Eastern Church: January 2009 Archives

Pope Benedict.jpgHere is an address of Benedict XVI to the Joint International Commission which deals with theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, given today 30 January 2009. The theme of the address ought to be a recognizable one for us this week. The Pope, the brilliant theologian and gentle churchman that he is, is working overtime to bring the various churches together. May his work bear fruit!

I extend a warm welcome to you, the members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. At the end of this week of dedicated work we can give thanks together to the Lord for your steadfast commitment to the search for reconciliation and communion in the Body of Christ which is the Church.

Indeed, each of you brings to this task not only the richness of your own tradition, but also the commitment of the Churches involved in this dialogue to overcome the divisions of the past and to strengthen the united witness of Christians in the face of the enormous challenges facing believers today.

The world needs a visible sign of the mystery of unity that binds the three divine Persons and, that two thousand years ago, with the Incarnation of the Son of God, was revealed to us. The tangibility of the Gospel message is conveyed perfectly by John, when he declares his intention to express what he has heard and his eyes have seen and his hands have touched, so that all may have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Jn 1:1-4). Our communion through the grace of the Holy Spirit in the life that unites the Father and the Son has a perceptible dimension within the Church, the Body of Christ, "the fullness of him who fills all in all" (Eph 1:23), and we all have a duty to work for the manifestation of that essential dimension of the Church to the world.

Your sixth meeting has taken important steps precisely in the study of the Church as communion. The very fact that the dialogue has continued over time and is hosted each year by one of the several Churches you represent is itself a sign of hope and encouragement. We need only cast our minds to the Middle East - from where many of you come - to see that true seeds of hope are urgently needed in a world wounded by the tragedy of division, conflict and immense human suffering.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has just concluded with the ceremony in the Basilica dedicated to the great apostle Paul, at which many of you were present. Paul was the first great champion and theologian of the Church's unity. His efforts and struggles were inspired by the enduring aspiration to maintain a visible, not merely external, but real and full communion among the Lord's disciples. Therefore, through Paul's intercession, I ask for God's blessings on you all, and on the Churches and the peoples you represent.

Patriarch Kirill.jpgMetropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, 62, has been elected the new Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. There were 711 delegates from various countries, laity and clergy alike. It is being reported the new patriarch received 508 of 677 valid votes.

The Russian Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian body in the world with more than 165 million adherents in Russia and beyond.

Patriarch Kirill succeeds Patriarch Alexy II who died on 5 December 2008 who was elected in 1991 to be the head of the Russian Church.

Born in St Petersburg, into a priest's family, Kirill was ordained a priest in 1969. He served as rector of the St Petersburg seminary. He is regarded as one of the most open of the Russian Orthodox bishops to the West.

Before his election as patriarch, Kirill headed the Church's department for external relations.

May God grant Patriarch Kirill many years!

Orthodox Church begins balloting.jpgIn the course of these days the Russian Orthodox Church is gathering to discuss and pray for a new patriarch. Let us join our prayers together for graces needed to elect the man the Holy Spirit has chosen to lead the Russian Church.

The process of selecting a new father of the Church in Orthodoxy is much different than the way either the Latin or the various Eastern Catholic churches elect a head. Another example of a diversity of gifts given by the Holy Trinity.

FTwal.jpgTrue to itself and its focus on what Eastern Christians have to say, Oasis asked His Beatitude, Archbishop Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, for his opinion about what is happening in Gaza right now. Oasis met him at this home, in Jerusalem, a few days after the start of Israel's 'Cast Lead' operation. Archbishop Twal's words show a man clearly affected by the situation, concerned that things might be going backward with disastrous consequences for the whole region.

Your Beatitude, what are your thoughts about the latest developments?

In our Christmas message we had given voice to hope for peace in the Holy Land. Things seemed close at hand. More and more private meetings were taking place; pilgrims were coming in greater numbers; the economic situation in the Territories was getting better. Now, things are back where they were years ago. Military solutions are never good; violence begets violence. There is a clear imbalance between the parties. There have been too many innocent victims who have nothing to do with Hamas: women, children, families who had a right to lead a normal life, free. Gaza is under siege by land, sea and air. The city has been turned into an open air prison. Objectively such conditions cannot favour peace and reconciliation. In any case it certainly will not boost hope that violence will stop one day. On the contrary!

Doesn't Israel have a right to defend itself?

