Every second Saturday of the month, 4 pm - Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ. Followed by refreshments.
Next Liturgy: Saturday 10th December, 4pm.
To purchase The Divine Liturgy: an Anthology for Worship (in English), order from the Sheptytsky Institute here, or the St Basil's Bookstore here.
To purchase the Divine Praises, the Divine Office of the Byzantine-Slav rite (in English), order from the Eparchy of Parma here.
The new catechism in English, Christ our Pascha, is available from the Eparchy of the Holy Family and the Society. Please email email@example.com for details.
Wednesday, 12 October 2016
Father John's lifetime of service to ecumenism, especially his service to the unity of the Eastern and Western churches, have given him an almost unparalleled familiarity with the Eastern Churches, their leaders, life and tradition, for sixty years, not least in moments of historic significance and even danger. As an Anglican priest he served as the Archbishop of Canterbury's apokrisarios on a number of occasions and the solidarity he represented, together with the personal trust and closeness he was able to build, saw him decorated three times with the honour of the Jewelled Cross.
On becoming a priest of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church he was appointed Patriarchal Counsellor for Ecumenical Relations in Great Britain, an office he continues to fulfil, and it was at this point he assumed the leadership of the Society. The Society had somewhat faded into the background of ecumenical consciousness in Britain because of the perhaps more immediate hopes at the time of Anglican-Catholic unity in the West. Nowadays, with the Eastern Churches in global Christianity more prominent than ever before in the media, not least under the scourge of demonic persecution from Islamists, the closeness and mutual need of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches for unity with each other has given the Society a fresh purpose and mission, thanks to the renewed activity and foundations which Father John has laid.
In recognition of Father John's lifelong service to Christian unity, and particularly to the life and mission of the Eastern Catholic Churches, at the Divine Liturgy on 9th October at his cathedral of the Holy Family of London, Bishop Hlib Lonchyna bestowed on Father John the Cross with Adornments by decree of His Beatitude Sviatoslav, Father and Head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Major-Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych.
At the Annual General Meeting of the Society which followed in the Cathedral Hall, the members of the Society elected Father Mark Woodruff, priest of the (Latin) diocese of Westminster and serving in the Ukrainian Eparchy, as chairman of the Society.
We express warmest congratulations to our new chairman, Father Mark, and profound gratitude to Father John Salter, for his dedication. God grant that both continue to serve His Holy Church and to guide the work of our organisation for many years to come.
Во здравіє во спасеніє, сотвори їм, Господи, многая i благая літа!
In health and unto salvation, may God grant them many happy years!
Britain’s first Syro-Malabar bishop ordained in front of 12,000-strong crowd in Preston – CatholicHerald.co.uk (corrected)
In a ceremony attended by over 12,000 people, Cardinal George Alencherry, the Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, ordained Mar Joseph Srampickal.
The ordination took place at at Preston North End’s stadium, Deepdale. The eparchy – an area under a bishop, equivalent to a diocese in the Latin church – has been given a cathedral in Preston, the historic Church of St Ignatius, which is now the Cathedral of St Alphonsa.
The Syro-Malabar rite Catholic community, one of the Eastern Catholic churches, originates in India. It traces its origins back to St Thomas the Apostle. Nearly 40,000 Syro-Malabar rite Catholics live in England, Scotland and Wales, served by 23 priests.
Bishop Srampickal, whose title is now Bishop of the Eparchy of Preston of Great Britain of the Syro-Malabar Church, was born in India and was previously vice-rector of Propaganda Fide College in Rome
The Lancashire Evening Post reported that some attendees came from as far as Australia. Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster was one of the co-consecrators. The Catholic Church of England & Wales was represented by the bishops, clergy and parishioners of nearby Latin Catholic dioceses, principally the Archbishop of Liverpool. Also present was the bishop of Britain's other eparchy for Eastern Catholics - the eparchy of the Holy Family of London for the Ukrainian Greek Catholics - Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, and Msgr Keith Newton Prot Ap, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Thus it was fitting that the Image of Our Lady of Walsingham, to whom the British Syro-Malabar faithful have a great pilgrimage devotion, had been brought by Mgr John Armitage, rector of the Basilica at Walsingham. Prior to his ordination, Bishop Joseph venerated this Image, as well as that of St Thomas and St Alphonsa, and also the relics which included those of Blessed John Henry Newman.
At the end of the Holy Qurbana, celebrated by Bishop Joseph in the presence of the Catholicos-Archbishop following his ordination, the new eparch was enthroned, receiving greetings from the Apostolic Nuntiature, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, the Mayor of the City of Preston and HM Deputy Lieutenant.
The above is a corrected version of the following Catholic Herald report: Britain’s first Syro-Malabar bishop ordained in front of 12,000-strong crowd in Preston – CatholicHerald.co.uk
Thursday, 25 August 2016
Christianity has been part of the essential fabric of the Middle East for two thousand years. Far from being a Western import as some, incredibly, now seem to suggest, it was born here and exported as a gift to the rest of the world. Christian communities have been intrinsic to the development of Arab culture and civilisation.
This central role in our region and civilisation is why it is abhorrent to us, as a Muslim and a Jew, to see Christianity and Christians under such savage assault across our region.
We are appalled not only by the sickening attacks on our fellow human beings. We also know that to lose Christianity from its birthplace would be to destroy the richness of the tapestry of the Middle East and a hammer blow to our shared heritage. The reality is that we are all one community, united by shared beliefs and history. But this is increasingly denied, with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or Daesh as it is known in our region, taking the lead both in justifying and carrying out these attacks. The most recent issue of its publication Dabiq, headlined “Break the Cross”, explicitly rejects the fundamental belief that we are all People of the Book.
Friday, 12 August 2016
Friday, 29 July 2016
This is the second Eastern Catholic diocese or eparchy to be established in Britain covering the same territories as the Latin dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, and in England & Wales. The first was the Eparchy (previously an Exarchate) of the Holy Family of London, for the faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, led by Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, our patron. It was a year ago that Bishop Hlib welcomed Dr Joseph Palackal to serve a Holy Qurbana of the Syro-Malabar Church in English at his Cathedral in Duke Street, Mayfair, London, at the Society of St John Chrysostom's 2015 Festival of Eastern Catholic Churches. The text and manner of serving the Qurbana, incorporating elements in Aramaic and Persian deep within the St Thomas Christians' tradition, had been restored by Fr Joseph, who also wrote the musical setting of the liturgy. For the report and pictures see here.
The new see will be established in Preston, Lancashire. Fr Mark Woodruff, Vice-Chairman, writes, "When I was growing up nearby, Preston was the heart of a vibrant old Catholic recusant Lancashire. the church which is to be the Syro-Malabar eparchy's new cathedral, St Ignatius' Church - affectionately known as St Ig's - was a great Jesuit foundation closely linked with the history of martyrdom and perseverance in penal times, and a centre of great pride for an enduring English Catholicism, as well as the more recent arrivals from other lands, notably Ireland. With considerable demographic change in the population of Preston, especially with the settlement of Asian non-Christian communities, the local Catholic population in the city reduced considerably. Historic St Ignatius' became less viable and, after a review of the need for Church buildings, became surplus to requirements. A new Bishop of Lancaster, however, brought the magnificent closed St Walburga's, whose spire dominates the city centre from beside the railway, back into use for the celebration of the traditional Latin rite, and also assigned St Ignatius, having restored and saved the fabric of the building, to the use of the Syro-Malabar as a desperately needed personal parish, under the patronage of Saint Alphonsa. (Who was St Alponsa?) From possible loss as an historic building, it is now to be a Cathedral. It is wonderful to think that such an important beacon of Catholic faith through dark times will burn as brightly as the Church in Britain sets out on a new journey in its common life and witness, with the permanently established partnership alongside the Latin and other Eastern Catholic Churches of the tens of thousands of St Thomas Christians of the Syro-Malabar Church in Britain."
In Britain the many thousands of Syro-Malabar faithful are served by around 30 priests, but they largely rely on hospitality for the celebrating the Holy Qurbana (the Eucharist) in Latin Catholic churches. A number of the priests are bi-ritual in the Latin rite, enabling them to support their mission from working in the Roman Catholic churches and saying Mass for the parishes where they reside. St Ignatius' Church is one of few entirely dedicated to the Syro-Malabar Church.
The Syro-Malabar Church traces its origins to the mission of St Thomas and his disciples that spread east of the Holy Land, into Mesopotamia and Persia (the Chaldean Catholic Church, centred in Iraq, belongs to the same liturgical tradition and rite as the Syro-Malabar Church), and through land and sea routes into India and beyond. Its heartland is in south west India's Kerala. The vernacular language is Malayalam, but the restoration of the fullness of the rite and its music from the rich patrimony of Syriac Christianity accompanies a pastoral and spiritual renewal in the Church in the present day, as we witnessed at the Qurbana in our 2015 Festival of Eastern Churches. Already, as the Syro-Malabar Church settles as part of Christianity in Britain, English will also form a vernacular tongue for the rite and liturgy. Hence Dr Palackal's extensive scholarly work to restore the liturgy for use in English and the music with its ancient Aramaic and Persian phrases from the time of India's early evangelisation, and its deep family link with Syriac Christianity, now so gravely under threat in its own homelands, the cradle of Christianity itself.
We repeat our welcome to the new eparchy and its new bishop with great joy as a sign of high hope for the future of the whole Catholic Church in Britain, and encouragement in our witness and service together.
There follows the report from Vatican Radio:
The Holy Father on Thursday, has erected the Eparchy of Great Britain of the Syro-Malabar Church based in Preston and has appointed Dr. Fr. Joseph (Benny Mathew) Srampickal, a member of the clergy of the Eparchy of Palai, until now Vice-Rector of the Collegio De Propaganda Fide in Rome, as the first bishop of the Eparchy.
Msgr. Joseph (Benny Mathew) Srampickal was born on May 30, 1967 in Poovarany, in the Eparchy of Palai. He entered the minor seminary and he studied philosophy at St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Vadavathoor, and theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, where he obtained a licentiate in biblical theology. He continued his studies at Oxford (England). He knows: Malayalam, English, Italian and German.
Ordained a priest on August 12, 2000, he has held the following positions: Professor at the minor seminary and Ephrem Formation Centre of Pala; Director of the Mar Sleeva Nursing College, Cherpumkal; Director of the Evangelization Programme; Secretary of the Bishop; Pastor at Urulikunnam. From 2013, he is Vice Rector of the Pontifical Urbaniana College of the Propaganda Fide, Rome.
The last thirty years have seen a growing influx of immigrants from India to the British Isles. More than 38,000 Syro Malabar faithful reside in England, Scotland and Wales. They are present in twenty-seven dioceses, concentrated mainly in the big cities: London, Birmingham and Liverpool. Twenty-three Syro Malabar priests are engaged in pastoral care, coordinated by Dr. Thomas Parayadiyil, MST, from 2013. In addition to the liturgical celebrations, training programs were established in the faith according to the Syro Malabar tradition for both, adults as well as children, with significant benefits for the involvement of the laity.
The See of the circumscription is in Preston, in the Diocese of Lancaster, where the Cathedral dedicated to St. Alphonsa is located, along with the Registry and the Residence of the new Bishop Joseph (Benny Mathew) Srampickal.Report online at VR here:
Pope Erects Eparchy of Great Britain of Syro-Malabar with a new Bishop - Vatican Radio
Saturday, 16 April 2016
Saturday, 27 February 2016
We have posted these on our website as important, indeed urgent, first assessments of the historic Joint Declaration, what it represents and what it will result in.
These are, for ease of reference:
- "Parallel Worlds", the interview with His Beatitude Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv, Patriarch and Head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church
- "Epochal Meeting, Epochal Consequences", an article by Myroslav Marynovych, the founder of Ukrainian Amnesty International, former Brezhnev concentration camp prisoner, and currently Vice-Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv
- "Who played whom?" an article by Dr Adam DeVille, Chairman of the Department of Theology-Philosophy, University of St Francis, Fort Wayne, Indiana
- "Called to Unity", an article by Fr Andriy Chirovsky, Founder and Director of the Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at the University of St Paul, Ottowa
- "The Vatican did everything to accommodate Kirill but got little in return", an article by Fr Mark Drew in the UK Catholic Herald, of our own expert advisory panel
- "The Road to Rome from Moscow", an article by Dr Brandon Gallaher, University of Exeter
- "Between Cuba and Crete: A Storm Ahead for the Russian Orthodox", an article by Fr Cyril Hovurun, senior lecturer at Sankt Ignatios Academy, Stockholm School of Theology
Already Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev has lamentably abandoned the tone of the Joint Declaration by observing, "The Unia brought so much suffering to the Orthodox in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Union continues to be an open wound on the skin of Christianity." This despite it being the Tsarist Empire that not only brought suffering to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but abolished it. This statement cited widely online has proved difficult to source since. But these three other interview-statements from His Eminence at around the time address the same theme:
Here is a link to an interview with Metropolitan Hilarion prior to the meeting on Mospat.ru, dated February 5th 2016,in which he warms to his usual theme, attacking the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with scant regard to history, charity or the truth. For the record let us state again:
- The Metropolitanate of Kiev/Kyiv restored its earlier unity with the See of Rome in the sixteenth century when (a) it was isolated both from its mother Church of Constantinople under the Ottomans and also fellow Orthodox in Muscovy under a hostile ruler attacking the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth of which Ukraine was part, and (b) there was no such thing at the time as a distinct "Russian Orthodox Church" (the state was Muscovy before it only later took exclusive use of the name "Russia" from Rus', the land and people round Kiev/Kyiv, and its mother Church was Constantinople at the time, just the same as Kiev/Kyiv), nor did the only recently founded Moscow patriarchate have canonical patriarchal jurisdiction over the Metropolitanate of Kyiv/Kiev, which was explicitly not part of its so-called "territory". The Ecumenical Patriarchate's recognition of a patriarchate for Moscow in the 16th century concerned only the territory of Muscovy and did not include the Metropolitanate of Kiev/Kyiv. The renaming of Muscovy and its conquests as Russia dates from the later time of Czar Peter the Great, as does the history of the forced conversion of Greek Catholics in what are now western Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and elsewhere in Poland and the Baltics where the Russian Empire took control.
- There were no Moscow dioceses in western Ukraine, previously part of Poland-Lithuania and later the Habsburg Empire, until the Ukrainian Catholic Church was suppressed by Stalin and its remaining assets were given as a reward to the Moscow patriarchate for its support in the Second World War - receiving and using huge amounts of property and resources that did not belong to it, during the sore oppression and persecution by the Soviet atheists of the Catholic faithful, and the martyrdom of its religious, priests and bishops.
- The accusation that representatives of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church took part in anti-Russian and Russophobic action in the "Maidan" events of 2014-15, which cannot be substantiated and evidence to the directly opposite is abundant - including public statements from His Beatitude Sviatoslav and other bishops, together with photographic evidence of respectful relations between Catholic and Orthodox leaders as well as their clergy serving alongside each other in aid of the people under attack from the forces of the former regime - is known to be untrue by His Eminence Hilarion.
- The resentment at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church conducting its life and mission in the south and east of Ukraine, and restoring its primatial see to Kiev/Kyiv from the centre in which it was exiled in Lviv, as these are supposed to be on Russian Orthodox canonical territories, seems to be an admission that western Ukraine is not, yet where the Moscow patriarchate feels itself justified in conducting its own life and mission, just as it does throughout the world, even on the traditional territory of other Orthodox Churches, and especially in the Latin west without restriction or objection from the Catholic hierarchies. This is a complete double-standard. Surely in charity people are free to follow their own religion and the Churches recognised each other's right and duty to serve their faithful wherever they are.
- The objection to Ukrainian Greek Catholics supporting schismatics is another double-standard. In practice the Orthodox adhering to the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine conduct relations with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kievan Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, even to the exchange of gifts and greetings, and contacts in relation to the civil sphere and government. The Ukrainian Catholic Church is no different in conducting such relations, in the hope of future reconciliation and restoring Christian unity on the basis of mutual respect and integrity. Instead of a continual barrage of attack upon the Catholic Church on account of schisms within Orthodoxy that have arisen for whatever reason, this distinguished representative of the Moscow Patriarchate ought surely to be concerned with mending its own fences with its neighbours and pursuing reconciliation in mutual charity, trust, forgiveness and desire for recovered unity, rather than blaming those who never caused the division in the first place.
Here, from 18th February, Metropolitan Hilarion returns to his baseless and untrue attacks on the Ukrainian Catholic Church, as well as the fantasy that it can be "brought to reason" by a joint Commission of the (sic) Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Church. The question from Alexey Sosedov of Interfax, was, "What joint steps are needed now to bring Uniates to reason?" His Eminence replied "The way that the Pope and the Patriarch offer, is a way of cooperation in the areas in which it is possible. It is a way of rejection of competition and of establishment of brotherly relations. The Greek Catholics do not need that at all. Their rhetoric is aggressive, hostile, cheeky, and it stands in a sharp contrast not only to the declaration’s content, but even to its style, to its pastoral message, to the reconciling spirit that emanates from it." See here what His Beatitude Sviatoslav actually said about the Pope-Patriarch meeting in Cuba. Metropolitan Hilarion asserted that in the 1990s there had been a quadripartite commission towards Catholic-Orthodox coexistence in Ukraine (Ukrainian Greek Catholic, the Latin Roman Catholics (including the Vatican), the Moscow Patriarchate and the local Ukrainian Orthodox hierarchs) and that the Greek Catholic Church had walked out of it unilaterally. What he failed to mention were the repeated personal attacks, untruthful assertions of aggression and dissimulation, none of which could be substantiated, the failure to recognise the part played by the Orthodox Church in expropriation and oppression of the Catholic Church for nearly five decades on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate Orthodox Church, and the insistence of the Russian Orthodox Church on treating the Greek Catholic Church, only recently allowed to resume its life and freedom of religion after half a century of enforced conformity to Russian Orthodoxy, not as a Church but as a subject of the Vatican.
Here, from an interview with Russia-24 TV on 13th February, Metropolitan Hilarion, opines: "I can note that the Primates have to a large extent similar views on the situation in Ukraine, as well as on the measures that should be taken to stop the fratricidal confrontation. Both the Pope and the Patriarch called on the faithful of the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches to exert every effort to restore peace in the Ukrainian land. Of course, the declaration also focused on the unia, which remains a problem dividing our Churches. While preparing the meeting, we would often say that the problem of “uniatism” and of the Uniates’ actions in Western Ukraine is what divides our Churches. Regrettably, this problem has not been solved, and Greek Catholics go on saying very unpleasant and unjust things about the Russian Orthodox Church and continue to stir up the inter-confessional strife." Again, the reality of what the leaders and representatives of the the Ukrainian Catholic Church has consistently said of the Russian Orthodox Church is not as the Metropolitan states and he never substantiates his assertions. Again, the so-called "unia" was never against the Orthodox Church - there was neither a Russian Orthodox Church nor did the see of Moscow have any canonical jurisdiction in the Kyiv/Kiev Metropolitanate of the patriarchate of Constantinople when it came into effect. His Eminence goes on to say, "there are no plans regarding the unification of the two Churches". Since he is actively involved in the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, and seeing that our Lord prayed "that they all may be one", this is a bold thing to say. There must always be in hand a plan towards unification of Churches and the reintegration of all Christians.
Friday, 26 February 2016
It seems that Cuba and Crete, two islands as remote from each other as can be, both geographically and culturally, have recently become connected by an invisible thread. One hosted a surprise meeting between Pope Francis with Patriarch of Moscow Kirill. The other is to host the Pan-Orthodox Council in June, an event that has been in preparation since the 1960s. Apart from the common pioneering character of these two events, there are other connections between them.
It has been repeated several times that the meeting in Havana, in addition to its ecumenical appearance, had many non-theological and even non-ecclesial subtexts. Among other rationales, it was supposed to enhance the positions of the Russian delegation at the All-Orthodox meeting in Crete.
Indeed, it has become a commonplace notion that the relations of the local Orthodox Churches are framed by the antagonism of two of them, Constantinople and Moscow, which goes back to the period of the Cold War. Such antagonism is not unusual in the Christian world: in different historical periods it existed between Alexandria and Constantinople, Constantinople and Rome, and now Moscow and Constantinople. This last one, however, is not as old as the previous ones and, hopefully, will not lead to the same consequences: the great schisms between the Oriental, Byzantine, and Latin Churches.
Since then, the Orthodox Churches in their policies have often embarked on political patterns that are often poorly understood and clumsily implemented. The Churches may deny this and assure everyone that their policies stem exclusively from the divine Revelation, but history indicates otherwise. For instance, the modern idea of autocephaly (i.e., “self-government”) is closer to modern political theories of the sovereignty of states than to the original concept promulgated by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431). The present dominant attitude of the Orthodox Churches to their “diaspora” Churches more closely resembles the principles of colonial thinking than it does with Orthodox canon law. Geopolitical rather than Gospel thinking makes the Orthodox Churches keep silent about the outrageous war in Ukraine, where the Orthodox kill other Orthodox.
In this vein one may understand the antagonism between Moscow and Constantinople today. Surprisingly, it is relatively new. It did not exist in the 19th century, when the Russian Church, for instance, supported the Church of Constantinople in its struggle over the independence of the Church of Greece. It was exacerbated, however, after World War II, when the Moscow Patriarchate allowed itself to be used by the Soviet state for pursuing post-Yalta politics in the freshly cut pieces of the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
The wrestling between the two Churches has not disappeared since the post-WWII era, and it has been accelerated by the policies of isolationism and anti-westernism on the part of the current Russian government. This geopolitical thinking inspires some Churches to imagine the Pan-Orthodox meeting as an opportunity for pursuing their political agendas. These agendas have already moved the location of the Council from Istanbul (the home of the Ecumenical Patriarch) to Crete, giving as a reason the downing of the Russian military airplane by Turkish air forces. The same political imagination made Cuba Moscow’s choice for the site of a meeting with Pope Francis. The Patriarchate of Constantinople, in the imagination of Moscow, not only stands for Turkey — even though, in reality, the Patriarchate and the Turkish government have a long record of harsh relations — but is also an ally and proxy of the United States.
Indeed, the meeting in Cuba will make the positions of Moscow at the Pan-Orthodox gathering in Crete even stronger. If Rome had insisted that the meeting should take place after, not before, Crete, this have would minimized the embarrassment for Constantinople and would not have insulted the relations between the Holy See and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Since the historic meeting of Pope Paul VI with Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in 1965, the relations between the two Churches have been cordial and intense. Constantinople, however, had to pay for them. This Church was often criticized by conservative and ultra-conservatives of the Greek and other Orthodox Churches for its special relations with Rome. Good relations with Rome demanded Constantinople to sacrifice a lot. Rome, in the way it was led to the meeting in Havana, struck a blow to those good relations. It also struck a painful blow to Ukrainian Greek Catholics, who both officially and unofficially objected to the highly political paragraph on the Ukrainian conflict in the Joint Declaration of Francis and Kirill. Ukraine and Constantinople became victims of the way in which the Havana meeting was handled.
It seems that Rome is not the only one who will have to pay for the Havana meeting; it will be expensive for Moscow, too. For many years, Moscow’s excuse not to meet the pope was the argument that such a meeting would be opposed by the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, still angered by the reemergence in the early 1990s of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is in union with Rome.
As it turns out, there are no such objections recorded so far. There are, however, voices among the Orthodox objecting to the participation of the top hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in the meeting, which produced a declaration that is deemed anti-Ukrainian by many. What this means is that the “existence of the Greek Catholic Church” argument against a meeting with the pope was merely an instrument of propaganda and not a genuine reason for refusing to meet. Moscow’s real fear was that radical conservative groups within the Russian Church would object to any encounter of the Russian Orthodox Primate with the pope.
This fear turned out to be well founded. Immediately after the Havana meeting, the fundamentalist voices against it rose loudly. All sorts of conservatives, from mild to hard, started expressing their dissatisfaction. Here are only three examples. A lecturer at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Olga Chetverikova, called the Patriarch “a heretic” and urged the Christians to choose between him and Christ. A priest of the Moscow Patriarchate, Dmitri Nenarokov, has called the meeting in Havana a “new milestone in the history of the apocalyptic processes.” Twelve priests and two monasteries from the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate in Moldova have ceased commemorating the Patriarch because of the Havana meeting.
The same kind of objections have been uttered against the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete, for the same reason: an alleged compromise regarding the purity of the Orthodox faith. Thus, the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), Metropolitan Onufry, openly criticized the Council, which he called “a temptation.” Later on, after he attended the January 2016 Synaxis of the Orthodox Primates in Chambésy, he changed his mind. Many of his followers, however, did not. The two “compromising” events, the meeting in Cuba and the Council in Crete, will have a cumulative effect of further angering radical conservatives.
Every Church has such folks. However, some Churches try to tackle radical conservatism, and some yield to it. Patriarch Kirill, who never sincerely sympathized with this phenomenon, decided to instrumentalize it. In Russia (and not only there), the radical conservatives are in favor of Mr. Putin. In Ukraine, they are against independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and against Ukraine as an independent state. They thus became useful for the Church in Russia to pursue two tasks: legitimization of the current political regime in the Kremlin, and undermining the independence and pro-western orientation of Ukraine. For these purposes, the Russian Church decided to support the radical conservative movement and effectively lead it.
In Ukraine, this support led to a conflict situation. While the Ukrainian Church (Moscow Patriarchate) under the previous primate, the late Metropolitan Volodymyr, tried to tackle radical conservatism and condemned it at the Council of Bishops in 2007, Moscow supported it in various ways, including financial and ideological. With the beginning of the war in the east of Ukraine, many Orthodox radicals took guns into their hands and began fighting on the separatist side. They have been largely inspired by the ideology of “Russkiy Mir” (the “Russian world”), which the Russian Church produced and fed to them. This ideology was designed to fit the agenda of the radical religious groups and created Frankenstein’s-monsters like the “Russian Orthodox Army.”
Now, after the Havana meeting and leading up to the Crete council, the radical conservatives seem to be firing back. Some of the subscribers to the “Russian world” concept, who had fought in the east of Ukraine, inspired by the idea of a holy mission, seem to be dissatisfied with the recent ecumenical initiatives of the Russian Primate. They are like a genie released from the bottle, and are now turning against Aladdin.
Fr Cyril Hovurun is a senior lecturer at Sankt Ignatios Academy/Stockholm School of Theology
To read the article on line at Catholic World Report, please visit: Between Cuba and Crete: A Storm Ahead for the Russian Orthodox? | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views
Monday, 22 February 2016
The outcome of the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow at Havana’s José Martí airport cannot be properly understood without an awareness of this theory of the “third Rome”. It is at the heart of the ideology of the “Russian world” (Russkii Mir) that has been promoted by church and state in Russia in recent years. Indeed, the Pope and the Patriarch’s joint declaration can be read as a sort of tacit summary of all the major points in the Russian world ideology –from the uniqueness of Russia as a Christian civilisation and its miraculous rebirth to its understanding of itself as the saviour of “the Christian soul of Europe”.
The “Russian world” ideology is a sort of nationalism with a markedly Messianic character. It has been developed by Kirill and President Vladimir Putin in numerous speeches and church-state initiatives since shortly before Kirill’s election as Patriarch in 2009. It sees “Russia” as a civilisation with a common language, religion and culture whose borders go way beyond the Russian Federation. Kirill described himself in his remarks to the press in Havana as the Patriarch of “All Russia”. This is a historical idea of Russia that includes Ukraine and Belarus, and sometimes even Moldova and Kazakhstan. These ideas are supported by the TV network RT and by the Russkiy Mir Foundation, started by Putin to nurture Russian culture and language worldwide.
In this view of the world, Orthodox Russia is taken to be a twenty-first century “third Rome” to rival (and perhaps save) the corrupt and de-Christianised West. Patriarch Kirill is considered to be the real leader of the Orthodox churches, rather than Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople (the “second Rome”), with his relatively modest number of followers. Thus, Kirill, not Bartholomew, should be the primary negotiator with the first Rome, and lead partner in reaching out together to the lost West. This “Russian world” is seen as a providential civilisation that has undergone an “unprecedented renewal of Christian faith” after years of state atheism.
