The Summit
#1
“Finally!” Pope Francis said when he embraced Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. “Now things are easier,” came the reply. How much easier? Two weeks after that historic meeting in Cuba, do the prospects for warmer ties between Rome and Moscow seem much improved?




There are skeptics, certainly, on both sides of the ecumenical divide. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Byzantine-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church, has been  forthright about his concerns. Now Patriarch Kirill has acknowledged that “powerful forces” opposed the meeting-- and almost on cue, the  Georgian Orthodox Church reminded the world that there are still pockets of intransigent opposition to ecumenism in the Orthodox world.

Perhaps the ecumenical importance of the meeting in the Havana airport had always been exaggerated. In the days leading up to the meeting, the Moscow patriarchate inflated the drama, saying that it could mark the beginning of the end of 1,000 years of Catholic-Orthodox estrangement. That claim was invalid for two reasons.
•First, the Great Schism of 1054 broke off relations between Rome and Constantinople; the Patriarchate of Moscow did not even exist at the time, and would not be formed until the 16th century.
•Second, the healing of that painful East-West breach began in 1965, when Pope Paul VI met with Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople. For 50 years since then, relations between the Vatican and the Ecumenical Patriarchate have been growing steadily more regular, friendly, and productive. The Moscow patriarchate is arriving late to the ecumenical party.

Anyone who hoped for a dramatic ecumenical breakthrough at the Havana airport meeting should have revised his expectations after seeing schedule established in advance for this summit meeting. The encounter was to take place not in a church but in an airport meeting room. (Is there any more thoroughly secular venue than an airport?) There was no opportunity for the Pope and the Patriarch to pray together—or to be more precise, if they did pray together, they would do so behind close doors, with no witnesses. That schedule seemed to testify to the existence of those “powerful forces” the Patriarch later mentioned; the Moscow patriarchate was afraid that a joint prayer session with the Pope could touch off angry protests among recalcitrant Russian prelates.

But if the meeting was not convened to advance the ecumenical cause, what was the point of the whole exercise? That’s the question on which Western skeptics have fixed their attention.

In this case the “Western” skeptics begin in Ukraine, with Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk as their chief spokesman. With his country still suffering violence that is provoked and supported by Russian nationalists, the Ukrainian prelate fears that Patriarch Kirill was acting on behalf of President Putin, seeking to soften international opposition to Russia’s aggressive plans. Looking beyond Ukraine, Putin is also playing an increasingly active—and potentially dangerous-- role in the Middle East, where he is portraying himself as the defender of Christianity. A public-relations assist from Patriarch Kirill could advance the Kremlin’s plans in that theater, too.

With all that in mind, notice that the top priority for the Pope-Patriarch meeting was the issue of religious freedom, particularly for Christians in the Middle East. No sincere Christian could object to the support for persecuted Christians that Francis and Kirill expressed in their joint statement. At the same time, no political realist could deny that the focus on embattled Christians in Syria might serve the propaganda purposes of a Russian government intent on escalating the military conflict there.

The joint statement may have contributed a bit more toward the perception of the Kremlin as defender of Christians when it welcomed “the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes.” Again, no sincere Christian could possibly object to the statement’s applause for the renewal of Eastern Christianity. But the focus on Russia in particular was a bonus for both Patriarch Kirill and President Putin.

In reality the most spectacular rebirth of Christian faith in Eastern Europe occurred in Ukraine, where the Byzantine Catholic community, brutally repressed during the Stalin era, burst into vigorous activity with the fall of the Soviet empire. The strength of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has been a point of contention between the Vatican and Moscow for years. As Archbishop Shevchuk has observed, the Russian Orthodox Church still does not acknowledge that the Catholic-Orthodox struggles over possession of church properties began when the Stalin regime jailed Catholic priests, seized all Catholic churches, and handed the properties over to willing Orthodox collaborators. Still, the carefully worded, noncommittal paragraph on that conflict in the joint statement from Havana represented at least a de-escalation of Moscow’s hostility to the Byzantine Catholic presence.

For the Moscow patriarchate, one other source of aggravation in Ukraine is the three-way split within the country’s Orthodox community. The joint statement said that these fractures should be healed “through existing canonical norms.” But that statement, taken by itself, seems ambiguous. Whose canonical norms are to be used: those of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has traditionally resolved disputes about the legitimate leadership of autocephalous Orthodox churches? Or those of the Moscow patriarchate, which still claims Ukraine as its own “canonical territory?”

And that question, in turn, prompts one more skeptical question about the Moscow patriarchate’s designs for the summit meeting in Cuba. Did the Russian Orthodox leadership want to burnish its credentials as the world’s leading voice of Orthodoxy, as the Eastern churches prepare for their unprecedented council in June?

http://www.catholicculture.org/commentar...fm?id=1140
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#2
I find it very difficult to deal with this issue. For one thing, I attended Divine Liturgy at a Byzantine community a couple of times before it was closed down, and I loved it. It was a wonderful and beautiful liturgy, with a very practical approach to homily, unlike the western trad masses I attend, where the homily is usually a very impractical, formal, theoretical affair that turns most people off.

In addition, I really like Schevchuk. I mean really. I prayed for his election in the last conclave, even though I think it was not really canonically possible at that time. Either way, look how that turned out . . . .

However, I cannot help but notice that I saw Ukranian conflict coming months in advance, back when I saw finance articles about how the Ukraine had to choose between a future allied to Russia or one allied to the atheist EU and the atheist USA governments. They chose Russia. And then all hell broke loose in a civil war that violently ejected a democratically elected pro-Russian leader in favor of an unelected  EU/USA puppet. Had Putin let that go, he would have lost too much. Can you imagine if Canada ejected Trudea in an eruption of violence and put an anti-US Putin-fan in his place? Would the US do nothing? I mean, all over the globe, when last did the US do nothing? They are always doing something, except when ISIS began beheading Christians. Then nothing was done, until they started throwing homosexuals over cliffs. This latter issue got the US involved.

In addition, it is a little bit laughable when people accuse Kirill of being "political" at such times, when Pope Francis makes direct references to actual politicians running for office during an election campaign!

So anyway, conflicted!
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#3
(02-26-2016, 02:17 PM)maldon Wrote: I find it very difficult to deal with this issue. For one thing, I attended Divine Liturgy at a Byzantine community a couple of times before it was closed down, and I loved it. It was a wonderful and beautiful liturgy, with a very practical approach to homily, unlike the western trad masses I attend, where the homily is usually a very impractical, formal, theoretical affair that turns most people off.

In addition, I really like Schevchuk. I mean really. I prayed for his election in the last conclave, even though I think it was not really canonically possible at that time. Either way, look how that turned out . . . .

However, I cannot help but notice that I saw Ukranian conflict coming months in advance, back when I saw finance articles about how the Ukraine had to choose between a future allied to Russia or one allied to the atheist EU and the atheist USA governments. They chose Russia. And then all hell broke loose in a civil war that violently ejected a democratically elected pro-Russian leader in favor of an unelected  EU/USA puppet. Had Putin let that go, he would have lost too much. Can you imagine if Canada ejected Trudea in an eruption of violence and put an anti-US Putin-fan in his place? Would the US do nothing? I mean, all over the globe, when last did the US do nothing? They are always doing something, except when ISIS began beheading Christians. Then nothing was done, until they started throwing homosexuals over cliffs. This latter issue got the US involved.

In addition, it is a little bit laughable when people accuse Kirill of being "political" at such times, when Pope Francis makes direct references to actual politicians running for office during an election campaign!

So anyway, conflicted!

One thing that should be remembered is that the Russian Orthodox Church is a state church. It is subservient to the rulers of the Russian state. Therefore Kiril has to do the bidding of whoever rules the Russian state. This subservience is part of the tradition of the Orthodox Church.
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#4
What’s next for ecumenism? After the recent meeting between Pope Francis and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church has emphasized that “the first thing is to free religion from politics.”


“We cannot reconcile with geopolitics, but we can reconcile with our brothers,” Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych told CNA Feb. 23.
 
He reflected on the joint declaration signed by Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill in Havana Feb. 12. The Pope and the Patriarch stressed that “it is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox.”

Archbishop Shevchuk said the declaration has many positive points, while also emphasizing some critical points of the declaration. He considered it too imbalanced toward the Russian Orthodox positions, and in general excessively politically oriented.
 
The archbishop had also voiced his criticism in a Feb. 14 interview on the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church’s web site.
 
Speaking to CNA, Archbishop Shevchuk maintained that “the meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis was very important, according to my mind and to what I heard from the Ukrainian population.”

I agree to call that meeting historical, as we need to meet in order to discuss and to carry forward our path to unity,” the archbishop said.
 
However, he underscored that “the meeting in Havana is just the beginning of the path.”





“We must not fix our attention on one only point. We must think what to do after. The first thing is to free religion from politics. We cannot reconcile with geopolitics, but we can reconcile with our brothers,” he said.

Archbishop Shevchuk is Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and a member of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. The dicastery was directly involved in drafting the joint declaration. However, Archbishop Shevchuk was not involved in the drafting process, nor was he asked for recommendations.
 
The archbishop said that for him, “it was important that the voice of the local Church was heard, since it was called up in the declaration.”


