Every second Saturday of the month, 4 pm - Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ. Followed by refreshments.
Next Liturgy: Saturday 13th May, 4pm
To purchase The Divine Liturgy: an Anthology for Worship (in English), order from the Sheptytsky Institute here, or the St Basil's Bookstore here.
To purchase the Divine Praises, the Divine Office of the Byzantine-Slav rite (in English), order from the Eparchy of Parma here.
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Friday, 28 January 2011
The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is thanking a Vatican representative for his work in improving Orthodox-Catholic relations.
Patriarch Kirill expressed his gratitude as he bid farewell to Archbishop Antonio Mennini, who was named last month the apostolic nuncio to Great Britain. The archbishop served in Russia since Pope John Paul II sent him there in 2002.
The Russian Interfax agency reported that Kirill and the archbishop said their farewells at a meeting in Moscow. Patriarch Kirill emphasized the archbishop's "personal contribution in settling difficult problems in relations between our Churches."
"With God's mercy," he added, "these problems are being positive ly settled, which changes the climate of the bilateral relations for the better."
This, the patriarch asserted, "is, in many respects, your achievement as a plenipotentiary representative of the Holy See."
Archbishop Mennini also expressed his gratitude to the patriarch for his support over the years.
"I've been glad to work for the welfare of our Churches, but this work would have been much more complicated without your support, friendly attitude and Christian love," the nuncio affirmed.
Though in Russia as the papal representative since 2002, Archbishop Mennini did not have the title of nuncio until last year, with the exchange of ambassadors between the Vatican and the Russian Federation.
The Holy See and Russia had had limited diplomatic relations since 1990, but they had not been formalized until President Dimitri Medvedev visited Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Dec. 3, 2009.
Nevertheless, since the archbishop's first days in Russia, he worked to improve relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Among his first tasks was addressing the difficulties that arose with the federal authorities after the expulsion of Polish-born Bishop Jerzy Mazur -- then bishop of St. Joseph in Irkutsk, Eastern Siberia, and today bishop of Elk, Poland -- and five Catholic priests.
As well, Archbishop Mennini witnessed one of the most important gestures of rapprochement between Catholics and Russian Orthodox: the devolution of the Icon of the Kazan Mother of God on Aug. 25, 2004. He has also seen important bilateral meetings and joint cultural and theological initiatives between Orthodox and Catholics.
Kirill's predecessor, Alexei II, honored Archbishop Mennini on Sept. 3, 2007, with the Order of the Holy Prince Daniel of Moscow award, stating that "from the beginning of your service as envoy of the Vatican to Russia you have earned the reputation of a tireless promoter of good relations between the two states and between our Churches."
Benedict XVI's Greeting to the Joint Dialogue Commission of the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches
Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Dear Brothers in Christ,
It is with great joy that I welcome you, the members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Through you I gladly extend fraternal greetings to my venerable Brothers, the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches.
I am grateful for the work of the Commission which began in January 2003 as a shared initia tive of the ecclesial authorities of the family of the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
As you know, the first phase of the dialogue, from 2003 to 2009, resulted in the common text entitled Nature, Constitution and Mission of the Church. The document outlined aspects of fundamental ecclesiological principles that we share and identified issues requiring deeper reflection in successive phases of the dialogue. We can only be grateful that after almost fifteen hundred years of separation we still find agreement about the sacramental nature of the Church, about apostolic succession in priestly service and about the impelling need to bear witness to the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the world.
In the second phase the Commission has reflected from an historical perspective on the ways in which the Churches expressed their communion down the ages. During the meeting this week you are deepening your st udy of the communion and communication that existed between the Churches until the mid-fifth century of Christian history, as well as the role played by monasticism in the life of the early Church.
We must be confident that your theological reflection will lead our Churches not only to understand each other more deeply, but resolutely to continue our journey decisively towards the full communion to which we are called by the will of Christ. For this intention we have lifted up our common prayer during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which has just ended.
Many of you come from regions where Christian individuals and communities face trials and difficulties that are a cause of deep concern for us all. All Christians need to work together in mutual acceptance and trust in order to serve the cause of peace and justice. May the intercession and example of the many martyrs and saints, who have given courageous witness to Christ in all our Churches, sustain and strengthen you and your Christian communities.
With sentiments of fraternal affection I invoke upon all of you the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today at the closing vespers of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, held at the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls. Today's feast of the Conversion of St. Paul brought the prayer week to a close.
Brothers and Sisters,
Following the example of Jesus, who on the eve of his Passion prayed to the Father for his disciples "that they may all be one" (John 17:21), Christians continue to invoke incessantly from God the gift of this unity. This request is made more intense during the Week of Prayer, which ends today, when the Churches and ecclesial Communities meditate and pray together for the unity of all Christians.
This year the theme offered for our meditation was proposed by the Christian communities of Jerusalem, to which I would like to express by heartfelt gratitude, accompanied by the assurance of affection and prayer either on my part or on that of the whole of the Church. The Christians of the Holy City invite us to renew and reinforce our commitment for the re-establishment of full unity meditating on the model of life of the first disciples of Christ gathered in Jerusalem: "They -- we read in the Acts of the Apostles (and we heard it now) -- devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). This is the portrait of the early community, born in Jerusalem the same day of Pentecost, aroused by the preaching of the Apostle Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, addressed to all those who had arrived in the Holy City for the feast. A community not shut-in on itself, but, from its birth, catho lic, universal, capable of embracing people of different languages and cultures, as the book of the Acts of the Apostles itself testifies. A community not founded on a pact among its members, or the simple sharing of a project or an ideal, but from profound communion with God, who revealed himself in his Son, from the encounter with Christ dead and resurrected.
In a brief summary, which ends the chapter that began with the account of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the Evangelist Luke presents synthetically the life of this first community: how many had heard the word preached by Peter and were baptized, listened to the Word of God, transmitted by the Apostles; were happily together, taking charge of the necessary services and sharing freely and generously their material goods; celebrated the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, his mystery of Death and Resurrection, in the Eucharist, repeating the gesture of the breaking of the bread; they continua lly praised and thanked the Lord, invoking his help in their difficulties. This description, however, is not simply a memory of the past, and even less the presentation of an example to imitate or of an ideal goal to reach. It is rather the affirmation of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit, uniting all in Christ, who is the principle of the unity of the Church and makes believers one.
The teaching of the Apostles, fraternal communion, the breaking of the bread and prayer are the concrete ways of life of the first Christian community of Jerusalem gathered by the action of the Holy Spirit but at the same time they constitute the essential features of all Christian communities, of all times and all places. In other words, we can also say that they represent the essential dimensions of the unity of the visible Body of the Church.
We must be grateful because, in the course of the last decades, the ecumenical movement, "arising from the impulse of the grace of the Holy Spirit" ("Unitatis Redintegratio," No. 1), has taken significant steps forward, which have made it possible to attain encouraging convergence and consent on varied points, developing between the Churches and the ecclesial communities relations of mutual esteem and respect, as well as of concrete collaboration in face of the challenges of the contemporary world. We are well aware, however, that we are still far from that unity for which Christ prayed and which we find reflected in the portrait of the first community of Jerusalem. The unity to which Christ, through his Spirit, calls the Church is not realized only on the plane of organizational structures, but is configured, at a much more profound level, as expressed "in the confession of only one faith, in the common celebration of divine worship and in the fraternal concord of the family of God" (ibid., No. 2).
The search for the re-establishment of unity among divided Christi ans cannot therefore be reduced to a recognition of the reciprocal differences and to the obtaining of a peaceful coexistence: What we long for is that unity for which Christ himself prayed and which by its nature is manifested in the communion of the faith, of the sacraments, of the ministry. The path toward this unity must be seen as a moral imperative, response to a precise call of the Lord. Because of this, the temptation must be overcome to resignation and pessimism, which is lack of trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our duty is to continue passionately on the path towards this goal with a serious and rigorous dialogue to deepen the common theological, liturgical and spiritual patrimony; with reciprocal knowledge, with the ecumenical formation of the new generations and, above all, with conversion of heart and prayer. In fact, as Vatican Council II declared, the "holy intention to reconcile all Christians in the unity of the one Church of Christ, surpasses human fo rces and talents" and, because of this, our hope is placed first of all "in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the Father's love for us and in the power of the Holy Spirit" (ibid., No. 24).
