges Orthodox Christians to foster the reconciliation of non-Orthodox Christians with the Church. Speaking of reconciliation is more appropriate because, as we have seen, the bishops argue that the grace of Christ is not absent from non-Orthodox confessions. Indeed central to any Orthodox ecumenical witness is the conviction that “In spite of the rupture of unity, there remains a certain incomplete fellowship which serves as the pledge of a return to unity in the Church, to catholic fullness and oneness.” (1.15)

Dialog and Self-Criticism (December 14, 2007):

The remedies for relativism and triumphalism are the same: not only knowledge of the faith of the Church, but also a commitment to dialog that is rooted in both an openness to others and a spirit of self-criticism ground in Christ’s call to His Church to always empty herself of any pretention and self-confidence.

An Incomplete Communion: Ecclesiology or Anthropology? (December 17, 2007):

In the early Church, it is worth noting, this acknowledgement of a limited communion is never taken to be a rejection of the catholic nature of the Church as such. Nor did it turn the grace of God into something “free floating” and divorced from the Body of Christ. The emphasis, I would suggest, in a partial or incomplete communion is not on a rarified view of the Church, but an attempt to take seriously human freedom in response to divine grace. Though they have implications for ecclesiology, statements about an incomplete communion, or so it seems to me, are fundamentally statements about anthropology. I would suggest that, in speaking about incomplete fellowships, the bishops are making statements about the human person, and even concrete human communities, in whom they can recognize at least a partial communion with Christ and His Body the Church. They pass over in silence the ecclesiological status of these communities because their concern is anthropological and not about ecclesiology as such. The tension they are trying to maintain is between God free bestowal of His grace and human freedom to respond to that grace. Though in varying degrees, both of these are essential to communion with Christ and His Body the Church.

Transcending Relativism and Triumphalism (December 18, 2007):

Overemphasize our similarities and you fall into a relativism that denies any real difference between Christian confessions and, indeed, between Christians and non-Christians. Overemphasize our differences, however, and you fall into a triumphalism that makes the Church a sectarian group radically divorced from the very human family that Christ joins Himself to and for which He suffers and dies. In both cases, the catholic (kata + holos, or wholeness) nature of the Church is lost.

Do We Wish to be Reconciled? (December 19, 2007):

While I can’t speak for Catholics and Protestants, at least among the Orthodox (myself included I am ashamed to say), there are many who prefer a divided Christendom. It is simply easier not to have to deal with the many questions that seem to be tearing western Christian confessions apart. We happily exist in splendid isolation. Alas, this isolation is, as Fr Alexander Schmemann points out, is only possible if we stay in our grace proof chancelleries and rectories. Yes, we can keep “alive”—like some spiritual Disneyland—the glories of Byzantium and Holy Rus and our separation from Western culture and Christendom, but at what cost? How much of Orthodox resistance to a reconciled Christendom reflects a commitment to the Gospel and how much narcissism? How much of our talk about “conversion,” is simply in the service of requiring that “you” change and conform yourself to “me.” How much of our profession of faith is simply a way to excuses us from any real self-examination. To speak of reconciliation means not simply that “you” change, but that “we” change, that “I” change together with “you.” Even if that change is not dogmatic, it does mean making room in my parish for new people with their own problems and struggles. But oh, how this disturbs the “peace.” … So I ask myself again: Are we, Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants and Evangelical Christians willing to take seriously the task of reconciliation not simply with one and other, but with Christ? If the answer is “No” how can we then claim to be faithful to Christ? As St Basil reminds us, fidelity to Christ demands of us above all this “one aim—to bring back into union [those] Churches [and Christians] that have been severed from one another.” (Letter, 114).

From Mike Liccione at ‘Sacramentum Vitae’, more fascinating back-and-forth on the Ravenna document:

Ravenna: The latest chapter in Orthodox-Catholic ecumenism (November 17, 2007):

As evinced by Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio, as well as other pertinent documents since that council closed, the Catholic Church has undergone and fostered the development of ecclesiological doctrine in such a way as to give an account of how the [Eastern Orthodox] and [Oriental Orthodox] relate to “the Church,” which is said to “subsist” in the Roman communion as a perduring whole … But something analogous does not seem to have occurred in Orthodoxy. We have Zizoulas’ eucharistic ecclesiology, which dovetails somewhat with Ratzinger’s theology of communio and has clearly influenced the Ravenna proceedings. But further progress in Orthodox ecclesiology is necessary if the process embodied by Ravenna is to continue. What direction could and should such progress take?

Orthodoxy on churches outside “the Church” (November 2o, 2007):

What I’m calling for, in effect, is the sort of development in Orthodox ecclesiology that has occurred, within living memory, in Catholic ecclesiology. Any such development would, of course, assume that the Eastern-Orthodox communion is “the” Church, with the question being how other churches relate to her—just as the Catholic Church sees herself as “the” Church, with the question being how other churches relate to her. Even so, one should not assume that Orthodoxy as a whole will come to see non-Orthodox churches, especially the Catholic Church, in a way that would be a mirror image of how the Catholic Church has come to see non-Catholic churches, especially the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox communions. I know of nothing to rule out that happening, but expecting it to happen would be presumptuous. Yet I believe it can be safely said that if Orthodoxy did develop greater clarity about the ecclesial status of non-Orthodox bodies, especially the Catholic Church, then the possibilities of ecumenism would be more clearly understood on both sides. And clarity about that could only constitute progress—even if the possibilities thereby exhibited would not please everybody.

Orthodox (non?)-ecclesiology, continued (November 21, 2007):

What I think it reasonable to seek directly from the Orthodox side is greater clarity about its own ecclesiology. If such clarity were forthcoming, that would not necessarily improve the prospects for unity; for all I know, it might worsen them; for if the Athonites turn out to speak for Orthodoxy, then the prospects for reunion, at least on the collective level, are dim indeed. If Athonite ecclesiology truly is the ecclesiology of Orthodoxy, then the only thing left for the Catholic Church to do is die. Of course, for all I know, Orthodox ecclesiology could develop along lines similar to that which is manifest in Vatican II’s teaching for Catholics. That would hold out more favorable prospects for collective reunion.

Getting perspective on ecumenism (November 21, 2007):

Is all the negativity about ecumenism I’ve been sensing of late just myopic on my part? The Internet, whose discussion forums breed even more logomachy than they allow, can darken the vision and mood of almost anybody who spends much time on it. I see the temptation to succumb to that as an invitation to spiritual combat—or, if you prefer, to a form of ascesis that must occasion a deepening of prayer. Indeed, when it comes to ecumenism, the Internet negativity one senses can be surreal in a way that I’ve only encountered regularly before in reading transcripts of full-blown exorcisms.

From Hieromonk Maximos at ‘The Anastasis Dialogue’:

Power, Power, Power (November 19, 2007):

The whole problem with the primacy is issue is not who has it but what primacy is. It’s about how authority works in a Church founded on the ultimate refusal of power, the kenosis of the Son of God. Does there really need to be an “arbiter” whose final word ends all disputes, as the Roman side claims? Or is the real guarantor of Truth the Spirit at work in Scripture, Sacrament and the Saints as the Orthodox aver? My view is that the final solution, from which we are intellectually, emotionally and culturally very far, will come about only when the notion of “hierarchy” is rescued from the power-political prison into which it has been placed since the cultural triumph of nominalism sealed by the Reformation and Enlightenment. Only then will we be in a position to understand the mystical, sacramental symbolic weight of apostolic authority that witnesses to, without recourse to worldly strategies of domination, what the Areopagite calls “the most conspicuous fact of theology — the God-formation of Jesus amongst us.”

The Ochlophobist on Ravenna (November 20, 2007):

Lurking behind this ecclesiology (and yes, that’s what it is—and not an “undefined” one, as is argued, but an ill-defined one) is, in my view, a kind of crypto-protestant “me and Jesus” attitude. Not everyone who cries, “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The Church does not exist solely in relation to Christ; it is also the means by which Christ extends Himself through the Spirit to all creation. The world matters; for its sake the God who so loved it sent his only Son into it, not to condemn it but so that it might be saved. Askesis and repentance are not just things we do for ourselves, to secure our own salvation. They are the ways by which we become co-workers with Him for the sake of the All. That seems a good enough reason for those ecumenical meetings, with or without the wine. And it certainly seems a good enough reason to think twice before sneering at those who attend them.

The askesis of ecumenism (November 26, 2007):

If the fathers of the Holy Mountain mean what they say, then the fact that they pray daily for, “the peace of the whole world, the welfare of the holy Churches of God and for the union of all” makes them, in the truest sense of the word, ecumenical. This means that all their acts of personal and corporate asceticism have an ecumenical dimension. They pray and fast not only for themselves but also that this prayer may be fulfilled. I’m not just playing with words. Yes, I am trying to re-define “ecumenism” away from the idea that it’s about professional theologians, conferences and junkets. I’m even trying to re-define it away from those of us who actually believe the Churches are already in a fundamental sense united. I want the word to mean what it ought to mean: faith in the salvation of the peopled world, the oikumene, through Christ Jesus and the need to witness to this salvation throughout that world. So yes, by acting as our kathartic conscience, the ecumenists of Athos are as essential to the work of re-union as the optimists of Bari and Geneva; perhaps more so.

From Wei-Hsien Wan, at ‘Bumi Dipijak’:

Christian Unity and the Renunciation of Autonomy (November 16, 2007)

The continued separation between the Churches is in part the furtherance of the quest for autonomy that began in Eden. History has wounded us, and we’ve numbed ourselves by writing the other out of every day life. Between East and West is the lie that we do not need each other, and this, perhaps, is the greatest chasm and the thickest wall. If it is true that we long for reunion and not simply discussions about it, then it seems to me that we must first repent by unmasking this. That way, when we actually sit down to talk about things that really do stand in the way of our living together, we can at least see each other face to face. If not, we’ll have to stand before the dread judgment seat of Christ and defend ourselves with that primordial lame duck of questions, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

A Jagged Little Pill (November 28, 2007):

… [w]hat do we have in common with those “vagabond” apostles of Christ, Paul, Peter and the others? And the hierarchs, charged with communicating the life of Christ to men, would one day, with the connivance of emperors, arrogate to themselves the right of life and death over the children of God, unscrupulously executing those who did not share their opinions and the letter of their faith, forgetting that faith is a gratuitous gift of God. These are not the type of men who would gather believers around the crucified Jesus and the Eucharistic table and who would bring about communion of hearts and spirits, as enjoyed by the first Christian communities. It is necessary to seek this communion from the “little brothers” and the “little sisters” of Jesus Christ, either in hidden cloistered life, or in the midst of the world, in obscure and daily labor of fathers and mothers who generously bear the concerns of a family, living from day to day. No, Christian unity would not be brought about by pastors of the churches, of whom it is written: “Awake, O sword against my shepherd, … says the Lord of hosts. Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered” (Zech 13.7). – Archbishop Elias Zoghby

From Peter Gilbert at ‘De Unione Ecclesiarum’:

Why Read Bekkos? (December 20, 2007):

Given that so much of Orthodox dogmatic theology has in fact taken shape in conscious opposition to Bekkos’s thought, can an examination of that thought now serve any irenic purpose, or only a polemical one? If a restoration of communion between Catholics and Orthodox is to be achieved, it would hardly appear to be possible now upon the theological grounds on which Bekkos would have established it … Why then read Bekkos, if his thought is so tied to a theology that the Churches are trying to get beyond? First of all, any attempt to get beyond something has to be very careful; it is always possible that what one seeks to get beyond is something one never quite understood correctly in the first place. That, I suspect, is the case with at least some of the criticisms of Bekkos’s thought. And even if those who read Bekkos continue to wish to get beyond him, I would hope that at least, by reading him, people who make it their business to criticize the West would learn to be a little more charitable towards this much-maligned Greek of the thirteenth century, who had the audacity to hope for a world in which Christians would not hate each other, and who sought with all the resources of his faith and intellect to bring that world into being. Is it too much to hope that such a world might still come about? Perhaps one reads Bekkos to reawaken the notion of that possibility.

Memory eternal!

I interrupt my Advent fast from blogging to report some sad news: the falling asleep in Christ of His Eminence, Archbishop Vsevolod of Skopelos, Eparch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople). From  his brother bishops in the UOC-USA:

It is with a profound depth of sadness that we hereby inform you of the repose, this evening of 16 December 2007 in the 80th year of his earthly pilgrimage, of His Eminence Archbishop Vsevolod, Eparch of the Western Eparchy of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Titular Hierarch of Skopelos of the Holy Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.  His Eminence was stricken with a serious illness just a few months ago and was released only recently from rehabilitation to participate in the celebration of his 20th anniversary of episcopal consecration and his 80th birthday.  This celebration took place at his Cathedral of St. Volodymyr in Chicago, IL with the presence of his brother Ukrainian Orthodox hierarchs, his family from the United States and Ukraine and his beloved spiritual children, the clergy and faithful of the Western Eparchy, of which he served a Eparch since 1997.

Archbishop Vsevolod is well known amongst the world’s ecumenical leaders and in particular the on-going dialogue between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.  He has represented our Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in all his ecumenical activities, in particular over the past ten years in repeated attempts to bring about ecclesiastical unity in his native Ukraine.

We express our deepest sympathy to his surviving sister, Ilaria Krejer of San Diego, CA and her children and other family members in Ukraine, at this difficult time and we offer our prayers that our Heavenly Father will embrace them in His warmth and comfort as these difficult moments pass.

One of His Eminence’s essays, on Primacy and Conciliarity, has been featured here at Cathedra Unitatis (part one, part two, part three and part four). It comes from a very interesting two volume anthology of works by His Eminence on Orthodox-Catholic relations, called We Are All Brothers. I understand that there is a third volume entitled We Are All Brothers, which is a festschrift of essays by prominent Church leaders and theologians in honor of Archbishop Vsevolod on his eightieth birthday and twentieth anniversary of episcopal consecration. Both volumes are highly recommended, and are available from Eastern Christian Publications.

Give rest eternal, O Lord, in blessed repose, to the soul of Thy departed servant, and make his memory eternal!

A bit of a break

I’ll be taking a bit of a break for Advent/pre-Nativity fast. I will continue to look after the comboxes but there shouldn’t be new posts until after Christmas. A holy and blessed season to all.

Bishop Hilarion on Ravenna

Here’s a report in rather confusing English from Interfax: “Bishop Hilarion requests the Theologian Commission to examine the ambiguous document adopted at the Orthodox-Catholic conference in Ravenna.”

The Ravenna Document is stimulating great and profound thoughts in the Orthodox-Catholic blogosphere.

First, from an Orthodox perspective, John at Ad Orientem has two posts on Ecumenical Councils (post I and post II). I’m encouraged to see this sort of constructive, rather than nitpicky and dismissive, response from a fellow Orthodox.

Since Orthodoxy for whatever reasons (I would opine there are many) has not held an oecumenical council since 880 AD, and therefore has not formally condemned the Latin innovations, they could be treated as theologumen. Granted, I think there is far greater unanimity among the Orthodox hierarchs and the lay faithful that many Western doctrines are heretical, than there is support for some of them among the Roman Catholic faithful. But it still boils down to theologumen on our side. But if you remove Rome’s carved in stone claim that those doctrines are infallible truths binding on all of the faithful, then we may move back to square one.

This would not of course end the schism or restore communion. But it would have the effect of saying both sides have strongly held contrary OPINIONS of great import that need to be resolved. On that basis it might be possible to convene a Great Council of The Church to begin the process of sorting things out and resolving them one at time …

Partly in response to John’s posts, Dr. Mike Liccione (Sacramentum Vitae) has some excellent reflections from a Roman Catholic perspective. This point in particular is of great interest to me:

As evinced by Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio, as well as other pertinent documents since that council closed, the Catholic Church has undergone and fostered the development of ecclesiological doctrine in such a way as to give an account of how the EOs and OOs relate to “the Church,” which is said to “subsist” in the Roman communion as a perduring whole. As a matter of fact, John’s challenge to us Catholics makes use of that development. But something analogous does not seem to have occurred in Orthodoxy. We have Zizoulas’ eucharistic ecclesiology, which dovetails somewhat with Ratzinger’s theology of communio and has clearly influenced the Ravenna proceedings. But further progress in Orthodox ecclesiology is necessary if the process embodied by Ravenna is to continue. What direction could and should such progress take? That’s the question that Orthodox like John need to consider.