Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Memory Eternal

The Guardian (UK) reports the falling asleep of Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist. While my own spiritual journey led to 'swimming the Tiber', I join with all in offering prayers for the repose of his soul and for the orphaned Romanian Orthodox Church.

May his memory be eternal!

May the Romanian Orthodox Church be guided by the Spirit to a new beginning to the glory of God and the salvation of souls!

Head of Romanian Church Dies

Monday July 30, 2007 6:01 PM


BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - The head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, who made history when he invited the late John Paul II to his Orthodox country in 1999 but was criticized for being too close to former Communists, died Monday. He was 92.

Patriarch Teoctist died of a heart attack following surgery on his prostate gland earlier Monday, doctors at the Fundeni hospital told Realitatea TV.

Teoctist was appointed to head the church in November 1986, but briefly stepped down after anti-communist protesters in 1989 said he had been too conciliatory toward former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. He had refused to condemn Ceausescu's destruction of Orthodox churches in Bucharest. He was reinstated a few weeks later.

Although he was often criticized for failing to take a stand on thorny issues such as the rights of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church in Romania, the patriarch won praise when in 1999, the late Pope John Paul II visited Romania at Teoctist's invitation.

It was the first invitation extended by an Orthodox Church leader to a Catholic pope since the churches split in the Great Schism of 1054. The two leaders called for the healing of divisions within Christianity.

Teoctist also won the respect of Romanians after he confessed that he had felt abandoned by God for years - from the time when he briefly resigned as patriarch until the pope's visit.

Teoctist was also criticized for opposing the investigation of clerics who were believed to have collaborated with the Communist Securitate secret police. When communism ended, there was no purge within the church and no acknowledgment of the extent of clerics' collaboration.

In 2001, Securitate files discovered by a historian said that Teoctist had supported the fascist Legionnaire movement and was one of several priests who in 1941 helped ransack a synagogue in Bucharest. The church said the information in the files was fabricated.

Born into a poor family in northeastern Romania in 1915, Teoctist was the tenth of 11 children. He became a monk when he was 20.

Earlier this month, Teoctist condemned a Vatican document in which Pope Benedict XVI reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, describing it as ``brutal'' and saying it made inter-church dialogue difficult.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Brendan Sweetman on Politics, Religion and Secularism

Zenit.org has an interesting article by Fr John Flynn on Brendan Sweetman's book "Why Politics Needs Religion".

Excerpts are given below.

Religion in the Public Arena
The Vital Role of Spiritual Values

By Father John Flynn, L.C.
Brendan Sweetman explained his position in "Why Politics Needs Religion: The Place of Religious Arguments in the Public Square" (InterVarsity Press). Sweetman, a professor of philosophy at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, is convinced that attempts to remove religion from politics are based on a misunderstanding of modern pluralism.


Proponents of secularism, the book explains, wish to exclude worldviews founded on religion because they are supposedly based on sources that are not reliable or are irrational. In a pluralistic society is it not sustainable, according to secularists, to introduce religious arguments because this is imposing elements of a religion on others who do not share these beliefs.


"The secularist conveniently ignores the issue of the rationality of religious belief, or superficially denies that religious belief can be rational, or fails to compare the rationality of religious belief with that of secularist beliefs," Sweetman argues.

It is time, he proposes, that we move away from the view that religion is somehow a synonym for irrational. The religious view of the world in general, Sweetman maintains, has nothing to fear from rational scrutiny.


One objection raised by secularists, Sweetman notes, is the argument that religion introduces division and dogmatism, or even violence, into the political arena. It is true that religion can divide, Sweetman admits, but this is equally true of purely secular-founded arguments. The 20th century provides abundant examples of excesses committed in the name of secular ideologies.


It is the role of laypeople to work and act directly in constructing the temporal order, the Pope noted. Nevertheless, they need to be guided in this by the light of the Gospel and Christian love.

Christians who are active on the public sphere should, the Pontiff recommended, give public testimony to their faith and not live two parallel lives: one which is spiritual; and another which is secular, dedicated to their participation in social, political and cultural activities.
The entire article may be read here.

The book may be ordered from here or here.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction? Scary!

Sometimes life is as strange (and disturbing) as fiction. This, from the website TodaysZaman.com reads almost like a scene from Hitchcock.

Vatican consul to İstanbul falls in front of train

Georges Marovitch, the Vatican’s representative in İstanbul, was involved in a strange train accident in Rome on Tuesday.

While waiting for his train on the platform, Marovitch apparently fell onto the tracks moments before the train pulled into the station, hitting the pope’s representative and leaving him seriously injured. The reason for his sudden fall remains unknown. It was learnt that Marovitch was on his way to visit the previous home of Pope John XXIII, who died in 1963 and was also a Vatican envoy to Turkey in his lifetime.

According to information from Marovitch’s family, he suffered heavy internal bleeding and a broken rib due to the unexplained accident. He is currently in intensive care at Gemelli Hospital, where Pope John II was also a patient shortly before his death.

According to the latest reports from the Vatican, the internal bleeding has stopped and his condition has improved, although Marovitch still remains in the intensive care unit. Marovitch is widely known for his support of interfaith dialogue initiatives. The 75-year-old representative, who is also the spokesman for the Turkish Catholic Communities Spiritual Council, was in Rome on vacation. The Italian police have launched an investigation into the mysterious accident.

27.07.2007 Cenap Aydın Rome

Friday, July 27, 2007

Wall Street Journal on the Church in Jerusalem

The Wall Street Journal features an article by Benjamin Balint on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Below are a few excerpts.

Ever since it was built by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine in 335 on the hill of Golgotha, where his mother, Helena, claimed to have found the remains of the True Cross, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City has enjoyed little peace. The historian Eusebius records that the original structure, "an extraordinary work," was crowned by a roof "overlaid throughout with radiant gold." But Constantine's marvel was razed by the Persians in 614, reconstructed, and then destroyed again by Caliph Hakim of Egypt in 1009. Rebuilt by Crusaders in the 11th and 12th centuries, the building evolved into the motley collection of shrines, chapels and grottos that greet--and sometimes disappoint--the visitor today. The critic Edmund Wilson said it "probably contains more bad taste, certainly more kinds of bad taste, than any other church in the world."

