Orthodox Churches Will Hold First Ecumenical Council In 1,200 Years

In Istanbul:

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 Patriarchs of the world’s 250  million Orthodox Christians ended a rare summit in Istanbul on  Sunday calling for a peaceful end to the crisis in Ukraine and  denouncing violence driving Christians out of the Middle East.

Twelve heads of autonomous Orthodox churches, the  second-largest family of Christian churches, also agreed to hold  a summit of bishops, or ecumenical council, in 2016, which will  be the first in over 1,200 years.

The Istanbul talks were called to decide on the council,  which the Orthodox have been preparing on and off since the  1960s, but the Ukraine crisis overshadowed their talks at the  office of spiritual leader Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

As the prelates left a special service at Saint George’s  Cathedral, a woman in the crowd called out in Russian “Pray for  Ukraine!” Two archbishops responded: “You pray, too!”

In their communique, the patriarchs called for “peaceful negotiations and prayerful reconciliation in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine” and denounced what they said were “threats of violent occupation of sacred monasteries and churches” there.

The Russian Orthodox Church, with 165 million members by far  the largest in the Orthodox family, last month issued a  statement along with Moscow’s Foreign Ministry about what they  said were attacks on revered historic monasteries in Kiev and  Pochayiv in western Ukraine.

Russia has used the alleged threat to Russian-speakers in  Ukraine, including the faithful of the Moscow-backed church  there, to argue it has the right to intervene to protect them.

Closely aligned with President Vladimir Putin on Ukraine  policy, the Russian church has a partner Ukrainian Orthodox  Church mostly in the Russian-speaking east of the country that  is loyal to the Moscow patriarchate.

There are two rival Orthodox churches mostly in western  Ukraine, both meant to be Ukrainian national churches. Neither  is part of the global Orthodox communion and the patriarchs’  communique expressed the hope they would one day join it.

On the Middle East, the patriarchs denounced “the lack of  peace and stability, which is prompting Christians to abandon  the land where our Lord Jesus Christ was born.”

Rest here.

 

On Continuing Anglican Unity

Fr Anthony Chadwick has a look.

… Indeed, we look forward to the fortieth anniversary of the Congress of Saint Louis, and to much progress having been made to recover from bad experience in this process of Christian healing and reconciliation.

Read the rest of his thoughts here.

 

What Needs to Change for East-West Unity to Happen?

Roman rights and wrongs.

Every January for over a century now, Christians have set aside a special week to pray for unity. This week, my friend the Orthodox priest and historian Oliver Herbel posted an excellent reflection in which he upbraided his fellow Orthodox for, as he powerfully put it, “spitting in the eye of Rome” every time she makes advances towards East-West unity. Father Oliver then went on to note some changes that he and his fellow Orthodox should make to respond better to Rome’s invitations.

Let me return the favor of my gracious friend. Speaking as an Eastern Catholic who tries to help East and West understand each other, let me offer a few reflections on the kind of changes Eastern Catholics and, perforce, Eastern Orthodox, want to see in very practical ways for unity to become a closer and more realistic possibility. However, I do not want to be thought querulous, so let me dwell briefly on areas where I think Roman practice is right and needs to be encouraged…

They are here.

 

 

Work of ARCIC Irrelevant

So says Lord Carey:

Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey (PA) Below: 'Anglicans and Christians might as well be 'talking on the moon' (Christian Adams)

Catholics and Anglicans involved in formal ecumenical dialogue might as well be “talking on the moon” because no one is listening to them, a former Anglican leader has said.

Lord Carey of Clifton said the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) was “irrelevant” to most Christians, who were motivated by relations at grassroots level. He suggested that financial grounds alone might justify the abandoning of the ecumenical project in favour of local projects underpinned by good will and a shared commitment to charity.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury said 45 years of attempts to bring about visible unity by bridging theological differences had “run into the sand”. “I don’t know what is going on,” he said. “If you take the latest ARCIC document, I think it is so irrelevant to the ordinary Christian – Catholic, Anglican or Methodist – that it might as well be talking on the moon.”

Rest here.

 

The Russian Veto Against Francis and Bartholomew

The embrace between Rome and Constantinople is renewed. But a document from the patriarchate of Moscow freezes the discussion between Catholics and Orthodox on the powers of the pope over the universal Church…

Read on here.

 

The Main Problem of the Western Church

Is the scandal of disunity, according to NT Wright:


 

Syrian Rebels Plan Destruction of Christianity

So says a Russian Orthodox prelate, Metropolitan Hilarion:

In an interview with the AsiaNews service, the top foreign-policy spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church said he fears rebels in Syria “have set themselves the goal of the complete and total destruction of Christianity” in the country.

Metropolitan Hilarion said that the conflict in Syria is not really a civil war, but a conflict waged by “foreigners, fighting with foreign money.” He said that the Orthodox Church is worried primarily about the toll of the conflict on civilians.

In the AsiaNews interview the Russian prelate also commented on the status of Vatican-Russian Orthodox relations, the prospects for a meeting between the Pope and the Russian Patriarch, theological dialogue among Orthodox leaders, and the relations between the Moscow patriarchate and the Russian government.

You can read that interview in full here.

 

Global Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria: 7 September

Pope Francis:

Brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

The full text of his appeal is here.

Meanwhile, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier group has been rerouted to help with a US strike on Syria, if needed. Russia Today is reporting:

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz along with four destroyers and a cruiser have been ordered to move west in the Arabian Sea toward the Red Sea, so that it can help support a US strike on Syria if requested, a US official told Reuters.

“It’s about leveraging the assets to have them in place should  the capabilities of the carrier strike group and the presence be  needed,” the official told Reuters, adding that it was not  clear when the ships would enter the Red Sea.

According to a US defense official, the USS Nimitz entered the  Red Sea around 6 am EDT. The strike group has not received any  orders to move into the Mediterranean, the official said.

The Nimitz carrier group was supporting the US war in Afghanistan and was due to return to its home port in Everett, Washington,  after being released from duty by the USS Harry S. Truman strike  group.

Considering the volatile situation and a looming decision on a  Syria strike, US military officials have decided to send the  Nimitz toward the Red Sea, and possibly the Mediterranean, the  source said.

Another US official told Reuters that so far there was not a final decision to reposition the carrier group to the  Mediterranean, and that the Navy is trying to “reduce the  physics of time and space” to be ready for a possible call to  arms.

Over the weekend a US amphibious transport ship USS San Antonio was also deployed to the Mediterranean. Although it has   “received no specific tasking” it was rerouted to a US  naval base on the Greek island of Crete.

The US Navy already has five destroyers in the eastern  Mediterranean carrying an estimated load of 200 Tomahawk  missiles. The naval presence was boosted over the past week in anticipation of an imminent US attack.

In the coming week, while US lawmakers will be discussing the  prospects of a “limited military strike” requested by the  commander-in-chief, military officials are expected to use the  delay in military action to decide on the location of other US  ships in the region.

The US President has already decided a limited military strike is necessary to teach Syria a lesson and prevent possible further  use of chemical weapons against the Syrian population and US  allies in the region. A formal request seeking authorization from  legislators to launch a military campaign was filed on Saturday,  and the Senate is expected to vote on the motion no later than the week of September 9.

 

Anglican Priest, Flock Cross a Welcoming Bridge

In the Boston Globe:

Before Mass on a recent Sunday, the Rev. Jurgen Liias stood in a cramped sacristy of a Catholic church with an acolyte and cantor and began a call-and-response prayer of preparation.

Incense smoldered. The men thumped their chests in a gesture of contrition.

The elaborate ritual would seem unusual to most Catholic priests, who pray silently before Mass as they don their vestments, or quietly focus on the sacred work ahead. But Liias, who is 65, is different. He entered the church through a new doorway that lets members of the Anglican Communion return to the mother church in Rome while retaining their congregational communities — and, if they wish, much of their ornate ritual, including old Catholic traditions that Rome changed or left behind.

Pope John Paul II extended to Anglicans, including married priests, the opportunity to become Catholic in 1980. During the next 30 years, 100 or so Anglican priests entered the Catholic Church and were incorporated into local dioceses.

But some in the worldwide Anglican Communion — particularly the Episcopal Church, the religious body’s US province — wanted to make it easier for whole congregations to come in, and to be part of a group of like-minded churches.

At their request, Pope Benedict XVI established special “ordinariates” — basically superdioceses — especially for Anglican priests and congregations. The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which spans the United States and Canada, was created last year. It includes more than 30 congregations, including Liias’s St. Gregory the Great, which held its first Mass in April.

“They are on a pilgrimage together, as opposed to an individual journey,” said the Rev. R. Scott Hurd, the ordinariate’s vicar general.

It is a tiny movement so far, with fewer than 2,000 people spread across a vast continent, an infinitesimal proportion of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

In many respects, the ordinariate resembles the Eastern Catholic Churches that returned to Rome from the Eastern Orthodox Church and have been allowed to preserve their own worship traditions and structure.

Hurd said the Vatican created the ordinariate primarily to “promote Christian unity” by bringing Anglicans back into the fold of Catholicism.

He said Episcopalians who are attracted to Catholicism “usually struggle with the breadth of plurality in belief” within the Episcopal Church “and come to appreciate the definitive teachings that are found in Catholicism.”

Liias has spent most of his career at the margins of the Episcopal Church, embracing both charismatic and high-church worship styles, each of which would be alien to most Episcopalians in Massachusetts. An avuncular grandfather who hikes 14,000-foot mountains and has deep experience in the charismatic movement, he is as comfortable speaking in tongues as he is praying the rosary.

He has come to see Catholicism as the center of gravity of Christianity, and an inevitable end point, not only on his own path as a Christian, but for Christianity itself.

“The unity of the church is not only an imperative for the internal life of God’s people but an essential dimension of her evangelical mission,” he wrote in a blog post this year…

Read on here.

 

Catholics of the Anglican Patrimony

The Catholic League:

On 17 August 2013, Fr Peter Cornwell, a married Catholic priest and former vicar of the same church as Blessed John Henry Newman, The University Church of St Mary, Oxford, wrote a surprisingly mean review in The Tablet of Catholics of the Anglican Patrimony: The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham by the distinguished theologian, historian and thinker, Fr Aidan Nichols OP (Gracewing, Leominster, 2013). Fr Mark Woodruff’s response in The Tablet for 24 August 2013 is below.

The book is an extended essay and arose from a remarkable lecture delivered under the auspices of the Ordinariate, as part of a conference on its place and purpose with the work of New Evangelisation. Fr Nichols revisited a familiar and resonant theme of his, that proclamation and evangelisation do not concern only the personal individual but groups and traditions of people, including entire cultures and histories. This understanding, incidentally, lay within Pope Benedict’s presentation of evangelisation on his visit to Great Britain in 2010. Faith alone, he said, answers humanity’s profoundest questions and longings; hence the need and benefit for the constant and public dialogue of faith and reason, between the Church of Christ and society, the state, politics, commerce and culture. With this in the background, Fr Nichols observed that Catholic society in England was made of four main components: the English recusants at the core of the history from the 16th century onwards, the influx of a large Irish Catholic population to cities from Victorian era onwards, a small but influential stream of English converts to Roman Catholicism from Anglicanism of whom Newman and Manning are the most symbolic but which continues to the present day, and more recently the international diaspora of the last two decades, especially from India, Africa, the Far East and Eastern Europe (including Eastern Catholics) transforming the complexion of parishes especially in the larger population centres. The one culture that seems, however, not to find expression and belonging in the contemporary Catholic Church in England is England’s indigenous religious culture for almost the last half-millennium. Thus he makes the argument for embracing the liturgical, pastoral, cultural, spiritual, apologetical, homiletical, operational-organisational and academic-theological traditions and patrimony of Church-of-England Christianity, to equip the Catholic Church in England to address, take seriously, resonate with and converse with English public life and culture, as well as its citizens’ religious sensibility, by means of their familiar spiritual language and sensibility.

Where necessary, of course, for reasons of clear exposition of Catholic teaching these Anglican traditions and patrimony need to be duly adapted to meet the fullness of communion within the Catholic Church, but since all internal Anglican traditions, aspects of heritage and customs have been developed and continue in existence within a conversation between the different schools of theological thought and churchmanship, and thus find ways not only to co-exist in Anglicanism’s internal ecumenism but also to find clearer expression over against each other, there is something intrinsically Anglican about the adaptation needed when embracing a new setting for being in communion within the Body of Christ. Fr Nichols’ 1993 book, which looks at the interplay and relationship between the Catholic and Anglican in English religion, state and culture, The Panther & The Hind: A theological history of Anglicanism remains an essential account of Classic Anglican divinity, and the most sympathetic analysis of the now largely occluded Classic Anglicanism tradition ever made by a Catholic theologian.

It is a pity that Fr Cornwell did not acknowledge this in his endeavour to portray the Ordinariate as a mere refuge for Anglo-Catholics escaping a finally uncongenial Anglicanism. Thus he missed the point that, as the Catholic League can testify, its essential form has been proposed for 100 years at least and that his has influenced Anglican ecumenism for good, spread wide what is now shared by all Christians as “spiritual ecumenism”, and placed the cause of Christian Unity, to which communion with the Apostolic See of Rome is integral, at the heart of the Church’s purpose in proclaiming the Gospel to the world and its cultures. After all, it is Pope Benedict who organised efforts and structures for a New Evangelisation in the struggle for the soul of Old Europe, including the societies which have in part emerged from it across the world through the 19th and 20th centuries. The Ordinariates established under Anglicanorum Coetibus and Ad Gentes are part of this New Evangelisation and represent the Catholic Church’s desire, learned from half a century of direct dialogue and ecumenism, to learn and receive for itself what the providential Anglican tradition and its patrimony has to offer. None of this is for an isolated group that looks in upon its own narrow concerns, any more than Benedictinism, Franciscanism or Jesuitism is – it is something borne by some but for the whole Church – and that includes its efforts to reconciliation and unity.

