Are we on the cusp of the fullness of time in which a confluence of forces, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will bring down the wall of separation between the Eastern, Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Churches under the omophorion of the Bishop of Rome? Why pose the question in this way? In the past many international theological consultations have taken place. These consultations involve theologians from the Churches. The Bishop of Rome has also met with individual Orthodox patriarchs and bishops. The wall of separation remains. However, as noted by a ‘monk of the Eastern Church’: “human barriers do not reach up to heaven.”
Now it seems a next step has been suggested following a meeting, described as “remarkably harmonious,” between Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate. (See page 3 for details.) Both men are described as scholars, theologians, liturgists, and lovers of music. In addition, Archbishop Hilarion is a world famous gifted composer. Also, following a meeting between the Archbishop and Cardinal Kasper, the Cardinal suggested that a conference of Orthodox European bishops could possibly form a partnership in dialogue between the Churches in the future. A conference of Orthodox bishops would elevate succeeding talks from one on one encounters of individual Patriarchs to a more unified Orthodox witness, voice and consensus.
Remarks made by Archbishop Hilarion in the catacomb of St. Callixtus were also reported. Under attack from Godless paganism and immorality, the early Christians " brought the fruit of holiness and martyr heroism. The Holy [undivided] Church was built on their blood shed for Christ." The de-Christianization of contemporary Europe [and the world], materialism, moral relativism, and secularism may well be the focal point rallying the Apostolic Churches toward unity in today’s world.
Archbishop Hilarion stated that the sins of mankind are the cause of all separation. The unity of the Churches can be reestablished only by way of sanctity. "Each of us, conscientiously fulfilling a task the Church has given him or her, is called to personally contribute to the treasury of Christian sanctity and work to achieve God-commanded Christian unity." This is the ministry of the members of the Society of St. John Chrysostom. Our apostolate is to bring all who call themselves followers of Christ to holiness. When the Church exited the catacombs unity was lost. Unity can only be restored by re-entering the catacombs. The blood-shedding of the upcoming New-Martyrs may simply be to live fully a life in Christ in a pagan world. Such a life in Christ would make up the new catacomb.
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V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist.
He is the Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion.
Fr. Morelli is also Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.
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