Archive for January, 2011

Sister Churches 101 — Part 3

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

“What the Person in the Pew Needs to Know About the Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue” 

At the lecture by Metropolitan Kallistos last February at The Catholic University of America, he was asked how to avoid another Council of Florence where Church unification agreements reached between Orthodox and Catholic theologians and hierarchs were not accepted by lay persons and diocesan clergy.  To answer this question he and I and others have been working on developing an education program for the “person in the pew” to raise the awareness of the Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue, and educate lay persons about the misunderstandings and misconceptions we have about each other.

We have developed a project called “Sister Churches 101:  What the Person in the Pew Needs to Know about the Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue.”  A more complete description has appeared in my previous two postings.

I have approached many institutions that give grants for such projects, but have not had any success yet in raising the funding required.

In order to get this project started, I need your help.  Metropolitan Kallistos, Msgr. Paul McPartlan, and others have agreed to record video interviews concerning the topics identified in the attached program description, but I do not have the money available to make the video recordings and edit them into the various programs for distribution (DVD, internet, etc.).  Therefore, I ask you to be generous and support the initial stage of this project by making a tax-deductible contribution to the OL Foundation that will be used to get the Sister Churches project started.  We need $25,000 for this first phase.

In order to have the program available for distribution by the OL Conference in June, I am scheduling the video recordings to be made in late March.  Therefore, I would very much appreciate if you could respond by March 1st so I can confirm the recording sessions with the speakers.

Thank you again for your generosity, and may God bless you!

For donations of $100 or more, we will send you a copy of the final Sister Churches video program as a thank you gift.

OL Foundation Donation – Sister Churches 101

Please complete the form and send to the address below, or complete your credit card information.

Name:  __________________________________________________
Street:  __________________________________________________
City:  ________________________    State: ________         Zipcode: ______________
Email:  ____________________________   Phone:  _____________________________
Credit Card # ______________________________________Expiration Date:  ________________
I wish to donate $ __________ to the Orientale Lumen Foundation for the Sister Churches 101 program.

Please make checks payable and send to:  

Orientale Lumen Foundation
PO Box 192
Fairfax, VA  22038-0192

Please respond by March 1, 2011 .

Thank you for your generosity!  All donations will be receipted for IRS tax deduction purposes.

Sister Churches 101 — Part 2

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

“What the Person in the Pew Should Know About
the Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue”

An Orientale Lumen Foundation Educational Program

The detailed questions we plan to ask and record as interviews with Metropolitan Kallistos, Archimandrite Robert Taft, and Msgr. Paul McPartlan include the following:

Detailed Questions

1. How We Got Here

a. Apostolic Times — How unified was the Early Church of the first centuries after Christ’s Resurrection?
b. Seven Ecumenical Councils — What were the major issues settled by the seven recognized ecumenical councils?
c. Estrangement Between East and West — How and why did East and West drift apart in the last centuries of the first millennium?
d. Schism of 1054 — Was there an actual schism in 1054, or were the mutual excommunications symptomatic of a widening gulf between the Byzantine East and Roman West?
e. Partial Unions — What were the Councils of Lyons and Florence? Why was union not achieved at these Councils?
f. Papal Authority of the Late Centuries — How did the authority of the Bishop of Rome develop in the last two centuries of the second millennium?  What effect has the development of Papal authority in the West had on the Orthodox East and her relations with the West?
g. Current Dialogue — How did the current dialogue of the Orthodox and Catholic Church get started, what has it achieved, and why is important?

2. Misunderstandings and Misconceptions

a. Dogma vs Doctrine — Please explain your view of “dogma” as compared with “doctrine”.
b. Dogma vs Discipline — How would you characterize the “dogma” of the Church as compared with the “discipline” of the Church?
c. Church vs Politics — Please give us your view of how the Church should function and act compared with what you have experienced as “church politics.”
d. Spirituality vs Action — What are your views about “spirituality” as opposed to “action”?
e. Mystical vs Rational — Please describe the “mystical” emphasis of Christianity that seems prevalent in the East as compared with the more “rational” emphasis of the West.
f. Legal vs Pastoral — How do you view “legal” approaches to Church life compared to “pastoral” approaches?
g. Primate vs Members — Please comment on the authority and responsibilities of a “primate” (priest, bishop, patriarch) compared with the authority and responsibilities of the “members” of a parish, diocese, region or patriarchal Church.
3. What We Agree On

a. Trinity — What are the most significant aspects of the Trinity on which Catholics and Orthodox agree?  Are there any areas of disagreement regarding the Trinity?
b. Christ — What do Catholics and Orthodox believe about Jesus Christ?  Do they disagree on any aspects of Him?
c. Mother of God — How do Catholics and Orthodox view Mary, the Mother of God? Are there any areas of disagreement regarding her?
d. Sacraments — What do Catholics and Orthodox believe about the sacraments?  Are they the same or different?
e. Eucharist — What are the characteristics of the Holy Eucharist on which Catholics and Orthodox agree? Are there any areas of disagreement?
f. Ministry — Who are the principal ministers in the Catholic and Orthodox Church? Do they function the same or not?
g. Scripture — Do Catholics and Orthodox use the same Sacred Scripture? How is Scripture considered in the Catholic Church versus the Orthodox Church?

