Pope Benedict XVI's Overture to the Orthodox Church Must Continue
Patriarch Kirill has not ceased to offer his voice of clarity and authority to the growing Catholic and Orthodox critique of the decline of moral values and the hostility of the contemporary culture toward the Church. He is a fervent and prophetic figure, exposing the growing rejection of Christian influence throughout the world and warning of the the dangers such a rejection presents. He has called upon Orthodox Christians to be actively involved in reclaiming the culture with the values informed by the ancient faith. In that vital work, he regularly expresses his support for their collaboration with Catholics.
One of many signs of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Third Christian Millennium is the rediscovery between Orthodox and Catholic Christians of our common Baptismal bond as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. I am numbered among those who believe that the Holy Spirit is gathering a movement of Orthodox and Catholic Christians who recognize a shared calling to herald a new missionary age of the Church in this critical hour.
There is a growing recognition that there is more that joins theologically faithful Catholics and theologically faithful Orthodox than that which separates us. The urgency of the cultural decline compels our collaboration in Christ and is leading us to a growing mutuality of respect which may pave the way toward communion.
Shortly after his selection, the Patriarch noted that, "in the Vatican and not only in the Vatican but all over the world, Catholics understand that Orthodox (people) are their allies. And Orthodox (people) are more and more coming to understand that Catholics are their allies in the face of hostile and non-religious secularism."
One of the Patriarch's greatest assets is Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. He is a youthful, thoughtful and brilliant scholar and Church leader in his own right. He is the head of the Moscow Patriarchate's department for external church relations. He recently gave an interview to Russian newsman named Sergey Brilev which can be read in its entirety on the website of the Department.
It offers some insightful comments on the voluntary resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Its positive perspective on Catholic and Orthodox collaboration also bodes well for the continuation of the momentum which is underwway between these two sister churches. I pray that it leads to some form of full communion. I also pray that the successor of pope Benedict XVI makes it a major priority of his pontificate. I offer some excerpts below:
Brilev: There is certain ticklishness in what we are going to discuss because neither you nor I are Catholic. You though are a one who is much more well-versed in, if I may say, the church mechanics, but not necessarily wishing to reveal it all to journalists. Nevertheless, tell me how have you taken the news about the resignation of the Pope of Rome?
Metropolitan Hilarion: This news was a surprise for everybody including the Pope's closest entourage. The dean of the Cardinals College Angelo Sodano is known to say that it was 'like a bolt from the blue'. Actually the Pope of Rome has dropped some hints in recent years that it may happen, and it was not accidental that he visited the tomb of Celestine V, one of few popes who abdicated and was later canonized. Pope Benedict XVI was contemplating it. I believe his decision resulted from his responsible attitude to his office. Most likely, having assessed his physical resources, he made this, I would say, wise decision.
Brilev: There are several details I would like to move back to consecutively. I will cite you yourselves. You said that it was 'an act of personal courage' on the part of the Pope of Rome himself but at the same time there are words of his brother Georg who said, 'No, everything is all right with his health; he is simply tired'. I render it freely but in essence the words sounded exactly like that. In this connection, there is still certain scepticism with regard to this decision of Benedict XVI. I can already feel that you do not share it, but how would you comment on it?
Metropolitan Hilarion: I do not share this scepticism, nor do I agree with the opinion of some people who are ready to speak about a conspiracy theory in this situation. I personally met with the Pope on three occasions. Certainly, his health is not bad for his age, though in the few years I have had an opportunity to observe him, he has visibly aged, and, as they say, slipped a lot. Besides, it should be taken into account that he has never seen his office as ceremonial, and I believe never craved for it but took the election as a cross placed on him to bear. I believe he made his decision from the feeling of ...
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Orthodox, Russian orthodox, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Patriarch Kirill, Pope Benedict XVI, ecumenism, Christian unity, Deacon Keith Fournier
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