lunedì 1 luglio 2019

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Bone fragments of St Peter
(Peter Anderson) Since 1977 there has been a tradition for the Ecumenical Patriarch to send a delegation to Rome for the celebration of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29. This year was no exception. The delegation this year was headed by Archbishop Job of Telmessos, who is co-president of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and who is also permanent representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the WCC. 
As is usual, the delegation met with Pope Francis on the day before the feast.  During the meeting, the Archbishop read a letter from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Pope, and the Pope then delivered his address.  An English translation of both the letter from Bartholomew and the address by Francis can be read at https://www.ecupatria.org/2019/06/28/the-delegation-of-the-ecumenical-patriarchate-at-the-thronal-feast-of-the-church-of-rome-3/#more-1143 . The Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter states that the next meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue will be held in November.  (The meeting will be held at the Bose Monastery in Italy, as was the last meeting of the Coordinating Committee.)  The Ecumenical Patriarch expresses the hope that the Committee “will succeed in finalizing a text [on Primacy and Synodality in the Second Millennium and Today] to be discussed at the next plenary of the commission.”  This makes clear that the Ecumenical Patriarch envisions that the work of the Commission and its Coordinating Committee will not be delayed due to the absence of the Moscow Patriarchate from its deliberations resulting from the Ukraine dispute.

The delegation was also present for the Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on the feast day.  A video of the entire liturgy can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=573&v=efSsr91i6F8 .  Archbishop Job received a great amount of attention from the Pope during the service.  This can be especially seen at the following times in the video:  2:45 the Pope leaves the entrance procession to exchange a triple kiss with the Archbishop; 1:17:35 the Archbishop ascends to the altar to exchange the kiss of peace with the Pope; 1:34:05 at the conclusion of the Mass, the Pope and the Archbishop go together to the grotto below the altar to pray silently before the tomb of St. Peter, go together to the statue of St. Peter to kiss the foot of the statue, and proceed together from the basilica.

However, what is truly amazing is described by Archbishop Job on his Facebook page.  His entries are reproduced in full at https://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/confessional/interchurch_relations/76350/ .  After the Pope and the Archbishop had prayed before the tomb of St. Peter, the Pope told the Archbishop: Wait for me after.  I have a gift to give you for the Church of Constantinople.  I thought of it last night during prayer.”  After a stop in the sacristy, the Pope said “Let’s go,” and the two men were driving in the Pope’s small Ford to the apostolic palace.  Then the Pope took the Archbishop to a chapel in the apostolic palace and gave the Archbishop a reliquary.  The Pope said:  “During prayer last night, I thought to myself: these holy relics will be better in Constantinople, in the Phanar.  Here are they.  Take them with you.  Give them to my brother His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  This gift is not from me, it’s from God.”

What is this reliquary?  It had been previously seen by the public on only one occasion, at which time it received a great amount of attention from the world’s media.  Just one example of the international publicity can been seen from the following article entitled, “Vatican unveils bone fragments of St Peter in public for first time” from the November 24, 2013, edition of the London Daily Mailhttps://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2512836/St-Peters-bones-unveiled-public-Vatican-time.html   At that time, the reliquary was shown by Pope Francis at the Mass marking the end of the “Year of Faith,” which had earlier been proclaimed by Pope Benedict.  The reliquary contains nine bone fragments, which were found during the excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica in a cavity inscribed in ancient Greek, “Peter within.”  Here is an CNN article by John Allen about those relics: https://www.cnn.com/2013/11/22/opinion/opinion-john-allen-bones-of-peter-eyes-of-faith/index.html  The following is a video of the Pope holding the reliquary for a long period of time during the November  24, 2013 Mass.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1f6Ln0M2T0 

Yesterday (Sunday), Msgr. Andrea Palmieri, under-secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, brought the reliquary to Istanbul and presented it to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. https://www.romfea.news/ecumenical-patriarch-popes-historic-gesture-of-giving-us-fragments-of-the-relics-of-saint-peter/  Appropriately, it was presented on the Orthodox feast day of the Synaxis of the Holy Apostles, celebrated by the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Feriköy.  Photos of the event, including detailed photos of the reliquary and its contents, can be seen at https://www.facebook.com/ecumenicalpatriarchate/posts/10157358053439158?__tn__=K-R.  The photos show that the reliquary is indeed the same as that made public in 2013 and contains all of the nine bone fragments.

When one sees this story in the media, one might assume that the Pope gave the Ecumenical Patriarch just a few pieces of the relics and kept most.  However, what happened is that the Pope gave the entire reliquary with all of its contents to Bartholomew!  It is true that there might be other pieces of bone from the excavation work, but I have found no information about them.  The most important fragments, on which the media has focused its attention, belong now to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  It is an incredibly generous gift.  Some Catholics might even believe that it is too generous, especially because Catholics place such importance on St. Peter.  However, this completely unexpected and spontaneous gesture by Francis might be particularly appreciated by Bartholomew at this time when he has been subject to harsh criticism by some Orthodox for his actions in Ukraine.

Here are some additional news items.  Metropolitan Hilarion met with Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria on June 29 when both of them were in Thessaloniki.  https://mospat.ru/en/2019/06/29/news175835/  The UOC-KP has posted on its Facebook page (its website has not been operable since the Filaret council) many photos which show the participants at the council on June 20.  The following are two photos that show the attendees best.  https://www.facebook.com/378737402996283/photos/pcb.382001256003231/381998669336823/?type=3&theaterhttps://www.facebook.com/378737402996283/photos/pcb.382001256003231/381998786003478/?type=3&theater  One can see a considerable number of laypersons in the cathedral, but probably less than ten priests.  The OCU has sent a letter apologizing to the Serbian Patriarchate that a priest from the schismatic Montenegro Orthodox Church participated in a liturgy of the OCU on May 25.  https://cerkvarium.org/novyny/ukraina/u-ptsu-vibachilis-pered-serbami-za-sluzhinnya-z-klirikom-neviznanoji-chornogorskoji-tserkvi  The following is an interesting report relating to tensions in France with respect to the future of the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe.  https://credo.press/225286/   Finally, the Holy Community of Mt. Athos has sent a letter to the Greek Foreign Minister protesting the behavior of an OCU delegation headed by Metropolitan Michael of Lutsk during a recent visit to Mt. Athos.  The behavior included such actions, at least by some, as singing the Ukrainian national anthem and waiving Ukrainian flags on the summit of Mt. Athos.  https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/30166-i-entoni-diamarturia-tis-ieras-koinotitas-sto-upej-gia-oukrano-ierarxi   
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA