"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


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Saturday, 22 November 2014


Taize as the first real breakthrough in ecumenical relations
between the Catholic Church and those of the Reformation.
It is still going strong.  Moreover, its insights have expanded into
the World Youth Day under the last two popes and are being
carried even further by Pope Francis.  It is counter-current to
the continuing liberalisation of the Protestant churches.

How Francis Is Befriending the Pentecostals

In Latin America, they're pulling millions of faithful away from the Catholic Church. But the pope has only words of friendship for them. This is his way of doing ecumenism, unveiled here in two of his video messages 
by Sandro Magister

While here is a link to the encounter in October, where the pope had at his side (see photo) Palmer's widow, Emiliana, and the "evangelical" bishop who succeeded him, Robert Wise.

ROME, November 19, 2014 - With the mastery for which it is known all over the world, the Washington-based Pew Research Center has conducted a survey on a massive scale that gives substance to a fact that was already known in general terms, the startling decline of Catholic membership in the Latin American subcontinent:

> Religion in Latin America. Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region

In the geographical area that is used today to indicate the new center of mass of the worldwide Catholic Church, midway through the last century almost the entirety of the population, 94 percent, was made up of Catholics. And still in 1970 Catholics were in the overwhelming majority, at 92 percent.

But then came the collapse. Today the proportion of Catholics is 23 points lower, at 69 percent of the population. The negative record belongs to Honduras, where Catholics have dropped to under half, from 94 to 46 percent. To get an idea of how sharp the decline has been, it should be enough to think that it has taken place entirely within the time span of the episcopal ministry of Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa and coordinator of the eight cardinals called by Pope Francis to assist him in the governance of the universal Church.

The collapse in the number of Catholics has been accompanied everywhere by the exuberant growth of "evangelical" and Pentecostal Christians, of Protestant descent. This was known too, but the Pew Research Center has highlighted that those who are passing from one membership to another are not usually the most lukewarm in their faith, but the most fervent.

The converts to the "evangelical" communities turn out, in fact, to be much more dynamic in propagating the Christian faith. And there is also a difference in helping the poor. While the Catholics assist them and that's it, the "evangelicals" are not only more active in works of charity, but also do not miss the opportunity to preach the Christian faith to the poor.

There is also a great discrepancy in religious practice. In Argentina, for example, the "evangelicals" who put great emphasis on religion in their lives, pray every day and go to church every week are 41 percent, while the Catholics are just 9 percent and take last place in the rankings together with Chile and secularized Uruguay.

The survey of the Pew Research Center also demonstrates that converts from Catholicism to the "evangelical" communities are not drawn by greater leniency on the matters of abortion or homosexuality.

The reality is the opposite. Those most resolute in opposing abortion and marriage between persons of the same-sex are found among the neo-Protestants, not among the Catholics.

In Argentina, for example, more than half of Catholics, 53 percent, say they are in favor of homosexual "marriage," which is already legal in that country. While among the neo-Protestants those in favor are 32 percent.

The survey of the Pew Research Center is a must-read, rich as it is in data on this epochal phenomenon.

And it is therefore understandable that a pastor like Jorge Mario Bergoglio - who as an Argentine has experienced in person the collapse of Catholic membership in his country and on the continent - should wish to act accordingly.

Otherwise there is no explanation, in fact, for the incessant efforts that Pope Francis is undertaking with the world leaders of those "evangelical" and Pentecostal movements that in Latin America are the most fearful competitors of the Catholic Church. Not to fight them, but to make them his friends.

It is an effort that he began long before his election as pope, and that most recently had its most conspicuous moment in the visit that he made to Caserta last July 27 to meet the Pentecostal pastor Giovanni Traettino, who has been his friend since he was archbishop of Buenos Aires:

> Francis's Secret Friend in Caserta

In the addressee gave on that occasion, Pope Francis presented his vision of ecumenical relations as"unity in diversity": a sort of universal Church in the form of a prism of which the Catholic Church would be one facet, on a par with the other Churches and denominations.

It is not clear how Francis might harmonize this vision of his with what is stated by the previous magisterium of the Church in matters of ecumenism. The fact is that he takes it greatly to heart, as emerges from the frequent informal talks that he gives to one or another of the “evangelical” pastors he encounters.

Pope Bergoglio usually receives them at Santa Marta. Or he reaches them in various places of the world with live video messages.

And the words that he says on these occasions, which never appear in the official Vatican sources, make the rounds when the recipients post them on the web, with evident satisfaction.

One recent encounter of this kind between the Pope and "evangelical" leaders took place at Santa Marta during the synod last October. Francis received the widow and coworkers of a bishop of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, Tony Palmer, a longtime friend from South Africa who died in a car accident last July.