In 1757, after Greek Orthodox clergy violently wrested majority control of the church from the Roman Catholics, the Ottoman rulers of Jerusalem decreed a status quo for the city's holy sites. For the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, this meant that control was split primarily among the three patriarchates of Jerusalem--the Latin, the Greek and the Armenian--and secondarily among the churches of Egypt (Coptic), Syria and Ethiopia. The arrangement, formalized in 1852, has been enforced by the British, Jordanians and, today, Israel.

The turf wars also paralyze maintenance. A wooden ladder has rested on a ledge over the church's entrance for at least 150 years. The edicule, braced with scaffolding, is falling apart. The Chapel of St. Nicodemus, over which both the Armenians and the Syrians claim ownership, has for that reason never been restored. To prevent denominational disputes, the very keys to the church have since the days of Saladin been entrusted to Muslims from the Nuseibeh and Joudeh families.
For entire article, click here.

Interesting Article on one of the Neo-Atheisism Fad Favorites

A Blog called Taki's Top Drawer has a very interesting article on Christopher Hitchens, one of the Neo-Atheist fad's top of the pops celebrity authors. The Neo-Atheist movement has all the serious depth and reflection of a fifth-grade English essay. "Taki" takes on Hithchens and in so doing reveals much of the shallowness of the au courant atheism.

Although Hitchens’ book is lively and well written, it is fatally marred by its many rhetorical evasions and falsehoods. Throughout the book, whatever Hitchens dislikes is blamed on religion and whatever he likes is credited to something else. A clergyman Hitchens admires, Martin Luther King, is dismissed as someone who was “in no real … sense … a Christian.” By contrast, Hitchens blames the atheistic dictatorships that killed more people in the 20th century than had been deliberately killed by the state in all the preceding centuries on religion, offering up the Jesuit missions of Paraguay which protected the Indians until their dissolution as the first successful instance of totalitarianism and claiming that “A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy.” What Hitchens ignores is that Christian Europe produced very few theocracies, because the Church, basing herself on its founder, has always taught that men should “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” The political legacy of Christianity is thus one of law and liberty, not one of unitary despotism and worship of the state. In Hitchens’ strange mental universe, religion is to blame for slavery—a primordial human institution abolished in major part by religious men such as William Wilberforce—and the Rwandan genocide, where one Catholic ethnic group slaughtered a different Catholic ethnic group. Hitchens also repeats the Communist inspired lie that Pius XII was “pro-Nazi,” citing as his sole authority the book by John Cornwell that has been so thoroughly discredited by serious historians that even its author no longer makes such a claim.
The whole article may be found here.

The Pope Remembers the Recent Council ... and Vatican II

Sandro Magister has published the English text of Pope Benedict's answer to a question related to the confusion and often lost sense of optimism in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. In the Holy Father's answer he reveals a keen knowledge of history and of the Eastern Church Fathers.

It is tempting to believe that the great Councils of antiquity were received with humble obedience and prayer. However, the Holy Father reminds, "The periods following a council are almost always very difficult." [Sometimes the necessary consequence of a Council has been the calling of another Council to further clarify and refine the teachings of the earlier one (cf. the Council of Ephesus, a.d. 431, and the Council of Chalcedon, a.d., 451.)]

The Holy Father points out the reality of what might be called an adjustment period after a Council and the need to understand each Council in the light of the unity of the Faith and continuity of the Spirit's guidance and protection throughout history.

Below is Benedict's comments about post-conciliar adjustments.

I, too, lived through Vatican Council II, coming to Saint Peter’s Basilica with great enthusiasm and seeing how new doors were opening. It really seemed to be the new Pentecost, in which the Church would once again be able to convince humanity. After the Church’s withdrawal from the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it seemed that the Church and the world were coming together again, and that there was a rebirth of a Christian world and of a Church of the world and truly open to the world.

We had such great hopes, but in reality things proved to be more difficult. Nonetheless, it is still true that the great legacy of the Council, which opened a new road, is a “magna carta” of the Church’s path, very essential and fundamental.

But why did this happen? I would like to begin with an historical observation. The periods following a council are almost always very difficult. After the great Council of Nicaea – which is, for us, truly the foundation of our faith, in fact we confess the faith as formulated at Nicaea – there was not the birth of a situation of reconciliation and unity, as hoped by Constantine, the promoter of the great Council, but a genuinely chaotic situation of a battle of all against all.

In his book on the Holy Spirit, saint Basil compares the Church’s situation after the Council of Nicaea to a nighttime naval battle, in which no one recognizes another, but everyone is pitted against everyone else. It really was a situation of total chaos: this is how saint Basil paints in vivid colors the drama of the period following the Council of Nicaea.

50 years later, for the first Council of Constantinople, the emperor invited saint Gregory Nazianzen to participate in the council, and saint Gregory responded: No, I will not come, because I understand these things, I know that all of the Councils give rise to nothing but confusion and fighting, so I will not come. And he didn’t go.

So it is not now, in retrospect, such a great surprise how difficult it was at first for all of us to digest the Council, this great message. To imbue this into the life of the Church, to receive it, such that it becomes the Church’s life, to assimilate it into the various realities of the Church is a form of suffering, and it is only in suffering that growth is realized. To grow is always to suffer as well, because it means leaving one condition and passing to another.

And we must note that there were two great historic upheavals in the concrete context of the postconciliar period.

The first is the convulsion of 1968, the beginning – or explosion, I dare say – of the great cultural crisis of the West. The postwar generation had ended, a generation that, after seeing all the destruction and horror of war, of combat, and witnessing the drama of the great ideologies that had actually led people toward the precipice of war, had discovered the Christian roots of Europe and had begun to rebuild Europe with these great inspirations. But with the end of this generation there were also seen all of the failures, the gaps in this reconstruction, the great misery in the world, and so began the explosion of the crisis of Western culture, what I would call a cultural revolution that wants to change everything radically. It says: In two thousand years of Christianity, we have not created a better world; we must begin again from nothing, in an absolutely new way. Marxism seems to be the scientific formula for creating, at last, the new world.

In this – let us say – serious, great clash between the new, healthy modernity desired by the Council and the crisis of modernity, everything becomes difficult, like after the first Council of Nicaea.

One side was of the opinion that this cultural revolution was what the Council had wanted. It identified this new Marxist cultural revolution with the will of the Council. It said: This is the Council; in the letter the texts are still a bit antiquated, but behind the written words is this “spirit,” this is the will of the Council, this is what we must do. And on the other side, naturally, was the reaction: you are destroying the Church. The – let us say – absolute reaction against the Council, anticonciliarity, and – let us say – the timid, humble search to realize the true spirit of the Council. And as a proverb says: “If a tree falls it makes a lot of noise, but if a forest grows no one hears a thing,” during these great noises of mistaken progressivism and absolute anticonciliarism, there grew very quietly, with much suffering and with many losses in its construction, a new cultural passageway, the way of the Church.