On this path for the search of full visible unity among all Christians we are accompanied and sustained by the Apostle Paul, of whom today we celebrate solemnly the feast of his conversion. He, before the Risen One appeared to him on the road to Damascus saying to him: "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting!" (Acts 9:5), was one of the most ferocious adversaries of the early Christian communities. The evangelist Luke describes Saul among those who approved the killing of Stephen, in the days when a violent persecution broke out against Christians of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 8:1). He left from the Holy City to extend the persecution of Christians to Syria and, after his conversion, he returned to be introduced to the Apostles of Barnabas, who made himself guaran tor of the authenticity of his encounter with the Lord. From then on Paul was admitted not only as a member of the Church but also as preacher of the Gospel together with the other Apostles, having received, as them, the manifestation of the Risen Lord and the special call to be "chosen instrument" to carry his name before the Gentiles (cf. Acts 9:15).
In his long missionary journeys, Paul, journeying through different cities and regions, never forgot the bond of communion with the Church of Jerusalem. The collection in favor of Christians of that community, who, very soon, had need of being helped (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1), occupied an important place in Paul's concerns, which he considered not only a work of charity, but the sign and the guarantee of the unity and the communion between the Churches founded by him and the early community of the Holy City, as sign of the one Church of Christ.
In this climate of intense prayer, I wish to address my cord ial greeting to all those present: to Cardinal Francesco Monterisi, archpriest of this Basilica, to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to the other cardinals and brothers in the episcopate and priesthood, to the abbot and to the Benedictine monks of this ancient community, to men and women religious, to the laity that represent the entire diocesan community of Rome. In a special way, I would like to greet the brothers and sisters of the other Churches and ecclesial communities represented here this evening. Among them, it is particularly gratifying to me to address my greeting to the members of the International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Ancient Eastern Churches, whose meeting will take place here in Rome in the next few days. Let us entrust to the Lord the good outcome of your meeting, so that it can represent a step forward toward the much hoped for unity.
Dear brothers and sisters, trusting in the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, we invoke, therefore, the gift of unity. United to Mary, who on the day of Pentecost was present in the Cenacle together with the Apostles, we turn to God source of every gift to have renewed for us today the miracle of Pentecost and, guided by the Holy Spirit, may all Christians re-establish full unity in Christ. Amen.
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
ROME, JAN. 25, 2010, thanks to Zenit.org
As the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity draws to a close today, the secretary of the Vatican's ecumenism council says that Benedict XVI is pushing the faithful forward on the path of seeking unity. L'Osservatore Romano interviewed Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, in the context of this week of prayer. The interview was published in the Jan. 19 edition of the daily's Italian version.
Q: The pontifical council recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its foundation. Is the spirit that inspired its birth with Pope John XXIII still alive?
Bishop Farrell: Yes, in fact, on this past Nov. 17, we held a solemn public ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, which John XXIII intensely desired and instituted along with the other commissions charged with preparing the Second Vatican Council. Convinced that the council's entire work had to be impregnated with the desire to re-establish unity, he wished, as a clear sign of that desire, to have the presence of observers from other churches and ecclesial communities at the council.
It seems almost like a miracle of Providence that more than 2,000 bishops came to Rome to start the council in 1962, many of them formed in a theology of "exclusion," according to which the Orthodox and the Protestants -- schismatics and heretics, in the terminology of that time -- were simply outside of the Church, and three years later they produced the decree "Unitatis Redintegratio," which recognizes a real, although incomplete ecclesial communion among all the baptized and among the Churche s and ecclesial communities. This renewed perspective, in perfect harmony with the old ecclesiology of the Fathers, had enormous consequences for the new way that Catholics related to other Christians and with their communities, and for the irrevocable adherence of the Catholic Church to the ecumenical movement.
John XXIII spoke of a "step forward," a way of seeing the old tradition with new eyes, thus opening up new ways for the Church to move toward that visible unity that is her own. This transformation has largely been due to the intense work of the first president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Agustín Bea, and his coworkers -- along with the grace of the Holy Spirit, of course.
Q: How much of the pontifical council's work from those first years has remained?
Bishop Farrell: Everything has remained, insofar as it has to do with the council's teachings on the principles that govern t he quest for unity. The 50 years that have passed by since then bear witness to how fruitful that teaching has been in the day-to-day life of the Church and for the Christian world as a whole.
In the commemorative ceremony mentioned before, in addition to Pope Benedict XVI's important message delivered by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, three great figures from the ecumenical world -- Cardinal Walter Kasper, retired president of our pontifical council; the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams; and the Metropolitan Ioannes of Pergamum, distinguished theologian of the ecumenical patriarchy -- emphasized how fundamental and urgent it is for current historical development for Christians to be able to talk and work together, not only to defend freedom, and religious freedom first of all, but to face humanity's enormous challenges with the hope of success.
Q: But some today say they are disillusioned by the results of so much effort.&nbs p;
Bishop Farrell: Whoever thinks that way is not looking at the reality. In his magnificent encyclical "Ut Unum Sint," Pope John Paul II wrote that probably the most valuable result of ecumenism is the "rediscovered brotherhood" among Christians. It is hard for the younger generations to understand how much things have changed for the better. In the past, the divided Christians avoided each other and didn't talk to each other; the Churches had attitudes of reciprocal conflict and rivalry, even of truly scandalous actions, which undermined the very mission of evangelization. There are still some signs of that here and there, but it is ever clearer that this way of acting is not acceptable; it is not from God.
If we consider the "life dialogue," meaning the vast world of contacts, collaboration, and solidarity among Christians, we cannot be disillusioned. If we think about the "truth dialogue," that is, the quest to overcome theological elements of divergence, here as well much has been achieved, including the resolution of former Christological controversies, and even the deepest aspect of divergence between Catholics and reformed Lutherans on justification, that is, on how salvation acts within us, has been substantially overcome. We have to take into account that in doctrinal matters it will always be necessary to act cautiously and slowly, since we must be sure of advancing in fidelity to the deposit of faith, of coming to an agreement on the basis of true Tradition.
Q: Nevertheless, have new difficulties appeared in theological dialogue with the Orthodox?
Bishop Farrell: We are examining the crucial point of our differences on the Church's structure and way of being and operating: the question of the role of the Bishop of Rome in the Church communion of the first millennium, when the Church in the West and East was still united. After profound studi es and discussions, the members of the Theological Commission have come to realize the enormous difference between the lived, assimilated, and narrated historical experience in Western culture and the historical experience perceived in the Eastern vision of things. Every historical event is open to different interpretations. The discussion has not led to a real convergence.
But it is also true that if we want to find a consensus, what matters from the start is to clarify the doctrinal and theological principles that are at play in those events and that are decisive for remaining faithful to Christ's will for his Church. Thus it was decided to prepare a new base document in a theological key. I am convinced that this is the correct path.
Therefore, when we speak of new difficulties, it is not a matter of insurmountable difficulties, but of a true opportunity. It is clear that the discussion will be neither easy nor quick. It seems to me, however, tha t there is a growing conviction that unity is possible; the circumstances of today's world are moving the Churches in this direction. In my opinion it is urgent for Catholic theology to work out a more concrete vision, a model of what awaits us at the moment of full visible communion. That way, the Orthodox brethren will be able to have trust, overcoming the enslaving fears of the presumption of superiority that is typical of the West. We must surely reaffirm what the council said about the equal dignity of all rites, the respect due to the institutions, traditions, and disciples of the Eastern Churches and so many other things.
Q: And with the Protestants?
Bishop Farrell: In 2009, Cardinal Kasper published an important study titled "Harvesting the Fruits," which examined in depth more than 40 years of ecumenical dialogue between the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the principal ecclesial communions worldwide. There are still significant divergences and perhaps new ones are appearing, but it is surprising to discover how the controversies of the 16th century are perceived now in a new light that softens the insistence on the particular positions; we thus understand that we are not as far apart on many essential points. It is true, the main difficulties lie in the different conception of what the Church willed by Christ is. The question is not abstract: "What is the Church?" Rather, it is also concrete: "Where is the Church and where is it brought to fulfillment?" There is still much to do on this point.
Q: This is the work of the experts, but ecumenism should involve everyone!
Bishop Farrell: Certainly. The dialogues will continue because they are the high road of obedience to the Lord's will for the unity of his disciples in the truth. But they are meaningful and they will be fruitful only if they are sustained by the entire living body of the Church. It is the Churches, the communities of believers, that must come together in unity.
Today we must return to the origins of the ecumenical movement and discover what is called "spiritual ecumenism." Prayer, conversion of heart, fasting and penance, the purification of memory, the purification of our way of speaking about the others: this spiritual sensitivity, present at the start of the ecumenical movement, is the centre of ecumenism and is the duty of all. Spiritual ecumenism is not the monopoly of the experts; all Christians can be protagonists in this movement.
A particular aspect at the base of everything was emphasized in the bishops' synod on the Word of God, which was then gathered up in the apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini" by Benedict XVI: listening, praying, and reflecting together on Scripture "represent a way of coming to unity in faith as a response to hearing the word of God."
We divided ourselves by Scripture; we should find each other again around Scripture. Let us make sacred Scripture the heart of ecumenism! In that document, the Holy Father also recalled the ecumenical importance of translating the Bible. Far from any impasse, the Holy Father is pushing us forward on the path of seeking unity.
Original interview in Italian: www.vatican.va/news_services/or/or_quo/interviste/2011/014q06a1.html
Monday, 24 January 2011
Dear brothers and sisters,
Greetings to you all! I particularly want to thank Muslim brothers, especially the muftis, ulemas, imams and preachers who have come from all Syrian regions, for being here. Special greetings to the university students here present!
Greetings and thanks also go to their Excellencies the Minister s of the Awqaf, the muftis and imams who have come from different Arab countries, as well as different countries’ ambassadors to Syria. To them I dedicate this talk about the Synod for the Middle East, which was an Eastern Christian event, an historic event being the first of its kind.
I thank Their Holinesses and Their Beatitudes the Patriarchs and their representatives, as well as His Excellency the representative of the Holy Father, His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, Their Excellencies the Metropolitans and Bishops who have come from Arab countries and Europe, especially Eastern Europe (Russia, Romania, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey). I greet them all, together with the priests, monks and nuns and all the faithful from our Churches who have come from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt.
A beautiful saying of His Holiness John Paul II, who so loved our Arab countries and visited them, comes to mind, a phrase from his last Message for the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2005, and I quote: "Can an individual find complete fulfilment without taking account of his social nature, that is, his being ‘with’ and ‘for’ others?"
Our Lord is described thus in the Gospel: "Lo, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son and they shall call his name Emmanuel; which being interpreted is, God with us." (Matthew 1: 23) God is with and for us, for as Saint Irenaeus says, "the glory of God is living man 2." This is the faith of all Christians. They repeat it every time they say the Creed: "I believe in one God, Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, only-begotten Son of God… who, for us and for our salvation, came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man… " On the basis of this spiritual conviction, I named this congress, "The Synod for the Middle East and Arab countries." That was with the aim of highlighting the relationship between the Synod and Arab countries as well as between the Synod and the Muslim world.
A simple calculation shows us the following state of affairs: the Middle East is made up of Arab countries, together with Turkey and Iran. The majority of its population is Muslim; 350 million inhabitants, of whom there are 15 million Arab Christians. So, the Synod for the Middle East is a Synod for Arab countries, for Arabs, a Synod for Arab Christians in symbiosis with their Arab society. It is a Synod for the "Church of the Arabs" and "Church of Islam," that is, the Church existing in a Muslim setting. Lastly it is a Synod for Christians and Muslims living together in the Arab East!
This was an important event, of a unique kind. Thanks are due to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI who called for this Synod to be held a s the most important synodal event since the Second Vatican Council brought the Eastern Churches to prominence!
In this Synod, the platform was given to Eastern Churches: there were patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, priests, monks and nuns, and lay faithful too.
It is evident that in this Synod, the causes of the Middle East and the Christian presence in the Muslim Arab East took first place. That is why I addressed to Their Majesties, Their Highnesses and Excellencies, the Kings, Emirs and Presidents of Arab countries, a letter explaining to them the topic and goal of the Synod – the situation of Christians in Arab countries. And I ended by telling them that the only guarantee of the Christian presence in the Arab East is that of their Muslim brothers.
Indeed, the Arab world, the presence of Christians in the Arab world, Christian Arab identity and the challenges that face the Christian presence in this Arab world were the subject of different speeches, discussions and recommendations.
After this, I addressed a second letter to Arab leaders in which I set out the most important issues discussed by the Synod that concerned our Arab world.
Extracts from the Letter addressed to Kings and Presidents of Arab countries after the Synod in Rome:
I had the honour of addressing a letter to you (dated 18/06/2010) on the subject of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops entitled The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness.
At the end of this Synod, it is my pleasure to communicate the following reflections to you in this letter:
The Arabic language was an official language of the Synod alongside other languages. A resolution requested that it be adopted again in the Vatican’s Roman Dicasteries. It is a gift due to the concern of the Arab Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops for the Arab world! Indeed it is the language of our culture, faith and societies. It is the great common denominator among Arab countries. This represents a great achievement!
The Arab Middle East, together with Turkey and Iran, was the most important topic before the Synod.
To speak more precisely, the following themes were the special subject of the Synod: living together, life together, citizenship, modernity, faithful laity, human rights, including those of women, religious freedom of worship and conscience, the construction of churches and places of worship, especially in Saudi Arabia, respect for others and their beliefs, plurality, diversity, rejection of fanaticism, violence, negative fundamentalism, extremism, terrorism, exploitation of others, especially weaker folk and minorities…
Featuring in all the discussions of all members of Synod (about 200 persons), was especially Islamic-Christian dialogue in all its dimensions and modalities, significance and urgent necessity, and the support to be brought to its development and animation by all Christians and Muslims.
The Synod members or Fathers dealt with the challenges that Christians have to cope with, which include: emigration, insecurity, economic, social and political crises, and the consecutive wars in the region. These challenges have increased, especially because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They are the cause of many misfortunes and calamities in our societies. They have sown hatred and enmity among Christian and Muslim citizens locally, regionally and globally. Also resulting from them are fundamentalism and terrorism, represented in the media as though Muslim and Christian Arabs were born terrorists and fundamentalists! This might make people think that religion is the cause of terrorism, violence and fundamentalism, though religion is not to blame for all that. As a result of this state of affairs our whole society has become "abused," wi th these disasters mainly striking our young generations!
The Fathers and members of Synod sought remedies for these calamities: they found that the most efficacious remedy is principally Islamic-Christian dialogue. In the Arab world, it must be our daily bread. In any case that dialogue was the experience of our living together throughout our shared history of the last 1432 [Islamic] years, despite dark centuries, when problems, tensions and even massacres whose victims can be counted in thousands, caused loss of trust in living together, in others and their values… And in its place crept in hatred and enmity and the traditional virtues of pity, compassion, love and fellowship became stunted…
The Fathers and members of Synod stressed the need to overcome crises! We must continue the journey together. Furthermore they considered that the success of our singular and difficult experiment in living together is the guarantee of the success of dial ogue between followers of different faiths. What is more, it became clear to all, as was remarked on and reported often in the press, that any failure and lack of success of our experience of living as Christians and Muslims together in the East will have a destructive effect on all possibilities for dialogue, and will be a bad harbinger of the fact that all dialogue among people, civilisations and religions in East and West, will be doomed to failure.
So we shall have the following result: the East, symbol of plurality and dialogue becomes void of Christians. So the Arab East becomes Muslim without Christians. On the other hand, the West is considered Christian (even if only through baptism). This Christian West supports Israel, in its turn considered the enemy of Islam and Muslims. So the final, terrifying equation is this: the Christian West supports Israel and Jews, the enemies of Islam and Muslims! So Christian Europe is the enemy of Islam and Muslims! And th at is precisely the great misfortune, the dark and terrifying future that awaits us! God grant it may not happen!
Peace was a basic topic of the Synod’s deliberations, speeches and proposals. For peace is both the greatest good and a lost possession! Peace is the great challenge! Peace is most desired by all sides! That is also why bringing it about is the responsibility of all: East and West, Arabs, Europeans and Americans. The Synod members strongly emphasised the role of the Vatican and the Pope or Popes, because of the global influence they exercise. The members of Synod, Patriarchs, Cardinals, and Bishops, emphasised their own responsibility to work for peace. Yet we think that peace is an Arab responsibility! We think that if Arab countries were united in fellowship and concord, and nobly, boldly and firmly decisive, they could impose on the Israelis, with the United States of America, and Europeans, a complete just and lasting peace. For this bold peace is t he great jihad (struggle) and the great challenge, which can give an answer to all other challenges, issues, fears, apprehensions that afflict our Middle East. [End of the letter.]
Having said this, I am speaking with unshakeable faith and conviction to my Christian brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, to my Muslim brothers and sisters, and remembering words that our dear President Dr. Bashar al-Assad said, explaining the relational dimensions between people, "In Syria, we are united. We are a natural model for society, for humanity, and for interreligious relations. We ought not only to provide a model for relations between religions and citizenry, but also do this for a more noble and universal reality - humanity!"
God has created us in this holy land of the East. It was a Holy Land for Jews, before us, and subsequently for us and for Muslims. It is an important common spiritual heritage, which we do not value enough. This comprises the hol iness of the land, of the Scriptures and many common religious values. This was described by the Second Vatican Council in its declaration, Nostra Aetate, dedicated to the Catholic Church’s relations with Jews and Muslims.
The existence of these three religions in the region is unique, important and vital. This state of affairs has significance in the life of Christians, on the spiritual, national and cultural level… Christians must acknowledge this fact despite the circumstances; the multiplicity of nationalities and the different intellectual and religious trends.
We have to look for common Islamic-Christian values and make them the subject of studies, conferences, congresses and Muslim-Christian meetings. There should result from that a programme of joint academic and spiritual work for Christians and Muslims.
The Synod for the Middle East inspired in me the idea of an important project: holding a Synod for the Middle East in t he Middle East, gathering Churches together: Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant.
Another idea came to my mind of organising a Muslim-Christian assembly in the Middle East, which would study all the topics touched on by the Roman Synod’s documents: the Instruction, the Instrumentum Laboris, the Lineamenta, then the discussions and speeches during the Synod; the recommendations and finally the Message to the People of God.
All these documents speak of the Christian presence in correlation with Muslim society.
Here are some paragraphs from the final Nuntius directly to do with the subject of this congress:
I. The Church in the Middle East: communion and witness through history
3.2. The second challenge comes from the outside, namely, political conditions, security in our countries and religious pluralism.
We have evaluated the social situation and the public security in all our countries in the Middl e East. We have taken account of the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the whole region, especially on the Palestinians who are suffering the consequences of the Israeli occupation: the lack of freedom of movement, the wall of separation and the military checkpoints, the political prisoners, the demolition of homes, the disturbance of socio-economic life and the thousands of refugees. We have reflected on the suffering and insecurity in which Israelis live. We have meditated on the situation of the holy city of Jerusalem. We are anxious about the unilateral initiatives that threaten its composition and risk to change its demographic balance. With all this in mind, we see that a just and lasting peace is the only salvation for everyone and for the good of the region and its peoples.
3.4. We have extensively treated relations between Christians and Muslims. All of us share a common citizenship in our countries. Here we want to affirm, according to our Christian vision, a fundamental principle which ought to govern our relations, namely, God wants us to be Christians in and for our Middle Eastern societies. This is God’s plan for us. This is our mission and vocation - to live as Christians and Muslims together. Our actions in this area will be guided by the commandment of love and by the power of the Spirit within us.
The second principle which governs our relations is the fact that we are an integral part of our societies. Our mission, based on our faith and our duty to our home countries, obliges us to contribute to the construction of our countries as fellow-citizens, Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.
V. Co-operation and dialogue with our fellow-citizens, the Muslims
9. We are united by the faith in one God and by the commandment that says: do good and avoid evil. The words of the Second Vatican Council on the relations with other religions offer the basis for the relationship between the Catho lic Church and the Muslims, "The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living…; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men." (Nostra Aetate 3)
We say to our Muslim fellow-citizens: we are brothers and sisters; God wishes us to be together, united by one faith in God and by the dual commandment of love of God and neighbour. Together we will construct our civil societies on the basis of citizenship, religious freedom and freedom of conscience. Together we will work for the promotion of justice, peace, the rights of persons and the values of life and of the family. The construction of our countries is our common responsibility. We wish to offer to the East and to the West a model of coexistence between different religions and of positive collaboration between different civilisations for the good of our countries and that of all humanity.
Since the appearance of Islam in the seventh century and to the present, we have lived together and we have collaborated in the creation of our common civilisation. As in the past and still existent today, some imbalances are present in our relations. Through dialogue we must avoid all imbalances and misunderstandings. Pope Benedict XVI tells us that our dialogue must not be a passing reality. It is rather a vital necessity on which our future depends (Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with Representatives from the Muslim Communities, Cologne, 20 August 2005). Our duty then is to educate believers concerning interreligious dialogue, the acceptance of pluralism and mutual esteem.
VI. Our Participation in Public Life: An Appeal to the Governments and to the Political Leadership in Our Countries
10. We appreciate the efforts which have been expended for the common good and the service to our societies. You are in our prayers and we ask God to guide your steps. We address you regarding the impor tance of equality among all citizens. Christians are original and authentic citizens who are loyal to their fatherland and assume their duties towards their country. It is natural that they should enjoy all the rights of citizenship, freedom of conscience, freedom of worship and freedom in education, teaching and the use of the mass media.
We appeal to you to redouble your efforts to establish a just and lasting peace throughout the region and to stop the arms race, which will lead to security and economic prosperity and stop the haemorrhage of emigration which empties our countries of its vital forces. Peace is a precious gift entrusted by God to human family, whose members are to be "peacemakers who will be called children of God." (Mt 5:9)
VII. Appeal to the International Community
11. The citizens of the countries of the Middle East call upon the international community, particularly the United Nations conscientiously to work to find a peace ful, just and definitive solution in the region, through the application of the Security Council’s resolutions and taking the necessary legal steps to put an end to the occupation of the different Arab territories.
The Palestinian people will thus have an independent and sovereign homeland where they can live with dignity and security. The State of Israel will be able to enjoy peace and security within their internationally recognized borders. The Holy City of Jerusalem will be able to acquire its proper status, which respects its particular character, its holiness and the religious patrimony of the three religions: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. We hope that the two-State-solution might become a reality and not a dream only.
Iraq will be able to put an end to the consequences of its deadly war and re-establish a secure way of life which will protect all its citizens with all their social structures, both religious and national.
Lebanon will b e able to enjoy sovereignty over its entire territory, strengthen its national unity and carry on in its vocation to be the model of coexistence between Christians and Muslims, of dialogue between different cultures and religions, and of the promotion of basic public freedoms.
We condemn violence and terrorism from wherever it may proceed as well as all religious extremism. We condemn all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Christianism and Islamophobia and we call upon the religions to assume their responsibility to promote dialogue between cultures and civilisations in our region and in the entire world.
Dear brothers and sisters, friends,
We are called to academic and prophetic advances, in all sincerity, friendship and mutual respect: for the uninterrupted growth of fundamentalism and extremist movements are geared up and capable of leading the Eastern Arab world into disasters, of which young Christians and Muslims – who form 60% of the A rab population - will be the chief victims.
That underlines the vital and capital importance for the future of opening ourselves to each other, Christians to Muslims and Muslims to Christians. This openness will define the dynamics of our Arab world’s evolution in respect of:
*The concept of state and of religion and their interaction
*Rights of man and woman
*Freedom of worship and of conscience
*The idea of "better religion"
We, Christians and Muslims, must reach joint positions about the danger of the growth of various fundamentalist concepts, whether Christian, Muslim (or Jewish). It is up to us to safeguard righteous religious, spiritual and humane values, and especially the values of human dignity and freedom.
That is what will guarantee a better future for our societies and for all our Arab countries together. I dare say that the evolution of our A rab Christian and Muslim society conditions the success of all the efforts that the Churches are making in the pastoral, cultural, social and economic fields; for young people; and for halting emigration. This evolution, linked to the promotion of values mentioned above, is a joint responsibility for Christians and Muslims.
The realisation of our objectives will be proportionate to our efforts, carried out together, for adopting these values and putting them into practice.
On all that our future, our existence, our presence, our communion, our witness and the future of our Arab society depend.
I will also venture to say that, internally, the success of all our pastoral, apostolic, catechetical, academic, pedagogical, clerical and monastic activity depends on the evolution of the common Muslim-Christian journey.
In other words, the religious development of our society depends on the religious evolution of our Christian society which is dependent upon the religious evolution of Muslim society. And the preservation of our Christian values depends largely on the evolution of Muslim society.
That was all highlighted throughout the course of the Synod, whose recommendations must be applied in our Churches, in collaboration with our Muslim fellow-citizens. Since people are the product of their social environment, the different components of that environment were invited to take part in this Synod, including Muslims and a rabbi.
There should not be forgotten the existence of a major obstacle lying in the way of this journey and evolution: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peace must be made in the Arab region: peace that will have a great influence of the evolution of the above-mentioned values and will halt Arab Christian emigration.
Allow me to add an intuition which, over days, has become a certainty for me:
*I believe that it is most important to examine in dep th the ideology behind the religious fundamentalism, terrorism and increasing violence perpetrated here and there against Christians.
*Genuine Islam is foreign to that ideology.
*That ideology is the biggest danger to Islam. It can destroy that religion showing a hideous image of it.
*There is a big danger to the Arab world with its Muslim majority, tending to show Arabs in general and Muslims in particular as fundamentalist terrorists and assassins. This makes it permissible to refuse any legitimate claim, especially coming from Palestinians. That explains the refusal of the international community to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and recognize an independent Palestinian State.
*Another component of this danger is the increasing harassment of Christians; the prohibition which is made, in some countries, against their building churches; the denial of freedom of conscience, most recently in Egypt and Iraq.
< br />*All those things are so many aces in the hands of Israel for establishing a State exclusively for Jews. The argument put forward by Israel in that regard is as follows, "See how Muslims treat Christians and other minorities! How could we live with them in this country? And if we allowed the creation of a Palestinian State, it too would become an Islamic, fundamentalist, terrorist State."
*It is in the aim and intention of Israel, as an exclusively Jewish State, of creating in the Middle East a dust of confessional statelets: Sunni, Shi’a, Druze, Kurd.
That is the dreadful danger menacing the Arab world and Islam and even Christianity.
I conclude with the closing section of my letter to Arab Kings, Emirs and Presidents:
In our preceding letter (18 June 2010), we spoke to you as follows: "You are the guarantee of the Christian presence in the Middle East!" You are indeed our warranty! We said it again in t he Synod, a prominent platform for the Arab cause, as we faced the media from all over the world! ...
Today at the Synod’s end, we say to you, dear, most esteemed friends: you are the guarantee of the success of the Synod held in Rome. You are the warranty of the decisions, proposals and hopes of this Synod being followed up and put into action in our Arab countries!
The sessions of the Synod were preceded by prayers according to the different liturgical rites and languages of our Eastern Churches, whose main language is Arabic.
We shall continue our prayers, in our churches and monasteries for peace, for all our fellow-citizens and for you personally! You have care for the sons and daughters of our parishes! Care for our many churches, monasteries, institutions, which are at the service of our Arab countries that we love and for which we have laboured and will continue to give our all in the service of their prosperity and development, with the Blessing of God and through your vigilance!
We are praying to Almighty and Merciful God, for our Arab homelands, and for Christians and Muslims to remain together and together be salt, light and the leaven of faith, hope and love!
We put our hope in God, for the Synod to be the beginning of a Arab national way of faith and dialogue, common to Christians and Muslims, for a better future for all of us, in Syria, our dear country, and in all our dear Arab countries.
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
Melkite Patriarch on the Conclusions of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Catholic Church in the Middle East
* * *
Your Majesties, Your Excellencies:
I had the honour of addressing a letter to you (dated 18/06/2010) on the subject of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops entitled The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness.
At the end of this Synod, it is my pleasure to communicate the following reflections to you in this letter:
1. The Arabic language was an official language of the Synod alongside other languages. A resolution requested that it be adopted again in the Vatican’s Roman Dicasteries. It is a gift due to the concern of the Arab Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops for the Arab world! Indeed it is the language of our culture, Faith and societies. It is the great common denominator among Arab countries. This represents a great achievement!
2. The Arab Middle East, together with Turkey and Iran, was the most important topic before the Synod.
3. To speak more precisely, the following themes were the special subject of the Synod: living together, life together, citizenship, modernity, faithful laity, human rights, including those of women, religious freedom of worship and conscience, the construction of churches and places of worship, especially in Saudi Arabia, respect for others and their beliefs, plurality, diversity, rejection of fanaticism, violence, negative fundamentalism, extremi sm, terrorism, exploitation of others, especially weaker folk and minorities…
4. Featuring in all the discussions of all members of Synod (about 200 persons), was especially Islamic-Christian dialogue in all its dimensions and modalities, significance and urgent necessity, and the support to be brought to its development and animation by all Christians and Muslims.
5. The Synod members or Fathers dealt with the challenges that Christians have to cope with, which include: emigration, insecurity, economic, social and political crises, and the consecutive wars in the region. These challenges have increased, especially because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They are the cause of many misfortunes and calamities in our societies. They have sown hatred and enmity among Christian and Muslim citizens locally, regionally and globally. Also resulting from them are fundamentalism and terrorism, represented in the media as though Muslim and Christian Arabs were born terrorists and fundamentalists! This might make people think that religion is the cause of terrorism, violence and fundamentalism, though religion is not to blame for all that.
As a consequence of this state of affairs our whole society has become "abused," with these disasters mainly striking our young people!
6. The Fathers and members of Synod sought remedies for these calamities: they found that the most efficacious remedy is principally Islamic-Christian dialogue. In the Arab world, it must be our daily bread. In any case that dialogue was the experience of our living together throughout our shared history of the last 1432 [Islamic] years, despite dark centuries, when problems, tensions and even massacres whose victims can be counted in thousands, caused loss of trust in living together, in others and their values… And in its place crept in hatred and enmity and the traditional virtues of pity, compassion, love and fellowship became stunted…
7. The Fathers and members of Synod stressed the need to overcome crises! We must continue the journey together. Furthermore they considered that the success of our singular and difficult experiment in living together is the guarantee of the success of dialogue between followers of different faiths. What is more, it became clear to all, as was remarked on and reported often in the press, that any failure and lack of success of our experience of living as Christians and Muslims together in the East will have a destructive effect on all possibilities for dialogue, and will be a bad omen of the fact that all dialogue among people, civilisations and religions in East and West, will be doomed to failure.
So we shall have the following result: the East, symbol of plurality and dialogue becomes void of Christians. So the Arab East becomes Muslim without Christians. On the other hand, the West is considered Christian (even if only through baptism). This Christian West supports Israel, in its turn considered the enemy of Islam and Muslims. So the final, terrifying equation is this: the Christian West supports Israel and Jews, the enemies of Islam and Muslims! So Christian Europe is the enemy of Islam and Muslims! And that is precisely the great misfortune, the dark and terrifying future that awaits us! God grant it may not happen!
8. Peace was a basic topic of the Synod’s deliberations, speeches and proposals. For Peace is both the greatest good and a lost possession! Peace is the great challenge! Peace is most desired by all sides! That is also why bringing it about is the responsibility of all: East and West, Arabs, Europeans and Americans. The Synod members strongly emphasised the role of the Vatican and the Pope or Popes, because of the global influence they exercise. The members of Synod, Patriarchs, Cardinals, and Bishops, emphasised their own responsibility to work for Peace.
Yet we think that Peace is an Arab responsibility! We think that if Arab countries were united in fellowship and concord, and nobly, boldly and firmly decisive, they could impose on the Israelis, with the United States of America, and Europeans, a complete just and lasting Peace!
For this bold peace is the great Jihad (fight, struggle) and the great challenge, which can give an answer to all other challenges, issues, fears, apprehensions that afflict our Middle East.
Dear Friends, Kings, Presidents, Princes!
We confide this brave peace like a precious treasure to your hearts, thoughts and decisions!
9. In our preceding letter (of 18 June 2010), we spoke to you as follows: "You are the guarantee of the Christian presence in the Middle East!" You are indeed our warranty! We said it again in the Synod, a prominent platform for the Arab cause, as we faced the media from all over the world!
Today at the Synod's end, we say to you, dear, most esteemed friends: You are the guarantee of the success of the Synod held in Rome. You are the warranty of the decisions, proposals and hopes of this Synod being followed up and put into action in our Arab countries!
The sessions of the Synod were preceded by prayers according to the different liturgical rites and languages of our Eastern Churches, whose main language is Arabic.
We shall continue our prayers, in our churches and monasteries for Peace, for all our fellow-citizens and for you personally! You have care for the sons and daughters of our parishes! Care for our many churches, monasteries, institutions, which are at the service of our Arab countries that we love and for which we have laboured and will continue to give our all in the service of their prosperity and development, with the Blessing of God and through your vigilance!
We are praying to Almighty and Merciful God, for our Arab homelands, and for Christians and Muslims to remain together and together be salt, light and the leaven of faith, hope and love!
With my respect and friendship
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
Sunday, 23 January 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
During these days, Jan. 18-25, the Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christians is being observed. This year it has as its theme a passage from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, that sums up in a few words the life of the first Christian community in Jerusalem: "They persevered in the teaching of the apostles, in communion, in the breaking of the bread and prayer" (Acts 2:42). It is very significant that this [year's] theme was proposed by the Churches and Christian communities in Jerusalem, gathe red together in an ecumenical spirit. We know how many trials the brothers and sisters in the Holy Land and the Middle East have to face. Their service is thus still more precious, confirmed by the witness that, in certain cases, has ended in the sacrifice of life. So, while we welcome with joy the points of reflection offered by the communities that live in Jerusalem, we join with them and may this become for everyone a further builder of communion.
Today too, to be a sign and instrument in the world of intimate union with God and of unity among men, we Christians must base our life on these four cardinal principles: life founded on the faith of the Apostles transmitted in the living Tradition of the Church, fraternal communion, the Eucharist and prayer. Only in this way, being closely united to Christ, can the Church effectively accomplish her mission, despite the limits and failures of her members, despite the divisions, which the apostle Paul already had to confron t in the community of Corinth, as the second biblical reading for this Sunday recalled: "I exhort you brothers to be united in what you say so that there are not divisions among you, but be in perfect union of thought and feeling" (1:10). The Apostle, in fact, knew that in the Christian community of Corinth discord and division had sprung up; thus, with great firmness he adds: "Is Christ divided?" (1:13). Speaking in this way he acknowledges that every division in the Church is an offense to Christ; and, at the same time, that it is always in him, the one Head and Lord, that we can find unity among ourselves, by the inexhaustible power of his grace.
This is why the Gospel's summons is always relevant today: "Convert, because the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matthew 4:17). The serious commitment to conversion to Christ is the way that will lead the Church, in the times disposed by God, to full visible unity. The ecumenical encounters that are increasing throughout the world are a sign of this. Here in Rome, besides various ecumenical delegations being present, tomorrow will begin a session of the Commission for Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Ancient Eastern Churches. And the day after tomorrow, the Week of Prayer for Unity Among Christians will conclude with the solemn celebration of the vespers of the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, always accompany us along this path.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of Moscow was elected chairman of the Russian Episcopal Conference on Wednesday.
The 33rd session of the conference, held in Irkutsk, also elected Bishop Clemens Pickel of San Clemente a Saratov as its deputy chairman, and reelected Priest Igor Kovalevsky for the next three-year term as its secretary general, according to Interfax.
Archbishop Pezzi, 50, is a native of Russi, Italy. He studied philosophy and theology in Rome's Pontifical University of St. Thomas and, in 1990, he was ordained priest in the Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo by Cardinal Ugo Poletti.
From 1993 to 1998, he was director of the Siberian Catholic Newspaper of the Diocese of the Transfiguration in Novosibirsk.
From 1998 to 2005, he was vicar general of the Priestly Fraternity of Missionaries of Saint Charles Borromeo, and in 1998, he became the leader of the Communion and Liberation Movement in Russia.
In 2004 he was a professor at the Mary Queen of the Apostles Major Seminary in St. Petersburg, and in 2006, he became its rector. He was also put in charge of the pastoral care of Italians in Moscow.
In 2007, the priest was named archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, succeeding Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, who was transferred to Minsk, Belarus.
- His Grace Mar Awa, Assyrian Bishop of California
St Anselm's Roman Catholic Church, Tooting Bec Road, London SW17 8BS. Nearest tube: Tooting Bec
6.15 pm Mass
7.00 pm Talk by Father George Christidis, followed by light refreshments
A joint meeting of the Society of St John Chrysostom and the Fellowship of St Alban & St Sergius (London branch) to which all are welcome
- 11 am Welcome and Introduction, with News from AIF and the world of Ecumenism
- 12 noon Talk by Professor Antoine Arjakovsky, Director of the Centre for Ecumenical Studies, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviw, Ukraine - a French Orthodox lay theologian married to a Catholic. Followed by picnic lunch
- 2 pm Talk by Commander Betty Matear, Salvation Army and co-president of Churches Together in England - Reflections on the Papal Visit
- 3 pm Methodist Communion Service
Dr. Lucian Leustean
For the first time in the history of the acquis communautaire, the Lisbon Treaty institutionalises an ‘open, transparent and regular dialogue’ between European institutions and ‘churches, religions and communities of conviction’. This paper examines the evolution of religious representation in the European Union from the 1950 Schuman Declaration proposing the establishment of a European Coal and Steel Community to the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. It offers an historical overview of religious representation and discusses the mobilisation of Orthodox churches in dialogue with European institutions.
Lucian Leustean is Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University, Birmingham. He studied international relations, law and theology in Bucharest and completed his doctorate in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His publications include Orthodoxy and the Cold War. Religion and Political Power in Romania, 1947-65 (Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan, 2009); editor of Eastern Christianity and the Cold War, 1945-91 (London, Routledge, 2010), and co-editor of Religion, Politics and Law in the European Union (London, Routledge, 2010); ‘What is the European Union? Religion between Neofunctionalism and Intergovernmentalism’, International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church, Vol. 9, no. 3, 2009, pp. 165-176. He is currently working on an ESRC project on ‘The Politics of Religious Lobbies in the European Union'.
Heythrop College, University of London, Kensington Square, London W8 5HN. There is no charge for attendance and registration is not required. Enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
5-30 pm Evening Prayer, followed by light refreshments
6-30 pm Talk by The Revd Stephen Stavrou
St John's Church, Landsdowne Crescent, Notthing Hill, W11 2NN
Nearest Tube: Holland Park
A joint meeting of the Fellowship of St Alban & St Sergius (London Branch) and the Anglican & Eastern Churches Association, to which all are welcome
Saturday, 22 January 2011
Christians and Muslims might lack a common dogmatic base from which to discuss theology, but they share devotion and esteem for a woman who brings them together: Mary, mother of Jesus.
This reflection was offered by Father Joseph Saghbini, a priest of the Greek Catholic Melkite Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Father Saghbini was speaking about a Dec. 15 conference in Damascus, sponsored by the Syrian president and Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, patriarch of Antioch for the Greek Melkite Church. The conference was a follow-up to the synod on the Middle East held last October at the Vatican.
Some 1,000 people participated -- Christians and Muslims, representatives from Eastern Churches, and participants from Lebanon, Jordan and other Arab nations.
In the following excerpts from the interview with Father Saghbini, the priest speaks of the conference, Christians in the Middle East and prospects for Christian-Muslim collaboration.
Q: Would you please provide an introduction to this conference?
Father Saghbini: [...] This Congress shall be conducive to realize the intentions the fathers of the synod in Rome have written in the “Final Message to the People of God," locally in the Churches here in Syria and in daily life, especially in the daily common life between Christians and Muslims. Prior topics are the unity of Christians in the Middle East -- according to the Lord's word in John 17:21: ”That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” -- in order to give common testimony of faith. Further topics are related to the problems of migration of Christians to the West, as well as religious pluralism, the consciousness of God's plan with our society in the Middle East to live in peace with the Muslim people and the efforts for promoting and supporting interreligious dialogue.
Q: Have theological issues been discussed at this conference?
Father Saghbini: There is no common dogmatic basis that is valid for Christians and Muslims together in order to deal with theological questions and the magisterium of the Church. However, what is possible is the common reflection about Mary. The Christian point of view is: Mary is the elected Virgin and Mother of God and we are venerating her and we are praying to her. She is the intercessor for us with Jesus Christ. The Muslim point of view is: Mary is a special woman and the best among the women.
In Lebanon, for example, a common feast day for the honor of Mary has been introduced. On this day Christians and Muslims have the possibility to venerate Mary in their own religious approaches.
Mutual appreciation and mutual respect as human beings and as creatures of God have, of course, a very great value in common daily life. Topics related to ethics and moral issues have been discussed as well. The human and ethic values of daily life are of high importance and have been reflected in several speeches during this congress.
Brotherhood (Ikha’ in Arabic) between Christians and Muslims shall be intensified and supported by the lectures given at this conference. Another important issue for the synod fathers is daily, peaceful common life between Christians and Muslims. The daily talks between Christians and Muslims should be led and should be based on the foundation of love, mutual tolerance and respect. In this manner a common dialogue, for a common search for truth, enables a better understanding of each other and the exchange of personal points of view and experiences. Here in Syria, Christians and Muslims are living together in a tradition that spans over centuries. Christians are deeply rooted in this region, belonging to Holy Land, and they can offer a substantial and comprehensive treasure in culture and religion.
The mental, intellectual dimension of the synod held in Rome is mirrored here within this conference in a very particular form: Various Muslim leaders have arrived and we hope that the lectures and speeches as well as the personal encounters will lead to a deeper mutual understanding and to an ongoing peaceful cooperation in our society, especially here in Syria.
Q: His Beatitude Gregorios III wrote a letter in June to the Muslim leaders of the Arab countries, wherein the sense and the significance of the synod are expressed. Is this also part of the speeches given here at this conference?
