The 30 Statements of the Joint Declaration Between Pope Francis and Russian Patriarch Kirill

By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

Listers, on February 12, 2016 His Holiness Pope Francis met with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havana, Cuba. The two leaders signed a joint declaration on several issues, which included overcoming historic antagonisms between the two Churches, the plight of Christians in the Middle East, the decline of the West, and a focus on the family and marriage. The following is the official English translation of the Joint Declaration.1

 


 

 

Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia

 

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).

1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.

It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.

2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents.

It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way. The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, are the pledge of a great future for this region.

3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate. Among them are innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.

5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).

6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!

7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.

8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.

9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.

10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring lands.

We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.

11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Saviour of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, “the fruit of justice” (Is 32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocent to rest in peace.

We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:12–13).

13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, “since God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).

14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes. Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith. Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions. Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy. Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side. Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.

15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom. It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.

16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.

17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.

18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27–29).

19. The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.

20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.

21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).

The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.

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

22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt 25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.

23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:14, 16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt 13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that “you have been purchased at a great price” (1 Cor 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man–God Jesus Christ.

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

We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another’s foundation” (Rm 15:20).

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

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

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

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

29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the Man–God Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32)!

Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10).

30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible Trinity!

Francis
Bishop of Rome
Pope of the Catholic Church

Kirill
Patriarch of Moscow
and all Russia

  1. Patriarch Kirill characterized the private meeting as an open discussion “with full awareness of the responsibility of our Churches, for the future of Christianity, and for the future of human civilization.” He said the conversation “gave us the opportunity to understand and hear the positions of the other.” “The results of this allow me to assure you that the two Churches will continue to work closely together with Christians in all the world, and with full responsibility to work together against war, so that human life can develop in the entire world.” Their conversation also aimed to strengthen “the bases of personal and family morality” through “the participation of the Church in the life of modern human society, that glorifies the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Pope told Patriarch Kirill before their private meeting “we’re brothers. It’s clear that this is the will of God.” Catholic News Agency. []

8 Odes in Honor of the Dormition of the Mother of God

At your Assumption, O Mother of God, the hosts of Angels in fear and joy covered your body with hallowed wings, that had been spacious enough to receive God.

Listers, while the West celebrates the Feast of Our Lady, the Assumption, our brethren in the East celebrate with us under a different name. Known in the Byzantine theological and liturgical tradition as the Dormition (in Greek, the kimesis, or “falling asleep”), this feast commemorates the death of the Mother of God, as well as her subsequent Assumption into heaven after three days. The feast itself, which originated in the East, likewise entered into the Latin West as the Dormitio B. Mariae Virginis, where after several centuries it assumed its own unique character as a celebration of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

The feast of the Dormition, being one of the more solemn Marian feasts in the Byzantine liturgical calendar on account of its antiquity, is preceded by a period of fasting and spiritual preparation known as the “Dormition Fast.” Of the four annual fasts in the Byzantine tradition, it is the strictest, except of course the Great Fast during Lent. Lasting for fourteen days, it begins with the feast of the Procession of the Cross on the 1st of August, and ends at sundown on the 14th, when the feast of the Dormition officially commences.

The Synaxarion, the martyrology of the Byzantine churches, relates that the dormition and the assumption of Our Lady were announced by an Angel to the Blessed Mother. According to tradition in the East, this final stage of Our Lady’s earthly life took place in Jerusalem, witnessed by all but one of the Apostles, who had been gathered together by Divine power. At the moment decreed beforehand by God, the all-holy Virgin, surrounded by her children committed her spirit into the hands of her Divine Son. A funeral procession followed to Gethsemane, where a tomb had been prepared for her, and with hymns and chants she was solemnly interred in her place of repose.

The Apostle Thomas, however, was making his way from India at the time of her burial. Being greatly saddened at his late arrival, he began to be distressed. The rest of the Apostles decided to open the tomb of the Virgin, in order that he might be able to honor her all-blameless body. But upon opening the tomb, they discovered that she had been taken into heaven, leaving the burial shroud remaining. Throughout the whole tomb, a garden of beautiful and fragrant flowers had bloomed, as a celebration of the miracle of Our Lady’s Assumption. To this day, the tomb of the Virgin remains in the garden of Gethsemane, enclosed in the shrine dedicated to her Dormition.

