"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

Sunday 31 May 2015

FATHER GEORGE FLOROVSKY: LEADING ARCHITECT OF ORTHODOX ECUMENISM IN THE 20th CENTURY by Matthew Baker and Seraphim Danckaert (plus) A COMMENTARY (plus) 9 videos on Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue

Father Georges Florovsky

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979) was the leading architect of Orthodox ecumenism in the 20th century. He combined magnanimity towards non-Orthodox with staunch adherence to patristic Orthodoxy, exhibiting the courage to challenge any interlocutor, whether Orthodox hierarch or WCC secretary general. Florovsky maintained lasting ecumenical commitments, but warned against any ecumenical endeavor that would settle for doctrinal minimalism or privilege common action over theological confrontation. 

Ecumenical Career

Florovsky’s ecumenical involvement began in 1926 in Berdyaev’s Paris circle, where he met weekly with leading Roman Catholic and Protestant thinkers; soon after, he joined the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius. His first theological essays were offered in these contexts. Ordained in 1932, Florovsky spent much of the decade lecturing in Britain, where he was enthusiastically received. These activities expanded with the 1937 Edinburgh Faith and Order conference, where Florovsky was elected as Orthodox representative to the “Committee of Fourteen” charged with drafting the WCC constitution. At the Amsterdam Assembly (1948), he  played a critical role, leading to his appointment to the Central Committee and election to the Executive Committee of the WCC, on which he served until 1961. He remained a  principled and fearless force in ecumenical meetings into his final decade, his last major event being the 1971 Louvain Assembly.


Florovsky’s ecumenism has deep roots in his historical philosophy.  Eschewing both raw empiricism and the direct intuitionism of idealists, Florovsky stresses not only the interpreted character of facts, but also the contingent, synthetic character of the categories  by which experience is interpreted: what appears retrospectively as “fact” or a closed, necessary determination of thought was once prospectively open — the action of a free subject. Following the economic “singularism” of Pyotr Struve, Florovsky considers the acting person to be the subject of history, refusing to grant any fixed hypostatic character to race, nation, or civilization. The historical “whole” is an ever -shifting nexus of interacting persons-in-relation. True solidarity exists in Christ, in whom alone freedom coincides with “organic” oneness— an eschatological unity, transcending natural realities, and built up historically through faith and sacrament. Already by the mid-1920’s, while insisting on the seriousness of schism and conflicting doctrines of salvation, Florovsky emphasized that faith in Christ still binds together Christian East and West

Ecumenical Career

Florovsky’s ecumenical involvement began in 1926 in Berdyaev’s Paris circle, where he met weekly with leading Roman Catholic and Protestant thinkers; soon after, he joined the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius. His first theological essays were offered in these contexts. Ordained in 1932, Florovsky spent much of the decade lecturing in Britain, where he was enthusiastically received. These activities expanded with the 1937 Edinburgh Faith and Order conference, where Florovsky was elected as Orthodox representative to the “Committee of Fourteen” charged with drafting the WCC constitution. At the Amsterdam Assembly (1948), he  played a critical role, leading to his appointment to the Central Committee and election to the Executive Committee of the WCC, on which he served until 1961. He remained a principled and fearless force in ecumenical meetings into his final decade, his last major event being the 1971 Louvain Assembly.

 This early anti-determinist philosophy informs Florovsky’s later strenuous resistance to all attempts to explain Christian divisions by reference to psychological-cultural “types”— whether to magnify or to relativize divisions (pace Karsavin, Zander, Lossky, Romanides). Any suggestion of historical inevitability of schisms, following the retrospective tendency to posit necessary causal links between events, is to be rejected. Christian communities are composed of free persons; the history of doctrine must not be thought to follow patterns of logical deduction or organic evolution. Precisely in this light, however, we cannot act as if events had never happened: though they might have  been avoided or overcome, historic conflicts gave birth to doctrines subsequently determinative for particular traditions. Yet a changed historical perspective, Florovsky held, might also reveal a wider acceptable consensus. 

Ecumenical Theology:

In Florovsky’s account, the main ecumenical problem is the “paradox”of schism. The Church is one — the Christian world lies in division. Faith in Jesus as God and Savior creates a real ontological bond. Yet the divisions are no less ontological  —  marking separations, not only in love and creed, but the very experience of faith. In the phrase “separated brethren,” the adjective weighs as heavily as the noun. True ecumenism demands a“theology of the abnormal.”

This “ paradox”is expressed acutely in the distinction between the Church’s canonical and charismatic borders. Contrary to what some have claimed, Florovsky reiterated the views expressed in his 1933 article, “The Limits of the Church,” many times throughout his multi-decade career, leaving no sign of retraction.  Florovsky rejects the “over - rigoristic tendency” amongst some Orthodox to deny categorically the existence of sacraments beyond canonical boundaries. The “economic" interpretation concerning reception of heterodox he regards as a doubtful theological opinion, not the teaching of the Church. Where Easterners often appeal simply to canons, Florovsky credits Western theologians for raising the question in properly theological light, and calls on Orthodox theologians to appropriate Augustine’s theology of sacraments in schism.

While the simplicity and clarity of Cyprian’s theory have a certain intellectual appeal, Augustine’s more nuanced theologoumenon makes the most theological sense of the Church’s  historic  practice. This does not mean, however, that canonical boundaries can be ignored. Intercommunion without full unity in faith is impossible. We are thus left with a sharp “antimony”— a scandal whose bitterness should inspire Christians to undertake the search for full doctrinal agreement. 

Concretely, the greatest ecumenical problem in Florovsky’s view concerns Rome.  Contra Lossky, Florovsky views the filioque largely as a canonical matter and rejects, as utterly unhistorical, the attempt to deduce “papism” by some necessary logic from the filioque; theologically, a synthesis of Cappadocian and Augustinian triadology is not, in his view, impossible. The primary divider is the papal claims, reflecting a false doctrine of Church unity. Yet Florovsky is clear: the Spirit of God still breathes in the Roman Church; the holy sacrifice is still offered. In the Reformation, contrastingly, he discerns a departure from priesthood and historic Church order.

While Florovsky pushed the ecumenical conversation towards ecclesiology, he underscores nonetheless that existing divisions concern the whole of faith, involving doctrines of God, Christ, Mary, man and — not least— the understanding of history implied in these. 

Florovsky observes a certain “hyper -historicism” in Roman Christological consciousness —as if the Ascension marked Christ’s exit  from history, leaving his deputy behind to govern.

In Protestantism, conversely, Florovsky detects a “hyper -eschatological” reduction of history: human striving is undervalued; sacraments  become nearly Old Testament signs; the Church’s historic visibility is not fully recognized. The Reformation divorce of “Jerusalem” from “Athens” marks yet another departure. 

It was in defending Christian metaphysics against the perceived fideism of early dialectical theologians that Florovsky introduced his call for return to the “Christianized Hellenism” of the Fathers of both East and West.

  Florovsky regarded the recovery of patristic theology as ecumenically crucial. It is in this light that his 1937 masterwork,  Puti Russkogo Bogoslovija — a book meant for Russian readers, which Florovsky intended to revise for translation — must be understood.

