Entries with tag jerusalem .

Reflections from Yad Vashem: Israel’s Official Holocaust Memorial

The United Nations is remembering the Holocaust this week through a series of programs and activities related to the theme of “educating for a better future.”

 

Coincidentally, I was in Israel just three weeks ago and found myself at Yad Vashem, the country’s official memorial to the victims of that catastrophe. One of its primary aims is education.

 

For those wondering, the name “Yad Vashem” in Biblical Hebrew comes from the book of Isaiah:

 

Even to them I will give in My house

And within My walls a place and a name

Better than that of sons and daughters;

I will give them an everlasting name

That shall not be cut off. (Isaiah 56:5)

 

The name “Yad Vashem” conveys the memorial’s purpose as a place where the names of the Holocaust’s Jewish victims can be enshrined forever, even those who have no one to carry their names after death.

 

I admit, it came as somewhat of a personal surprise that this visit to Yad Vashem was one of the most moving moments of my life, as the complex’s museum and various monuments present an exceptionally robust and sensitive encapsulation of the Holocaust’s pain, endurance and hope all in one place—on the western slope of Mount Herzl on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

 

Yad Vashem is an emotionally weighty site for Jews for obvious reasons; for non-Jews, it is not only an abiding reminder of our shared humanity, but of how a festering prejudice can beguile the public firmament and bring about the worst and most destructive tendencies in all of us.

 

The museum—easily one of the best I have ever visited—begins with a snapshot of the many early 20th century Jewish communities in Europe before pivoting to Adolf Hitler’s rise and the genesis of German anti-Semitism.

 

The museum was careful to illustrate that despite Hitler’s and his ministers’ fanaticism, the bulk of the Holocaust’s many atrocities were committed by very regular people who were deceived and poisoned by decades of propagated fear.

 

Of course, an event like the Holocaust attracts the most sadistic and antisocial individuals in a society; but it’s the horrible crimes otherwise good people committed against fellow human beings—many of them their own neighbors—that should strike a nerve in all of us.

 

The act of murder being so unnatural, young German soldiers often had to get drunk before they could make themselves shoot an innocent Jewish man, woman or child for the first time. But many of them later recounted that it got easier the more times they did it, and that it eventually became easy.

 

In fact, it is important to note that no German soldier was ever punished for refusing to kill a Jew—contrary to popular belief, those duties were entirely optional.

 

This prompted our tour guide to ask: When the humiliation, torture and murder of innocent people becomes easy, who really loses their humanity? The victims or the perpetrators?

 

If those German soldiers occupy one end of Yad Vashem’s portrait of humanity, the opposite can be found in its Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Along with thousands of trees, the garden contains walls inscribed with the 26,120 individuals who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis.

 

The title “Righteous Among the Nations” is, in fact, the highest honor bestowed by the State of Israel to non-Jews, and entitles the recipient to a medal and a certificate, along with Israeli citizenship with a pension and free healthcare for life should he or she choose to resettle.

 

The distinction is given without regard to the social status of the person—queens and princesses to the most humble individuals have all been recognized. People who fit somewhere in the middle, like the famous Oskar and Emilie Schindler, have their names engraved on the walls as well.

 

Yad Vashem works tirelessly to ensure that visitors remain in the present. Its museum, for example, does not formally end; enormous glass doors lead out of the building to the edge of the mountain and a stunning view of the hills surrounding Jerusalem—meant to symbolize that the history and the memory of the Holocaust itself do not actually end.

 

In a literal sense, they do not end because victims continue to be identified and Righteous continue to be honored. In a symbolic sense, they cannot end because the risk of a similar catastrophe always remains.

 

Hitler, our guide reminded us, did not take power in a violent revolution. He was peacefully elected by a willing public.

 

As the U.N. commemorates the Holocaust this week, we know that its painful memory does not belong only to Jews. It belongs to all of us—to every human being who has a voice in this world.

 

The memory of those 6 million victims charges each and every one of us to recall and revoke the depravity of their untimely and violent deaths, and insists with fervent conviction that such a catastrophe must never happen again. The normalization and institutionalization of bigotry must never happen again.

 

We must educate, like Yad Vashem and like the U.N. this week do, both ourselves and those we know.

 

And then we must ask ourselves: Are we the deceived, or are we the righteous?

 

Andrew Romanov is a Fellow at the U.N. for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org).


The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC). It has been actively working at the United Nations for 30 years.

Apostolic Pilgrimage: Day Three

One thing that you realize fairly quickly on your first day in the Holy Land, especially in the Old City of Jerusalem, is that you are always walking on ground connected in some way to the Holy Scriptures. Moreover, you come to understand that this hallowed ground is revered by a multitude of faith traditions. It is, therefore, almost impossible to find a house of worship that holds significant value to only one religious community. On a daily basis there are a number of Christians including, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, and Syriac, who will pray at these sites.

As an Orthodox priest serving in the United States of America, where Christian denominations tend to shy away from worshiping together in the same space, I was completely baffled when I entered Jerusalem’s Holy Church of the Resurrection. And this is precisely because this blessed sanctuary is not used by just one Christian communion. Rather, six different Christian groups formally use the church on a daily basis and conduct services therein.

For those not to sure of the significance of the Church of the Resurrection, suffice it to say that it bears within its walls the most sacred Christian sites of the world, including Golgotha, the tomb of Adam, the rock of the Apokathelosis, and of course, the jewel of Orthodoxy, the Holy Sepulcher. The empty tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ is the place where the world first learns that Jesus is Risen from the dead; it is because the tomb is empty that we know that the Savior has conquered death, granting life to those in the tombs! Hundreds, if not thousands, of pilgrims come to venerate the Holy Sepulcher on a daily basis.

So, when Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leaders of the world’s largest Christian bodies, were scheduled to meet each other at the Holy Sepulcher to commemorate the meeting between their predecessors Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras that occurred fifty years ago, I wondered what this would look and feel like.

There are already countless images and articles posted on the Internet that provide some insight on different aspects of the meeting. Some draw our attention to the Primates’ physical gestures toward each other; others focus on the ecumenical prayer service; some analyze the prepared messages that were delivered; while still others discuss the impact that the meeting will have on the relationship between the two churches and on the peace process in the Middle East.

I don’t want to focus on any of that. Instead, I want to briefly share the overwhelming joy that I experienced that evening. As the Ecumenical Officer of the Archdiocese I have the opportunity to attend ecumenical prayer services and meetings regularly. For the most part, these meetings are well intended and represent a sincere effort for Christian communions to grow closer to one another, usually through a humanitarian efforts. For me, however, these meetings often feel mundane, perhaps even scripted.

The meeting between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, however, was anything but average or staged. The entire church was buzzing as the faithful waited for the two men to arrive. As they greeted each other and proceeded to enter the church, we released our energy in applause! I was speechless as I saw these two giants get on their knees and venerate the place of the crucifixion, the apokathelosis, and the tomb of the Resurrection. The love and respect for God and for neighbor that the Pope and the Patriarch revealed that evening left me searching for words.

There are some who believe that when we engage in the ecumenical dialogue the Holy Spirit abandons us. According to them, conversing with “the other” means that we have admitted there is something lacking in us. I don’t subscribe to this thinking. Indeed, I would say that only when we stand with and love “the other” can we ever completely realize our own identities.

In the past I would point to church canons, history, and theology when defending the ecumenical dialogue. I realize now that this is not necessary. I believe that the dialogue of truth and love between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches is an authentic and sincere dialogue because of what I have witnessed during this Apostolic Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On the evening of May 24, 2014, the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father, was present in the hearts of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Through the prayers of our holy fathers, the pope and the ecumenical patriarch, Catholics and Orthodox Christians have received the joy, hope, and courage of the Holy Spirit to continue the inspirational work of the dialogues of truth and love. 

Read Apostolic Pilgrimage: Day One & Apostolic Pilgrimage: Day Two

Apostolic Pilgrimage: Day One

Much has already been said about the impact that the Apostolic Pilgrimage, the meeting between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will have on the dialogue between Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Without a doubt, all people of good will are hopeful that this meeting between the Pope of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople will enhance the relationship between the two Churches, but more importantly, inspire Catholics and Orthodox Christians to search for greater opportunities to express the humility, forgiveness, and love of Jesus Christ.