In honor of this solemn feast, this list will include eight odes in honor of Our Lady’s Dormition, from the Canon sung during Matins and composed by St. John Damascene:

 

First Ode

I will open my mouth, and it will be filled with the Spirit; and I will utter a word for the Queen and Mother: I will be seen keeping glad festival,and rejoicing, I will hymn her falling asleep.

The divine tabernacles of heaven fittingly received you as a living heaven, O Virgin all-pure; and as a blameless bride, you stand radiantly adorned before your King and God. [1]

 

Third Ode

O marvelous wonder, to see the living heaven of the King universal going down below the hollows of the earth. How wondrous are Your works: glory to Your power, O Lord!

At your Assumption, O Mother of God, the hosts of Angels in fear and joy covered your body with hallowed wings, that had been spacious enough to receive God. 

 

Fourth Ode

If her Fruit, who is incomprehensible–because of Whom, she was called ‘Heaven, willingly underwent burial as a mortal–how will she refuse burial, who bore him without wedlock? 

 

Fifth Ode

The universe was amazed at your glory divine: for you, O Virgin who knew not wedlock, have passed over from earth to mansions eternal and to life without end, as you give salvation as the prize to all who sing your praise.

Let the trumpets of the theologians ring out today, and let the mortal tongue now sound praises with many voices. Let the air re-echo, shining with infinite light. Let angels honor with hymns the Dormition of the Virgin.

 

Sixth Ode

As we celebrate this divine and honored feast of the Mother of God, come O godly-minded people, let us clap our hands as we glorify God Who was born of her.

 

Seventh Ode

The most sacred Assumption of Your hallowed and undefiled Mother has gathered the celestial ranks of the Powers on high to rejoice together with those on earth who sing to You: ‘O God, blessed are You!’

 

Eighth Ode

He, when taking flesh made his dwelling marvelously in your immaculate womb, Himself received your all-holy spirit and, as a dutiful Son, gave it rest with Himself. And so, we praise you, O Virgin, and exalt you above all to all the ages.

 

Ninth Ode

The angelic Powers were amazed as they looked down on Zion, upon their own Master bearing in His hands the soul of a woman; for as befitted a Son, he was saying to the one who gave him birth without stain:

‘Come, O honored Lady: be glorified with your Son and God.’

The choir of the Apostles shrouded your body, which had received God, as they looked with awe and addressed you with clear voice: ‘As you depart into the heavenly bridal chambers to your Son, may you ever save your inheritance.’

 

[1] All quotes are taken from Ephrem Lash’s copyrighted translation of the Menaion (with slight modifications), unless otherwise noted. Also, the numbering of the odes – with the missing “second ode” – is intentionally and in accordance with the liturgical tradition.

6 Things You Should Know about the Melkite Catholic Church

As you know, the universal Catholic Church is comprised of 23 sui iuris (self-governing) ritual Churches united by their communion with each other and with the See of Rome

Listers: as you know, the universal Catholic Church is comprised of 23 sui iuris (self-governing) ritual Churches united by their communion with each other and with the See of Rome. Though the Roman Church is the largest, the 22 Eastern Churches play a significant and necessary role in the universality of Catholicism. One of these Churches, the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church, is the ritual Church to which the author of this post belongs. Today, we will examine six historical and theological distinctives of the Melkite Church.

 1. Petrine and Patriarchal

The Melkite Church is historically associated with the See of Antioch. This See, established by the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 together with the Sees of Rome and Alexandria, traces its history and episcopal succession to St. Peter. Prior to journeying to Rome and establishing the bishopric there, we know that St. Peter travelled to Antioch and ordained a bishop for that city. St. Paul tells us of this trip in his epistle to the Galatians, and the mediaeval Liber Pontificalis claims that St. Peter served seven years as Antioch’s primate. Antioch was thus the first Petrine See, and to this day the Patriarchs of Antioch trace their apostolicity to the Prince of the Apostles. Antioch was also part of the original Patriarchal Pentarchy (together with Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Alexandria). Today, the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch is also titular Patriarch of Alexandria and Jerusalem.