“There are two points of view: that of the universal Church, and that of the local Church, that might see the same problems, but from a different point of view. For this reason, to us, to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, it was important to listen to the Holy Father and at the same time to be listened to by the Holy Father,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Shevchuk became close to Pope Francis when both were in Argentina. He served as a bishop in the Ukrainian Eparchy of Santa Maria del Patrocinio in Buenos Aires from 2009-2011, while Bergoglio served as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

The Pope recalled their friendship during his inflight press conference Feb. 18.
 
Archbishop Shevchuk said he was “moved by the paternal, sincere Holy Father’s words” toward him. He said that Pope’s trust and frankness with his friends is one of his strong characteristics. This is the reason why he feels “free to be frank, sincere and transparent” when speaking with the Pope.
 
“I want to be the spokesperson of the sentiments, pains and even doubts of the Ukrainian people. I want to be the mediator between simple-minded believers and the Holy Father,” the archbishop said.
 
Archbishop Shevchuk will meet with the Pope March 5, at the end of the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.

He described the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church as composed of two realms. On one side, it shares “the same liturgy, theology and also some history with Orthodox Churches, especially with the Patriarchate of Moscow.” On the other, it is in full communion with the successor of Peter.
 
Because of this identity “we have always been stigmatized by the Orthodox. But being in Communion with the Holy Father is pivotal to us.”

According to Archbishop Shevchuk, “it is natural that nowadays being Catholic means being ecumenical,” and the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church thus has a mission to promote Christian unity.





St. John Paul II used to say that Europe had to breathe with two lungs, a saying cited by the archbishop.
 
“The fact that there are so many Eastern Churches in the Catholic Church is a richness. And we, as an Eastern Church, are called to share this richness, as our particularity makes us prepared, and encouraged, to undertake a sincere, true and authentic dialogue with the Orthodox Churches,” Archbishop Shevchuk said.
 
He stressed that “being united in faith does not mean being subdued to someone else.”

“The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church can testify that communion with the Successor of Peter does not take anything out of the richness of the Eastern tradition,” he explained. “It is the contrary! It helps this tradition to grow. It brings this tradition out of provincialism, out of strict nationalism. It opens to the universal horizons of the Church of Christ.”

The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church has lived through difficult situations. Although it is fully recognized as a self-governing Eastern Catholic Church, the Orthodox did not acknowledge its right to exist.
 
“Orthodoxy must acknowledge our right to exist,” Archbishop Shevchuk said.
 
He noticed that “The joint declaration by Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill in the end makes this acknowledgement, and this is positive.”

But on the other hand, the joint declaration referred to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church as among the “ecclesial communities.”

“The ecumenical vocabulary of the Catholic Church uses the phrase ‘ecclesial communities’ to refer to Protestant Churches, that is to label those communities which do not bear all the richness of the apostolic tradition,” explained Archbishop Shevchuk.

He added that this is why “professors of ecclesiology, but also common people, raised concerns and doubts about the use of this expression referred to the Greek Catholic Community.”

“In the end, we are not called to ask anyone permission for our right to exist,” the Major Archbishop emphasized.
 
He said the meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow is “a starting point, and not the end of a path.”

“Now it is time to commit ourselves so that the ecumenical path will lead to a full and visible unity of the Church of Christ.”

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/w...ill-75847/
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#5
The grave challenges that humanity faces move Catholics and the Orthodox faithful “to live and act not as rivals but as brothers,” Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk said in a reflection on the recent joint declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.




Writing in L’Osservatore Romano, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate welcomed the Syrian truce, supported by Russia and the United States, as a “first step” toward joint action against the terrorism that threatens Christians.

Metropolitan Hilarion went on to say that the declaration’s disavowal of “uniatism” was an “important preliminary condition for restoring confidence” and that peace in Ukraine cannot be achieved without “the joint efforts of the Orthodox and of the Greek Catholics to overcome an historical hostility.”

In Europe, he continued, there is a true “persecution of Christianity and of the moral values of the Gospel” under the “pretext of promoting the ideas of tolerance and democracy and of diffusing liberal values.”

https://www.catholicculture.org/news/hea...ryid=27677
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#6
A bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church argues that the Vatican does not understand the perspective of the Byzantine Catholic community.

Explaining the unhappiness of many Ukrainian Catholics over the joint statement issued by Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, Bishop Hlib Lonchyna said that "there seem to be problems in how Rome understands the world."

"We don't doubt the goodness of Pope Francis," the Ukrainian prelate said. But he said that Vatican officials in general do not understand the problems facing the Eastern Catholics of Ukraine, or the political situation in that country. "Vatican officials are still calling this conflict a civil war, when it's really a Russian war of aggression," he charged.

http://www.catholicculture.org/news/head...ryid=27731
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