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.
On July 9 the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, head by Patriarch John X, posted an important statement on its website. https://www.antiochpatriarchate.org/en/page/patriarch-john-x-contacts-the-muslim-religious-leaders-in-lebanon/2475/ The statement provided as follows:
Following the visit to the Vatican, His Beatitude Patriarch John X contacted the Muslim Religious Leaders in Lebanon: the Grand Mufti of the Republic, Sheikh Abdul Latif Darian, Sheikh Ali al-Khatib, First Deputy-head of the Supreme Shia Council, and Sheikh Akl of the Druze Naim Hassan. His Beatitude conveyed the love of His Holiness, Pope Francis to the Muftis and put them in the ambience of the meeting of prayer and meditation for Lebanon, which was held in the Vatican on the first of July.
The Muftis, in turn, thanked HB the Patriarch, for His love and constant initiatives to strengthen the relations and the coexistence among all citizens of the Lebanese society. Likewise, they hoped that all efforts exerted for the well-being of Lebanon and its people of all sects would be fruitful.
On July 7, Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Raï, head of the Catholic Maronite Church, met with Lebanon President Michel Aoun, a Maronite. https://ilsismografo.blogspot.com/2021/07/libano-aoun-meets-patriarch-rahi.html The Cardinal subsequently issued the following statement.
You know that this visit is to put His Excellency the President, in the atmosphere of what had happened in Rome, knowing that he followed-up on this issue.
However, it is my duty to brief His Excellency more about the atmosphere which we were in. It was also important to tell His Excellency that the address of His Holiness the Pope, is a road map for us. And since we are heads of churches, we have to start our work within our ecclesiastical framework in order to implement this map which His Holiness put up in his address.
We, as heads of churches, must work in the line which concerns us. This was all my conversation with His Excellency the President, since in the end we all have to bear the responsibilities of our society and country, each from his position, His Excellency the President and I as the Patriarch and others as well. Lebanon is based on all of us, and we do not mean one group without the other.
Both Patriarchs were referring to the day of reflections and prayer for Lebanon called by Pope Francis and held at the Vatican on July 1. Of the total population of Lebanon, approximately 25% are Maronite Catholic, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Melkite Catholic, 2% Armenian Apostolic, and a lesser percentage for Syriac Orthodox. The heads of all of these churches plus some other Christian churches were present for this meeting. https://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2021/2021-07-01-giornata-di-preghiera-per-il-libano.html (includes photos and video links) At the meeting, there were approximately four hours of private discussions, divided into three sessions, which were held at a round table in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace. During an ecumenical service held in St. Peter’s Basilica at the end of the day, Pope Francis gave an address which focused on the present grave crisis in Lebanon. The following is the text of his address, which probably also summarizes the consensus reached during the meeting: https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2021/07/01/0430/00952.html A number of important points were made in the address including the following:
We believe that God has shown us but one way: the way of peace. Let us therefore assure our Muslim brothers and sisters, and those of other religions, of our openness and readiness to work together in building fraternity and promoting peace. For “peace does not call for winners or losers, but rather for brothers and sisters who, despite the misunderstandings and hurts of the past, are journeying from conflict to unity” …. It is my hope that this day will be followed by concrete initiatives under the aegis of dialogue, of efforts to educate, and of solidarity.
For me, the suggestions made do not related to a specific political action plan, but rather to create an “ambience” (in the words of Patriarch John) or an “atmosphere” (in the words of Patriarch Raï) which would allow a political solution to be reached. At a webinar held on July 8, Raï stated that ““we will be working on organizing a summit with Muslim religious leaders.” https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-middle-east/2021/07/lebanons-delicate-religious-balance-at-risk-amid-ongoing-crisis/ (this article also describes the current political and financial crisis in Lebanon) Perhaps, the contacts made by Patriarch John are the first steps toward this goal. If the same ambience and atmosphere prevailing at the July 1 meeting could also be created at the Christian-Muslim summit, a constructive political climate may be established for the national as a whole.
The visit of Patriarch John to the Vatican was also noteworthy because of its length – six days. The Patriarch stayed at the Pope’s residence, Casa Santa Marta. On June 28, he had lunch with the Pope. https://www.antiochpatriarchate.org/en/page/patriarch-john-x-in-the-vatican/2474/ On June 29, the Patriarch attended the papal Mass for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. His attendance had be carefully planned as the Mass also involved the traditional attendance of the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, this year headed by Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon. Not to overshadow the latter event, Patriarch John and his small delegation were a considerable distance away from the Constantinople delegation, and Vatican News did not mention their presence. The presence of the Patriarch went largely undetected by the media, due in part to his mask. However, after the Mass, the Pope accompanied by the Patriarch and the Elder Metropolitan together visited the tomb of St. Peter and the statute of St. Peter. This can be seen beginning at 1:39:00 in the video of the Mass. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgE5LYKQ9QA On June 30, there was the formal meeting between the Pope and Patriarch John, with the media now fully aware of the Patriarch’s presence. https://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2021/2021-07-01-incontro-papa-francesco-afrem.html As you will note from the photos of the meeting, Pope Francis kissed the panagia of the Patriarch, a gesture that he has done before with high-ranking Orthodox hierarchs. On July 1, there was the day of reflections and prayer for Lebanon. Patriarch John concluded his stay at the Vatican by meeting with Cardinal Sandri (Eastern Churches) and Cardinal Koch (Christian Unity) on July 2 (https://orthodoxtimes.com/patriarch-of-antioch-met-with-cardinal-sandri-and-cardinal-koch/ and with Cardinal Parolin (Secretary of State) on July 3 (https://www.sana.sy/en/?p=240256).