Rather than contributing another theological piece to Faith Matters, I thought it would be appropriate to share my personal journal and reflect on the Apostolic Pilgrimage, offering a pilgrim’s perspective. In so doing it is my hope to offer readers another point of contact to the events that have already begun to shape the world and the course of Christian history.

Like many Christians, Jews and Muslims, visiting Jerusalem has been one of my dreams. As a young boy I recall family members sharing their experiences after returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and as student of theology, preparing for the priesthood, I would often read about Jerusalem and its numerous holy sites. I therefore considered it a great blessing when I joined one of the teams preparing the Apostolic Pilgrimage. Of course, I knew the significant impact that such a meeting would have on the world stage, however, from a personal perspective, I was overwhelmed with joy because I finally had the chance to visit the Holy Land!

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, along with the official delegation from the Church of Constantinople, arrived in Israel on May 23, 2014. Following Church protocol and tradition, the Ecumenical Patriarch began his journey—his fourth pilgrimage to Jerusalem as the Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome—with a Doxology in the Church of the Resurrection. His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem formally received His All-Holiness at the Church of the Resurrection, and along with hierarchs and priests of both the Church of Constantinople and the Church of Jerusalem, and countless local Orthodox Christian faithful and pilgrims from around the world, we offered thanksgiving to God for His presence in our lives.

The highlight of the first day, I am sure for everyone, was the opportunity to venerate the many holy sites that lie within the Church of the Resurrection, including Golgotha (the spot where our Lord was crucified), the location of the Apokathelosis (the descent from the Cross), and of course, the Holy Sepulcher (the Empty Tomb of Jesus Christ). Words fail to capture the awe that others and I felt as we venerated the Lord’s Crucifixion and Holy Three-day Resurrection.

As it happens, May 23rd is my birthday. I don’t know if I will ever think of this day in the same way again. My prayer and hope is that each year, as I celebrate another year of life, the Lord Jesus Christ will grant unto me the same great joy that I felt on the first day of the Apostolic Pilgrimage. Jerusalem has changed my life forever, and I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. 

"Apostolic Pilgrimage, Day 2" will be posted tomorrow and it will feature the my experience in Bethlehem, the place of our Lord's birth. For now, however, I hope you enjoy some photos that were taken during Day 1.

The Very Reverend Archimandrite Dr. Nathanael Symeonides is the Director of the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

 

“If You See Something, Say Something”: A Call for Help for Christians in the Middle East

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) licensed the slogan “If You See Something, Say Something,” as the slogan for a national campaign intended to raise public awareness of signs of terrorism and, especially, to mobilize citizens to report suspicious activity to U.S. law enforcement officials.  The DHS meme (a meme is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture,” according to Meriam Webster online) is premised on the linkage between education and action, as well as on the notion that the safety of the collective whole requires individual acuity and responsibility.  I’m certainly not advocating thralldom to the War on Terror rubric from which the DHS maxim was born, but the underlying logic of “If you See Something, Say Something” assumed an apopthegmatic quality when I heard it recently, repositioned within the context of a discussion on the tragedy of Christians in the Middle East. 

The threat of extinction faced by Christians in their lands of origins has been a frequent subject of my blog posts (including on this site) and op-eds, briefings and testimonies to US Congressional and international human rights institutions, and discussions with religious leaders,  faith-based groups, and policymakers in the Middle East and the US.  I look forward to the day when reality allows me to turn my heart, mind, prayers, and keyboard to another subject.  However, that day seems distant, given that, as of this writing, conditions for Christians in what was once the vibrant epicenter of the early Church, continue to deteriorate precipitously. 