And then came the second upheaval in 1989, the fall of the communist regimes. But the response was not a return to the faith, as one perhaps might have expected; it was not the rediscovery that the Church, with the authentic Council, had provided the response. The response was, instead, total skepticism, so-called post-modernity. Nothing is true; everyone must decide on his own how to live. There was the affirmation of materialism, of a blind pseudo-rationalistic skepticism that ends in drugs, that ends in all these problems that we know, and the pathways to faith are again closed, because the faith is so simple, so evident: no, nothing is true; truth is intolerant, we cannot take that road.

So: in these contexts of two cultural ruptures, the first being the cultural revolution of 1968 and the second the fall into nihilism after 1989, the Church sets out with humility upon its path, between the passions of the world and the glory of the Lord.

Along this road, we must grow with patience and we must now, in a new way, learn what it means to renounce triumphalism.

The Council had said that triumphalism must be renounced – thinking of the Baroque, of all these great cultures of the Church. It was said: Let’s begin in a new, modern way. But another triumphalism had grown, that of thinking: We will do things now, we have found the way, and on it we find the new world.

But the humility of the Cross, of the Crucified One, excludes precisely this triumphalism as well. We must renounce the triumphalism according to which the great Church of the future is truly being born now. The Church of Christ is always humble, and for this very reason it is great and joyful.

It seems very important to me that we can now see with open eyes how much that was positive also grew following the Council: in the renewal of the liturgy, in the synods – Roman synods, universal synods, diocesan synods – in the parish structures, in collaboration, in the new responsibility of laypeople, in intercultural and intercontinental shared responsibility, in a new experience of the Church’s catholicity, of the unanimity that grows in humility, and nonetheless is the true hope of the world.

And thus it seems to me that we must rediscover the great heritage of the Council, which is not a “spirit” reconstructed behind the texts, but the great conciliar texts themselves, reread today with the experiences that we have had and that have born fruit in so many movements, in so many new religious communities. I arrived in Brazil knowing how the sects are expanding, and how the Catholic Church seems a bit sclerotic; but once I arrived, I saw that almost every day in Brazil a new religious community is born, a new movement is born, and it is not only the sects that are growing. The Church is growing with new realities full of vitality, which do not show up in the statistics – this is a false hope; statistics are not our divinity – but they grow within souls and create the joy of faith, they create the presence of the Gospel, and thus also create true development in the world and society.

Thus it seems to me that we must learn the great humility of the Crucified One, of a Church that is always humble and always opposed by the great economic powers, military powers, etc. But we must also learn, together with this humility, the true triumphalism of the Catholicism that grows in all ages. There also grows today the presence of the Crucified One raised from the dead, who has and preserves his wounds. He is wounded, but it is in just in this way that he renews the world, giving his breath which also renews the Church in spite of all of our poverty. In this combination of the humility of the Cross and the joy of the risen Lord, who in the Council has given us a great road marker, we can go forward joyously and full of hope.
For the complete article by Sandro, click here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Witchcraft or Christian Values?

Two recent articles deal with the latter day Beatles-like cultural phenomenon of Harry Potter. One is from Mercatornet the other is from the National Review Online. Christians tend to blow either very hot or very cold about the series (and the commercial boon it spawned). I must say that I have found much of the anti-Potter arguments uninformed and unwarranted.

The first article (MercatorNet) was published the day before the last Potter book was released.

The second was published two days after its release.

A few excerpts are provided here, click on the title for the full article.

Harry Potter and the order of love


Harry indirectly affirms and points to ultimate laws upon which lesser laws must rest and to which they must elastically connect if they are to truly function to protect the good.


One overarching theme to be commended in the books is Rowling's critique of rationalistic materialism and its essential banality. An elephantine image of materialism and its banality is the Dursley family (though Rowling more often uses the metaphor of a swine). Sketched in Dickensian fashion, using strong lines and colourful images, the Dursley's are consumers, anxious controllers, and rational-they are "enlightened" in knowing material comfort is the highest good and are sharp at attaining and securing it. They have a limited family in one carefully indulged son, and they have friendships only of use. Friends are used to further position and salary at work.


... J.K. Rowling works within the parameters and rules of story, and more particularly within the general genre of fairy/folk tales, legends, and myths. She uses the tools of a writer, especially metaphor and analogy, and paradox. It is not appropriate to analyse or judge stories solely on the literal level, even when asking moral questions. Good stories aim at tuning perception -- as artists like Joseph Conrad and Flannery O'Connor assert -- to help tune the interior eyes to see Reality, especially the interior workings of reality such as the mysterious workings of the human heart, light and dark, and the unseen workings of evil, love, and grace.

In so doing art is not restricted to comfortably pleasing its readers nor required to deliver clear examples and arguments for the sake of good behaviour or proper manners. And, more so than plain philosophic or theological principles, metaphors can dance -- they are not inextricably tied to the idea or thing they represent. A wolf may metaphorically represent an evil -- as found in literature throughout the western tradition -- but it would be incorrect to argue that a wolf is essentially evil and must always metaphorically represent evil; he is a creature and essentially good. To argue contrarily is to infer a gnostic, unchristian view of the world. To suggest that all artists must keep within a code of metaphors is simply fearful and unnecessarily rigid. (Kipling in his Mowgli stories pictures wolves differently, for example).

Metaphors are free to dance, to move with the current of time, or the intuitions of an artist who seeks to represent truthful things. A writer can have good witches and bad -- as is the case in the Brothers Grimm, the stories of Hans Christian Anderson, the Wizard of Oz, or the stories of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, to name a few. Also, magic is a tool within literature, especially within the folk genre of literature. The ethical questions of good or bad are tied to how the metaphors and literary tools are used -- do they aid a more truthful perception, even if the perception is not fully conscious, or do they manipulate and invert a perception?


This sense of ultimate order is, as Chesterton argues, true to fairy tales and runs throughout Harry Potter. In this context we can put Potter's apparent disregard for rules and authority in perspective: he disobeys most often not out of simple curiosity or an inveterate inability to respect rules and authority, but because he is moved to defend the higher good -- higher, more ultimate (can we say "eternal"?) laws. He is not a budding Nietzchean hero, a passionate, heroic and intuitive soul who is not to be constrained by "good and evil". Harry disobeys because others do not or cannot see the danger, and he risks his life defending Life against an evil force who is the one who declares there "is no good and evil". (p. 291) Harry indirectly affirms and points to ultimate laws upon which lesser laws must rest and to which they must elastically connect if they are to truly function to protect the good.

Harry Potter & the Art of Dying Well
Ending with the end.

By Thomas Hibbs


“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” This passage, without a reference to its scriptural source (I Corinthians 15:26), appears nearly half way through J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, the final book in her hugely popular series. Deathly Hallows marks a satisfying completion of the series, more dramatically captivating and more effectively orchestrated than any book in the series since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. As both the title and the scriptural reference indicate, the book is preoccupied with death. While addressing our peculiarly modern obsessions, the reflection on death and its possible overcoming is hardly morbid. Ultimately, it is not even tragic; instead, it is a comic affirmation of the triumph of life over death, love over hate, and community over isolation.


In the final book, Rowling makes explicit some of the most important philosophical and theological themes from the entire series. There is, for example, the project of controlling nature and overcoming death. As Alan Jacobs noted in his early essay on the Potter series, magic is not so much an attempt to seduce readers to the occult as it is an invitation to reflect on technology and the modern project of rendering humanity masters and possessors of nature — the goal, Descartes famously boasted, of his scientific method. From the very first book, in which the sorcerer’s, er, philosopher’s stone promises immortality and power, Rowling reflects on the dark arts and on the question of whether the pursuit of desirable ends justifies the use of any means whatsoever. In so doing, the books address both a) the uses and abuses of mere technique or technology and b) the ethical theory called utilitarianism, the calculation of means by reference to the “greater good.” If it were not clear from the previous books, it is made palpable here — utilitarianism, which is subject to the self-interest and self-delusions of those who wield power and who thus determine what is the “greater good,” is a source of great evil.

The quixotic project of overcoming mortality through technological power is also a violation of the bodily conditions of human life. Indeed, the modern world is given to extremes on the topic of death and the body, from the resolute refusal to acknowledge or embrace aging and mortality to a nihilistic celebration of the death-wish. What is striking in the final book is the prominence of the theme of reverence for the dead body. In Goblet of Fire, Harry risks his own life to return the murdered body of his friend Cedric to his parents; then, in Half-Blood Prince, after Dumbledore’s death, he wonders, “Had they take Dumbledore’s body yet? Where would it rest?” and announces his plan to visit his parents grave. In Deathly Hallows, much is made of the fact that, instead of using magic, Harry physically digs the grave of one of his fallen fellow warriors. Reverence for, and remembrance of, the dead are hallmarks of virtue and of a well-ordered community.


Readers of the final book are left to puzzle over, not just the mysterious powers of mercy and self-sacrifice, but also explicit references to the New Testament, the one from Corinthians cited above and a passage from Matthew, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Harry encounters these statements on tombstones and knows neither their source nor their precise import. In that respect, Harry is a stand-in for most modern readers. Although he never explicitly formulates it this way, Harry’s great quest in Deathly Hallows leads him toward an understanding of the meaning of these scriptural passages, an understanding not just theoretical but eminently practical.
If reading Harry Potter leads to curious young people (and adults) dusting off the family Bible (or purchasing one*), I will applaud the series as worthy of the positive attention it has received.

After all the Spin and Swaggering...

The Associated Press and the Washington Times are reporting that after all the political grandstanding and secularist spin, Missourians are not so keen on embryonic stem cell research as originally reported...

Missouri retreats from stem cell work

July 24, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Eight months ago, Missouri seemed well on its way to becoming a national leader in stem cell research.

Voters amended the state's constitution to protect stem cell research — even the controversial form using cells from human embryos. Actor Michael J. Fox appeared in TV ads, visibly shaking from Parkinson's disease as he sought votes for stem cell supporter Claire McCaskill in her bid for the U.S. Senate.

Now the spotlight is all but gone after a research institute and lawmakers withdrew financial support.


The setbacks began when conservative Missouri lawmakers stripped funding for some prominent life-sciences projects, including a $150 million research center at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Then in June, a medical institute in Kansas City announced that it would halt its $300 million expansion project because of controversy over the research. The founders of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research had financed most of the $30 million campaign to pass the amendment.

Critics of embryonic stem cell research are opposed to the process because it requires embryos to be destroyed to harvest their cells.


Opponents were also encouraged when three teams of scientists announced last month that they had produced the equivalent of embryonic stem cells in mice without destroying embryos.

Two weeks later, President Bush vetoed a bill that would have permitted human embryonic research — a clear signal to like-minded Missourians who saw November's vote, 51 percent to 49 percent, as anything but a clear mandate.


Even so, the reality of the callous destruction of human life for "science" (AKA the utilitarian 'greater good') continues to cloaked in misleading terminology and specious arguments.

Again and again, let us pray to the Lord!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Copts Take on the CDF


EGYPT: One Pope Takes On Another

Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani

CAIRO, Jul 24 (IPS) - A recent statement by Pope Benedict XVI in which he declared the Roman Catholic Church to be the only "complete" Christian faith met with angry responses from the heads of several western, Protestant denominations. In Egypt, meanwhile, Benedict's assertion about Eastern Orthodox churches -- that they "lacked something" in their capacities as churches -- prompted no less of an angry reaction from the Orthodox Coptic Christian community.

"It's the Vatican's right as a religious institution to establish its own internal doctrines particular to itself," Youssef Sidhoum, editor-in-chief of independent Coptic weekly al-Watani told IPS. "But it doesn't have the right to issue statements passing judgment on other churches."


Salib Meta, member of Egypt's Coptic Christian Religious Council, riposted by saying that it was the Eastern Orthodox rite that represented Christ's original church. "The Catholic Church is the one that...deviated from the true faith, which is represented by the Orthodox Church," he stated in a Jul. 11 interview on Arabic-language internet news service Alarabiya.net.

The Coptic Church, members of which represent an estimated 10 percent of Egypt's 75 million-strong population, split with the Catholic Church in the fifth century over differing views on the nature of Christ.


Shenouda went on to say that the Catholic Pope, in his latest assertions about fellow Christian churches, "has now also alienated many of the Christian denominations."


Only four days after the controversial Vatican statement, Egypt's Coptic Church held a reception in Cairo under the provocative slogan "The Coptic Orthodox Church is the only Christian Church". The event was organised to commemorate the reactivation of the church's official relations with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, frozen since 1994.

Sidhoum, however, criticised the church's choice of words, which he viewed as another unnecessary provocation.

"None of the churches -- even the orthodox ones -- have the right to call themselves the only 'true' Christian Church," he said. "Such statements can only lead to intolerance between Christians and between various Christian denominations." (END/2007)

The full article may be found here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Not only an abomination... also irrational

Zenit, summarizing a report from AsiaNews, reports the Supreme Court of South Korea has decreed that life begins at birth, specifically birth accompanied by labor.

The Supreme Court upheld an acquittal of the midwife, ruling that the unborn baby was not a human being, and thus no homicide took place.

The ruling stated that "even if a Caesarean section was possible, the mother did not have labor pains, which is the beginning of childbirth, thus the unborn baby cannot be recognized as a human being."
Objectively speaking, there is no rational argument that can be made to substantiate anything other than that human life begins at conception.

Is it alive?


Is it genetically human life? Yes.

Therefore, it is a human life that is being killed in an abortion.

Quid pro quo.

(Note that this argument does not make reference to any theological or politico-philosophical ideology. It is basic observation and deduction.)

Rational arguments in favor of abortion, as opposed to those that rely on emotion or ad hominem, are cloaked in terms of political rights, and specifically that a woman's 'right' to an abortion is somehow part of political, legal, and 'moral' equality between men and women. Viewed in that light, the story in question could be considered a balanced decision regarding a very unfortunate circumstance.

But the fact remains that a child, a human being, died. Whether the South Korean Supreme Court says it or not, whether the US Supreme Court says it or not, it is so.

It is so.

The question is whether one considers human life disposable, and if so then under what circumstances and by which criteria one makes that decision.

The original AisiaNews article may be found here.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Turkish Oppression of Ecumenical Patriarchate Continues

AsiaNews reports more of the Turkish government's oppression of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

TURKEY:Nationalists force the cancellation of a concert wanted by the Patriarch of Constantinople

Following pressure form extremist groups, the Turkish authorities revoke permission for an event which was due to close the II Conference of Orthodox Youth tomorrow. “Disapproval” expressed by the academic and diplomatic world: a “damaging” move for the image of the country.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Yet more tensions between the Turkish Authorities and the Ecumenical Patriarchate: today permission was revoked for the concert of the famous Greek singer song writer Dallara, also well known in Turkey, which was to have closet the II Conference of Orthodox Youth organised by the Patriarchate in Istanbul. The move comes in the wake of pressure exerted by Turkish nationalists strongly opposed to the initiative.

The diplomatic and academic world describes the move as “damaging to the country’s image” and expresses their “great disapproval”. Conference participant’s number one thousand, gathered in Istanbul since July 12th, while a further 2 thousand had been invited to the concert among them civil authorities and embassy representatives. The event was to have taken place in the historic Istanbul castle, Rumeeli Hisari.

Recent weeks have seen an increased pressure against the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the part of the Turkish authorities: June 26th the Supreme Court contested the title “ecumenical” of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, defining it simply as a “Turkish” body, and spiritual guide of the Greek-orthodox minority in the country. According to the court, Bartholomew I can no longer use the title “Ecumenical Patriarch” for the Orthodox world.

The full respect of minorities and religious freedom is one of the principal themes on the agenda in negotiations for Ankara’s entrance to the European Union. The question of the recognition of the juridical character of the non Muslim communities is the first which needs to be addressed in order to insure that which is still not possible in the country today, such as for example the formation of religious and the acquisition of property. (NT)

Touchstone Magazine on the CDF Church Document

Touchstone Magazine has a short analysis of the CDF document on the Church and its reception. The piece is by S. M. Hutchens. Below are a few excerpts.

... Briefly put, the document states that the Eastern churches (meaning for the most part Eastern Orthodoxy), having a valid sacramental priesthood, thus valid sacraments, while defective in regard of lacking full communion with the See of Peter, are to be considered churches, while the Christian communities born of the Reformation, lacking a valid sacramental priesthood, cannot be called “churches” in the proper sense.

With regard to the communion that is the Church, Orthodoxy is deficient, but not so deficient as to withdraw the title of Church from its communions or Christian from its members. Protestant churches, measured by the same rod, are severely deficient, so much so that these religious communities are not churches properly speaking, and their members are only Christians (we must assume) to the degree that their churches are churches. If I read Lumen Gentium aright, no Catholic is obliged to call a Protestant a Christian, although he may, to do him honor—which I believe John Paul II consistently did. I will note that in general, Protestants have historically taken pretty much the same view of Catholics. Which is to say that nothing has changed--the whole point of the new Vatican document, which was clearly meant only to clarify something that should have been clear to any careful student of the matter in the first place.
The full article may be found here.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Protestants Criticize, Orthodox Welcome Vatican Document

Catholic World News has posted this basic summary of positions from Protestant and Orthodox quarters regarding the CDF document. As the previous post on Moscow's reaction shows, the Orthodox position is actually somewhat complex.

Geneva/Moscow, Jul. 11, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Leading Protestant figures have criticized the new Vatican document affirming the central role of the Catholic Church, but the Russian Orthodox Church has welcomed the document as an "honest" statement that "shows how close or, on the contrary, how divided we are."

Rev. Setri Nyomi, the general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, protested the Vatican statement in a letter to Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. Rev. Nyomi said that the new Vatican statement, which says that Protestant groups are not "churches" in the proper sense, "makes us question the seriousness with which the Roman Catholic Church takes its dialogues with Reformed family and other families of the Church."

The World Council of Churches (WCC) also expressed disagreement with the Vatican. In its own statement addressing the role of the Catholic Church, the WCC argued that the term "catholic" should be understood to mean "universal." In that sense, the WCC argued, "Each church is the Church catholic and not simply a part of it. Each church is the Church catholic, but not the whole of it."

The Russian Orthodox Church, however, welcomed the Vatican satement. "For an honest theological dialogue to happen, one should have a clear view of the position of the other side," said Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk, the leading ecumenical official of the Moscow patriarchate.

Metropolitan Kirill observed that he saw "nothing new" doctrinally in the statement released on july 10 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He argued that "everything contained in the Catholic document rightfully applies to the Orthodox Church," since the Orthodox Church has preserved apostolic succession.