Of course! Everyone has the right to self-defence. Israel has won every war in defending itself, but has achieved neither peace, nor security. Counting only on the military option without offering people real alternatives is not a solution. Gaza's siege does not date from yesterday. This applies to Palestinians as well because even the most extreme situation does not cancel one's moral responsibilities vis-à-vis one's actions. But this is true not only for Palestinians.

What is a way out then?

I'll leave that to the politicians and the specialists. It's obvious that diplomatic negotiations have not led to good results as far as violence in Gaza is concerned. And yet we can also see that awareness about solving this problem has increased at the international level. There are three or four good initiatives underway. The world seems to be doing more to solve the problems of the Middle East. Hope never dies, even if it is already very late. The only way out is political. But if there is no good will by the parties involved, all we'll ever get are empty words, promises and meetings without any results.

What should Christians in the Holy Land and around the world do about events in Gaza?

First of all everyone must assume his or her responsibilities. Violence calls for our conversion. Our heart must convert, what we say must change, our outlook must change. Widespread mistrust does not help; it is very destructive.

Foad Twal2.jpegIs the visit by the Holy Father a good idea?

In Jerusalem we are grateful to the Pope for his constant attention and words. We are certain that a visit would help us a lot; the same is true for pilgrims who come to the Holy Land. They can help us remind the international community that joint action is always more courageous; they can exert pressure in favour of greater justice and peace for all. Pious words are not enough; we need acts of courage.

Courtesy of the Oasis International Studies and Research Centre


Joseph Younan.jpgYesterday, Bishop Joseph Younan, 65, eparch of the New Jersey centered Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance (in the USA & Canada) was elected Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians today. His Beatitude, Ignace Joseph III Younan succeeds His Beatitude Mar Ignace Pierre Abdel-Ahad and a temporary administration of the patriarchate.

Pope Benedict accepted a request for full ecclesiastical communion with the new patriarch (according to the Eastern Code of Canon Law), here is the letter of concession. The granted the request of communion "willingly, thus performing a part of the Petrine ministry which gives me particular pleasure. Communion with the Bishop of Rome, Peter's Successor, established by the Lord as the visible foundation of unity in faith and charity, guarantees the bond with Christ the Pastor and introduces the particular Churches into the mystery of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church".

Pope Benedict XVIs address (in French) to the new patriarch and the bishops of the synod.

In brief, the Pope said: "My hope is that in the East, where the Gospel was first announced, Christian communities may continue to live and bear witness to their faith, as they have over the centuries. At the same time I hope that all those outside their homeland may receive adequate pastoral care so as to maintain the bond with their religious roots". The Pope then voiced his hope that the Eastern Churches, "wherever they may be, are able to integrate themselves into their new social and ecclesial surroundings without losing their own identity and conserving the imprint of their Eastern spirituality, so that, using the words East and West, the Church may speak effectively of Christ to modern mankind". 

The bishops of the Syrian Catholic Church have been meeting in synod in Rome since the 18th.

More info about the new patriarch and the Syrian Catholic Church can be had at a H2O News video segment, a 2008 CNEWA article and in a Wiki article.

May Mary, Mother of God intercede for the new patriarch and the Syrian Catholic Church before the Throne of Grace.

The rights of Christians in Muslim countries is always threatened. A Reuters story sheds some light on the problems that the Mor Gabriel monastery in Midyat, Turkey faces right now. The monastery of Syriac Christian monks has been present on this site for 1600 years and now faces a reduction if not factual extinction. Can you imagine the extinction of a monastery built in A.D. 397 dedicated to the witness to Jesus Christ???

Is this one more reason to consider NOT admitting Turkey to the European Union??? Religious freedom is not a valued in Muslim countries and there are countless examples of this fact. Many will point to the fact that millions of dollars of land and other cultural artifacts have been stolen by the Turkish government over the years but the matter is not merely about the material wealth but about the existence of the Christian presence in the land of their birth. What has to be done is to convince the nations of Islamic rule that religious reciprocity is a value and significant to the greater freedom of all people as well as a part of the cultural heritage of the respective countries. Now a minority Christians were once a majority in many of these Muslim countries.

This article is interesting because of the facts presented, particularly the facts that show how the Christians have diminished since the radical state secularization of the country.

Let us pray to Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11th, on whose feast day the court will determine the fate of the Mor Gabriel monastery.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Eastern Church category from January 2009.

Eastern Church: December 2008 is the previous archive.

Eastern Church: February 2009 is the next archive.

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