Within days, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis will arrive in Jerusalem on a journey being described as an Apostolic Pilgrimage.  This visit by the successors of the Apostolic Sees of St. Andrew and St. Peter commemorates the 50th anniversary of the historic Jerusalem meeting by Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI.  That 1964 meeting was an event that declared the commitment of Constantinople and Rome to repair centuries of rupture in ecclesial unity that had followed the mutual excommunications between Constantinople and Rome in the 11th-century Great Schism.  This May’s sojourn to Jerusalem reflects both leaders’ resolute dedication, in Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s words, “to work further for Christian unity and reconciliation,” by deepening the spirit of trust and by exploring options for practical cooperation and theological resolution.  The meeting could generate a kind of roadmap for incremental changes which, eventually, can bring about full communion between the Churches East and West. 

More immediately, though, both leaders have made it crystal clear that their joint visit to Jerusalem and the surrounding places (Bethlehem and other sacred sites for Christians) is intended to lend solidarity to beleaguered Christians in the region as a whole.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis recognize the emergency facing Christians in the region, so it is by careful design that their plans for worship and dialogue in various fora and formats, will involve Christians of every denomination and tradition.  Christians of the four Eastern Sees of the ancient Pentarchy (those in Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem) live besieged, from Turkey to Syria, from Iraq to Egypt, in Israel and Palestine—Christians today are being strangled by state policies of political-economic discrimination and religious persecution, rendered the equivalent of hostages to societal anarchy caused by failing states, targeted and victimized by the tsunami of sectarian violence amongst Muslims, and cynically sacrificed by Great Powers more concerned with their geopolitical interests than with human rights.  Orthodox Christians form the numerical majority and have been disproportionately affected by the humanitarian catastrophes caused by the intersection of the West’s Great Power hubris and the Middle East’s regime-types of secular and religious authoritarianism.  But make no mistake: the erasure of Christians from the lands of Christianity’s origins has affected Orthodox, Copts, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Chaldeans, Maronites, Melchites, Latins, in an ecumenical tragedy of epic proportions.    

Against this backdrop, a recent Vatican statement regarding the upcoming Apostolic Pilgrimage indicated that the visit will be a signal “to sensitize those who have political responsibilities, because peaceful coexistence in that region and in the whole world is at stake."  What is at stake, quite simply, is the survival of the living Christian presence—people and patrimony, faithful and their churches, monasteries, cemeteries, libraries, and texts—in the original geographic footprint of Christianity.  And it’s here that the DHS slogan becomes portable, taking on rich meaning for how the world, and especially, for how fellow Christians, will respond to the modern tragedy of Middle East Christians. 

If we consider the response of Christians living freely in the US and Europe, as well as the Transatlantic governments that purport to be standardbearers for the promotion and protection of universal human rights, including the right of religious freedom, the DHS slogan has been turned on its head: in other words, the response has been to choose to avert their gaze and to remain silent, or to “see nothing and do nothing.”  At a December 2013 conference in Rome by Georgetown University on “Christianity and Freedom: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives,” Chaldean Archbishop of Baghdad, Louis Raphael Sako, called on the West to “open its eyes” to the reality of the “mortal danger” faced by Christians in Iraq, Egypt, and Syria.  Similarly, the General Bishop of the Coptic Church in the United Kingdom, Angaelos, spoke at a September 2013 conference at the National Liberal Club on “Reporting the Middle East: Why the Truth Is Getting Lost,” and lamented the West’s apathy in the face of Christian suffering in the Middle East.  A foreshadowing of their comments occurred in a 2009 in interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, when Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew likened his feelings in the face of sustained discrimination and persecution by the Turkish state to “being crucified”—a sentiment unlikely to change in the face of the Turkish government’s threats to convert the magnificent Orthodox Christian Cathedral of Aghia Sophia, a global treasure for all Christians and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, into a functioning mosque. 

