Friday, August 31, 2018

Met Antonius (el-Souri): Asceticism in the Orthodox Church

Arabic original here.

Asceticism in the Orthodox Church

On September first we celebrate Ecclesiastical New Year and Saint Symeon the Stylite.

In our patrimony, there are many stylites who practiced asceticism in many regions. Saint Symeon the Stylite was the first of them in this way of life. One might then wonder: is asceticism the subjugation of the body through unusual methods?

What is asceticism?

In Greek the word used is ἀσκησις, which means 'exercise'.

It is exercise in emptying oneself (κένοσις, cf. Philippians 2:7) of the ego. All passions and sins are tied to the ego and the ego is the source of the fall and estrangement from God and the other.

Most people think that asceticism is only for monks and ascetics, but this is something that is required of all believers. The Church teaches us how to live it through prayer, fasting and repentance according to the Lord Jesus' commandments to us.

Thus asceticism is the life of prayer, fasting and repentance with the goal of emptying ourselves of our ego so that God may become our ego, our life and everything for us.

Asceticism is escape from the self-- that is, from the source of the passions-- through setting aside the pleasures and passions that fight man within himself, his heart and his being, through personal effort, firm and sincere desire, and God's grace.

This is what is called the ascetic struggle or spiritual struggle. It is an activity that is shared between the will of man and the grace of the Holy Trinity, which we call 'synergy' (συνεργία).

Monks have become teachers of the spiritual life because they have left the world and all therein. They have sold it and distributed it in order to follow Christ. The first of them were taught by God directly, as He taught Saint Anthony the Great when an angel appeared to him and taught him to defeat weariness through work, prayer and spiritual reading.

Monks and ascetics, each according to his ability, began to struggle to control the body, acting according to the words of the Apostle Paul: "I discipline my body and bring it into subjection" (1 Corinthians 9:27). Saint Symeon the Stylite invented this manner of living on a pillar in heat and cold and others followed him in this.

Nevertheless, in the Orthodox Church, as we have mentioned above, asceticism is fundamentally the struggle of prayer, fasting and asceticism so that one may become practiced in knowledge of the self and purification of the heart  in order to ascend in his relationship with God and the other until he arrived, through unity with the Trinity, at unity with all creation and the service of God in man.

Beloved, the life, teachings, and traditions of our Orthodox Church are saturated with the spirit of asceticism, prayer and fasting. Our liturgy is filled with spiritual teachings that encourage repentance, humility, judgment of the soul, judgment of sin and love of the sinner.

In our Church we have a treasury of teachings of the fathers about how to combat the passions and confront temptations.

We must drink from the wells of grace that are in our Orthodox Church and the writings of her fathers, so that we may walk as those who came before us walked and become holy as they became holy. There is no Christian life without asceticism.

He who has ears, let him hear.

+Antonius
Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): Paul's Final Admonitions

Arabic original here.

Paul's Final Admonitions

Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians ends with the valediction "Maran atha", "come O Lord." He says to the Christian soldier, "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love" (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).

Let us not forget that great hymn to love found in 1 Corinthians 13.

This summarizes Paul's admonitions throughout the entire epistle. This reflects the divine power that the believer receives in the Lord Jesus, who "is strengthened in the Holy Spirit" (cf. Luke 1:80 and 2:40).

"May your hearts be strengthened" (Psalm 30/31: 24).

 All of this is realized if there abounds love, which is the source of all virtues. After that, the Apostle mentions his helpers, the first of which is Stephen and his house, who are the first people that he evangelized in the region of Achaea. This family served "the saints." That is, the poor of Jerusalem.

His words in the epistle include greetings to Aquila and his wife Priscilla, his assistants in establishing the Church of Corinth and the Church of Ephesus (Acts 18:2 and 18).

Paul insists on the greeting among brothers and asks that this greeting be among them "with a holy kiss." This kiss comes out of the love, kindness and mercy that flow into the Divine Liturgy, expressing union in love and faith. Saint Justin Martyr the Philosopher (2nd century) testifies to this.

Today the bishop and the priests practice it while they are in the altar.

The followers of Christ cry out, "Maran atha." That is, come Lord Jesus, come! Amen. 

Hallelujah! It is said in Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, "the Lord is at hand" (Philippians 4:5) and also in the Book of Revelation 22:20, "Surely I am coming quickly." Come Lord Jesus!

This is the hope of the one to come. 