Father Saghbini: Yes, of course. This letter from the patriarch has also been addressed to th e Arab kings. Today at the conference his letter has been mentioned in order to remember the content of it, which is also part of the texts composed in the synod. Patriarch Gregorios III emphasizes repeatedly that for us Christians living in the Middle East, it is a great concern to have a peaceful fellowship with Muslims, which is founded in mutual respect and in fraternal benevolence. We need each other in day-to-day life. We do not only speak about dialogue, but we live it! Dialogue has its origin in the essence of the Church by proclaiming the Gospel to all humanity. The Gospel by itself gives testimony of the truth and the love of God, revealed in the incarnation of the person of Jesus Christ. He is our king of peace and it is, in present times, very necessary to recognize this truth and to live from it, in order to bring the peace of Christ to all people.
Q: What does the Greek Catholic Melkite Patriarchate expect from this conference?
Fa ther Saghbini: After this blessed synod that took place in October in Rome, we hope -- together with the Christians living in the Middle East -- for a deeper and mutual understanding, in a greater mutual respect, in the necessary tolerance and in a peaceful common life. This is our hope and for this intention we are praying, especially now during Christmas time, and we hope that many Christians will follow this prayer in the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Q: What further initiatives will the patriarchate organize in the field of interreligious dialogue, enabling Christians and Muslims to have encounters on an academic level?
Father Saghbini: Our Patriarch Gregorios III is planning similar meetings in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. Of course, the Center Al-Liqa, founded by His Beatitude, is a place where encounters between Christians and Muslims will take place and which may lead to a better knowledge and understanding between the cultures and religions.
Friday, 21 January 2011
The relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches after the disintegration of the Soviet Union 20 years ago will be the topic of a March 19 congress in Wurzburg.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, will discuss this topic in a round table as part of the congress organized by Aid to the Church in Need.
Also taking part in the debate will be the aid agency's president in Germany, Antonia Willemsen, and the head of the Russian Section of Aid to the Church in Need International, Peter Humeniuk. The moderator will be the writer Stefan Baier of Die Tagespost, a Catholic newspaper of Wurzburg.
In preparation for the meeting, Willemsen and Humeniuk traveled to Rome to inform Cardinal Koch on the works of their agency in Russia.
The prelate applauded the initiative of the association to promote interreligious rapprochement between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches.
He said that he is very interested in the meeting with Metropolitan Alfeyev, whom he has known and esteemed for years. He expressed confidence that the dialogue will continue to prosper.
Willemsen affirmed that, at the request of John Paul II, the aid agency has always made an effort to collaborate with the "Russian Orthodox Sister Church" since the fall of Communism, without neglecting aid to the Russian Catholic Church.
At present, the Catholic and Orthodox Churches are debating the question of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.
As Cardinal Koch explained last November in a plenary assembly of the dicastery he heads, "An ecclesiology linked to the national culture and a Catholic ecclesiology oriented to the concept of universality have been up to now in disagreement."
Whereas for Pope Paul VI this question was the "major obstacle" for the restoration of full communion, he explained, "in the eyes of the present Pontiff it is also the main opportunity for union."
According to the thinking of Benedict XVI, the cardinal said, "without primacy, the Catholic Church would also have disintegrated a long time ago into national Churches sui iuris, which would have confused and complicated the ecumenical landscape."
He noted that for ecumenism now, it is necessary that "the Catholic Church reflect further on the idea that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome is not a simple external juridical appendix to Eucharistic ecclesiology, but an element that is founded pre cisely on it."
On the other hand, the prelate stated, "the Orthodox Church should address with determination the problem of autocephaly, because it is of fundamental importance for its future and for ecumenism, and thus seek adequate solutions in order to recover its own internal unity and its capacity to act in a concerted way."
Cardinal Koch pointed out the importance of the work of the International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church over the last few years, noting that there have been advances in the discussions on ecclesiology in general and on the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in particular.
Tuesday, 18 January 2011
Follow this link to the website of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland for the UK & Eire versions of the resources.
As we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, 18 to 25 January, we give thanks to God for the vast contribution made by the Christians of Syriac and Arab ecclesial families to the formation of Christianity's tradition and to its future.
And in the words of Father Paul Couturier, who reanimated the Week of Prayer in the 1930s and caused it to be the universal Church's celebration of faith, hope and love for visible unity and communion that we know today, we pray for the unity of all humanity in the charity and truth of Christ.
Saturday, 15 January 2011
ROME, JAN. 14, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Vatican's unity council says Christians should be united to face oppression, and also to seek peace.
Cardinal Kurt Koch affirmed this in a message to the Coptic community of Rome, in which he expressed his closeness after the Jan. 1 attack on an Orthodox Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt, which took the lives of 21 and injured dozens more.
"All Christians must be united in face of oppression and must seek peace together, which only Jesus can give," the cardinal said.
His message was addressed to the bishop of the Orthodox Coptic Church in Italy, Barnabas El Soryany, on the occasion of Christmas, celebrated by Eastern Christians according to the Julian c alendar on the night of Jan. 6-7.
The message was read on behalf of Cardinal Koch by his representative, Father Gabriel Quick, director of the pontifical council's division for Eastern Christians.
Referring to the Alexandria tragedy, the cardinal said: "At this moment of sorrow, I am united to you and to the Coptic Christian community in prayer. We share this sorrow together; together we pray for healing, for peace and for justice."
Cardinal Koch recalled Benedict XVI's message decrying the attack and affirmed that the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity makes its own the words pronounced by the Pontiff.
On Jan. 2 during his traditional Angelus address, the Holy Father referred both to the attack on the Copts and to bombs targeting Christians in Iraq, and he encouraged "ecclesial communities to persevere in faith and in the witness of non-violence which comes to us from the Gospel."
Thursday, 13 January 2011
By Serena Sartini
ROME, JAN. 12, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Though forgiveness is the way to respond to the Jan. 1 attack on an Orthodox Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt, still, according to Orthodox Coptic Bishop Barnabas El Soryany, there must be a declaration once and for all: "Enough of hatred and terrorism, enough of blood."
Bishop El Soryany, leader of the Orthodox Coptic community of Turin and Rome, launched an appeal for religious freedom for every confession during an event held Sunday in Rome to show solidarity with the Alexandria Coptic community.
A Jan. 1 explosion there as the faithful were leaving the Divine Liturgy resulted in the deaths of more than 20 people. ZENIT spoke with the bishop leading up to Sunday's solidarity event.
ZENIT: Your Excellency, what is the meaning of this Sunday's manifestation?
Bishop El Soryany: We want to show our grief for what happened on New Year's in Egypt to the Coptic community. Our Christian brethren in Egypt live in fear, with sorrow, with tears in their eyes. We want to show our grief to the whole world. It is not a manifestation of protest, it is a day of solidarity: We want to take the voice of our brothers of Egypt to Italy. They ask for the solidarity of the whole world: enough of violence, of terrorism, not only in the Middle East, in Lebanon, but also in Sudan, in Africa, in every country.
ZENIT: What will this event include?
Bishop El Soryany: The whole Coptic community of Rome will be present, about 6,000 people. It is a manifestation organized by our community; there won't be other religions: not Muslims, not Jews. ... Some politicians and delegates from the Vatican will arrive."
ZENIT: Bishop Barnabas, the Coptic community does not want the presence of Muslims in today's manifestation. Why?
Bishop El Soryany: The decision of the community is not to have Muslims because we want to avoid problems. But we love our Muslim brothers: We await a manifestation by them and if they invite us, we will take part.
ZENIT: How are relations with the Muslims?
Bishop El Soryany: There aren't any problems, especially in Italy: We are brothers with Muslims. The Coptic community lives in peace with the whole world. Our faithful do not cause trouble because our message is to seek peace, solidarity with everyone. We all want to be united against terrorism.
ZENIT: What would you like to say to the authors of the New Year's attack in Egypt?
Bishop El Soryany: I forgive them. We always forgive in face of these events. It's not the first time that we suffer attacks: It happened 10 years ago, always on New Year's and always in Egypt. We also forgave in that case. Then it happened l ast year on Jan. 6. Also in that case our response was forgiveness, because our faith teaches us to forgive the other. We forgive but I wish to say: Enough of terrorism, enough of blood.
ZENIT: Do you fear new attacks?
Bishop El Soryany: I think the whole world in afraid these days, especially after the threat made before Christmas on this Islamic Web site with the threat of new attacks.
ZENIT: What do you expect from the European Union and the international community?
Bishop El Soryany: I hope that all will condemn terrorism; we expect the solidarity of the whole world. But above all we want religious liberty to be guaranteed, to live tranquilly in our countries.
ZENIT: There are many cases of persecution of Christians in the world.
