Archive for the ‘Orientale Lumen Conferences’ Category

OL XVI Conference to Discuss “Theology of the Laity”

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

The Orientale Lumen XVI Conference this year will be held June 18-21, 2012 at the Washington Retreat House in Washington, DC on the theme of “Theology of the Laity.”  We will be honored with the presence of several outstanding speakers, including:

Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia (Orthodox), Professor Emeritus of Oxford University, Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ (Greek Catholic), Professor Emeritus of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Boston, MA

Father Gregory Gresko, OSB (Roman Catholic), Benedictine Abbey, Richmond, VA

Sr. Dr. Vassa Larin (Orthodox), Associate Professor, University of Vienna, Austria

Carl Olson (Greek Catholic), Lecturer, Editor and Best-Selling Author, Springfield, OR

Frederica Matthewes Green (Orthodox), Lecturer and Commentator on PBS and NPR, Baltimore, MD

Bishop John Michael Botean, Moderator (Greek Catholic), Romanian Greek Catholic Diocese of Canton, OH

Dr. Michael Root, Panelist (Roman Catholic), Ordinary Professor, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC

More details about the conference and online registration can be found at the Future Conferences page   We are also planning podcasts of the plenary sessions on OLTV, Ancient Faith Radio, Catholic Radio International, and Orthodox Christian Network that will be available shortly after each one (the Q&A discussion will not be recorded or broadcast).

Pass the word to your friends and associates.  The topic of the role of the laity in the Church promises to be a new and exciting topic for this year’s OL Conference!  I look forward to seeing many old and new friends in June.

OL XV Conference Registration Deadline

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Just a reminder that April 1 is the deadline for registration for the Orientale Lume XV Conference for the reduced fee of $225 per person.  After that the fee will be $245 per person with final registrations due by June 1st.

Our plans include a great theme, terrific speakers, a convenient venue, and even a live webcast of the conference plenary sessions that you can watch from anywhere in the world! 

It will be held June 20-23, 2011 at the Washington Retreat House (a change from the Pope John Paul II cultural Center which will not be available) in Washington, DC on the theme of “Rome and the Communion of Churches: Bishop, Patriarch or Pope?”  We will be honored with the presence of several outstanding speakers, including:

Metropolitan Jonah (Orthodox) Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, Washington, DC
Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia (Orthodox) Professor Emeritus of Oxford University, Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ (Greek Catholic) Professor Emeritus of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, The Vatican
Msgr. Michael Magee (Roman Catholic) Professor of Systematic Theology, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia, PA
Father Ron Roberson, CSP (Roman Catholic) Associate Director for Ecumenical Affairs, USCCB, Washington, DC
Sr. Dr. Vassa Larin (Orthodox) Lecturer, University of Vienna, Austria, Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
Dr. Adam DeVille (Greek Catholic) Assistant Professor, University of Saint Francis, Ft. Wayne, IN and Editor, LOGOS

Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia will also server as moderator and will “entertain” us for four full days of exciting sessions.  Father Ron Roberson will give a summary of the North American Dialogue document “Vision for Unity” as the Closing Session, and the panel of speakers will discuss it, along with Q&A from the audience. In addition to several video recorded blessings and greetings from Church leaders at the Opening Session, I will also be preparing a short history of the conferences since it is our Fifteenth Anniversary.
More details about the conference and online registration can be found at the Future Conferences page of

I look forward to seeing many old and new friends at this year’s conference.

Live Webcast for OL XV

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

New for OL XV, we’ll have an Online LIVE Webcast.  For the first time, the OL Conference will be broadcast live through an online video webcast over the internet. The Opening and Closing Sessions, along with all Plenary Lectures and Panel Discussions, will be viewable online during the conference for just $50 per person. Viewers will be able to send email questions to the moderator at the conference site for the panel discussions.

When you register for this access, a userid and password will be sent to you by email two weeks before the conference with detailed instructions. If sufficient webcast registrations are not received by June 1st to cover the setup costs, the webcast will be cancelled and a full refund will be sent to anyone who registered for it. Signup now and tell your friends! 

Participate in OL XV from anywhere in the world — your home, your office, or your parish in a group — anywhere!

More details about the conference and online registration can be found at the Future Conferences page of

Pass the word to your friends and associates.  Anyone interested in the future of the ecumenical dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, and the Church unity that Christ desires, will want to participate in this exciting conference. 

With the webcast, we hope to have even a wider audience for discussing and learning how we can follow Christ’s command:  “that they all may be one!”

Speakers and Moderator for OL Conference Finalized

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

I have finally been able to confirm our plenary speakers and the moderator for Orientale Lumen XV scheduled for June 20-23, 2011 in Washington, DC on the theme of “Rome and the Communion of Churches:  Bishop, Patriarchate or Pope?”

The plenary speakers will be:

  • Metropolitan Jonah (Orthodox)
    Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, Washington, DC
  • Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia (Orthodox)
    Professor Emeritus of Oxford University, Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
  • Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ (Greek Catholic)
    Professor Emeritus of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, The Vatican
  • Msgr. Michael Magee (Roman Catholic)
    Chairman and Professor of Systematic Theology, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia, PA
  • Father Ron Roberson, CSP (Roman Catholic)
    Associate Director for Ecumenical Affairs, USCCB, Washington, DC
  • Sr. Dr. Vassa Larin (Orthodox)
    Lecturer, University of Vienna, Austria, Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
  • Dr. Adam DeVille (Greek Catholic)
    Assistant Professor, University of Saint Francis, Ft. Wayne, IN and Editor, LOGOS

Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia will serve as Moderator for the entire conference.

For the Opening Session on Monday evening, we hope to have video recorded greetings and blessings from several Church leaders, and I will compile a short presentation on the history of the OL Conferences in honor of our Fifteenth Anniversary.

As a special event for the Closing Session, Father Ron Roberson, CSP, who coordinates Catholic-Orthodox dialogues in North America for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, will give a summary presentation of the latest document from the North American Dialogue entitled “Steps Toward a Reunited Church: A Sketch of an Orthodox-Catholic Vision for the Future.” The other speakers will then have a panel discussion of the document, copies of which will be distributed during the conference, and then questions collected from all attendees will be discussed by the Moderator and Panel.

More details can be found on the Future Conferences page at the website:

Online registration is also available through the website, or by calling the conference office at 703-691-8862.  Registration through April 1 is $225 per person, including meals, and then will increase to $245 per person until final registration is due by June 1.

Plans for Orientale Lumen XV

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

We have already started making plans for the Orientale Lumen Conference for next year. Since it will be our fifteenth anniversary, we are hopeful to have a great turnout. In discussions over the summer, Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) from Oxford, one of the founders of the OL Conferences in 1997 and frequent speaker over the years, has agreed to schedule his “one” US trip this year to be at the time of the conference. Also, he has suggested a topic which I believe is very current and relevant and important to contributing to the overall dialogue between the Catholic on Orthodox Churches.

To topic will be “Rome and the Communion of Churches: Bishop, Patriarch or Pope?” In essence, we will focus on the role of the bishop of Rome in the Church and other aspects of Church structure known as “ecclesiology.” Many on all sides of the dialogue feel this is the major issue separating East and West today, and if this one issue can be resolved, many of the others will fall into place, especially the existence of Eastern Catholic Churches.

There will only be one OL Conference in 2011 so that we may all gather in one place to celebrate the 15th anniversary. The dates will be June 20-23 and it will be held in Washington, DC. The exact venue is still being evaluated.We also have commitments from Metropolitan Jonah, primate of the Orthodox Church in America, and Archimandrite Robert Taft, the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, to be plenary speakers. We plan to invite Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, Metropolitan Hilarion of the Department for External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, and Msgr. Paul McPartlan of The Catholic University of America and leading international scholar on Church ecclesiology.

The conference is open to the public, and you can register by calling 703-691-8862 or online at With this topic and lineup of speakers, we could have an overflowing audience for this exciting conference! If you want to attend, I suggest you sign up early!

Introduction at OL EuroEast by Bishop John Michael Botean

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

I’ve had several requests to post the introductory remarks by Bishop John Michael Botean at the opening session of the Orientale Lumen EuroEast III Conference held in Constantinople on July 5-10, 2010.  In the presence of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, Archbishop Cyril Vasil’ SJ from the Congregation of Oriental Churches in the Vatican, and all the participants, here is what Bishop John Michael, the Catholic Co-Patron of the Society of St John Chrysostom in the US and the OL Conferences, said:


Your All-Holiness, Your Eminence, Your Excellency, Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Venerable Fathers and Sister, beloved brothers and sisters in our Lord and Savior,

Christ is among us!