Do not fear, brothers! Do not fear, humankind: the Lord is at hand! Never despair: the Lord has come, is coming and shall come quickly!

He is the last true king of this world, also and especially king over the hearts of us who believe in Him:

This is the kingdom to come! Seek it first. It comes by way of God's grace. It comes by way of prayer. It comes by way of the neighbor, by way of service to those little ones, the poor. He is the true neighbor of every one of us (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:23).

The apostle's love, embodied in his last greeting, is an image of the Heavenly Father's love. This love never falls (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:8).

+Ephrem
 Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Archimandrite Jack (Khalil): The Orthodox Tradition

Arabic original here.

The Orthodox Tradition

Many people unjustly accuse the Apostle Paul of innovating in the faith, to the point that some people ignorantly regard him as having established Christianity in its current form.

Objective study, however, makes it clear that the Apostle Paul adhered to the words of the Lord Jesus, which were transmitted by those who had witnessed the Word with their own eyes and served it during the time it was preached earth, just as the Church has preserved it since the Apostolic Era.

The Apostle Paul teaches us in today's epistle [1 Corinthians 15:1-11] to remember that we have received the deposit of true faith by which we are saved if we hold fast to it and preserve it as a guide for our life.

The first thing that we learn from the words of the Apostle Paul is that the principles of the faith are not subjective, in the sense that they do not depend on what we find attractive or what we reject in them. We receive the faith as the apostles handed it down and we must hand it down just as we received it.

Otherwise, its ecclesial character disappears from it and it becomes an individualistic faith. In other words, the orthodoxy of the faith that the Church has taught us across the generations disappears, transformed into the faith of this or that person...

The chosen vessel Paul did not want to innovate a faith particular to himself. Nor did he inquire with his mind about the foolishness of the preaching that the wise men of this age did not comprehend. Rather, he also accepted, as he himself affirms in today's epistle, the foolishness of the cross that the Church preaches.

He accepted the wretched foolishness that brings people heavenly peace and joy and grants them healing, the splendor of salvation and the earnest of the Holy Spirit.

The Church has not known intellectual disdain for the "foolishness of the cross" like what we are witnessing today. Some have called the current era the "post-truth" era, in the sense that truth has become what I myself see to be true, not what has been made as clear as the sun.

People today do not flinch from denying objective truth and offering excuse after excuse to justify what they say and win if someone tries to argue with them.

But their rebellion against God's truth came generations before this and perhaps the truth has lost its luster in our days because people have loved falsehood more than truth and heresy more than the truth of the Gospel.

We preserve our ecclesial identity to the degree that we keep the tradition that we have received.

The orthodoxy of our church has been kept through worldly codes and canons only in name. Orthodoxy of faith is tied to intellectual submission to the apostolic tradition that does not change, does not develop and does not increase or decrease because we have received it from the One who does not change, but rather "remains the same yesterday, today and forever."

Therefore we submit to the faith and do not scorn it. We preserve the faith and do not subject its sanctity to our intellectual pride.

Perhaps our deep understanding of the faith begins with submission to what we have received, so that we may know and understand... A language is not understood if one has not learned it first.

The Apostle Paul hands down to us what he himself has also received and accepted: the Lord Jesus died as was buried and arose victorious.

In response to those who deem these words to be foolishness, the Apostle Paul takes recourse first of all to the proof of the Holy Bible, which had previously witnessed to God's salvific dispensation (cf. Romans 1:1-2).

For those who do not grant any significance to the Bible, the apostle affirms that hundreds witnessed the Lord risen and glorified.

The truth of the Gospel is not an intellectual system. Rather, it is an event that has entered into humans' history, shaped their present and alone guarantees their future.

Archimandrite Jack (Khalil)
Saint John of Damascus Institute of Theology

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Fr Touma (Bitar) on Chastity and Love

Arabic original here.

Chastity and Love

Why chastity? The fathers say that there is no virtue without it. It is the mother of virtues! This is the experience of the Church. But first, before we go on to discuss it, what is chastity? Is it that someone is not married? Or that he doesn't have sex? Not at all. Even Saint Basil the Great said that although he had never known a woman, he was not chaste. It is possible for a man to know his wife and remain chaste, just as it is possible for someone not to have sex and not be chaste. So chastity does not exclusively mean refraining from sex. The scope of one is not the scope of the other. It is possible for both to be practiced and for neither to be practiced. The role of chastity in the life of the believer is not the role of sex. Sex, in Christ, is for reproduction within the framework of blessed marriage and love. I say "love" after marriage or in marriage because what is known as "love" before marriage might be nothing but illusions, sentiments and feelings. What I mean by "love", particularly in marriage, is existential love, love as a communion of life, putting into action God's saying, "and the two become one flesh."

