Orthodox leader ‘resists opposition’ with call for church unity

 — Feb. 19, 201019 févr. 2010

The Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomeos I, a key leader for the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, has written a Lenten encyclical that stresses the need for greater unity for churches, and counters accusations from some of his bishops that ecumenism is heresy.

At the same time, a letter from the head of the U.S. National Council of Churches to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shows that Bartholomeos also faces pressure in Turkey. His See is in Istanbul, the capital of Turkey, and his official title is “Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch.”

Quoting from the 17 February letter of the church grouping’s general secretary, Michael Kinnamon, to Clinton, a press statement on the council’s Web site says, “The government of Turkey may wish to minimise the significance of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul but the National Council of Churches asserts that U.S. Christians regard Patriarch Bartholomeos ‘as a world leader whose spiritual and moral authority has influenced us all.”

The press statement says that Kinnamon urged Clinton to use the moral authority of the United States to assure the safety of the Patriarch, who is, “isolated and often threatened with violence” in Turkey.

In his Lenten letter that will be read in Orthodox churches worldwide on 21 February, Bartholomeos says, “Orthodoxy must be in constant dialogue with the world. The Orthodox Church does not fear dialogue because truth is not afraid of dialogue.”

The encyclical will be read on the day known as the Feast of Orthodoxy. In it Bartholmeos notes, “If Orthodoxy is enclosed within itself and not in dialogue with those outside, it will both fail in its mission and no longer be the ‘catholic’ and ‘ecumenical’ Church. Instead, it will become an introverted and self-contained group, a ‘ghetto” on the margins of history.”

A senior Orthodox official told Ecumenical News International that the Patriarch’s letter is significant because it unequivocally states a commitment to the ecumenical movement, and does so in the face of many pressures from church circles bitterly opposed to global church unity.

During 2009, a group of Orthodox clergy in Greece, led by three senior archbishops, published a manifesto pledging to resist all ecumenical ties with Roman Catholics and Protestants. The group said, “The only way our communion with heretics can be restored is if they renounce their fallacy and repent.”

The senior clergy behind the manifesto, who fall under the jurisdiction of the Constantinople partriachate, said in their document that they wished to preserve, “irremovably and without alteration” the Orthodox faith that the Early Church had “demarcated and entrenched,” and to shun communication, “with those who innovate on matters of the faith.”

By contrast, in his Lenten letter, Bartholomeos says, “Today, Orthodoxy is called to continue this dialogue with the outside world in order to provide a witness and the life-giving breath of its faith.”

He continues, “However, this dialogue cannot reach the outside world unless it first passes through all those that bear the Christian name. Thus, we must first converse as Christians among ourselves in order to resolve our differences, in order that our witness to the outside world may be credible.”

Many Orthodox churches belong to the World Council of Churches, a grouping of some 560 million Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant Christians. The general secretary of the WCC, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, said in a statement on 19 February that he was, “very grateful to the Ecumenical Patriarch for his strong commitment to dialogue and the unity of the Church.”

Tveit added, “This encyclical reminds me of another famous text: the 1920 encyclical letter in which the [then] Ecumenical Patriarch proposed the foundation of a fellowship of churches, providing a major impulse for the formation of the WCC.”

The letter of the U.S. church council leader tells Secretary of State Clinton, “The Ecumenical Patriarch now experiences threats to his safety that require police protection and barbed-wire barriers.” It also describes the situation other Christians in Turkey face, “His All Holiness himself has told a recent 60 Minutes interviewer that Greek Christians in Turkey are treated as second class citizens with diminished rights and freedom of expression.”

“We are grieved that his [Bartholomeos’] safety and freedom are constantly threatened,” Kinnamon told Clinton. Writing on behalf of the 36 member communions of the National Council of Churches, he added, “Despite the many traditions and histories that our member churches bring to our council, we are emphatically agreed that a threat to the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a threat to Christians everywhere.”

Full text of Bartholomeos’ letter

NCC letter to Clinton

Posted: Feb. 19, 2010 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=625
Categories: ENIIn this article: Bartholomew I, Christian unity, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, encyclicals, Orthodox, patriarch, Phanar
Transmis : 19 févr. 2010 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=625
Catégorie : ENIDans cet article : Bartholomew I, Christian unity, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, encyclicals, Orthodox, patriarch, Phanar

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