Peter Anderson reports from the Orthodox world.
Longstanding reporter of the news from the Eastern Church, Peter Anderson shares our dream of a unified Christianity. His love for Orthodoxy has driven him to this personal mission to share the news of East with the world through his email list. The Urbi et Orbi Foundation is proud to share his efforts and his insights with you.
During this last week, there were three important inter-religious events in Rome with significant Orthodox participation in all of them. On Monday, October 4, there was the meeting Faith and Science: Towards COP26. This meeting was described in my last report. On Tuesday, October 5, there was the meeting of 19 representatives of the world’s religions in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on the subject Religions and Education: Towards a Global Compact on Education. On the next two days, there was the program, organized by the Sant’Egidio Community on the subject Religions and Cultures in Dialogue: Peoples as Brothers, Future Earth. The latter program culminated on October 7 with a prayer for peace at the Colosseum. Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had important roles in all three meetings. Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) has significant parts in the first two meetings. Metropolitan Antony of Korsun and Western Europe represented the Moscow Patriarchate at the third event. Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury spoke at the first and third events, and Patriarch Catholicos Karekine II (primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church) spoke at the third event. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the German Federal Republic, was one of two major speakers at the closing ceremony at the Colosseum on October 7.
The second meeting on education is described at https://www.asianews.it/news-en/Pope:-an-‘educational-alliance’-for-a-fraternal-world-against-violence-and-discrimination-54213.html and https://mospat.ru/en/news/88201/ with a short video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aI5YaGMgIjs. The full program for the third event can be read at https://preghieraperlapace.santegidio.org/downloads/programma-popoli-fratelli-terra-futura.pdf. A video of all of the program at the Colosseum can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZenjFYhdQWs&t=6s. In the prayer for peace, Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and Patriarch Catholicos Karekine were on the platform and participated in the service. Metropolitan Antony was in the first row of the audience. (See 5:26 in the video) Last year, Orthodox conservatives had criticized the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate for actively participating in the prayer for peace program sponsored by the Sant’Egidio Community.
As in the first meeting, Metropolitan Hilarion in the second meeting was seated very close to the Ecumenical Patriarch with only one person seated between them. These two meetings were the first time that the two men were in the presence of each other since the establishment of the OCU in Ukraine. Perhaps to allay suspicions relating to their proximity to each other, Metropolitan gave an interview to the state news agency RIA-Novosti concerning this. https://ria.ru/20211004/ilarion-1753010570.html Included in the Metropolitan’s remarks was the following:
According to the decision of our Holy Synod, we do not participate in any events in which the representative of Constantinople presides or co-chairs. However, in this case, there was no such chairmanship or co-chairmanship. Thirty-four religious leaders took part in the meeting, of which only two represented Orthodox churches – Patriarch Bartholomew and myself. If it were not for me, he would have been the only representative of world Orthodoxy. Let me remind you that at the last meeting of the Synod we announced that he cannot represent world Orthodoxy, since he has lost the trust of millions of believers. He can only represent his own church and those churches that want him to represent them. Our church is not one of them….I did not plan to negotiate with him [Patriarch Bartholomew]. When we were seated, he said “good morning” to me in Russian, and I replied “good morning” in English. This ended our communication.
This raises an interesting point. As far as I am aware, Metropolitan Hilarion has made only four public trips outside of Russia since the first of the year. One was a very short visit to Jordan in August. The three other trips perhaps reflect a Moscow strategy of not allowing the Ecumenical Patriarch or Patriarchate to be the only prominent Orthodox representative at certain international events. The Metropolitan’s first trip was to Washington D.C. in July to speak at the International Summit on Religious Freedom. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate) was very much involved in this program, and Archbishop Elpidophoros was one of the speakers. The second visit was to Budapest in September to speak at the Catholic Eucharistic Congress. The Ecumenical Patriarch was a major guest at that Congress. In neither the Summit nor the Congress was Metropolitan Hilarion listed in the posted advanced program as a speaker, so his appearance may have been arranged shortly before these events. The third visit was to Rome to participate in the events just described. It will be interesting to see whether this participation by the Moscow Patriarchate in international events, where the Ecumenical Patriarchate has a significant presence (but not a chairmanship role), will be a pattern that will be repeated in the future.
On October 4, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew met privately with Pope Francis. https://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2021/2021-10-05-pope-francis-and-bartholomew.html; https://orthodoxtimes.com/meeting-of-the-ecumenical-patriarch-with-pope-francis-at-the-vatican/ Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon was also present. On the morning of Thursday, October 7, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope were at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome to inaugurate a new cycle of studies on ecology and the environment. A new “Chair on Futures of Education for Sustainability,” in honor of the Pope and the Patriarch, was also established. https://www.asianews.it/news-en/Pope%3A-ecological-conversion-education-to-counter-%26lsquo%3Bwicked-actions%26rsquo%3B-against-the-earth-54230.html The text of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s address can be read at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fxB8CNA_rkzWyLE8bB-xHwE0QqMv6-UM/view (English). A video of the event can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XX8Mc_UhACY (52 minutes). Pope Francis in his address on Thursday afternoon at the Colosseum stated: My dear brother, Patriarch Bartholomew, present here, has helped us to realize that “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God.” https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2021/10/07/0645/01378.html#en
On October 6, Metropolitan Hilarion had a private meeting with Pope Francis. https://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/it/news/2021/2021-10-06-papa-francesco-incontra-hilarion-.html; https://mospat.ru/ru/news/88204/ As a gift, Metropolitan Hilarion gave to Pope Francis a Russian translation of the Pope’s book Prayer, the Breath of New Life with a preface by Patriarch Kirill. In an interview, the Metropolitan stated: I think it is important for Russian readers to know that Pope Francis is not only a leader of the Church, he is not only involved in leading the Roman Catholic Church, but that he is also a man of prayer. The experience of prayer is something that unites all Christians. And the lessons he gives to his flock will be of value to Russian readers, especially, of course, to Russian-speaking Catholics. But I also believe that some Orthodox readers can profit from his lessons. https://www.vaticannews.va/it/vaticano/news/2021-10/hilarion-cristiani-spirito-fraternita-comunione-amicizia.html
Metropolitan Hilarion also had individual meetings with Cardinal Parolin (Secretary of State), Cardinal Koch (Promotion of Christian Unity), Cardinal Tagle (Evangelization of Peoples), and others. https://mospat.ru/ru/news/88217/ On the evening of October 5, Metropolitan Hilarion participated in the presentation of the Italian translation of Soloviev’s book Three Speeches on Dostoevsky. https://mospat.ru/ru/news/88206/ Metropolitan Hilarion had written the preface to the Italian translation.
Metropolitan Hilarion also gave a major interview to Italy’s most read newspaper Corriere della Sera. The printed Italian version of the interview is found at https://www.corriere.it/esteri/vaticano-news/21_ottobre_07/non-mosca-ma-ci-sara-altro-incontro-il-papa-patriarca-06111dae-273a-11ec-8e22-571cfe84393b.shtml. The longer Russian version can be read at https://new.mospat.ru/ru/news/88182/ . The interview gives the most optimistic assessment to date for a second Francis – Kirill meeting. The Metropolitan made clear that a papal visit to Russia is not currently possible. However, that does not preclude a meeting elsewhere. With respect to such a meeting, Metropolitan Hilarion stated: I think the meeting will take place. He also stated: The Havana meeting was announced about a week before it took place. I think that the next meeting, when we prepare it, will be announced in about a week. It is unlikely that we will announce it in a month or a few months. The Metropolitan also observed: New challenges are emerging that will require new meetings and new joint statements. In preparing for a second meeting, the negotiating of a new joint statement will undoubtedly be the most difficult aspect. To justify a second meeting to the many Orthodox conservatives in Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church may need to obtain something new and positive for the Church in the second meeting. A second meeting may also put Patriarch Kirill in the international spotlight. For the last year and one-half, the Patriarch has largely been in self-isolation with no international trips. In contrast, the Ecumenical Patriarch has been travelling widely, appearing at major events, and receiving various honors.
