April 23, 2014

Patriarch Kirill & Pope Benedict: A Tale of Two Leaders for a new Missionary Age

Pat. Kyrill and Pope Benedict

I've been asked to become an Orthodox columnist on Catholic.org and accepted. Below is my first essay. Regular readers will notice ideas we discussed on the AOI Observer. +++++++++++++++++ Catholic Online (www.catholic.org) NAPLES, FL. (Catholic Online) - Over four decades ago Pope John Paul II said that the restoration of the Russian Orthodox Church was necessary for the cultural restoration of Western Europe. At the time his words seemed audacious. Russia was still under the Communist yoke, the winds in Poland were just starting to blow, and the Berlin wall loomed invincible. Culture watchers dismissed the statement as the wistful longing of a faithful man. Yet John Paul, with his gift of seeing through the clutter of immediate events into the deeper and far-reaching ways of God, knew better. He believed that the fall of Communism would unleash a transformation that could only come from those who suffered. His words are proving true. The Orthodox Church in Russia, … [Read more...]

Calls to “Resist Europe’s secularization” made at Taizé youth meeting

The Presbyterian Outlook (ENI) — Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I, a spiritual leader who represents Eastern Orthodox Christianity, has urged young Christians to resist secularization in Europe in a message to an ecumenical meeting that was greeted by global and regional leaders. "After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe no longer recognizes the place for Christianity that history dedicated to it — it is as if Christianity were being expelled from the history of Europe," said Bartholomeos I, the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The patriarch made his appeal in a message sent to a five-day European Youth Meeting, organized by France's ecumenical Taizé Community in Poznan, Poland. "We wish to recall here that the identity of Europe is primarily Christian and cannot be considered without this legacy," he said in his message to the December 29 - January 2 gathering. "The secularization of Europe here takes the form of a rejection of the God of … [Read more...]

Boldness or Irrelevance?

Dr. John Mark Reynolds

John Mark Reynolds at the Scriptorium: There is a boldness that should come with the a commitment to Christ. When the Green Patriarch (Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew) goes to a university ridden with the problems of our age and only tells them the parts of the Christian faith with which they are likely to agree, we are troubled by it. We hope he did not wimp out to curry political favor for causes where he is desperate for Western support, but we long for the clarity or boldness of a John Paul the Great in Poland. We cannot judge for certain, but the Biblical prophetic witness sounds more like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s address to Harvard. There a brave man spoke truth to power . . . not in our modern trivialization of the phrase where it means taking on figures that are unpopular in our own social set. Solzhenitsyn did not take on oil companies to Green Peace or abortionists at Liberty University. He attacked those he admired in other ways or whose admiration he might have … [Read more...]

Patriarch Kirill: A Global Reach

Russia's new patriarch is "proving to be a capable administrator" and has surrounded himself with a team of "well-trained and capable younger clerics," say Leonid Sevastyanov and Robert Moynihan in the Moscow Times. In "100 Days of Patriarch Kirill," the writers also say that the new leader of the Russian Orthodox Church has a "fully European" vision for his ministry. Kirill now heads a church with about 140 million adherents, far larger than the Anglican Church and second only to the Roman Catholic Church. With a significant percent of Orthodox believers living outside Russia, this gives the church a truly global reach. But statistics are less important than suffering and faith. The Russian Orthodox Church suffered greatly under Soviet rule. Now it has re-emerged from the catacombs following the collapse of the Soviet Union 17 years ago to take on a greater role in post-Soviet Russia. Despite the enormous challenges that the Orthodox Church faces, now is the time of … [Read more...]

Pope and Patriarch meet in Jerusalem

Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit today to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilus III. The pope, according to the Catholic News Agency, "spoke with the patriarch of his gratitude for efforts to achieve greater unity between their Churches and asked the Christians of Jerusalem to raise a generation dedicated to the faith." Pope Benedict began his speech to those assembled by calling to mind the past meetings between his two predecessors and the Orthodox patriarchs of their time. “These encounters, including my visit today,” he said, “are of great symbolic significance. They recall that the light of the East has illumined the entire world from the very moment when a 'rising sun' came to visit us and they remind us too that from here the Gospel was preached to all nations.” Here is the full text of the speech from Vatican Radio: Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, It is with profound gratitude and joy that I make this visit to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of … [Read more...]

Alexy II: A ‘Transitional’ Patriarch

Vladimir Berezansky, Jr., a U.S. lawyer with experience in Russia and former Soviet republics, recalls an interview with Patriarch Alexy II in 1991. Like many Russians at the time, the Patriarch was coping with a "disorienting change" following the fall of the Soviet Empire, Berezansky writes. At the time, he seemed overcome by the changes taking place around him, and he did not know where to begin. "For our entire lives, we [clerics] were pariahs, and now we are being called on to do everything: chaplains for the military, ministries to hospitals, orphanages, prisons," he said. He even voiced regret about taking the time to travel to the United States. But he had gambled -- correctly, as it turned out -- that he could do more for his flock by seeking foreign assistance than by staying home to manage the Russian Orthodox Church's destitution. His plate was full and overflowing, and he seemed keenly aware of the ironies of his situation. The Russian state was returning … [Read more...]