2. First Called Christians

“So that at Antioch the disciples were first named Christians.” Thus writes the author of the Acts of the Apostles, 11:26. The Antiochean Church, already having been established by St. Peter, saw the origin of the term Christian applied to the followers of Christ. It was also here that the third Bishop of Antioch, St. Ignatios, provides us with the first written record of the term catholic used to describe the Church: “wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8).

3. The King’s Men

The origin of the word “Melkite” speaks to the steadfastness of this ancient see in maintaining the Orthodox faith. In the aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451), the Byzantine Emperor and many of his subjects readily accepted the decrees of the Council concerning the nature of Christ. The generally-provincial Eastern Christians who opposed these decrees pejoratively referred to those city-dwelling Christians loyal to the Emperor as “King’s men,” malko in Syriac. It was from this term that the Chalcedonian Christians of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem became known as “Melkites”. When the Church of Antioch restored full communion with Rome in 1729, it retained the name “Melkite,” whereas those Antiochean Orthodox Christians who did not embrace the communion dropped the term.

4. Quddûsun Allâh!

The Melkite Church, derived as it is from the original Greek-speaking inhabitants of Antioch, spent many hundreds of years under the yoke of Islam. Unlike the Constantinopolitan Church, the Church of Antioch never really adapted much imperial ritual into its early liturgy – preferring instead to retain more Rabbinic and Syrian traditions. As Islam began to subjugate the area, Mohammad and his followers adopted many of the liturgical traditions of the Melkites, as is most notably seen in the Islamic prostrations, which are identical to those of Byzantine Christian practice. In like manner, several Islamic customs influenced the development of the Antiochean Church. Among these is the adoption of the ritual use of Arabic in the Divine Liturgy. From about the middle of the seventh century, Arabic language and culture fused with that of the Greek Melkites, further establishing the uniqueness of this Church within Byzantine Christianity. To this day, the official ritual languages of the Church are Greek and Arabic, so it is not uncommon to hear the liturgical use of the word Allah in the Divine Liturgy of the Melkites.

5. Sisters in Faith

The Melkite Church, a sui iuris patriarchal Church, is not merely a subset of the Roman Church. Indeed, it is a Church with its own history, theology, spirituality, and liturgy. The Melkite Church, being of Eastern origin, thus zealously guards her Byzantine approach to the Faith, seeing herself as a sister of the Roman Church. In times past, this defense of her heritage put some strain on the Church’s relationship with Rome. For example, at the First Vatican Council, Melkite Patriarch Gregory II Youssef refused to sign the decree of Pastor Aeternus concerning the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. When questioned by Rome on the matter, the Patriarch determined that he would only sign the decree with this caveat added: “except the rights and privileges of Eastern patriarchs,” as he knew he must protect the prerogatives of the Eastern hierarchy. Though this action won him the enmity of Pope Pius IX, the Patriarch was vindicated by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Orientalium Dignitas, as well as in his expansion of the Melkite patriarchate’s jurisdiction in the Middle East. In the century that followed, relations with Rome improved considerably. Those Melkite parishes that previously had been forcefully Latinized saw the beginning of a return to their authentic traditions, and the Church expanded into North and South America. At the Second Vatican Council, Melkite Patriarch Maximos IV spoke on behalf of the “absent members” of the Council: the Orthodox Churches. He did this with the complete approbation of Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. Maximos argued against the Latinization of the Eastern Churches, and in favour of the use of vernacular languages in all the liturgies of the Catholic Church. For his outstanding work at the Council, he was awarded with the Cardinalate. Following the Council, the Roman Church returned to the more ancient ecclesiological perspective of viewing its relationship with the Eastern Churches as one of sisters, rather than of mother and daughters.