While some of Fr Cornwell’s comments were legitimate debate and criticism in a book review, he made two misrepresentations as to fact, which made it clear that prejudice was the ground upon which he then went on to caricature the persons – the people and priests – of the Ordinariate. It is clear that he can have met few of them. What follows is the letter submitted to the Editor of The Tablet upon submission that Fr Cornwell’s affront needed a riposte. it appeared in The Tablet publised on 24 August, 2013. The final paragraph was, however, not included owing to the need to make space for a subsequent letter from Mgr Andrew Burnham of the Ordinariate which addresses the same point more fully and better. (The term “lively conversation” reflects Archbishop Rowan Williams’ attempt at a positive description of the adversarial nature of Anglican theological and constitutional decision-making in its Synods, and “treasure to be shared” is a quotation from Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.)

Fr Mark comments, “I do not lightly take issue with a brother priest in public, especially one for whom I have the highest admiration. But, since he first expressed these views in 2009 in my hearing and yet, despite eirenic argument to put his concerns to rest, persisted in disseminating them by way of attack on the true motivation and character of his fellow Catholics in the Ordinariate, it is important to say that the cause of Christian Unity is served by airing disagreement frankly towards better mutual understanding and rapprochement in a spirit of friendship, not by caricaturing people acting in good faith.”

To the Editor, The Tablet, 20 August 2013

Fr Peter Cornwell says that Anglican patrimony “in truth has proved to be quite elusive”. Anglicanorum Coetibus III locates it in liturgical books, the Complementary Norms adding the tradition of married presbyters and the pastoral council for consulting the lay faithful formally. Article 10 refers to a larger hinterland of its aspects of particular value.  In 2010 I collected a volume of over 30 pieces of comment and analysis, critical and supportive – Anglicans & Catholics in Communion: Patrimony, Unity, Mission. A second volume is in preparation. A Customary containing the Divine Office and Calendar was published in 2012 and permission to celebrate an Order of Mass with elements of the Prayer Book rite was issued this summer. This is hardly elusive.

Nor is it accurate to say that Anglicanorum Coetibus came “out of the blue”. Such provision was explored by prominent Catholic-Anglicans with designated Roman Catholic figures in England and Rome in the late 1980s. And around 2008, a sizeable group of Catholic-Anglican bishops visiting Rome with concerns about the Lambeth Conference and General Synod, even discussing possible corporate reunion, did not go behind Lambeth’s back.  What changed was not a papal assault upon the ARCIC method, but Anglicanism’s decision for a fundamental change within the order of bishop. Nevertheless the additional layer of ecclesial incompatibility provides a re-set ecumenical starting point. In this, some have seen a positive opportunity to think through what Anglicans believe the patrimony they offer to the whole Church’s unity in diversity is, in a manner unaddressed before.

Fr Aidan Nichols has pointed out that the prevailing religious tradition of England for nearly five centuries is a large gap in our consciousness of being the Catholic Church for this land and culture:  internalising Anglican aspects of tradition through the Ordinariate offers one way of beginning to fill it, even if late in the day. At the same time it is far from the whole story of Anglican-Catholic reconciliation: for evangelisation to be convincing, Christian unity remains unfinished business.

Fr Cornwell’s mocking tale of narrow sectaries escaping to a “granny flat” is an injustice to the real priests and people of the Ordinariate. He will indeed find some former Romanising Anglo-Catholics, but he will also find inner city pastors, middle-of-the-road “Prayer Book Catholics”, scholars, diverse origins and backgrounds, “Vatican II Evangelicals”, country parsons, overseas missionaries – people with an ecumenical instinct who did not live apart but took part in the “lively conversation” of the Church of England, and who are proving no less willing to engage in our diocesan parish life, as much as they want to see the Ordinariate’s “treasure  to be shared” make its distinctive contribution.  What binds them in the Catholic Church is not shallow preoccupation with liturgical tastes, but the faith that is none other than our own, and acting upon it generously.

Fr Mark Woodruff

 

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