Peter Anderson - NEWS 2013

  • 28 December 2013: Important resolutions in Moscow

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held its final session for 2013 on 25-26 December.  The journal of all of actions taken by the Holy Synod can be read in Russian at  There were a number of very important actions taken at this session.   For example, in Journal No. 157, the Holy Synod received the report of its Synodal Theological Commission with respect to the “Position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the problem of primacy in the Universal Church.”  Today, the DECR posted an official English translation of this report.  The report is not long and should be read in its entirety.  With respect to primacy in the Universal Church, the following are, in my opinion, some of the key points:  Primacy in the Universal Church is more limited than primacy in the Local Churches.  Primacy in the Universal Church is limited to a “primacy of honor” which is determined by the order of the diptychs (for example., the order in which primates of the local autocephalous churches are commemorated in the liturgy).  On the universal level, the primate is not vested “with any powers on the church-wide scale”  With respect to the primacy exercised by the Patriarch of Constantinople, “[t]he content of this primacy is defined by a consensus of Local Orthodox Churches expressed in particular at pan-Orthodox conferences for preparation of a Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.”

    When I read this report, my immediate concern was whether the Holy Synod had adopted this report as its own official statement on the issue of primacy.  If the Holy Synod had adopted the report as its own, the practical effect could well be to “freeze” the position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the issue of primacy for decades and end any meaningful dialogue with other Churches on this subject.  The reason for this effect is that any subsequent modification of an official statement by the Holy Synod or by a Bishops’ Council would be highly unlikely as it would in fact constitute a tacit admission that the Holy Synod had erred in its first statement.  My concern in this regard has now somewhat abated.  After reading the actual wording of the resolution adopted by the Holy Synod in Journal No. 157, it is my belief that the Holy Synod did not adopt the report as its own statement.  The resolution consists of two sentences.  In the first sentence (“Doklad prinjat' k svedeniju"), the Holy Synod simply took note of the document.  In the second sentence (“Predstaviteljam Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Cerkvi rukovodstvovat'cja dokumentom ... v pravoslavno-katolitcheskom dialoge ”), representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church should be “guided” by the document “in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.”  The use of the word, “guided” implies that some flexibility is still possible.  Also, the use of the document is limited to the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.  However, Russian-speakers should correct me if I am wrong in my understanding of these Russian terms.

    I am curious as to why the Holy Synod chose to address the report at this time.  The Synodal Theological Commission essentially completed its work on the report more than a year ago, and a number Synod sessions have occurred since that time.   Is it merely a coincidence that the Holy Synod addressed the subject only days after Cardinal Koch completed his trips to Romania and Russia – trips in which the Cardinal sought to break the present deadlock faced by the Joint International Theological Commission in its preparation of a draft document on the relationship between primacy and synodality?

    Another important action taken by the Holy Synod was the retirement of Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch for All Belarus.   Catholics should be thankful to Metropolitan Filaret for the good Orthodox-Catholic relationships that he has promoted in Belarus and elsewhere.  I personally experienced his kindness when I traveled to Moscow in September 1985 to present to Patriarch Pimen a copy of the Czestochowa icon on the Patriarch’s saint’s name day.  Hopefully, the successor of Metropolitan Filaret will continue the warm relations that generally exists today between Orthodox and Catholics in Belarus.

    The successor appointed by the Holy Synod is Metropolitan Pavel (Ponomarev) of Ryazan and Mikhailovskoye.  The official biography of Metropolitan Pavel can be read in Russian at .  He was born in Karaganda (a major city in what is now Kazakhstan) in 1952 and attended the Moscow Seminary and Theological Academy.  He has had considerable international experience.  He was in Jerusalem from 1981 to 1988.  He was in Vienna from 1999-2003.  He was also the administrator of the patriarchal parishes in the US from 1992-1999.  In Belarus, there has been some criticism of his appointment on the grounds that Metropolitan Pavel is not Belarussian and has never lived in Belarus.  See, for example, .

    The Holy Synod also issued a statement on the recent events in Ukraine.

  • 27 December 2013: MP Holy Synod rules on primacy
  • 21 December 2013: Cardinal Koch's completed trip to Russia

    Cardinal Kurt Koch’s trip to St. Petersburg and Moscow is now completed, and he is back in Rome.  As you know, the Cardinal met with Patriarch Kirill on Wednesday.  An English-language translation of the Moscow Patriarchate’s communique on the meeting was just posted by the DECR today.  It is a more detailed statement than found in media reports to date.   You can also watch a 20-minute YouTube video of the formal remarks of the Patriarch to the Cardinal.

    In Rome today, the German-language service of Vatican Radio did an 8-minute interview of Cardinal Koch concerning his meeting.„wir_brauchen_noch_zeit“/ted-757410    In addition, Catholic News Service has posted an English-language article based upon its interview today of Msgr. Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general of the Russian Catholic bishops' conference.   Everything indicates that the Cardinal’s visit to Russia was viewed by both sides as positive.  However, based on the information that is publically available, there were, in my opinion, no new or surprising developments.

    On Tuesday, Cardinal Koch met with Metropolitan Hilarion.  The work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches was discussed at this meeting and also in the meeting with Patriarch Kirill.  On December 13, Metropolitan Hilarion had a meeting with Cardinal Christoph Schönborn during a short stop in Vienna.   On December 16, he met with Cardinal Peter Erdö of Budapest.  Both cardinals have been friends of Metropolitan Hilarion since the time that Hilarion was assigned as a bishop in Vienna.

    More information on the Cardinal Koch’s visit to St. Petersburg:  The following is an interesting 7-minute YouTube video covering a number of activities of Cardinal Koch in St. Petersburg.   The following is the complete text of the Russian-language letter from Pope Francis to the Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria. 

    RISU has posted an English-language article relating to certain remarks made at a Moscow press conference by Cardinal Koch with respect to Moscow’s concerns relating to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. 

    Lastly, Patriarch Kirill addressed today the Moscow Diocesan Assembly at its annual meeting.  The entire 41 pages of his report on the state of the Church can  be read as a Word document at .   I found particularly interesting a short English-language article by Interfax relating to the report.   According to the report, the Moscow Patriarchate now has 44 archdioceses and 269 dioceses.  During the past five years, 110 new dioceses have been formed.

  • 17 December 2013: Cardinal Koch in St. Petersburg

    On Saturday, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia.  He departed to Moscow tonight (Monday).  There are reports on the Internet concerning his visits in St. Petersburg to (1) the Orthodox Feodorovsky Cathedral, (2) the Catholic Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria, and (3) the St. Petersburg Orthodox Theological Academy.  I have described these below.  I have also added a few of my own memories which demonstrate how things have changed in St. Petersburg for the better since the communist era.  There are no Internet reports yet on the Cardinal’s visit to (4) the Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Lavra and Bishop Nazary, (5) the Catholic seminary of Mary, Queen of Apostles, or (6) his press conference at 5 p.m. today.

    Prior to the visit of Cardinal Koch to Russia, Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio did an excellent 9-minute English-language interview of Father Hyacinthe Destivelle OP, who is responsible at the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity for relations with the Slavic Orthodox Churches.  Father Hyacinthe is accompanying Cardinal Koch on his trip to Russia.   The interview provides very interesting background information concerning the trip.

    Cardinal Koch began his visit to St. Petersburg by attending Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Feodorovsky Icon of the Mother of God.  After the Gospel and before the homily, he was introduced to the faithful by Archpriest Alexander Sorokin, the rector of the cathedral.   The cathedral was originally built to honor the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, observed in 1913.  This is a very special year for the cathedral because it is the 400th anniversary of the dynasty.  Beginning in 1932, the communists converted the cathedral into a milk plant.  Many year ago, I recall being shown this milk plant by Father Vladimir Sorokin, the father of Father Alexander Sorokin and then rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy.  Father Vladimir expressed his dream that the milk plant will again become a cathedral.  Now his son has made that dream a reality.  It is now an absolutely beautiful cathedral.  The cathedral parish has had good relations to Catholics.  Father Dimitry Sizonenko, the present DECR secretary of inter-Christian relations, was assign to this cathedral parish under Father Alexander, immediately prior to receiving his present DECR assignment in Moscow.

    At 10 a.m. Cardinal Koch was at the Catholic Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria.  The significance of this “Mother Church” for Catholics in Russia was explained by Father Hyacinthe Destivelle OP in his interview with Vatican Radio, referenced above.  Until last summer, Father Hycinthe was the pastor of St. Catherine’s.  A great set of 74 photos of the event can be seen at .  The new doors that were dedicated can be seen at the beginning and the end of the photos.  As you can see from the pink vestment worn by Cardinal Koch, the Catholics were celebrating Guadete Sunday.  The photos were taken by Evgeni Martinovich.  In April 1989, I met a group of young Catholics laypeople in the Leningrad apartment of Evgeni and his wife Nadia.  One of the laypersons at the meeting was a young Russian, Yuri Doregin.  You can see Yuri in the photos – he is the Dominican priest reading the gospel.  When I met with the young people in 1989, one of their questions was how they could reproduce Catholic literature without being caught by the KGB.  Now St. Catherine’s can communicate freely through an outstanding website.

    At St. Catherine’s, Cardinal Koch read a letter from Pope Francis on the occasion of this, the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Catherine’s.  The Pope expressed the hope that this church in the center of St. Petersburg would be a “sign of Christian unity.”

    I can remember standing outside of St. Catherine’s in 1989 when it was only a burnt-out shell of a building.  As I approached the locked front doors, there was a terrible smell.  I then realized that the portico area on either side of the doors was being used by people on Nevsky Prospekt as a toilet.  That has now all changed, and instead there is a very impressive entrance with beautiful new doors!

    This morning, Cardinal Koch gave a lecture at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy on Catholic – Orthodox relations and answered questions from students and faculty.   As you can see from the photos, the large hall was filled to capacity with seminarians and faculty.  Hopefully, sometime in the near future there will be report on the substance of the discussion.  The Academy has also had friendly relations with Catholics.  For example, I can remember back in October 1997, Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer from Seattle was invited to give a series of lectures at the Academy on business ethics.  The present rector of the Academy is the very young and dynamic Bishop Amvrosij, who is greatly loved by the students.

    I hope to report on other aspects of the trip as they are reported on the Internet.

  • 8 December 2013: Koch's Romanian visit

    Today Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, completed his December 3-7 visit to Romania.  Later this month, he will visit Russia.  On the morning of 4 December, Cardinal Koch met with Patriarch Daniel (together with Metropolitan Nifon of Targoviste).  A very interesting short YouTube video of the meeting can be seen at .   According to the press release of the Romanian Patriarchate, Cardinal Koch expressed the hope that the current impasse in drafting a working document on the relationship between primacy and synodality can be overcome through dialogue and joint reflection.   The Patriarch in turn “appreciated the need to preserve in the framework of the theological dialogue between the two Churches a balance of reciprocity and complementarity between primacy and synodality, taking into account the different historic development in the East and the West.”  Vatican Radio has now done an excellent 8-minute English-language interview of Metropolitan Nifon concerning the meeting.   Metropolitan Nifon, who was seated on the Patriarch’s right in the video, is the key person in representing the Romanian Patriarch in relations with other Orthodox and Christian Churches.  I personally found the remarks by Metropolitan Nifon encouraging.

    The attempt by the Joint International Theological Commission between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches to prepare a draft document on the relationship between primacy and synodality has faced major difficulties.  One of the major difficulties is the split between the various Local Orthodox Churches as to whether primacy exists at the universal level.  The two poles are represented by the positions taken by Constantinople (in favor of a form of primacy) and Moscow (opposed to any primacy).  There is a fear by some Orthodox that recognition of a form of primacy at the universal level will be used by Constantinople to support its position that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has a greater role among the Local Orthodox Churches than simply an honorary role.  Logically, it would seem that the largest Orthodox Local Churches would be the ones that would have the greatest objection to taking a supposed “back seat” to Constantinople.  The two largest Orthodox Local Churches are Moscow and Romania.  If some progress was made with Romania this week, maybe some progress can also be made during Cardinal Koch’s visit to Moscow later this month.  Let us pray that progress can be made.  Progress on the issue of primacy not only needs to be made for the cause of unity between Catholics and Orthodox, but also for ending the tensions between Moscow and Constantinople (which affects all of the other Local Orthodox Churches and also impedes the holding of a future pan-Orthodox Council).

    During the visit, Cardinal Koch also met with leaders of the Eastern-rite Catholics in Romania.  Today, the Cardinal Koch was in Cluj-Napoca, the largest city of Transylvania.  Prior to 1948, ethnic Hungarians outnumbered Romanians in Cluj.  Subsequently, the percentage of Hungarians has steadily decreased, so that Hungarians now approximate only 17 percent of the population.  Most of the Catholics are Hungarian.  Therefore, both ethnic and religious tensions have existed in the area.  This morning (Saturday) Cardinal Koch was with Bishop  Florentin Crih?lmeanu of Cluj-Gherla, who heads the Greek Catholic church there.   Bishop Florentin is also a member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  Later, Cardinal Koch and Bishop Florentin visited Orthodox Metropolitan Andrei of Clujului.  According to the report of the Orthodox Metropolia, the deadlock on the issue primacy and synodality was discussed, as well as the need to have a common voice in the face of contemporary challenges.  Yesterday, Cardinal Koch celebrated the liturgy in Blaj with Cardinal Lucian Mure?an, Major Archbishop of the Greek Catholic Archdiocese of F?g?ra? and Alba Iulia.  Although over the age of 80, Lucian received the cardinal’s hat last year from Pope Benedict.  Some very nice photos of yesterday’s liturgy with Cardinal Lucian can be seen at .

    In addition, Cardinal Koch met with the President of Romania and with various other Orthodox and Latin-rite Catholic prelates – a very full agenda!

  • 2 December 2013: Phanar, Warsaw and Krakow

    Yesterday (Saturday), the feast of St. Andrew was celebrated by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar.  As has become a tradition each year, the Church of Rome was present at the celebration of this patronal feast of the Ecumenical Patriarch.  The event was described by Asianews in an article by NAT da Polis.,-Pope-Francis-breathes-new-life-in-the-dialogue-of-love-between-Sister-Churches-29686.html   Significantly, the Ecumenical Patriarch confirmed that he and Pope Francis will be meeting in Jerusalem in the spring of 2014 to observe the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting there of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew also made a number of other interesting comments as can be seen from the article.  The official English-language text of the letter from Pope Francis to the Ecumenical Patriarch on the feast day can be read in English at  A photo taken during the liturgy by has been attached.

    Yesterday in Warsaw, a very successful three-day conference, “The future of Christianity in Europe:  the role of the churches and peoples of Poland and Russia,” came to a close.   So many good things were said at this conference that it is difficult for me to summarize them.  For summaries of the individual addresses and remarks, you can use the Google translation tool to read the official Polish website for the conference, , or the website, .  I have pasted below an (always imperfect) Google translation of the “final document of the conference” read by Metropolitan Hilarion at the closing vespers of the conference, held at St. John the Baptist Catholic Cathedral in Warsaw. .  A great of credit for the progress made in this reconciliation effort over the past few years goes to Metropolitan Hilarion and  Archbishop Henryk Muszy?ski, primate emeritus of Poland.  It is very fitting that on the final day of the conference both of them received special awards from the Fund “For the Promotion of Tolerance.”  Attached is a nice photo from of the presentation of the awards.

    I personally found particularly interesting Metropolitan Hilarion’s remarks during his visit that there should be a program of pilgrim exchanges in which Orthodox from Russia make pilgrimages to holy places in Poland (such as Czestochowa) and Polish Catholics make pilgrimages to holy places in Russia (such as Sergiev Posad, Solovetsky Islands, Butovo).  

    Today (Sunday), Metropolitan Hilarion visited Cardinal Stanis?aw Dziwisz (former personal secretary to Pope John Paul II) in Krakow.  From this meeting emerged the exciting news that Cardinal Dziwisz presented to Metropolitan Hilarion a written letter of invitation to Patriarch Kirill, inviting him to participate in World Youth Day 2016, which will be held in Krakow.,35798,15057283,Kard__Dziwisz_zaprosil_patriarche_Cyryla_do_Krakowa.html   Metropolitan Hilarion did not rule out this possibility.

    Lastly, Cardinal Koch will be visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg in the next week or so.  Please keep this important trip in your prayers.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

    Brothers and sisters !
    We , Orthodox and Catholics from Kamchatka in the East to the Oder in the West , are gathered in Warsaw in the Cathedral Church of Saint John, the Prophet, the Forerunner and the Baptist  - listening to the words sounded on August 17, 2012, from the nearby Royal Castle, and imbued with trust in God, "May He grant His grace so that each Pole can see each Russian and each Russian can see each Pole as their friend and brother. "
    The basis of our reconciliation is the belief in Our Savior Jesus Christ.  Together we celebrate the Holy Trinity.  Our works are inspired by hope in God's providence.  But we also recognize that our ability to see each other as brothers and sisters is still far from perfect.  Much still divides us.  As St. Paul says, "Now we see through a glass darkly. " (1 Cor 13:12)  The path to a brother , the path of reconciliation – is not a one-time step, but a process comprising all human life, and sometimes - many generations.  We believe that - despite the difficult and sometimes tragic past - between Poles and Russians there may be neighborly and Christian relations.  Pray for God's mercy for those who in the past succumbed to the influence of criminal ideologies – to ensure that violence and hatred - the fruits of these ideologies – will never live in our hearts.
    The task of our generation - to live and work in the hope of a genuine and deep Polish-Russian reconciliation.  A reconciliation , as stated in last year's Joint Message to the Peoples of Russia and Poland, "implies a willingness to forgive endured insults and injustice." To this we are called by the prayer of Our Lord: "Our Father ... forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."
    Today , we appeal with a call:  look for not what divides, but what unites!  We are in no way called for wrest from our collective memory the painful and difficult pages of history:  they are also a part of our identity.  We have a duty to remember in the face of the suffering, tragedies and sacrifices of the past.  We know that the agreement between nations can only be built on truth, even if it is associated with pain.  And we must not forget that on the blood of martyrs stands the Church.  Remembering the pain of fathers will create joy for our children and grandchildren on the basis of the foundation of mutual trust.  Let us ask God for the gift of unity that is required to enter a new page in the book of the history of Russian-Polish relations .
    Let the priestly prayer of our Lord show us the way: "May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us – that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."  (Jn 17:20-21 )
    Cooperation of Christian Poland and Russia today is not only necessary to improve the relationship, but also to face the challenges posed by a world, attempting to live as if God did not exist.  We believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ remains the hope for our continent, while the role of the Churches, emerging from an experience of martyrdom – is a reminder to Europe of its spiritual roots.  Our witness will be more successful if Catholics and Orthodox work together.  We believe that thanks to our testimony, mutual understanding between our peoples will be strengthen.
    Cooperation between Russia and Poland is also necessary so that in this part of the world there will be at peace, so that people will live in freedom and not violate basic rights.  We recognize that our peoples are the heirs of the great cultures of the East and the West, inspired by the universal values ??of Christianity.  And we can build bridges that will be above our disagreements – in fact we can give so much to each other.  Pray that our continent may breathe with both lungs - Western and Eastern - in the spirit of European solidarity .
    Not knowing what tomorrow will bring, today we thank You, God, that to us gathered here, our generation, You give this honorable task and requested mission of reconciliation, “that each Pole can see each Russian and each Russian can see each Pole as their friend and brother.”

  • 14 November 2013: Events in Rome and Moscow

    Yesterday, Dr. Robert Moynihan, publisher of the Catholic magazine Inside the Vatican, sent a news report on the very successful Rome concert by the Russian singer Svetlana Kasyan.  I have pasted the report below.  Dr. Moynihan has done much hard work to promote this concert as well as other concerts in prior years involving Metropolitan Hilarion.   Tuesday’s concert was attended by Metropolitan Hilarion, Cardinals Koch and Ravasi, and many others.  It appears that the concert met or exceeded all expectations, but there was probably a bit of disappointment that Pope Francis did not attend.  One of the purposes of the concert was to thank Pope Francis for his efforts in promoting peace in the Middle East.  My suspicion is that Pope Francis, in the spirit of St. Francis, preferred not to attend an event where would be praised for his efforts.  However, earlier in the day Pope Francis had a private meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion.   A short video of the public portion of the meeting can be seen at  .

    Aside from the concert, Metropolitan Hilarion was involved in a flurry of activities in Rome.  He met with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.  The latter link has the interesting note that Cardinal Koch will be visiting Russia next month (December).  The Metropolitan also spoke at the Rome conference, ““Orthodox and Catholics Protecting the Family Together.”   He spoke at the presentation of a new book containing certain writings of the Russian scholar and author Sergei Averintsev (1937-2004).  He met with the President of Italy.

    At the book presentation, Metropolitan Hilarion is reported to have made the following remark to a journalist, "At this moment, we're not even talking about a visit to Russia by the Pope, but the possibility of a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus in a neutral country."   For an English-language report on this subject, see  If discussions are in fact occurring about a meeting in a neutral country, it would be a new development.  (You may recall that a meeting between Patriarch Alexy and Pope John Paul II was scheduled to be held at a monastery outside of Vienna in June 1997, but was cancelled by the Holy Synod.)

    It appears likely that Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch will be meeting together in Jerusalem during the first part of next year.    One source in Israel has stated that the meeting will occur in March.  Such a joint pilgrimage to the Holy Land would probably attract a high degree of international attention.  The same would be true of a meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis.

    While Metropolitan Hilarion was in Rome, Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan was in Moscow.  It appears that his visit was very successful.  On Tuesday he met with Patriarch Kirill.  The Patriarch informed the Cardinal: “I believe that our Churches never had so many important reasons for common work as today. We welcome the position of His Holiness Pope Francis on many problems.”

    On a negative note, the World Russian People’s Council (Patriarch Kirill is its present head) noted an unfortunate November 11 incident at the Russian Embassy in Warsaw and commented on the negative perception of Russia in Polish history books and publications.   Perhaps this will be a subject for discussion at the major conference on Russian-Polish reconciliation that will be held in Warsaw at the end of this month.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    From Dr. Robert Moynihan:

    At 5 p.m. yesterday, November 12, Svetlana Kasyan, the young Russian opera star, was a bit worried.

    "My throat is a little sore," she said. "I think I may have a slight fever."

    But the young woman went forward despite these obstacles and at 9 p.m. appeared on stage in the Auditorium Conciliazione on via della Conciliazione as the soloist in a magnificent "Concert for Peace" in honor of Pope Francis, who called for a day of prayer and fasting for peace on September 7.

    She sang brilliantly, filling the hall with her powerful, expressive voice. (We are preparing a CD and DVD of the concert.)

    When the concert was over, the approximately 1,000 in attendance erupted in long applause. Svetlana, who received several large bouquets of flowers, smiled, and agreed to sing an additional piece as an encore.

    In attendance were Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Kurt Koch and Archbishop Brian Farrell of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and a number of other archbishops and monsignors from the Vatican, as well as many Italians and Russians living in Rome.

    (Cardinal Koch is scheduled to visit Russia in December. Yesterday in Russia, Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan met with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Moscow, where Scola is visiting the relatively small Catholic community there. Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, is scheduled to visit Pope Francis on November 25.)

    During the concert, Cardinal Ravasi and Cardinal Koch sat on either side of the Russian Orthodox Metropolitan, Hilarion Alfeyev, in the front row.

    Prior to the concert, the three men, along with several others in their entourage, met for 20 minutes in a small reception room by the theater entrance.

    These meetings came after a meeting earlier yesterday between Pope Francis and Hilarion, aided by his interpreter from Russian into Spanish, Miguel Palacio.

    Also in attendance at the concert was one of the two personal secretaries of Pope Francis, don Fabian Pedacchio.

    He brought a gift for Svetlana in an envelope sealed with the papal seal, sent by Pope Francis himself: two rosaries in small square cases.

    Today, before Sevtlana left from Rome for Moscow at about 9 a.m., she was invited to be present during the 7 a.m. morning Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the Domus Santa Marta (where she has been staying).

    And after Mass, she said had been able to speak with Pope Francis for a few moments.

    "Yes, he gave me his blessing," Svetlana told me. "He blessed my voice and told me to use it to give glory to God. Our meeting deeply moved me. I am at a loss for words. I cannot easily describe how I felt. I admire and love him very much. He is so very simple and genuine and I am so grateful to have met him."

    Moments later, she was in a taxi and on her way to the airport.

    A diplomat serving in Rome who attended the concert wrote to me today in an email: "Congratulations again on the wonderful concert last night. I hope you were pleased and that Metropolitan Hilarion enjoyed the program and particularly the presentation of his own compositions. He certainly seemed to when I spoke to him last night. The whole Russian presence in Rome has added momentum toward your objective of closer relations between the two Churches. It is significant that Cardinal Koch and Bishop Farrell were both present after having only recently returned from Korea, where they were at the World Council of Churches meeting with Hilarion."

    "It was a wonderful concert," said Natalia Tsarkova, a Russian painter who lives in Rome and has painted portraits of the last three Popes. She attended the concert last night. "It was a lovely, very special event. Truly memorable. Svetlana has a beautiful voice."

    Born in Georgia, in the Caucusus, Svetlana lost her father as a young child, and with what remained of her family, found refuge in Kazakhstan. There she began to study music and singing. She then found her way to Moscow, and eventually, after long years of study, became a soloist with the Bolshoi Theater.

  • 4 November 2013: Ecumenical music

    Music can be a wonderful bridge between Catholics and Orthodox.  Although some Orthodox have great reservations about “common prayer,” there are far fewer reservations about Catholics and Orthodox singing together.  This could be seen last night at a wonderful concert held at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.  The concert was part of the "XII Festival Internazionale di Musica e Arte Sacra," which is being held at the various basilicas and churches in Rome and Vatican City, 2-6 November 2013.   At last night’s concert, the Vatican’s Sistine Choir and the Moscow Synodal Choir not only sang at the same concert but actually sang together.

     A Russian-language report of the event is found at  The latter report states that the two choirs received a standing ovation.  An Italian-language report of the event is found at .   This Italian report quotes from a letter written by Pope Francis for the concert.  I have pasted below a poor Google translation, which will at least give you an idea of the substance of the Pope’s letter.

    Yesterday morning, the Sistine Choir and the Synodal Choir practiced together at St. Peter’s Basilica.  After the rehearsal, who should come down to the street to greet the departing Synodal Choir members, but Pope Francis himself.  The Synod Choir sang for the Pope several Russian hymns as well as, of course, “MNOGAYA LETA.”  A photo of this meeting from the website is attached. 

    I have also attached a photo of the two choirs together in more formal attire.  The reestablishment in current times of the historic Synodal Choir has been due largely to the hard work of Metropolitan Hilarion and the St. Gregory the Theologian Charity Fund.

    Last night’s concert is the forerunning of the major Russian concert that will be held in honor of Pope Francis on 12 November in Rome.  I suspect that both Metropolitan Hilarion and Pope Francis will attend.

    If you have not already read Metropolitan Hilarion’s excellent address to the World Council of Churches Assembly in South Korea, the following is a link to the English text.   Not surprisingly, not all delegates liked what they heard.  Here is an example posted today --   As I have said on other occasions, I believe that Metropolitan Hilarion gets high marks for speaking bluntly and honestly his beliefs.

    Lastly, it has been announced that a major conference on the reconciliation of Poland and Russia will be held in Warsaw, 28-30 November.  The title of the conference is “The future of Christianity in Europe:  the role of the churches and peoples of Poland and Russia.”  The website for the conference is   This conference is intended to be the most important event to date to follow-up on the signing of the Joint Message on the reconciliation of the Russian and Polish peoples.  Metropolitan Hilarion will attend the conference as well as key members of the Catholic hierarchy in Poland.  The last day of the conference will be devoted to ways in which the Polish and Russian churches can cooperate in the future.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Zenit report:

    The Synodal Choir of the Moscow Patriarchate , together with the Pontifical Choir of the Sistine Chapel were the protagonists of the great concert that took place yesterday, Sunday, Nov. 3 , in the picturesque scenery of the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The evening - which has brought to light the ancient traditions that bind the music Russian sacred polyphony of the Roman school - was part of the XII International Festival of Sacred Music and Art .
    A welcome to singers , musicians and guests of the basilica was given by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches , who said: "I came at the request of the Secretary of State to represent the Holy See in this concert . I gladly accepted. "
    The cardinal then read the message sent by Pope Francis for the occasion. "To live a moment of spiritual elevation in the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore through the musical art of the Latin Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is an interesting experience and profound," wrote the Pope . This basilica , he continues, " was born , in fact, with the aim of celebrating in the West the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus which had recognized Mary as the Theotokos, the Mother of God." It  therefore " unites two traditions in Mary Church that recognize the same faith enriching it with their cultural diversity."
    " Evaluating the history of Christianity in its scope millennial - then observed the Pope - we can see that when it was separated for historical events , imposed by the different ways of understanding the revelation , has maintained a deep unity in the art ." Today, according Bergoglio, " this artistic unity continuously finds fruitful meeting points in the intelligent attendance , study and reflection of the common sources . This means real silent understanding, respect and mutual enrichment . "
    In the Church , the Pope pointed out Francis in the message, " art in all its forms does not exist for a simple aesthetic enjoyment , but because through it the Church in every era and in every culture explains and interprets the revelation for the people of God . " Therefore, " art exists in the Church basically to evangelize ."  And from this perspective, found new vigor in the words of Dostoevsky , which states: "Beauty will save the world."
    "Today” - wrote the Holy Father – “the Church can and must breathe with her ??two lungs : that of the East and the West.  Where we still cannot do it entirely , according to the measure of units required by Jesus in his prayer to the Father , we can do it in many other ways , such as through the great heritage of art and culture that different traditions have produced for the life in abundance of God's people . "
    " Music, painting , sculpture, architecture , beauty in one word - he concluded - joins to grow in faith celebrated in the prophetic hope , and charity witnessed " in the hope of " advance in the history of the desired unity that we all seek , by the grace and gift of God. "
    During the concert , in the nave of one of the most beautiful Marian shrines in the world are thus echoed the male and female voices of the 48 members of the Russian choir conducted by Alexsej Puzakov , and many children and adults in the choir of the Sistine Chapel , conducted by maestro Msgr. Massimo Palombella .
    The first piece performed was the Te Deum by Dmitri Bortnyansky , followed by Gregorian chant and polyphony classical Roman - Puer Natus , the Gloria , the Kyrie , etc. - through the Angel announcement by Pavel Grigorevich Cesnokov and In Your Kingdom by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev . Then carry out a series of rare Russian polyphonic compositions 800 and 900 , some written by Èajkovskij and Rachmaninov . Of note, finally , the Stabat Mater under the direction of the Salesian Palombella , and Popule Meus , directed by both the teachers , with the Latin text performed by the members of the choir of the Sistine Chapel and the other in Greek sung by the choir of the Patriarchate. 

  • 22 October 2013: Catholic & Orthodox positions on remarriage

    Today, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published an article in L'Osservatore Romano  entitled, “On the indissolubility of marriage and the debate concerning the civilly remarried and the sacraments.”  The full text of the English translation of the article can be read atüller:_care_of_remarried_divorcees_must_not_be_reduced_to/en1-739617.  Although the article is not an official document of the Vatican, it certainly undermines the current speculation that Pope Francis may liberalize the Catholic Church’s teaching in this regard.  The article does make specific reference to the Orthodox position on this issue.  I have pasted those references below.

    An article from a Russian-language newspaper in Prague has confirmed the deadlock on Saturday with respect to the special assembly called to elect a new Orthodox archbishop of Prague.  According to this article, there were 116 delegates, and therefore 76 [77?] votes were need for the required two-thirds majority.  The Holy Synod had approved two candidates.  Before the fifth and last round of voting, one of two contenders, Father Dorotej Rapsun, had urged the delegates to vote for the other contender, Archbishop Juraj of Michalovce and Kosice.  Even with the support of the opposition candidate, Archbishop Juraj only received 61 votes in the final and last round.