This is with regard to sex. But with regard to chastity, the purpose of chastity is virtue-- every virtue. If we speak of a virtue, we speak of love. Every virtue's purpose is love, otherwise it is not a virtue and it has no Christian value. For this reason, the Apostle Paul defined the purpose of the divine commandment for his disciple Timothy when he said, "Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith" (1 Timothy 1:5). Thus chastity is for love and there is no love without chastity!

If one wants to take a closer look at the profound relationship between chastity and love, he finds himself from the first moment confronted with a dilemma. Why? Because as we encounter love as a positive gift, we encounter chastity as a negative gift. So how can something positive emerge from something negative? To be chaste means to refrain from something, while to love is to draw near to an existential encounter on the level of the heart, seeking visceral unity between man and God and between man and his neighbor as a result of that, then finally between the individual man and all humanity. In love there is initiative, effort, giving and persistence in that orientation, no matter how much one wavers between success and failure. You have an expression like this about love coming spontaneously from the Apostle Paul to the Philippians in his epistle to them, "I have you in my heart... you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection [the Arabic a7sha' here mirrors the Greek ἐν σπλάγχνοις, literally meaning 'in the inner parts' or 'the viscera'] of Jesus Christ..." (Philippians 1:7-8).

This definition of love, especially pertaining to the visceral affection of Jesus Christ, makes love spring forth from the innermost parts of the incarnate Son of God! So it is God's very own love that He pours out upon us. The innermost parts are at once the home of God's love and His life. So in Jesus Christ God gives us His love so that we may love with it and live in Him. Only His love within us makes our love for Him possible. Otherwise, there is no possibility of us having a relationship with Him. There can fundamentally be no relationship unless it is a relationship of love. The relationship cannot be a reaction. Reaction, in practice, does not constitute a relationship. In the relationship, there is consciousness, initiative, interaction, positivity and existential encounter-- and thus love! And God alone is love. So God alone is aware, takes the initiative and reaches out in the motion of love. If He created us to be in a relationship with Him, this is only possible once love abides in us. He gives us what is His. God is love, so He is a Trinity. The Trinity is perfect, unique love, beyond perfection and uniqueness. The love that exists in the Trinity is itself God's gift, so that we may have not only a relationship with Him, but a relationship according to the model of the Trinity among us. This gift is free. It is not from us, but from Him! Thus, the love of which we speak is not from chastity, but from God, while chastity eliminates what impedes the activity of God's love within us and prepares us for Him. What impedes this activity of love? Our love for ourselves. Our self-worship. This is the world's sin. And so to acquire love, one must die to himself, cause himself to perish, according to the biblical expression. That is, he must escape from the self or, one might say, from self-love, in order to be prepared for God's gift to him-- that is, God's love-- to be active in him, in order for one to be able to love. Otherwise, he cannot love, no matter what he does. This death to the self while seeking love, is precisely chastity and that which is realized by chastity. This is why we said that chastity is for love and there is no love without chastity.

Every person is, in his estrangement from God, full of himself. That's his state. He wants everything for himself. Automatically. Individually and collectively. This is what we call "the fall" and this is what the Book of Genesis expresses when it says, "The Lord said in His heart...'the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth'" (Genesis 8:21). This is a statement of reality. It not only indicates that there was a time when man was not like that, but it also indicates an inherited inclination toward evil with him that precedes consciousness. Otherwise, the world would not have been held captive by sin, evil and death. As soon as a person comes to awareness as a child, you find him becoming self-centered. This appears at first glance to be something natural and expected. We have often heard that a person starts out not distinguishing himself from his surroundings. Then when he becomes conscious of himself, distinguishing himself from his world, he starts to discover himself and then to discover his world and to interact with it. The popular conception is that consciousness implies the child's seeking everything for himself, as though this is the way of nature and as though by this he discovers himself. There is in fact an ambiguity in this conception. There is a need for distinguishing between the ego, the identity of the self, the "I, I, I" and the egotism that is a person's seeking everything for himself, the "mine, mine, mine." At this point of consciousness, I mean the child's first consciousness, egotism is hidden in the ego. If it is left to its own devices and those caring for the child, especially the mother, do not reign it in consciously and wisely within the framework of an early Christian upbringing, then this egotism will find for itself a nurturing environment that will cause it to grow and become by extension not only identical to the person's ego, but also it's driving force!

At that point, one's identity becomes equivalent to what he has, what he acquires. At that point, a person is compared to what he acquires. He is turned into an object! Then free reign is given to the passions hidden within him. He is transformed into an outburst of passions and he loses his identity, as though he were an instrument of passions. In this way one is proven to be not only a sinner, but evil from his conception. When sin is not accidental-- that is, unintentional-- there is no longer any distinction between it and evil. Sin explodes into evil and wickedness according to the circumstances. It is not, then, that a child is born evil, but rather that feeding his selfishness without any supervision or control, as though those around him were expressing their love for him by doing this, not realizing the severity of the harm they are causing him--- I say that feeding the child's selfishness in this manner raises him for brutishness-- that is, for persistence in self-love that, when the occasion arises, produces a brutality towards others, since it diminishes sensitivity to the other and what he suffers, which prepares him to commit every sort of evil.

In Christian terms, upbringing-- let's call it from the start "upbringing in chastity"-- actually starts from the womb [7asha- the same word that translates σπλάγχνον]. And so it does not first of all concern the fetus, but rather the father and the mother-- and especially the mother! The womb was, of old, polluted. Thus the repentance of David. He realized that "in sin did my mother conceive me." He longed from afar for the innermost parts of Christ the Lord. After Christ the Lord came from the virginal womb, we stand before a different horizon. We have come to talk about longing for others with the innermost affection of Christ (cf. Philippians 1:8), the innermost affection of the saints (cf. Philippians 8), and of brothers as innermost parts (cf. Philemon 12). And so, if we realize that Christ came to save sinners of whom I am first, then we also realize that our fundamental task is to acquire the innermost affection of Jesus Christ and that sin, after knowing Christ, can only appropriately be accidental, inadvertent or unintentional.

A woman guards her womb-- that is, her chastity-- first of all for the love of God and then for the future child, as though he is her womb. For his sake, not for her own sake. Only, at that time, what she does she does for God. Here the man is included in the woman. She is the womb par excellence. The way she is supposed to be is the way he is also supposed to be. This principled position is drawn from a new reality, that after being baptized for Christ, we no longer belong to ourselves, but rather have become a temple for God and God's Spirit dwells within us, according to the words of the Apostle Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians (3:16). Thus the warning: "If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." How does a person defile the temple of God which is himself? Through fornication! Do I take members of God and make them members of an adulteress? Fornication is precisely, deep down, for me to act contrary to God in denying His commandment, in straying from His love, in immersing myself in love for myself. In fornication, there is worship of the self instead of God. This is the source of every idol and therefore of every evil. For this reason, God destroys the person. That is, He gives him over to darkness, degradation, perdition and death... And so, it is chastity for one to preserve himself from fornication, in the broadest meaning of the word. Every member within us, we purify through chastity, through the divine commandment, through refraining from what is reprehensible, to prepare it as a temple to God, to sanctify it. That is, we set it apart as a dwelling-place for God through the outpouring of God's love within us, in every member in us, in every one of our cells, so that we may become in our entirety God's inner parts.

An upbringing in chastity can only be, as a rule, by way of osmosis, example, imitation. Chaste behavior by adults, and thence the indwelling of God's love within them and the resting of God's spirit with them, is only transmitted to the young by spiritual seeking. The chastity within us involves a wisdom all of its own and this wisdom is what educates in chastity. In this way chaste adults bring up chaste children. This spreads on the level of the spirit. This is the language of the spirit. It is first of all a question of deep, existential osmosis. In love, one gives his spirit. Thus there was Pentecost. God transmitted His Spirit to us in His perfect love, so that we might extend Pentecost among ourselves, into our souls and our bodies. Caring for one another, bringing up one another, in chastity, for a love that is Pentecostal, or else it falls into the abyss of individual and collective selfishness. The Spirit of God is to be exchanged among ourselves! Christ is with us and among us-- He is and was and shall be! What I have I give to you and what I do not have is impossible for me to give you, no matter how much I talk about it. Scripture speaks of that which exists and does not take the place of that which exists. In the Spirit, each gives the other the spirit that is in him, like the lit candle with the extinguished candle, without diminishing. Otherwise, he has nothing to give apart from futility and non-existence, even if he is adorned with every flourish of knowledge, science and philosophy.