As episcopal co-patron of the Society of St. John Chrysostom in the USA and as moderator of this conference, it is my singular privilege and great pleasure to welcome you all to this, the Third Orientale Lumen Euro-East conference in Istanbul.

I cannot help but note at the outset that I have had the joy of knowing many of you for a number of years and in a number of capacities. Unfortunately for a few of you here, I know you as your bishop, but even then, for the rest of us it can truly be said that we have all become friends in spite of the great unlikeliness of this ever happening. In other words, we can truly say that, but for the efforts and considerable sacrifices of one Jack Figel of Duquesne, PA, we may never have gotten to know one another at all. But over the course of the 14 years in which these conferences, inspired by the Apostolic Letter, Orientale Lumen of Pope John Paul II, of blessed memory, we have become more to one another than the servants of God that our baptism made us.

Indeed, we have become a company of friends and a “house that Jack built,” inspired in our common quest for the unity of all the holy churches of God by his uncommon, burning desire for that unity of which our friendship is but a shadow, albeit a shadow that now bears a glimmer of promise for a new day on which, by the grace of God, we will experience the full sunshine of visible koinonia that is the prayer of Jesus Christ for His Church. Our Lord keenly expressed his desire when he told his disciples, “I no longer call you servants, but friends” (Jn 15.15) who know what their Master is about.

Another noteworthy aspect of this gathering is that its participants are, to a very large extent, American Eastern Catholics, particularly Byzantine- or Greek-Catholics–that is to say, Uniates like me, and it is to you Uniates that I direct my next remarks.

Now some of you may squirm and be uncomfortable at my use of the term “Uniate.” Well, I’m sorry, but as one of your pastors I would counsel you to get over it. It is what we are, and if people want to call us by this or some other offensive name, or if they in so many other ways treat us scornfully and derisively, let them, and let us bear this treatment with dignity and humble love. I propose we wear this title, when it is imposed upon us, as a badge of honor given to us by none other than our Lord Jesus Christ, who “endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). We must ask ourselves if we can do better than be emulators of the One who was scorned and derided for our salvation, if this is not, in fact, our honorable calling and our noble destiny.

It is we Uniates who, little known in the church of our communion and a sign of contradiction in the churches of our origin, who have disturbed our quietude to come to this Royal City for this conference–indeed, it is we American Uniates who have organized and convened it, and we who are paying for it. To borrow a phrase from one of our more worthy presidents, “the world will little note nor long remember what we do here,” but this OL Conference is our widow’s mite, our little offering that we lovingly place in God’s hands, as a child gives a bouquet of dandelions from the garden to her mother. We know it pleases our Father to do this, and that is enough for us. It is He who will enable our offering to bear fruit, in His good time and in His good manner.

It is the universal experience of our churches that they are little appreciated and only barely tolerated in their homelands. I had the providential pleasure of listening, in the car as I drove to Jack’s house to come here, to the lectures in honor of Ss. Cyril and Methodius sponsored by the seminary of that name in Pittsburgh, PA, given by two of our speakers, Archimandrite Robert Taft and Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, in 2001 and 2002, respectively. My heart was lightened and my hope enlivened by these lectures that critically but positively evaluated the facts of our existence and our impact upon the Church. To some, indeed, we are westernized easterners, and to others, we are merely easternized westerners. The truth is that we are both, and that “people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some who are first who will be last” (Lk 13.29-30).

The existence of the Uniate churches is not the great obstacle to unity some have insisted that it is. Is it not we who have come to Constantinople seeking this unity? The great obstacles to church unity are, now as ever, human weakness, pride, and sin, and it is fitting that we have come here, not as Crusaders, but as pilgrims and penitents, beseeching forgiveness in prayer and in the humble listening to one another that we undertake this evening.

Panagiotate, Patriarch Bartholomew, we are truly honored and blessed by your presence among us and by the privilege of being here in your great city. Being so warmly welcomed by the one who now occupies the throne of our Holy Father John Chrysostom and the successor of the Holy First-Called Apostle Andrew, we cannot help but be touched by the apostolic ministry you so generously exercise tonight on our behalf, as befits the Ecumenical Patriarch. Speaking in the name of our assembly, I humbly thank you for this great honor. Speaking personally as a Romanian Greek-Catholic bishop, I feel a great kinship with you as well, for I am likewise a bishop of a church that has suffered and continues to suffer crucifixion at the hands of political and historical circumstances that are inimical to our very existence. Your All-Holiness and the Great Church of Constantinople are always in my prayers. May the poverty and persecution we both endure become fertile, common ground between us.