    An American Orthodox website has posted the following somewhat-sensational article:   If the factual aspects of the reported letter from Constantinople to Moscow are true, it would indicate some of the tensions between Constantinople and Moscow which are not always visible on the surface.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    Extract from Müller’s article:

    “In patristic times, divorced members of the faithful who had civilly remarried could not even be readmitted to the sacraments after a period of penance. Some patristic texts, however, seem to imply that abuses were not always rigorously corrected and that from time to time pastoral solutions were sought for very rare borderline cases.
    In many regions, greater compromises emerged later, particularly as a result of the increasing interdependence of Church and State. In the East this development continued to evolve, and especially after the separation from the See of Peter, it moved towards an increasingly liberal praxis. In the Orthodox Churches today, there are a great many grounds for divorce, which are mostly justified in terms of oikonomia, or pastoral leniency in difficult individual cases, and they open the path to a second or third marriage marked by a penitential character. This practice cannot be reconciled with God’s will, as expressed unambiguously in Jesus’ sayings about the indissolubility of marriage. But it represents an ecumenical problem that is not to be underestimated.
    In the West, the Gregorian reform countered these liberalizing tendencies and gave fresh impetus to the original understanding of Scripture and the Fathers. The Catholic Church defended the absolute indissolubility of marriage even at the cost of great sacrifice and suffering. The schism of a “Church of England” detached from the Successor of Peter came about not because of doctrinal differences, but because the Pope, out of obedience to the sayings of Jesus, could not accommodate the demands of King Henry VIII for the dissolution of his marriage.
    The Council of Trent confirmed the doctrine of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage and explained that this corresponded to the teaching of the Gospel (cf. DH 1807). Sometimes it is maintained that the Church de facto tolerated the Eastern practice. But this is not correct. The canonists constantly referred to it as an abuse. And there is evidence that groups of Orthodox Christians on becoming Catholic had to subscribe to an express acknowledgment of the impossibility of second or third marriages.”

  • 20 October 2013: Deadlock again today in Prague ?

    I have already reported several times on the situation involving the Orthodox Church in Czech Lands and Slovakia.  You may recall that on May 18, 2013, a diocesan assembly was held in Prague to elect a new archbishop of Prague to succeed Metropolitan Christopher, who had resigned after accusations of sexual impropriety were raised in the media.  The May assembly considered three candidates (Krupica, Dandar, and Kupets) approved by the Holy Synod and rejected all three of them.  A second diocesan assembly was held today, October 19.  Prior to today’s assembly, the Holy Synod had met on Thursday, October 17 and had found two new candidates qualified – Archbishop Juraj of Michalovce and Kosice and Father Dorotej Rapsun.   Thursday’s meeting also considered the action recently taken by Archbishop Simeon, locum tenens of the Orthodox Church in Czech Lands and Slovakia, to remove the elected administrator of the Prague Diocese, Archimandrite Marek Krupica, from the priesthood and return him to the lay state.  Krupica had been considered the favorite in the May assembly.  The Holy Synod found the action of Archbishop Simeon invalid.   The following is an English-language article, dated October 15, describing the very bitter contest which is now occurring in Prague. .

    It appears that earlier today the diocesan assembly rejected the two new candidates proposed by the Holy Synod.  This was reported at   The latter is a website which is very opposed to the Holy Synod and supports the reinstatement of Metropolitan Christopher.   It has attacked the candidates proposed by the Holy Synod in the most defamatory terms.   However, it points out that Metropolitan Christopher recently participated in the liturgical celebrations in Nis.   This is apparently true – which indicates that Metropolitan Christopher may still have some support in other Local Churches.  It is possible that the deadlock in Prague may be due to some delegates seeking the reinstatement of Metropolitan Christopher and rejecting any candidate proposed by the Holy Synod.   The deadlock is apparently difficult to break in that it appears that a two-thirds vote of the assembly is needed to appoint a new archbishop of Prague.  After the archbishop of Prague is elected, a primate of the Orthodox Church in Czech Lands and Slovakia must still be elected.  Under the Church rules, the primate must be either the archbishop of Prague or the archbishop of Presov (Slovakia).

    In other news, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia has been reappointed as a representative of the Church of Greece to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.   The Metropolitan had previously submitted his resignation on February 13, 2012, after he had criticized the Holy Synod of Greece for taking a position different from the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the issue of the legal proceeding involving Abbot Ephraim of Vatopedi Monastery at Mt. Athos.

    On October 17, 2013, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited the Panteleimon Monastery at Mount Athos.  This monastery has historically had a very close relationship with Russia, and most of the monks there at the present time are from the Moscow Patriarchate.  Patriarch Kirill visited the monastery last June.  All of Mount Athos is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch.  Bartholomew’s visit was covered by two prominent Greek Orthodox websites:  (“Warning Message from the Ecumenical Patriarch?”); (full text of Ecumenical Patriarch’s address).

    Lastly, Cardinal Kurt Koch gave a short interview on October 17 with the German-language service of Vatican Radio with respect to the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.  You can listen to it atökumene/ted-737961  The cardinal stressed that the theological question of the relationship between primacy and synodality must be deepened and does not involve a compromise involving searching for the smallest common denominator.  He also expressed the view that the tensions between individual nationally-constituted Orthodox churches show the need for some form of primacy.

  • 7 October 2013: Today's celebration

    A beautiful day in Nis, Serbia and a beautiful liturgy marked today the culmination of the celebration of the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan.   Many photographs of the event can be seen at .  The liturgy was led by Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew and included the primates of the following Local Orthodox Churches:  Serbia, Moscow, Jerusalem, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, and Albania.  I understand that there were also representatives from the Churches of Antioch, Alexandria, Bulgaria, and Czech Lands and Slovakia.  The Catholic Church had two representatives: Cardinal Jozef Tomko (Prefect  Emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples) and Archbishop Stanislav Ho?evar of Belgrade.  The liturgy occurred in front of the Church of Sts. Constantine and Helena, facing a large public park.  It is estimated that over 15,000 faithful attended.  The only report that I have seen so far from a Western news agency is .

    Approximately a week ago Patriarch Irinej of Serbia gave an interesting interview to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.   An English summary can be read at .

    An excellent example of Catholic – Orthodox cooperation for peace is a special concert that will be given in Rome on November 12.  The principal soloist will be the Russian opera singer, Svetlana Kasyan.  The program will include two of Metropolitan Hilarion’s compositions.   Several days ago Kasyan gave a Russian-language interview in which she discussed the future concert.   She stated that she considers Metropolitan Hilarion to be her spiritual father.  Apparently, some of the compositions will be translated and sung in Spanish (for obvious reasons).

  • 2 October 2013: Patriarch of Alexandria meets Francis

    Yesterday, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa met with Pope Francis at the Vatican.   A photo of the meeting is attached. 

    The address of His Beatitude to Pope Francis was summarized in Greek by the website of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.  I have pasted below a Google translation of this summary.  The Google translation is terrible, but it at least gives you some idea of the warmth of His Beatitude’s remarks.  The meeting received very little media coverage.  However, I have not be able to determine, after some brief research, any other occasion in modern times when the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and a Pope of Rome met.  Maybe some of you can correct me on this.  When Pope John Paul II visited Egypt in 2000, my recollection is that the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria had arranged a trip away from Egypt at that time.  If this was the first meeting in modern times, it was really an historic event.

    Pope Francis also met yesterday with participants from the conference organized by the Sant'Egidio community, “The Courage of Hope.”     I like the attached photo showing the primates of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch sitting together.

    In Ukraine yesterday, the heads of the major religions signed an appeal to the Ukrainian people.  The appeal favored the European integration of Ukraine.  It also express the hope that Russia will respect the right of Ukraine to choose its own way.  Among the signers of the appeal were Metropolitan Volodymyr (Moscow Patriarchate) and the primates of the Kyiv Patriarchate and UGCC.  In my opinion, this is another indication of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) showing increasing independence.


    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA



    On Monday, September 30, His Beatitude the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, Theodoros II, accompanied by Metropolitan  Seraphim of Zimbabwe and Angola, Metropolitan George of Ghana , Representative of His Beatitude to Athens, met at the Vatican with the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church Pope FrancisAddresses the Roman Catholic Primate, His Beatitude said among other things:

    The two Churches, the Alexandrian and Roman, belong, historically and traditionally, to the ancient churches.  Belong to churches that, immediately after Pentecost, formed the starting point of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Belong to churches that have formed with reason, ministry and witness their Teleutias the Apostle and Evangelist and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

    United in the first ten-plus centuries, we lived not only their common starting point, but also the common history and we met in spirit, loving each other and confessing our Lord.  In the eternal city, Saint Athanasius the Great, Patriarch of Alexandria, met the love of his brother the Pope of Rome Julius and Patriarch of Alexandria Petros II with Pope Damasus.  In hours critical for the unity of the Church were nearby and found the struggle to defend the Truth brothers keepers and defenders of the Faith and Love.

    From these points of convergence of the history of our church today draw strength, life and hope that, through the testimony of those who unite us and for the dialogue to continue our march on the road to restoration of Christian unity for which our Lord prayed on the eve of His Passion.  The Apostle Paul writes to the Romans: "Accept one another, as Christ accepts you for the glory of God."  (Rom. 15.7).  This is exactly what we are experiencing Tut moment as sacred debt "epipothias of elthein" (Rom. 15.22) to brother "with joy by the will of God ..." (Rom. 15.32).

    Consider this society as a symbol of life towards the stability of the holy churches and unification of everything.  As a symbol of allegiance to the need to preserve the flock and lead-in "laws saviors in much patience ..." (II Cor, 6.1 to 10).  As a symbol, fed on prayer and biofilm by love, common struggle defending the right of every person to freely define and meaning to his life starting with the reference to God, especially now that the ideological hardening of people creates in Middle East Africa and strong pockets of challenging the right and poisoning of the peaceful coexistence of people.

    As pastors deacons of love and truth, let us pray diapyros.  The test our brothers in these flammable areas of our planet be strengthened from God to "Rejoice in hope, patient in trial, persevere in prayer" (Rom, 12.12) to at peace with all of the people.  Amen!

    The focus of the talks the two Primates found the need to protect the right to freedom of religious expression, which is disputed in the Middle East and Africa from bigotry and fanaticism.  His Beatitude had the opportunity to testify to the dialogue table his personal experience of his long ministry to the spiritual George the African continent, but also to share his concern about the use of religion by extremist groups as a pretext to commit heinous acts violence.

    Both leaders agreed on the need to undertake initiatives to promote not only the peaceful coexistence and creative interaction between people of different religious references.  Within this framework agreed on the need to continue and intensify the inter-Christian dialogue to a concretion and consolidation of Christian unity through diversity as a foreshadowing of panhuman unity based on a shared value system.

    After the talks followed by an exchange souvenirs.

  • 28 September 2013: Today's meeting in Rome

    Today His Beatitude Youhanna X Yazigi met with Pope Francis.  Immediately after the meeting, His Beatitude was interviewed by Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio.  You can listen to her very interesting 10-minute English-language interview at   With respect to the day of fasting and prayer requested by Pope Francis, His Beatitude stated that it “was very important I think, and in fact all our people participated that day, all together, in praying for Syria, for the Middle East, for peace in all the world.”  With respect to the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, he stated that “we want to do what we can do, all together – this is the desire of His Holiness, and our desire.”  Of course, the most important topic was the present situation of Christians in the Middle East.
    You can also see a short video of the meeting at   At the end of the very warm meeting, the two primates, hand in hand, prayed for each other.

    The Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia will seek to elect a new primate in October.  Sadly, it appears that the Church remains sharply divided.  This can be seen from the following website of the opponents to the Holy Synod and the supporters of former primate Metropolitan Christopher.

    Lastly, Metropolitan  Volodymyr of Kyiv and All Ukraine (Moscow Patriarchate) made a pilgrimage to the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy on September 20-21.  You can see more photos of the visit at .  As you know, Metropolitan Volodymyr suffers from a serious illness (apparently Parkinson’s).  It is encouraging that he was able to make such a long trip.

  • 27 September 2013: Patriarch of Antioch arrives in Rome

    His Beatitude Youhanna X Yazigi, Patriarch of Antioch, arrived in Rome today.  Tomorrow, Friday, he will meet with Pope Francis.  On Sunday, he will attend the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square to observe the Day for Catechists.  He will also be meeting with Cardinals Bertone, Sandri and Koch.   In Rome, His Beatitude will speak at the conference organized by the Sant'Egidio community, “The Courage of Hope,” the International Meeting for Peace in the spirit of Assisi.   On Tuesday morning he is expected to meet with the Foreign Minister of Italy.  The meeting between His Beatitude and the Pope is occurring only three weeks after the day of fasting and prayer proclaimed by Pope Francis for Syria – a three-week period marked by some encouraging developments.

    Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria has completed his visit with the Ecumenical Patriarch.  The following is an interesting excerpt from an article concerning the visit by the Sofia Globe:  “There has been talk for decades on holding a ‘holy and great Council of Orthodox Church’.

    Issues to be resolved include where and under whose chairmanship such a council should be held, and how decisions should be approved – by consensus or by majority vote.  Bartolomeos – since 1991 the Ecumenical Patriarch, a post that is ‘first among equals’ in the practice of the Orthodox Christian churches – said that he wanted to arrange a meeting early in 2014 of Orthodox churches to discuss the forthcoming convocation of an Ecumenical Council.  During discussions, Bartolomeos raised with Neofit the issue of the participation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Churches in inter-Christian and inter-religious dialogue, as well as the World Council of Churches.”   As you know, Bulgaria has chosen not to participate in the work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.   The remarks of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the Patriarch of Bulgaria make it very clear that participation in such dialogues is not a betrayal of Orthodoxy.  ;  As I reported last February, Neofit, who met with Pope Benedict prior to his election as Patriarch, appears to be fairly open to contact with other churches.

    It is interesting to see that Archbishop Mennini, who did so much to improve Catholic-Orthodox relations in Russia, continues to be involved in Orthodox relations after his appointment as nuncio to the United Kingdom.  Last Tuesday, Metropolitan Hilarion met with him in London.  The Archbishop also attended the Bose conference earlier this month.

    The following are reports on the Catholic celebrations in Nis and on the visit of Cardinal Scola:  ;

  • 18 September 2013: Celebrations in Nis

    The most important Serbian celebrations of the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan will be occurring between now and October 9.  These will occur primarily in Nis, Serbia – the birthplace of Emperor Constantine.  I have previously sent you a number of reports concerning the hope, generated by early comments by Serbian Patriarch Irinej, that the Pope might be invited to these celebrations.  Although this did not happen, it appears that the celebrations have been marked by very encouraging Orthodox – Catholic cooperation.

    The Catholic celebrations in Nis will begin this Friday.  In a letter dated August 8, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan to be his special envoy to the Catholic celebrations.  Cardinal Scola, accompanied by his vicar bishops Erminio de Scalzi and Luca Bressan, will arrive in Belgrade tomorrow.  They will first meet with Serbian Patriarch Irinej and then with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic.  On Friday evening, Cardinal Scola will participate in the Stations of the Cross through the streets of Nis, followed by a vigil involving youth.    Cardinal Scola will be bringing with him from Milan fragments of the True Cross to be given to the Exaltation of the Cross Catholic church in Nis that will soon be dedicated.  The main event will be a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Scola on Saturday morning in the Nis sports stadium.  Other visiting prelates will include Cardinal Puljic (Bosnia), Cardinal McCarrick (USA), Archbishop Sheehan (USA), and Bishop Drainey (UK).   The Mass will be broadcast live on Serbian television.   Catholic pilgrims are expected from Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Bulgaria.   One of the most enduring aspects of the Catholic celebration is that the Catholic Church will be giving to the citizens of Nis a stone monument commemorating the Edict of Milan.  In a press conference, the mayor of Nis spoke very enthusiastically about the monument.  The five-meter-high monument, which will be dedicated on November 20, will be placed in the park opposite the City Hall of Nis.   All of this could not be accomplished without the cooperation of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian governmental authorities.

    Of course, the largest Serbian celebrations of the Edict of Milan will be those of the Orthodox Churches, October 4-9.  A detailed English-language description of these very important celebrations has been posted by the Serbian Orthodox Church at   Visiting Orthodox primates at the celebration will include “His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartolomew, His Holiness Teophilos of Jerusalem, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus and His Beatitude Archbishop Sava of Warsaw.”  There is will also be representatives of other Christian churches including a “high delegation of the Vatican with the representatives of the Roman Catholic Church from the region.”

    On a different subject, the Bose Monastery in Italy concluded last Saturday its very successful XXI International Ecumenical Conference on Orthodox Spirituality.,en/   I thought that it was particularly encouraging that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church sent both a metropolitan and a bishop to the ecumenical conference.  It is also interesting to see at the conference a monk from Mt. Athos and a monk from St. Catherine’s (Sinai).

    Lastly, there is an English-language translation of an interesting interview of Hieromonk Ioann (Kopeikin) on the program of the Moscow Patriarchate to send theology students on foreign exchanges. 

  • 11 September 2013: Nice words about Fribourg

    Barbara, I thought that you might enjoy this article:    


  • 6 September 2013: Ecumenical Patriarch will pray Saturday; Romania on Sunday has done an excellent job of reporting on the reaction of other churches and faiths with respect to the appeal of Pope Francis for fasting and prayers on Saturday for peace in Syria.  Its Istanbul reporter NAT da Polis today gives the great news that the Ecumenical Patriarch will be praying on Saturday.,-we-shall-pray-for-peace-in-Syria-28938.html    Metropolitan Eustatius Matta Roham of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch for Northern Syria has also joined the Pope’s appeal. 

    Patriarch Daniel of the Romanian Orthodox Church has issued a letter requesting all of the Romanian Orthodox Church to pray to the Theotokos on Sunday, the feast of her Nativity, for peace in Syria.

  • 4 September 2013: Second appeal by Francis to other Christians

    To leave no doubt that Pope Francis greatly hopes that all Christians will pray and fast for peace on Saturday, the Pope made a second appeal at the end of his weekly audience today.,-pope-says-28917.html  In this regard, he stated, "I renew the invitation to the whole Church to live this day intensely, and even now I express gratitude to the other Christian brethren, to the brethren of other religions and to the men and women of good will who desire to join in this initiative, in places and ways of their own.”  [my emphasis]  To further emphasize the importance of this event, the Vatican Secretary of State has called a special meeting for all diplomats accredited to the Holy See for a briefing on the day of prayer and fasting for Syria.   The Vatican Secretariat of State has sent appeals to all the Catholic bishops conference concerning September 7 and has even followed up with contacts to insure that each conference has in fact received the message.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have already issued its own appeal. 

    How have other Christians responded so far?   As I previously reported, the response of the Catholics and Orthodox in Syria has been wonderful.  Just like Christians in the gulags, a common threat brings all Christians very close together.

    The general secretary of the World Council of Churches has joined in the appeal. 

    Because I am primarily interested in Catholic – Orthodox relations, I have looked today at most of the official websites of the Local Orthodox Churches.  Unfortunately, I have not found a single one that even mentions the appeal made by Pope Francis for September 7.  In a Google search, I have not found any Orthodox statement of support aside from the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch.  I am sure that there must be some support among the Local Orthodox Churches.  If you are aware of any, please send me a “reply” and tell me if I can publicize it in a future report.  Thank you so much!  

  • 2 September 2013 (2): Will the world fast and pray on 7 September?

    Pope Francis has taken a big risk.  Will his dramatic call for a day of fasting and prayer be largely ignored by the world?  There was not even a mention of the appeal in the major Seattle newspaper today.  The local press seems more interested in Tomahawk missiles.  What percentage of Catholics will really fast next Saturday?  Will the Orthodox Churches really join in the fasting and prayer on Saturday or will they consider this simply a “Catholic thing” ?  What will the Muslim response be?  With only six days between the announcement and the actual day of fasting and prayer, it is very easy to say that there is too little time to plan or organize anything.  However, if this is delayed a month, what will happen in the meantime?  To what extent will the heads of major denominations and primates of Local Churches join in the call for fasting and prayer on Saturday?  Will I actually fast next Saturday?  Will you actually fast next Saturday?  There are many questions that will be answered as this week continues.

    Of course, it is too early to say what the response of the world will be.  So far, there are some glimmers of hope.  Here are a few:

    “Yesterday, the Maronite Patriarch in Beirut, Cardinal Bechara Rai, visited the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Youhanna Yazigi, and the two leaders said they were ‘deeply comforted by the Pope’s appeal’, pledging to raise awareness in their communities for common prayer.”

    The Grand Mufti of Syria desires to be in St. Peter's with the Pope to pray for peace in Syria: Muslims and other groups join in the appeal.

    Catholics in India will fast and pray.

    Melkite Patriarch --  In Syria we will keep our churches open until midnight to allow everyone (Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims) to pray. Vigils will be held wherever possible, even if there are fewer than 10 people participating.   There will be special prayers at the famous Orthodox Marian shrine of Saidnaya. 

    So far, I have seen the appeal of Pope Francis on few Orthodox websites.  Here are some that have reported it:

  • 2 September 2013 (1): An urgent appeal by Francis for next Saturday

    Today, Pope Francis requested all Christians and those of all faiths to pray and fast for peace in Syria and in the world next Saturday, the vigil of the Nativity of the Theotokos. I have pasted below the English translation of the entire text from

    Dear Brothers and Sisters, Hello!

    Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

    There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming.

    I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.

    With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so overcome blind conflict. With similar vigour I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that countrywithout further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people.

    May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries. May humanitarian workers, charged with the task of alleviating the sufferings of these people, be granted access so as to provide the necessary aid.

    What can we do to make peace in the world? As Pope John said, it pertains to each individual to establish new relationships in human society under the mastery and guidance of justice and love (cf. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, [11 April 1963]: AAS 55, [1963], 301-302).

    All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity!

    I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.

    May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and be let themselves be led by the desire for peace.

    To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

    On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

    Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace. Mat, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

  • 27 August 2013: August report

    Although August has been a very quiet month, there are still a few items to report. has just reported that the recently-elected Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria will be visiting the other Local Orthodox Churches according to their order in the diptychs.  His first visit will be to the Ecumenical Patriarch from September 20-23, 2013.  In my opinion, this is an encouraging sign that the Bulgarian Church under Neofit may decide to be less isolated than in the past.

    This month the Catholic parish of the Exaltation of the Cross in Kazan (Russia) celebrated the fifth anniversary of the consecration of its new church building.  This beautiful church building was made possible largely through the financial support of the City of Kazan.  The communists had confiscated the old church building and used the land for a wind tunnel.  Catholic Archbishop Kondrusiewicz of Minsk was invited to speak at a conference held in conjunction with the celebration.   He was graciously received by Orthodox Metropolitan Anastasy of Kazan and Tatarstan. 

    In the attached photo, Metropolitan Anastasy is in the center, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz is on the right, and on the left is Catholic Bishop Clemens Pickel of the “St. Clement Diocese” (covering the area of Southern European Russia).  The priest on the far right is the pastor of the Catholic parish, Father Diogenes Urquiza, who is a native of Argentina and a member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.   Metropolitan Anastasy has excellent relations with Catholics in the area, and I have personally seen the good relations that Father Diogenes has with local Orthodox priests.  In Russia, Orthodox-Catholic relations often depend on the views of the local Orthodox bishop.  Therefore, relations can vary greatly from one part of Russia to another.

    Not surprisingly, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz visited the site where the 10-year-old girl Matrona in 1579 discovered the original Kazan icon, which was buried one meter (two cubits) below the surface of the ground. 

    The second photo shows people gather around the exact location where the icon was unburied by Matrona.  Before the Revolution, a great monastery cathedral was located over this holy site.  In the 1930s, the communists leveled it to the ground.  However, the monastery’s “gate church” of the Exaltation of the Cross (built over the monastery’s main gate) was not destroyed and was used by the Philology Department of the Kazan State Pedagogical University for many years.  It was the only part of the famous Monastery of the Mother of God that remained intact.  This was the building that was reconstructed to receive the Vatican copy of the Kazan icon in 2005.  It is now a very beautiful church (the large red-and-white building in the background of the photo).  Pilgrims come both to venerate the icon and to pray at the spot where the icon was discovered by Matrona.

    Although I reported before on the remarks of Pope Francis to journalists on the flight from Rio to Rome, a complete English transcript was not then available.  It is now – thanks to the efforts of Dr. Robert Moynihan and Zenit news agency. .  Here are the Pope’s exact remarks relating to the feast of St. Andrew 2013:  “I would like to go to Constantinople, on September 30 [Note: the Pope meant November 30, as he stated a few seconds later], to visit Bartholomew I, but it’s not possible, it’s not possible because of my agenda. If we meet, we’ll do so at Jerusalem.”

    After a very successful 65,000-kilometer journey through 24 countries from Vladivostok, Russia to Fatima, Portugal (visiting many Catholic and 60 Orthodox parishes), the very beautiful copy of the Czestochowa icon of the Mother of God arrived in the United States on August 24.  In the US,  it will continue its journey in support of human life until November 2014 when it departs for Mexico.  Metropolitan Tikhon, primate of the OCA, has given a wonderful endorsement to this ecumenical project.  

    Lastly, I was doing a Google search a few days ago on a Catholic-Orthodox subject and the following website appeared.  Although Prof. Dr. Barbara Hallensleben had talked to me in the past about the possibility of posting the various news reports on the website of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), it was still a great surprise to me when I saw this.   My many thanks to Prof. Hallensleben for her kindness.  Approximately 110 individuals or organizations, interested in Orthodox-Catholic relations, receive these news reports, and the posting by her of the reports does provide for greater access to this news.  I  greatly appreciate what she has done. 

  • 30 July 2013: Rio and Kyiv

    This last weekend was an important time for both Catholics and Orthodox – both of those Churches had very significant events.  For Catholics, of course, it was World Youth Day in Rio.  There are a few aspects that might be of special interest to Orthodox.  On his flight back to Rome, Pope Francis held an unannounced press conference for 80 minutes with journalists with no prior screening of the questions.  Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio has given a very good English-language summary of the press conference at  The following are two short parts of her report: (1) He also spoke of plans for a meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem, but said there was no definite decision yet. (2) Asked about relations with the Orthodox Church, Pope Francis spoke of the sense of beauty and adoration in the Eastern liturgies and how a consumerist mentality in the West has weakened our sense God. The author Dostoevsky, he added, should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the soul of Russia and its people.  A website also posted a photo showing Pope Francis in Rio wearing Orthodox prayer beads on his wrist. .   Some Orthodox may be shocked by the singing and dancing of 3 million people before the Pope immediately prior to the liturgy in Rio Sunday as shown in the following amazing 3-minute video:  However, it does capture some of the love of the Brazilian people for music – something that the Pentecostals have very much used to their advantage.  When the Pope arrived in Rome, he did not go immediately to the Vatican but rather stopped first at the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray before the ancient icon of the Theotokos and to thank her.

    Of course, the other major celebration occurred in Moscow, Kyiv, and Minsk – the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.  It was amazing to see the number of Local Churches that sent their primates to attending the multi-day celebration, including traveling by train with the Cross of St. Andrew between the three cities.  Father John Jillion, chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), wrote an interesting description of a day on the train at .  As expected, many of the faithful flocked to see and venerate the Cross of St. Andrew.  It was good to see the papal nuncio to Ukraine present at one of the receptions.  See attached photo. 

    The many events of the celebration, including photos, can be seen at .

    There have been comments in the media about the absence of the Ecumenical Patriarch at the celebration.  A delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, headed by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, did attend.  However, yesterday, the Ecumenical Patriarch issued a letter directed solely to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine and to the Ukrainian people.  The letter was posted in Greek, Ukrainian, and English.  The letter can be read in English at 

    You may recall that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew did attended the celebration of the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus, July 25-28, 2008, in Kyiv.  In 2008, the Moscow Patriarchate did not encourage the personal attendance of the Ecumenical Patriarch, because of fears that he might use his visit to provide some form of recognition to the two non-canonical Orthodox churches in Ukrainian.  However, this visit to Ukraine in 2008 include in a one-hour meeting with Patriarch Alexy which brought about an amazing personal reconciliation between the two patriarchs.  After the meeting, Patriarch Alexy told reporters, “We have agreed that all of the differences in the relations between our two Churches -- and problems can arise in every family -- should be resolved through dialogue.”

    This year, Metropolitan Anthony of Borispil and a delegation from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church traveled to Istanbul on May 21 to present personally an invitation to the Ecumenical Patriarch to attend the celebration of the 1025 anniversary.   I have seen no explanation as to why the Ecumenical Patriarch decided not to come this year, but I assume there must have been a good reason.  The primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church, who is very close to the Ecumenical Patriarch, also did not attend.

    On a completely different topic, Metropolitan Hilarion gave an interesting interview to German journalists on July 22.   I have been waiting for an English translation which has not yet appeared.  The interview includes a number of points relating to Catholic – Orthodox relations.  With respect to the international theological dialogue, the Metropolitan again states that he has not been happy with the work of the Commission in recent years.  He believes that it is a mistake to try to present our differences as few or our traditions as close to one another, but rather we should have a frank and clear identification of the differences and show each other the logic of our theological tradition.  My personal interpretation (which could be totally wrong) of the Metropolitan’s view is as follows: The Commission has historically attempted to produce agreed documents which emphasize the points on which Catholics and Orthodox agree.  I believe that Metropolitan Hilarion is stating that the document (such as one on primacy) should also allow the parties to emphasize their differences and state the logic of their respective positions. 

  • 9 July 2013: Two different approaches in Greece

    Last Friday, July 5, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Dorotheos of Syros, Tinos, Andros, Kea and Melos went to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in the village of Xinara on the island of Tinos to congratulate Catholic Archbishop Nikólaos Printesis  on the 20th anniversary of his episcopal ordination.  The Metropolitan also attended a Mass celebrating the event.  Some nice photos of the event can be seen at .   The island of Tinos continues to be a wonderful example of good Orthodox – Catholic relations.  Tinos, of course, is the site of the most famous and honored Marian shrine in all of Greece – the Church of Panagia Evangelistria.  Perhaps the Theotokos is a factor in these good relations.

    Two days earlier, the front-page story on two major Greek Orthodox websites ( and was a 71-page letter written by Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus to the Ecumenical Patriarch with copies sent to all of the Orthodox bishops of the Church of Greece.  The full text of the letter was posted on the Metropolitan’s website and can be read in Greek at .  Today, the story was also posted on major Russian Orthodox websites, such as .  According to the Metropolitan, the letter was prompted by the Ecumenical Patriarch’s recent words and actions in Milan, in Bose, and in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

    Some background information in this regard may be helpful.  Through the years Metropolitan Seraphim has been a zealous opponent of the “heresy” of ecumenism.  He has not been an obscure figure, but has commanded much attention in the Greek religious media.  In my daily review of a major (and probably the largest) Greek Orthodox website,, I continue to be amazed at the coverage given to the Metropolitan’s various and frequent pronouncements on many different subjects.  If the Metropolitan writes a public letter (and he writes many), you can be almost sure that it will be available in full text on

    You may recall that on the Sunday celebrating the Triumph of Orthodoxy in March 2012, Metropolitan Seraphim read out a series of anathemas including one directed at Pope Benedict XVI.  Later in the month, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew took the unusual step of writing a very strong letter to Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Church of Greece, in which he severely criticized as unacceptable the actions of certain hierarchs of the Church of Greece who challenge the pan-Orthodox decision to participate in dialogue with the non-Orthodox.   The Ecumenical Patriarch also specifically mentions the anathemas issued by a metropolitan of the Church of Greece.   It was reported that the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece discussed the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter, but there were no reports (to my knowledge) as to what, if any, action the Synod took.

    In the latest letter by Metropolitan Seraphim, he appears to take the Ecumenical Patriarch’s criticism of not following pan-Orthodox decisions and turns it around to say that there are no pan-Orthodox decisions supporting the Ecumenical Patriarch’s conduct in Milan and Bose and in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.  To the Metropolitan, the Ecumenical Patriarch’s acceptance of the “falsehoods” of the “sister churches” and “two lungs” theories seems to be particular objectionable.  However, he also refers to approximately 29 Catholic heresies.  The Metropolitan requests that a pan-Orthodox synod (apparently not a council) be called to consider the issues raised by the Ecumenical Patriarch’s conduct.  I have pasted at the end of this email a poor Google transition of the Russian report on

    To end on some good news, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Patras announced today that the original Cross of St. Andrew’s will be flown to St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday.  It is the first time that the cross has left Patras since it was brought by Cardinal Roger Etchegarey to Patras from Marseilles in 1980.  The occasion for the Russian trip is the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.  From St. Petersburg, the cross will travel by special train to Moscow, Kyiv, and Minsk.  The cross, which will be accompanied by Metropolitan Chrysostomos, will return to Patras on 2 August.  I am sure that the cross will receive a huge and wonderful reception in Russia.


    What pan-Orthodox decision?  With filial boldness to inquire of you, Your Holiness: the arrival of you, the Ecumenical Patriarch, the head of Orthodoxy, in Milan was the result of what decision by a pan-Orthodox meeting?  We believe that such a serious issue that affects relations with heretic-papists would have been addressed to all of the Holy Synods of the Local Churches for agreement, decision, blessing.

    The decision to conduct Orthodox theological dialogue with people of other religions to cover such things as "shared services" and "common prayers"?  From the speeches of Your Holiness in Milan, it follows that you teach a new, unprecedented, ecumenical ecclesiology, that is certainly alien to the Orthodox.  You accept the heretical ecumenical theory of "fraternal Churches" and the "two lungs".

    You honor heretical meetings of Catholics and Protestants (Lutherans, Reformed) as "Churches" of equal value and equal in honor to the Orthodox.  You recognize that the heresiarch Pope, cardinals, pastors have the original sacraments, priesthood and apostolic succession.  You are using a similar theology in relation to other religions (Muslims and Jews).  For you, Holiness, all these heresies, together with the Orthodox Church are the "One Church," which, however, is now divided, but moves to unity. "

    "You have gone too far.  Your feet have crossed the Rubicon.  The patience of thousands of pious souls, clergy and laity is continually running out.  For the sake of the Lord, step back!  Do not seek to create divisions and dissension in the Church.  You are trying to settle their differences, but the only thing you will achieve - it destroyed the unity and makes cracks in the foundation, previously to this day rigid and monolithic.  Listen and come to your senses!  But alas!  You have made a long journey.  The day is toward evening ... ".  

  • 1 July 2013: Full English text - Polish & Ukrainian Declaration

    The complete text of the Declaration signed in Warsaw on 28 June 2013, on the reconciliation of the Polish and Ukrainian peoples is now available in a good English translation at,Declaration.htmlredir.aspx?C=D8VqW2FfT0K30MhzqEpj8ycHsjAtXtBIX0Aey12Ery4zjGBMQPZ_cecXnipaVhKHhJ7OFnpTfx0.& .  Among the signers of the Declaration were Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk (Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church), Archbishop Józef Michalik (Polish Bishops Conference), and Archbishop Mieczys?aw Mokrzycki (Latin rite Catholic bishops in Ukraine).  The final paragraph of the Declaration reads:  “We also send brotherly greeting to our Orthodox Brothers, believing that the process of mutual reconciliation will heal the wounds which are an obstacle not only to the harmonious coexistence of nations but also to the sincere striving for the unity of Christ’s Church.”

    I should also mention that the link that I sent to you on Saturday ( ) also summarizes (in German) Metropolitan Hilarion’s remarks concerning a future Pan-Orthodox Council.  According to the article, Metropolitan Hilarion stated that the problems of protocol must still be solved.  With respect to this, he took the position that either one should call together all of the 500 Orthodox bishops of the world together or each church should be represented at the Council in proportion (percentage-wise) to its size.  As I mentioned in an earlier email, the total number of dioceses in the Moscow Patriarchate is reported to be 260 after the creation of new dioceses by the Holy Synod at its last May meeting.  However, I believe that the alternative (namely size) would not necessary rely exclusively on the number of bishops, but would also consider other factors such as the number of faithful.  Metropolitan Hilarion emphasized that the large and small churches could not be equally represented.  He also reaffirmed that all decisions of the Council must be made by consensus.

  • 30 June 2013: Special prayer by Pope and Metropolitan Hilarion in Vienna

    Since 1979 when Pope John Paul II visited the Phanar, the annual exchanges between the Vatican and Constantinople on the feast of Saint Andrew and on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul have become a very traditional part of ecumenical relations between Catholics and Orthodox.  However, today on the feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Francis added a new element. During his Angelus address following the Mass celebrating the feast, he asked the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square to join him in reciting a special Hail Mary for the intentions of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

    During the Mass, the Pope gave a short homily on the Petrine ministry.  The official text of the homily, translated into various languages including English, can be read at .  Included in the text is the following statement:  “To confirm in unity: the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the primate. Let us go forward on the path of synodality, and grow in harmony with the service of the primacy.”

    This year the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was led by Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas), who heads the Orthodox side of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  Yesterday, Pope Francis met with the delegation.  The full text of the Pope’s remarks to the delegation can be read at .  A short video of the meeting can be seen at   In his remarks, the Pope stressed the work of the Commission.  He stated that the Commission “is now studying the delicate issue of theological and ecclesiological relationship between primacy and synodality in the life of the Church.”   This is consistent with Cardinal Koch’s recent remarks in Lviv that the study of the history of the role of the Bishop of Rome in the first millennium has now stalled and that the Commission has now turned to a theological discussion of the relationship between primacy and synodality.

    The earlier work of the Commission on the role of the Bishop of Rome in the first millennium had gotten off to a hopeful start in October 2008, when the Commission’s Coordinating Committee, meeting in Crete and headed by Metropolitan Ioannis and Cardinal Kasper, had reached complete agreement on a draft document on  this subject.  However, in the subsequent plenary sessions of the full Commission in Cyprus and Vienna, strong Orthodox opposition developed to the draft.  Part of the difficulty was that Constantinople and Moscow took differing positions on the subject.   The frustration in this regard is not the result of a lack of good will on part of any of the parties, but it is simply very difficult to reconcile Moscow’s position that there is no universal primacy at all with the Catholic position that there is, with Constantinople taking a position somewhere in between.  Certainly, the help of the Holy Spirit is greatly needed.

    Yesterday, Metropolitan Hilarion was in Vienna to speak at a conference.  The full text of his address on “Church, Society and State in Russia: Ways of Cooperation” can be read in English at .  During the course of the conference, Metropolitan Hilarion met with his good friend Cardinal Schönborn.   Metropolitan Hilarion also visited the Pro Oriente Foundation, which has done so much to improve relations between the Orthodox, Oriental, and Catholic Churches.  This visit included a meeting with journalists.

    The meeting with journalists was covered in a German-language article by the Austrian Catholic news agency, Kathpress.   In my opinion, Metropolitan Hilarion gets high marks for expressing his honest and candid views, even though he is very much aware that there are some or many that may not like what he is saying.  On the positive side, he stated that Catholic – Orthodox relations have developed very positively since the beginning of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.  He is very confident that the way of rapprochement and cooperation will be continued and be intensified under Pope Francis.  He stressed the need for greater cooperation especially in view of the threat of militant Islam and militant secularism.  On the negative side, he bluntly stated that a meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and the Pope will not occur until the conflict with the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine is solved.   The Metropolitan generally expressed intense criticism (“Heftige Kritik“) of the work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthdox and Catholic Churches.  He emphasized that the Moscow Patriarchate does not agree with the Ravenna document [to which the Orthodox Churches agreed at a time when Moscow was not attending the dialogue because of the dispute with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over Estonia].

  • 27 June 2013: Many thanks to Father Milan Just !!

    I understand that tomorrow will be the last day of Father Milan Zust SJ at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.  He will be staying in Rome and teaching at the Pontifical Gregorian University.  As you probably know, Father Milan has been responsible at the Pontifical Council for relations with the Slavic Orthodox Churches since 2006.   Many, many thanks to Father Milan for all that he has done to promote better Catholic – Orthodox relations during these seven years!!

    I believe that it is very fair to say that relationships between the Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate have steadily improved during these seven years.  Admittedly, Moscow’s position of not recognizing any form of universal primacy, aside from honor, has been a major problem in the work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  However, in all other respects the relationships between the two churches have become stronger.  This is even evident from an English-language Interfax report, posted today, on an interview given by Catholic Archbishop Pezzi to the Kommersant daily.  In the interview, Archbishop Pezzi states:   “I believe that to this moment, we can consider settled the claims that the Russian Orthodox Church had to the Catholic Church in Russia.”  Although we do not know whether the Moscow Patriarchate will agree with this assessment, it is still a good sign.  The full text of the interview in Russian can be read at    

    I was touched by the attached photo showing Metropolitan Hilarion presently to an outstanding woman an honor bestowed by Patriarch Kirill.  The honor was presented on the occasion of her 75th birthday, June 19, 2013.   The woman is the mother of Metropolitan Hilarion – whom I am sure must have and still has an important role in his life.

    Finally, I wish Father Milan “MNOGAYA LETA” in his future work in Our Lord’s vineyard!

  • 13 June 2013: Koch's visit to Ukraine - some highlights

    Cardinal Koch and Father Milan Zust SJ have now ended their visit to Ukraine.  They met with Metropolitan Volodymyr  of Kyiv and All Ukraine on June 7.[tt_news]=11420&cHash=23c98953f93508a1ed40624c4c47e68f  It appears to have been a cordial and positive meeting.  I found particularly interesting two aspects of the foregoing UGCC report of the meeting.  First, Metropolitan Vladimir stated that, unfortunately, at present among the average faithful, the ecumenical dialogue is perceived as a betrayal of Orthodoxy.  In my opinion, this is a very candid acknowledgement by the Metropolitan that the conservative wing of the Moscow Patriarchate is a major factor that the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate must carefully consider in formulating its relationships with the Catholic Church.  If the Metropolitan actually used the word “unfortunately,” as indicated in the report, it would indicate that the Metropolitan does not personally share these conservative views.

    Second, during the meeting, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), primate of the UGCC, invited Metropolitan Volodymyr to participate in the celebrations on the occasion of the blessing of the main Cathedral of the UGCC, scheduled for August 17-18, 2013.  The report stated, “Metropolitan Volodymyr expressed his gratitude for the invitation and wished God’s blessings on the completion of the construction of the cathedral.”  You may recall that several years ago the Moscow Patriarchate objected to the UGCC moving its headquarters from Lviv to Kyiv and beginning the construction of this major cathedral in Kyiv.  Attached is a UGCC photo of Cardinal Koch and others viewing the new cathedral.

    Later on June 7, a roundtable discussion was held in Kyiv on the subject, "Ukraine in the Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue."  According to an exclusive report by RISU,  Father Mykolai Danylevych, a representative of the DECR of the UOC-MP, stressed that the problems between the UGCC and the UOC-MP should be addressed directly in Ukraine by the two churches, which are in a better position than the Vatican or Moscow to know the local circumstances.   It is my personal opinion that both the Vatican and Moscow would be delighted if the local churches could resolve their own problems.

    I have obtaining the reports of both of these events from UGCC websites.  I have not been able to obtain the perspective of the UOC-MP on these meetings because they were not reported on its official website.

    On June 10, Cardinal Koch delivered a short address in German at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv.  It was entitled, “Prospects for the Ecumenical Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.  A brief English-language summary of the address can be read at   However, the quotations in the summary do not appear to be entirely correct.  The entire text of the address translated into Ukrainian can be read at .   Below is a Google translation from the Ukrainian.  Please remember that a translation from German to Ukrainian to English may result in many errors.  Hopefully, a good English translation or at least the original German text will appear on the Internet.  I do believe the speech is important.

    Yesterday, Cardinal Koch and Father Milan Zust were in Transcarpathia.  In addition to visiting the Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic churches there, they also visited Orthodox Archbishop Feodor of Muchachevo and Uzhgorod.


    Prospects of the  ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches

    Ecumenical relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church began promisingly in 1965.  Even during the Second Vatican Council, 7 December 1965, there was a significant event:  Pope Paul VI made a great ecumenical step towards Orthodoxy by removing, along with the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, the mutual anathemas of 1054.  Through this act there was removed from the body of the Church the poison of mutual excommunication, and "a symbol of division" was replaced by "a symbol of love."  It started the ecumenical dialogue of love and truth between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, which aims to restore the Eucharistic communion between them.

    1. The phases and themes of the ecumenical dialogue

    This comforting step was made possible primarily through an awareness: both sides retained the foundation of the church structures that exists from the second century - the structures, sacramental-Eucharistic and hierarchical.  Moreover, both parties believe church unity in the Eucharist and in the episcopal ministry essential for the existence of the Church.  So ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church could focus primarily on establishing a common foundation of faith.  The Joint international commission for theological dialogue between the Churches dedicated itself to this task.

    This applies primarily to the first decade of 1980-1990, when they were able to identify significant similarities between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic theology in the areas of sacramentology, the sacraments of the Church and the Eucharist, the relationship between faith, sacraments and the unity of the Church, and the sacrament of the priesthood.  However, the next decade (1990-2000 years) theological dialogue was increasingly focused on the problems of "uniatism" and "proselytism", which the Orthodox side saw as the greatest danger for theological dialogue and which eventually led to the suspension of the work of the commission in 2000.  Despite the long period of development, theological dialogue collapsed, primarily because of problem of uniatism; and, at least in the solution of this delicate problem seemed to return again to its rising point.

    Among the major achievements of Pope Benedict XVI is that shortly after the beginning of his pontificate, the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches was able to continue its work.  In this it focused on the examination of the painful point of ecclesiology that is still hindered communion between the churches - namely, the question of the primacy of the bishop of Rome.  With the adoption in 2007 in Ravenna of the fundamental document on "the ecclesiological and canonical consequences of sacramental nature of the Church," it managed to move forward, because both Churches declared that the Church needs primacy at the local, regional and universal levels.  However, on this mutual understanding looms the shadow of an objection by the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which at the universal level does not recognize any primacy.  [Moscow did not participate in the Ravenna plenary.]  Still, on the theological foundations Ravenna document it was necessary to take the next step - to consider the historical question: what role belonged to the bishop of Rome in the first millennium, when East and West were together?  The study of this history in the meantime has also stalled, and there has continued a theological discussion of the relationship in the Church between primacy and councilarity.

    Some steps in this direction had been made by Pope John Paul II in his invitation to the Christian world to participate in a patient and fraternal dialogue with him about the primacy of the Bishop of Rome to find a "form of the exercise of primacy," " while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation” or rather – it should serve to “accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned. "  The dialogue that distinguishes the essence of the primacy and its specific method of implementation continues to take place under a good sign if one does not lose sight of the purpose that the future Pope Benedict XVI had already formulated in the ‘70’s:  Rome from the East "must not demand more on the doctrine of primacy"," than was formulated and practiced in the first millennium. "  In a great interview with Peter Seewald, Pope Benedict XVI even ventured to state that the Eastern Churches “are genuine particular Churches, although they are not in communion with the Pope,” and in this sense the unity with the pope is not "constitutive for the particular Church ".  But on the other hand, this lack of unity is, he says, an "internal defect of the particular Church", so with this view no communion with the Pope is “a defect in the living cell."  And in conclusion, the Pope said: "It remains a cell, it is legitimately called a Church, but the cell is lacking something, namely, its connection with the organism as a whole.”    Thus, Pope Benedict XVI made important steps towards Orthodoxy, and further dialogue should move in this direction.

    2. The key question of primacy in horizon ecclesiological issues

    However, the question of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome is not some isolated issue.  This is particularly evident from the fact that the Orthodox side generally believes papal supremacy to be destructive of ecclesiastical structures.  At the same time Orthodox theology justifies this conclusion by the need of unity between the sacred mysteries and jurisdiction, which, in its view, the government by the Pope violates, because it is not the holy mysteries and "only" legal status, which however exalts itself above sacramental structures.  It is clearly seen that the problems of primacy are differences in ecclesiology.