Archimandrite Touma (Bitar)
Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Silouan the Athonite-- Douma, Lebanon
Sunday, August 5, 2018

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos) on Corruption

Arabic original here.

Corruption

Today we hear a lot of people talk about corruption, competing in research and efforts to combat this corruption, while it nevertheless continues to be prevalent in society.

What is corruption? And how do we treat it?

In his discussion of ancestral sin, Saint Athanasius the Great says that this sin has corrupted human nature. We inherit such a nature from our birth. In this sense we say, "In sins did my mother beget me." Of course, we do not inherit Adam's sin, but rather its consequences, and we add to this our personal sins. All of this brings us to bodily death and our sin brings us to spiritual death.

The Lord Jesus gave Himself over to death, so that He might deliver us through His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.

He has sent us the grace of the Holy Spirit so that we may be saved, since baptism, from natural corruption and afterwards, by way of our death to our passions and lusts, we may be saved from spiritual death. So then there is a corruption that comes about due to our attachment to the lusts of this world: money, authority and wicked pleasure.

The Gospel points out such wicked lusts when it says, "You cannot serve two masters, God and money" (Matthew 6:24).

"Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant" (Matthew 20:26). "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own" (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Bodily purity, integrity in interactions involving money, renunciation of selfishness and dedication to serving others-- all of this is necessary in order to treat all sorts of corruption in society. Naturally, this requires struggle [literally, jihad] in practicing one's profession: in law, in medicine, in education especially, in commerce and in politics. In the language of the Church, we call this struggle "ascesis", renunciation of the love of money and the love of appearances.

Last but not least,  we will cite the prayer that we offer to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, to be freed from corruption:

"O Virgin, entreat your Lord and your Son, who by surrendering Himself to death saved our nature, dominated by corruption, from death and corruption... we constantly implore you to save us from the corruption of our passions... to raise us up from the corruption of sicknesses" (the Small Paraklesis).

+Ephrem
Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Carol Saba: Who will Prevent the Coming Schism in Orthodoxy?

Arabic original here.

The Ukrainian Crucible between Moscow and Constantinople:
Who will Prevent the Coming Schism in Orthodoxy?

The situation in global Orthodoxy is worrisome. Its catholic unity is threatened while it still has not yet healed from the repercussions of the 2016 "Council of Crete". The manner of preparing it and holding it with the presence of some rather than all of the Orthodox churches and its decisions has resulted in complications and a rift between the fourteen Orthodox patriarchates. It appears that in the Ukrainian crisis raging between the two poles of Orthodoxy, the Greek and the Russian, we are headed for the first application of "majority rule" in universal Orthodox ecclesiastical decisions, at the expense of a logic of unanimity, the standard that must prevail in order to prevent schism, especially with regard to decisions to grant autocephaly to a region within the universal Church.

On the surface, the crisis centers on the intention of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, at the request of Ukrainian political officials, to grant the church in Ukraine ecclesiastical independence and so make it an independent church like the fourteen autocephalous Orthodox patriarchates. Constantinople is acting individualistically in this dangerous endeavor, considering it her right as the "Mother church" of the Church of Kiev, as the process of evangelizing the Slavic countries was launched at her hands from Thessaloniki, from the womb of Byzantine Christianity, by the Byzantine monks Cyril and Methodius. Constantinople adds that it was she who baptized Vladimir the Great on July 28, 988 and through him all the Kievan Rus, an event that changed the entire geopolitical map of Christianity. She continues her case by saying that the metropolitan and metropolis of Kiev were dependent on her for a long period of time.

As for the Russians, they say that the metropolitan of Kiev's glow diminished with the rise of Muscovy, where he sought refuge after the Tatar invasions of the 13th century, placing himself under the protection of the rulers of Russia, first in Vladimir and then in Moscow. The Ukrainian church became increasingly dependent on Moscow when the latter received autocephaly from Constantinople in 1589 as a new patriarchate, and even more so with the rise of the power of the Cossacks in Ukraine, as they defended it from Tatar and Polish attacks. There followed a great deal of give-and-take between Constantinople and Moscow, until the Russians held a local council in 1685 to confirm Moscow's ecclesiastical authority in choosing and electing the new metropolitan of Kiev. Moscow says that Constantinople acquiesced in the end and granted a patriarchal tomos in May of 1686, confirming Moscow's ecclesiastical authority over Kiev and agreeing to the appointment of a metropolitan for it who had been elected in Moscow. Moscow also says that Constantinople's agreement is still in force after more than 330 years by the recognition of the Ecumenical Patriarchate which, despite all the schisms in Ukraine, still recognizes the autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Moscow.