This view is reflected in the joint declaration. So is the idea that its Eastern Orthodox values, knowledge and experience of the “first millennium of Christianity” give the Russian world a singular – and divinely ordained – position of undistorted Christian witness in a contemporary world dominated by secularisation. It has a God-given role to fight terrorism, to protect Christian victims of violence in the Middle East and North Africa, to bring peace and justice and do everything possible to avoid a “new world war”. One is reminded of Shatov in Dostoyevsky’s novel Demons: “I believe in Russia … I believe that the second coming will take place in Russia.” A lasting peace cannot be found in secularism but only in what the joint declaration calls the “common values” of Orthodoxy. Sadly, the reasoning goes, Europe has lost touch with its Christian “roots”, and must be saved. Above all, the family is under attack by a crisis wrought by secularisation leading to the “banishment from public conscience” of the “distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage” through gay unions being considered on a par with heterosexual marriage. With the loss of the natural heterosexual family comes contraception, abortion, euthanasia and the “manipulation of human life”.
The Russian world is bonded together by a common language, a common faith with common values, a common canonical Church and a common Patriarch, who works in symphony with a common leader or “tsar” (as Putin is called by his inner circle). It follows that the separation of Russia from Ukraine is quite unnatural. Finally, while recognising that the Greek Catholic “ecclesial communities” have a right to exist, the joint declaration rejects “uniatism” as a thing of the past. So the “we” of the joint declaration could easily refer solely to the Russian and not the Catholic Church.
Why would the Vatican sign a document that, while it does not contradict its official teaching, seems to reflect one Church more than the other? Some observers have suggested that Francis has been “played” by Kirill and his assistant, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev. This is, it is said, akin to how Moscow had earlier “played” Patriarch Bartholomew by receiving promises from him at the Pre-Conciliar Primates Meeting in January in Chambésy, Switzerland, that he would not intervene in Ukraine in exchange for allowing the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council to take place in Crete in June.
According to this narrative, the Vatican was so desperate for dialogue after years of being told the relationship was merely “strategic” that it ended up signing a statement that was more for the benefit of Moscow than for itself. Indeed, already the declaration has deeply hurt churches such as the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, with its demotion of them to “ecclesial communities”, and the call for them to refrain from political involvement, such as the protests in Maidan Square.
But the Vatican is not nearly so naive as it is sometimes being portrayed. Despite Francis’ broad liberal gestures –“Who am I to judge?” –the two churches share a common moral vision, a fear of increasing secularisation and a heartfelt concern for the suffering of Christians in the Middle East. There is also a real acknowledgement by Moscow of the Roman Catholic Church as the Christian body closest to Orthodoxy.
In fact, the desperation for a meeting is more likely to be on the part of Moscow. The Orthodox Primates Meeting in January was marked by Kirill’s speech on the sufferings faced by his “canonical” church in Ukraine. It is said that it is haemorrhaging parishioners daily to the more nationalistic (and “uncanonical”) Kyivan Patriarchate. In December, the leader of Moscow’s autonomous church, Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev, as a compromise allowed priests to serve the Divine Liturgy without commemorating Kirill by name.
He needs help from a hugely popular international figurehead such as Francis to raise his profile in Ukraine, where he is deeply unpopular and forbidden by the government to visit. He can also in this way prove to President Putin that he is useful in opening up links with the West while Russia is becoming increasingly politically isolated. Lastly, meeting with Francis as an equal – even though traditionally it is Patriarch Bartholomew not Kirill who is the spiritual head of the Orthodox Churches – will give Kirill increased stature at the forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council and head off any attempts by the other churches at the Council to intervene in Ukraine.
But what are the future prospects for the relationship? If Kirill is desperate, fearful he will lose his church in Ukraine, and thinks that the relationship with Francis can help him, then this declaration needs to be seen as a calculated risk. He has staked the imperial vision of his primacy of the “third Rome” on the opening of a window to the West through the first Rome.
It seems likely that Francis and his advisers knew that Kirill needed their help, and was fearful of his future and the future of Russia. They have given him leeway in the declaration so he can more easily justify this meeting back home, where some still call the Pope a “Catholic heretic”. Moscow can continue to make bold symbolic claims of uniqueness, but these will be just so many words. But now it is bound to an ecumenical process that it cannot withdraw from without serious embarrassment. In these bleak days, it is important for Rome to throw open a window on Russia so that, as John XXIII said of the Second Vatican Council, the fresh air of the Spirit may be allowed to flow.
Dr Brandon Gallaher is lecturer in systematic and comparative theology at the University of Exeter. This article first appeared in The Tablet on 20th February 2016 and was since republished on Academia.edu. It is reproduced with the agreement of the author with grateful acknowledgement to the publishers.
Thursday, 18 February 2016
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.
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).
Read the article on line at First Things, here: Called to Unity | Andriy Chirovsky | First Things
Unfortunately, this is what happened.
The first problem was the meeting itself. It had been sought by several predecessors of Pope Francis. In particular, it had been insistently pursued by Pope John Paul II. However, the prize went to the Pope, who was the least prepared of all.
This is because Pope Francis is a pastor and not a politician, as Moscow knows very well. Of all the popes, he was the safest to deal with. Moreover, the current Pope, formed in Latin America, is not well versed in the situation in Eastern Europe and has never had direct contact with the “secrets of the Kremlin court.”
The sphere where the Pope feels at home and where he is capable of reaching spiritual heights is the human soul. However, world politics, as has become very evident, has been relegated to the politicians of the Roman Curia of the Apostolic See.
The Moscow Patriarchate has for a long time skillfully taken advantage of certain features of Vatican positions, consistently refusing meetings with popes when it found the conditions to be unfavorable. The “guilty” were always the Catholics, of course, either because of the fictitious “Catholic proselytism in Russia” or the so-called “violence of Greek Catholics over the Orthodox in Western Ukraine.”
