Friday, February 12, 2016

Pope, Patriarch Meet, Issue Joint Statement [Update]

UPDATE: The day following this meeting, Russian-backed rebels have moved heavy weapons back to the front as violence intensifies in eastern Ukraine. The Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, is warning of a new Cold War. It is no secret that Russia would like to complete the re-annexation of the Ukraine it began by seizing the Crimean Peninsula. Coincidence?

Today, Pope Francis met with Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church in Cuba. The two "his Holinesses" released a  carefully-drafted joint statement that makes some welcome declarations, but does not encourage hopes that the 1000-year split is anywhere near to being repaired.

Patriarch Kirill is closely associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will no doubt consider the Cuban meeting  a positive example of respect from and rapprochement with the West.

While historical divisions such as the filioque controversy over the correct expression of the nature of the Holy Trinity remain, perhaps the most tender subject for both sides is the status of Eastern Rite Catholic Churches in the Ukraine, which the Russian Orthodox Church considers unwelcome interlopers.

Russian identity is closely tied to Russian Orthodoxy. After the fall of Communism, the Russian Orthodox Church made a remarkable come-back. Yet despite impressive gestures like building the "The Church Upon Spilt Blood" in Ekaterinburg on the very spot where the last Tsar, Nicholas II, was murdered with his family, surveys have shown that religion has not penetrated into Russians' lives. Russia has the world's highest abortion rate, 73 out of 100 births, leading to a serious demographic crisis, according to Reuters.

The Church Upon Spilt Blood in Ekaterinburg

The statement rather oddly called Cuba "the symbol of hopes for the 'New World,' and the dramatic events of the 20th century." It briefly alluded to historical divisions, and "the permanence of many obstacles," but nonetheless expressed a cautious hope for unity. It acknowledged the persecution of Christians in Africa and the Middle East, and called for negotiation and action to combat terrorism. The Pope and Patriarch "bowed to the martyrdom" of Christians who "belong to various Churches," as a sign of Christian unity. Softer religious persecution in the West was also condemned, and Europe was called upon not to lose its Christian roots.

There was a call for interreligious dialogue and a condemnation of attempts to justify crimes by religious slogans, or the use of God's name.

The two leaders agreed that marriage was between a man and a woman, and said, "We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience."

Abortion and euthanasia were also condemned.

Proselytizing was condemned, no doubt with a particular focus on the Catholic Church in Russia.

The unequivocal statement about the sanctity of marriage is particularly welcome, and would seem to lay down a marker against efforts within the Church to recognize other forms of union. The Bear suspects the Russian Patriarch was the more conservative of the two interlocutors.

25 comments:

  1. Regarding joint statements on marriage and abortion, I am sure pope Francis met his superior, and no doubt was unable (no Kasper, no Marx nearby) to pull a surprise out of his sleeve, as the ones at the synod on homosexuality aka as synod on the family. It might not be the unique gifts of homosexuals which will save the Church (as some Cardinals would have it), but - surprise! - Patriarch Kirill's gift of good old Christian faith.

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  2. "Patriarch Kirill's gift of good old Christian faith" -I didn't realize that faith in KGB (who placed Kirill in his position) is an old Christian faith.

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    Replies
    1. The Party line is still Orthodoxy. It is hard to argue that the Catholic Church of Five Minutes Ago is doing better without the KGB.

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    2. I have to agree with Andrzei, Krill is nothing but a KGB puppet. This meeting will not strengthen orthodoxy on either side, rather it will embolden the leftist heretics in both the Orthodox and the Catholic Church.

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    3. Ale Andrzeju,
      are you saying that a KGB agent, being all morally corrupt no doubt, hasn’t demonstrated (at least artificially) more orthodoxy than the pope? If this is the KGB influence on the Vicar of Christ, I will gladly take it. Also, we know in spite of denials that Bergoglio is a Marxist, too.

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  3. I'll bet it was fairly painful for Francis to sign that statement.

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  4. Two possible conclusions:
    1). This is one of the better things Pope Francis has done.
    2). It could have been worse.

    What do you say?

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    1. I laugh first, and then I worry:
      What does this unprecedented (under this papacy) change of winds mean (regarding the rainbow)? When Bergoglio starts talking like a Catholic, even just for this one joint statement, what surprises has he got up his sleeve?

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    2. He'll make some statement to walk it back, never fear. It will be something that sounds like he's contradicting himself, but with just enough vagueness that it can be denied by the Press office.

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    3. I think this is a good thing. Catholicism and Orthodoxy are sooo close. St. Pope John Paul II called them the "two lungs" of Christianity. And KGB-appointed or not, Kirill represents the lung that conserves, not changes. That is the exactly the the medicine the Western Church needs. I don't think there will be a complete healing of the schism, but there is still much that might be done short of that.

      Cuba is the big winner, I think, being chosen as the site of this historic meeting.

      Russia is a winner, too, meeting the Pope on equal terms through Kirill. Some of the moral authority of the generic spiritual authority of the world might rub off on Russia.