The Vatican document acknowledged that the Orthodox churches are sister churches with valid sacraments, but added that in the Orthodox world, "of the division between Christians, the fullness of universality, which is proper to the Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him, is not fully realized in history."

Original link found here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Byzantine Catholic Reflection on the CDF Document on the Doctrine of the Church

As noted previously in this blog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document entitled “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church” addresses questions related to what “Church” means for Catholics, particularly in light of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). The document states that although other Christian groups may share in some of the "marks" of the Church, the Catholic Church alone is the one True Church of Jesus Christ.

Critics see this as an affront to non-Catholics and reflecting an attitude incompatible with twenty-first century understandings of God, religion and culture. Byzantine Catholics agree that the Church is at odds with modern society but also see a more fundamental disagreement.

It should come as no surprise that Catholics, who affirm belief in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church” inspired, governed and guided by God, believe that this one Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church. However, the document actually asserts that while the Catholic Church possesses all the graces bestowed by Christ on His Church in their entirety other groups may possess some of them at least partially. Therefore, the word “subsist” indicates an identity that is intrinsic but not exclusive in that some of the qualities may be found in another communion or body.

The True Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church, but those qualities, that when present in their totality constitute this subsistential identity, may also be found, more or less individually, in other churches and communions. Thus Catholics can affirm that the Catholic Church alone is the Church Christ founded and continues to inspire while also affirming that the Orthodox Churches and Protestant communions are not totally devoid of Grace.

This view, which is quite moderate and balanced, should offend no one. And in reality, the offence is not what the Church believes about herself, nor that she proclaims it per se, but what such a belief entails -- namely, that there are absolute truths.

It is the claim to affirm an absolute truth that offends. The assertion that a truth is absolute flies in the face of modern sensibilities. Secular society seeks to 'level the playing field' of ideas. All truths are relative and ultimately there is no place for theological, philosophical or ethical absolutes. Thus, real belief in God, divine revelation and Jesus Christ are sins against that 'marketplace of ideas' where no idea can claim more assent than another. This is an essential axiom and virtue of "political correctness".

Being politically correct, however, is a virtue too often bought at the price of integrity, and the Church is unwilling to pay that price when salvation is at stake. It would be hypocritical to claim belief in Christ and the teachings of the Catholic Church and to equally accept a false equality of all religions or a pseudo-equivalence of all moralities.

The Church confronts the world with eternal Truth in Jesus Christ and the secularist world recoils, steeped as it is in the belief that only relative truths ensure 'progress and enlightenment'. The encounter with eternal Truth compels society to recognize that “this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil”. (John 3.19) The recognition of evil, in turn, requires a reevaluation of goals, methods and means.

The secular relativism of modern society is a path with no destination. Rather than enhancing our existence, it demeans and degrades humanity to the base level of sensate hedonism, which ultimately ends in nihilistic despair and death. Christ comes that we may "have life and have it abundantly". (John 10.10) The so-called 'lust for life' is proved to be a thirst that finds no refreshment until it is quenched by the Living Water of Jesus Christ. (cf. John 7.37-39).

It is no surprise then that many who cling to secularist relativism are scandalized and would much prefer the Church to be more compromising. But the Church must be true to herself, even if it offends. Jesus demands total allegiance (John 14.6) and promises to be with His Church until the end of time. (Matthew 16.18; 28.20) The Church has a duty to maintain that apostolic tradition. (II Thessalonians 2.15) It must proclaim the truth of the Gospel.

The Vatican document reveals that the Church is indeed out of step with modern sensibilities, yet she owes no apology for her beliefs any more than Jews, Muslims, Protestants, or Atheists owe the Church an apology for their own beliefs. The Church challenges humanity to grow in the image and likeness of the One who created us. This challenge, and the Truth it reflects, is truly Good News for the world. It is a cause for thanksgiving.

Byzantine Catholics in particular will joyfully continue to observe and proclaim the Faith that has sustained us for two thousand years, even at the risk of offending modern sensibilities. Our worship will not bow to the fads of secular fashion. We will continue to affirm the Faith of the apostles, the Faith of the fathers, the Faith of the orthodox, and the Faith that has established the universe!

The Holy See has issued a very thorough commentary on the document here.

This is an expanded version of a submission to the local newspaper. If the newsprint version appears, I'll include a link here.

Moscow Orthodox Responses to CDF Church Document

Zenit provides an article on responses to the CDF document on the Catholic understanding of "Church" by Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Here are a few snippets:

VIENNA, Austria, JULY 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The breach of Eucharistic communion between East and West is a common tragedy, and the quest for unity should be of equal importance to both, said Bishop Hilarion.


The document, Bishop Alfeev said, "brings nothing new in comparison with previous documents of similar kind, such as 'Dominus Iesus.'"


"The Orthodox also believe that apostolic succession and the sacraments are essential marks of the Church.


Bishop Alfeev explained: "According to the document, 'communion with the Catholic Church, the visible head of which is the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, is not some external complement to a particular Church but rather one of its internal constitutive principles.'


"We, the Orthodox, believe that, being not in communion with them, the Roman Catholic Church 'lacks something in its condition.'"


"The restoration of communion with the Orthodox Church must be as important for the Catholic Church as the restoration of communion with the Church of Rome for the Orthodox Church," he said.

"The breach of Eucharistic communion between East and West is a common tragedy, affecting both the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches," Bishop Alfeev concluded. "The quest for unity should be of equal importance to both Churches."


Orthodox Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, who heads the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, said to journalists in Moscow that the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can help to achieve unity, precisely because "for an honest theological dialogue to happen, one should have a clear view of the position of the other side."

He added, "It helps understand how different we are."

The full article may be found here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

On "Subsistit"

Here is a link to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's document on the Vatican Council's use of "subsists".

The Fourth and Fifth Questions deal with the status of Orthodox Churches versus Protestant bodies.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

And Then There Was YouTube....

Okay, you all know by now that I'm not above including a bit of fun from YouTube.Com and Father Tom Finigan is the kind of blogger I appreciate.

So for all those Roman folk who have been longing for the Motu Proprio, view the following take on the matter by one of the Church's more serious commentators.

PS, Be sure you aren't drinking coffee when you view this one!

PPS, A certain section of this piece reminds me of Life on The Rock (no pun intended). Don't you agree?

Update on the Motu Proprio

The famous Motu Proprio is now official. To find the official information click here.