Vacillation began with the fall of the Soviet Union and Ukraine's independence in 1991, when discussions of autocephaly began between Constantinople and some of the schismatic Orthodox in Ukraine. While Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew recognizes the exclusive representation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Patriarchate of Moscow, he has on more than one occasion indicated, criticizing the agreement of 1686, that political interventions made with the Sublime Porte and that the events of 1686 amount to an annexation of Ukraine.

It is evident to everyone today that the driving forces of this crisis are not only ecclesiastical, but also overlap with global political rivalries between Russia and the West. President Poroshenko of Ukraine is acting openly and encouraging the Ukrainian parliament and its Western allies to obtain ecclesiastical independence from Russia. The NATO-aligned West once more wants to encircle Russia and to prevent it from expanding to the west, while Russia wants to foil these schemes in preparation to dominate Eastern Europe and encircle Western Europe using influence and gas. Over the course of history, the geography of Ukraine has been a territory disputed between the East and the West and has been at the heart of Russia's geopolitics of defending the country's interior since the rise of tsarism. The Russians do not forget the words of Bismark, "If you want to defeat Russia, strike her in Ukraine." The fall of tsarist Russia in 1917 awakened a desire for ecclesiastical independence in order to get out from under the mantle of the Russian church that was inseparable from the defeated tsarist state. This desire reappeared after the fall of the Soviet Union and Ukraine's independence in 1991.

Today both Moscow and Constantinople fiercely defend their historical rights in Ukraine, displaying their historical ties and documents. Successive shuttle visits by the foreign ministers of the two patriarchates, the Russian Metropolitan Hilarion and the Constantinopolitan Metropolitan Emmanuel of France to the Orthodox churches in order to mobilize them are merely an indication of the severity of the situation and a prelude to the big confrontation. Deep down, however, Ukraine is only an expression of the general crisis of Orthodoxy. It is not a crisis of unity of faith or ecclesiological unity, but rather a crisis of ecclesiastical governance centered on the sin of love of primacy that strikes at integration between the churches in the interest of competition and opens the way for global geopolitical interventions in the Orthodox Church. It is also a crisis of modernity. The Orthodox Church, which was Eastern in character and geography, in the twentieth century became globalized in form without being globalized in substance and institutionalization. Her governance has remained traditional, without any arrangement for regular meetings between the patriarchs for consultation, integration and prevention of the competition that is pushing the Orthodox Church further and further toward fragmentation and schism instead of integration, collaboration and unity. The responsibility of the ecclesiastical leadership is great because it still acts in a traditional manner and does not rise to the level and dimensions of these dangers.

The question remains today, who will prevent the schism in Ukraine, of which the foreign minister of the Patriarchate of Moscow, Metropolitan Hilarion, spoke, comparing it, if it occurs, to the Great Schism of 1054?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Conference this November: The Reception of the Balamand Declaration (1993-2018)

For a full program and details, see here.

The reception of the Balamand declaration (1993-2018) and current relations between the Orthodox and Oriental churches and their Catholic sister churches

Leuven, November 26 - 28, 2018

Conference theme

25 years ago the international dialogue commission between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church agreed upon a short document entitled Uniatism, Method of Union of the Past, and the Present Search for Full Communion. The document was written in the hope to smoothen the tensions that had arisen between Orthodox/Oriental churches and their Catholic counterparts in different countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Its reception was quite diverse and also nowadays Orthodox churches such as the Russian Orthodox Church regularly insist that the “problem of uniatism” should be solved before any substantial progress can be made in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue. In this colloquium we will reread the Balamand declaration after 25 years and will investigate whether the theology of ‘sister churches’ it developed was sufficiently received in Orthodox and Roman Catholic ecclesiology. As far as the “problem of uniatism” is concerned we want to test the hypothesis that it makes more sense to study the reception of the Balamand declaration as well as the history of the relations between Orthodox and Oriental churches and their Catholic sister churches in specific geographical contexts rather than providing a general answer. We will pay specific attention to the contexts of Ukraine, Romania, the Balkans and the Middle East.