 His sharp critique of Westernizing “pseudomorphosis” was aimed, not at the West per se, but at a Russian theology alienated from its own liturgical sources and unmoored from its roots in patristic theology, as well as a spirit of “servile imitation” that made real ecumenical confrontation impossible. Florovsky’s alternative is not isolation, but “free encounter with the West” — conducted on the common recovered ground of patristic and classical conciliar theology, which Orthodoxy claims as her own. It was this vision that accompanied his concepts of “neo- patristic synthesis” and “ecumenism in time” which, he stressed, were closely correlated.“Ecumenism in time” searches the shared past of apostolic tradition, seeking recovery of a “common mind.” Florovsky celebrated the decision of Lund 1952 to retire theconfessional method of “comparative theology” in favor of this more historical approach. Florovsky’s goal, however, is “ecumenical synthesis,” rooted in the Fathers but responsive to questions surrounding present divisions. Such synthesis presumes discrimination: not every belief can be reconciled. 

Agreement in truth requires conversion, response to a divine gift. The Orthodox uniquely remind all Christians of the
faith of the “undivided Church". ”Culturally speaking, however, the East too is a“fragment” and must also enlarge its theological vision, avoiding exaggerating local particularities. Christian unity understood as “universal conversion to Orthodoxy”entails neither submission to the East nor rigid uniformity, but rather“agreement with all the ages” and “mutual acknowledgement in the truth”

The 1954 Evanston Assembly marked the zenith of Florovsky’s ecumenical activities. There, together with his friend Archbishop Michael Constantinides, primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Florovsky led the Orthodox delegation in a serious challenge to the Protestant presuppositions of the assembly, in the form of two separate Orthodox statements: on the main assembly theme of Christian hope, and on the Faith and Order document regarding Christian disunity. While the first response was critical, the second repudiated outright the approach of the Faith and Order report towards Christian reunion as entirely unacceptable to the Orthodox Church. Only a complete return to the total faith and episcopal order of the Catholic and Apostolic Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils can produce the desired unity. Nor should this unity be understood only eschatologically, for it exists as a continuous historical reality. Orthodox are bound to confess their conviction that the Church has preserved fully the apostolic faith. These points were further elaborated in the Orthodox statement at Oberlin (1957), which Florovsky also authored, and which is still considered one of the best statements of Orthodox ecclesiological self-understanding in the ecumenical movement.

Criticism and Conflict

In Florovsky’s view, Amsterdam and Evanston were “high level,” as serious theologians kept the focus on substantive issues. However, the WCC began going “downhill” afterwards due to proliferation of executives in Life and Work and reduction in Faith and Order; the influence of authoritative theologians weakened. The result was decisions made by men who are ignorant of dogma and ignorant of Church history, tradition, Christian culture. Hence they feel that what we need to do is find what we have in common, then forget the rest, not realizing that “the rest” is what makes up the individuality of the traditions and denominations, and one does not simply forget them for the sake of unity, since it is a superficial, unreal, and certainly not a lastingunity . . . When there is ignorance of this sort it means that in dialogue, which I am entirely in favor of, these individuals do not represent Protestantism, or Orthodoxy, or Rome at all, but rather their own stupidities.2 Such changes dovetailed with shifts in Orthodox leadership. The 1958 death of Archbishop Michael was, in Florovsky’s words, “a great blow.”3  There were strong disagreements between Florovsky and Michael’s successor, Iakovos Koukouzis (1911-2005), WCC co-president from 1959 to 1968. From the start, Iakovos insisted there be no separate Orthodox statements as there had been at Evanston. Representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate at Delhi 1961, Florovsky flouted this directive, leading forty Orthodox representatives together with Bishop Athenagoras Kokkinakis in a statement reiterating the Orthodox ecclesiological terms of involvement. Absent from the delegation, Iakovos issued his own communiqué that there was no Orthodox statement; the “Florovsky statement,” however, had already been published.  A similar, but less  publicized conflict occurred at Montreal (1963), occasioned by Iakovos’ support of a referendum ascribing ecclesial status to the WCC — in contradiction to the 1950 Toronto Statement, which Florovsky had been instrumental in getting passed.  

Tensions between Florovsky and WCC secretary Willem Visser’t Hooft  also came to a head in a conflict at the 1959 Pan-Orthodox Rhodes conference, the details of which were never made public. Florovsky strongly supported official dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, but objected to the insistence of Visser’t Hooft and Iakovos that Protestants be included: he felt that the WCC, threatened by an Orthodox-Rome alliance, was attempting to control the dialogue. Florovsky followed Vatican II with positive interest, noting a return to ancient tradition and more conciliar structures. The Jerusalem meeting of Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI in 1964 was a hopeful sign, but required more careful “molecular”theological work:the “dialogue of love” must be joined with the dialogue of truth. Without sound doctrinal foundations, reconciliation would prove illusory, and only alienate the faithful.

In Florovsky’s view, problems were caused in the WCC by inattention to doctrine, as well as by the increasing influence of political agendas. The secularizing trend in theology also signaled a crisis of faith. The Uppsala Assembly (1968) was hardly an ecumenical event: there was little interest in the Church, no Christian note; the feel resembled a UN meeting, the focus turned to race and war. This political turn, Florovsky held, was driven not only by pragmatism but also impatience with theological dialogue, making the problems of the ecumenical movement “perhaps insoluble.”


 For all his strictures, Florovsky remained ecumenically committed to the end. In interviews of his last decade, he defended continued participation in the WCC, noting the influence of Orthodox participants in turning the conversation to ecclesiology and introducing patristic studies into Faith and Order. Orthodox responsibility to the Christian world makes ecumenical witness imperative. And Orthodox have also learned from other Christians. Ecumenical encounter reawakened Orthodox theologians to neglected elements of their own tradition, challenging them to renew or clarify the Orthodox teaching. In this regard, ecumenism had encouraged greater seriousness about theology. Looking forward, Florovsky held out hope for serious theological work, particularly in light of the increased ecumenical involvement of Roman Catholics. All the same, Florovsky remarked repeatedly that he expected no spectacular new developments in the near future. Just as he had done since the 1930’s, he stressed that the chief ecumenical virtue is patience. One must carry “the Cross of patience,” avoiding
over-hastiness. The work is urgent; the victory rests with the Lord. Archbishop Basil Krivocheine once remarked that Florovsky showed the Orthodox that they could be ecumenical without betraying Orthodoxy. While he left much undone, and the situation has changed since his day, Florovsky laid perennial foundations, which will guide generations to come. His example was marked by bold candor in speaking the truth, sympathetic willingness to learn from other Christians, absolute confidence in the universal vocation of Orthodoxy, and an ability to hold together polarities that many lesser spirits would pry apart. In his own words:
“I  am neither Eastern nor Western, but  just abide by the perennial truthof the Christian message.” 

 Select Bibliography
 Collected Works
 are not comprehensive or reliable. The volumes on ecumenism are especially poor. Recourse to the original articles is advised.
“The Limits of the Church,”
Church Quarterly Review
117:233 (1933), 117-31.

Проблематика христианского воссоединения,”

 (Feb 1933), 1-15.
“Determinations and Distinctions: Ecumenical Aims and Doubts,”
 4:3 (1948), 126-132.

“The Legacy and the Task of Orthodox Theology,”
 Anglican Theological Review
31:2 (1949), 65-71.
“Une vue sur l’


22:1 (1949), 4-25.
“Confessional Loyalty in the Ecumenical Movement,”
Student World 
 53:1 (1950), 59
“The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Movement,”
Theology Today
 7:1 (1950), 68-79.
“The Ethos of the Orthodox Church,”
 Ecumenical Review
 12:2 (1960), 183-198. 
“The Problem of Ecumenical Encounter,” in E. J. B. Fry and A. H. Armstrong, eds.,
 Re- Discovering Eastern Christendom
 (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1963), 63-76.
“Знамение Пререкаемо,”

 Вестник Русского Студенческого Христианского

72-73:1-2 (1964): 1-7.
“Interview with Georges Florovsky,”
 3:4 (Fall 1968): 9-12, 27.
Matthew Baker, “ Neopatristic Synthesis and Ecumenism: Towards the ‘Reinte


This commentary involves a certain amount of repetition.   We have already given an account of how two groups of theologians, one French and Catholic, and the other made up of Russian refugees in Paris who were Orthodox, came to meet as colleagues.   Both groups were under a cloud in their respective churches, the Orthodox because they were suspected of being influenced by Catholic thought,  living, as they did, in the West, the Catholics of being modernists.-, which had become the name for everything the Vatican did not like.   The groups surprised each other because their criticism of their respective churches echoed each other, because they identified the same theological enemy in the influence of neo-scholasticism, and they had the same solution in a radical appeal to Tradition and the Fathers as the context in which everything else has to be interpreted. 

About Tradition, Fr Florovsky wrote:
[ The true tradition is only the tradition of truth, traditio veritatis. And this "true tradition," according to St. Irenaeus, is grounded in, and guaranteed by, that charisma veritatis certum, which has been deposited from the very beginning in the Church and preserved in the uninterrupted succession of Apostolic ministry: qui cum episcopatus successione charisma veritatis certum acceperunt (Adv. haereses IV. 40. 2). Thus, "tradition" in the Church is not merely the continuity of human memory the permanence of rites and habits. Ultimately, "'tradition" is the continuity of divine assistance, the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. The Church is not bound by "the letter." She is constantly moved forth by "the spirit." The same Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, which "spake through the Prophets," which guided the Apostles, which illumined the Evangelists, is still abiding in the Church, and guides her into the fuller understanding of the divine truth, from glory to glory.]

In the dialogue that continued from the mid 1920's till the very eve of Vatican II, Fr Florovsky had to drop out because he went to the States in 1948.  Nevertheless he was there at the beginning, and his basic theological position found an echo of agreement on both sides. The fact that both groups were marginalised meant that neither the Orthodox Church as a whole, nor the Catholic Church knew that it was going on, nor did the theologians themselves have any great ambition that anything of historic importance would come of it. It was a dialogue between people who were simply interested in the same subjects.   All this changed when Archbishop Angelo Roncalli became papal nuncio in Paris.

   When he became Pope John XXIII, called a council, invited the French Catholic theologians to participate and the Orthodox churches to send observers, then the sheer excellence of the theology produced by both groups became a formative influence on Vatican II and on the official dialogue that now takes place between Catholics and Orthodox.

In the light of this, we can understand the paragraph about which we shall comment.

Agreement in truth requires conversion, response to a divine gift. The Orthodox uniquely remind all Christians of the faith of the “undivided Church". ”Culturally speaking, however, the East too is a“fragment” and must also enlarge its theological vision, avoiding exaggerating local particularities. Christian unity understood as “universal conversion to Orthodoxy” entails neither submission to the East nor rigid uniformity, but rather“agreement with all the ages” and “mutual acknowledgement in the truth”

The Orthodox Church, like its Catholic counterpart, claims to be the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in its fullness.   While the Catholic Church is normally considered to be a "sister church", it has made too many mistakes since the schism, the Orthodox believe, the biggest one being breaking canonical communion with the Orthodox Church and the subsequent exaggerated growth of the papacy up to and including Vatican I.   The Catholic Church, for its part, normally considers that the Orthodox are in schism, even though they would say that the sin of schism was shared by both parties.  What can be done about it.  It looks like the clash between an unstoppable force striking an immovable object!   However, read this paragraph from Fr Florovski:
  “universal conversion to Orthodoxy” entails neither submission to the East nor rigid uniformity, but rather“agreement with all the ages” and “mutual acknowledgement in the truth" 

 What will happen if, from a Catholic point of view, "conversion to Catholicism" does not entail the Orthodox being obliged to accept doctrines they had no hand in formulating, nor rigid conformity in governance, in pastoral policy, in spirituality or theological vocabulary and ideas; but the need for both sides to go back to the Fathers, both from East and West, and find through them "agreement with all the ages", and "mutual acknowledgement in the truth"?   Thus, Fr Joseph Ratzinger noted  that Patriarch Athanagoras addressed Pope Paul VI in their historic meeting

 "as the successor of St. Peter, as the most esteemed among us, as one who presides in charity.”  
Fr. Ratzinger goes on to say that the Patriarch “was expressing the essential content of the doctrine of primacy as it was known in  the first millennium.”  That is as far as the Orthodox can be expected to go.  It remains for unity to be achieved that

"the East must not  view more recent Western developments as heretical and We must “recognize the Church of the East as orthodox and legitimate in the form she has always had.”
Florovsky opposed theology in his own church that was "alienated from its own liturgical sources and unmoored from its roots in patristic theology."   He must have been surprised to discover Catholic theologians who were opposed to exactly the same thing in the Catholic Church for exactly the same reasons, because he had believed that what he opposed were characteristics of western theology in general, and this was clearly not the case. 

Against that kind of neo-scholastic theology, he opposed the evidence of Tradition.   In fact, for him, Tradition is the most basic authority in the light of which some councils of the Church have been rejected and others accepted, and according to which all councils must be interpreted: there is no authority within the Church as great or as binding as the Church itself living out its Tradition.

Again, he discovered a group of Catholic theologians who had come to the same conclusion.   Such a conclusion was already "in the air" among Catholic theologians.   Pope Pius XI had already said that the liturgy is the primary expression of the "ordinary magisterium" of the Church, which means the expression of Tradition in the day-to-day teaching authority of the Church.   I am not sure how conscious Pope Pius XI was of how different and opposed to the normal Vatican point of view this statement was.  If the Vatican had been asked what is the primary expression of the ordinary magisterium, it would have pointed, without hesitation, to the latest papal encyclicals, but Pius XI was pointing to the liturgy.   

The Vatican view of doctrinal development in Tradition was that of ever greater profundity and clarification, so that it was not necessary to look to an earlier, less profound, less clear version of the Faith in the past because the latest version is bound to be clearer and better.   The  French ressourcement theologians, on the other hand,  like Florovsky, had a different idea of Tradition: it is the product of the synergy between the humble obedience of the Church and the action of the Holy Spirit, the sharing of Christ's mystical Body in the mind of Christ by the power of the Spirit.  This is a constant characteristic of the Church; and the Holy Spirit is not more present in one generation than in another.  It is therefore possible, even probable, that the theology of the Fathers of the Church be more profound in certain areas than is current teaching, and it is always a worthwhile task to delve into the Fathers to complement what we already hold to be true, or even to provide us with an alternative version of Tradition on a particular point.

Another dimension was added to our understanding of the Church when the Paris-based Archimandrite Nicolas Afanassieff,looked back into the sources to the post-apostolic fathers, to St Ignatius of Antioch and St Irenaeus, and formulated "eucharistic ecclesiology".   If Tradition is the product of the synergy between the humble, obedient Church and the Holy Spirit, then it is in the eucharistic assembly where the Church and the Spirit are most in synergy: it makes the Mass possible, and it is through the Mass that the Church becomes itself, the body of Christ.  The eucharistic assembly, which can trace its teaching and mission to the apostles and shares in the Christian Mystery by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the true source of Tradition.  Thus, Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Vatican II document on the liturgy, would say in its first chapter that the liturgy is the source of all the Church's powers, which includes Tradition.

 Afanassieff said that the whole universal Church is not the sum of its parts (dioceses), but is mystically present in all its parts, because each part is the body of Christ which cannot be divided: a ciborium may contain a thousand hosts, and each host and all together are the body of Christ: sacramental reality defies ordinary mathmatics.  Thus, each local eucharistic community is, as body of Christ, a manifestation of the universal Church, and the bishop, or a priest in the name of a bishop, in presiding over the Mass in a local assembly, is presiding over an act of the universal Church.   Hence, the tradition which expresses the community's understanding of the faith during the successive generations of its history, starting with its spiritual ancestry from the time of the Apostles, is also a version of the universal Tradition.

   However, unlike the hosts in the ciborium, each local church has its own history, its own culture, its own problems down the years, its own saints, its own theologians seeking God within their own context and according to their own vocabulary, its own experience of God, its own style of being religious, and its own gifts and shortcomings.

Hence, just as there are four gospels but only one Gospel in four different versions, so there is  only one Tradition expressed in the many different traditions in the universal Church: the diversity comes from the way in which the Christian life has become incarnate in many different places, and the unity springs from the identity each local church has with all other local churches: as body of Christ, it celebrates a Eucharist that is identical to all other Eucharists. 

 Both unity and diversity are essential characteristics of the Catholic Church and the Holy Spirit is the Author of both unity and diversity.  He works with the Church locally, at a sacramental level, and universally, manifesting the lordship of Christ over the whole world. Hence Catholic Tradition has sources all over the world, wherever the Eucharist is celebrated, each with its own religious and cultural heritage, but is, at its deepest level, single and universal; and the history of the Church is a history of the tension between these two tendencies of diversity and unity in the Church.

Therefore theologians must recognise the diversity within Tradition, must avoid simplistically identifying their own tradition which is regional with Tradition as what all traditions have in common. Each region can say correctly that its tradition  is a version of the whole and is a product of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church: it has its basis in the synergy that belongs to the Eucharistic celebration.   Nevertheless,   it will be discovered that the identity between traditions is not perfect, and that certain traditions may have reached conclusions about particular problems that are different from other traditions.   Theologians must ask if they are truly incompatible or only apparently so; whether, even if they are incompatible, the difference has been considered to be sufficiently central to cause a breach of communion or not; or whether the difference simply shows another way of approaching the problem.  Moreover,  whenever we find ourselves in a theological or pastoral impasse when we apply an answer from our own tradition, then we can perhaps look at another Catholic tradition to see if the other regional church has an answer that is more realistic, more in accordance with the Gospel, or more profoundly traditional. 

Thus, Florovsky answers the problem of the validity of heterodox sacraments by following St Augustine, as it says in the post above:
  Florovsky rejects the “over - rigoristic tendency” amongst some Orthodox to deny categorically the existence of sacraments beyond canonical boundaries. The “economic" interpretation concerning reception of heterodox he regards as a doubtful theological opinion, not the teaching of the Church. Where Easterners often appeal simply to canons, Florovsky credits Western theologians for raising the question in properly theological light, and calls on Orthodox theologians to appropriate Augustine’s theology of sacraments in schism.
Although he believes the Orthodox Church to have the faith of the undivided Church of the Fathers in a way that no other church can claim, he also admits that 
"the Spirit of God still breathes in the Roman Church; the holy sacrifice is still offered."
Thus he said that the ecumenical quest is a challenge to the Orthodox Church as well:
”Culturally speaking, however, the East too is a“fragment” and must also enlarge its theological vision, avoiding local peculiarities"
This is precisely what the Catholic ressourcement theologians demanded of their own church and of the Vatican in particular; but there seemed little hope that they would be listened to, until Archbishop Roncalli became papal nuncio in Paris.

When Cardinal Frings of Cologne stood up at the beginning of the first session of Vatican II and called for the rejection of the document proposed by Vatican theologians on Revelation, saying that there were too many quotations from recent popes, too little grounding on Scripture and on the Fathers of the Church, especially the Greek Fathers - his intervention had probably been written by his secretary, Father Joseph Ratzinger - then the ressourcement agenda and the general theological position of Fr George Florovsky moved from a marginal, dangerous and somewhat eccentric opinion in the eyes of the Vatican to the very centre of Vatican II's concerns.  This group of theologians, joined by others like Joseph Ratzinger, Archbishop Wojtyla, and Christopher Butler, and supported by the Melkite hierarchy, played a major role in writing the council documents, and made sure that from then on, some key Orthodox teachings became central to western Catholic teaching, ideas like theosis (divinisationand sobornost (conciliarity).   Moreover, in spite of later hesitations by theologians of this school about post-Vatican II liturgical reform, in the actual new texts, the principles of ressourcement are evident. The liturgists, in Fr Florovski's words, "enlarged their theological vision" and, in a "free encounter with the East", extended our own Latin Church's liturgical experience, making use of both Antiochian and Alexandrian solutions to Latin liturgical problems, thus, even in liturgy, reflected the "pan-patristic synthesis" which the Council desired and which will only be completed when Catholicity and Orthodoxy become  one.

If, by its very nature, the Church is a unity in diversity and this is reflected in the multi-form nature of the one ecclesial Tradition, then this implies within a Catholic context that the bishops of the local churches throughout the world represent the diversity of the Church, while the Pope represents the fundamental unity behind the many forms that Catholic Tradition takes in the local churches.    If diversity and unity are both essential to the Church, then pope and bishops must act in partnership; and we see in the synods on the family how Pope Francis is trying to set up an adequate infrastructure to do justice to both aspects of church governance.  That primacy cannot adequately function without conciliarity, and conciliarity cannot adequately function without primacy, is a theme in Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, and the Catholic Church is taking these conclusions seriously.  

 Since Vatican II, there have been several examples which show that the last two popes were very conscious that they were bound in their decisions to obey Tradition. Against the universal testimony of Tradition, they simply had no power to ordain women.   Because of Tradition as seen in a small, almost insignificant and separated church, that of the Assyrians of the East, which celebrates Mass in Aramaic, the language of Our Lord, but which has a Eucharistic prayer without the words of institution, the Vatican had to adapt the common teaching of the Church on the consecration at Mass in acknowledgement of this fact.   Pope Benedict XVI, in permitting those who wish to go on celebrating the old Latin Mass, said that he does not have the power to forbid it because it was allowed for centuries and cannot suddenly become disallowed: Tradition is paramount.  It is recognised that the petrine ministry has been seen with greater clarity in the West than in the East, and the 1st Vatican Council made its decisions during the state of schism. The Vatican dogmas are snapshots of the western tradition, not of the eastern; therefore the Eastern tradition cannot be obliged to accept these dogmas because their obligation is to be true to their own tradition.  There have been times when East and West have been in communion even though this difference already existed between them.   What was allowable before when we lived our common Tradition together cannot become unallowable now, because the Holy Spirit was as present then as He is now. 

We haven't arrived at a fully balanced ecclesiology yet, either in theory or in practice; but we are getting there; and one of the people we have to thank is Father George Florovski and the other Russian theologians living in exile in the 20th century.

I shall complete this article with a group of nine videos from Orientale Lumen in which first class Catholic and Orthodox theologians discuss relations between the two churches in detail.   In a few days time, I shall put this collection of videos on a permanent new page so that they will be readily available.
  please click on:

Top theologians and ecumenists explain in nine videos:  

Friday 29 May 2015


After the Easter Season which culminated in the Feast of Pentecost, the liturgy provides for these three Solemnities of the Lord: today, Trinity Sunday; next Thursday, Corpus Christi which in many countries, including Italy, will be celebrated next Sunday; and finally, on the following Friday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Each one of these liturgical events highlights a perspective by which the whole mystery of the Christian faith is embraced: and that is, respectively the reality of the Triune God, the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the divine and human centre of the Person of Christ. These are truly aspects of the one mystery of salvation which, in a certain sense, sum up the whole itinerary of the revelation of Jesus, from his Incarnation to his death and Resurrection and, finally, to his Ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Today we contemplate the Most Holy Trinity as Jesus introduced us to it. He revealed to us that God is love "not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance" (Preface). He is the Creator and merciful Father; he is the Only-Begotten Son, eternal Wisdom incarnate, who died and rose for us; he is the Holy Spirit who moves all things, cosmos and history, toward their final, full recapitulation. Three Persons who are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, the Spirit is love. God is wholly and only love, the purest, infinite and eternal love. He does not live in splendid solitude but rather is an inexhaustible source of life that is ceaselessly given and communicated. To a certain extent we can perceive this by observing both the macro-universe: our earth, the planets, the stars, the galaxies; and the micro-universe: cells, atoms, elementary particles. The "name" of the Blessed Trinity is, in a certain sense, imprinted upon all things because all that exists, down to the last particle, is in relation; in this way we catch a glimpse of God as relationship and ultimately, Creator Love. All things derive from love, aspire to love and move impelled by love, though naturally with varying degrees of awareness and freedom. "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Ps 8: 1) the Psalmist exclaims. In speaking of the "name", the Bible refers to God himself, his truest identity. It is an identity that shines upon the whole of Creation, in which all beings for the very fact that they exist and because of the "fabric" of which they are made point to a transcendent Principle, to eternal and infinite Life which is given, in a word, to Love. "In him we live and move and have our being", St Paul said at the Areopagus of Athens (Acts 17: 28). The strongest proof that we are made in the image of the Trinity is this: love alone makes us happy because we live in a relationship, and we live to love and to be loved. Borrowing an analogy from biology, we could say that imprinted upon his "genome", the human being bears a profound mark of the Trinity, of God as Love.

The Virgin Mary, in her docile humility, became the handmaid of divine Love: she accepted the Father's will and conceived the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. In her the Almighty built a temple worthy of him and made her the model and image of the Church, mystery and house of communion for all human beings. May Mary, mirror of the Blessed Trinity, help us to grow in faith in the Trinitarian mystery.

A Morning Prayer to the Holy Trinity
by St. John Chrysostom
Fr. Stephen Freeman
my source: Glory to God for All things

Glory to You, our God, glory to You.

Glory to You, O Lord our God,

Who always overlooks our sins.

Glory to you.

O Lord our God,

who enabled me to see this day.

Glory to You,

O most-holy Trinity, our God.

I venerate Your ineffable goodness.

I praise Your inexplorable forbearance.

I thank and glorify Your infinite mercy.

For although I deserve

every punishment and chastisement,

You have mercy and do good to me

With myriads of blessings.

Glory to You,

O Lord my God,

for everything.


From a Translation by Esther Williams, The Path of Prayer (Praxis, 1992).

Trinity mosaic from the Basilica of  St. Maria Maggiore, Rome

This article is an excerpt from The Wellspring of Worship by Jean Corbon O.P.
(Ignatius Press, 2005). 

If we consent in prayer to be flooded by the river of life, our entire being will be transformed; we will become trees of life and be increasingly able to produce the fruit of the Spirit: we will love with the very Love that is our God. It is necessary at every moment to insist on this radical consent, this decision of the heart by which our will submits unconditionally to the energy of the Holy Spirit; otherwise we shall remain subject to the illusion created by mere knowledge of God and talk about him and shall in fact remain apart from him in brokenness and death. On the other hand, if we do constantly renew this offering of our sinful hearts, let us not imagine that our New Covenant with Jesus will be a personal encounter pure and simple. The communion into which the Spirit leads us is not limited to a face-to-face encounter between the person of Christ and our own person or to an external conformity of our wills with his. The lived liturgy does indeed begin with this "moral" union, but it goes much further. The Holy Spirit is an anointing, and he seeks to transform all that we are into Christ: body, soul, spirit, heart, flesh, relations with others and the world. If love is to become our life, it is not enough for it to touch the core of our person; it must also impregnate our entire nature.

To this transformative power of the river of life that permeates the entire being (person and nature), the undivided tradition of the Churches gives an astonishing name that sums up the mystery of the lived liturgy: theosis or divinization. Through baptism and the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit we have become "sharers of the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4). In the liturgy of the heart, the wellspring of this divinization streams out as the Holy Spirit, and our individual persons converge in a single origin. But how is this mysterious synergy to infuse our entire nature from its smallest recesses to its most obvious behaviors? This process is the drama of divinization in which the mystery of the lived liturgy is brought to completion in each Christian.

The Mystery of Jesus

To enter into the name of the holy Lord Jesus does not mean simply contemplating it from time to time or occasionally identifying with his passionate love for the Father and his compassion for men. It also means sharing faithfully and increasingly in his humanity, in assuming which he assumed ours as well. In our baptism we "put on Christ" in order that this putting on might become the very substance of our life. The beloved Son has united us to himself in his body, and the more he makes our humanity like his own, the more he causes us to share in his divinity. The humanity of Jesus is new because it is holy. Even in its mortal state it shared in the divine energies of the Word, without confusion and in an unfathomable synergy in which his will and human behavior played their part. Jesus is not a divinized man; he is the truly incarnated Word of God.

This last statement means that we need not imitate, from afar and in an external way, the behavior of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel, in order thereby to effect our own divinization and become "like God"; self-divinization is the primal temptation ever lurking in wait. On the contrary, it is the Word who divinizes this human nature, which he has united to himself once and for all. Since his Resurrection his divinehuman energies are those of his Holy Spirit, who elicits and calls for our response; in the measure of this synergy of the Spirit and our heart our humanity shares in the life of the holy humanity of Christ. To enter into the name of Jesus, Son of God and Lord, means therefore to be drawn into him in the very depths of our being, by the same drawing movement in which he assumed our humanity by taking flesh and living out our human condition even to the point of dying. There is no "panchristic" pseudo-mysticism here, because the human person remains itself, a creature who is free over against its Lord and God. Neither, however, is there any moralism (a further error that waits to ensnare us), because our human nature really shares in the divinity of its Savior.

"Man becomes God as much as God becomes a man", says Saint Maximus the Confessor. [1] Christian holiness is divinization because in our concrete humanity we share in the divinity of the Word who married our flesh. The "divine nature" of which Saint Peter speaks (2 Pet 1:4) is not an, abstraction or a model, but the very life of the Father, which he eternally communicates to his Son and his Holy Spirit. The Father is its source, and the Son extends it to us by becoming a man. We become God by being more and more united to the humanity of Jesus. The only question left, then since this humanity is the way by which our humanity will put on his divinity–is this: How did the Son of God live as a man in our mortal condition? The Gospel has been written precisely in order to show us "the mind of Christ Jesus" (Phil 2:5); [2] it is this mind with which the Holy Spirit seeks to fill our hearts.

According to the spirituality of the Church and according to the gifts of the Spirit given to every one, each of the baptized lives out more intensely one or other aspect of the mind of Christ; at the same time, however, the mystery of divinization is fundamentally the same in all Christians. Their humanity no longer belongs to them, in the possessive and deadly sense of "belong", but to him who died and rose for them. In an utterly true sense, all that makes up my nature–its powers of life and death, its gifts and experiences, its limits and sins–is no longer "mine" but belongs to "him who loved me and gave himself up for me". This transfer of ownership is not idealistic or moral but realistic and mystical. As we shall see, the identification of Jesus with the humanity of every human person plays a very large part in the new relationship that persons establish with other men; but when the identification is willingly accepted and when our rebellious wills submit to his Spirit, divinization is at work. I was wounded by sin and radically incapable of loving; now Love has become part of my nature again: "I am alive; yet it is no longer 1, but Christ living in me" (Gal 2:20).

The Realism of the Liturgy of the Heart

The mystical realism of our divinization is the fruit of the sacramental realism of the liturgy. Conversely, evangelical moralism, with which we so often confuse life according to the Spirit, is the inevitable result of a deterioration of the liturgy into sacred routines. But when the fontal liturgy, which is the realism of the mystery of Christ, gives life to our sacramental celebrations, in the same measure the Spirit transfigures us in Christ.

The Fathers of the early centuries tell us that "the Son of God became a man, in order that men might become sons of God". The stages by which the beloved Son came among us and united himself to us to the point of dying our death are the same stages by which he unites us to him and leads us to the Father, to the point of making us live his life. These stages of the one Way that is Christ are shown to us in figures in the Old Testament; Jesus fulfilled the prefigurations. The stages are creation and promise, Passover and exodus, Covenant and kingdom, exile and return, restoration and expectation of the consummation. The two Testaments inscribed this great Passover of the divinizing Incarnation in the book of history. But in the last times the Bible becomes life; it exists in a liturgical condition, and the action of God is inscribed in our hearts. Knowledge of the mystery is no longer a mental process but an event that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in the celebrated liturgy and then brings to fulfillment by divinizing us.

But it is not enough simply to understand the ways in which Christ divinizes us; the primary thing is to be able to live them. At certain "moments" the celebrated liturgy gives us an intense experience of the economy of salvation, which is divinization, in order that we may live it at all "times", these new times into which it has brought us. According to the Fathers of the desert, either we pray always or we never pray. But in order to pray always we must pray often and sometimes at length. In like manner (for we are dealing with the same mystery), in order to divinize us the Spirit must divinize us often and sometimes very intensely. The economy of salvation that emerges from the Father through his Christ in the Holy Spirit expands to become the divinized life that Christians live in the Holy Spirit, through the name of Jesus, the Christ and Lord, in movement toward the Father. But the celebration of the liturgy is the place and moment in which the river of life, hidden in the economy, penetrates the life of the baptized in order to divinize it. It is there that everything that the Word experiences for the sake of man becomes Spirit and life.

The Holy Spirit, Iconographer of Divinization

In the economy of salvation everything reaches completion in Jesus through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; in the liturgy as celebrated and as lived everything begins through the Holy Spirit. That is why at the existential origin of our divinization is the liturgy of the heart, the synergy in which the Holy Spirit unites himself to our spirit (Rom 8:16) in order to make us be, and show that we are, sons of God. The same Spirit who "anointed" the Word with our humanity and imprinted our nature upon him is written in our hearts as the living seal of the promise, in order that he may "anoint" us with the divine nature: he makes us christs in Christ. Our divinization is not passively imposed on us, but is our own vital activity, proceeding inseparably from him and from ourselves.

When the Spirit begins his work in us and with us, he is not faced with the raw, passive earth out of that he fashioned the first Adam or, much less, the virginal earth, permeated by faith, that he used in effecting the conception of the second Adam. What the Spirit finds is a remnant of glory, an icon of the Son: ceaselessly loved, but broken and disfigured. Each of us can whisper to him what the funeral liturgy cries out in the name of the dead person: I remain the image of your inexpressible glory, even though I am wounded by sin!" [3] This trust that cannot be confounded and this Covenant that cannot be broken form the space wherein the patient mystery of our divinization is worked out.

The sciences provide grills for interpreting the human riddle, but when these have been applied three great questions still remain in all that we seek and in all that we do: the search for our origin, the quest for dialogue, the aspiration for communion. On the one hand, why is it that I am what I am, in obedience to a law that is stronger than I am (see Rom 7)? On the other, in the smallest of my actions I await a word, a counterpart who will dialogue with me. Finally, it is clear that our mysterious selves cannot achieve fulfillment on any level, from the most organic to the most aesthetic, except in communion. These three pathways in my being are, as it were, the primary imprints in me of the image of glory, of the call of my very being to the divine likeness in which my divinization will be completed. The Holy Spirit uses arrows of fire in restoring our disfigured image. The fire of love consumes its opposite (sin) and transforms us into itself, which is Light.

We wander astray like orphans as long as we have not accepted him, the Spirit of sonship, as our virginal source. All burdens are laid upon us, and we are slaves as long as we are not surrendered to him who is freedom and grace. And because he is the Breath of Life, it is he who will teach us to listen (we are dumb only because we are deaf); then, the more we learn to hear the Word, the better we shall be able to speak. Our consciences will no longer be closed or asleep, but will be transformed into creative silence. Finally, Utopian love and the communion that cannot be found because it is "not of this world" are present in him, the "treasure of every blessing", not as acquired and possessed but as pure gift; our relationship with others becomes transparent once again. This communion of the Holy Spirit is the master stroke in the work of divinization, because in this communion we are in communion also with the Father and his Son, Jesus (2 Cor 13:13; Jn 1:3), and with all our brothers.