Trouble in Belarus

Belarus: 20 Church workers arrested in crackdown

Minsk, Jul. 5, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Police in Belarus have arrested 20 Christian human-rights workers in two separate incidents this week, reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

On July 2, 14 activists were arrested as they collected signature on petitions calling for restoration of a Catholic church to active use. St. Joseph's Church in Budslaw has been closed by authorities, and parishioners fear that it may be converted into a hotel. They were circulating a petition opposing that change, as well as a separate petition calling for changes in the country's laws governing religion. The 14 activists were released after several hours, but their petitions were confiscated.

The next day, July 3, police raided an apartment in Minsk and arrested 6 activists who were preparing literature calling for changes in the 2002 religion law. They too were released after spending most of a day in prison, but their campaign material-- including computers and printers as well as religious literature-- was seized. Alaksiej Shein, the co-chairman of the Belarus Christian Democrat Party, told Christian Solidarity Worldwide that the raid in Minsk was illegal, since police had no warrant. He said that the raid and the arrests were clearly intended to intimidate religious activists.

Persecution Continues in Ukraine

Ukraine Church Property Dispute Turns Violent

DNIPOPETROVSK, Ukraine, JULY 5, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Property disputes in Ukraine have lead to the desecration of a church and violence against worshippers.

Bishop Stanislav Padewski of Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhya, has denounced the attack in a Latin-rite Catholic church, calling it disgraceful.

Elderly women who were praying in the church June 27 were beaten and dragged out of it, Bishop Padewski told Aid to the Church in Need.

The church building, which was confiscated in communist times, had been sold illegally to a private company in 1998, changing hands several times since then. Meanwhile, the Church leaders are insisting that the property be properly returned to them.

"The new owners were now resorting to violent means in order to expel the Catholic faithful," the bishop explained. "Meanwhile, the police were doing nothing to stop them."

Marko Tomashek, an expert on Eastern Europe for Aid to the Church in Need, explained: "In Ukraine there are dirty business deals being done with Church property. A lot of money is being made through such illegal dealings."

Tomashek underlined that these deals have made "a tangled web" of relationships. The government has officially declared that Church properties and goods are to be restored to the rightful owners, but the new owners are furious and unwilling to return the properties, he said.

No doubt the authorities also have "made a lot on these deals" Tomashek added.

Bishop Padewski appealed to all believers in Ukraine to make reparation for this act of sacrilege against the church with an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

ZE07070505 - 2007-07-05

Friday, July 06, 2007

Sandro Details the Plight of Constantinople

As reported earlier in this blog, the idea of religious freedom as understood by so many Western Countries is sharply different from that found in Muslim countries. The "Secularist" state of Turkey, as the great Western Hope for a liberal republic of Muslim origin, is a stark case in point. The Christian minority in Turkey has been dwindling since the founding of the state (and before).

Sandro Magister has a detailed report of the most recent "legal" setback for the Patriarch of Constantinople. A few excerpts follow:

The supreme court of Ankara handed down the sentence on June 26. It established that the patriarchate is simply a Turkish body set up for the Greek Orthodox minority, and therefore cannot claim the title of “ecumenical” for the entire Orthodox world.


In support of its sentence, the supreme court cited the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which classified the patriarchate of Constantinople as a religious minority, and nothing else.

Because in Turkey the maxim holds true that jurisprudence makes law, the June 26 sentence was received by the patriarchate with serious alarm, considering the precedents. For example, in 1974 the same supreme court denied the religious foundations of the Orthodox, Catholic, and other minorities in Turkey the right to possess buildings or land, as had been granted to them by a 1933 law. This law confirmed the real estate property these groups possessed at the time, and moreover granted them the right to acquire new property. With the 1974 sentence, the religious foundations were arbitrarily stripped of all the assets acquired after 1933.

In Turkey, the Orthodox community, just like the Catholic community, continues to have no juridical personality; the bishops and religious authorities are not recognized, the seminaries are closed – including the theological school of the patriarchate on the island of Chalki – and the patriarch of Constantinople is required to be a Turkish citizen.

This withholding of the most basic rights from religious minorities is in clear contrast with Turkey’s desire to be admitted into the European Union....

"Subists" - Years of Controversy

When I first read the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church promulgated by the Second Ecumenical Council at the Vatican, I recall noting the choice of terminology was quite precise. In particular, the use of the word "subsists" to indicate the identity of the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church. The term clarified (at least to me) that the Council Fathers were asserting that the Catholic Church is the one and same body established by Christ, proclaimed by the Apostles and intended by God for the salvation of the world.

In that light, I was disappointed when, after crossing the Tiber, a vistor from a Roman parish, declaimed the term as an abberation and "proof" that the Council was heretical. He argued that to "subsist" in something was a lesser identification than to "exist". I tried to counter this interpretation but to no avail. (Incidentally, there was once a short-lived blog, which had a very thorough and succinct discussion of the topic. Alas, I no longer have the link and the blog has long since disappeared.)

Gerald Augustinus reports that the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will soon issue a document clarifying the use and intention of the word "subsistit".

Read his report, based on an article in Kath.net here.

Welcome Back to Long-Lost Sister

We welcome back our Sister Liturgy, the Rite of Rome often referred to at the Tridentine, or Rite of St Pius V. Specifically, the Holy Father Benedict XVI is easing the path for more common celebrations of the Roman Rite according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII.

As is so often the case, Rocco has the scoop.
Well, the cycle of speculation is now past, replaced at long last (after
years of consultations, delays and divisions in the Roman Curia) by the
definitive text – an impeccably constructed and painstakingly finessed package
of what is, at its core, a decisive compromise on the part of the
liturgically-attuned pontiff.

Chiding both sides in the furious debate over the wider availability of the
1962 Missal for voicing “very divergent reactions ranging from joyful acceptance
to harsh opposition, about a plan whose contents were in reality unknown,”
according to an advance copy of the documents obtained exclusively by Whispers,
Benedict yields a clear verdict as the “fruit of much reflection, numerous
consultations and prayer.”

For the whole report, visit Whispers in the Loggia.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Lamp Light for the East

Prefect Lights a Lamp for Eastern Churches

VATICAN CITY, JULY 3, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The recently appointed prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches lit a lamp in St. Peter's Basilica to symbolize the Church's concern for Christians in the East.

Archbishop Leonardo Sandri lit the flame in front of an icon of the Mother of God.

Archbishop Sandri said the flame is "a sign of our full attention toward our brethren of the East, who suffer daily from the consequences of war, division, hatred and attempted bombings," Vatican Radio reported.

He also said the gesture was a call to prayer for those involved in the spiral of violence that damages personal and social coexistence.
ZE07070307 - 2007-07-03

The Pope, The Foreign Minister and Turkey

Greek foreign minister speaks with Pope about restrictions on Orthodox in Turkey

Vatican, Jul. 4, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Pope Benedict XVI met on July 4 with Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, for a conversation that included a discussion of the problems facing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

After her meeting with the Holy Father, Bakoyannis said that she was happy to have the occasiont to speak with Pope Benedict about "the need for international support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate at a time that is particularly difficult, in the wake of the Turkish court's decision." Late in June a Turkish court ruled that Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople does not have the right to the title "Ecumenical Patriarch"-- a decision that restricts the freedom of the Orthodox patriarchate in Turkey.

The Greek foreign minister told reporters that Pope Benedict expressed a keen understanding of the difficulties that the court decision created for the Orthodox leadership.

During her visit to the Vatican, Bakoyannis also met with her counterpart at the Holy See, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

St Basil and Charity

St. Basil a Model of Charity, Says Pope

VATICAN CITY, JULY 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Though St. Basil was a bishop in the fourth century, he continues to be a model for Christians today, Benedict XVI says.

The Pope said that today at the general audience held in Paul VI Hall. He dedicated his address to St. Basil, continuing with his series of teachings on early Church Fathers.

"Through preaching and writing, he carried out intense pastoral, theological and literary activities. With wise balance, he was able to blend service to souls with dedication to prayer and meditation in solitude," the Holy Father said.

The Pontiff highlighted Basil's dedication to acts of charity, which the saint multiplied by training his monks in the same spirit of service."

In reality," the Bishop of Rome affirmed, "St. Basil created a special kind of monasticism: not closed off from the local Church, but open to it. His monks were part of the local Church; they were its animating nucleus. Preceding others of the faithful in following Christ and not merely in having faith, they showed firm devotion to him -- love for him -- above all in works of charity."

Benedict XVI continued: "As bishop and pastor of his vast diocese, Basil constantly worried about the difficult material conditions in which the faithful lived; he firmly condemned evils; he worked in favor of the poor and marginalized; he spoke to rulers in order to relieve the sufferings of the people, above all in moments of disaster; he looked out for the freedom of the Church, going up against those in power to defend the right to profess the true faith."

Basil spent himself completely in faithful service to the Church in his multifaceted episcopal ministry.

"This is the program that the holy bishop gives to those who proclaim the word -- yesterday like today -- a program that he himself generously put into practice. […] He was a man who truly lived with his gaze fixed on Christ, a man of love for his neighbor. Full of the hope and the joy of faith, Basil shows us how to be real Christians."
ZE07070410 - 2007-07-04

Tresspassing in their own parish church

Ukraine: Catholics face trespass charges at their own parish church

Kiev, Jul. 5, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Catholics in Dniepropietrowsk, Ukraine, have been ordered to cease using a church building as face trespassing charges, although the building was built for the local Catholic community, Vatican Radio reports.

The parish church of St. Joseph in in Dniepropietrowsk, which was one of the many Catholic churches confiscated by the country's Communist regime. Efforts by Catholics to regain control of these churches-- many of which were handed over to local Orthodox congregations-- have caused tensions between the Catholic and Orthodox churches in Ukraine.

In Dniepropietrowsk, the efforts by Catholics to regain the use of St. Joseph's church were thwarted through 15 years of petitions and court battles. Finally the town's Catholics noticed that the building had been abandoned, and began gathering there for Mass and Eucharistic adoration. Local police notified the congregation on July 4 that they would be subject to trespassing charges if they continued using the church.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Common Date for Pascha?

This is one for which we could, and should, all pray. New Europe News has a report touting a member of the European Parliament's efforts to get the Orthodox and Catholic Churches to agree on a common dating method for Easter (Pascha).

Sorry to say it, but this one goes in my "I'll believe it when I see it" folder.

Pope and Patriarch may agree on common Easter

30 June 2007 - Issue : 736

Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict XVI responded positively on the issue raised in the European Parliament of finding common dates for celebrating Easter, a question raised by Greek MEP Manolis Mavrommatis.


In a letter addressed to Patriarch Bartholomew, and with the opportunity of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Patriarch, this issue was discussed among the two leaders of Christianity. Patriarch Bartholomew sent a letter to Mavrommatis, which noted: “Pope Benedict XVI responded positively on the subject and when he returned to Vatican City, he personally looked into the issue. I received a letter for my information as proof (which I attach), signed by Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is the head of the Papist Council for Promoting Unity of Christians.”


Mavrommatis stated: “I believe that the convergence on such an important issue as the common celebration of Catholic and Orthodox Easter in the European Parliament and possible in the Christian world is a very important step for the two Churches. The effort of Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict XVI is essential, especially since the dialogue brought promising perspectives for Christianity. I hope that the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, will also make an effort for fulfilling the fair request of our people and this would be the beginning of a more extensive dialogue between the representatives of the 27 Member States of the European Union.”

The real point of contention is not Easter/Pascha itself; the real problem is the difference in calendars. The Catholic Church, and most of the world, uses the Gregorian Calendar. Officially, the Orthodox still use the Julian Calendar - the one that was in use at the time of the Council of Nicaea in 325.

The problem, of course, is that the Julian Calendar does not compute the year accurately, leading to a drift over the centuries. It is this drift that accounts for the differing dates for the celebration of Easter/Pascha. The imprecision of the Julian Calendar was demonstrated to Pope Gregory XIII, who commissioned its revision, which became known as the Gregorian Calendar that we (mostly) all use today.

The Orthodox have typically refused to switch to the Gregorian Calendar: a) because the Julian Calendar was chosen for use by an Ecumenical Council and thus has quasi-theological status; and b) because the Gregorian Calendar was initiated and endorsed by the Pope.

Some Orthodox Churches do officially utilize a "Revised Julian Calendar". However, it is not universally adopted among the Orthodox. In fact, some of the most virulent in-fighting within the Orthodox Church is not this or that doctrine but "new calendar" (RJC) versus "old calendar" (JC). (In other words, if you want a peaceful conversation in the Orthodox Church, don't go there!)

To read the entire article, click here.