Sister Churches in Communion, Working Towards Full Communion

Sister Churches in Communion, Working Towards Full Communion December 1, 2018
Pope Francis has released his fraternal greeting to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the Feast of St Andrew the Apostle according to the Byzantine Calendar. The statement was read during the Divine Liturgy offered by the Ecumenical Patriarch. This is an important feast for Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics. St Andrew, the first of the 12 apostles Christ called, is also the founder of the See of Constantinople.

Historians often refer to the mutual excommunications of 1054 as the catalyst for the Great Schism between Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Many Christians are unaware the excommunications was one between persons and not Churches. The excommunications were lifted almost immediately as they were deemed invalid according to the canons of the Latin Church, and I believe the Greek Church as well.

Unfortunately, there had been a number of growing tensions between East and West.  Thus to Church historians the mutual excommunications came to symbolize the 350-year process through which communion broke down between Rome and Constantinople. Basically from the Photian Schism (863-867) to the Sacking of Constantinople (1204).

So where we are today in our relationship between Rome and Constantinople? I think Pope Francis summed it up well yesterday in his public letter to Patriarch Bartholomew commemorating the Feast of St Andrew the Apostle:
Our Churches have safeguarded the Apostolic tradition with great care, along with the teaching of the first Ecumenical Councils and the Church Fathers, despite the differences that developed in local traditions and in theological formulations, which need to be more deeply understood and clarified. At the same time both Churches, with a sense of responsibility towards the world, have sensed that urgent call, which involves each of us who have been baptized, to proclaim the Gospel to all men and women. For this reason, we can work together today in the search for peace among peoples, for the abolition of all forms of slavery, for the respect and dignity of every human being and for the care of creation. With God’s help, through encounter and dialogue on our journey together over the last fifty years, we already experience being in communion, even though it is not yet full and complete.

In short, Catholic Churches and Orthodox Churches Churches are sister Churches that share a common Apostolic Tradition. Yet we often express it differently. Our differences in expression need to be clarified and more deeply understood as we work together to proclaim Christ to a broken world. The ecumenical good will following the Second Vatican Council included a symbolic mutual lifting of excommunications. This restored a level of communion between our Churches. However, we are still working towards full communion.

St Peter & St Andrew, pray for us!

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  • P. McCoy

    Right now, Russians and Serbian Orthodox as well as the Monks on Mt. Athos are extremely dismayed with the Papal Supremacist attitudes and actions being expressed and carried out by the Patriarch of Constantinople in relation to the “Autonomy” and creation of a Ukrainian Orthodox Church independent of the Moscow Patriarchate. They don’t want the Papacy of Francis nor the pseudo Papacy of Bartholomew.

    The “Autonomous” include NATO supporters and those who have overt NAZI sympathies, sympathies that go back to them supporting the Nazis AND HITLER against the Soviet Union and Stalin during WWII.
    These “Orthodox” also collude today with the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, an “Eastern Rite” which has persecuted Orthodox Christians and Russian speaking, Moscow Patriarchate orientated Orthodox believers for centuries. The so called Autonomous want to cut off Russian believers from the Kiev Larva and other sites sacred to these believers . They are also harassing and killing Moscow Patriarchate clergy in Eastern Ukraine.This “Eastern Rite” term confuses things when the term Uniate makes things more concrete calling a spade a spade. The schism is far reaching.

    From their “kill the Moskals” rhetoric to Josaphat Kunsevyvich slaughter and desecration of Orthodox churches and believers , to its origins not with St.Olga who was baptized in Constantinople in the Greek, not Latin Church, not with St. Vladimir whose representatives wanted Nothing to DO with Roman Catholicism as at that time had German speaking missionaries representing it and the “Latin Mass”, but again chose Greek Orthodoxy as seen in Constantinople, to every form of treachery ,violence and deceit all with the goal of sheep stealing- converting Orthodox Christians to Roman Catholicism , such is the sordid legacy of the Catholic church in Eastern Europe .

    Just like with the child sex predator scandal falsely blamed on some “Marxist Homosexual Cabal” in the Vatican Catholics are in denial about the perfidities of the so called Eastern Rite.

    These “Byzantine Catholics ” also know that they are more likely to get some sort of “bi ritual celibate Latin Priest” to serve them than a simple, married priest of their “rite”- another spit in the face by their Latin rite so called “brethren.”

  • It is understandable that after nearly 1200 years of division, it is tempting for some on each side of the Catholic-Orthodox divide to present reasons as to why the other is “not Christian”. What I notice is that these reasons are almost always based upon perceived historical slights.

    Not cited is our common belief in the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, nor the transformative power of the Holy Spirit to touch and heal our lives broken by sin.

    And yet, this is theme common to two of the most beautiful prayers to arise from Eastern and Western Tradition. The first is St Ephrem the Syrian’s following prayer:

    “O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.

    “But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

    “Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.”

    The second is the following prayer attributed to the spirit of St Francis of Assisi:

    “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

    “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.

    “For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”

    Though from different continents, cultures and time periods within Christian history, both prayers share in a common inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I would invite you to pray each daily for peace and healing between East and West.

  • P. McCoy

    Regrettably, it’s simply NOT that simple. Catholics (some sections of Protestantism too, for that matter) and Orthodox Christians differ on the concepts of sin. This goes back to Augustine- a Saint in the Catholic church whose doctrines are accepted without question. HOWEVER, he is called Blessed in the Orthodox church and many of his teachings have been rejected as too radical and extreme. These beliefs about ancestral sin etc; also go right to the heart of why the Catholic doctrine of the “Immaculate Conception” best refuted in recent times by Russian Orthodox Saint John the New of Shanghai ( when alive) Archbishop John Maximovich in San Francisco, California, was and still is rejected by Orthodox Christianity.

    As for Francis of Assis , he is seen as a victim of Spiritual deception/ pride/ even demonic influence called Prelest . The Stigmata in Eastern realms only heard of amongst Moslems is particularly viewed as demonic. So there are NO bridges to be seen as you would wish them to be. Neither is Lourdes nor Fatima considered by the Orthodox either.

    It might be more prudent for “Byzantine Catholics” to wwork on the REAL grievances expressed Christians in the Ukraine and Romania where church properties needed by Orthodox Romanians are being unlawfully kept from them by the Byzantine Catholics. The latter claim that Communists or hard line Romanian Orthodox from before the 19th century stole those churches from them, ignoring that when said “Catholics” were under Hapsburg rule that those churches were Orthodox and that it was by governmental confiscation and theft that these “Byzantines ” acquired them from their original owners, the Romanian Orthodox.

  • Question: What is Eastern Orthodox teaching on abortion?

  • P. McCoy

    I am NOT Orthodox because I disagree with their anti LGBTQ and anti abortion stance. I am equally NOT orthodox because they are soft on White Supremacy- no churches in Africa or Cuba can make up for the Anti Black hostility that is endemic amongst the laity in Orthodox countries in Eastern Europe or the United States, for that matter.

    I disagree with it in its entirety. However , within Orthodoxy ,artificial contraceptives are up to the Priest and the Couple in a vast majority of cases. Also, Orthodox Christians consider Natural Family Planning to be a form of artificial birth control because it is calculated to avoid pregnancy. In addition, it has a high failure rate for Women with irregular menstrual cycles. The Catholic views on sex and sexuality are generally seen as dysfunctional and counterproductive to normal human development starting with the insistence of celibate clergy to minister to the laity onward down to divorce/remarriage.

  • I appreciate you clarifying that you are NOT Orthodox. I cannot speak to the issue you raise of soft on White Supremacy, since locally the largest Eastern Orthodox parish is Antiochian Orthodox Church–which, of course, is Arabic–while my experience with the Oriental Orthodox Church is limited to the the Coptic Orthodox Church, which of course is African.

  • P. McCoy

    I am speaking of living in the United States and dealing with Greek, Russian and Serbian Orthodox churches in relation to African Americans. The prejudices are very pronounced and very real with few exceptions. I left due to that racism; the turn around on Gay rights and abortion for me came later. Still doesn’t change how Orthodox Christians especially old Calendarists and new Calendar Greeks view Roman Catholicism, as heresy.

  • I cannot speak for Orthodox in America either, as I live in Canada. Your experience of Orthodoxy seems a lot different than mine.

  • P. McCoy

    If you’re not African Canadian similar to African American or perhaps in Quebec, Haitian and Canadian [ (I don’t really know their experience but, like their counterparts in the United States, they experience neglect and hostility based on RACE alone rather than their actions) (ie; doesn’t matter if they’re non violent and hard working or at least socialable), ]then you probably don’t understand.

    In the late 1970s, early 1980s and even late 90s early 2000s you cannot begin to IMAGINE the reality of knowing that despite being very enchanted with Tsarist Russia, or wanting to learn Russia or for a Man I knew, wanting to take up monasticism, the pain and utter sense of dismay one felt upon being TOLD to one’s face by one’s peers of ages 20-29 that your BLACKNESS made you inferior and unfit to even be considered as a husband or wife in the Russian community! Now that is when YOU’RE Russian Orthodox yourself! I think for me, the very last straw came in the 2000s when attending an OVA church in BERKELEY, California no less, I saw first hand the mental/ emotional breakdown of an old Russian Woman who was ostracized by her Co religionists because she had been married, divorced from, but had a teen aged son (who didn’t attend church at the time) by an African American Man!

    To add to the injury, Russian believers would tell the Black person that this was THEIR “cross to bear” not that such attitudes were UN Christian and RACIST on THEIR part that THEY, as individuals and community needed to DO something about!

    It is particularly difficult to post this on Dec 4th since in the Old Calendar, this is the Feast Day of the Entrance of the Mother of God ( The Thotokos) into the Temple. I would like to at least make a visit even after all of this time; I am comfortable being a random visitor rather than a member of the Orthodox Church.

  • Interracial marriage is quite common in my family. At least three of my cousins and inlaws married spouses of African ancestry. Also, one of my closest friends (and the godmother of one of our children) is African-Canadian and Eastern Christian, albeit in a predominately African (Coptic) community. So my experience is somewhat different.

    I’m sorry for the racism you experienced in a Russian Orthodox context. But I wonder if some of the context is less Orthodoxy than it is Russian and American?

  • P. McCoy

    Most Russians that I knew in California basically fled from China rather than going West ( from Europe- Yugoslavia , France, the UK then the United States) . They fled Beijing, Shanghai and Harbin. I think that they viewed themselves as Russians with a mixture of Chinese culture ; for example using a lot of soy sauce and transparent rice noodles in traditional Russian dishes. Being American counted for voting which was in the 1980s-90s Republican .

    Of course, as an older non Orthodox Black American told me, it is NOT in the interest of ANY American immigrants to show sympathy, be kind or open to Black Americans; this is even true of Africans from the Caribbean, Africa, Latin America or Europe- one risks hostility and ostracism from the dominant White culture .

    I can tell you what I couldn’t understand, Fr. Ilia a priest who was Chinese and nearly 100 years old back then was dearly loved and highly respected; what couldn’t I understand?

    Frankly, these “Shanghai Russians ” as they called themselves , had fled from Tsarist Russia to China with considerable wealth and had a privileged life until 1949 and Chairman Mao and HIS Military TOOK IT ALL from THEM by FORCE- yet there was no hatred, no condemnation as a collective body of Chinese people ; instead, there was ALWAYS a distinction between the ” Communists and non Communist” Chinese.

    My blood began to boil when I pondered how Few Black Americans even LIVED in this very expensive Richmond district of San Francisco where these Russians lived let alone shopped or transacted business there. Perhaps a Russian might have had a purse snatched elsewhere or a pocket picked in another part of San Francisco , but never had a Black person had an ARMY that at gunpoint took ALL that you owned and forced you out of your home! Yet you disrespect and loathe them all. I was even MORE surprised to see this attitude repeat in liberal Berkeley, CA years later but I caught on to the reality that this was NOT seen as a spiritual problem for the body of Orthodox Russians.

    I cannot speak on the Coptic Community since Ethiopians are the main Monophysites here and there IS separation between them and Russians , Serbs just like the latter two are separate from Greek Orthodox based on the latter being New Calendar while I was and are still devoted to the old Calendar.

    I would of course NEVER consider Catholicism in ANY form; even before adopting new beliefs on abortion and LGBTQ people, I cannot support their church on principle- as of this writing their cohorts, if not yet Co religionists in the Ukraine, the new “Autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox ” church is raiding and attempting to seize church properties of all kinds that they have condemned as too “loyal” to the Moscow Patriarchate. The Kiev Lavra and other century old shrines and holy places are at stake; violence seems to be inevitable and it is damning and heartbreaking that these “Ukrainians” performed such a heinous act on a Major feast Day as Dec 4th was in the Orthodox church- does this really honor the Theotokos? Right around the corner on Dec 7th is the Feast of the Great Martyr Katherine. Most Roman Catholics know MORE about “Catherine of Siena” than they Do this legendary Martyr. It is a GIVEN that the controversial “Immaculate Conception”, as I said which theology is completely REJECTED by the Orthodox Church, will be up front and center for “Byzantine Catholics.”

    I hear from individuals who always emphasize their interracial relatives, their interracial churches etc; unlike them, I believe and respect your sincerity. I appreciate your sympathies but I guess for me, it has all been a lifelong journey and lesson. For my youth I was attempting to be a part of traditional conservative churches when I shared their views and beliefs and got rejected. Now, I walk alone happily on a progressive path- alone because I haven’t sought out company with like minded believers.
    Good fortune to you and thank you for sharing your thoughts and listening to mine.

  • David Cromie

    Anyone reading the OP, and subsequent comments on it, would be forgiven for concluding that religion in general, and christianity in particular, is an abomination the world would be better off without.

  • Thank-you for this exchange. I have appreciated learning from your experience as an African-American woman who tried to join the Russian Orthodox Church. It helps me understand some things we ought to be doing better as Byzantine Christians to make our churches more welcoming to all people.

    I also appreciate your acknowledgement of my good faith. As someone who is neither African nor American, I am often very reluctant to wade into online debate over race within American history and culture. That being said, I have noticed (in my very limited experience) what you so eloquently stated, that sadly “it is NOT in the interest of ANY American immigrants to show sympathy, be kind or open to Black Americans [because…] one risks hostility and ostracism from the dominant White culture.”

    In fact, I first noticed this same phenomena at an international gathering of students, where in a social setting the treatment of African-Americans differed even from that of African, African-Carribbean, and African-Canadian students.

    I am not so naive as to believe Canada is perfect or that racism against people of African ancestry does not happen in Canada. However, I find that Canadians in general are much more accepting of our African-Canadian brothers and sisters, and are much less tolerant of those who express racist attitudes against them. In fact, if there is any danger to Canada’s historical African-Canadian community disappearing, it is likely through interracial marriage which is very common. In my own social circles, marriages between white Canadians and African-Canadians is so common as to no longer be noticeable. And this is before considering other possible combinations of interracial marriage.

    Where we Canadians repeatedly fail when it comes to institutional racism and difficulty overcoming longtime racist attitudes is with regards to our Indigenous brothers and sisters. While we do not have a history of slavery in Canada like what was practiced on your side of the border, we do have a very poor history in our treatment of the Indigenous Canadian populations. Just google “Indian Residential Schools” for the troubling history of racism an ill treatment of Indigenous Canadians. In fact, it is my personal belief that the harmful historical consequences of the Indian Residential School System upon Canada’s Indiginous community is comparable to that of slavery among the African-American community in the U.S.

    The vast majority of Canadians of caucasian ancestry would never knowingly hold or practice racism towards others. And we work actively within our culture and communities to be welcoming to all. However, given our collective history towards Indiginous Canadians, we do not always realize how deeply past racism (both institutional and individual) has affected those communities that have suffered it.

  • The best evidence for Christianity’s truthfullness concerning God’s existence is its followers.

    No mere human invention, conducted with such knavish imbecillity, would have lasted a fortnight.

  • P. McCoy

    My reply was rejected. You will have look up the controversy around missing First Nations children on your own. Merry Christmas to you.

  • UPDATE: Went into the moderator’s controls and discovered your post had been stopped automatically for having external links. This is likely a response to earlier problem with spam bots that popped up all over Patheos blogs selling all sorts of interesting products normally not found on Amazon or EBay.

    As you can see above, I immediately approved your comment. My apologies for it having been stopped. And I appreciate you letting me know.


    Really? I have not moderated any of your comments. So I will have to look into it. Do you still have a copy, by chance?

  • P. McCoy

    I am sorry; Patheos did the moderating and I probably risk being banned if I try to reconstruct what I said. I also discussed my very happy Canadian visit to Vancouver when I was 11 years old in 1967.

    However, I did give you enough clues so you can research the tragic controversy. Good luck in your research. Thank you for your correspondence. Merry Christmas .

  • I just approved your comment and have now confirmed it has posted. Again, my apologies for the automatic settings that stopped it. Please let me know if any other post of yours is stopped in the future.