    The Orthodox understanding of the Church perhaps best fits the concept of Eucharistic ecclesiology, which was originally developed by Russian émigré scholars in Paris after World War I - obviously opposed to the papal centralism in the Roman Catholic Church.  From the Orthodox point of view, the Church of Jesus Christ is present and accomplished in every local church, gathered around their bishop, which goes to the Eucharist.  Because it is the local church that fulfills the Eucharist with its bishop, understood as a representation, actualization and realization of a single church in a particular place, each Eucharistic community is totally Church and lacks nothing.  Hence the unity of the Eucharistic community with other communities that fulfills the liturgy is ultimately its external dimension, and horizontal unity of the local churches together is not considered fundamental for being a Church, at least is not critical.  Although such unity is considered commendable and entirely characteristic of the fullness of the Church, and yet - not decisive.  A fortiori it applies to possible unity with the separate Eucharistic community of the Church of Rome and its bishop, for no priority of the universal Church over the local may be the basis.  So, other than Ecumenical Councils, there cannot be any visible and effective principle of unity and authority of the Universal Church, which would be endowed with any legal prevailing authority as the Catholic Church understands and recognizes in the ministry of Peter.

    Instead, in the Catholic understanding of the Church although completely present in a particular Eucharistic community, a separate Eucharistic community is not the whole Church.  Therefore, unity of the separate Eucharistic communities with each other and with the relevant bishop and the bishop of Rome is for existence of the founding church, as seen from the Eucharistic anaphora in memento ecclesiae, since saying the name of the relevant local bishop and the bishop of Rome is not trivial, which one in certain circumstances can avoid, but "an expression of communion", "in which a separate Eucharistic celebration in its most profound essence just acquires its exclusive content."  From the Catholic viewpoint, the Church lives in the mutual intersection of multiple local churches and the oneness of the universal Church.

    So totally appears the main ecumenical problem in meetings between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.  In these circumstances, one comes to the conclusion “that the understanding of the Church, linked to national culture, yet opposes unbalanced its sobornost, universal understanding."[???]  No wonder those problems are most acute in the question of the primacy of the bishop of Rome, namely in the sense of the primacy of the general Church, and not just regional.

    3. Ecumenical way into the future

    For this complex issue to move forward on the one hand, it has long been postulated by Archbishop Bruno Forte, that the Catholic Church must strengthen the argument that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome is not just an external legal addition to Eucharistic ecclesiology, but itself is predetermined, since a worldwide network of Eucharistic communities needs the service of unity and on the global level.  The papacy could eventually be understood only on the basis of a universal Eucharistic network.  It is an everlasting essential element of the Church, because it serves the Eucharistic unity of the Church and cares about what the Church again and again verifies with the Eucharist.

    On the other hand, from the Orthodox Church, it is hoped that it boldly considers its main ecclesiological problem - namely autocephalous national churches and their unfailing tendency to nationalism.  In this case one can noted with gratitude that Orthodox theologians, such as John Meyendorff, consider the concept of autocephalous national churches an inherent weakness in Orthodoxy, so that on this basis may be proposed the reconciliation between Eucharistic ecclesiology and principles of the Petrine ministry.

    From an ecumenical view in this broader context, the problem of the supremacy of the bishop of Rome, on the one hand, as noted by Pope Paul VI, is a "major obstacle" for the restoration of full ecclesial communion with Orthodoxy.  On the other hand, in the opinion of Pope Benedict XVI, it is at the same time a "major opportunity" for achieving the same goal, "because without it, the Catholic Church would have long ago disintegrated into national and ritual churches, that would have made the ecumenical space entirely impenetrable; it also makes possible binding steps toward unity. "

    Thus, it is important not to lose sight of the inherent goal of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, which, at least from the Catholic point of view, can consist only in the restoration of visible communion of the churches.  Because, as rightly said Pope Benedict XVI, the observance of the current way of statements about "our two Churches" may lead to the establishment of dualism in the ecclesiological plane and converting "one church into a specter", "whereas it is inherently precisely a physical existence."

    4. Ecumenical Value of the Catholic Eastern Churches

    On the way to overcome this ecclesiological dualism the Catholic Eastern Churches can help greatly.  For, on the one hand, they have theology and liturgy, discipline and law oriented to the East, on the other hand, they live in communion with the Bishop of Rome.  The relevant conciliar decree "Orientalium ecclesiarum" in this sense emphasized the special responsibility of the Church to promote Christian unity, "Eastern Churches, being in communion with the Apostolic See, have a special obligation to foster the unity of all Christians, especially Eastern, according to the principles of the decree of this Sacred Council, "On ecumenism."  In addition, the Council recognized in the legal norms of Catholic Eastern Churches, as well as in the later KKST [Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium], their transient and temporary, clearly stating: "All these legal standards are set for today's circumstances, while the Catholic Church and the separated Eastern Churches have not come to full communion ".

    While this ecumenical responsibility appears not easy, since the existence of the churches, united with Rome, again and again causes in the Orthodox churches alarm, or at least irritation, but in spite of this appeal, the Catholic Eastern Churches perform the important function of building bridges and helping us now already to breathe ecumenically stronger with two lungs, contributing to the "expansion to the East" in the area of ??ecumenism.  For this they have - our special gratitude and respect.

    Translated from German [into Ukrainian] by Oleg Konkevych  

  • 6 June 2013: Ukraine and Serbia

    Cardinal Koch and Father Milan Zust SJ arrived in Kyiv yesterday.  Today, their first full day in Kyiv, they visited the famous Kyiv Pechersk Lavra as the guests of Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil.  It appears to have been a very successful visit.  They visited the Lavra, addressed students of the Kyiv Theological Academy, and conducted discussions.  You can see some very nice photos of today’s visit on the official website of the UOC-MP.  Among the subjects discussed by Metropolitan Anthony and Cardinal Koch were the defense of traditional Christian values, the joint performance of social services, and academic contacts.  I have a sense that the UOC-MP is interested in developing with the Catholic Church its own relationships – somewhat separate, but not conflicting, with Moscow.

    The Serbian Orthodox Church has issued a press release (in Serbian) describing the results of its annual Assembly of Bishops, May 21 – June 3.   Of interest to Catholics is a resolution that the dialogue with the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Croatia be expanded and that a special commission be established for engaging in dialogue with the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Slovenia.  On June 4, Serbian Patriarch Irinej stated at the opening of an exhibit in Nis, that “we want to move away those the moments that keep us apart” from the Catholic Church.  At the same time, Catholic Archbishop Stanislav Ho?evar of Belgrade described the Catholic celebration of the Edict of Milan, which will be held in Nis in September with Cardinal Scola of Milan being a special guest. 

    I found very interesting a recent article entitled, “Why Pope Francis isn’t welcome in Serbia.”    I thought that it was quite a balanced presentation.  One of the major problems is whether there should be an official papal apology for the crimes committed at the Jasenovac death camp during World War II.  This issue involves not whether crimes were committed at Jasenovac, but whether the Catholic Church should bear some responsibility for the crimes committed there.  Demands for apologies raise the very difficult task of two sides attempting to reconcile their conflicting views of history.  For example, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church believes that the Moscow Patriarchate should apologize for its role in the Council of Lviv in 1946 and for the outlawing of the UGCC.  It is interesting that in preparing the Joint Message to the Russian and Polish Peoples, it was decided by the Moscow Patriarchate and the Catholic Polish Bishops Conference to urge the reconciliation of the Russian and Polish Peoples without waiting for an agreed allocation of fault in the contentious issues that divided Poland and Russia in the past.

  • 4 June 2013: Various new items

    Patriarch Kirill is presently on a very successful trip to Greece.  Yesterday, Patriarch Kirill received from President Karolos Papoulias  a very high honor -- the medal of the Grand Cross of the Order of Honour.   On Sunday, Patriarch Kirill and Archbishop Ieronymos II (head of the Church of Greece) celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Athens.  I really like the attached photo from showing the Patriarch and the Archbishop conversing.  

    Today, the Patriarch arrived in Mount Athos where he will remain until Friday.    The length of his stay there shows the great importance that the Moscow Patriarchate attaches to the Holy Mountain.

    Tomorrow, Cardinal Kurt Koch will be traveling to Ukraine for a week-long visit with Catholic and Orthodox leaders including Metropolitan Volodymyr of the UOC-MP.  Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio has done an interesting 5-minute English-language interview of the Cardinal concerning the visit.   The Cardinal’s visit to the Russian Federation, previously scheduled for the end of April but postponed, may still occur later this year.

    RISU news has reported that Metropolitan Antony (Pakanych) of Boryspil has commented in Lviv that relations between the Orthodox and Greek Catholics in the area have improved and have become “stable.”  This is especially encouraging as Metropolitan Anthony is seen by many as the future successor to Metropolitan Volodymyr as head of the UOC-MP.  Maybe the visit of Cardinal Koch will result in further improvement.

    At a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, held in St. Petersburg on May 29, the trend of establishing new dioceses continued.  According to a report in, the number of dioceses is now 260, compared to 159 when Patriarch Kirill was first elected in 2009.  This obviously has an effect on the Church in Russia, but may also be an important consideration in a future pan-Orthodox Council.

    A one-hour video of the very nice, but very wet, service held by the Patriarch Bartholomew in Mikul?ice, Moravia, on Saturday, May 25, in honor St. Cyril and St. Methodios can be seen at   Seated in the rain with others was Cardinal Dominik Duka of Prague.  It was good to see a Catholic presence there.  Earlier the Cardinal had hosted a luncheon for the Ecumenical Patriarch in Prague.   

  • 21 May 2013: Uncertainty in Prague

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will arrive in the Czech Republic on May 22 for a four-day visit to commemorate the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of St. Cyril and St. Methodius in Great Moravia.  The celebration will culminate at Mikul?ice in the South Moravian region on May 25.  The Ecumenical Patriarch’s visit is significant in that it was his predecessor, Patriarch Photios of Constantinople, who sent the two missionaries to Great Moravia.  Bartholomew’s visit will take place even though the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia has not yet elected a new primate.

    The Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia appears to be sharply divided in selecting a new leader of the Church.  As you recall, Metropolitan Christopher resigned after accusations were made of an improper relationship with a woman, but that woman later retracted her accusations.  A petition was subsequently circulated urging that Metropolitan Christopher be reinstated.  However, the Holy Synod decided not to reinstate the Metropolitan and instead held a Diocesan Assembly last Saturday to elect a new Archbishop of Prague.  The Church requires that the primate be either the Archbishop of Prague (Czech Republic) or the Archbishop of Presov (Slovakia).  Thus, election of a new Archbishop of Prague is a pre-condition for the election of the primate.

    At the Diocesan Assembly on Saturday, no candidate received the required two-thirds vote from the 103 delegates.   It therefore might be necessary to consider other candidates after the Ecumenical Patriarch’s visit is concluded.  The candidate that received the most votes last Saturday presently serves under the Moscow Patriarchate in Germany.  It is possible that the Ecumenical Patriarch during his visit to the Czech Republic will seek to bring some peace to the very contentious situation that presently exists there.

    Here are some other links that may be of interest to you:

    The official English translation of the Patriarchal and Synod Encyclical, issued yesterday, for the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan:

    The official English-language communique issued at the end of the Edict of Milan seminar in Istanbul on Saturday:

    A short video on the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the Bose Monastery:,it/

  • 18 May 2013: Cross of St. Andrew and China

    The following is the English-language text of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s address this morning to the seminar in Istanbul on the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan.  A number of photos taken during the proceedings this morning can be seen at .  Photos of the meeting between the Ecumenical Patriarch and Metropolitan Hilarion can be seen at .

    It appears that the dates that I gave you yesterday with respect the visit by Cardinal Scola to the Phanar were incorrect.  The correct dates are December 31, 2013 to January 2, 2014.  Cardinal Scola has accepted the Ecumenical Patriarch’s invitation.

    A prominent Orthodox website in Greece has reported that Patriarch Kirill has requested that the relic of the cross of St. Andrew be brought from Patras, Greece to Kiev for the celebration of the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.  Plans are for the cross to visit Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Minsk as well.   I am reminded of the huge crowds in Russia who in 2011 waited in line up to 20 hours to venerate the belt of the Virgin Mary, brought to Russia from the Vatopedi Monastery at Mount Athos.  If the Holy Synod of Greece grants the request for the cross, perhaps there will a repetition of this great demonstration of faith. The cross of St. Andrew also has a Catholic connection.  On 18 January 1980, a delegation led by Cardinal Roger Etchegarey returned the cross to Patras from Marseilles where it had been kept for the many centuries following the Crusades. 

    Metropolitan Hilarion has given to Voice of Russia a Russian-language interview on the Patriarch’s recent trip to China.  The Metropolitan states:  “I think that the visit largely surpassed even the highest expectations.”  He points out that never before has the leader of the People’s Republic of China met with a leader of a Christian church.  He acknowledges that the Orthodox Church in China must be an autonomous national church and discusses the difficulties in creating such a church in view of the lack of Chinese bishops and priests.  Although the visit was primarily to rejuvenate the Orthodox Church in Russia, it may also have had the effect of strengthening relations between the Chinese and Russian governments.  For example, the visit was front-page news in the People’s Daily.  There have also been comments that Patriarch Kirill, for the first time, used for the China trip a state aircraft reserved for the Russian president and other top governmental officials.   Although the use is justified by the long flying range of the aircraft, its use nevertheless reflects the great importance that the Russian government attached to the Patriarch’s visit.

    I believe that there are still plans for Patriarch Kirill to visit Greece and Mount Athos next month. 

  • 17 May 2013: Celebrations of the Edict of Milan

    Tomorrow, a seminar will begin in Istanbul on the subject:  Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan: 1700 Years Later  -- “Religious Freedom Today.”   The seminar has been organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in collaboration with the Catholic Council of European Episcopal Conferences.  The program for the seminar can be read at   Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will address the seminar.  The seminar will not be open to the public.  Metropolitan Hilarion has been invited to attend the seminar and will also be meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during his visit.

    The visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Milan ended today.   Asia News has an excellent English-language article on the visit which included today’s prayer service at the Basilica of St. Ambrose.,-the-persecution-of-the-Christians-has-not-ceased,-and-the-Church-of-Christ-will-never-cease-to-generate-martyrs-27935.html    For the occasion, Pope Francis sent a special message to the Ecumenical Patriarch.   The Italian remarks by the Patriarch at the Bose Monastery can be read at .  The Italian remarks by the Patriarch today at the Basilica of St. Ambrose can be read at  The latter remarks were devoted to the past and present persecution of Christians.  I understand that Cardinal Scola paused in his own prepared remarks at St. Ambrose to say to the Ecumenical Patriarch, “We are particularly close.”  The Ecumenical Patriarch invited Cardinal Scola to visit Istanbul from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, 2014.

    I particularly liked the attached photo, from the Milan Archdiocese website, of Pope Tawadros II meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch and Cardinal Scola.

    Patriarch Kirill has completed his successful trip to China.  English-language reports of the various events there can be read at

  • 10 May 2013: Pope meets Pope

    Pope Tawadros II and Pope Francis met today at the Vatican.  Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio has done an excellent 6-minute English-language interview of Pope Tawadros after the two popes met.    In the interview, Pope Tawadros described the meeting with Pope Francis as “fantastic.”  Pope Tawadros invited Pope Francis to visit Egypt and also suggested to Pope Francis that a special  “brotherly love day” between the Coptic and Catholic Churches be observed in the future annually on May 10.  A short video of the visit, including a common prayer service, can be seen at    “Both sides were careful not to cause any misunderstandings with the Egyptian Islamic world, especially with Al Azhar….” 

    Pope Tawadros will visit Milan on May 14 and will meet with Cardinal Angelo Scola.   On the evening of the same day, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be attending vespers at the Bose Monastery.,en/   The Ecumenical Patriarch will then be in Milan on May 15-16 and will there participate with Cardinal Scola in an event relating to the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan.  Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, will accompany the Ecumenical Patriarch.

    Also today Patriarch Kirill arrived in China for a five-day visit and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.  (Russian and numerous photos).  The Patriarch will also visit Harbin and Shanghai.  Last February, the Bishops Council of the Moscow Patriarchate made a formal statement that China was a part of the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate. 

