"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Tuesday, 16 February 2016


What Orthodox Christians Can Learn from Pope Francis
Source: Orthodox Christian Network

my source: Pravmir.com
Power in the Church is not about who kisses one’s hand but how many feet one can wash in the service of Christ. Pope Francis made this clear when he visited a youth prison in 2013 and chose to wash the feet of the offenders including one who is an Orthodox Christian. “Real power is service.
What Orthodox Christians Can Learn from Pope Francis

The world will be watching from May 24-25, 2014 as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Pope Francis welcome each other in Jerusalem to observe the anniversary of the historic encounter between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and the subsequent lifting of mutual anathemas. The main focus of the many scholars and reporters who will cover this event will be the elusive question of “Old Rome and New Rome” that is the question of unity between Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians. However, hidden amidst all this media coverage will be a unique opportunity for Orthodox Christians to follow the example of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of blessed memory and to meet the Pope of Rome again as if for the first time.

At first glance, the idea of Orthodox Christians being able to learn from the Pope of Rome appears out of place if not altogether wrong. However, Orthodox Christians should pause before rushing to judgment about such matters and remember that prior to the Great Schism of 1054, the Pope of Rome was honored with reverence and respect throughout the Orthodox World. Today, Orthodox Christians honor many Popes of Rome as saints including St. Leo the Great, St. Gregory the Dialogist and St. Martin the Confessor. Orthodox Tradition celebrates the lives of many Popes throughout the liturgical year.

Despite these facts, one of the present realities that is most disappointing is how some of our brothers and sisters have portrayed the Pope of Rome. “Dictator” and “anti-christ” are just some of the clichés that have been sadly used. While there have certainly been corrupt Popes throughout history (as there have been corrupt Patriarchs), Orthodox Christians must ask themselves whether or not the last 35 years have greatly challenged such stereotypes, especially when it comes to Popes such as John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and the current Pope of Rome, Francis. Orthodox Christians should especially pause and take notice of the unique witness of Pope Francis. He is in many ways a bishop who reflects the Christianity of the first millennium when the Church was undivided. Pope Francis also models a form of leadership that is greatly needed in Orthodox Christianity today.

Here are a few lessons that Orthodox Christians can learn from Pope Francis:

Authentic Power is Service: One of the great tragedies of modern times is that Orthodox Christians constantly argue over power and status rather than service to the weakest among us. Church leaders debate about who is first and who is last. Clergy argue about the physical boundaries of Churches, who is entitled to govern them as well as about ancient titles that have their place in an ancient world that has long since disappeared. Amidst these arguments, Orthodox Christians need to pause and remember that power in the Church is a paradox. It is also neither a title nor a jurisdiction. Power in the Church is not about who kisses one’s hand but how many feet one can wash in the service of Christ. Pope Francis made this clear when he visited a youth prison in 2013 and chose to wash the feet of the offenders including one who is an Orthodox Christian. “Real power is service. As He did, He who came not to be served but to serve, and His service was the service of the Cross. He humbled Himself unto death, even death on a cross for us, to serve us, to save us. And there is no other way in the Church to move forward. For the Christian, getting ahead, progress, means humbling oneself. If we do not learn this Christian rule, we will never, ever be able to understand Jesus’ true message on power.” St. John Chrysostom echoes this belief from ancient times: “To love Christ means not to be a hireling, not to look upon a noble life as an enterprise or trade, but to be a true benefactor and to do everything only for the sake of love for God.”

The Church Lives On the Frontiers of Society: The greatest triumphs of Orthodox Christianity have taken place when the Church has lived as a missionary Church and not as an institutional Church. Pope Francis challenges Orthodox Christians with the following words: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life.” Sts. Cyril and Methodios, St. Patrick of Ireland, and Metropolitan Philip Saliba are all examples of Orthodox Christians who took incredible risks and in the process grew the Church and spread the Gospel. There is no doubt that each of these men experienced their share of bruises in their work. Pope Francis reminds Orthodox Christians that a risk-taking Church-–a church that is not afraid to fail–is much healthier than a Church that is focused on institutional security and closed in on itself. St. Tikhon of Moscow could not say it better when he writes that “The light of the Orthodox Faith has not been lit to shine only for a small circle of people. No, the Orthodox Church is catholic; she remembers the commandment of her Founder, ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature and teach all nations’ (Mark 16.15; Matt. 28.19). We must share our spiritual richness, truth, light, and joy with others who do not have these blessings.”

Make Some Noise: The idea of Orthodox Christians making noise would seem contrary to our inheritance. Yet, a look at history shows that the Orthodox Church has been making a noisy mess of things since Apostolic times when the first disciples were labeled “Those people who have been turning the world upside down”(Acts 17:6). Such noise means rowing upstream against the world and challenging the world inside and outside of the Church to be faithful to the Gospel. Holiness always has a component that upsets the status quo. Pope Francis provided this bold exhortation to young people in Rio de Janeiro: “Let me tell you what I hope will be the outcome of World Youth Day: I hope there will be noise. … I want you to make yourselves heard in your dioceses, I want the noise to go out, I want the Church to go out onto the streets, I want us to resist everything worldly, everything static, everything comfortable, everything to do with clericalism, everything that might make us closed in on ourselves.” In order for the Orthodox Church to be faithful to Her Tradition, she must step outside of Her comfort zone and proclaim the Gospel in its fullness with compassion and without apology. Evangelism is by its very nature a “noisy” business.

There is no doubt that countless words will be written in the following weeks about Roman Catholic and Orthodox unity. In truth, it is highly doubtful that such unity will take place any time soon. Common sense reveals that there are serious doctrinal and cultural issues that make unity extremely difficult if not impossible. Any serious Catholic and Orthodox Christian would confess as much. Orthodoxy matters and should never be compromised for the purpose of ecumenical convenience or social acceptance. That being said, the Church has always looked to the horizon outside of itself and has at times found truth in the most surprising of places. Fr. Thomas Hopko is correct: “God is not a prisoner of His own Church!” In this light, Orthodox Christians would do well to follow the present-day example of our father Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and give Pope Francis our kindness, consideration, and our prayers. After all, if the Pope of Rome can humble himself and wash the feet of an Orthodox Christian, then the Holy Spirit can indeed work in ways that we never before thought possible.

Pope Francis’ Thoughts on Pastoring in the 21st Century
Source: OCA
my source: Pravmir.com
     Chancellor of the Orthodox Church of America

| 07 OCTOBER 2015

On September 25, 2015, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon and I attended the multi-religious gathering with Pope Francis at the Museum of the National 9/11 Memorial at in lower Manhattan.  Representatives of most of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches were present.  The gathering had been organized only a few weeks earlier, which under normal circumstances—for people with chock-full schedules booked a year in advance—would be impossible.  But, as one of the Orthodox bishops in attendance remarked, “We have trouble getting together as Orthodox, but when the Pope calls we drop everything and go!”

Pope Francis is the single most visible Christian leader in the world.  Roman Catholicism has 1.2 billion followers world-wide, and a third of the US population identifies as such.  So it’s not surprising that there was an avalanche of news coverage on his recent visit.  Still, I found it instructive and inspiring that in this supposedly secular country, so much attention was lavished on Pope Francis by gushing journalists.

Much has been written about “the Francis effect,” his historic speech to Congress, his appearance at the United Nations and the 9/11 Memorial and other major events.  But in reflecting on his visit, it is his words to bishops, clergy and religious at two underreported stops that most struck a chord with me.  The first was the Vesper service at New York’s Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.  The second was his meeting with Catholic bishops in Philadelphia.  At these smaller gatherings with “church professionals,” his message about the aims and temptations of “apostolic work” in the 21st century deserve attention from Orthodox Christians, even as we express concern about “expanding our mission” and caring for people being shaped by unprecedented social changes.  Here is a distillation of his main points, in his words.

1. Gratitude and the love of God.  The joy of men and women who love God attracts others to Him.  Priests and religious are called to find and radiate lasting satisfaction in their vocation.  Joy springs from a grateful heart.  Truly, we have received much, so many graces, so many blessings, and we rejoice in this.  It will do us good to think back on our lives with the grace of remembrance—remembrance of when we were first called, remembrance of the road travelled, remembrance of graces received, and, above all, remembrance of our encounter with Jesus Christ so often along the way.  Remembrance of the amazement which our encounter with Jesus Christ awakens in our hearts.  To seek the grace of remembrance so as to grow in the spirit of gratitude.

2. Hard work.  A grateful heart is spontaneously impelled to serve the Lord and to find expression in a life of commitment to our work.  Once we come to realize how much God has given us, a life of self-sacrifice, of working for Him and for others, becomes a privileged way of responding to His great love.  Yet, if we are honest, we know how easily this spirit of generous self-sacrifice can be dampened.  There are a couple of ways that this can happen; both are examples of that “spiritual worldliness” which weakens our commitment to serve and diminishes the wonder of our first encounter with Christ.

3. Measure by the Cross, not by efficiency, good management and outward success.  We can get caught up measuring the value of our apostolic works by the standards of efficiency, good management and outward success which govern the business world—not that these things are unimportant!  We have been entrusted with a great responsibility, and God’s people rightly expect accountability from us.  But the true worth of our apostolate is measured by the value it has in God’s eyes.  To see and evaluate things from God’s perspective calls for constant conversion in the first days and years of our vocation and, need I say, great humility.  The cross shows us a different way of measuring success.  Ours is to plant the seeds; God sees to the fruits of our labors.  And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and produce no fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus… and that His life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the Cross.

