Hangover or Church?!

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.

My Memories of Christmas

December 26th, 2010

As a young boy—waking up at first light on Christmas Day before everyone else in the family to check out what gifts were under the tree for me!  I especially remember a battery powered, remote control tractor-trailer truck about three feet long that I could drive all over the house.

As an older boy—enjoying the special foods for Holy Supper (In the Slav tradition, Holy Supper is a special family meal on Christmas Eve with food prepared only once a year.) and taking a short nap so I could stay up late and be an altar server at Midnight Liturgy at church.

As a young teen—helping Dad put together the Easy Bake Oven for my sisters; Dad was never that good at following instructions, written down or from Mom!

As an older teen—going to Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve with my Dad after we had our Holy Supper at home to share a bowl of mushroom/sauerkraut soup and some pirohi and bolbaki with her and sing Christmas Carols.

As a young adult—always traveling home to Pittsburgh, no matter where in the world I was living, to be there for Holy Supper with my parents and help prepare the special foods.

As a middle-aged adult—always traveling home to Pittsburgh, no matter where in the world I was living, to be there for Holy Supper with my parents and prepare all the special foods.

As an older adult—always traveling home to Pittsburgh, no matter where in the world I was living, to be there for Holy Supper with my parents and prepare all the special foods.

In case you haven’t noticed, I LOVE Holy Supper on Christmas Eve, and haven’t missed spending it with my parents since I was born—over 50 years now. So what are your favorite memories of long past or recent Christmas celebrations?

Feast of Saint Andrew

December 5th, 2010

November 30 is the feast of Saint Andrew, the first-called apostle. He is also the patron of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, who by tradition traveled to the ancient city of Byzantium and founded the Church there. In some years over the last 20, I have been privileged to travel to Constantinople and be present for the celebrations, and especially the visit of the delegation from Rome that come to celebrate with the Orthodox. The most significant was in 2006 when Pope Benedict XVI himself led the delegation and was present for the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Patriarch Bartholomew.

But this year, since the OL Conference took place there, I stayed home for the special Divine Liturgy held at Mt. St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. Father Lee Gross is Professor of Liturgy and Dean of Students, and has organized and hosted a Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy for the seminarians and students of the university on the same campus. The seminary choir has learned to sing the response according to the Carpathian chant tradition, and in four-part harmony.

So, this year, I was able to attend and serve as Lector for the Liturgy. The university chapel was filled almost to capacity with 200 persons, and Bishop William Skurla came to be the main celebrant.

As usual, it was a great event, and provided a wonderful opportunity for seminarians and students alike to learn about the Christian East by experiencing the Divine Liturgy. Congratulations to Father Lee for organizing this event, and to the seminarians who work to serve and sing according to the “eastern lung” of the Church.

Our Christian Life

November 14th, 2010

In a recent edition of Unirea-Canton, the monthly newsletter of the Romanian Catholic Diocese in America, Bishop John Michael (page 3) and Hieromonk Maximos (page 14) give us insightful “food for thought” for how we live our Christian lives. His Grace talks about how we live in the world and respond to the continual temptation of sin. Father Maximos makes this same topic personal by connecting our actions to the Gospel of Christ. How many of us have really thought about this—really thought about it deeply?

Do we reveal Christ through our actions in every day activity to our family, co-workers, friends, neighbors, or even strangers? Did we vote in this past election according to the teachings of Christ and His Church? Do we truly take the Gospel of Christ home from church on Sunday, after the Divine Liturgy, and live according to His commandment—to love one another?

The Sunday of the Last Judgment is commemorated on the Sunday before the Great Fast, Lent. The icon depicting this event shows Christ as Judge over all of creation, and is one of the few icons that depicts God the Father. I find it to be a useful reminder to live the life that Christ wants me to live, the reason I was put on this earth. He commands us to spread the “good news” of salvation through Him. We are to reveal Christ to the world by acting according to His teachings, and by being the image of Him in all things that we do or say or even think.

Going to church on Sunday is edifying and a wonderful experience. But, to truly experience the Kingdom of God, we must take that experience into the world, revel in God’s creation, and shape it in our small way. Small actions may have a huge impact on someone else; we’ll probably never know. But God will know, and we’ll be judged on the Last Day according to how we live our lives EVERY day, not just on Sunday!