The consistent meme of being ignored, forgotten, and abandoned, runs throughout the statements of Christian leaders from the Middle East, and recalls Martin Luther King’s memorable statement that “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”  Politics aside, for Christians who live freely and safely in the United States, the call for help from fellow Christians in the Middle East is a matter of conscience.  There’s absolutely no room for ideological claptrap or political dissembling in order to justify looking away and doing nothing in the face of the humanitarian debacle in the region.  Likewise, there can be no excuse for resort to divisive language and a politics of hatred that can only worsen conditions in the region—and that runs counter to Christian teachings to love one’s neighbor as one’s self (Matt 22:39).  All of the aforementioned Christian hierarchs have emphasized that any hope for a durable peace in the region depends on uncompromising support for religious pluralism, on acceptance of the conviction that each and every person is created in the image of God, and in seeing God in the face of one’s neighbor, whether Christians, Muslim, Jew, Druze, Alewite, or anyone from the myriad faith traditions that constitute the peoples of the Middle East.

Earlier this month, the ideas of peace through pluralism and non-violence, as well as the exhortation to see and do something, found an echo chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, when Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), co-chairs of the bipartisan Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, convened a press conference in the Capitol complex in Washington, DC, to bring attention to the plight of Christians in the Middle East.  Wolf and Eshoo are tireless champions of the universal right of religious freedom.   Wolf pulled no punches in his observation that “now facing an existential threat to their presence in the lands where Christianity has its roots, the Churches in the Middle East fear they have been largely ignored by their coreligionists in the West.” Eshoo, who spoke of her background as an Armenian and Assyrian Christian, recalled the genocide against Armenians and other Christians in Turkey at the start of the 20th century as a warning about the erasure of Christians in today’s Middle East.

The Wolf-Eshoo event was no media stunt.  Instead, the gathering brought together the fullness of the Christian Church, in an ecumenical gathering that included 15 speakers (I was humbled to be one of them) from Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant traditions and denominations.  A sampling of the speakers indicates the remarkable ecumenical spirit of the gathering—some of those who spoke were Rev. Canon Dr. Andrew White, Chaplain of the St. George Anglican Church in Baghdad; Joseph Kassab, Founder and President of Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute, who read a statement by Chaldean Archbishop Sako, who could not leave Baghdad); Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington; Archbishop Oshagan Cholayan, Armenian Apostolic Church of America; Johnnie Moore, Senior Vice President of Liberty University; Dr. Barrett Duke, Vice President for Pulbic Policy and Research of The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; and myself and Nina Shea, who served together with me from 2004-2012 tenure on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The speakers offered individual testaments and accounts of the suffering of Middle East Christians, from Turkey to the Holy Land, and spoke in one voice in their signing of a ”Pledge and Call to Action on Behalf of Christians and Other Small Religious Communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria.” The pledge, which today has well over 200 signatories and will be entered into the Congressional Record later this month, is a grassroots document, drafted with input from many sources from the diverse churches of the region, with no institutional sponsor, but instead, with a grassroots call to bring moral support, diplomatic assistance, and humanitarian aid, to the Middle East’s persecuted Christians. 

Key points in the pledge include “a request to President Barack Obama to appoint a Special Envoy on Middle East Religious Minorities, to review U.S. foreign assistance programs to ensure that they uphold policies and principles that relate to religious freedom and pluralism, and to help Christians and other minorities remain safely in the region by providing equitable access to American refugee, humanitarian, and reconstruction aid.”  (See http://wolf.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/media-advisory-press-conference-on-american-christian-leaders-pledge-to)

The emphatic message of those who came together to speak in Washington two weeks ago, to make the “joint pledge to speak up for our fellow Christians and other threatened religious minorities in the Middle East,” was the decision to work together as Christians, in solidarity and ecumenically, to pray, educate, and act, in order to end indifference and to support the universality of human rights for all human beings.  Metropolitan Methodios put it neatly, when he referenced the “If You See Something, Say Something” slogan.  “We have been seeing a lot.  Now is the time to say something.”  That commitment is an inspiring launch for the approaching Apostolic Pilgrimage of Brothers, the Ecumenical Patriarch and Pope, to Jerusalem later this week.

Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou is Visiting Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution at The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University, and Affiliate Scholar at Harvard University's Center for European Studies, where she Co-Chairs Study Groups on Southeastern Europe and on Muslims and Democratic Politics.