6. Voice for Orthodoxy

As one of the oldest Sees in Christendom, the Antiochean Church has inherited a long and rich theological tradition distinct from (though complementary to) that of the Latin Churches.  Because of the unfortunate events of the eleventh century, the Melkites were for a period out of communion with Rome, and as such continued to develop their ecclesial life within the Greek/Arabic tradition. When this communion was restored in the 18th century, the Melkites took great pains to ensure that their particular Byzantine theological and spiritual structures remained relatively free of Latin influences. Thanks to the efforts of the Patriarchs and Popes Benedict XIV, Leo XIII, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, the Melkite Church has come to be an outspoken voice of Eastern Orthodoxy in the midst of the Catholic communion. In 1995, through the tireless work of Archbishop Elias Zoghby, a two-point profession of faith was presented to the Melkite Synod of Bishops. Known as the “Zoghby Initiative,” it states the following:

I believe in everything which Eastern Orthodoxy teaches.

I am in communion with the Bishop of Rome, in the limits recognized as the first among the bishops by the holy fathers of the East during the first millennium, before the separation.

The initiative was put up for vote, and all but two bishops supported its application and provided their signatures. Furthermore, the initiative was embraced by Melkite Patriarch Maximos V and Orthodox Antiochean Patriarch Ignatius IV. While there is still much to be done in re-establishing full intercommunion with the Antiochean Orthodox Church, the acceptance of this initiative demonstrates the degree to which the Melkite Church intends to remain true to her Orthodox heritage. This is a gift of untold treasure for the larger Catholic Church, and one which Rome has in recent times taken great care to ensure is protected and made to flourish. The Melkite patriarchs, striving to be truly “Orthodox in communion with Rome,” hope to one day re-establish sacramental participation with the Antiochean Orthodox Church, thus creating a bridge to help restore full union between East and West. Ut unim sint.

Pray for the peace of Syria.

 

For more information:

Light for Life, Volumes 1-3, God With Us Publications.

Tous Schismatiques? Archbishop Elias Zoghby, Sophia Press.

American Eastern Catholics, Fred J. Saato, Paulist Press.

Melkite Eparchy of Newton

St. Ignatios of Antioch Melkite Church

4 of the Most Controversial Lists on St. Peter’s List

Listers, brass is mistaken for gold more easily than clay.1 It is easy to say the heathens and Hitlers of the world need Christ and His Church, but what of the Protestants? Are they saved because they worship Christ or is their Christ more a personalized term than a person? Are we prepared to critique what is brass in the world, even if the Protestants, Orthodox or secular humanitarians share or emulate our virtues? There is One God, One Christ, One Groom and One Bride. There is One Kingdom with One King, One Vicar and One Queen.

All humans are in need of Jesus Christ and the Messiah commissioned St. Peter and the Apostles to care for his sheep and guard his Church. We cannot let our modernist upbringings dull the trenchant truth of Christ nor can we let some misplaced zeal blur the evangelistic nuances necessary to reach a protestant, an Orthodox or an atheist.

Know the faith listers. It is in Holy Mother Church that we find the unadulterated love and person of Jesus Christ.

Click the titles to go to the list.

St Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr, pray for us.

1. Those Who Start Their Own Church Follow the Voice of Satan: 11 Teachings from St. Cyprian AD 250

The unsettling words of St. Cyprian share their effect on Protestants and Catholics alike – primarily because we are all modernists accustomed to pluralism and inclusive speech. The Early Church writer clearly states there is One Savior and One Bride, His Church and that the One Church of Christ can only be the Church entrusted to the Apostles and to their disciples, the Bishops of the Church. Those who start their own “churches”  – breaking apostolic succession – sit in the “seat of pestilence, plagues, and spots of the faith, deceiving with serpent’s tongue, and artful in corrupting the truth, vomiting forth deadly poisons from pestilential tongues.” Complimenting the words of the saint are the similar words of our fourth Pope in the list The Apostles Appointed Bishops: 9 Teachings from St. Clement AD 97.

Listers, our Lord Jesus Christ is not returning to our world for a harem of “churches.”There is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and it was founded by Christ and charged by him to St. Peter and the Apostles. However, there are now and always have been those groups that attempt to rend Christ from his Church – to recreate that which God gave us, the Church. In AD 250, St. Cyprian wrote an outstanding work entitled On the Unity of the Church. The epistle focuses especially on the topic of schism and those who would set themselves up as Church leaders and/or start their own “churches.” Without question, these groups are proto-protestant groups and the saint’s arguments apply just as much to our modern schismatic and heretical groups as they did to his ancient schismatic groups.2

“He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”

“And this unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the Church, that we may also prove the episcopate itself to be one and undivided. Let no one deceive the brotherhood by a falsehood: let no one corrupt the truth of the faith by perfidious prevarication. The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole.”

“What sacrifices do those who are rivals of the priests think that they celebrate? Do they deem that they have Christ with them when they are collected together, who are gathered together outside the Church of Christ?” – St. Cyprian, AD 250

2. All Human Creatures Are Subject to the Pope: 8 Papal Quotes On Salvation

God promised King David that a descendant of his would sit upon his throne forever. In the wake of this promise, the Old Testament prophets foretold of a “New Davidic Kingdom” and the Messiah – the Son of David – who would save God’s people. Undoubtedly, Christ is the Messiah – the Son of David – and his Kingdom is a Davidic Kingdom. In David’s Kingdom there was a Vicar who had the key of the kingdom and ruled in David’s stead whilst he was way. The Son of David is no different in his Kingdom – he gave St. Peter the keys of the Kingdom and St. Peter – the First Pope or Vicar of Christ – and his successors hold the Kingdom to the teachings of the King. The list All Human Creatures Are Subject to the Pope is built upon this biblical truth. Those looking for the scriptural evidence of the papacy may enjoy 10 Biblical Reasons Christ Founded the Papacy and the forerunner to that list: 13 Biblical Reasons St. Peter was “Prince of the Apostles.”

Listers, the following is a short compilation of quotes taken from previous Ecumenical Pontiffs of Rome: “Outside the Church there is no hope for salvation.” These quotes show us the confidence that our previous Bishops of Rome have had in their authority given by God Himself to be the Vicar of Christ here on Earth. As St. Augustine said, “Rome has spoken, the case is closed.” Cheers!

Those wishing to balance these quotes with a catechetical understanding of salvation outside the Church may turn to How Were Men Saved Before Christ and 10 Other Questions and Can Non-Catholics Be Saved and 21 Other Questions.

“The holy universal Church teaches that it is not possible to worship God truly except in Her and asserts that all who are outside of Her will not be saved.”

Pope Saint Gregory the Great (590-604)

“We declare, say , define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”
Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam (1302 AD)

3. 6 Things to Know About the “Miracle of the Holy Fire”

The “Miracle of the Holy Fire” is a longstanding event in the Orthodox Church that is often times used as proof the power of the Resurrection of Christ lies in his “true church,” the Orthodox. Of course, Catholics rebuttal that the fire is nothing more than a fraud. As one can imagine this devolves quite quickly into Catholic vs Orthodox polemics.

Listers, the following is a brief examination of the controversial “Miracle of the Holy Fire.” The Greek Orthodox Patriarch enters the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday – according to the Orthodox calendar. He proceeds into the Tomb of Christ and begins to pray. A fire is then miraculously enkindled by the Holy Spirit – supposedly the power of the resurrection – and is shared rapidly throughout the Church and all those who are waiting outside. To be clear, it is said that Pope Gregory the IX declared “Holy Fire” a fraud in AD 1238, but a primary source is needed to confirm this papal statement. Today, the miracle is not recognized by the Catholic Church, but is considered a pious tradition of certain Orthodox Churches.

Setting everything about the “holy fire” event aside, St. Peter’s List would like to remind listers that Pope Benedict XVI is building a legacy of being the “Pope of Christian Unity.” As Holy Mother Church staves off militant secularism on one side and militant Islam on the other, we should be praying for unity amongst those who call themselves followers of Christ. This is in no way a fanciful call to “just get along,” as any Orthodox/Catholic discussion on the role of the papacy, the crusades, St. Augustine and the filioque will leave blood on the floor. Regardless, pray and strive for unity.

4. 4 Sources to Understand and Even Defend the Catholic Inquisitions

Turning primarily to a video by Michael Voris and an academic article by Thomas F. Madden, St. Peter’s List wants to place the three historical inquisitions of the Church in historical context. It should be well noted that the list does not exonerate those who operated under the guise of the Catholic Church from all wrongdoing and crimes; however, what the list does do is defend what our culture has erroneously deemed indefensible by using historical facts and comparisons to whittle down the propaganda and engage in an actual conversation about the inquisitions.

Listers, most believe that the “Spanish Inquisition” was a dark and embarrassing era within the Catholic Church. The rhetoric is well known: thousands were imprisoned, non-Catholics were tortured, and a “convert-or-die” travesty swept over much of Europe. However, what if the Church’s three primary inquisitions – the Medieval, the Spanish, and the Roman – were created to harbor people from injustice, to grant the accused individuals more rights and legal representation than in secular courts, or to secure the concept of “due process,” which became a precursor to English law and eventually the American Constitution? Moreover, what if history shows that the common misperception of the Church’s Inquisitions are based on vulgar protestant propaganda wars? All these questions and more are addressed and answered in a well-documented fashion by the following sources.

Although the Spanish defeated Protestants on the battlefield, they would lose the propaganda war. These were the years when the famous “Black Legend” of Spain was forged. Innumerable books and pamphlets poured from northern presses accusing the Spanish Empire of inhuman depravity and horrible atrocities in the New World. Opulent Spain was cast as a place of darkness, ignorance, and evil. Although modern scholars have long ago discarded the Black Legend, it still remains very much alive today. Quick: Think of a good conquistador.

Like all courts in Europe, the Spanish Inquisition used torture. But it did so much less often than other courts. Modern researchers have discovered that the Spanish Inquisition applied torture in only 2 percent of its cases. Each instance of torture was limited to a maximum of 15 minutes. In only 1 percent of the cases was torture applied twice and never for a third time.

  1. Irony: The “brass is mistaken for gold more easily than clay” originates – as far as I know – with CS Lewis, whom converted to Anglicanism and not Catholicism, though it was Tolkien that led him to Christ. []
  2. Novatian: Another impetus of the epistle was the first “anti-pope” who attempted to claim he was holier than the rest of the Church and claimed moral superiority, especially in not wanting to ever extend forgiveness to sins post-baptism. []

6 Things to Know About the “Miracle of the Holy Fire”

The “Miracle of Holy Fire” is a pious tradition among certain Orthodox Churches, but remains unrecognized by the Catholic Church.

Listers, the following is a brief examination of the controversial “Miracle of the Holy Fire.” The Greek Orthodox Patriarch enters the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday – according to the Orthodox calendar. He proceeds into the Tomb of Christ and begins to pray. A fire is then miraculously enkindled by the Holy Spirit – supposedly the power of the resurrection – and is shared rapidly throughout the Church and all those who are waiting outside. To be clear, it is said that Pope Gregory the IX declared “Holy Fire” a fraud in AD 1238, but a primary source is needed to confirm this papal statement. Today, the miracle is not recognized by the Catholic Church, but is considered a pious tradition of certain Orthodox Churches.

The following material is quoted from various sources. See the footnote at the end of the paragraph for the source. For an excellent collection of photos: MSNBC/Reuters – Holy Fire

1. General Description of the Miracle

On the appointed day at noon, the Greek Orthodox patriarch, followed by the Armenian archbishop, march in grand and solemn procession with their own clergies, while singing hymns. They march three times round the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Once the procession has ended, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem or another Orthodox Archbishop recites a specific prayer, removes his robes and enters alone into the sepulchre. Before entering the Tomb of Christ, the patriarch is examined by Jewish Israeli authorities to prove that he does not carry technical means to light the fire. This investigation used to be carried out by Muslim Turkish Ottoman soldiers.

The Armenian archbishops remain in the antechamber, where the angel was sitting when he appeared to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection of Jesus. The congregation subsequently chants Kyrie eleison (“Lord, have mercy” in Greek) until the Holy Fire spontaneously descends on 33 white candles tied together by the Patriarch while he is alone inside the tomb chamber of Jesus. The patriarch then reveals himself from the tomb chamber and recites some prayers, before he lights either 33 or 12 candles and distributes them to the congregation. The fire is considered by believers to be the flame of the Resurrection power, as well as the fire of the Burning Bush of Mount Sinai.1