And suddenly all these arguments vanished. The motivation here, of course, was again of utmost importance. It became necessary, apparently, to jointly protect the Christians of Syria (who, incidentally, have been eagerly bombed by Russia) and to protect human civilization from all sorts of perversions. And, in reality, to save Putin’s Russia from complete isolation and defeat.
I suspect that Vatican diplomats are celebrating this “victory”: decades of enormous efforts that finally have given positive results. Moscow was finally “persuaded to a dialogue.” In fact, the Pope said that key word “finally” when he embraced the Patriarch.
However, to determine who really won here let us turn to the Declaration signed in Cuba.
Trusting and peace-loving people will pay attention primarily to a number of paragraphs that, if separated from the circumstances, could easily be considered as achievements of recent interchurch relations. For example, those troubled by the silence of secular Europe to the suffering of Christians from the violence in the Middle East will be glad to see that the signers of the Declaration share their concerns.
People with a more liberal inclination, for whom pluralism and tolerance are important, will be satisfied with paragraph 13 that ” Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony.” On the other hand, people of conservative inclination will be satisfied with paragraphs 19-21, where traditional family values, the right to life, and warnings about the dangers of aggressive secularism are emphasized.
But for me, educated in the duplicity of communist ideology and shocked by the cynicism of the Russian World ideology, deeds are important, not words. So when I read in paragraph 13 that “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,” I immediately remember that the Moscow Patriarch has not uttered a single word to condemn the military aggression of his country against Ukraine nor the religious persecution on the occupied territories. Therefore, he has not fulfilled the requirement that he so eloquently invokes in the quoted passage.
This is why these points in the Declaration, which primarily relate to the situation in Ukraine or which are applied to it, are for me a test that reveals the sincerity or insincerity of the Moscow Patriarch and the awareness of the Catholic side.
Paragraph 26 could be called “Balamand-like.” It repeats almost word for word the famous formula of the Balamand Agreement which made it famous, namely the distinction between:
(a) “Uniatism” as a method of achieving unity of churches and
(b) the Eastern Catholic Churches which, though they were created as a result of the union, still have a right to exist.
But there is one “minor” change in the Cuban Declaration. It no longer refers to the Eastern Catholic Churches but to church communities. To the secular ear, the difference is almost unnoticeable, but the ecclesiastical reality behind these definitions is radically different! The Vatican is well aware of this difference when, for example, it distinguishes between “Protestant Churches” and “Protestant Church communities.”
Therefore, one cannot consider this a simple omission. The document clearly speaks of “communities,” which as a result of the union “became separated from their churches.” Therefore, this entire paragraph is written on the basis of Orthodox ecclesiology according to its Moscow interpretation.
It is worth quoting paragraph 26 in full: ” 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 parties 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.”
This paragraph was clearly written in the Kremlin. It literally repeats the Kremlin’s propaganda cliché about the purely domestic nature of the “conflict in Ukraine.” It contains an indirect allusion that the Russian Orthodox Church in the zone of conflict is peace-loving whereas the “Uniates” and the “raskolniki” (schismatics –Ed.) are fueling the conflict. In any case, this is how this paragraph will be used by Moscow in the future.
And finally, there is no mention in this paragraph of something that is obvious to the entire world — Russia’s involvement in this conflict. The fact that this point was proposed by the Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev (chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow – Ed.) is clear, but what is extraordinary is that the Vatican diplomats accepted it and eventually so did the Pope. While it might have been possible not to understand the nature of the “Ukrainian conflict” in the summer of 2014, the “naïve ignorance” exhibited in the beginning of 2016 is on the Vatican’s conscience.
In paragraph 27 the Declaration signatories express the “hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms.” Well, this is longtime Vatican politics — to maintain contacts in Ukraine only with the “canonical” Orthodox Church.
So it is not difficult to imagine how negatively this paragraph will be received by the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches that are not in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. One can only deplore once again that in the Vatican’s view the principle of canon law takes on an absolute character with no regard to the distortions of truth and justice that are at its core.
The desire to avoid irritating Moscow has become the starting point for any steps in the Vatican for relations with other churches. For Ukrainian Christians this could be a reason for outrage if not for the fact that, fortunately, the Gospel says nothing about canonical law but quite a lot about truth and the necessary caution that Christians need to exhibit in the face of the evil one. The impression of evil is only amplified when you read paragraph 28, which contains many beautiful and accurate words on the need for cooperation between the Orthodox and the Catholics and about the evangelical basis of this cooperation. However, as soon as one comes across the words about the need ” to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person,” the mind immediately sees the massive violations of human rights in the occupied territories controlled by Russia, which have now become the preserve of the “Russian World.”
The issue is the persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the physical destruction of Protestant pastors, the arbitrary arrests and “disappearances” of the activists of the Crimean Tatar movement and so on. There is not a single word about all this in the Declaration. It is as if the suffering of the “non-canonicals” and those of other “religious affiliations” are less worthy of compassion than the Christians in Syria.
In the past, Roman popes repeatedly used meetings with political or religious leaders to defend religious freedom and human rights. It is enough to remember the release of Patriarch Yosyf Slipyi from Siberian imprisonment, which we owe to Pope John XXIII, or the legalization of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which we owe to Pope John Paul II.
This is why it was impossible to condemn the planned meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill before it took place because the Pope had the opportunity to defend the interests of those harmed by Russian aggression. He had the opportunity but did not use it. The Cuban Declaration of the two church heads was structured is such a way that Russia is referred to as the country of the “unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith ” where there is the opportunity now to “to freely confess one’s faith” while concern arises only about other countries. It is only in other countries that “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.”
This is why I have reached the painful conclusion that on the issue of Ukraine and Russia the Catholic Church has once again avoided the truth for the benefit of an ephemeral “dialogue with Moscow.”