Video Recordings with Metropolitan Kallistos

November 7th, 2010

Over the last few years, OLTV has been producing recordings of past Orientale Lumen Conferences, both plenary lectures and liturgical services, as well as several special events around the world. We have also been making special recordings by scholars and theologians on various related topics dealing with liturgy, spirituality, theology, history, and ecumenism. The idea of these lectures is to preserve the wisdom and knowledge of key Church figures not only through their writings in books, but also in their person by video and audio recordings.

During my visit to Oxford last weekend to see Metropolitan Kallistos, we recorded six lectures on Church ecclesiology, or the study of the Church. His Grace entitled the series “The Mystery of the Church” and they are arranged into the following six lectures:

1: Why the Church? (57min)

2: The Church According to the Greek Fathers, Part 1 (53min)

3: The Church According to the Greek Fathers, Part 2 (46min)

4: The Church in 19th Century Russian Thought (33min)

5: The Church in 20th Century Orthodox Thought (47min)

6: The Church in Present-Day Dialogues (49min)

This series of lectures by Metropolitan Kallistos discuss various aspects of Eastern ecclesiology as it has developed through the ages. He begins with a discussion on the importance of the Church and its role in the world, and then moves on to discuss the theology of the Church as found in the Greek Fathers, Russian thought, and finally modern thought. Particularly emphasized is the theology of communion. This series is wonderful for all who desire to deepen their understanding of the ecumenical dialogue today.

In addition to these lectures, His Grace also recording a 45 minute talk on The Holy Icon: A Door Into Eternity. This reflection discusses the definition of an icon, their purpose, how they are used, and how they related to the Church doctrines of Incarnation, Creation and the Human Person. I found this lecture particularly educational that could be used as a Lenten program for personal enrichment or a parish day of recollection.

All of these programs will be available for purchase as CD or DVD recordings from the OL Conference online catalog or by calling 703-691-8862.

Visiting with Metropolitan Kallistos

October 31st, 2010

Last spring, Msgr. George Dobes and I had planned to travel to Oxford, UK and record some additional lectures for OLTV by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, retired Spaulding Lecturer in Eastern Christian Studies at Oxford University. Our flights were cancelled because of the disruption to trans-Atlantic air travel to and from Europe due to the volcano in Iceland. We re-scheduled the flights to be here this weekend.

In retirement, Metropolitan Kallistos seems to be busier than ever. In addition to being a new member of the Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue, he has also recently been appointed co-chair of the Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue. Even though he has also retired as co-pastor of the Orthodox parish in Oxford, he still actively participates in the parish life by celebrating liturgies and administering the sacraments.

We stayed at a smallish hotel with just about 25 guest rooms a few blocks from his residence. On previous trips we were given smaller rooms on the upper floors in the new wing. But this time, we were lucky and assigned the two largest rooms on the main floor of the original building. The beds were the same size as before, what we would call “queen size” (but of course you can’t use that sort of term in England!), but in these rooms you could actually walk around the beds without hitting your shins on the frame. There was also a good size desk where I could set up my laptop and get some work done.

Our recording sessions were scheduled from 10 am to Noon each day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Then we would leave His Grace to take care of his own lunch, have a rest and other appointments. On Friday evening, we met up again for a wonderful dinner at a restaurant called the Parsonage, which was the renovated residence of the Anglican church in the center of Oxford. Across the street was the Oratory where Blessed John Henry Newman visited and preached.

On Sunday, His Grace was scheduled to visit the Orthodox parish in the city of Bath, where he was born. Rather than take a train or have one of the parishioners there come bring him to Bath (about a 2 hour drive), we offered to go with him and all of us travel by rental car. Having lived in the UK for three years back in 1987-90, I was quite comfortable driving back roads and long distances on the other side of the highway (you don’t say “wrong side of the street” over there)!

The Divine Liturgy was beautifully sung in a mixture of Greek and Russian chant with mostly English translations by a small schola. About 100 persons attended the service which was held off to the side of a functioned Anglican parish. His Grace also ordained two subdeacons and elevated the pastor to Archpriest. After a wonderful celebration of many kinds of foods in the parish hall, we did a short driving tour of the city and stopped to view Metropolitan Kallistos’ boyhood home. He seemed very pleased to show us around, and remembered quite well walking the streets of Bath. It was his first visit in several years. We then drove back to Oxford, arriving in late afternoon.

On Monday morning, we made one last recording and then flew back to Washington on Tuesday morning. All in all, another great trip and wonderful experience with Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia!

Plans for Orientale Lumen XV

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 www.olconference.com. 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!

International Dialogue Meets

October 3rd, 2010

During the week of September 20-27, the twelfth Plenary Session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church met in Vienna, Austria. This group officially consists of 2 representatives from each of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches, and 28 representatives from a wide range of jurisdictions within the Catholic Church. Bishop Florentin Crihalmeanu of Cluj-Gherla is one of several Eastern Catholics who are members of the Catholic delegation. The group totals 56 bishops and theologians.

When this official dialogue group resumed its work in Belgrade in 2006, after a long period of difficult relations, they undertook the most pressing issue for Catholic-Orthodox unity—the role of the Bishop of Rome in the Church. The group has met often since then, both in formal plenary session and in working subcommittees, and has produced a three-part plan:

1) study and agree on what the role of the Pope was during the first millennium of Christianity (up through the “schism” of 1054),

2) study and agree on the role of the Pope during the second millennium, and then

3) discuss and agree on the role of the Pope into the third millennium of Christianity.

The Ravenna Agreed Statement, issued at the plenary session in 2007, outlines a three-tier structure of authority in the Church—local diocese, regional or patriarchal, and universal. The acknowledgment of the existence of regional or patriarchal authority by the Catholics and universal authority by the Orthodox, are both major breakthroughs. You can find more information on the Ravenna Statement on the Vatican website and elsewhere on the internet, and video commentary by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) and Msgr. Paul McPartlan (Catholic University) on the OLTV website: www.oltv.tv.

We all pray that this foundation of understanding will continue to improve, and will serve to not only improve relations in the short term, but perhaps one day lead to full Church unity that Christ desired when He said: “that they all may be one!”

New Books from EC Pubs

September 28th, 2010

Eastern Christian Publications is pleased to announce several new titles that have recently been published:

The Ratzinger Formula by Richard Mattiussi, $30.00
The Formula itself was originally articulated in a lecture given by Fr. Joseph Ratzinger at an ecumenical gathering in Graz, Austria in 1976 … In sum, he proposed that the Catholic Church must not require any more of an adherence to the Roman Primacy from the Orthodox Churches than had existed in the first millennium. On the other hand, the Orthodox must not condemn as heretical the developments that took place within the Catholic Church during the second millennium… Hence, “the Ratzinger Formula” will hopefully provide a fundamentally dynamic starting point where sister churches from two distinct ecclesial worlds may seek common ground in search of a concrete model that will express full and complete Eucharistic Communion.

The Holy Pentekostarion by Fr. Robert Slesinski, $15.00
The present work represents a continuing effort in mystagogical catechesis as already given in the prior volumes of this prospective series, The Holy Encounter and The Holy Transfiguration. As mentioned in the latter work, the term “mystagogical catechesis” comes from the title of St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s post-baptismal catecheses that further enlighten the newly baptized in their Christian initiation.  Here we are concerned with being enlightened as to the very mysteries in the life of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, himself.  The title of this study, however, bears a clarification.  Strictly speaking, the term “pentekostarion” (“pentecostarion”) refers to the liturgical book that contains the propers or variable prayers and Scripture readings for church services from Easter Sunday until the first Sunday after Pentecost, the Sunday of All Saints.   In this work, on the other hand, the term is enlarged upon and equated with the Paschal season of fifty (“pentekoston”) days itself.  Truly we find ourselves in the season of the holy pentekostarion.

The Holy Encounter by Fr. Robert Slesinski, $15.00
This modest book is nothing but a meditation on the marvelous, awe-inspiring words of the Holy Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 2, verses 22–40.  This biblical passage recounts the events surrounding the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple of Jerusalem forty days after his nativity.  Of all the major feasts on the Church calendar, the one that commemorates this holy occasion in the life of our Lord is unique in that it is known by multiple names, each highlighting a distinctly different moment integral to the whole scenario of the Infant Savior’s presentation in the Temple according to Mosaic Law.  The multidimensionality of this feast thus comes to the floor.

The Holy Transfiguration by Fr. Robert Slesinski, $15.00
The present book represents a work in “mystagogical catechesis,” not in the sense of St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s famed catechetical instructions preparatory to Christian initiation into the sacramental mysteries of holy baptism, holy chrismation, and the Holy Eucharist,  but in the sense of an unfolding of the very mysteries of Jesus’ life itself.  What is central to this type of catechesis, in other words, is not the mere recounting of a Gospel event, but the actual participation in it such that the encounter with the Lord that obtains is replete with salvific significance for any would-be initiate.