In Ukraine, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology has released the results of an opinion poll conducted June 25-28 relating to the major churches in Ukraine. https://kiis.com.ua/?lang=ukr&cat=reports&id=1052&page=1 In certain respects the results are familiar. The OCU almost always seems to do much better in the opinion polls than the UOC-MP. On the other hand, the UOC-MP has far more parishes, bishops, priests, and monastics than the OCU. One aspect of the poll is new – the attitude of the respondents toward the planned visit of Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew to Ukraine scheduled for August 2021. Overall, 57% view the visit positively, 32.5% are neutral, and 6% are negative. Surprisingly, with respect to respondents who support the UOC-MP, 49% view the visit positively, 34% are neutral, and 15% negative. Father Nikolai Danilevich, deputy head of the DECR (UOC-MP), has posted a rebuttal to the survey. https://spzh.news/en/news/81095-v-upc-schitajut-chto-zakaznuju-sociologiju-pcu-delajut-pod-vizit-glavy-fanara (English) With respect to the question relating to Bartholomew’s visit, he describes the poll as “custom-made sociology” involving only 1,300 respondents. With respect to the questions relating to the popular support for the UOC-MP or OCU, Father Nikolai states that the real measure of support is the number participating in each church’s religious processions. Personally, I believe that this measure of support also has its problems. The numbers participating in religious processions can be greatly influenced by the willingness of each church to spend large amounts of money to transport to Kyiv large numbers of believers from all parts of Ukraine. The prime example would be the very large number of UOC-MP believers in the procession of the cross in Kyiv on July 27, 2019. During this celebration, Vadim Novinsky was almost continually at the side of Metropolitan Onufry. It appears that almost all of the dioceses had delegations and that free transportation was provided according to certain participants interviewed. Thus, one can argue that the strong showing of the UOC-MP may have been due in part to possible financial support by Novinsky, one of the wealthiest persons in Ukraine, in paying for transportation. On the other hand, the OCU may not have been willing or able to spend large amounts of money to transport people to Kyiv. In my opinion there is no easy or perfect index, such as polls or processions, for measuring church support in Ukraine.
In Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has written on article on the inadmissibility of substituting situational rules for international law. https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/4877702 The article includes the following observation:
The concept of “rules” is also manifested in an attack not only on international law, but also on human nature itself. In schools in a number of Western countries, children are convinced as part of their curriculum that Jesus Christ was bisexual. Attempts by sane politicians to protect children from aggressive LGBT propaganda run up against militant protests in “enlightened Europe.” There is an attack on the foundations of all world religions, on the genetic code of the key civilizations of the planet. The United States took the lead in open government intervention in the affairs of the church, openly seeking to split world Orthodoxy, whose values are seen as a powerful spiritual obstacle to the liberal concept of unlimited permissiveness.
In other news, an recent article states that Romanians constitute the largest group of Orthodox in Western Europe. https://basilica.ro/en/most-of-the-orthodox-in-the-west-are-romanian-romania-ranks-3rd-in-the-world-in-terms-of-orthodox-population/ North Macedonia President Stevo Pendarovski has acknowledged that it is necessary to consult with Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia in connection with the possible autocephaly of the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church. Pendarovski had previously met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on June 19. https://www.novosti.rs/c/planeta/region/1011068/potezu-spc-pendarovski-konsultovati-patrijarha-porfirija-autokefalnosti-mpc Patriarch Porfirije has informed Catholic Archbishop Stanislav Hočevar of Belgrade that regular inter-church meetings and talks on all current issues are very important. https://www.spc.rs/sr/patrijarh_srpski_primio_nadbiskupa_beogradskog_2 The letter from the Ecumenical Patriarch to Pope Francis on the occasion of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul discloses that the next meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches has been scheduled for May 2022 to discuss the document, “Primacy and synodality in the second millennium and today.” https://panorthodoxsynod.blogspot.com/2021/07/blog-post_4.html#more Jonathan Luxmoore has written an interesting article on the visit of Minsk police to Catholic Bishop Yury Kasabutski regarding the singing of the hymn “Mighty God” in the Catholic cathedral on July 3. https://catholicphilly.com/2021/07/news/world-news/belarusian-president-warns-against-singing-of-decades-old-hymn/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA