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Bp. Hilarion: Russian Orthodox Must Stay in WCC

Moscow, June 30, Interfax – Withdrawal of the Russian Orthodox Church from the World Council of Churches should weaken positions of Moscow Patriarchate in the inter-Orthodox dialogue, the representative of Russian Church in European international organizations believes.

“This withdrawal may only weaken our positions today in defending the Church teaching which we consider traditional, which for many centuries was the basis of relations among the Orthodox Churches, and which is now challenged by the Patriarchate of Constantinople,” Bishop Hilarion said Monday to Interfax-Religion.

He also mentioned that the last Bishops’ Council discussed “the claims of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to the jurisdiction of the whole diaspora” and the Patriarch of Constantinople’s seeking to receive the position “which is somewhat equal to that of Pope in the Catholic Church.”

“Today, the Russian Orthodox Church is the major opponent of Constantinople, therefore, the Patriarchate of Constantinople is interested in weakening its influence and participation in any organizations with representatives of other Orthodox Churches, including the World Council of Churches,” Bishop Hilarion said.

“I believe that in this specific situation we should think twice before taking any steps to withdraw from the World Council of Churches and any other organizations representing all Orthodox Churches or their majority,” Bishop Hilarion said, reminding us that the World Council of Churches “is currently one of the few platforms where the representatives of different Orthodox Churches meet.”

According to Bishop Hilarion, “the difference between traditional Christianity and its liberal version becomes increasingly sizeable. Again and again, we address the question of whether or not do we need such dialogue where we express our stand on women’s priesthood or one-sex marriages, and at the same time, Protestant communities in the West and the North encourage such processes which make us sever our relations with them,” Bishop Hilarion said.

According to him, the Russian Orthodox Church “is going to break off relations with those Protestant communities which will decide in favour, for example, of same-sex marriages.”

Bishop Hilarion also mentioned that the last Bishops’ Council had no serious discussion about the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in WCC, although several participants raised the question of its further presence in the ecumenical movement.

“I, therefore, think that this issue remains open and will depend only on the development of this organization and those Protestant communities which now have the majority in it,” Bishop Hilarion said.

Source: Europaica

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Rebuilding at Ground Zero

The New York Times has a detailed story about the long-delayed rebuilding of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, crushed when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed after the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. The Times reports that the rebuilding effort is “a microcosm of the seven-year, $16 billion, problem-plagued effort to reconstruct the entire trade center site.”

Summary paragraph:

The church wants the authority to provide roughly $55 million toward the estimated $75 million cost of rebuilding St. Nicholas. The Port Authority in turn wants the church to scale back its plans, move the location slightly and raise more money privately.

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Independence Day

Thoughts on freedom as we approach the celebration of another Independence Day:

From the beginning the Creator allowed human beings their freedom and a free will; they were bound only by the law of his commandment. St. Gregory the Theologian (Orations 14.25 [“On Caring for the Poor”], PG 35:892A)

Freedom means being one’s own master and ruling oneself; this is the gift that God granted to us from the beginning. St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Soul and Resurrection, PG 46:101CD)

Man is made in the image of God, Who is humble but at the same time free. Therefore it is normal and natural that he should be after the likeness of his Creator — that he should recoil from exercising control over others while himself being free and independent by virtue of the presence of the Holy Spirit within him. Those who are possessed by the lust for power cloud the image of God in themselves. Archimandrite Sophrony (His Life is Mine, Chapter 9; St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 73)

The idea of freedom is one of the leading ideas of Christianity. Without it the creation of the world, the Fall, and Redemption are incomprehensible, and the phenomenon of faith remains inexplicable. Without freedom there can be no theodicy and the whole world-process becomes nonsense. Nicholas Berdyaev, Freedom and the Spirit (Russian title Dukh i realnost, 1927), 9th ed. (London, 1948), 119.

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Russian Orthodox: Human Rights ‘not absolute’

In Russia Profile, Andrei Zolotov Jr. reports on the Russian Orthodox Council of Bishops and its adoption of a new work titled, “The Bases of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Teaching on Dignity, Liberty and Human Rights.” Zolotov says it’s no accident that this report surfaces at a time when Russia and the European Union are “actively engaged” on a discussion of common values.

In the Bishops Council document, he reports, the Church says that “human rights are definitely a value, and they belong to everybody, not just to the priests and priestesses of the new human rights religion. But it is not the absolute value. It has to be harmonized with the values of faith, morals, love of thy neighbor (and thus family and patriotic values), and of the environment.” Zolotov continued:

In essence, what we see here is a process of analysis, adaptation and reception – not in a wholesale, packaged way, but in a “processed” form – of the values that had been developed in the modern period on a Christian basis in the West, under the influence of the processes that had not involved or only partially touched upon in Russia and the entire cultural East – from the Renaissance and Enlightenment to the youth riots of the 1960s. Such adaptation is not unique. That is the way early Christianity had adapted pagan Greek philosophy. That is the way Russia had adapted and adopted, with intermittent success, European clothes, an Imperial government system, Marxism and, today, tries to adapt and adopt democracy.

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad said the issue of human rights is approached cautiously by Orthodox Christians and that caution is justified.

On the one hand, we have seen positive effect of human rights on the life of the people. Thanks to the care to respect these rights in the post-war years the Soviet state contained its persecution of the believers. On the other hand, however, we have seen in the recent decades how human rights could be an instrument aimed against spiritual and moral foundations of people’s life. Those dealing with human rights in our society try to strengthen the philosophy of life that is non-religious, ethically relativistic and hedonistic.

Rev. Georgy Ryabykh, acting secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, called for a renewal of human rights advocacy in Russia. The problem, he said, was that many people don’t view human rights activists as the best way to ensure human rights.

According to Fr. Georgy, “for the recent decades some prominent human rights advocates have created appalling image of this sort of social work. Many people consider human rights advocates as enemies of national spiritual and moral culture, anti-state elements, carriers of foreign interests and tendentious political forces.”

In his book “Facing the World: Orthodox Christian Essays on Global Concerns,” Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, looked at the theological and sociopolitical underpinnings of the human rights movement. On the basic core concepts — freedom, equality and human dignity — there is much in agreement with Orthodox teaching. But human rights declarations, the archbishop points out, are primarily concerned with the relationship of the individual and the state. A key difference is how these declarations and the Christian faith are put into practice:

Declarations seek to impose their views through legal and political forms of coercion, whereas the Christian message addresses itself to people’s ways of thinking and to their conscience, using persuasion and faith. Declarations basically stress outward compliance, while the gospel insists on inner acceptance, on spiritual rebirth, and on transformation. Any attempt to consider human rights from an Orthodox point of view must therefore maintain a clear sense of the differences between these two perspectives.

So, why are Orthodox hierarchs skeptical about some of the work of “priests and priestesses” of the human rights movement? Well, here are just two recent examples. In Sweden, a school confiscated birthday invitations from an 8-year-old boy because he did not include all of his classmates, a possible violation of childrens’ rights. The matter has been referred to the Swedish Parliament. In Spain, a parliamentary environmental panel passed a resolution urging the government to embrace the Great Ape Project, which offers gorillas and chimpanzees the “right to life, freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty and protection from torture because of their genetic and behavioral similarity to humans.” The El Mundo newspaper said it was odd that Spanish lawmakers “would spend their time trying to make the land of bullfighting the main defender of monkeys.”

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Orthodox-Catholic dialogue ‘progressing’

In Rome for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said that the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue was showing progress despite “considerable difficulties that exist and the well-known problems.”

The patriarch attended the inauguration of the Pauline Jubilee Year and Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. Zenit News said Patriarch Bartholomew voiced optimism about the prospect for closer relations:

The theological dialogue between our Churches ‘in faith, truth and love,’ thanks to divine help, goes forward despite the considerable difficulties that exist and the well-known problems. We truly desire and fervently pray that these difficulties will be overcome and that the problems will disappear as soon as possible so that we may reach the desired final goal for the glory of God.

We know well that this is your desire too, as we also are certain that Your Holiness will neglect nothing, personally working, together with your illustrious collaborators, through a perfect smoothing of the way, toward a positive fulfillment of the labors of dialogue, God willing.

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