Following these three pathways of the transfigured icon, we are divinized to the extent that the least impulses of our nature find fulfillment in the communion of the Blessed Trinity We then "live" by the Spirit, in oneness with Christ, for the Father. The only obstacle is possessiveness, the focusing of our persons on the demands of our nature, and this is sin for the quest of self breaks the relation with God. The asceticism that is essential to our divinization and that represents once again a synergy of grace consists in simply but resolutely turning every movement toward possessiveness into an offering. The epiclesis on the altar of the heart must be intense at these moments, so that the Holy Spirit may touch and consume our death and the sin that is death's sting. Entering into the name of Jesus, the Son of God and the Lord who shows mercy to us sinners, means handing over to him our wounded nature, which he does not change by assuming but which he divinizes by putting on. From offertory to epiclesis and from epiclesis to communion the Spirit can then ceaselessly divinize us; our life becomes a eucharist until the icon is completely transformed into him who is the splendor of the Father.

Pentecost at St Elizabeth's Convent, Minsk
one of my favourite places

please click on:
by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware (Orth.)

the thought of Fr Danielou

by Henri de Lubac

by Fr R. Cantalamessa (OFM Cap)

Monday 25 May 2015


Insides that didn't decompose – and other stunning facts about Oscar Romero

By David Ramos and Elise Harris
my source: Catholic News Agency

San Salvador, El Salvador, May 23, 2015 / 02:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In his role as Vicar General, Monsignor Ricardo Urioste was one of the closest collaborators of Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador who was martyred for the faith in 1980 and beatified just this weekend.

And this monsignor has some stories to tell.

Among the most fascinating involve details surrounding the day Romero was killed, what the late archbishop really thought about the controversial and problematic Liberation Theology, and the fact that the martyr’s insides hadn’t decomposed when they were exhumed three years after his death.

Archbishop Romero was brutally killed while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980 – a time when El Salvador was on the brink of civil war. In February Pope Francis officially recognized his death as having been for hatred of the faith and gave the green light for his beatification.

Msgr. Urioste, who currently heads up the Archbishop Romero Foundation, said that during the time the martyr lived, whenever “he preached, spoke, was a pastor, they accused him of being communist, Marxist, a politician, and a thousand things."

However, he noted how after 12 years of extensive study on the life and writings of the archbishop, the Vatican never found anything that supported these claims.

In an interview with CNA, Msgr. revealed some the of the lesser known facts surrounding the new blessed, as well as his continuing legacy on the Church and the world at large.

What happened on the day Archbishop Romero died?

Msgr. Urioste can easily recall the day that Archbishop Romero was killed, saying that it was “an ordinary day of work” for him.

In the morning the archbishop had a meeting with a group of priests, and then they ate lunch together. After the meeting he went to confession with his usual confessor, which was a priest named Fr. Segundo Ascue.

Once he confessed, Archbishop Romero went to celebrate a 6 p.m. Mass in San Salvador’s hospital of Divine Providence, which was staffed by nuns. The Mass, Mons. Urioste recalled, had been widely publicized throughout the diocese.

While he was celebrating Mass in the hospital’s chapel, the archbishop was shot in the chest from outside.

Msgr. Urioste said that after getting a phone call informing him of what happened, “I immediately went to the hospital, and he was already taken to the polyclinic. A television set arrived, they interviewed me, and after I went to the hospital where he was."

He recalled how as the sisters were going to embalm Archbishop Romero’s body, he told them “please be careful not to drop his insides anywhere, but that they pick them up and bury them, and they did, burying them in front of the little apartment he had in the hospital where he lived."

Three years later, on the occasion St. John Paul II’s visit to the country, the nuns of the hospital “made a monument to the Virgin in the same place where we had buried (Romero’s) insides.”

“When they were digging they ran into the box and the plastic bag where they had placed the insides, and the blood was still liquid and the insides didn't have any bad smell,” he revealed.

“I don't want to say that it was a miracle, it's possible that it's a natural phenomenon, but the truth is that this happened, and we told the archbishop at the time (Arturo Rivera y Damas), look monsignor, this has happened and he said 'be quiet, don't tell anyone because they are going to say that they are our inventions,'” he said.

However, “Pope John Paul II was given a small canister with Archbishop Romero’s blood,” he noted.

Msgr. Urioste recalled that when John Paul II arrived to San Salvador, the first thing he did “was go to the cathedral without telling anyone. The cathedral was closed, they had to go and look for someone to open it so that the Pope could enter and kneel before the tomb of Archbishop Romero.”

John Paul II asked during his visit that no one manipulate the memory of Archbishop Romero, Msgr. Urioste recalled, and lamented how “they politicized him.”

“The left had politicized him, putting him as their banner. And the right politicized him, saying things that are untrue about the bishop, that are purely false, they denigrated him.”

One of the things that the Church in El Salvador wants, Msgr. Urioste said, is that “the figure of the archbishop, known now a little more than he was before, is a cause for reflection, a motive for peace, a motive for forgiveness, a motive for reconciliation with one another, and that we all have more patience to renew ourselves and follow the paths that Archbishop Romero proposed to us.”

“I think that (Romero’s) figure is going to contribute a lot to a better meeting and reconciliation in El Salvador,” he said.

What Archbishop Romero really thought about Liberation Theology

Despite the many accusations leveled against the archbishop of San Salvador, his Vicar General said that Romero “never had a Marxist thought or Marxist ideology in his mind.”

“If there had been, the Vatican, which has studied so much, would not have beatified him, if they had found that he had Marxist interests.”

The real backbone of his closeness to the poor, he said, was the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.

“He was a servant of the Gospel, he never read anything from Liberation Theology, but he read the Bible.”

Msgr. Urioste noted that the archbishop's library, “had all these books from the early Fathers of the Church, from the current Magisterium of the Church, but (he) never even opened any of the books from Liberation Theology, or Gustavo Gutiérrez, or of anyone else.”

“He read the Bible and there he encountered a Jesus in love with the poor and in this way started walking toward him,” he said.

What set Archbishop Romero apart 

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of Archbishop Romero was “his great sense of work. He was an extremely hardworking man and devoted to his work day and night – until midnight and until dawn,” Msgr. Urioste said.

He recalled how the archbishop would begin to prepare his Sunday homilies the day before, and would always include three reflections on the Eucharist. When Romero preached, he made frequent reference to the Fathers of the Church, based his comments on Church teaching and related his thoughts to the country's current reality.

“A homily that doesn't have this relation with what is happening sounds the same here as in Ireland, in Paris, as anywhere,” the priest said.

He recalled how in Romero's time the government was “a ferocious military dictatorship, which had 'national security' as it's theme.”

Everyone who either sided with the poor or expressed concern for them “was accused of being communist, they were sent to be killed without thinking more. There were 70 thousand deaths like this in the country at that time,” Msgr. Urioste noted.

“The social economic reality was of a lot of poverty, of a great lack of unemployment, of low wages.”

Ultimately, Archbishop Romero’s beatification, the monsignor said, is “a triumph of the truth.”

It is a triumph, he said, of the truth of “who Archbishop Romero really was, what he did, how he did it, from the Word of God, from the Magisterium of the Church, in defense of the poor, who were the favored ones of Jesus Christ and who were were also the favored ones of Archbishop Romero./

SAN SALVADOR — María de los Angeles Mena Alvarado knelt at the tomb of the slain archbishop and wept.

She had come to the crypt of the city’s cathedral to pray for a cure for the diabetes that was threatening her eyesight and weakening her kidneys. “I feel that, yes, he can perform a miracle,” said Ms. Mena, 62.

Thirty-five years after Óscar Romero, the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated with a single bullet as he said Mass in a modest chapel here, this small country is celebrating his beatification on Saturday, the final step before sainthood.

For many here and in the rest of Latin America, though, Archbishop Romero is already a saint.

His tireless advocacy for the poor resonates deeply in a region where the gulf between those with riches and those without remains vast. He was the champion of impoverished Salvadorans, his homilies and radio broadcasts giving voice to their struggles. And as political violence battered the country and death squads killed any activist who challenged the existing order, the archbishop was defiant.

“I have frequently been threatened with death,” he said two weeks before he was killed. “If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.”

The decision by Pope Francis to declare Archbishop Romero a martyr to the faith and speed up the long-stalled process toward his sanctification is widely seen as a recognition of the deep pastoral commitment the archbishop demonstrated, at the cost of his life.

“He spoke the truth; he spoke through facts,” said Eva Menjívar, a former Carmelite nun who knew him in the 1970s and continues as a religious worker in poor communities. “We have never stopped teaching the spirit and values of Monsignor Romero.”

For decades, the conservative Vatican hierarchy was suspicious of Archbishop Romero, as it was of many Latin American priests who were influenced by liberation theology, which challenges the social and economic structures that perpetuate poverty. Even today he remains a divisive figure in El Salvador, where some on the right believe he was a communist in clerical garb.

Archbishop Romero never identified himself with liberation theology. But as an advocate for the poor, “he took sides; he was not a neutral bystander,” said Robert Ellsberg, a scholar and publisher of Orbis Books, a Catholic publishing house. “He spoke out clearly without compromise against the violence and injustice of the elite.”

In that sense, he had much in common with Pope Francis, who has said he wants “a poor church for the poor.”

The Rev. Gustavo Gutiérrez, the Peruvian priest whose 1971 book first outlined liberation theology, said Archbishop Romero was motivated by the poverty and suffering he saw in El Salvador rather than by any ideology. “Monsignor Romero now appears to be understood, as he was also very misunderstood,” he said.

Before Archbishop Romero was appointed in 1977, he had not confronted the growing military repression directly. But a few weeks later, a Jesuit priest and friend, the Rev. Rutilio Grande, was assassinated. The archbishop celebrated Mass several weeks afterward and then organized a procession through the rural town where Father Grande had been organizing farmworkers, recalled the Rev. Jon Sobrino, a liberation theologian who became an adviser.

The group suddenly encountered soldiers with their rifles drawn and stopped short. But from the back of the file the archbishop’s voice rang out, urging people, “Forward!” The soldiers lowered their rifles.

In the context of the Cold War, Archbishop Romero’s stance marked him as subversive in the eyes of the United States-backed Salvadoran military, even though he also criticized violence by the guerrillas.

The month before he was killed, Archbishop Romero wrote to President Jimmy Carter to ask him to end United States support for the military. Then, on March 23, 1980, he called on soldiers to disobey illegal orders. “The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters,” he said.

The next day, a red Volkswagen pulled up outside the chapel at the cancer hospice where he lived, and a shot was fired from the car’s back window through the chapel doorway to the altar, and the archbishop fell bleeding.

A United Nations truth commission found that his murder was planned by a group of officers led by Roberto d’Aubuisson, a former army major who led the death squads. Nobody was ever prosecuted for the assassination, and Mr. d’Aubuisson died of cancer in 1992. Left open is whether he was acting for someone in the oligarchy.

At the archbishop’s funeral, snipers fired on mourners, killing as many as 40 people amid scenes of panic.

In the months after Archbishop Romero’s death, the violence escalated into a brutal civil war in which at least 75,000 people were killed before peace accords were signed in 1992. Under President Ronald Reagan, Washington sent as much as $1.5 million a day to support the Salvadoran military.

The long-awaited recognition for Archbishop Romero comes to a country and a region that is very different in some ways. But the daily reality of the poor has changed little.

Right-wing military dictatorships have been swept away in Latin America. Outright political violence is rare, and in all but a few countries there is a vibrant civil society that is free to criticize governments without fear.

In El Salvador, the warring sides of the civil war now compete in elections, and President Salvador Sánchez Cerén is a former guerrilla commander.

Democracy has proved a profound disappointment, though. Inequality is as entrenched as it was in Archbishop Romero’s time, and the poor of El Salvador — along with those in many other countries in Latin America — now live in the grip of criminal, not political, violence.

“The violence now is of the poor against the poor,” said Roberto Cuéllar, a lawyer who worked with Archbishop Romero to offer legal services to the poor and document human rights abuses. “He would be bitter to see that after reaching the peace accords that we are still in the same place.”

Msgr. Ricardo Urioste, who was the vicar general to Archbishop Romero, said the Salvadoran church had failed to take a role in addressing the gang violence that rages through the poor neighborhoods.

“I think the church should take a more active part,” said Monsignor Urioste, taking a sharply critical view of a hierarchy that has long resisted honoring the archbishop. “I think if Monsignor Romero were here he would talk to the gangs, something no bishop is doing here. And he would be talking about injustice.”

The question now is whether Archbishop Romero’s beatification will prove to be merely a symbol or a watershed for Latin America.

Many Central Americans — almost 50 percent of Salvadorans are younger than 25 — have no direct memory of the wars that racked the region and the role that socially committed priests played.

And a generation of young people who were inspired by liberation theology in the 1970s have moved on, preferring to work in human rights, labor organizing, legal aid or economic development. They have helped to enrich civil society, where the church now plays a much smaller role.

Those who revere Archbishop Romero worry that the long-awaited official recognition may simply be an effort to soften his legacy. “It is an attempt to claim his message,” Lissette Hernández, 42, who works on rural development projects, said after a concert in the archbishop’s memory. “He was correct in the way he lived the Gospel.”

“I have mixed feelings” about the beatification, she said. “Nobody has asked for forgiveness or solved the crime.”

Gene Palumbo contributed reporting

The person who sent me one of the above articles is called Jim Forest.   As a young man, he worked with Dorothy Day in New York, and he received spiritual direction from Thomas Merton (Fr Luis).  He is Orthodox and a writer.  As disciple of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, he has written their biographies.   Not only that, he is a founder of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship with its blog InCommunion.
This podcast is the story for children of "St Nicholas and the Nine Coins".(please click on the title)   This tells us very simply of another bishop who was a saint and was brother to his fellow bishop Mgr Romero.  They both preached with their lives across the centuries the same Gospel; and they both show us that the path to sharing in Christ's divine life, the life of the Holy Trinity, (theosis) is through humble self-giving, self-emptying obedience (kenosis) which is love.   St Nicholas is known in the West as Santa Claus, or Fr Christmas; but his life was one of self-giving charity, just like Archbishop Romero.  The Christian life throughout the world and throughout the centuries is the work of the same Holy Spirit and is characterised by kenosis and theosis which are dimensions of the same reality of Grace.

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