Your Excellency, Archbishop Cyril, it is likewise a great honor and blessing for us that you have made time for this conference and consented to be one of our speakers. Since you represent the Holy See of the blessed Apostle Peter, we look forward to your presentation and pray that it may be for all of us, together with the churches we represent, a lively experience of the fraternal support and strengthening with which Our Lord charged Peter at the foundation of His Church.

Learned speakers, it is the case that each of you is no stranger to Orientale Lumen, as each of you has been a presenter in previous conferences. It is a testament to your devotion to the Church and the cause of her unity that you have consented to share the fruits of your academic labors with us once more. It is no less a testimony to the uniqueness of these conferences, which Patriarch Bartholomew has coined the “Orientale Lumen Movement.” As a movement led by the laity, it has been able to enjoy a freedom, spontaneity, and friendly camaraderie in your free exchange of thought that is impossible to find among hierarchs and theologians in their official capacities.

My friends, and we are all friends because that is what Jack Figel and Orientale Lumen  have made us, I would like to conclude this long welcome with words from a letter to Jack from Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Archbishop-Major of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, reflecting upon his own experience at the last OL conference in Istanbul in May of 2007. His Beatitude writes:

“It was the first time I had a chance to be in this company. I stress company, even before the subject matter, because I feel the singularity of the meeting. The presentations were non-confessional; at least I did not feel the need to classify the speakers by their church membership. This, my impression, which I tried in a very impromptu way to express at our meeting on Thursday was strengthened even further by my meeting on Thursday night with Metropolitan Kallistos. To my mind, the whole relationship of the participants was not a buddy-buddy friendship, but something that I imagine could be considered as a foretaste of perfect communion–realized unity. Another impression: how damaging is politics to Church unity. I feel that the extraordinary atmosphere which so impressed me was due to the absence of political ambitions. Maybe I am naïve, but I communicate to you how I felt, and why I am so grateful to you. All I can ask of you is, please continue gathering us. Maybe, we will be able to give a more articulate and effective expression to our experience at the Orientale Lumen meetings.”

May this third OL conference in Constantinople be a true gathering of friends, and the “more articulate and effective expression [of] our experience[s]” for which Cardinal Husar hopes. Sã ne dea Dumnezeu. May God so grant us. Amen.

Report on OL XIV in Washington

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

The report below was written by Eric Sammons, an attendee at the OL XIV East Conference in Washington on June 21-24, 2010.


I attended the 14th annual Orientale Lumen conference, held at the John Paul II cultural center in Washington, D.C. This was my third year attending, and it was quite enjoyable and informative this year. I am a very enthusiastic supporter of these conferences, as I believe that they foster, on a grass-roots level, the effort to have the Church breathe with both lungs, East and West. The path to unity is two-fold: official dialogue at the highest levels of the Church, and growing appreciation and acceptance of each other’s traditions in the pews. The OL conference works to make the second of these two objectives happen.

The theme of this year’s conference was “the councils of the church” and each of the speakers reflected on the work of the councils in the life of the Church from different perspectives.

The first plenary speaker was Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C. He began by commenting on Christ’s question to the apostles, “Who do you say that I am?” and then noted that the first four ecumenical councils (Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon) were the Church’s dogmatic answer to that question. One of the key events in Church history, according to Archbishop Wuerl, was Nicea’s decision that truths about Jesus could be expressed in non-biblical language. Today, we take this for granted, but this was a momentous decision at the time.

The next plenary speaker was Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America. I heard His Beatitude at last year’s OL conference, and he is my favorite hierarch today. As someone said to me, he is “charming and disarming.” His talk was a paper on the relationship between conciliarity and hierarchy in the Church. While his talk was interesting, the Metropolitan really shines during question and answer. He never avoids a question and can be quite blunt in his answers. In all his answers, one thing comes out: he is devoted to following Jesus Christ and making him the focus of all his activities. He returns to this focus on Christ constantly no matter the topic, and I found it quite refreshing.