With respect to the self-isolation of Patriarch Kirill, the Patriarch did not attend the very important feast at the Holy Trinity – St. Sergius Lavra on October 8 to commemorate the death of St. Sergius. It is traditional for the Patriarch to be there. Instead, the Patriarch celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Alexander Nevsky Skete (the public is not allowed to be present at or near the Skete) near his rural residence in Peredelkino. In a video of his homily at the Liturgy, the Patriarch stated that “in view of the epidemic, at the categorical demand [по категорическому требованию] of doctors, it was proposed this year to refrain from visiting the Reverends.” He also asked “all of you to pray for me that the Lord would strengthen my physical and spiritual strength….” https://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5850774.html The great lengths that the Patriarch has gone to isolate himself during the past year does puzzle me. Other church leaders have been cautious, but not to this extent. Patriarch Kirill was vaccinated last March. When the Patriarch has made public appearances, such as in Kazan, Volgograd, and St. Petersburg, he has seemed to be very healthy.
This last week the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox–Catholic Working Group met in Rome at the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum). The Working Group consists of 13 Orthodox theologians and 13 Catholic theologians from 16 different countries. Pope Francis met with the Group on October 7. The text of the address of Pope Francis to the Group can be read at https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2021/october/documents/20211007-gruppo-ortodossocattolico-santireneo.html Pope Francis revealed that he will soon make St. Irenaeus a “Doctor of the Church.” The meeting of the Working Group began with a three-hour program of reflections on the Group’s document Serving Communion. Re-thinking the Relationship between Primacy and Synodality. The complete program, which was in English, can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bAhDhIbbvQ . A list of the names of the current members of the Working Group can be seen on the screen at 16:25 of the video. The Group meets annually (except last year because of the pandemic), and perhaps because of its smaller size and greater flexibility, has been more productive in recent years than the official Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
The OCU-MP has announced that a conference on sobornost and primacy will be held at its Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary on November 11, 2021. https://news.church.ua/2021/10/05/v-upc-bude-provedena-mizhnarodna-naukovo-praktichna-konferenciya-prisvyachena-bogoslovsko-kanonichnomu-osmislennyu-principu-sobornosti-cerkvi-ta-pitannya-pershosti-sered-pomisnix-pravoslavnix-cerkov/ Presumably, this will be similar to the conference held in Moscow, September 16-17. I suspect that the primary purpose of the conference is to gather scholarly papers to support Moscow’s position that there is only a primary of honor at the universal level and that the only primate of the universal church is Christ himself.
The Orthodox Church in America has announced that its Holy Synod “confirms the decision of His Beatitude [Metropolitan Tikhon] to accept the invitation from the Moscow Patriarchate to travel with a delegation in November to Moscow, in order to celebrate the seventy-fifth birthday jubilee of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill.” https://www.oca.org/news/headline-news/communique-of-the-holy-synod-of-bishops-of-the-orthodox-church-in-america Patriarch Kirill’s 75th birthday is on November 20. Presumably, invitations to the birthday celebrations were also extended to all Local Orthodox Churches with which Moscow currently has communion. The birthday celebrations may well coincide with the Moscow Patriarchate’s Bishops’ Council which is scheduled for “mid-November.” It is likely that the Council will make some resolution condemning the actions and positions taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, especially in Ukraine. One wonders whether the presence of delegations from other Local Orthodox Churches gathered to celebrate with Patriarch Kirill will be used by some as a sign of implied support by those Churches for the probably harsh condemnation by the Council against Constantinople. It seems to me to be a sensitive situation.
Lastly, although Pope Francis had earlier expressed the hope of attending the U.N. Climate Change Summit in Glasgow in November, it is now clear that he will not. https://www.ncregister.com/cna/vatican-indicates-pope-francis-will-not-attend-un-climate-summit-in-glasgow In addition, it appears that his Malta trip will be postponed to next year. https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/popes-visit-to-malta-put-off-to-next-year.906085 There is no further word about Pope Francis going to Crete and Greece this year. The fact that Pope Francis will go to neither Glasgow nor Malta raises the definite possibility that his hoped-for trips to Cyprus and Greece will not occur this year, but will be postponed to next year.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA