Feast of St. Josaphat: Time for Full Communion Between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches
All Nations need the witness of the Church in this age which has lost its moral compass. In the ancient words of an anonymous Christian to a pagan inquirer to the faith named Diognetus, "the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body." That the Nations of the this age have lost their soul is obvious. The only real question to be asked is whether Christians will rise to the invitation to resuscitate it with the unified witness of the "new world" of the Church.
Yes, I watch all of this with the eyes of living faith. Some say I see these developments with what they would call "Rose Colored glasses". If I do see through the color of rose, it is because the color symbolizes the hope which comes from faith in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. It is also because of my bedrock conviction concerning the Lord's plan for His One Church. (John 17:21)
On the Feast of Josaphat, I propose that this Saint of the Latin Church, rather than continuing to be a cause for our division, can come to inspire our efforts to hasten the inevitable and absolutely essential full communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches which awaits us in the Third millennium of Christianity. After all, that is what Josaphat gave his life for.
There is a growing recognition that there is more that joins theologically faithful Catholics and theologically faithful Orthodox than that which separates us. The cultural decline of our age certainly compels our collaboration in Christ. It is leading us to a growing mutual respect which can help to pave the way toward some form of restored communion.
This is an essential task which must be taken up by both Western and Eastern Christians without triumphalism of any kind. In the history of our division there is plenty of room for repentance all around. The real question is whether time will be become a tutor or remain a tyrant. Good theologians and truly holy Church leaders can hasten our full communion. It is time.
We welcomed the selection of Patriarch Kirill as the 16th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia in 2009. It was the first election of a Patriarch since the fall of the atheist Communist regime which governed the former Soviet Union for so many years. We, along with millions the world over, hoped it was a sign of the revitalization of the ancient faith in this critical time in history.
Patriarch Kirill sees the Orthodox and Catholic Churches as sister churches. That is a welcome sign of the work of the Holy Spirit. Pope Benedict XVI also sees us as sister churches. That is because we are sister churches - and it is time for an expression of that reality.
We published an insightful analysis written for Catholic Online shortly after the Patriarchs enthronement entitled Patriarch Kirill & Pope Benedict: A Tale of Two Leaders for a new Missionary Age The author, Orthodox priest Fr Johannes L. Jacobse, the editor of Orthodoxy Today and President of the American Orthodox Institute is one of a growing number of Orthodox clerics and scholars who are doing the work which must be done.
In that article he opined, "Patriarch Kirill is a theological conservative in the mold of Pope Benedict. Both see religion as the wellspring of culture. Both understand that Europe cannot escape a final capitulation to tyranny if it does not rediscover its Christian roots."
Upon Kirills's enthronement polls in Russia indicated that only 5 percent of Russians were observant in the practice of their Orthodox Christian faith. Less than 30 percent expressed their commitment to following the moral teaching of the Church.
The Patriarch calls for exposing this moral disintegration and remedying its effects on Russian culture through a resurgence of the faith. This urgent call for authentic renewal within the Church and his conviction concerning its call to influence culture is part of what he shares with his brother, Pope Benedict XVI.
Patriarch Kirill, and other Orthodox Church leaders and members, face opposition within the Orthodox Church for dialogue leading toward communion with the Catholic Church. So too, those within the Catholic Church who seek full communion face opposition and are often misunderstood. Fortunately, the effort is being led by Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Kirill show no sign of retreat in their efforts aimed at stemming the growing spread of the culture of death and the sordid fruit of moral relativism. Before he was elevated to the Patriarchate, Kirill was responsible for dialogue with the Holy See. Before he was elevated to the Chair of Peter, Benedict laid a theological ground in his rich ecclesiological and liturgical theological writings which can pave the way toward a form of restored communion.
Pope Benedict XVI sent an especially meaningful gift to the new Patriarch when he was enthroned, a chalice with which the Patriarch now consecrates the blood of Christ at the Divine Liturgy. He expressed his hope in these words, "It is my earnest hope that we will continue to cooperate in finding ways to foster and strengthen communion in the body of Christ in fidelity to our savior's prayer that all may be one so that the world may believe".
Patriarch Kirill has a genuine respect for the Catholic Church. He sees the Orthodox and Catholic Churches as sister churches. Pope Benedict XVI has a genuine respect for the Orthodox Church and shares this conviction. He sees the Orthodox and Catholic Churches as sister churches.This is a welcome sign of the work of the Holy Spirit.
Orthodox and Catholic Christians face the effects of moral relativism, secularism and the growing hostility toward Christianity which characterizes this age. What will hasten the return of Christian influence in Russia and in the United States? What will stem the tide of the Third Millennial descent into godless ideologies of every sort and turn the world toward Jesus Christ and His Church? Some form of full communion between Eastern and Western Christianity!
The two lungs of Christ's Church must breathe together again in the Third millennium as they did in the First Millennium. That breath is the breath of the Holy Spirit. That breath will fuel a new missionary age of the Church.
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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: Patriarch Kirill, Pope Benedict XVI, St. Josaphat, Orhtodox, Catholic, ecumenism, unity, full communion, Fr Johannes L. Jacobse, church unity, American Orthodox Institute, Orthodoxy Today, Byzantine, Eastern catholic, Antiochian orthodox, Orthodox, Russian
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