Ecumenism: November 2006 Archives

Interview with Russian Orthodox Bishop

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Zenit has an interesting two-part interview (1, 2) with Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Vienna and Austria.

Among other things, the bishop discusses with frankness the possibilities and potential obstacles for dialogue between Catholics and the Orthodox.

Some snips:

On Regensburg:

The aggressive reaction of a number of Muslim politicians, as well as of many ordinary followers of Islam, has been regarded by some observers as overly exaggerated...

I should add, perhaps, that several theologians of the Russian Orthodox Church, even those normally critical of the Roman Catholic Church, expressed their support for Pope Benedict XVI when the controversy over his Regensburg lecture broke out. They felt that what he said was important, although, indeed, it was not quite in tune with modern unwritten rules of political correctness.

On ecumenical implicaitons of the Pope dropping the title "Patriarch of the West"

The main obstacle to ecclesial unity between East and West, according to many Orthodox theologians, is the teaching on the universal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome. Within this context -- unacceptable and even scandalous, from the Orthodox point of view -- are precisely those titles that remain in the list, such as Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church...

With respect to the Pope of Rome, "Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church" is a designation that points to the Pope's universal jurisdiction -- a level of authority which is not recognized by the Orthodox Churches. It is precisely this title that should have been dropped first, had the move been motivated by the quest for "ecumenical progress" and desire for the amelioration of Catholic-Orthodox relations.

On combatting secularism

Today both the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches have the capability to conduct dialogue with secularized society at a high intellectual level. In the social doctrines of both Churches, the problems concerning dialogue with secular humanism on the matter of values have been profoundly examined from all angles.

The Roman Catholic Church has dealt with these questions in many documents of the magisterium, the most recent of which being the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, compiled by the Pontifical Commission "Justitia et Pax" and published in 2004.

In the Orthodox tradition the most significant document of this kind is the "Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church," published in 2000.

Both documents promote the priority of religious values over the interests of secular life. In opposing atheist humanism, they foster instead a humanism guided by spiritual values.

By this is meant a humanism "that is up to the standards of God's plan of love in history," an "integral humanism capable of creating a new social, economic and political order, founded on the dignity and freedom of every human person, to be brought about in peace, justice and solidarity."

Comparison between the two documents reveals striking similarities in the social doctrines of the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches. If our understanding of social issues is so similar, why can we not join forces in order to defend it?

I believe the time has come for all Christians who choose to follow the traditional line, notably the Catholics and the Orthodox, to form a common front in order to combat secularism and relativism, to conduct responsible dialogue with Islam and the other major world religions, and to defend Christian values against all challenges of modernity. In 20, 30 or 40 years it may simply be too late.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Ecumenism category from November 2006.

Ecumenism: December 2005 is the previous archive.

Ecumenism: May 2007 is the next archive.

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