Ecumenical Dialogue: Assimilation or Affirmation

For almost a year now, since my appointment in September as the Director of the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, friends and family members have been asking me about my new diakonia in the Church. Most of the time I find myself giving people simple yet candid answers. “Things are ok,” I say, or, “Each day brings about something new and exciting.” Don’t get me wrong; I try my best to give people an idea of special projects and long-term goals of the department, however, it is quit a task to fully discuss the mission of a department that is tasked with such diverse objectives. To help summarize the mission of the office, I will often tell people, “The Department and its staff are called to express, in our words and deeds, the Church, which is not of the world, yet in the world, and which exists for the salvation of the world.” Most get it.

Overall, my conversations with people are quite positive. Most sincerely care about the work of the department and some are eager to assist in realizing its multifaceted mission. However, there are some individuals who fear that the ecumenical component of our work will eventually lead us down the road of theological concessions. According to them, engaging the other is not necessarily a bad thing. What is problematic, however, is when the other is a Roman Catholic or a Protestant. For these individuals, the other poses a serious threat to our identity as Orthodox Christians, and therefore, any dialogue with them is analogous to theological assimilation and compromise. To my surprise, some folks have even asked me if I was thinking about becoming Catholic or if I was being forced to accept the pope as my spiritual leader! Fortunately, even though the average person may not fully understand every dimension of the ecumenical dialogue, the majority of our people perceive dialogue as an exercise in cooperation rather than compromise.

By my comments I don’t mean to oversimplify the ecumenical dialogue, nor do I wish to suggest that those who remain apprehensive about the ecumenical movement are uneducated and unsophisticated. After all, people are entitled to their opinions, and chances are that even the most negative opinion about the ecumenical dialogue is often grounded on real—though often limited—experience. My hope, however, is that with proper education and the sharing of information we may view the ecumenical dialogue under a proper lens and base our opinions on fact rather than on fiction. In many ways, this could be said to be the greatest contribution we can make to the ecumenical movement. Hopefully, as people become better informed, they may come to realize that dialoguing with other Christians could only help us enhance our own appreciation of the Orthodox faith. This self-discovery is most pronounced in our engagement with the Catholic Church.

When Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians engage each other in a dialogue of truth and love they not only explore differences between their communities—those teachings and practices that keep us from entering into full communion with each other—but they also discover common elements that connect the two communities. Moreover, this labor of love provides us with a unique perspective by which we can fully appreciate our own sacred Tradition. If we are sure of our Orthodox Christian identity, then we must be confident that engaging the other could never lead to assimilation; we will not lose our “Orthodoxy” by dialoguing with the Roman Catholic Church, as they will not lose their “Catholicity” by dialoguing with the Orthodox Church.

In a recent article, the Reverend Father Ronald Roberson (CSP, Associate Director of the U.S. Bishop’s Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, USCCB) reflected upon a comment made by His Holiness Pope Francis, who praised Orthodoxy’s “vision of the Church and synodality.” The pope was not afraid to highlight an aspect of our Orthodox Christian Tradition. Unlike those with a limited appreciation of the ecumenical dialogue, the pope was not afraid that he would change or become something lesser by pointing to a historical and theological truth. To read Fr. Ron’s entire, CLICK HERE.


Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras met in Jerusalem in 1964.  
It was the first meeting between a Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch in over 500 years.

In 1964, for the first time in over a millennium, the Pope of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople climbed over the walls that divided the two Churches for centuries and met each other in Jerusalem. This was a moment in history that will be studied for centuries to come! Now, 50 years later, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew have renewed this commitment to truth and love and will carry this legacy into the new millennium through their scheduled meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday, May 25, 2014. The spiritual leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church will meet each other to commemorate a historic event while simultaneously looking to forge together a future of hope and faith. The meeting in 1964 led to a series of significant developments that have had a positive impact on the lives of both Catholic and Orthodox faithful around the world (to be discussed in a later post). We are all very hopeful that the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew will in like manner further enhance the lives of our faithful. It is my prayer that by promoting the dialogo (dialogue) between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches we will learn to engage in greater degrees of leitourgia (work), and that by the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we may one day come into full koinonia (communion) with each other.

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