A few months earlier, Francis had sent a powerful video message to a meeting presided over by Palmer and another leading "evangelical" personality, Texas-based pastor Kenneth Copeland, a proponent of the "theology of prosperity," both of whom the pope had received in Rome on June 24.

While here is a link to the encounter in October, where the pope had at his side (see photo) Palmer's widow, Emiliana, and the "evangelical" bishop who succeeded him, Robert Wise:

> The miracle of unity

While the following is a transcription and translation from the original Spanish of the words spoken by Francis, with his vision of ecumenism.


Pope Francis to the leaders of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches

First of all, I congratulate you for your courage. Yesterday at the entrance to the synod hall I ran into a Lutheran bishop and I said to him: “You here? What courage!” Because in another era they burned the Lutherans alive… [laughter].

Yesterday there was a meeting organized by Tony [Palmer]. He was enthusiastic about it, as was I, and I am grateful to Archbishop Robert Wise and to Emiliana who have wanted to take up the torch, the “fiaccola” [in Italian], the torch of this dream, this dream that Tony had. The dream of walking in unity.

We are sinning against the will of Christ, because we are looking only at the differences. But we all have the same baptism, and baptism is more important than the differences. We all believe in the Father, in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. We all have within the Holy Spirit who prays, "now" for us, the spirit who prays in us.

And everyone must know that there is also a father of lies, the father of all divisions, the "anti-Father," the devil who gets in and divides, divides… Tony talked about this a lot, about this going forward and walking, walking together in what unites us. And that the Lord Jesus with his power may help us so that what divides us may not divide us too much.

I don't know, it's crazy… Having a treasure and preferring to use imitations of the treasure. The imitations are the differences, what matters is the treasure. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the vocation to holiness, the same baptism and the call to preach the Gospel to the ends of the world. The certainty is that he is with us where we are going… He is not with me only because I am Catholic; he is not with me because I am Lutheran; he is not with me because I am Orthodox… A theological madhouse! [laughter].

Each one has his own identity, and I presuppose that each of us is seeking the truth. So let's walk together. Let's pray for each other and do works of charity together. Matthew 25, together. And the Beatitudes, together. And we all have talented theologians in our churches. May they do the work of theological study. This is also another form of walking. But let's not wait for them to come to an agreement… [laughter]. This is what I believe [applause].

There's something else. This is called spiritual ecumenism, but there is something else. Today we are witnessing the persecution of Christians and… I was just in Albania… They told me that they didn't ask if you were Catholic or Orthodox… Are you Christian? Boom! Currently in the Middle East, in Africa, in many places, how many Christians have died! They don't ask them if they are Pentecostal, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox… Are they Christians? They kill them because they believe in Christ. This is the ecumenism of blood.

I remember: once I was in Hamburg, around 1986 or ‘87, and I met a priest. And the priest was working on the cause of beatification for a Catholic priest who had been guillotined by the Nazis because he taught the catechism to the young people. But in studying he had seen the list of those condemned to death that day, and right behind him there was a Lutheran pastor who was sentenced for the same thing. So the blood of the priest was mingled with that of the pastor. The priest went to the bishop and said to him: “Either I'm moving the two causes forward together, or I'm not doing anything." Ecumenism of blood.

I don't know, there's nothing more I want to say, I don't know… Just one other thing that Tony talked about, when he was a young man. In South Africa, in the schools, whites and persons of color went together, played together, but at lunchtime they were separated and said: "We want to eat together." He had that desire within: to walk together in order to be able to eat together at the banquet of the Lord [applause]. As the Lord wills, as the Lord wills.

I would like to thank Father Robert Wise for his presence, Tony's spiritual father. And the presence of Emiliana, a strong woman… They both inherit many things from Tony. We must recognize that he is the one who has brought us together. I don't know if this desire for unity, to continue forward creating unity, praying for each other, fulfilling the Beatitudes together, fulfilling Matthew 25 together… Without making an institution, freely, like brothers.

Is Pope Francis an Evangelical, Charismatic Catholic?

Experts in Evangelical Christianity and the Charismatic Movement discuss the roots and focus of the Holy Father's ecumenical dialogue and interaction
Fr. Dwight Longenecker 

Pope Francis arrives for an encounter with more than 50,000 Catholic charismatics at the Olympic Stadium in Rome June 1, 2014. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Labels are most often used not only to define a person, but to deny the person. Once we slap a label on them it is easy to limit them to that label. That’s why I used to tease people by describing myself as an “Evangelical, Charismatic, Catholic.”

I used the label to defy labels. I also used the description because I genuinely valued all three streams of Christian tradition. I wanted to affirm the Evangelical’s missionary zeal and love of the Scriptures, the Charismatic’s warmth and personal experience of the Holy Spirit, and the strong rootedness of the Catholic tradition.