On Wednesday morning, Fr. Robert Taft, S.J. gave the third plenary talk. His presentation was a paper on the development of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and how the councils affected that development. Those who are familiar with Fr. Taft know that he is not shy about giving his opinions and he didn’t disappoint in this regard at the conference. He was actively engaged in all the panels and shared many useful bits of information on a wide variety of topics.  Fr. Taft has done a tremendous amount of good in the Church in regards to East-West relations, and we should all be thankful for his work over the years.

The Wednesday afternoon plenary was my favorite. Given by Fr. Peter Galadza, it had the provocative title “How Many Ecumenical Councils? A Test Case for Eastern Catholic Theology.” In his talk, Fr. Galadza contended at the “ecumenical” councils after Nicea II (the 7th ecumenical council) should be considered “general” councils of the West and therefore not on the same level as the first seven councils. This might sound crazy, maybe even heretical, to the ears of many Roman Catholics, but for those who know the history of the councils, he is not as far out on a limb as may initially appear. In fact, the council of Constance in the 15th century (considered ecumenical by Roman Catholics) distinguished between the first eight councils, which they called “ecumenical,” and the next six councils, which they called “general.” Fr. Galadza gave a very balanced presentation, noting reasons why councils such as Lateran I-IV or Constance should not be ecumenical but stressing that they are still authoritative and useful in many respects.

The fifth plenary talk was a bit different, as it was given by a layman, Orthodox iconographer Elias Damianakis. I liked the change, as it gave a different perspective to the issue of the councils. Damianakis concentrated his remarks on how the councils have personally affected him in his faith life, as well as focusing on some lesser-known individuals associated with the councils.

The speaker for the final plenary could not make it, so instead a video from the OL conference held at Seton Hall a few weeks ago was shown. Fr. John Behr, a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, gave a great talk about the differences between “universal ecclesiology” and “eucharistic ecclesiology,” and how the two can be reconciled. While I disagree with some of his conclusions, I thought Fr. Behr was incredibly insightful in his analysis. I only wish he were there to take questions. Fr. Behr also noted the fact that the Pope was absent at all the universally-recognized ecumenical councils. While this may have started as a historical accident, Fr. Behr thinks it might have more meaning than that. By not attending, the Pope remained “above the fray” and was therefore able to remain a court of appeal, even to a council. Fr. Behr then gave a great quote: “Perhaps we Orthodox have not called an ecumenical council in over 1200 years not because we don’t have an emperor to call it, but because we don’t have a pope who won’t be there.”

All in all, the talks were all fascinating and informative. But the OL conference is not just about the talks, it also consists of liturgical services and fellowship. And on this count, this year’s conference was exceptional as usual. The liturgical services (Matins, Vespers and an Akathist) were beautiful and prayerful, and the opportunity to talk with other participants and speakers is always a highlight of the conference. I was actually one of the few Roman Catholics there, so it was great to speak to many Eastern Catholics and Orthodox about their perspectives on East-West relations. I especially enjoyed an afternoon discussion with Elias Damianakis over a range of topics.

Next year’s conference is the 15th annual, and director Jack Figel has big plans for it. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware already has committed to it, and Jack is working to get some (very) big other figures in East-West relations to come as well. Make an effort to attend next year!

The House that Jack Built

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Father Justin Rose has written a great reflection on his experiences at the OL Conference in Constantinople.  Rather than write some else, I post his story here:

“The house that Jack built…” was how His Grace, Bishop John Michael Botean described the Orientale Lumen movement at our recent OL Euro –East III opening session. In the presence of His All Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Bishop John Michael highlighted the great achievement of Reader Jack Figel whose patience, persistence and vision made OL Euro-East a reality.

I call Orientale Lumen a “movement” because the gathering of friends and colleagues that has resulted from the yearly American conferences and the periodic European conferences has grown into something more than just a series of scholarly discussions. We have forged friendships and working relationships across Church lines that often seem higher and more impenetrable than the mighty Theodosian walls that still surround the ancient city of Constantinople/Istanbul.

For the first time, I eagerly touched the Royal Doors in Hagia Sophia and stood in the center of her magnificence agape with wonder and awe. I was equally as awe-struck, however, as a Greek Catholic presbyter, by kissing the hand of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and by sitting in a place of honor in a Greek Orthodox monastery on the island of Patmos.

The OL conference in Istanbul had a familiar format to the ones I had attended in Washington, D.C. and San Diego, except that we had most evenings free. This was a welcome respite since we did not stay at the conference site, but travelled to special events along with the usual talks and panel discussions.

Monday evening, we listened to the wise words of His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew and Bishop John Michael, our moderator. We had the chance to renew old acquaintances at the customary social hour that followed.
Tuesday morning, we packed up early and got on a boat to go to the Island where Halki Seminary sits empty, closed down by the secular Turkish government. Halki is a beautiful complex, pristinely maintained in the hope that it will one day again receive Orthodox seminarians. We had two erudite talks there, one from Metropolitan Kallistos on the Council of Florence and one on Canon Law by Archbishop Cyril, the new Secretary (second in command) at the Oriental Congregation in Rome. Considering the steep incline of the hills on the island, we were all grateful for the horse drawn carriages that took us to and from the seminary.

Wednesday we listened to Archimandrite Robert Taft give an excellent talk about the Liturgy and Church Councils. We then had the privilege of joining the Ecumenical Patriarch during a pastoral visit to one of his parishes in Istanbul. Since, by law, we cannot dress as clergy in Istanbul, most of us carried our exo-rason and skufos with us and put them on within the confines of the church or monastery we visited. I regretted that choice in that beautiful but steamy parish Church that morning. I will never again complain about the heat in San Bernardino, CA!

After the Liturgy, we again joined his All Holiness for one of the most beautiful events I will ever witness. At Baloukli monastery, the site of the shrine of the Theotokos-the Life Giving Spring, we prayed the memorial service with the Ecumenical Patriarch at the tomb of Patriarch Athenagoras. I do not know how many Ecumenical Patriarchs are entombed at this convent or how long this has been a custom, although it would not surprise me if this were a post-Ottoman tradition. At any rate, I was utterly without words, praying at the tomb of Patriarch Athenagoras, the Greek Orthodox patriarch who, at the beginning of Vatican II, told my Melkite Patriarch, Maximos IV that he represented the Orthodox Church at the Council. The seed that those visionaries planted more than 40 years ago is beginning to bear some fruit.

Although it would have been difficult to follow that experience with anything greater, we did thoroughly enjoy our last stop that day. We had a tour and Vespers at the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Praying in the Church of St. George with the relics of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian was a fitting end to a day spent with the living Patriarch of Constantinople and the relics of his predecessors.

Although the “conference” ended on Thursday with erudite talks from Sister Vassa and Dr. Richard Schneider, the wonderful things that Jack planned for us continued through the weekend.

On Friday, we packed up and spent the day touring some of the most important Churches in Istanbul. I was really glad that I had visited Hagia Sophia earlier in the week so that I could benefit from the commentary of Dr. Schneider our itinerant tour guide for the day. I had gotten the initial “gaping” out of the way in my first visit! Battling a terrible cold, Dr. Schneider was a trooper that day, providing a unique perspective on the places we visited. Aside from the Great Church, we visited the Chora with its exquisite icons and Blachernae, where a palace once stood and where the Turks finally breached the walls on May 28, 1453. It was there that the Akathistos hymn was composed and first sung. We sang “Triumphant Leader…” in several languages while we visited there. Finally, we spent time at the Church of Sts. Sergios and Bacchos, now a functioning mosque. The dancing beauty of this structure sang to us of the ingenuity of Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora.

After all that, it was to the airport and off to Izmir, the modern city where ancient Smyrna, of St. Polycarp fame, once stood. On Saturday, we had a wonderful time tromping around the ruins of Ephesus.  At the Church of St. John the Evangelist, we prayed before the Evangelist’s simple tomb and listened carefully to Archimandrite Robert Taft point out interesting Byzantine features in the church ruins. Many of us succumbed to the temptation of posing for pictures in the baptismal font!

The ruins of Ephesus were quite instructive. We walked inside the remains of the Cathedral Church where the third Ecumenical Council took place. I strained to hear the debates of the Fathers who had condemned Nestorius as a heretic. A few of us quietly sang the Troparion to St. Mark of Ephesus who had resisted the reunion of the Council of Florence.
Sunday morning, we were off to Patmos. Well, we almost were not off to Patmos since the hotel had to perform mandatory tests (once every 20 years) on both their electrical and water systems and thus had shut both of them off. Standing with a small battery powered candle in pitch darkness, we debated who was going to carry our bags down the 23 flights of stairs since the elevators were not working. Luckily, the hotel restored the power before anyone drew the short straw.

