Monthly Archives

February 2004

2004, Articles, Raiati

Where do we stand from the Rapprochement with the West? / 08.02.2004

A Follower of Church issues would think that we will reach unity soon, and suddenly his hopes vanish; once it feels like it’s a short period and then it feels like a long period. We are passing through a crazy storm because the official dialogues between us and Rome are cut on the level of the mutual committee. The conflict increased because of the increasing Catholic activity in Orthodox countries such as Russia and Ukraine. The problem between us was based on the presence of Eastern Catholics in Eastern Europe; the Orthodox considered that those do not have an ecclesiastic legitimacy until the mutual committee that was held at Balamand in 1993 admitted that those were a historical mistake and that they do not represent a model for unity.

However, they increased their activity in Eastern Europe except in Romania where they became weak. The crisis increased between the Russian Church and the Vatican for two reasons: The first is that Rome established four archdioceses in Russia and prepared around forty priests that are fluent in Russian to preach in Russia. Moscow considered that establishing these archdioceses shows Rome’s will to expand on the Russian lands and believed that when a Russian person believes, even if that was through a Latin preacher, he must join his Russian Church, the Church of his fathers and ancestors. This is why the Pope’s visit to Moscow right now is impossible.

However, the cease of the dialogue didn’t stop the dual relations between the Vatican and some Churches including the Russian Church. It is believed now that Rome is willing to continue the dialogue; however we don’t know whether the Orthodox world, as a whole, is ready to accept this idea.

In addition to these practical difficulties, there are theological ones. The texts that were issued from the Vatican, starting from the document called “the Lord Jesus document” and the most recent letter of the Pope on the Eucharist (communion), seem to be an obstacle in front of an agreement. The Document called “the Lord Jesus” states that Christ’s Church is present as a whole in the Catholic Church. This is the strongest statement that isolates the Orthodox Church from being the Church of Christ itself too. As for the Papal letter on the Eucharist, it says that the offering must be done by a bishop that is united with the Pope. This suggests that the Orthodox Liturgy has a defect in it as it is done by a bishop that isn’t united with the pope. In addition to this, the meeting that was held by the “Papal council for Christian unity” on the “Service of St. Peter” was disappointing because the Roman documents in it didn’t contain anything that shows a change in the Catholic position that is related to the status of the bishop of Rome.

All of these issues show that the Church of Rome is in an intellectual status that isn’t moving towards us.

On the other side, there are some clashes between some of our spiritual leaders. The Russians and the Greeks disagreed on who must lead the Church of Estonia and then found a way for agreement. Also the Ecumenical Patriarchate is in conflict with the Church of Greece over who must reign over the Church of Thessaloniki. Moreover, the Ecumenical Patriarch insists on the fact the he must watch over the diaspora and in this issue he disagrees with most Orthodox Churches. The Orthodox world doesn’t form today a monolith to confront the Western Church with one tongue. Yes, if we agreed to meet Rome in new discussions we would be united doctrinally while facing Rome. However, I sense that not all Orthodox Churches will meet this invitation.

The global Christian situation is in crisis and needs a big divine grace to be changed. However, I don’t think that right now Rome would soften its position and that the shaky trust between the East and West would be strengthened.

In the midst of this, it doesn’t seem that someone is working on the issue of Pascha because it is a secondary issue for the spiritual leaders in comparison to the doctrinal situation that is in crisis. Also, it doesn’t seem to me that important Orthodox nations such as the Russians, Greeks and Serbs are ready to go into this issue even if the spiritual leaders wanted to look into it.

While waiting for a solution, we must love each other and cooperate in practical issues each in his country in a way that we don’t clash but let hearts become closer to each other while hoping for God to “make mountains move”.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “أين نحن من التقارب مع الغربيين؟” –Raiati 6- 08.02.2004

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2004, Articles, Raiati

Pastoral Thoughts / 01.02.2004

“The week of prayer for unity” just ended. Studying the issue needs a theoretical approach that I might come back to. However, I would like today to look at the practical situation between the Catholic and the Orthodox. I hope that the reader would have lenience to be able to understand that I am aiming to build and not to criticize our brothers because we want sincere rapprochement. However, rapprochement has conditions so that the trust could become complete between us.

The first among these conditions is for each one of us to join his parish Church on Sundays. This comes from knowing that lots of our Churches are empty because some believers prefer Churches that are closer to their homes regardless of their doctrines. I know that we don’t cover all coastal areas in Beirut’s suburbs. However, distances are not far from your house to Sin El Fil, Antelias, Jal El Dib, Mtayleb or other regions. Perhaps this problem exists in mountainous villages. It is an issue of belonging and identity to commit to your Church and also an issue of participating in the Holy Sacraments. Our Church and the Catholic Church have the same position and confirm that each person must have communion in his Church. Whoever does the opposite would be behaving according to his own mind. If a priest gave communion to such a person, he might be doing this to show that his Church is open and we are not. I believe that it is the Catholic priest’s duty to tell the Orthodox believer that practices in the Catholic Church to go back to his original Church especially that we have signed with the Catholic Church the Balamand document in 1993 and said in it that the pastor must look after the flock that God gave to him and consequently he mustn’t look after another flock. Brotherhood starts by treating each other on earth.

In the same sense, if the priest visited his parish’s houses after Theophany to sprinkle Holy Water, he must only visit the sons of his parish: i.e. a Catholic priest must not knock on an Orthodox door and volunteer to sprinkle water saying that we have become united. Actually, we didn’t become united yet and none of us is delegated from God to give others Holy services. And if, for a certain reason, one of us had to contact a house from another Church, he must tell the priest of this family unless it was for friendship relationships or dining. A normal Orthodox Christian feels shy to reject another priest; this priest must not surpass the service of his parish. This is called “snatching” and we have agreed with Other Churches’ authorities that this violates the Lord’s will.

Also, our Orthodox and Catholic patriarchs agreed that the First Communion must be done in parishes and not in schools. We understood that this will be practiced honestly and with brotherly sincerity and that no one shall find a gap in the decision. Catholic schools are asked not to give parents any works, such as books, that talk about the issue of the First Communion and where it should be done. It is asked not to talk with any Orthodox student, directly or indirectly, about this issue and not to give them education that prepares them for the first communion. The child had this communion in his Baptism.

Is it impossible for Catholic Churches to adopt the common Christian education program that we agreed on for public schools, in which all children study one text and are not separated? Children receive one Christian education that is not controversial supposing that all teachers have the spirit of rapprochement and lenience in order not to prefer a Church over another and give it more importance than the other. The defenses that we used in the past to show that we are right and the other is wrong must disappear; this makes the Christian education session a time for provocation and differentiation.

There is also the issue of prayers in educational institutions. What does it mean to oblige everyone to attend a liturgy in which some people have communion and others are forbidden? Is it necessary to have a liturgy on week days or is it enough to say prayers that are accepted by all Churches in which we stand together without disturbance or reservation? The issue of common prayers could be solved with a brotherly spirit. Schools administrations must understand that their love for their students means respecting their doctrines in all school life daily details. They must return the students to their parents staying on their doctrine and full of the Gospel and of Christian ethics. The Bible and its ethics are enough material to feed all students; the bible doesn’t teach us to violate.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “خواطر رعائيّة” –Raiati 5- 01.02.2004

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