2. In the Patriarch’s Own Words

“I find my way through the darkness towards the inner chamber in which I fall on my knees. Here I say certain prayers that have been handed down to us through the centuries and, having said them, I wait. Sometimes I may wait a few minutes, but normally the miracle happens immediately after I have said the prayers. From the core of the very stone on which Jesus lay an indefinable light pours forth. It usually has a blue tint, but the color may change and take many different hues. It cannot be described in human terms. The light rises out of the stone as mist may rise out of a lake it almost looks as if the stone is covered by a moist cloud, but it is light. This light each year behaves differently. Sometimes it covers just the stone, while other times it gives light to the whole sepulchre, so that people who stand outside the tomb and look into it will see it filled with light. The light does not burn I have never had my beard burnt in all the sixteen years I have been Patriarch in Jerusalem and have received the Holy Fire. The light is of a different consistency than normal fire that burns in an oil lamp.

“At a certain point the light rises and forms a column in which the fire is of a different nature, so that I am able to light my candles from it. When I thus have received the flame on my candles, I go out and give the fire first to the Armenian Patriarch and then to the Coptic. Hereafter I give the flame to all people present in the Church.”2

3. Video: Inside the “Church of the Resurrection”

4. Video: Outside the “Church of the Resurrection”

5. A Brief History of the Holy Fire

The first written account of the Holy Fire (Holy Light) dates from the fourth century, but authors write about events that occurred in the first century. So Ss. John Damascene and Gregory of Nissa narrate how the Apostle Peter saw the Holy Light in the Holy Sepulchre after Christ’s resurrection. “One can trace the miracle throughout the centuries in the many itineraries of the Holy Land.” The Russian abbot Daniel, in his itinerary written in the years 1106-07, presents the “Miracle of the Holy Light” and the ceremonies that frame it in a very detailed manner. He recalls how the Patriarch goes into the Sepulchre-chapel (the Anastasis) with two candles. The Patriarch kneels in front of the stone on which Christ was laid after his death and says certain prayers, at which point the miracle occurs. Light proceeds from the core of the stone – a blue, indefinable light which after some time kindles unlit oil lamps as well as the Patriarch’s two candles. This light is “The Holy Fire”, and it spreads to all people present in the Church. The ceremony surrounding “The Miracle of the Holy Fire” may be the oldest unbroken Christian ceremony in the world. From the fourth century A.D. all the way up to our own time, sources recall this awe-inspiring event. From these sources it becomes clear that the miracle has been celebrated on the same spot, on the same feast day, and in the same liturgical frame throughout all these centuries.3

Nir Elias / Reuters

6. Criticism of the Holy Fire

Criticism dates at least to the days of Islamic rule of Jerusalem, but the pilgrims were never stopped, because of the significant revenue they brought to local governments even at the end of the first millennium. When the apparently uninitiated Crusaders took over the Orthodox clergy in charge of the fire, it failed to appear, increasing the scepticism among Western Christians. But feeling the lack of pilgrim revenues, Baldwin I of Jerusalem reinstated the Orthodox priests in charge, and the fire, as well as the stream of revenues, returned.

In 1238, Pope Gregory IX denounced the Holy Fire as a fraud.

In 2005 in a live demonstration on Greek television, Michael Kalopoulos, author and historian of religion, dipped three candles in white phosphorus. The candles spontaneously ignited after approximately 20 minutes due to the self-ignition properties of white phosphorus when in contact with air. According to Kalopoulos’ website:

If phosphorus is dissolved in an appropriate organic solvent, self-ignition is delayed until the solvent has almost completely evaporated. Repeated experiments showed that the ignition can be delayed for half an hour or more, depending on the density of the solution and the solvent employed.

Kalopoulos also points out that knowledge of chemical reactions of this nature was well known in ancient times, quoting Strabo, who states “In Babylon there are two kinds of naphtha springs, a white and a black. The white naphtha is the one that ignites with fire.” (Strabon Geographica 16.1.15.1-24) He further states that phosphorus was used by Chaldean magicians in the early fifth century BC, and by the ancient Greeks, in a way similar to its supposed use today by the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.4

  1. Wiki: Holy Fire []
  2. Miracle of the Holy Fire – Interview []
  3. Miracle of the Holy Fire: Orthodox Site []
  4. Wiki: Holy Fire []

5 Questions About the Eastern Catholic Churches

There are 20 different Eastern Catholic Churches with 16 million members.

Listers, let us consider the simple but much needed work of Deacon Ed Faulk: 101 Questions and Answers on Eastern Catholic Churches. Deacon Faulk has dual faculties: Roman Catholic and Melkite-Greek Catholic, and has produced a wondrous primer to understanding our Eastern brothers and sisters.

The following is a very basic introduction to the topic.

1. What is the difference between the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Church?

Many are aware that in AD 1054 the Church suffered a “Great Schism,” and the churches in the East became known as the “Orthodox Churches” and the Church in the West retained the name “Catholic.” Over the years, certain orthodox churches – for various reasons – began to “petition Rome for union.” The Deacon explains “the first of these was the Chaldean Church and, later, the Union of Brest (1595), which led to a long period of “Uniatism.” In time, every single tradition within the orthodox church came to have a counterpart that had returned to Rome. These returned Orthodox churches are known as “Eastern Catholics Churches.”

Two “Eastern Catholic Churches” do not have an orthodox equivalent: the Maronites and the Italo-Albanians.

2. So we are not all Roman Catholics?

The deacon explains: “Yes, that’s true, the term Roman Catholic was first coined by the Church of England (Anglican Church) as a way of distinguishing between themselves (Anglican Catholics) and the Catholics who followed the pope in Rome (Roman Catholics).”

All Catholics are in communion with Rome and the Pope. However, Roman Catholics are those who pull from a Western tradition – Latin Rite – while Eastern Catholics have various eastern traditions.

3. How many Eastern Catholic Churches are there?

There are 20 different Eastern Catholic Churches, and they total about 16 million members.

4. What is the relationship between the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Churches?

As stated, two of the Catholic Churches do not have Orthodox counterparts. The reason is that neither the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church nor the Maronite Catholic Church ever broke communion with Rome.

All the other Eastern Catholic Churches follow a similar pattern: they broke communion with Rome at the Great Schism, then at some point broke away from their Orthodox Churches, and returned to full communion with Rome.

In general, Catholics generally see the Eastern Catholics as a bridge between Rome and the Orthodox East; however, the Orthodox have a very negative view of these “break away” churches – “they are no longer ‘graced,’ meaning they have separated themselves from the source of grace, the Orthodox Church.”

The Melkite Catholics actually proposed at one point to have communion with both Rome and Moscow, but that was rejected by both Rome and Moscow. They do however see themselves as a bridge between the two, and they are often the “voice of the Orthodox in Rome.”1

5. Can Eastern Catholic priests be married?

Yes. The answer is a bit more complicated, as different traditions have different standards, but overall the answer is yes. “Once a man has been ordained to the diaconate,” says the Deacon, “he may not marry. However, a married man may be ordained to the priesthood.”

The Eastern Churches pull this tradition from Scripture, where it is clearly stated that St. Peter had a mother-in-law. Moreover, St. Paul specifies that “a man who is being considered for ecclesial office (bishop, priest, deacon) should not have been married more than once. Eventually, the office of bishop was reserved to monastics, which, by definition, meant men who were not married.”

The Latin Church – Roman – “enacted several different laws that, from the latter fourth century, created a celibate priesthood.”

“The basic teaching of the church is that marriage is not an impediment (block) to orders, but rather, that orders is an impediment to marriage.”

The topic of Eastern Catholic Church is a very complicated one with a history of triumph and tragedy. I can assure the Listers that we will be returning to this excellent primer to explore many of the more complex issues.

In the mean time, pray for Christian Unity and learn more about our Eastern brothers and sisters.

  1. Rome & the Eastern Catholic Churches: Though a different question, I do not want to present the Orthodox as the only side that has had problems with the Eastern Catholics. The Eastern Catholics have suffered a “Latinization” over the centuries, which at times was forced. Though their traditions were valid, they were forced into abandoning them for Roman/Latin practices. Moreover, America was one of the worst agents in this tragedy, and the Eastern Catholic Churches in America have a tragic history due to several unfortunate choices by Roman bishops.

    I am happy however to note that Vatican II exhorted the Eastern Catholic Churches to reclaim their own traditions. The call of the council has led to a renewal in many Eastern Catholic Churches – including those in the United States. []