giovedì 30 giugno 2022

Strong words by Cardinal Koch & other news

(Peter Anderson)
On June 29 the Catholic publication Die Tagespost released a very interesting interview of Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity.  (Please note that under the Vatican’s recent reorganization, the organization is no longer a “Pontifical Council” but rather a “Dicastery” and that its head now has the title “Prefect” rather than “President.”)  The entire interview can be read at (link) The remark by Cardinal Koch which has immediately received the attention of the media is the following: “In my opinion, it is heresy that the patriarch dares to legitimize the brutal and absurd war in Ukraine for pseudo-religious reasons.”  However, there are many other interesting observations made by the Cardinal in this interview.  For example, the Cardinal states:  “I am grateful to Pope Francis for canceling the mid-June meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Jerusalem.”  The Cardinal disclosed that at the end of February, he participated in a Zoom session with Metropolitan Hilarion.  In the interview the Cardinal stated:

 Since the war in Ukraine had already broken out, I took the opportunity of the Zoom meeting to make the request that the Pope and Patriarch should jointly oppose the war.  Since the Metropolitan has repeatedly proposed a joint statement on the persecution of Christians in today's world, I have stressed that I share this concern, but that such a statement would become completely implausible if not a word is said against it now that - how in Ukraine - Christians fight against Christians and Orthodox kill each other.  Shortly after this meeting, I received the answer that the Patriarch was not ready to have a common word with the Pope.

There are also other interesting statements in the interview, which should be read in its entirety. 

As is customary each year, a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate came to the Vatican for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.  The delegation was headed by Archbishop Job of Telmessos.  The meeting between the delegation and Pope Francis is described at (link) This link also includes the full English text of the letters exchanged between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis for this occasion.  The most interesting news for me is that the Patriarchate of Alexandria will be the host in 2023 of the next plenary meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  The plenary will be held in Alexandria, Egypt.  The plenary will discuss the draft document, Primacy and Synodality in the Second Millennium and Today, approved earlier this year by the Commission’s Coordinating Committee.  This is the first plenary session of the Commission since 2016, when a document relating to the first millennium was approved.

In contrast, the plenary sessions of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches have been held more frequently.  This Commission’s latest document, The Sacraments in the Life of the Church, was signed on June 23, 2022.  The full text of the document has now been posted at (link)

There have been two very interesting interviews of bishops of the UOC concerning the present status of their church.  Father Jivko Panev has interviewed Metropolitan Meletius of Chernovtsy and Bukovina, chairman of the DECR of the UOC. (link) The Metropolitan explained: “Today, our Church has a de facto autocephalous status, which guides its activities, without having a formal autocephalous status for the moment.”  According to the Metropolitan, the UOC has not yet proclaimed its autocephaly so no actions by the Local Orthodox Churches are now required with respect to recognition.  However, the UOC remains in communion with them.  The Metropolitan was asked about the canons and the failure to commemorate Patriarch Kirill.  According to Metropolitan Meletius, Metropolitan Onufry stated at the Council that priests should commemorate only their bishop, bishops should commemorate only the Metropolitan of Kyiv, and that Metropolitan Onufry would commemorate Patriarch Kirill as well as other primates.  There are also other interesting questions answered in the interview.  The UOC has translated this interview into Ukrainian and has posted it on its website. (link)

The second interview involved Metropolitan Filaret of Lviv.  Unlike Metropolitan Meletius, he is not a member of the Holy Synod of the UOC.  The long interview can be read at (link) The Metropolitan makes many interesting observations.  For example, Metropolitan Hilarion of Donetsk and Mariupol affirmed at the Council that he would implement in his diocese, if possible, the changes made by the Council.  Meletius believes that it will be necessary to remove Metropolitan Lazar of Crimea from the Holy Synod of the UOC and to appoint new UOC bishops for Crimea.  Meletius states that the possibility of requesting the Moscow Patriarchate to grant autocephaly to the UOC was discussed at the Council, but that it was concluded that this should not be done.  He also points out: “The medieval Ohrid archbishopric was an independent church, without any subordination, without a Tomos on autocephaly or autonomy.  Nevertheless, it was recognized by all local churches.”  Many other points were made in the interview.

On Sunday, June 26, Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated his first Divine Liturgy in Budapest as Metropolitan of Budapest and Hungary.  A video of the entire Liturgy can be seen at (link).  Metropolitan Hilarion still has his audience of devoted supporters.  There have been over 28,000 views of this video.  Sunday was the Feast Day of the Saints of the Russian Land.   As described in the following article, one of the saints discussed by Metropolitan Hilarion in his address at the end of the Liturgy was St. Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow.  St. Philip was martyred because of his criticism of Ivan the Terrible.  Metropolitan Hilarion stated in his address:  “We remember many saints, including those who shone through the feat of confession.  Such as St Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow, who was not afraid to stand up to the terrible tyrant who shed innocent blood.  And who, on the ambo of the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, instead of giving the terrible tsar a blessing, sternly rebuked him, saying: ‘Even the Hagarenes and pagans have judgment and truth, but in our Russian land there is no mercy,’ for which he paid with his own life and was strangled by the tsar's oprichnik.” (link)  Although it is unlikely that this was intended by Metropolitan Hilarion to be a veiled reference to President Putin, it may well reflect his conviction that the Church must be free to criticize governmental actions.  With respect to Metropolitan Hilarion, the websites of the DECR and of the Patriarch have covered some of the meetings that Metropolitan Hilarion has had since his arrival in Budapest.  In my opinion this may be an indication that Metropolitan Hilarion is not viewed with disfavor by the Church leadership in Moscow and another indication that his sudden transfer may have been the result of external forces.

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of France met in Paris on June 10, 2022.  The meeting was chaired by Metropolitan Demetrios (Ecumenical Patriarchate).  The communique issued at the conclusion of the meeting states: “The Orthodox Bishops of France welcome the presence and participation in the work of the AEOF meeting of His Eminence Metropolitan John of Dubna and his auxiliary bishop Symeon of Domodedovo [Archdiocese of the Orthodox Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe --  Moscow Patriarchate].” (link)  As you may recall, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate on September 14, 2018, decided to “suspend the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in all episcopal assemblies…chaired or co-chaired by representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.”  The Moscow Patriarchate may have made an exception in this case because the agenda of this meeting included preparing a statement on Ukraine.  In the end, the Assembly adopted a statement which refers to the “military operations in Ukraine” and makes no reference to Russia.

There has also been a development concerning the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States.  It relates to a letter sent to Archbishop Elpidophoros by the leading bishops of the Antiochian, Romanian, Serbian, and Bulgarian Patriarchates in the United States and by the primate of the OCA.  A copy of the letter is posted at  (link).  The letter relates to the decision of the Archdiocese to proceed with the episcopal consecration of Alexander Belya, a former cleric of the ROCOR, whose discipline and deposition are recognized by the signatories of the letter.  The bishops state that “we cannot continue participating in the Assembly itself if this man is elevated to the episcopacy and thereby becomes an Assembly member.”

Peter Anderson, Seattle USA