Ecumenism: March 2013 Archives

The Pope met today with Orthodox leaders, Byzantine and Oriental Orthodox, the Anglicans, other ecclesial communities and leaders of various other religions. Of particular interest is the personal meeting of Francis and Bartholomew; the Pope also met with Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Rome Reports has a review of this important ecumenical meeting.

Francis and Bartholomew March 20 2013.jpg

First of all, heartfelt thanks for what my Brother Andrew told us. Thank you so much! Thank you so much!

It is a source of particular joy to meet you today, delegates of the Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches and Ecclesial Communities of the West. Thank you for wanting to take part in the celebration that marked the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter.

Yesterday morning, during the Mass, through you , I recognized the communities you represent. In this manifestation of faith, I had the feeling of taking part in an even more urgent fashion the prayer for the unity of all believers in Christ, and together to see somehow prefigured the full realization of full unity which depends on God's plan and on our own loyal collaboration.

It's not been a week into the exercise of the Petrine ministry of Pope Francis and members of the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy are "expressing hope" about the Bishop of Rome will or will not do with regard to the so-called "expansion" of the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church. Really, they are setting conditions for dialogue and fraternal cooperation.

Recognizable is the fact that Russians want to be the dominant Church body in Eastern Europe and they want no "competition" from anyone else. They believe that to be Russian, or Ukrainian, for that matter, is to be Orthodox. They will not accept the possibility of a person's freedom in choosing which Church to belong and that historically the Byzantine and Latin Catholics have been part of the cultural makeup of the Christian East. As a condition for good relations Metropolitan Hilarion and other Orthodox leaders want to pressure the Bishop of Rome not to work with the Byzantine Ukrainian Church in any way. Pope Francis, and the entire Roman Church wants good and fruitful relationships with the Orthodox Church worldwide, and in Russia. It will not be the case that we turn our back on the Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk and Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Synod. Lingering disagreements are not resolved by pressure and being agenda-driven.

You would never know that Metropolitan Hilarion was educated at Oxford and that he's spent much of his youthful days enjoying certain freedom of education and culture in the West with ignorant comments such as he's made about the Jesuits. His suspicion is greatly exaggerated and offensive. It betrays another level of insecurity of his person and his Church. His comments about the Jesuits, and therefore, Pope Francis, show yet example of that he is not a serious churchman. One only has to recall that it's been the Jesuits in the 20th and 21st centuries who have provided rigorous educational opportunities at the Pontifical Oriental Institute (PIO) in Rome for the service to the Churches. And an education, I might add, to plenty of Orthodox priests, bishops and laity at the expense of the PIO. An anti-Jesuit stance in this case is clich├ęd and will bear no fruit.

May the great Mother of God bless the Churches.

Pope's chair, Basilica di San Giovanni in Late...

The chair of the Bishop of Rome, Basilica Saint John Lateran, Rome.

In the first moments of his introduction to the world, Pope Francis has spoken of his ministry as the bishop of Rome, and his exercise of said ministry. Nine times, in fact. I think many were surprised at the theological precision that Pope Francis expressed so quickly. How is this possible? Because Francis is clearly Christocentric, and the Petrine ministry located in service of the other and at the foot of the Cross.

We ought to recall that ministries in the Church have gradually taken on new significance over time as the issues of teaching, preaching and sanctifying and governing (leading) surfaced and challenged the unity of the faithful. We know historically that by the third century the parameters of the bishop of Rome began to develop because of the work of Saints Peter and Paul, and because of the importance of the imperial city of Rome, and by the fourth century the influence of the Roman bishop was well-situated; and by the fifth century "canonical" letters, i.e., decrees, were sent to the world's bishops carrying with them certain authority. One can posit that from almost the beginning bishops from across the Christian world had appealed to the bishop of Rome for assistance in resolving with pastoral problems. 

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Surveying what the ecumenical crowd has to say about this papal election is mixed at best. Time will tell about our interfaith friends, namely the Jewish and Muslim communities. It is said that Pope Francis has had very strong friendships with the Jewish community of Argentina.

On Wednesday night when Pope Francis was introduced to the world on the loggia he said, "And now let us begin this journey, the bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood."

Pope Francis Portrait Painting

Pope Francis Portrait Painting (Photo credit: faithmouse)

His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (of Constantinople) will attend the enthronement of the newly-elected Pope of Rome on March 19. This is the first time since 1054 that Orthodox bishops will be in attendance. Bartholomew will be accompanied by the Metropolitan of Pergamum, John (Zizoulas), the Metropolitan of Buenos Aires, Tarasios (a native of San Antonio, Texas) and the Metropolitan of Italy, Gennadios.

The Russian Orthodox Church's Department for External Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, spoke on Thursday that he thought a meeting between the Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow was "possible but the place and timing will depend on how quickly we will overcome the consequences of the conflicts from the turn of 1980s and 1990s." Hilarion notes, "on several occasions, Pope Francis has shown spiritual sympathy towards the Orthodox Church and a desire for closer contacts." The Orthodox still refuse to accept the fact that some Christians in the Byzantine East want, in their own freedom, be in communion with the bishop of Rome. Tensions run high when it comes to thinking about the Ukrainian Byzantine Church using the title of Patriarch for their head and the existence of Latin Catholic dioceses in Russia.

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If you want to read a beautiful letter from the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow, Kyril I, to Pope Benedict XVI, read the following. 

On 1 March 2013, His Holiness, Patriarch Kyril I of Moscow sent a message to His Holiness, Benedict XVI, pope-emeritus.

Your Holiness!In these exceptional days for you, I would like to express the feelings of brotherly love in Christ and respect.

The decision to leave the position of Bishop of Rome, which you, with humility and simplicity, announced on February 11 this year, has found a ready response in the hearts of millions of Catholics.

We have always been close to your consistent ministry, marked by uncompromisingness in matters of faith and unswerving adherence to the living Tradition of the Church. At a time when the ideology of permissiveness and moral relativism tries to dislodge the moral values of life, you boldly raised your voice in defence of the ideals of the Gospel, the high dignity of man and his vocation to freedom from sin. 

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]



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Ecumenism category from March 2013.

Ecumenism: February 2013 is the previous archive.

Ecumenism: April 2013 is the next archive.

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