After a wonderful but long ferry ride to the Greek island of Patmos, we had a brief tour of the cave-shrine where St. John the Evangelist wrote the Apocalypse. Metropolitan Kallistos told stories and shared insights that made the visit memorable. Since the Metropolitan is an idiorrhythmic monk of the monastery there, we received the royal treatment when we went from the cave of St. John up to the main monastery. The monks received us with generous hospitality. We had a tour of the Catholicon, or main Church, and then of parts of the monastery culminating in a visit with the Abbot in his sitting room. We were all disappointed that our schedule did not permit a longer stay, but we had to make it back to Turkey to catch our flight back to Istanbul so that we could go home.

The next morning, I sat with my long-time friend, Father Maximos of Holy Resurrection Monastery, where I am an idiorrhythmic monk. We sat drinking tea with Hagia Sophia behind us and looking up at Hagia Eirene before us. As we sifted through pictures on our cameras, it was difficult to believe that all of the things I have written about happened in such a short time. After a while, Father Deacon Moses of Holy Resurrection and my parishioner, Lynn Cisneros, joined us after successfully plundering the Spice Bazaar. We all took a leisurely stroll down to the Hippodrome so that we could get some photos there as well. None of us were moving too quickly since we had all felt the weight of the important things we had witnessed in the preceding days and were tired from the exertion of the whole experience. It was good to have one more day to begin to put this extraordinary time into focus.

In all, I have noted a change in my own focus. I realize after spending so much time with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch that I do not even know the name of the Greek Orthodox priest at the parish less than a mile away from mine! The real power of the Orientale Lumen movement is that it brings people together as friends, as sisters and brothers in Christ. Petty name calling and jurisdictional posturing melt away in the warm embrace of two people who would never have met if it were not for the OL Conference or the OL movement or Jack Figel. I hope that we continue to move toward real union. I hope that our friendships and the pain of not being able to Break Bread together at the same Altar motivates us, goads us to seek true union and true healing of the Body of Christ.

-Father Justin
Pastor-St. Philip the Apostle Melkite Greek Catholic Mission, San Bernardino, CA
Novice Associate of Holy Resurrection Monastery

Address of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the OL EuroEast III Conference

Monday, July 5th, 2010

We offer glory and thanks to God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity one in essence and undivided – for this blessed opportunity to warmly welcome all of you once again to our historic city of Constantinople. This is the spiritual center of an age and region which served as home to all of the early Great and Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Christian Church in the first millennium.

We recognize the presence of many eminent speakers, hierarchs and academics, including clergy, monastics, and laity – and we thank them in advance for their esteemed attendance and invaluable contribution. In this regard, we also express our appreciation to Mr. Jack Figel for organizing this third meeting of Orientale Lumen in Istanbul. As all of our forefathers of the Great Councils of the Church experienced, we too can repeat: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together.” (Psalm 132:1)

We have followed the deliberations of your international land local gatherings since they began in Washington DC in 1997. From the outset, these conferences have expressed a special appreciation for the “Light of the East,” exploring the rich spiritual and theological heritage of the Orthodox Church in the spirit of the Apostolic Letter, Orientale Lumen, by His Holiness Pope John Paul II. This inheritance can also guide us in healing the wounds of our Christian divisions. For, over many years, such Conferences have provided a valuable opportunity for members of the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church to meet together, pray together, and study together. It is to this healing of divisions and unity of mind that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been dedicated through the centuries but most especially over the last century.

1. In many ways, this journey toward visible and sacramental unity namely, our dedicated and continual response to the Lord’s command that, as His disciples, we “may all be one” (John 17:21) is one of the most important elements of the Church’s conciliar nature. Thus, the Councils of our Church are precisely a commitment to Christian unity. They articulate the necessary critical steps for overcoming political and doctrinal division, or ecclesiastical and theological estrangement. They formulate fundamental guidelines for the definition of community boundaries and evasion of general pitfalls. The Councils are, first and foremost, gatherings of unity and assemblies of communion. They are, therefore, essentially liturgical occasions for leaders of the Church to “love one another so that with one mind [they] may confess Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” as we chant each Sunday in the Divine Liturgy of our venerable predecessor on the Throne of Constantinople, St. John Chrysostom.

