Monday, October 23, 2017

Fr Georges Massouh: Is the Ecumenical Movement "Heretical"?

Arabic original here.

Is the Ecumenical Movement "Heretical"?

John said, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us." So Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side" (Luke 9:49-51). This discussion comes in the context of the healing of a young boy from an "unclean spirit" that was living within him, after which came John's question and Jesus' reply in the the next two verses.

What is meant by the unclean spirit cannot be limited to illnesses alone. Rather, it means in particular the evil that man commits against his fellow man. The unclean spirit does not enter into a person by its own force. Rather, it is the person who cordially invites it to dwell within him and guide him along the path of evil. When something serious happens, this person rushes to curse the devil responsible for his evil deeds in order to excuse himself, while he is primarily and ultimately responsible for his evil deeds.

Today, in certain circles of the Orthodox Church, a takfiri language is prevalent, one that regards the ecumenical movement as a "Christian heresy." These extremist circles likewise think that those taking part in the activities of this ecumenist church are heretics. Their list of names includes Antiochian patriarchs, bishops and priests, given the fact that that the patriarch of Antioch and All the East, His Beatitude John X, is a leading participant in the World Council of Churches.

We need to start by saying, on a dogmatic level, that in its ecumenical discussions the Orthodox Church has not offered any dogmatic concession in order to please her partners in the Christian faith. One can only pronounce a judgment of heresy against something that touches upon the essence of the faith. That is, what was decided in the Creed and some of the rulings made by the ecumenical councils, such as the decision issued by the Seventh Ecumenical Council regarding the necessity of venerating icons... As for Christians praying together during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity-- that is, outside the mysteries-- this is in no way heresy. Did not Peter and Paul pray together despite their fierce disagreement, so that the Lord might inspire them to the path of peace, reconciliation and love...?

Christ did not ask those who want to cast out demons in His name whether they are His followers or not. He did not ask them to recite the Creed or what church they belonged to. He said one thing: "He who is not against us is on our side.' What is this love-killing pride that wants to monopolize work in the name of Jesus for itself, rejecting that someone else might do work in Jesus' name that it would like to perform? Jesus Himself prevented His disciples from monopolizing this for themselves, when they wanted to monopolize Christ for themselves alone and not for others. It seems like that they are greater than the disciples, God knows.

 Along with our partners in the World Council of Churches, we strive to regain visible unity. In order for this to happen, we must take significant steps, including that they are churches, not merely Christian communities, so that we can sit together and dialogue about what separates us. The Church cannot dialogue except with a church that she recognizes, which with she is together in many things and separated in other things. So why focus on the disagreements in order to confirm division and not recognize the things in common in order to make it possible to solve the disagreements? Moreover, no Orthodox has ever said that the Orthodox Church does not realize the perfect expression of what the Creed confesses, "and in one, holy Catholic and Apostolic Church."

What prevents us Orthodox from casting out demons with people of other the churches-- with the Catholic Church, the non-Chalcedonian churches, and some of the Protestants? The first demon that must be cast out is the demon of the schisms and quarrels that divide us, especially in the East. Are they not demonic, those who refuse to recognize the martyrdom of Copts in Egypt, the Syriacs and Chaldeans in Iraq, or of the martyrdom of Catholics in Syria?

A heretic is someone who does not confess the activity of the Holy Spirit in the world, in Christians and in non-Christians. Therefore let us dare to speak of the madness of those who accuse the ecumenical movement and those who work in it of heresy.

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