Not long ago a priest friend admitted to to me that Pope Francis was “an enigma”. Now, a year and half into his papacy, after watching and listening to the pope carefully I’m convinced that he is, at heart, an Evangelical, Charismatic Catholic. Breaking out of common Catholic categories, Francis has reached out to Evangelicals and Charismatics both within the Catholic Church and beyond.

His friendship with bishop Tony Palmer is a good example. Before his untimely death, Palmer was a leader in a new church movement which weaves together the zealous missionary spirit of the Evangelicals, active use of the charismatic gifts, a love for liturgy, and the apostolic succession. Through Palmer, Pope Francis reached out to charismatic evangelist Kenneth Copeland, preached in a Pentecostal church in Rome and welcomed Evangelical leaders for a breakfast time visit.

To assess my hunch that Pope Francis is an Evangelical, Charismatic Catholic, I spoke to two Catholic leaders in the Church who are experts in Evangelical Christianity and the charismatic movement.

Catholic Charismatics

Dr. Ralph Martin is a well-known author, theologian, and teacher. He holds degrees in theology from Notre Dame, Princeton and a the Angelicum. He is associate professor of Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and is the director of Catholic Renewal Ministries. Ralph worked with Pope Francis in this year’s world meeting of charismatic Catholics in Rome. I asked Ralph for the inside story on Pope Francis and the charismatic movement.

Fr. Longenecker: Pope Francis seems open to the Renewal Movement in the Catholic Church. What do you think he sees as the movements strengths and weaknesses? By reaching out to charismatics is he simply trying to stem the tide of Catholics converting to the Pentecostal/Charismatic Protestant churches?

Martin: The Pope’s most comprehensive statement was in connection with the international Catholic charismatic conference held in Rome’s Olympic Stadium in June. When the organizers approached him about possibly sending a message to the conference or greeting them in St. Peter’s Square the Pope said he would like to come to the Stadium and participate.

He arrived in his Ford Focus and walked into the Stadium. When he got to the stage he asked the music ministry to play his favorite song from when he was the bishop in charge of the Catholic charismatic renewal in Argentina. I was in the front row and I can attest that he knew the words by heart and sang wholeheartedly with hands raised and eyes frequently closed in deep prayer and worship. It was also very moving when he asked for everyone to pray for him and he knelt down and for a long time was deep in prayer as 52,000 people from 55 countries prayed fervently for him.

The pope said, “I thank you so much for your welcome. When I celebrated holy Mass in Buenos Aires with the Charismatic Renewal, after the consecration and after a few seconds of adoration in tongues, we sang this song with so much joy and force, as you did today. Thank you! I felt at home!”

Pope Francis isn’t supporting the charismatic renewal for any other reason other than he sees in it a gift for the whole Church.

Fr. Longenecker: Considering Pope Francis' friendship with bishop Tony Palmer of the Charismatic Evangelical Episcopal Church, how might the renewal movement influence future ecumenism?

Martin: It is quite extraordinary how Pope Francis is reaching out to this very significant and often neglected segment of Christianity, in terms of its place in ecumenical dialogues. His video to Kenneth Copeland, his invitation to well known leaders from this segment, including well-known figures such as Joel Osteen and James Robison, to visit with him in the Vatican. His visit to the Italian evangelical pastor where he asked forgiveness for ways in which Catholics haven’t understood them and even disdained and discriminated against them has done immense good.

What is particularly encouraging is that this “personal diplomacy” of the Pope will now take an institutional and structured form as these encounters will now begin to happen on a regular basis under the guidance of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

Fr. Longenecker: The Pope has said, "Proselytism is solemn nonsense". How does this square with his enthusiasm for the Charismatic Movement with its strong emphasis on conversion?

Martin: Proselytism is using inappropriate means to induce someone to become a Christian—whether it be financial inducement, psychological pressure, or whatever. Evangelization is giving witness to the truth and beauty of the Christian faith while respecting the freedom of those we are witnessing to. Proselytism is bad; evangelization, inviting people to conversion is good!

Fr. Longenecker: Does Pope Francis envision any kind of formal re-union with Protestant Charismatic groups? What might that look like?

Martin: I haven’t heard him say anything along those lines. Indeed, he tends to tell people that he simply wants to get to know them, not pressure them to convert. I think he knows the limitations and is just trying to remove deep hurts, misunderstandings, and unnecessary alienations so that we can truly love each other and respect each other and support each other in witnessing to an international pagan culture that is increasingly hostile to Christ and Christians.

Evangelical Catholics

Dr. Francis Beckwith is an apologist, philosopher, and academic. Born into a Catholic home, he became an Evangelical and spent most of his adult life working within Evangelical Christian colleges. In 2007 he made public his reversion to Catholicism and resigned his posts in Evangelical theological organizations. He is now Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies at Baylor University.

I asked Francis his opinions about Pope Francis and the Evangelicals.

Fr. Longenecker: Pope Francis seems happy to be surrounded by Evangelical Protestants. He doesn’t view them as “the enemy”. Why do you think this is?

Beckwith: I think it's because of his experience in South America, where Evangelicalism has drawn away many Catholics from the Church. He sees in these Evangelicals a living and active faith that the Church can incorporate without compromising its ecclesial or doctrinal integrity. So, he views Evangelical practice as an integral part of the Catholic heritage that, if allowed to flourish, can reinvigorate the Church.

Fr. Longenecker: In your experience, how do most American Evangelicals regard Pope Francis?

Beckwith: It's mixed. In the crowds in which I travel, Benedict was far more liked that Francis. I think it has to do with the perception of Benedict as a conservative with intellectual and spiritual gravitas. With Francis, some of my Evangelical friends are suspicious of what some of his off-the-cuff comments may mean for Catholicism's reputation as the most important protector and defender of traditional values.

Fr. Longenecker: Do you feel the historic animus to the Catholic Church among Evangelicals is eroding?

Beckwith: Yes. I think it is largely the result of working together on cultural questions, which has led to more careful and charitable reading of each others' beliefs. So, for example, it is rare today to a find a serious Evangelical accusing the Catholic Church of believing in "works righteousness." Sure, the more flamboyant voices say such things, but most sophisticated Evangelicals do not take them seriously.

Fr. Longenecker: Could you envision any kind of visible unity with any group of Evangelicals or Protestants or will ecumenism only consist of being nice to one another?

Beckwith: I do. But I think it's going to take a bold move on the part of Rome. Perhaps creating a special "Evangelical apostolate" that focuses on Evangelical modes of worship, prayer, devotion, and Scripture reading without treating those modes as contrary to traditional Catholic practices. 

Another option, in order to try facilitate clergy conversions from "low church traditions," would be create a means by which these former Protestant ministers, who are married, can more easily apply for the diaconate. This would be a kind of Low Church pastoral provision—they process enabling convert clergy to be ordained.

Fr. Longenecker: Do Evangelicals trust the pope?

Beckwith: I think the jury's still out on Francis for some Evangelicals. One reason for this is that Evangelicals—especially the American ones—read Francis through the lens of the American culture wars. I think if they set that aside, and just read him in light the Church's unassailable doctrinal commitments, they would realize that there may be a good strategic reason for his approach. Only time will tell.

Pope Francis: “ECC”

As a former Evangelical who has been influenced positively by the renewal movement, and was once an Anglican priest, I am interested in the contrast between Pope Francis’ reception of Evangelical and Charismatic Christians and his meetings with leaders like the Archbishop of Canterbury. He invites the Evangelicals and Charismatics to jolly meals in the St Martha Hostel, but greets the Archbishop of Canterbury with cordial formality. Is this a sign that Francis’ heart is more with the Evangelicals and Charismatics?

Does he sense that the ecumenical current is moving away from talks with the established mainline Protestant denominations and toward the edgy, spirit-filled, informal Charismatic-Evangelical contingent? Does he sense that the old Protestant denominations are going down fast while the Evangelical-Charismatics are on the up? One doesn’t need the supernatural gift of prophecy to see in what direction the larger Protestant world is headed. Considering the strength of Evangelical Charismatic worship in the developing world, Pope Francis is right to have an eye on the future.

Is Pope Francis an Evangelical, Charismatic Catholic?

Three other signs indicate that this is the best way to understand him. First is his repeated discussion of the reality of Satan and the need for spiritual warfare. This is Evangelical-Charismatic talk. Secondly, his desire for a simple, down-to-earth, people-centered ministry. This too reflects the strengths of the Evangelical-Charismatic movement. Finally, Francis’ willingness to take risks, overturn the more staid aspects of Catholic tradition and sit lightly to the legalities feels like the same “bottom line back to basics” Christianity of the Evangelicals and Charismatics.

Those who find Francis enigmatic may come to understand the man as they learn to see him as the Evangelical Charismatic Catholic Pope.

About the Author
Fr. Dwight Longenecker  

Fr Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He blogs at Standing on My Head on Patheos. His latest book is The Romance of Religion. Browse his books and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Christian Unity Cannot Be Built on Lies
November 17, 2014

The Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev not only misrepresents Catholic practice and history, he also misrepresents Orthodox practice and history.
my source: Catholic World Report

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, the “foreign affairs minister” of the Russian Orthodox Church, is, as George Weigel observed recently in First Things, a talented man, “charming and witty.” However, the gifted Hilarion, Weigel rightly noted, “does not always speak the truth.” Hilarion is rather like the Energizer Bunny: he goes on and on and on repeating tirelessly whatever pernicious propaganda the Russians want to spread. He has three channels to choose from: tired and outright lies about Ukrainian Catholics, repeated ad nauseam for over a decade now; useful if rather vague calls for Christians to co-operate in addressing the social ills of our time (same-sex marriage, divorce, abortion); and tendentious distortions of his own Orthodox tradition, particularly her ecclesiology. It is the third I wish to address.

Earlier this month, the metropolitan gave a speech at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York, about primacy in the Orthodox Church and in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue. Since I've written the most wide-ranging, up-to-date, and comprehensive survey on both topics—Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy (University of Notre Dame Press 2011)—I was vexed at the ignorance and distortions on display in the metropolitan's essay. It is absurd, frankly, that he cannot even relay his own Orthodox tradition faithfully and that it fell to me, lowest of the low (for I am a Ukrainian Catholic—one of those horrible old “Uniates” that Alfeyev is forever denouncing), to more faithfully represent and adequately describe the Orthodox tradition than he himself has.

Now, to be sure, I do not suffer from delusions of grandeur and imagine that everyone has eagerly devoured my book, treating it like some Delphic oracle revealing the way to Christian unity. But it has been lauded by many Orthodox for its faithful, wide-ranging, and comprehensive survey of Orthodox positions in all their diversity. For the Orthodox do not speak with one voice on these matters, and they do not speak in one place, either. I gathered dozens of articles and books, most from very obscure places, and put them into one sweeping chapter, which had never been done before. As Fr. John Jillions, a scholar and the Chancellor of the Orthodox Church of America, said to me quite sincerely and gratefully, “At the very least your book will be useful for telling us Orthodox what we say and think!”

Had Hilarion read the book, he could have saved himself the embarrassment of uttering such howlers in New York as this:

… we are dealing with two very different models of church administration: one centralized and based on the perception of papal universal jurisdiction; the other decentralized and based on the notion of the communion of autocephalous local Churches.

This is the old mythology, never accurate in the first place, that sees the West as all papal and monarchical, and the East as all patriarchal and synodical. Like all stereotypes, it distorts. For the plain facts are that there is a long history of robust synodality in the Church of Rome going back to the earliest centuries of her history, and there is a long history of Eastern Churches attempting to be heavily centralized and run not in a synodal manner but in a manner that some Orthodox themselves have confessed to be “quasi-papal.” The clearest recent example of a super-centralized Orthodox church run on quasi-papal lines is Alfeyev's own Russian Church, whose 1945 statutes gave the patriarch of Moscow (for political reasons insisted upon by Stalin) powers that popes of Rome could only dream about. I document all this in great detail in my book. For Alfeyev not to acknowledge any of this makes it clear that his treatment of primacy is grossly tendentious and thus must be dismissed as inaccurate and unreliable.

But it gets worse. Referring rather sweepingly and positively to “Orthodox....polemics,” the metropolitan sums these up as arguing that “in the Universal Church there can be no visible head because Christ Himself is the Head of the Body of the Church.” He recognizes that some Orthodox do not subscribe to such a view, naming the (safely dead) Fr. Alexander Schmemann, former dean of St. Vladimir's. Tellingly, the metropolitan fails to mention the most important Greek Orthodox theologian alive today, Metropolitan John Zizioulas, who is Orthodox co-chair of the international Catholic-Orthodox dialogue and has argued in favor of universal primacy—as the majority of modern Orthodox theologians also do—exercised in a synodal manner. Zizioulas, moreover, has rightly insisted that universal primacy requires universal synodality, and one cannot speak intelligently about one without the other. Alfeyev's failure to even mention Zizioulas strikes the reader as thin-skinned and perhaps even motivated by envy—there can be only one prima donna in this town, and c'est moi.

Hilarion next makes another spurious claim:

The notion that a supreme hierarch for the Universal Church is a necessity has been approached from different angles over the last fifty years, but invariably the consensus among the Orthodox is that primacy as expressed in the Western tradition was and remains alien to the East. In other words, the Orthodox are not prepared to have a pope.

Current modes of exercising the papacy may indeed remain “alien to the East” in broad measure, but the second sentence here is, as my book's survey of twenty-four Orthodox scholars shows, completely bogus. Again and again, modern Orthodox thinkers have recognized that there is a role for the papacy, that they are prepared to have a pope under certain circumstances, and that the papacy, when exercised properly, is a gift and a blessing for all Christians, including the Orthodox! Indeed, the late Ukrainian Orthodox Archbishop Vsevolod of Chicago bluntly stated, in a 1997 address at Catholic University of America, “the Church needs the Roman primacy.”

There is more tiresome nonsense: Hilarion ties up his piece by referring to the statement of the Russian Church about primacy, adopted on December 26, 2013 (which I debunked in this CWR piece), where it is claimed that“primacy in the Universal Orthodox Church...is the primacy of honor by its very nature rather than that of power.” There are few phrases more vexatious to me than “primacy of honor.” More than twenty years ago now, the widely respected historian Fr. Brian E. Daley, SJ, in an article—““Position and Patronage in the Early Church: The Original Meaning of ‘Primacy of Honour’”—published in Journal of Theological Studies, one of the most prestigious theological journals in the anglophone world, showed that the notion of “primacy of honor” in the early Church did not mean an absence of authority. Such primacy, in fact, was honored precisely because it was authoritative, and the one exercising that primacy could and did call people to account, where necessary coercing and compelling obedience in various circumstances. The primate of “honor,” then, clearly is not a useless avuncular fellow—able to smile and wave and nothing more. He had real teeth—or, to use Alfeyev's word, “power”.

Why, then, such a shoddy speech? Was Metropolian Hilarion Alfeyev just being lazy in not reading widely recognized landmark scholarship such as Daley's article (to say nothing of my book)? Or was he setting out to distort the record and ignore evidence that does not fit his (and broadly Russian) prejudices? The inescapable conclusion is that he cannot even be relied upon to faithfully, truthfully, and accurately represent his own tradition. If he repeatedly tells lies about Catholics in Ukraine, and is now caught out uttering distortions about his own Orthodox tradition, how can this man be called upon to reliably discuss anything? 

If all his invitations to various conferences—Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox—do not now dry up, then the fault is not with him but with us for our willingness to indulge duplicity. We have made ourselves accomplices in this man's self-destructive utterances by regularly giving him a platform from which to lie. As Christians, we must surely recognize that it is itself a sin to aid and abet another in actions we ourselves know to be sin. Out of genuine charity for Metropolitan Hilarion, it is time that we no longer seek him out or listen to him. Let him never again be given an invitation to a Vatican event of any kind; let no more honorary doctorates be conferred on him; let him be denied all future speaking engagements and photo ops with Billy Graham, the pope, or the archbishop of Canterbury. Let us pray that, being young enough, perhaps he may yet amend his ways so that truth and honesty might light the difficult but vital path of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.

About the Author
Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille  

Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille is Associate Professor and Chairman of the Department of Theology-Philosophy, University of Saint Francis (Fort Wayne, IN) and author of Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy (University of Notre Dame, 2011).

I think that this article is thoroughly unhelpful and detrimental to dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church, but it does illustrate the difficulties that both sides have to contend with in their ecumenical journey.  Each side comes with its own baggage which impedes it from looking honestly at the real problems that separate us.   

Let me say, to begin with, that I do not deny the facts in the article but I am not in agreement with the moral judgement against the Russian; and, in  fact, I am against any attempt to judge any side because I don't think things are so cut and dried and clear, and because I am ready to leave any judgement to God, hoping he won't judge me too harshly.

I don't know if any of my readers have ever met the late Archimandrite Barnabas (ex-Canon Burton of the Anglican Church in Wales).   I first met him in the street in Paris in the early sixties.   He wasn't an archimandrite then and was wearing a Benedictine habit, which is why I approached him.   He was living in a Russian Orthodox community.   Most were Western rite like him, though there was a number of gnarled, mis-shapen, weathered old Russian monks with skins like tree-bark who were probably refugees from the Russian Revolution.   It is he who introduced me to Orthodoxy, though he did it with his tongue in his cheek, and one was never quite sure whether he was telling me how it is, or whether he was pulling my leg.   In that way he deflected my attempts to argue and created space in my mind that allowed me to absorb and learn.   If I understand something of Orthodoxy, he is to blame because it was he that layed the foundations.

I quoted to him the passage about the Council of Chalcedon when the fathers of the Council met Pope Leo's "Tome to Flavian" with the words, "Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo!".   Father Barnabas answered, " Perhaps they said this because they calculated that this was probably what he wanted to hear.   You must always bear in mind, Father David, that the Orthodox are Easterners and not Westerners, and "Yes" doesn't mean "Yes", and "No" doesn't mean "No".   "Yes" means that it is a good idea to agree at the moment, secure in the knowledge that whatever we have agreed on will never happen; and "No" means that the price is not high enough."...This is a rather ironic point of view; and I am sure that there are people on either side of the argument who are expressing the truth exactly as they understand it.   Nevertheless, I think it may be worthwhile to enumerate a few reasons why Metropolitan Hilarion may wish to throw cold water on any attempt at reunion at the present time and to concentrate instead on collaboration in the face of militant secularism:
  • Any actual moves towards reunion would split Orthodoxy down the middle.   The first task of the Orthodox authorities is to preserve Orthodox unity.   Therefore, everything must be done to stop any attempt at premature moves towards reunion.   In the first video below, in a lecture given by the Orthodox Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, he quotes Cardinal Suenens saying that unity won't happen until we love one another, and that that won't happen until we know one another.   In the second and third videos, you will see motives and interpretations that are as mistaken as they are because they are inaccurately attributed to the papacy by people who only know it from the description of its enemies. Rome is the enemy and this absolves these Orthodox apologists from any need to be objective, fair or charitable. This aversion to Catholicism is not found so much in places where Catholics and Orthodox mix - even in the Ukraine it is more among clergy formed in Russia than among the common people, but it is very strong on Mount Athos and in areas where we are largely unknown. Certainly, relations with Rome is a topic that cold cause deep divisions in Orthodoxy.   The last thing the Russian Orthodox want is a breakthrough in the Catholic-Orthodox talks.
  • This is especially true because the energies of the Russian patriarchate are almost wholely taken up with the re-creation of "Holy Russia".  To this end they need the collaboration and support of the State, which is part of their tradition anyway - the non-apostolic part.   Since the collapse of Communism, thousand of churches have been rebuilt, and the vast majority of Russians seek baptism, so that the patriarchate can boast over two hundred million members.   However, if you ask how many of them understand the faith they have espoused, or how many can intelligently follow the Divine Liturgy, or how many actually have a regular attandance at Mass, it is only a very small minority.  The Orthodox authorities feel they have been given a wonderful opportunity to make Russia a shining example to the rest of the world as a Christian nation; and they don't want to be distracted by engaging too closely with such a divisive issue as unity with Rome.  To take advantage of the situation, all Orthodox in Russia must pull together
  • The other problem is the rivalry between Moscow and Constantinople.  If it were ever admitted that a universal primacy of the universal Church is required by its very nature, de jure divino, then this primacy would automatically belong to Constantinople once Rome had fallen into schism, and the ecumenical patriarch would have the right to concern himself with Moscow's affairs. If, on the other hand, universal primacy is only one of honour, due to the political importance of the city of which the patriarch is bishop, then the primacy should belong to Moscow, because the patriarchate of Constantinople has shrunk and that of Moscow has grown.
  • Then there is the problem of the Ukraine, and here the Russians, Metropolitan Hilarion included, deal in half truths just like any worldly politicians.  They seem to be in denial about Orthodox involvement in the suppression and persecution of the "Greek Catholics" by the Stalinist regime.   They have never ever admitted it, and they certainly have never said they were sorry; yet they scream in pain at any injustice done to them.   I met a Catholic old lady who was in one of the Russian labour camps at ten years old and who was given one slice of bread a day, only because she was a Catholic.   Then there was the Holodomor, the systematic starvation of millions of Ukrainians at the orders of Joseph Stalin which only the Russians deny was deliberate genocide.  Metropolitan Hilarion and his friends never admit that  the reunion with Rome of the Ukrainian Catholic Church wasn't simply about power politics and that there were many very saintly Orthodox who supported it, like St Josephat who had a reputation for sanctity on both sides of the divide; nor do they admit that many people of Orthodox origin who become Greek Catholics today do so out of conviction and not because of prosyletism, as I am sure there are Catholics who become Orthodox for honest reasons.  The Russian Orthodox may blame the power-hungry Vatican or the Poles or the Lithuanians for the existence of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, but they should also blame themselves for its continuous success and attraction.   It was a Russian Communist who said that religion is like a nail: the harder you knock it, the deeper it goes in; and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church certainly received many knocks, knocks that were given by people who had the support of Russian Orthodox hierarchs, knock so great - deportation, torture, inprisonment and death - that both the Orthodox Church and the Vatican believed that it had been wiped out from the Ukrainian lands.  Both were wrong; and, with glasnost, they came back to reclaim their confiscated churches.  Metropolitan Hilarion seems hurt and surprised that they should sometimes do this with anger.  They appeared from everywhere.  Worse, they began to flourish where they had been deported, and Hilarion cried, "prosyletism!"   Personally, If I were Orthodox, I wouldn't want reunion with a Catholic Church willing to let these people down for the sake of it; and, if that is the price the Russian Orthodox Church demands for better relations with the Catholic Church, then the price is too high.   The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church earned the right by the shedding of its blood to be both Catholic in union with the Pope and living in the Russian spiritual tradition which is its past.   Whatever one thinks of the "Uniate" solution, and I agree that it cannot serve as a model for the future, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is a church of martyrs, and this should earn the respect of anyone who does not look at the world through secular political spectacles.
Hence, when we see Metropolitan Hilarion at work we see Hilarion the diplomat, not Hilarion the theologian.   He uses common Orthodox arguments to block dialogue rather than to further it.   Before we feel too holier-than-thou about this, I believe Pope Benedict did the same thing when he used Vatican I arguments to avoid taking the Vatican II eucharistic ecclesiology to its logical conclusion on de-centralisation. I suspect he didn't know how to decentralise without bringing about chaos as in the Humanae Vitae crisis: he was playing for time, as is Metropolitan Hilarion.   However, we now have Pope Francis doing what Pope Benedict hesitated to do: it was inevitable because Pope Benedict did not repudiate eucharistic ecclesiology; and Pope Francis is in full continuity with Pope Benedict's theology.   Likewise, the time will come when there will be a backlash in Russian Orthodoxy against the way diplomacy has been made to interfere with the theological quest, a backlash even possibly headed by Hilarion the theologian, hopefully at a more propitious time.
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by Metropolitan John Zizioulas

Friday, 14 November 2014


We were invited to a Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox parish of the Holy Trinity in Lima in the presence of three Archbishops, a bishop and a priest from Poland.   The Mass was celebrated by the parish priest, Father Sergio Benavides from Chile. Present were  Metropolitan Tarasios of Buenos Aires and South America, Metropolitan Athanegoras of Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, & the Carribean, and Metropolitan Chrysostomos of the Polish Orthodox Archdiocese of Brazil who presided because the Divine Liturgy was served in honour of St John Chrysostom, his patron saint.

I had visited Father Sergius, a young priest from Chile, who has been Orthodox since childhood, a week before, together with Father Alex and Brother Juan Edgar.   He is a convinced ecumenist.   "The Church should breath with both lungs.   We are separated by human mistakes which we should not allow to come between us!"   He invited us to this Divine Liturgy which begins a meeting of Orthodox bishops of various patriarchates who work in Latin America to discuss their common problem.   They were also discussing next year's visit to Lima of Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople.   As a parting gift, Father Sergius gave us a jar of incense from Mount Athos.

It was the feastday of All Monastic Saints, so we celebrated our own sung Mass with Lauds and incense straight after Matins.   The first lesson told of Elijah in the cave who discerned God's presence, not in great noise or great winds, but in the "Sound of Silence".  When we strive to listen for God's voice which is very close and which usually speaks, not in the high drama of miracles, but in ordinary, everyday events and circumstances, in a voice so quiet it can be ignored, we monks have two things that help us to listen, humble obedience and silence.  After a quick breakfast, all eight of us went to the other side of Lima to attend the Divine Liturgy.   I am sorry there are so few photographs:
This is the Little Entrance when, at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word, the priest, Fr Sergio, processed the full length of the church and back to the altar again with the gospel book which represents  Christ, the Teacher, who enters the Assembly to speak through the readings.

Fr Sergio proclaims the Gospel

We waited for some time before communion while Father Sergio cut the consecrated "lamb" into small particles that he then put into the consecrated wine.   He then came out of the sanctuary and put a small particle steeped in the blood of Christ into the mouth of each communicant with a spoon. Afterwards, each communicant is given a piece of the unconsecrated part of the bread, a memory of when the Eucharist was given during a wider meal.  As babies are baptised, confirmed and receive communion at eight weeks old, baptised babies and small children also receive communion, as do people whose mental illness stops them from understanding what is going on.   I agree with this: if we believe in the Real Presence, how can we insist on an intellectual grasp of what is happening: it smacks of Protestantism.  Do not the sick need Christ?   On the left of the phot is the Metropolitan of Buenos Aires, while Metropolitan Chrysostomos is at the right of the picture, at the throne.

After Mass, Metropolitan Tarasios greeted the hierarchs by name, as well as the Greek ambassador and a few other dignitaries from the church of Constantinople.   He then greeted us, the Benedictine community, saying how welcome we are.  The photo is above, introducing this post.   He said that the fifth assembly of bishops engaged in South America.   

At the end of the Mass, everybody went up to kiss a crucifix and the hand that held it, in this case the hand of Metropolitan Chrysostomos, and then be given a piece of the unconsecrated bread.  Here Brother Mario is about to kiss the crucifix.

Here is Brother Ascencio coming away, Brother Percy is almost invisible, actually kissing the crucifix, while Brothers Jose Luis and Juan Edgar are waiting in line.

Afterwards, we had a chance to chat with the bishops.  Metropolitan Tarasios told us that the Pope will be visiting the Phanar at the end of November, that they would talk, as the heads of two sister churches, about common problems.   I later learned that he had studied at the Oriental Institute in Rome.

Metropolitan Chrysostomos spoke to us in Portuguese.   In a past life he had been a iconographer, and he spoke with Alex about that.   Now he has no time.  He said that he had good relations with the Benedictines in Brazil.   

I cannot overstate how they made us welcome, and we hope that this will be a new beginning.

Here is a video about the assemblies of bishops that are becoming a feature of Orthodoxy, and why.   Another bit of news: it is rumoured that Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew may well issue an encyclical on ecological issues together!!

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