2. If conciliar gatherings are primarily assemblies of unity and communion, they are also gatherings of the Spirit or charismatic meetings. They are essentially Pentecostal events, where deliberation and discussion – indeed, even difference and divergence result in “avoiding all schisms”(I Corinthians 1:10) and resolve in “maintaining unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:6) It is only when we are gathered together in Openness and fellowship, when we dialogue in love and truth, that we can be sure that the Paraclete is guiding our steps in the way of the Lord. It is only when we can sincerely and humbly surrender individual arrogance or institutional pride that we can be assured of discerning the way of the Spirit.

It is, as the early monastics of the Egyptian desert liked to say, only when we “give blood that we may receive the Spirit.” (Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Abba Longinus) It is when the Apostles of Christ gathered together to deliberate candidly on the common problems that they encountered as the early Christian community that they were able confidently to claim that the Holy Spirit was speaking to them, in them, and through them. In the inspired words of the Apostolic Council, but also the opening phrase of every Ecumenical Council through the ages: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us …” (Acts15.28)

3. Finally, if conciliar gatherings are liturgical and Pentecostal events, they are also timely gatherings and contemporary meetings, mandated by the historical circumstances and current conditions of the Church in a particular age and place. It is important to remember that councils or synods whether the Apostolic Synod in the early Church or the Great Councils through the centuries have always convened in response to specific needs and problems, as a result of distinct predicaments and challenges. In this regard, in October 2008, during the 5th Synaxis of the Heads of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches throughout the world, we affirmed our obligation and commitment to advance the preparations for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, already commenced through Pan-Orthodox Pre-Conciliar Consultations. Moreover, we emphasized the importance of activating the 1993 agreement of the Inter-Orthodox Consultation of the Holy and Great Council in order to resolve the pending matter of the Orthodox Diaspora. Consequently, at the initiative and invitation of the Mother Church of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, representatives of the local Orthodox Churches have unanimously attended – since the First Pan-Orthodox Conference held in 1961 in Rhodes – several meetings, most recently the 4th Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference held in 2009 in Chambesy. Thereafter, a number of Episcopal Assemblies have met throughout the Orthodox world in preparation for the Holy and Great Council, which we fervently pray will soon be convened for the glory of God and the edification of His people in order that we may speak “with one voice and one heart” to the contemporary world, which “always asks us to be accountable for the hope that is in us, with gentleness and reverence.” (I Peter 3:15)

With these modest observations about the conciliar nature of our Church – that is to say, the understanding of councils as gatherings of unity, as assemblies of the Spirit, and as crucial responses to contemporary demands we convey upon all of you our Patriarchal wishes and paternal prayers for a successful conference in this city, where so much of the conciliar activity of the Orthodox Church occurred over the span of a thousand years.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Seventh Ecumenical Council: Nicaea II (787)

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

In order to provide some background material for the Orientale Lumen Conferences in 2010, with the help of Father Michael Hayduk, I prepared a summary of the first Seven Ecumenical Councils that I post here.

SITE: Nicaea
YEAR: A.D. 787
POPE: Hadrian I, 772 – 795
EMPERORS: Constantine VI, 780 – 797 and Empress Irene (797 – 802)
ACTION: This council, called by Empress Irene (widow of Emperor Leo IV and regent for her son Constantine VI), with its doctrinal decree ratified by Pope Hadrian I, condemned ICONOCLASM. The Pope’s epistle here, just as with Pope St.Leo I at Chalcedon, set the tone of the council.
NOTE: Brewing beneath the surface at this time, however, was a rejection of papal authority. The Eastern Bishops, cut off from Rome and receptive to heresy under persecution, were held suspect by Rome.
NOTE: Iconoclasm had been fostered by Emperor Leo III (717 – 741), who was opposed by Popes Gregory II (715 – 731) and Gregory III (731 – 741) and by St. John Damascene (d.749), priest and Doctor of the Church, who published three discourses in defense of images.

The Second Council of Nicaea was convoked by Emperor Constantine VI and his mother Irene, under Pope Adrian I, and was presided over by the legates of Pope Adrian; it regulated the veneration of holy images. Between 300 and 367 bishops assisted.