Bishop El Soryany: Unfortunately. I notice a chain that extends increasingly: persecution of Christian in Iraq, in Lebanon, in the Middle East, in Sudan, in Nigeria. I appeal to the international community to do so mething for persecuted Christians.
[Translation by ZENIT]
Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Here is the address delivered Monday by Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem to to the Orthodox community of Jerusalem at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. The meeting took place within the context of the annual meeting of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land and the Assembly of Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land, which is under way in Jerusalem through Thursday.
* * *
Your Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III, and all distinguished members of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate,
It is our great joy to come together as Catholic, Armenian, orthodox and evangelical churches, besides an International delegation of the Catholic Bishops' Conferences in USA and Europe, to wish you a very happy Christmas. Our visit is not only a protocol gathering. We want to witness our brotherly communion, our desire for full unity and our common faith in the same salvation obtained by Christ through his Nativity in Bethlehem.
I am so happy to greet you in the name of:
- the Armenian Orthodox church represented here by Archbishop Noorhan Manugian,
- in the name of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate represented here by Archbishop Anba Abraham.
To him and to all our Coptic brothers in Egypt we present our sympathy and condolences for the passing away of more than 21 martyrs from the church of the Saints in Alexandria. With all the Christians and the non-Christians of good will, who condemned this terroristic action, we join our voices not only for condemnation but also to pray that this event be the last one, and that the blood of martyrs becomes seeds of peace and interreligious tolerance and mutual respec t in the Middle East. The same words we address on behalf of our brothers who fell martyrs in Baghdad for the same cause.
I speak also in the name of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, represented here by Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad
- In the name of Archbishop Abune Mathias, head of the Ethiopian Orthodox
- Archbishop Paul Sayyah, Maronite Patriarchal Exarch
- Archbishop Joseph Jules Zreyi, Greek Catholic Patriarchal Exarch
- Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarch
- Fr. Raphael Minassian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
- Bishop Suhail Dawani, Anglican bishop in Jerusalem and
- Bishop Mounib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and Holy Land, to whom we renew our congratulations for his election as head of the World Lutheran confederation. We are so proud of this nomination not only because bishop Mounib is our common friend, but also because he has a long ecumnical experience and knowledge of the Middle East, which he can and will invest in promoting the great cause of Christian unity. Bishop Younan, we express to you on this occasion our full support, appreciation and friendship.
With us there is an important delegation of bishops from USA, Canada and Europe. They came to be more informed about the situation of our communities and to show support to the cause of justice and peace in the Holy Land. They are important and influential figures in their countries.
- Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool and representative of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales,
- Bishop Peter Bürcher, Bishop of Reykjavik, Nordic Bishops' Conference
- Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham
- Archbishop Rock Mirdita, Archbishop of Tirana-Durazzo and President of the Bishops' Conference of Albania
- Mgr Michel Dubost, Bishop of Evry, French Bishops' Conference
- Bishop Dr. Stephan Ackermann, representative of German Bishops' Conference
- Bishop Joan Enric Vives, Archbishop of Urgell and Co-Prince of Andorra
- Bishop Gerald Frederick Kicanas, Catholic Bishops' Conference of USA
- Bishop Pierre Morissette, President Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
Beatitude, as you know, a decade ago, we started organizing this Holy Land Co-ordination, with many Catholic Conferences, to meditate upon the issue of "Peace and Justice" in the Holy Land. Still, it seems that a decade is not enough to understand the situation, its ambiguities, challenges and frustrations. Peace and Justice, the solution to achieve such a big goal seems to be so obvious, though still so far and complicated.
Beatitude, Excellencies and dear Friends, our meeting here in this glorious Patriarchate, comes at a time, when the entire world is becoming tragically aware of w hat it can mean to live as a witness to Christ in these lands. The atrocious and absurd attack upon the Catholic community of Baghdad just after the end of the Synod, which left almost 60 people dead and many more horribly wounded, and now the New Year's attack on the orthodox Coptic Church in Alexandria that killed 21 and injured so many more, have made the decision to stay even more dramatic than ever. Though the challenges that our people face here in the Holy Land are not exactly the same, yet these events struck our people as well.
Now, more than ever, we see the truth of what the Synod Fathers wrote in their propositions to the Holy Father, that our calling to be bearers of peace, "means sharing the cross of Christ." We also wrote: "Amidst a world marked by division and extreme positions, we are called to live communion in the Church staying open to everyone." Clearly this is a calling beyond our human strength at times. It is only the grace of G od present in our communion with Him and between us that can help us embrace this mission as a precious gift.
In their names I express our happiness to be here as brothers sharing the same faith and filled with the same joy coming from the commemoration of the birth of our Lord. I will quote an important father of the Church, saint Leo the Great who stated in one of his Christmas homilies in Rome the reason why we should be happy on Christmas despite the many reasons of sadness coming from persecutions and sufferings. He wrote: "Our Saviou was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity."
Then Saint Leo expresses his astonishment in front of the mystery of Incarnation: because the Word of God, through whom all things were made became man: he took on Him our humility without decrease in His own majesty. Because of his double nature, he is the one and the same Mediator between God and men.
Dear brothers, sharing the same faith in one God, one savior, and sharing one joy, I pray the Lord that our communion increases, our daily dialogue and charity become stronger so that we reach one day the full communion and unity, not only in the heavenly Jerusalem but on this earth. This is the dream of 2 billion Christians. We bishops have a great responsibility to work for this noble goal through our prayer and action. Again I wish you all a very joyful Christmas and a blessed new year.
* * *
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III said:
This land is where Heaven meets Earth. The Churches in this land play a very important role, not just religious but also in the social and political field. The disasters in Iraq and Egypt where Christians were killed, not just because they are Chris tians but as fellow human beings, has brought to the attention of politicians the problem of fanaticism that prevents reconciliation, peace and co-existence.
Our role is vital as it is to communicate the incarnate love of our Lord. Love can overcome obstacles and reach out to the heart of enemies.
Jerusalem is not just a local parish; it is a universal parish. So far globalisation has not entered and Jerusalem maintains its spiritual purity and that is why it is important for the rest of the world.
Tuesday, 11 January 2011
Canon Law and the Politics of Ecclesial Identity:
The Patriarch of the West:
Please note: there is no charge for attendance and registration is not required. Enquiries:
email@example.com. A flyer can be downloaded here.
Out of interest, here are two relevant speeches made by Patriarch Gregorios of Antioch the Melkite Greek Catholics at the October 2010 Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church to address the concerns of the Churches of the Middle East:
Dr Peter Petkoff has studied law and theology in Sofia, Leeds, Oxford and Rome and his research interests are in the area of law and religion, EC Law, Intellectual Property and Comparative and International Law. His academic appointments include working on research projects at Oxford University (European Company Law and Arms Exports), Exeter University (Comparative European Family Law) and Bristol University (Changing Nature of Religious Rights Under International Law), a visiting fellowship at the Stephan Kuttner Institute of Medieval Canon Law and the Leopold-Wenger-Institute for Legal History at Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich and teaching positions at Bristol, Oxford and Buckingham. He has taught EU Law, International law and Intellectual Property, Canon law and Islamic Law. Dr Petkoff is a honorary fellow of the Centre for the Study of Law and Religion at the University of Bristol, a Fellow of the Centre for Christianity and Culture at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, a Secretary of the Oxford Society for Law and Religion and a convener of the Oxford Colloquium for Law and Religion, a board member of the academic think-tank ‘Focus on Freedom of Religion or Belief’ which studies the dynamics of freedom of religion or belief discourse within the context of the international institutions. Dr Petkoff is also a board member of the research network ‘Church, Law and Society of the Middle Ages’ and a convener of Eastern Canon Law panels at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds. He is currently engaged in research projects which study the coexistence of civic and religious legal systems on national, regional and international level and the formation of Christian, Jewish and Islamic legal harmonisations in the twelfth and the thirteenth centuries.
Recent publications: Legal and Religious Perspectives of the Post-conciliar Vatican Concordats – Minorities, Human Rights, Religious Freedom and International Law, Law and Justice Journal (No 158, 2007); Freedom of Religion or Belief in the Jurisprudence of the Bulgarian Constitutional Court Religion, State and Society [Routledge], Volume 36, 2008; Neutrality in the Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights – coauthored with Malcolm Evans (Religion, State and Society, Volume 36, 2008; Church-State Relations under the Bulgarian Denominations Act 2002: Religious Pluralism and Established Church Religion, State and Society Vol. 33, No. 4, December 2005; The Law on Religion in Bulgaria in the Light of European Integration Orthodox Christianity And Contemporary Europe, Leuven, Peeters, 2003.