Glory to God!  Volume 6:  Journeys, Homilies and Reflections by Bishop John (Kalos) of Amorion, $15.00
“We would like to wholeheartedly congratulate you upon the completion of your recent book, “Glory to God: Journeys and Reflections”. We understand this will be the last volume in your book series published by Eastern Christian Publications. As you have been a prolific writer of our Orthodox Faith and Tradition all of your life, the compilation of your articles into this multi-themed series is indeed a worthy endeavor.  Your writings are always most educational and edifying to the faithful, covering such a wide range of theological, historical, social and practical aspects of our blessed Orthodox Faith. This crowning volume, which contains personal reflections from your travels and homiletic reflections on feast days and saints, is a most appropriate conclusion to the series.  — Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Leaving for, Living in, Farewell to CHINA by Mere Elisabeth, $20.00
What difference is there between the star that stood over the manger where lay the Holy Child in Bethlehem, and the star on the red background of the flag of Communist China? An unexpected question! But if it were put to Mère Élisabeth, the author of this book, the answer would be even more surprising: “There is no difference!” Our Carmelite found the Peking Christians’ idea brilliant; to drape the Crib with the red silk of the Chinese flag in such a way that the star dominated the scene of the Nativity of the Saviour of all mankind. Recalling the separation from her Chinese Sisters whom she was to leave, Mère Élisabeth wrote: “Our Chinese Sisters are going to suffer in the heart of the surrounding atheism, the painful, perhaps long drawn-out birth of a new Christian China. May the sacrifice of our parting also make fruitful the harvest.” Those who hope that the dawn of democracy and liberty will arise over the vastness of China, and those who cannot see that it is in the simplicity of our lives that we can be men and women of light transforming the world, all will derive great benefit from reading this book.

Image, Symbol and Mystery by Archpriest Lawrence Cross, $15.00
In all its most ancient traditions Christianity is a sacramental religion. Sacraments form the very life of the Church through which the Spirit of God flows into the world. However, sacramentality implies a particular view of nature which is radically at odds with the secular, materialist view of modern western culture. It is a view that holds creation to be graced, sacred and full of meaning. The sacredness of nature thus lies at the very heart of Christianity and it is vital, when our relationship with nature is looming as one of the great moral questions of our time, that we understand how fundamental the sacredness of nature is to the sacramental life of the Church. In recent times this has become difficult in the Western Church because of the minimalist and informal way in which the liturgy and the sacraments are often approached. A study of the Eastern Church, with its love of elaborate ritual and symbol, can perhaps lead western Christians back to an appreciation of the full richness and grandeur of the Christian sacramental life. It is hoped that such a study will awaken a renewed love of the Liturgy and the sacraments in the life of the Church.

Liturgy: Model of Prayer — Icon for Life by Archimandrite Robert Taft, $20.00
My pretenses do not even extend to professing any special competence in the spiritual life or expertise in spiritual direction, and though already an old man, I do not imagine myself to be anyone’s starets but just a starik. But I do have competence aplenty in matters liturgical, and know perfectly well and have often written on what liturgy is and what it is meant to do. That is why I have chosen as the theme of these reflections “Liturgy: Model of Prayer, Icon of Life.” If you want to know what that means, read these reflections. They express my vision of what liturgy is and of what, from an Orthodox-Catholic point of view, God meant it to be in our lives.

Eastern Churches Journal Vol 15 No. 1, $15.00 or $40.00 annual subscription
Essay contest Winners of the Washington Theological Consortium, Documents, Questions & Answers, and a Chronicle of the Eastern Churches.

Orientale Lumen X (2006) Proceedings, “Church Unity Before 2054?”, $20.00

  • The Light of the East by Patriarch Gregorios III
  • Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue by William Cardinal Keeler
  • Tenth Anniversary Greeting by Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia
  • When the Son of Man Comes, Will He Find Faith? by Bishop John Michael Botean
  • Church Unity Before 2054? by Bishop John of Amorion
  • Catholic-Orthodox Relations in Southern California by Archpriest Alexei Smith
  • A Rhetoric of Peace from the Church of the East by Father Jonathan Tobias
  • The Ecumenism of the Saints by Father George Gallaro
  • The View from Here by Dr. Eugenia Constantinou

You can find them all at our online catalog website:   www.ecpubs.com

Introduction at OL EuroEast by Bishop John Michael Botean

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.