The Cuban Declaration of the Pope and the Moscow Patriarch is a vivid illustration of several things at once: the undeniable victory of the Kremlin and the FSB along with all their obedient subjects, to which I add the Russian Orthodox Church; the complete failure of Ukrainian state diplomacy in the Vatican and the clear inadequacy of the information service of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church there; the helpless blindness and incompetence of the Vatican diplomacy, which is so easily fooled by the vocabulary of peace; and the ominous failure of Europe’s influential circles to decode the deceitful formulas of Putin’s propaganda.
This is why it is logical to conclude that the meeting between the Roman Pope and the Moscow Patriarch was epochal. However equally epochal were the failures of the Vatican diplomats, who could not see the real world from behind their shabby textbooks on “Ostpolitik.”
Myroslav Marynovych is a vice-rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, co-founder of Amnesty International Ukraine, a founding member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, and a former political prisoner.
Translated by: Anna Mostovych
Source: Ukrayinska Pravda
English translation online here: An epochal meeting with epochal consequences -Euromaidan Press |
Sunday, 14 February 2016
"The Vatican did everything to accommodate Patriarch Kirill, but received little in return" - Fr Mark Drew, Catholic Herald
The reported first words of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill on their historic meeting – for historic it was, however hackneyed the word – were revealing. “Finally” said the Pontiff, adding “we are brothers”. Kirill was equally satisfied but perhaps less effusive: “Yes, things are much easier now”.
Easier no doubt because the Vatican, in its eagerness to secure a meeting that had eluded successive popes for decades, had allowed the Moscow Patriarchate largely to set the terms and the agenda for the meeting. Meeting in Havana, in a country where Russian political influence was once strong, the two men issued a carefully negotiated joint statement whose final form was agreed only a matter of hours before, no doubt after minute negotiations and searching scrutiny from officials on both sides.
There is a commitment to work towards unity: “It is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God”. This might seem self-evident to Western Christians, but the Orthodox involvement in ecumenism is hotly contested by influential voices in Russia and elsewhere. For this reason Moscow stressed from the outset that Pope and Patriarch would not pray together. So, committing himself to seeking restored communion is not lacking in courage on Kirill’s part.
Nonetheless the main emphasis of the text is on common witness and action ad extra. There is an insistence on the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as on the general suffering caused by conflicts there, with Syria and Iraq mentioned explicitly, and a plea on behalf of the two Orthodox bishops of Aleppo held captive since 2013. A strong plea is made for a reversal of the conditions which threaten the ancient Christian communities in these lands with extinction or permanent exile. The language is somewhat stronger than Francis has generally used in public, and some will be wondering why it has taken Kirill’s involvement to persuade the Pope to adopt a more combative tone.
The same consideration applies to the firm words the statement contains on the need to counter the advance of secularism and the promotion of traditional Christian moral values. The defence of the family, based on heterosexual marriage and requiring openness to procreation, is reinforced by an explicit condemnation of cohabitation, abortion and euthanasia.
Francis has of course always said that his attitude to these questions is no different from that of his predecessors. But he has expressed reluctance to allow them to assume the prominence in his public pronouncements which they receive in this joint text. His own pressing concerns are echoed, though perhaps with lesser vigour, in the affirmations of the necessity for joint promotion of ecological concerns, social justice and humanitarian aid to refugees, though it is noteworthy that there is no outright call for a policy of generous welcome to the displaced.
There is much reference to dialogue and mutual respect, not only between Christians but also between adherents of different religions and world views. This too is more of a reflection of Francis and the Vatican’s priorities than those of the patriarchate.
Kirill will, however, be satisfied with the references to conditions nearer home. There is an almost jubilant celebration of the religious rebirth in Russia since the fall of atheistic communism, and it was inevitable that this would not be balanced by any reference to the ambiguous consequences for the Russian Church of its closeness to centres of political and economic power. There are several paragraphs directly relevant to the situation in Ukraine, and these should and will receive close scrutiny.
Ukrainian Greek Catholics will have mixed feelings about the document. It is no surprise to find the customary rejection of “uniatism” as a way forward towards unity, though there is a welcome acknowledgment that Eastern Rite Catholic communities have a right to exist. Several key phrases seem to me, while seeking an apparently even handed tone, to echo Orthodox concerns in a way that will be especially pleasing to Kirill and his constituency at home.
The rejection of proselytism and pressure to convert applies to both sides of course, but by saying that the Greek Catholic Church should “undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours”, the statement might be seen as restricting their right to evangelise. The injunction to the churches to “refrain from taking part in the confrontation” is unobjectionable in itself, but might mirror accusations from prominent sources in the Patriarchate that the “uniates” have been whipping up anti-Russian sentiment.
Moscow has also accused Greek Catholics of fomenting division between the rival Orthodox groups in Ukraine, so it is significant that the text expresses the desire “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”. The hope is expressed that the inter-Orthodox schism in Ukraine will be “overcome through existing canonical norms”. Does this constitute explicit Catholic support for the Moscow Patriarchate’s rejection of any autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which would be a pre-condition of restored unity for the groups separated from Moscow?
On reflection, this statement seems to me to be a significant boost to the objectives of the Moscow patriarchate. As well as seeing many of its own priorities endorsed, Moscow now looks like it has been accepted by Rome as privileged partner in the dialogue, at the possible expense of Constantinople. The Vatican, for its part, will be satisfied that the encounter took place at all.
It is Kirill who has most reason to be satisfied with the meeting and with the statement. He has made a courageous and significant gesture in indicating that he sees restored communion as a goal, with an affirmation that Catholics and Orthodox enjoy a “shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium”. But he has seen Rome bend over backwards to accommodate him, without any real concession in return. I must confess to a certain disappointment at the lack of any concrete reference to such convergence as has already occurred on the disputed points of doctrine, or even of any explicit commitment to on-going dialogue about them.