Metropolitan Alexios Prays for Unity at Roman Catholic Service

Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue, left, and Metropolitan Alexios, right, join Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory for a final blessing of the congregation. (Photo by Michael Alexander)

Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue, left, and Metropolitan Alexios, right, join Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory for a final blessing of the congregation. (Photo by Michael Alexander)

Alexios, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Atlanta, joined Roman Catholic Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory on May 6 for an “Evening of Prayer and Unity” service at Atlanta’s Cathedral of Christ the King in honor of the Jubilee Year of St. Paul. Archbishop Gregory graciously welcomed Orthodox Christians to the service. “Our Orthodox brothers and sisters represent a fraternity in the Lord that we cherish and long to strengthen in the Holy Spirit,” he said.

According to The Georgia Bulletin, a diocesan newspaper, the “prayer service blended together Eastern and Western traditions with song, prayer and words of wisdom from shepherds of each of the churches.” The paper said that members of the Choir of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Atlanta and the Chanters of the Cathedral of the Annunciation then sang “Phos Hilaron.” The Cathedral Choir of Christ the King also sang the hymn, this time in English, “again linking the two traditions together in Christ.”

Metropolitan Alexios, in his remarks to those at the prayer service, issued a plea for unity:

“Thank you for taking the initiative (to call for this service),” Metropolitan Alexios told the archbishop. “The spirit of St. Paul is with us this evening.”

He thanked the clergy and laity present and said the event was an important step in bringing the communities together. “The thing that has separated us is not the faith,” he said, indicating that the reason was a political issue and a weak moment in the history of the two churches.

But all of these things that are happening now, he said, are signs that the two churches have to do something together. “I pray for a unity … to let the spirit of understanding, the spirit of the Lord prevail,” he concluded.


  1. Michael Bauman

    Abp Gregory said

    :“The thing that has separated us is not the faith,” he said, indicating that the reason was a political issue and a weak moment in the history of the two churches.

    That statement trvializes so much that it is absolutely breathtaking. It is also wrong and insulting to believers in both bodies.

    If we continue to go down the road of cowardice and appeasement, we might as well close up all of our parishes right now and start going to the nearest RCC parish.

    Co-operation on matters moral and cultural is one thing, ignoring the vast differences of ecclesiolgy, anthopology, and soeteriolgy is to abandon the Creed, the Sacraments and all Traditional Orthopraxis.

    Frankly, if we are unable to make the distiction, we’d be better off just going our own separate ways.

    It is wrong that we are apart, it is sinful, but to commit even greater sin for the sake of ‘unity’ is horrid.

    To quote T.S. Eliot in ‘Murder in the Cathedral’ “To do the right deed for the wrong reason is surely the greatest treason.”

    The same can be said for Orthodox unity too. As the GOA moves closer to the RCC orbit, fractures will continue to appear in what is now considered the Orthodox Church.

    Pray for us St. Mark of Ephesus! Interceed for our bishops and for us all.

  2. George Michalopulos

    Speaking as someone who has great admiration for the Catholic Church and its moral witness, I must say that the fact that GOA bishops (like Methodius of Boston) will go out of their way to not concelebrate with Orthodox bishops from “other presences,” completely demoralizes me. Let us get our own house in order in America first (and that doesn’t mean “submission” to any foreign overlord but true unity in love) and then we can start talking about strengthening the common Christian witness. Until then, the only thing that can be gleaned from episodes such as this are the fact that we Orthodox don’t like each other very much.

  3. I hold the Roman Catholic Church in high regard -very high regard- but this is cotton candy ecumenism that does little to address serious issues.

    It is about the faith plain and simple and to say that is to respect both Orthodox and Roman Catholic Tradition. You don’t get real unity by turning Orthodoxy into Orthodoxy-lite. You get real unity by loving your faith and taking its implications seriously. We can learn alot from Roman Catholics especially men like Pope Benedict who teaches more about the Fathers of the Church than any Orthodox Patriarch today but we can learn only if we take seriously the gift of our own Orthodox Faith. It about raising the bar high not seeking the lowest common denominator.

    Participating in Ecumenical functions is fine by me but such occasions should celebrate and not diminish the gift of the Orthodox Faith. For example Archbishop Iakovos testified to the truth of man by Marching with Dr. King. This did not diminish but only enriched our Orthodox Faith because it testified to the truth of man.

    You know in the GOA if you are a public supporter of American Orthodoxy you get publicly scolded and made to feel as if you are the enemy. The list of names is long who know this first hand. But if you are a bubblegum ecumenist you can say whatever you want without consequences.

    If you ask me the GOA has alot of highly paid bubblegum ecumenists who along with their omogenia before Orthodoxy brothers are continuing to hollow out the rich tradition of Christian Hellenism and numb the moral sensitives of the faithful.

  4. George Michalopulos

    Andrew, paragraph #3 is the money quote. Speaking as someone in the GOA who has begged for reaching out to our Orthodox brethren only to be slapped down repeatedly, I know exactly what you mean. Yes, let’s engage in the right kind of ecumenism (outside an abortion clinic for example), but let us not engage in our customary “the Phanar’s way or the highway” type of one-upsmanship. It’s criminal.

  5. Excellent point George.

    Lets rewind a little and recall that Abp Demetrios was in town for the Obama inaguration but chose not to stay an extra day and participate in the March for Life. His participation could have said alot but he did not do say a word or do a thing.

    If Archbishop Gregory in Atlanta invited his brother Metropolitan Alexios to stand with him in a pro-life event or protest would the good Metropolitan attend?

    This is why the cotton candy ecumenism of the GOA is so damaging. It is style over substance. Its a decorative form of Christianity. The hard working donations of GOA parishoners across the country are supporting this kind of stuff. Its a breach of basic trust.

    However, people are wise to this kind of stuff which is why the demographics of the GOA are declining and there is so little evangelism in the GOA.

    I also think that the reason so many GOA bishops participate in cotton candy ecumenism is that they have av ery poor and superficial sense of what is means to be a bishop. They prefer being the local franchise managers of GOA Inc and the material wealth it brings instead of being shepherds who will teach and sacrifice for their flock.

  6. George Michalopulos

    wow, Andrew, a harsh critique. Unfortunately true. I like to think that I think through issues carefully, but your point was one that I’m sorry I didn’t come up with earlier. That is, what if Arb Gregory had invited Met Alexios to a pro-life rally? Would he have gone? I hate to even contemplate that question. In retrospect, my admiration for Met Iakovos of Chicago grows even more (he’s the only one who’s come out against the FOCA-Illinois version). We can always pray that the GOA hierarchy stops seeing themselves as regional VPs of GOAinc and actually do what you say: teach, preach, and lovingly sacrifice.

  7. Maybe Archbishop Demetrios did not wish to encroach upon Metropolitan Jonah’s first address to the march on that day.

    Of course, one wonders where he has been all these past years, but maybe we should attempt to interpret his action in the most charitable light. (There are, by the way, several Greek priests and monks who attend the march every year . . . and at least one Greek parish from Chicago.)

    This reminds me of the story with the three monks who witness a man running past them. I forget the details, but the first two imagine some sordid reason for his haste (he’s a thief or something), but the third has a charitable take (he wants to get to a prayer service early). Each of them is equally ignorant of the man’s reason, but the first two harm their own souls and the third man does not.

    That is monkish wisdom. Though, sometimes, probabilities are useful in interpreting people’s actions, and human experience does not call for very rosy expectations of men.


  8. George Michalopulos

    Joseph, my judgmentalism hurts my own soul. Thank you for the reproof by way of anecdote. I will try to keep my criticisms regarding the inactivity and loss of moral witness of bishops in the future with a closer look to my own failings. Failing that, I will try to be factual about such things rather than try to discern motives. We can always hope that the GOA hierarchy will show up at the next one.

  9. Joseph,

    Permit me to politely and with respect to your person to view your portrait on monkish wisdom in a different light using the case of the Fr. Nicholas Graff in Jacksonville.

    If we apply the “monkish” thinking and example to this case then the “charitable” thinking you outlined would have turned a blind eye to abuse and damaging behavior. You could say Fr. Nicholas is just trying to help that young boy etc etc. While the skeptic who rose to challenge the situation and question it would have been the one whose behavior would have been th most loving by breaking the cycle of abuse.

    Monkish wisdom may give us a nice fuzzy non-judgemental feeling but the Orthodox questioner and the skeptic would be the one who helped break a cycle of sinful behavior by bringing these issues to the forefront. This is real love. The questioner and the skeptic would have saved souls from being damaged.

    This is why fuzzy monkish wisdom needs to be revaluated. This is why faithful Orthodox Christians must always question themselves and their leaders without fail thus holding themselves and the Church’s leaders accountable.

    Now more than ever we need faithful men and women who have the courage to ask faithful questions of the Church and if need be suffer for these questions.

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