4. Rest with the poor and don’t be jealous of your free time.  Another danger comes when we become jealous of our free time, when we think that surrounding ourselves with worldly comforts will help us serve better.  The problem with this reasoning is that it can blunt the power of God’s daily call to conversion, to encounter with Him.  Slowly but surely, it diminishes our spirit of sacrifice, renunciation and hard work.  It also alienates people who suffer material poverty and are forced to make greater sacrifices than ourselves.  Rest is needed, as are moments of leisure and self-enrichment, but we need to learn how to rest in a way that deepens our desire to serve with generosity.  Closeness to the poor, the refugee, the immigrants, the sick, the exploited, the elderly living alone, prisoners and all God’s other poor will teach us a different way of resting, one which is more Christian and generous.

5.  Be shepherds to all in times of unprecedented change.  Should we blame our young people for having grown up in this kind of society?  Should we condemn them for living in this kind of a world?  Should they hear their pastors saying that “it was all better back then,” “the world is falling apart and if things go on this way, who knows where we will end up?”  No, I do not think that this is the way.  As shepherds following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, we are asked to seek out, to accompany, to lift up, to bind up the wounds of our time.  To look at things realistically, with the eyes of one who feels called to action, to pastoral conversion.  The world today demands this conversion on our part.  “It is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all—in all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear.  The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded” [Evangelii Gaudium, 23].

6. Holy boldness.  We need to invest our energies not so much in rehearsing the problems of the world around us and the merits of Christianity, but in extending a sincere invitation to young people to be brave and to opt for marriage and the family.  Here too, we need a bit of holy parrhesia [boldness]!  A Christianity which “does” little in practice, while incessantly “explaining” its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced.  I would even say that it is stuck in a vicious circle….  A pastor serenely yet passionately proclaims the word of God.  He encourages believers to aim high.

7. More shepherding, less talking.  A pastor watches over the dreams, the lives and the growth of his flock.  This “watchfulness” is not the result of talking, but of shepherding.  Only one capable of standing “in the midst of” the flock can be watchful, not someone who is afraid of questions, contact, accompaniment.  A pastor keeps watch first and foremost with prayer, supporting the faith of his people and instilling confidence in the Lord, in his presence.  A pastor remains vigilant by helping people to lift their gaze at times of discouragement, frustration and failure.  We might well ask whether in our pastoral ministry we are ready to “waste” time with families, whether we are ready to be present to them, sharing their difficulties and joys.

8. Sowing seeds in crooked furrows.  If we prove capable of the demanding task of reflecting God’s love, cultivating infinite patience and serenity as we strive to sow its seeds in the frequently crooked furrows in which we are called to plant, then even a Samaritan woman with five “non-husbands” will discover that she is capable of giving witness.  And for every rich young man who with sadness feels that he has to calmly keep considering the matter, an older publican will come down from the tree and give fourfold to the poor, to whom, before that moment, he had never even given a thought

New post on Byzantium on Brew
my source; Pravmir.com

A Historical Day
by Nelson

The big news in the Catholic and Orthodox Church is the historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. This has caused quite a stir on various Orthodox and Eastern Catholic blogs and forums. Sadly, this historic event has brought to light some old prejudices towards Uniates. The amount of hatred espoused in the comment sections of certain blogs towards Eastern Catholics has made me at times angry and at other times sad. Given that background, I did not place much hope in the meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch.

This afternoon the two meet and produced a joint statement.The full text can be found here.  It is a timely document. The Pope and Patriarch call for the protection of Middle Eastern Christians, laud the ideal of Christian unity (much to the displeasure I imagine of certain sectors of Orthodoxy), call for the sanctity of life and marriage. It also addresses a new (and frightening) development that of manipulation of human reproduction:

We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

It is the section on Ukraine and Eastern Catholics that surprised me the most. Four paragraphs are given to this topic.

Paragraph twenty-four states:

Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.

We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be "in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5).

Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: "Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation” (Rm 15:20).

The Gospel is to be proclaimed to all nations by Catholics and Orthodox. The Apostolic faith of the Church is message needed desperately in the modern world.

Paragraph twenty-five states:

It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of "uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

I can not believe that the Russian Patriarch agreed (and signed) to this statement, given the contempt of Greek Catholics exhibited by many Orthodox. I thank God. Greek Catholics have been calling for reconciliation for a long time, maybe now the ROC will begin to dialogue with the UGCC. Maybe a meeting between the head of the UGCC and the Patriarch of Russia could be arranged? Now, the practical implications of this in Ukraine and Russia will be interesting to see.

Paragraph twenty-six states:

We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.

Amen. May Russia's occupation of Eastern Ukraine end soon and a peaceable resolution found.

Paragraph twenty-seven states:

It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.

Orthodox Christians in Ukraine are divided into three major churches: The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kievan Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. I think that overcoming their divisions will be a hard task but then again I didn't think the Pope and Patriarch would ever meet. With God all is possible.

Paragraph twenty-eight states:

In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, "so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.

Amen. Let us Orthodox and Catholic Christians work together to proclaim the Good new of salvation in Jesus the Christ.

Today was a historic day indeed. To God be the Glory.

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