|Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia|
From the website of the President of
the Russian Federation. Published under a
Creative Commons licence
(source: Wikimedia Commons)
Second Vatican Council and Christian Unity
Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ Himself were divided. Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.But the Lord of Ages wisely and patiently follows out the plan of grace on our behalf, sinners that we are. In recent times more than ever before, He has been rousing divided Christians to remorse over their divisions and to a longing for unity. Everywhere large numbers have felt the impulse of this grace, and among our separated brethren also there increases from day to day the movement, fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the restoration of unity among all Christians.
…since these [Western / Protestant] Churches and ecclesial Communities, on account of their different origins, and different teachings in matters of doctrine on the spiritual life, vary considerably not only with us, but also among themselves, the task of describing them at all adequately is extremely difficult; and we have no intention of making such an attempt here.Although the ecumenical movement and the desire for peace with the Catholic Church have not yet taken hold everywhere, it is our hope that ecumenical feeling and mutual esteem may gradually increase among all men.
The Eastern Churches are to be praised
Because the Church knows that Christian unity is an urgent matter of grave importance, Unitatis Redintegratio is full of praise for the Orthodox Churches (especially the ancient and sacred liturgies of the East). Though desiring unity with all Christians, even Protestants, the document seems to indicate that the Catholic Church and the See of Peter feels a greater urgency in its longing for full ecclesial unity between East and West.
This desire for visible communion between the Eastern and Western Churches was a primary concern of John Paul II’s pontificate. In fact, in ecclesiastical terms, Blessed John Paul saw it as a matter of life and death, so to speak – reiterating his idea in his encyclical on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint, that until full unity is achieved between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, the whole universal Church would be sick, and would not be able to breathe properly, i.e. ‘with both her lungs’.
Benedict XVI -- Pope of Christian Unity
|Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria|
(source: Wikimedia, via Egyptian Wikipedia)
More importantly, though, Benedict XVI developed a great bond of trust and friendship between many Eastern Patriarchs and his own Apostolic See -- including the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, whom he met on a few occasions. The friendship that now exists between Moscow and Rome -- unimaginable only a few years ago -- also bears witness to Benedict XVI’s desire (like his predecessor's) to see the ‘two lungs’ of the Church breathing as one. It is also worth noting that in response to Benedict XVI's resignation, even the Coptic Pope Tawadros II (pictured) recently said that he was "proud of the Roman Pope", noting his "dialogue and his love, wisdom and high theological stature, as well as his participation with us, the Eastern churches, in all occasions."
Modernism -- a stumbling block to visible Unity
Both the modernising trends in Catholic preaching and teaching, as well as the banal ‘progressive’ desacralizing of the Roman Rite, has made many Orthodox Christians wary of reunification – like wise souls, they do not want to be infected by something that appears, at best, to be diseased. Even Eastern Rite Catholics often express their shock at the way the Latin Rite seems to have divested itself of the sacred. As one Ukrainian Catholic priest put it to me: ‘We’d never let Vatican II destroy our liturgical heritage!’ Tradition attracts souls -- modernism seems to drive them away!
Traditionalism leads to real Unity
We have always held dear your consistent position characterized by uncompromising stand in the questions of faith and commitment to the living church tradition. In an age when the ideology of all-permissiveness and moral relativism tries to force moral values out of people’s life, you boldly raised your voice in the defense [sic] of the Gospel’s ideal, the lofty dignity of human beings and their calling to freedom from sin.It is with warmth that I remember our meetings before your election to the chair of Rome. In the years of your pontificate, a good development was given to relations between our Churches who bear a great responsibility for common witness to Crucified and Risen Christ in the modern world. I sincerely hope that good and confidential relations established with your active participation will develop under your successor.
It was also reported (see Rorate Caeli) that Metropolitan Hilarion, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations, and who had an excellent working relationship with Benedict XVI, recently gave an interview during which the imminent Conclave was discussed. In that interview, the Metropolitan said that for the sake of Christian unity he hoped that the new Pope would be a “traditionalist”.
Through men like Hilarion and his Patriarch, Kirill, a clear message is being sent to Rome, namely that if the Catholic Church is serious about the reunification of the ancient Churches, then the next Pope must continue the work of Benedict XVI. The next Bishop of Rome must be a promoter and guardian of ‘the splendour of truth and the beauty of holiness’, both in the way the Church preaches the Gospel and worships Almighty God.
We need another Pope like Benedict XVI
In light of a cross the Lord has been pleased to give me and so as to maintain peace during the election of a new Pope, I will not be blogging for a few days.
Please pray for a new Pope, and for the unity of the ancient Churches of East and West!
Come Lord Jesus, do not delay!