    An interesting video of the first meeting between the first Russian ambassador to the Vatican (since the establishment of full diplomatic relations) and Pope Francis on May 2 can be viewed at 

  • 23 April 2013: Corrections and other news

    I know that two emails is one day is too much!  However, I have been informed that contrary to my statement earlier today, the meeting on Saturday was not the first meeting between an Ecumenical Patriarch and a head of the UGCC.  Jack Figel has been kind enough to inform me that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Cardinal Husar had a short private meeting in connection with the Orientale Lumen Conference held in Constantinople in 2007.  Bishop Milan Sasik of Mukachevo (Greek Catholic Ruthenian Church) and Metropolitan Kallistos were also present at that 2007 meeting.

    I also understand that Cardinal Koch’s trip to Russia will not be held this month, but at a later time.

    I previously reported concerning the resignation of Metropolitan Christopher, primate of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia.  The Church has now announced that the woman who had accused the Metropolitan of having an affair with her has now admitted that she lied.  The Metropolitan has also offered a DNA examination to show that the children were not his.  According to Archbishop Simeon, the acting primate, the good name of  Metropolitan Christopher has now been restored.   I do not know what effect this will have on the previous resignation.

    In contrast to this good news, there is some very distressing news.  I have pasted this item below.

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


    In a portion of a letter dated April 22, 2013 and signed by His Grace, Bishop Basil, Secretary of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America to all member hierarchs, prayers were requested for two Syrian hierarchs who had been abducted earlier that day.

    The text of the letter reads as follows.
    “Metropolitan Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo (brother of His Beatitude Patriarch John X of the Great City-of-God Antioch and all the East), and Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo, were both abducted this morning, Monday, April 22nd, while they were traveling together on the road between Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) and the north Syrian city of Aleppo.  The driver of the vehicle in which they were traveling was killed in the attack.  Your prayers are requested.” 

  • 22 April 2013: Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church met with Ecumenical Patriarch

    On Saturday, the Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar in Istanbul.  Other photographs of the meeting can be seen at   As you can see from the first article, the head of the UGCC spoke to the Ecumenical Patriarch concerning a renewal of the “Kyiv Study Group.”  I have pasted below excepts from an article by Fr. Andriy Chirovsky and Mrs. Roma Hayda in the Ukrainian Weekly a number of years ago concerning the history of this group.

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

    At approximately this time [1990] Archimandrite Keleher was associated with Keston College, an Oxford-based center studying religious freedom in totalitarian states. He facilitated the growing friendship of Bishop Basil Losten (UGCC) and Bishop Vsevolod (UOC). Simultaneously, Bishop Kallistos (Ware) [Ecumenical Patriarchate] and the Rev. Dr. Andriy Chirovsky [UGCC] met at a Patristics Conference at Oxford and began discussing the possibility of an ecumenical forum in which Ukrainian Greco-Catholics could meet with representatives of their historic Mother Church, the Patriarchate of Constantinople. From these initial encounters there arose the Kyivan Church Study Group, which brought together bishops and learned theologians from these two constituencies.
    The Ukrainian Greco-Catholics chose Constantinople as their interlocutor for good reason. Their ancestors had accepted Christianity from Constantinople in 988, so the link was historically logical. Practically, there was an additional advantage. The autocephalist Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada had recently accepted the "omophorion" (jurisdictional protection) of Constantinople, and there was good reason to believe that the autocephalist Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA might soon follow suit, as it did indeed. Thus, the ecumenical encounter could include both Constantinople and those Ukrainian Orthodox who accepted Constantinople's authority.
    From the UGCC the study group included Bishops Losten, Julian Voronovsky and Pavlo Vasylyk, Archimandrites Serge Keleher and Boniface Lyukx, the Rev. Drs. Chirovsky, Peter Galadza, Andrew Onuferko and Myroslav Tataryn, and the then not-yet-ordained Dr. Borys Gudziak and others. From the Ecumenical Patriarchate and affiliated Churches there were Bishops Kallistos, Vsevolod, Archimandrites Ephrem and Andrew Partykevych, Archpriests Oleh Kravchenko and Ihor Kutash, Protopresbyter Emmanuel Clapsis, Father Anthony Ugolnik, Dr. Roman Yereniuk, and others.
    Their particular focus was to develop understanding between the UGCC on the one hand and the UOC with its Mother Church of Constantinople, along with those Ukrainian Orthodox who were under Constantinople's jurisdiction. Most interestingly, they were also exploring the possibility of full communion between the UGCC and Constantinople without breaking the existing communion of the UGCC with Rome. That, of course, would place Constantinople in mediate communion with Rome, an admittedly strange situation which, however, is not without notable historical precedent.
    Between 1992 and 1995 the Kyivan Church Study Group met seven times in different locations: Oxford (U.K.), Stamford (Conn.) on two occasions, Ottawa (Canada), Halki-Istanbul (Turkey) and Rome and less officially in Chevetogne (Belgium). Members explored the possibility of meeting in Kyiv for further dialogue. Focusing on theology and specifically on ecclesiology (the study of how the Church understands and carries out its mission), the Kyivan Church Study Group made important strides.
    The group received the blessing of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Cardinal Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky. The papers from the various consultations were published in the Sheptytsky Institute's scholarly revue, Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. The members of the KCS were presented to Pope John Paul II and met extensively with Patriarch Bartholomew, both in Rome and at his residence in the Phanar (Istanbul). Their consultations brought better mutual understanding among all its participants, re-focusing attention on the real issues involved in the often ill-defined and, therefore, uncritically studied phenomenon of "uniatism," or rather, the existence of the Eastern Catholic Churches, their history and the challenges they face in order to become positive players in world-wide ecumenism.
    The Kyivan Church Study Group allowed such eminent Orthodox theologians as Bishop Kallistos (Ware) and others to recognize the right of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church to exist, and acknowledged the persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox and Greco-Catholic Churches. By raising the issue of double communion (with Rome and Constantinople), the group encouraged Melkite Greek-Catholic ecumenists to raise this issue again in the Church of Antioch. Painfully honest discussions, based on critical scholarship and anchored in prayer and deep Christian respect for persons made all of this possible.
    Even though they were not part of the official Joint International Commission, the group's consultations brought them into contact with renowned theologians of the Catholic and Orthodox worlds, some of whom were participating in the official dialogue directly or indirectly as consultants. When the time came to move the dialogue to Ukraine, the difficult situation among the competing Orthodox jurisdictions, along with lack of experience on the part of some participants with the ecumenical process proved too great an obstacle. The work of the Kyivan Church Study Group came to a standstill, though not without regular calls from several members to resume the process.

  • 20 April 2013: Koch on Constantinople - Moscow conflict

    Yesterday, Cardinal Koch was interviewed at the Vatican by Austrian journalists.  The interview is reported in German at  [deutscher Auszug siehe unten]] The most exciting news was that the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation have agreed on a joint document on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the posting of Martin Luther’s theses.  The English text has already been prepared.  The document will be published next June.  In the interview, Cardinal Koch also commented on the current difficulties with ecumenism in general.  He also made comments about the theological dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics on the issue of primacy.  I detect a sense of frustration in the Cardinal’s remarks.  According to the Cardinal, the main problem that is preventing progress on primacy is the conflicting views of Moscow and Constantinople on this issue.   According to the Cardinal, the pan-Orthodox Council could resolve the conflicting views of Moscow and Constantinople, but Moscow is opposed to this.  The discouraging prospect is that this inter-Orthodox issue may never be resolved, with a permanent stalemate in the Catholic – Orthodox dialogue and perpetual tensions between Constantinople and Moscow on the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch.  As would be expected, Cardinal Koch in the interview expresses a very Catholic view on the need for primacy.

    Aus dem Resümee des Interviews mit Kardinal Koch:

    Auch mit der in Glaubensfragen der katholischen Kirche näher stehenden Orthodoxie spießt es sich. Hauptproblem seien hier die nicht übereinstimmenden Einheitsvorstellungen Konstantinopels und Moskaus. Dies könne aber nur durch ein panorthodoxes Konzil geklärt werden, gegen das sich aber Moskau sperrt.

    Anders als die orthodoxen Vertreter an der Wolga sei hingegen am Bosporus Patriarch Bartholomaios "der optimistischte unter allen Patriarchen". Wenn man diese innerorthodoxe Uneinigkeit sehe, komme man unweigerlich zum Schluss, dass ein bloßer Ehrenprimat, wie es ihn in der Orthodoxie gebe und wie er Bartholomaios zukomme, nicht das Ziel der Kircheneinheit sein könne. Dies sehe man nicht nur in der Orthodoxie, sondern auch in der anglikanischen Weltgemeinschaft.

    "Der Ehrenprimat funktioniert eben nur bei schönem Wetter. Würde es ihn in der katholischen Kirche geben, hätten wir das gleiche Schicksal wie die Orthodoxie: eine Vielzahl von Nationalkirchen", formulierte der Kurienkardinal.

    Befragt zur Arbeit der Stiftung Pro Oriente, sagte Koch, diese sei "äußerst verdienstvoll". Der Päpstliche Einheitsrat hätte unmöglich die Kapazitäten zur Organisation jener Fülle von Begegnungen und Tagungen, wie dies unter Pro Oriente erfolge. Das Wichtigste im Bereich der Ostkirchen-Ökumene heute sei dabei die Vergabe von Stipendien an katholischen Einrichtungen für orthodoxe Studenten. 

  • 13 April 2013: 71% Russians say Pope Francis should visit Russia

    I am sure that over the years Metropolitan Hilarion must have been asked literally hundreds of times about a possible meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and the Pope and about the possibility of a papal trip to Russia.  His answers and the answers of the Moscow Patriarchate in general have been that such an historic meeting must be well prepared by the parties including substantial progress on resolving certain issues between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Catholic Church.  With respect to the outstanding issues, the Moscow Patriarchate in past years stressed two issues:  proselytism by the Catholic Church in Russia and the actions of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) in  Ukraine.  In recent years, the focus of the Moscow Patriarchate has been on the second issue with little mention of the first.  This may be due to the fact that a bilateral commission between Catholics and Orthodox was established in Moscow to deal with any allegations of proselytism.

    Although not publically articulated by the Moscow Patriarchate as a reason, I believe that the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate knows that its conservative wing is still opposed to the idea of a papal visit (just like the monks at Mount Athos vociferously opposed the visit of Pope John Paul II to Greece).  For this reason, the leadership must proceed cautiously to avoid dividing the Russian Church.  If the desire for a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch resulted in concessions to the Moscow Patriarchate, especially in Western Ukraine, even the conservatives might believe that it is a “good deal.”  What occurred in Western Ukraine after the demise of communism has undoubtedly been an extremely painful situation for the Moscow Patriarchate.  For example, in the 1980s, more than half of the students at the Leningrad Theological Academy came from Western Ukraine.  The many churches in Western Ukraine were a major source of income for the Moscow Patriarchate.   The “battle for the churches” that began with emergence of the UGCC from the catacombs in 1989 resulted in almost the complete loss of the presence of the Moscow Patriarchate in Western Ukraine.  For course, the UGCC will correctly point out that the UGCC was forcefully suppressed by the communists in 1946 and that the UGCC was simply reclaiming its own churches.  However, it is still not surprising that the Moscow Patriarchate wishes to obtain at least some improvement in its present condition in Western Ukraine as a condition for a papal meeting.  From Moscow’s perspective, many believers simply go to their neighborhood church, regardless of whether that church is controlled by the MP or by the UGCC, and that between 1946 and 1989, many of those believers in Western Ukraine became Orthodox.

    Obviously, the entire situation is complex, and I have certainly not done justice to it in the paragraph above.  However, I do believe that it is safe to say that if a papal visit to Russia or a Pope-Patriarch meeting will only occur if both the Moscow Patriarchate and the UGCC are completely happy with the situation in the Western Ukraine, the meeting or visit will probably never occur.  I also do not believe that the Pope will ever force a resolution on the UGCC against its will, when the UGCC has suffered so many martyrdoms and imprisonments for its loyalty to the pope during the many years of persecution.  However, perhaps some form of accommodation may still be possible.  Cardinal Koch will be visiting Russia at the end of this month, and this subject will most probably be discussed.

    However, there is now a new factor – Pope Francis and his great popularity.  Yesterday, the Interfax news agency in a Russian-language article described the results of a recent poll conducted by its Lavada Center in Moscow.   The poll showed that 71 percent of the respondents wished Pope Francis to visit Russia, while only 9 percent of the respondents did not desire such a visit.  I was personally very surprised that the results were so much in favor of a papal visit, and I do not recall any previous poll showing such a strong sentiment in favor of a papal visit to Russia.  The poll was conducted in 45 regions of the Russian Federation.  If this poll accurately represents the Russian public opinion, it may encourage the resolutions of the issues that preclude such a visit. 

  • 12 April 2013: Metropolitan Christopher resigns

    This morning, Metropolitan Christopher, Archbishop of Prague and Metropolitan of Czech Lands and Slovakia, submitted his resignation to the Holy Synod.  In the last few weeks, the Metropolitan has been accused of certain improper conduct, but these accusations were denied in an official statement last week.   The Metropolitan today refused to discuss the matter with reporters, but it is stated that he is resigning for the unity of the Church.  Until a new head is elected, the Church will be administered by Archbishop Simeon. 

    The resignation occurs in the midst of the celebrations of the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Great Moravia.  These celebration have been the subject of substantial Orthodox – Catholic cooperation.   The major Orthodox celebration will occur on May 25 with the attendance of Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew.  Perhaps the Czech Church will have a new primate by that time. 

  • 4 April 2013: Update on Edict of Milan

    In the last two weeks, some additional details for the celebration of the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan have been announced.  First, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be in Milan on May 15 and 16 for part of the celebration there.  The visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to Milan will have three major components.  First, the Ecumenical Patriarch will participate in a prayer service at the Church of Maria Podone on Piazza Borromeo in the center of Milan.  This is one of the oldest churches in Milan, consecrated in 871 and later associated with the famous Borromeo family.  Last fall it was given by the Catholic Archdiocese of Milan and the Italian government to the Greek Orthodox community (approximately 800 families) in Milan.   Second, the Ecumenical Patriarch and Cardinal Angelo Scola will give a joint (“in two voices”) lecture on the subject, “Know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  Third, there will be an ecumenical prayer service at the Basilica of St. Ambrose (where the uncorrupted body of St. Ambrose is venerated).

    It has also been announced that Cardinal Scola of Milan will lead the Catholic celebration of the Edict of Milan in a pilgrimage to Nis, 19-22 September.  From what I have seen in earlier reports, it appears that representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church will be present for the Catholic celebration.

    The most important Orthodox celebration of the Edict will be at Nis on 6 October.  This celebration will include the patriarchs and other heads of the Orthodox Churches.  The Ecumenical Patriarch will be attending.  Delegations from other Christian churches are being invited to attend.  In prior reports, I described how Serbian Patriarch Irenej had originally desired to invite the pope to this event, but the Holy Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church had not been in favor of it.  One of the problems was that Pope Benedict praised and prayed at the grave of Cardinal Stepinac during the 2011 papal visit to Croatia.  This had greatly pleased Croatians but had angered Serbs.   Pope Francis, of course, is not associated with this event and has had a very enthusiastic response from Orthodox in general.  Although there have been many surprises the last few months, I doubt that Pope Francis will receive a last-minute invitation to come to Nis.

    The celebrations in Milan will conclude on the feast day of St. Ambrose, 7 December.

    In other news, the newly-elected head of the Coptic Church expressed a desire last night to meet with Pope Francis.   Also Metropolitan Hilarion opened yesterday a very interesting conference at the University of Fribourg on the subject, “Episcopal Ordination and Episcopal Ministry according to Catholic and Orthodox Doctrine and Canon Law.”

  • 25 March 2013: Koch to Moscow and St. Petersburg.

    I apologize for sending you another email, but significant events are occurring very rapidly.

    Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio has done an interview of Cardinal Koch.à_de/it1-676150  I found two comments by Cardinal Koch particularly interesting.  First, he confirmed the report (first disclosed by Asia News) that the Ecumenical Patriarch desires to undertake a joint pilgrimage with Pope Francis to the Holy Land in 2014.  Cardinal Koch found the idea “very beautiful” (“ich finde diese Idee sehr schön”).  Second, Cardinal Koch stated that he would be traveling to Moscow and St. Petersburg at the end of April (“Ende April”) [during or immediately before Orthodox Holy Week???].  The purpose of the visit will be an attempt to resolve some of the current issues between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Catholic Church.

    In Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, and Cyprus, Catholics will not be celebrating Holy Week this week.  Rather, they will observe it later with their Orthodox brothers and sisters.  This will allow families with both Orthodox and Catholic members to celebrate Pascha together.  An exception will be made in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, because of the large number of pilgrims there.

    One of the fruits of the Joint Message to the Russian and Polish Peoples was the scheduling of two conferences.  The first, on the topic, “Memory – Forgiveness -  Reconciliation,” was held in Moscow last Friday and Saturday.  The second conference, “The Future of Christianity in Europe - the Role of the Churches and the Nations of Poland and Russia,” will be held in Warsaw, 17-19 June 2013.

    Sadly, the conference in Moscow has so far received almost no attention on the Russian Orthodox websites.  A notable exception is Blagovest-Info, a Russian website which has received substantial support from the Catholic charity Kirche in Not.  The Moscow Patriarchate did, however, provide some very good speakers.  One of the speakers was Father Kyrill Kaleda, rector of the Orthodox church of the new martyrs at the Butovo shooting range.  Father Petr Kolomeitsev, dean of the Psychology Facility of the Russian Orthodox University of St. John the Theologian, was another speaker.   I found particularly interesting Father Petr’s observation that the Russian and Polish peoples should focus on finding their common shrines – such as Czestochowa – rather than their common disasters.

  • 23 March 2013: Hilarion's gift given by Francis to Benedict

    It thought that you might be interested in the following report by Bob Moynihan, publisher of Inside the Vatican.  In the DECR’s report of the meeting between Metropolitan Hilarion and Pope Benedict on March 20, there is the following statement:  In conclusion of the meeting, the DECR chairman handed a gift from Patriarch Kirill, an icon of the Mother of God, called ‘Look Down with Favour on My Lowliness’, to Pope Francis, noting that “the first steps of Your Holiness after the election were marked by lowliness and humility.” Pope Francis replied that he lacked humility and asked for prayers to the Lord to grant it to him. 

    In reporting on the meeting between Francis and Benedict today, Vatican Radio states: The Holy Father also brought a gift for his predecessor, an icon of Our Lady of Humility, as a gift for Benedict XVI's great humility. 

    As you can see from Bob Moynihan’s report below, the icon given by Francis to Benedict is the same icon given by Hilarion to Pope Francis.  I certainly agree that this has significance and meaning.  It is also totally consistent with Saint Francis, who gave away everything that he received.

    See Robert Moynihan's Letter #60:

  • 22 March 2013: More positive Orthodox reactions

    In my last two emails to you, I summarized the very positive reaction to Pope Francis expressed by Orthodox hierarchs who now have or did have responsibility for the Russian Orthodox (including the ROCOR) faithful in South America.  Today, Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service has provided an excellent interview of Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Tarasios of Buenos Aires and South America.  You can read it at .  I have also pasted it below.  Another interesting article on the positive reaction can be read at The latter article provides observations by Father Mark Arey, Father Leonid Kishkovsky, Father Robert Taft, and Jack Figel.

    Table time: Pope discusses, prays, dines with Orthodox representatives

    By Cindy Wooden - Catholic News Service

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pastors and theologians involved in ecumenical dialogue emphasize the importance of "table time" -- sharing meals -- along with serious theological discussions, shared prayer and joint action. Pope Francis spoke about his ecumenical vision March 20 and prayed with delegates from Orthodox and other Christian communities at his inaugural Mass March 19.

    Since March 17, he's also had breakfast, lunch and dinner with the Orthodox representatives who came to Rome for his inauguration. Pope Francis is still living at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse where the Orthodox delegates also were staying. They all eat together and greet each other in the common dining room.
    Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Tarasios of Buenos Aires and South America was one of the delegates who shared meals and prayers with the new pope. In fact, he's been doing that since then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio attended his enthronement in Buenos Aires in 2001. When they first saw each other March 17, they embraced. "I said to him, 'What have you done?' He said, 'Not I. They did it to me,' pointing to the cardinals," said the Orthodox leader, who was born in the United States.

    During the more formal audience Pope Francis had with the ecumenical delegates, Metropolitan Tarasios presented the pope with two elegant, but very personalized gifts: an urn filled with soil from Argentina, "so he wouldn't feel far away, he'd always feel close to us," and a small chalice with the biblical inscription in Spanish, "That all would be one."

    In Pope Francis' remarks to the ecumenical delegates, he focused on the common task of preaching the Gospel, defending human dignity and defending creation. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, in his remarks to the gathering, focused on the importance of continuing the formal theological dialogue so that "our Christian witness would be credible in the eyes of those near and far."

    Metropolitan Tarasios, who was part of the ecumenical patriarchate's delegation to Pope Francis' inauguration, said it is not a matter of either theological dialogue or practical cooperation: Christian unity requires both. "The theological dialogue by itself cannot bring about Christian unity," he said. It brings the churches closer, helps them understand each other more profoundly, and provides a serious tool for understanding where the churches agree and where they differ. But efforts also are required to bring Christians together in common prayer and joint action. "If, in the end, the people don't accept the theological dialogue or what comes out of the theological dialogue, there won't be any Christian unity," he said.

    For the past five years, the international Catholic-Orthodox dialogue has been focusing on one of thorniest topics dividing the two communities: the primacy of the pope and the way his ministry has been exercised since the Great Schism of 1054. Theologians are looking first at the role of the bishop of Rome in the first millennium, hoping it will lay the foundation for a joint statement on the place and role of the pope in a reunited Christianity.
    In the first week after his election, Pope Francis emphasized his position as "bishop of Rome," his calling to preside in charity and his insistence that the power of the papacy is the "power of service" seen in Jesus' charge to St. Peter: "Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep." For the Orthodox, "that's how we see him -- as the bishop of Rome," Metropolitan Tarasios said. That the pope repeatedly referred to himself that way "is music to our ears."

    The early years of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue focused on baptism, the Eucharist and other issues the two churches basically already agreed on. The tough topic of the primacy of the pope was saved until a time when church leaders felt the relationship was strong enough to tackle it head on.

    Metropolitan Tarasios said Patriarch Bartholomew's presence at the pope's inauguration wasn't just the first time a patriarch of Constantinople came for the event since 1054, it was the first time ever. Even when the churches were united, a pope or patriarch sent his newly elected brother a letter delivered, perhaps, by a special emissary. Patriarch Bartholomew, he said, thought "if we want to help Christian unity, then we have to make our presence felt, not just known." The patriarch knew the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, but he did not think about coming to Rome at the time. "It's a question of timing, of when the moment is right," the metropolitan said. "It's time for the Christian churches to put aside some of the historical impediments to unity," he said.
    Catholics and Orthodox cannot ignore or deny the things in their history that have hurt each other, Metropolitan Tarasios said, but much of those hurts are "excess baggage" that prevent the churches from credibly proclaiming Christ today. For the Orthodox, one of the issues still causing tension or pain is the existence and growth of the Byzantine-rite Eastern Catholic Churches that entered into full communion with Rome more than 400 years ago. The largest of the churches, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, was outlawed for almost 50 years by the Soviet Union, and its emergence from an underground existence has created serious problems in relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.
    Metropolitan Tarasios said the people whose families have been Eastern Catholics for generations are one thing, but he denounced what he said were attempts to use the Byzantine Catholic Churches to convince Orthodox Christians to become Catholic while keeping their Byzantine liturgies and spiritualities. "That's an issue we can't ignore," he said. "Quite frankly, we resent it."
    On the positive side, Orthodox and Catholics are working more closely on environmental issues. Patriarch Bartholomew has been called "the green patriarch" and is one of the leading Christian proponents of a theological reflection on the moral obligation to safeguard creation.
    The new pope's choice of St. Francis of Assisi for his name and his repeated calls for respect for creation in his first week of ministry are important for the Orthodox because the patriarch and pope "can double their forces and their strength if they do it together," Metropolitan Tarasios said.
    The metropolitan said he, too, had read reports that Patriarch Bartholomew invited Pope Francis to go with him to Jerusalem in 2014 to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic first step in Catholic-Orthodox rapprochement: the 1964 meeting there between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. "I think it would be a great occasion," he said.

    Editors: A video of Metropolitan Tarasios can be found at http://youtube/-sMLQMGAWXU.

  • 21 MArch 2013: Orthodox at the Vatican

    Orthodox certainly cannot say that they did not received attention at the inauguration ceremony of Pope Francis.

    On Monday evening, a number of the Orthodox delegates, including the Ecumenical Patriarch and Metropolitan Hilarion, were in effect “house guests” of Pope Francis at Domus Santae Marthae, which is now serving as the Pope’s personal residence at the Vatican.  While eating in the dining room of the Domus, these delegates were joined by Pope Francis. Some photos and a description of the meeting between the Pope and Metropolitan Hilarion in the dining room are found at The Pope remarked to Metropolitan Hilarion that he had said a special prayer for Patriarch Kirill at Mass earlier in the day, which was the feast, on the Catholic calendar, of St. Kirill (Cyril) of Jerusalem. 

    I have also attached a photo of the Ecumenical Patriarch and his delegation talking with the Pope that evening. 

    The next morning the Ecumenical Patriarch and Metropolitan Hilarion had breakfast together in the Domus dining room.

    The following Orthodox churches were represented at the inauguration:  Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Moscow, Georgia, Serbia, Romania, Cyprus, Greece, Albania, and OCA.  A good representation of the Oriental Churches was also present.

    On Tuesday, the Inaugural Mass placed special emphasis on the Eastern Churches.  Before the Mass began, the Pope descended the stairs to the Confessio of St. Peter under the main altar of the Basilica.  There in the Confessio, he was met by the heads of the Catholic Eastern Churches, including Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the UGCC.  After the Pope prayed before the relics of St. Peter, a procession led by the heads of the Catholic Eastern Churches and followed by the cardinals and the Pope proceeded out of the Basilica for the beginning of the Mass in St. Peter’s Square.  The heads of the Eastern Churches brought with them the Pope’s pallium and fisherman’s ring which had been placed for a period of time near the relics of St. Peter.

    For the Mass, the Orthodox representatives were located near the altar. During the Mass, the gospel was chanted in Greek by a Melkite deacon. In the prayers of the faithful recited after the Creed, the first prayer was said in Russian. For the sign of peace after the recitation of the Our Father, both the Ecumenical Patriarch and Catholicos Karekin II (primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church) were led to the altar area where they exchanged the sign of peace with the Pope and embraced.  The entire Mass and the preliminary ceremonies can be seen in the following Vatican Radio video:   (click “video” and then click “full video”)  You can move the button at the bottom of the video to see any part that you desire.

    On Tuesday evening, Metropolitan Hilarion was honored at a dinner with Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.  They discussed ways to defend traditional family values.

    Today, Wednesday, Pope Francis met with representatives of Christian and non-Christian faiths.  The meeting began with an address to the Pope by the Ecumenical Patriarch.  This was followed by the Pope’s address.  The full text of the Pope’s remarks can be read at,_ecclesia/en1-675184 . The Pope began his address as follows:  “First of all, heartfelt thanks for what my Brother Andrew told us. Thank you so much! Thank you so much!”

    I believe that it is very significant that immediately prior to the meeting with all of the Christian and non-Christian representatives in the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace, the Pope had private meetings in his private library with the Ecumenical Patriarch and then with Metropolitan Hilarion.  No other church representatives were afforded this honor.  Asia News has reported that in this private meeting, the Ecumenical Patriarch invited Pope Francis to join him on a joint pilgrimage to the Holy Land next year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the meeting of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras on the Mount of Olives, 5 January 1964.,-Bartholomew-and-Francis-to-be-in-Jerusalem-next-year-27450.html  This would be a very exciting development indeed.  A Russian-language report of Metropolitan Hilarion’s private meeting with the Pope can be read at .

    I would also like to comment on two other persons who were members of the Moscow Patriarchate’s delegation.  One was Metropolitan Antony of Borispol, chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate).  Many believe that Metropolitan Antony will be the future successor to Metropolitan Vladimir as head of the UOC-MP.  Because the Moscow Patriarchate views the situation in Ukraine as the primary reason for delaying a meeting between a pope and a patriarch of Moscow, Anthony’s presence in Rome may be significant.  The second person is Metropolitan Platon of Feodosia and Kerch.  Metropolitan Platon served in Argentina for many years (1993-2012) and knew Cardinal Bergoglio well.  In my last email, I described the very positive comments of the two Russian Orthodox bishops who are presently serving in South America.  However, Metropolitan Platon, who was recently assigned to Crimea, has also given a Russian-language interview of his experiences with the future pope.  The Metropolitan also had glowing remarks about Bergoglio.  He describes how Bergoglio would annually come to the Christmas liturgy and would stay for the social gathering afterwards.  According to Platon, Bergoglio was “very comfortable” with us.  He simply loved the Ukrainian Christmas carols, the food, and the costumes.

    Lastly, I was touched by the actions of Pope Francis, when during his rounds through the crowds in St. Peter’s Square before the Mass, he ordered his Jeep to stop.  He then got out of the Jeep and walked over to kiss a completely paralyzed man who was lying on a litter.  I have attached a photo of that event from

    I also saw another photo taken a few seconds later of the man with his mouth wide open and with a most joyful expression.  What a wonderful surprise it must have been for this man suddenly to see the pope bending over to kiss him! It is also interesting that in greeting the religious delegations in the Sala Clementina today, Pope Francis did not use the customary throne, but rather a simple arm chair.

  • 16 March 2013: Pope Francis and the Orthodox

    Various primates have sent letters to Pope Francis.  The following are the English-language texts of some of them:  Ecumenical Patriarch -- ; Patriarch of Moscow --;  Patriarch of Romania -- ; Patriarch of Serbia -- .

    Metropolitan Hilarion sent to Pope Francis a letter which includes the following statement:  “During your ministry in Argentina, you have succeeded in establishing good and trustful relations with the local Orthodox community.”    

    Archbishop Justinian (Ovchinnikov), who presently administers the Argentina and South America Eparchy for the Moscow Patriarchate, has only good things to say about Cardinal Bergoglio.  Attached is a nice photo from showing the two greeting each other last December 24. 

    During the December meeting, Archbishop Justinian thanked the cardinal for his assistance in organizing an exhibit of Russian icons at the University of Buenos Aires, and the cardinal suggested the teaching of Orthodoxy at the University.  Itar-Tass has also quoted one of its correspondents, Aleksandr Trushin, who worked for many years in South America, that Bergoglio was an enthusiastic supporter of the Russian Days celebration in Buenos Aires in November 2008.  He also attended the all-night vigil at the Resurrection Cathedral in Buenos Aires and prayed and laid a wreath before the monument to St. Vladimir.  He applauded the performance of the Sretensky Monastery Choir which performed in Buenos Aires.

    Bishop John, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and resides in Buenos Aires, also has glowing praise for Cardinal Bergoglio.  According to Bishop John, Cardinal Bergoglio annually attended the Christmas Liturgy (Julian calendar - Jan. 7) at the Orthodox temple in Buenos Aires. He also maintained close and friendly relations with the Orthodox clergy in Argentina.

    Cardinal Bergoglio also enjoyed a good relationship with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC).   Interestingly, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, present head of the UGCC, worked in Buenos Aires for two years (2009-2011) before being elected Major Archbishop.  He obviously knew Cardinal Bergoglio.   A few day ago, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav related an interested story concerning Bergoglio.   When Bergoglio was a seminarian in Argentina, he “awoke many hours before his classmates to concelebrate at our Divine Liturgy” with Fr. Stepan Chmil S.D.B. (1914-1979).  Father Stepan, who had been born in Ukraine, had been assigned by the Congregation of the Oriental Churches to work among the Ukrainians in Argentina.  Major Archbishop Sviatoslav states that Fr. Stepan was a “mentor” to Bergoglio.  Father Stepan was evidently a very holy man, and the Holy Synod of the UGCC approved the initiation of his beatification proceedings in September 2008.

    Because Pope Francis comes from Argentina, far from the traditional Orthodox countries, one might initially assume that he knows little about Orthodoxy or the Eastern Christian tradition. However, that is clearly not the case.