4. What We Don’t Agree On

a. Primacy — What is the principal disagreement between Catholics and Orthodox concerning primacy?
b. Infallibility — What is “infallibility” and how do the Catholic and Orthodox Churches view it?
c. Jurisdiction — How do the Catholic and Orthodox Churches view jurisdiction at various levels of the church hierarchy?
d. Authority — What are the various views of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches about the authority of church hierarchs?
e. Councils of the Church — What councils do the Catholic and Orthodox Churches recognize and why?
f. Original Sin — What do the Catholic and Orthodox Churches believe and teach about “original sin”?
g. Married Clergy — What principles do the Catholic and Orthodox Churches follow concerning married versus celibate clergy?

5. Where do we go from here?
a. What is the future of official Orthodox/Catholic dialogue?
b. What are some practical applications for parish life and local dialogue between communities?
c. How can we educate the faithful, including adult enrichment and parish schools of religion?
d. How can we get to know each other through social gatherings?
e. How can we participate in common prayer (non-eucharistic services such as akathists, moleben, vespers, etc.)? 

Sister Churches 101 – Part 1

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

“What the Person in the Pew Should Know About
the Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue”

An Orientale Lumen Foundation Educational Program

The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is making significant progress and currently dealing with issues concerning the role of the Bishop of Rome in a united Church.  Concerns have been raised about educating the laity and parish clergy about this dialogue and the implications for full communion.  This program is intended to inform, educate and encourage dialogue on the “grass roots” level.


The principal goal of this program is to raise the awareness of the importance of Church unity, improve the understanding among lay persons and local clergy about the issues involved, and create an atmosphere in which agreements reached by ecumenists and theologians can be accepted by the faithful of the Church, both Orthodox and Catholic.


This program will consist of four 45-minute educational videos containing interviews with Church leaders and well-known educators from the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic traditions.  A printed study guide will also be developed from the content of the interviews.  A video package and multiple copies of the study guide (10 per parish) will be provided at no cost to every Catholic and Orthodox parish in the United States to be used as the basis for a four week adult education program on Catholic-Orthodox relations. 

With the support and blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America, these packages are planned to be distributed to every parish in the United States with an authoritative recommendation to utilize them at the local level.  After viewing the video, a group discussion would be held at each parish using the provided study guide.  Additional copies of the video and study guide will be available for purchase where requested by individuals or where more quantities are needed.

Other methods of distribution through the internet will be used to generate knowledge and awareness of these issues. 

Video Interviews

There will be two levels of interviews in each program.

1.  Remarks

The first level will include high-level remarks by Church leaders based on the following questions:

• Why is Church unity important?
• What impact will full communion of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have?
• Why should the typical lay person or parish priest care about the relationship of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches?
• How did we get to our current separation?
• What are some of the misunderstandings we have of each other?
• On what do we agree?
• On what do we not yet agree?

The Church leaders who will be invited to participate in this level include:

• Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
• Patriarch Gregorios of Antioch
• Metropolitan Jonah of Washington, Orthodox Church in America
• Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago
• Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington
• Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity
• Cardinal Christoph Shönborn, Archbishop of Vienna
• Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop of Kiev-Halych
• Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, Patriarchate of Moscow

2.  Detailed Questions

The second level of interviews will be more detailed and educational in nature with the following persons providing answers to the questions listed in the next section:

• Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, Oxford
• Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ, Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome
• Msgr. Paul McPartlan, The Catholic University of America, Washington

All of the interviews will be interwoven and edited into a single program on each of the four main topics with an overall conclusion at the end.  Each program will contain general remarks first and then detailed answers addressing the questions in each topic.  A voice-over narrator, Father Thomas Loya of “Light of the East Radio,” will serve as narrator and introduce each program and ask the questions of the speakers.

To be continued …

Hangover or Church?!

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

On January 1 each year, the Church commemorates both the feast of the Circumcision of Christ as a child, and Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, who is attributed with the long poetic Eucharistic Prayer, or Anaphora, that we use on some major feast days and the Sundays during Lent.

Since many are recovering from celebrating the New Year from the night before, attendance at Liturgy on January 1st is usually pretty sparse in most parishes. The two feasts seem to fall on the same day from mere coincidence, and not for any particular theological reason.

It is the 8th day after Christ’s Nativity, and so according to the Convenant of Abraham, male children are circumcised 8 days after their birth. Jesus was no different from us, and therefore like us, he was subjected to Jewish law at the time. This simply reminds us of the connection between the old covenant and the new, the Old Testament and the New Testament, the teachings of the prophets that are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

St. Basil is commemorated this same day as a remembrance of the date of his death in the year 379. Basil was a noted theologian, writing many books and treatises, his most famous, On the Holy Spirit, expresses the doctrine of the Trinity. He was a noted episcopal leader, overseeing the province of Pontus as archbishop, which was half of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). He was also known for his great influence on monasticism, both throughout the East, and in the West through Saint Benedict. Numerous religious orders of men and women, east and west, bear the name of Saint Basil. In particular, he emphasized monastic communities rather than isolated ascetics or the solitude of hermits.

Finally, Basil atttended the Council of Constantinople in 360, and his teachings on the Holy Trinity and divinity of the Holy Spirit are seen in the final Profession of Faith (Creed) approved by that council.