      The Church wins by getting an unambiguous definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, and disapproval of any other type of arrangement. It would be really hard for his Pope to walk that back. (It would make Patriarch Kirill look like the better man, but also like a fool for trusting Francis. In other words, Francis would lose face.) And are we certain it is Pope Francis that wants gay marriage? Or does he just have some fashionable views on homosexuality (which the agreement does not touch)?

      I can see no downside, except possibly for Catholics in Russia, who are probably not feeling too good about the meeting.

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    4. I don't think he will ever admit to wanting same-sex "marriage," even if he did want it. While in Buenos Aires, he advocated for civil unions, thinking that it was a good alternative (not realizing the homosexual community was after the big prize, not a reasonable substitute). I don't expect him to suddenly say that he is in favor of gay "marriage" -- I do expect him to beat around the bush about the "virtues" of the relationships and how we should treat them with "mercy." That's what I mean.

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  5. I agree with the last sentence of what you (the Bear) said - that the Patriarch was the more conservative one. I can see even in the actual statement, the influence of the Orthodox wording - invoking the Most Holy Mother of God and the Most Holy and Indivisible Trinity. Would that more people in the RC Church would use such beautiful language nowadays!

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  6. It's fun to revisit the crusty Taft and read his observations about the Orthodox and Catholics

    http://www.natcath.org/mainpage/specialdocuments/taft.htm

    O, and we could also revisit the filoque controversy and why it was added (it was neither a heresy or an unnecessary action) to the Creed

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    1. That was an interesting interview, and I agreed with most of what he said until he went off on the papacy toward the end. Is that what Jesuits really think of the papacy? A lot has happened since 2004, though. I do agree that communion is the best we can hope for, but that would be tremendous. I don't believe it is unrealistic, either, but we're at the mercy of personalities, policies and historical perspective of the East. And Taft does a good job illustrating how history is collapsed in the East. (We see that in Islam, too.)

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    2. Rev 22:1 proves the Filioque is Biblical:

      Rev 22:1 Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God AND of the Lamb...

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  7. Don't let Better be the enemy of Good. This is a good statement. Savor the moment while it lasts.

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  8. ****Proselytizing was condemned, no doubt with a particular focus on the Catholic Church in Russia.***

    What exactly is being condemn, tracts condemning
    each other, foot pounders going door to door wearing nice suits and magazines, I don't particularly like angel-looking beings showing up on the doors of vunerable & fallen away catholics but its a going out into the field that drives them for their faith. I think everyone has that right especially if its done in a respectful way. Many of our saints were
    great foot pounders and preachers, a few miracles didn't hurt either. The world is a mission and we're called to share our faith, of course, without name calling and hatred. I would hope that parishes, like in the US can freely go out into the neighborhood and share the faith or advertise in the paper any upcoming catholic events, if not then at least be able to worship unhinder and unafraid.

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    1. Orthodoxy is inextricably linked with the Russian identity. They don't like the idea of any Catholics in Russia. It would be like the United States of 1954 looking at hundreds of thousands of Communists, with real Americans possibly being subverted.

      Just this very day (Feb 13) the civil war (i.e. Russia's effort to annex the Ukraine) has heated up again. That's where most of the Catholics are.

      Russia is not the U.S. They don't see religion as a choice. When we went to a Russian Orthodox Church (actually OCA) after a few weeks someone said, "But I don't understand why you're here. You're not Russian." If you're Russian, you're Russian Orthodox. To have any other religious activity going on in Russia as not only just wrong, it is unpatriotic.

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    2. Well, if that's the way their going to be , may the angels come to the aid of the Ukraines Catholics.

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  9. Today, just one day after the meeting, Russian-backed rebels violated the cease fire in the eastern Ukraine by moving artillery back to the front, as violence escalated. Russia PM Dimitry Medvedev warned of a "new Cold War." You will recall Russia already annexed part of the Ukraine, the Crimean Peninsula. It would certainly like to have the rest of the Ukraine.

    Coincidence? Or was the meeting a ploy by the Russians?

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  10. Will no one defend the rights of the only true Church? The mark of unity is intrinsic to the Catholic Church. We aren't 'seeking' unity. Also, remember that the orthodox accept serial marriages. Reaching out is great,but not at the price of truth. I think we catholics have forgotten that the One True Church is utterly perfect and beautiful. The whole misguided two lung nonsense is woefully misguided, offensive to His Majesty,and doomed to fail.

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    1. I think you make a good point. The "unity" language is a pious fiction. It will never happen short of another Council of Florence moment. The agreement acknowledges that there are permanent obstacles. Surely the Orthodox "three strikes rule" on divorce and remarriage would be one. The papacy would be another. The filoque might be another. Orthodox theology about God Himself diverged from the Catholic Church's.

      I think communion is possible, though. In fact, as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, Catholics can already take communion in an Orthodox Divine Liturgy. Finding an Orthodox priest willing to give it is another matter! An Orthodox Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom would be a tempting alternative to bongo mass. The Orthodox Church is beautiful, too, but I'm biased as a former Orthodox.

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  11. Yes, the road to Orthodox return to the fold is certainly daunting. My personal opinion is that it will happen only after the Fatima consecration is truly done. ... but that is another conversation.

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