Clarifying the Zoghby Initiative-a Proposal

What is the Zoghby Initiative? Why clarify it? As a brief background-Bishop Elias Zoghby was a Melkite bishop who fell asleep in the Lord in 2008. While on earth, he answered the call of Eastern Catholics to help be a conduit of unity between all Catholics and Orthodox. His initiative is below, which has been considered not nuanced enough by many, including possibly the See of Rome.

Bishop Zoghby wrote:

  1. I believe everything which Eastern Orthodoxy teaches.
  2. I am in communion with the Bishop of Rome as the first among the bishops, according to the limits recognized by the Holy Fathers of the East during the first millennium, before the separation.

Some friends and I have discussed this and the shortcomings of it, in that it relegates all things that the Catholic Church (Latin or otherwise) has stated/done/declared after the first millennium to a strange….limbo. What do we make of declarations about the role of the Papacy at Vatican I (and Vatican II, for that matter)? What do we make of dogmatic declarations about the conception of the Mother of God, or the teachings on contraception in Humanae Vitae, as well? If we only understand the role of the Pope from the first millennium, do we miss out on some the doctrinal and dogmatic developments from the second millennium (not to mention the findings from this 3rd millennium after the birth of Christ)?

It has led me to discuss this with some close friends, and in response to this I have tried to refine the Zoghby Initiative after much discussion, prayer and reflection on the original text. Mirroring the first declaration, please read the following proposal:

1. I believe in everything which Eastern Orthodoxy teaches, particularly in the light of the Undivided Church of the first millennium.

2. I am in communion with the Bishop of Rome as the first among bishops, according to the limits and privileges of his conciliar leadership. This includes the right to speak on behalf of or to veto his brother bishops, which was exercised during the first millennium, before the separation.

How might this clarified statement help drive dialogue to be more fully aware of how the Catholic Church has lived in history? How might dialogue and reconciliation be more a matter of understanding one another more honestly, vs. through concessions that deny the realities of the Church’s living and breathing in time?

How does the Eastern Orthodox faith collide with the Catholic Church’s teachings in the centuries after the schism? In contrast, how is this collision merely one of appearances and perceived contradictions?

Time and more dialogue will tell.

Through the prayers of our holy fathers O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us!

Eastern Catholics Speaking on the New Evangelization

Glory to Jesus Christ!

It has been awhile since I’ve last posted on this blog. Many things in life have spoken to me, and there have been many negative stories that tempted me to write, but I think I’d like to resume writing by sharing something that is quite positive.

Abbot Nicholas of Holy Resurrection Monastery recently spoke on the New Evangelization, and shows how Eastern Catholics have a fresh vision to incorporating both the Ancient mark of the Apostolic Faith, and the Newness of the New Evangelization.

Among other points he states:

“If we really are Catholics formed deeply…with the rich heritage of the Church….then we will be in a much better position to keep our faith and to give it to our children effectively…

If we only know Western Christianity, if we only know the Roman Catholic Church, we are not Catholic. We need to rediscover the fullness of our faith, what Pope John Paul II called ‘breathing with both lungs’…”

And later:

“So we have a fresh way and in many ways a more appealing way to the modern mind of preaching the fundamentals of the Faith…we can present in a different way the Apostolic Tradition of the Church which is as Apostolic, the same as in the Roman Catholic Church, but in different language, in different theology, in different structure that people haven’t heard before.  It is not new, it is equally Apostolic, and is not novel and yet it’s new to people because they haven’t heard it before.”

See here for the video of his talk:



Muse Meets Eastern Catholics

“They will not force us
And they will stop degrading us
And they will not control us
We will be victorious…”

This is how Holy Union was sought between Rome and the area of the world known as Ukraine today. In 1596, the Union of Brest re-established and reaffirmed the Union between the Churches of Rome and these Eastern Christians. At this reunion, the notion of being an Orthodox Christian in communion with Rome rose up to demonstrate that the differences between East and West could coexist. To ensure this, we read these words seeking to clearly delineate that these differences should be respected. Unfortunately, there was pressure from Western Christians to not have these articles held up. See, for example, the Synod of Zamosc in 1729. Or think of the tragic situation in the United States, where married priests were deemed scandalous to Western Christians, our traditions were banned (with Rome on their side), and thousands of Eastern Catholics returned to being Orthodox and not in communion Rome. Or think of the fact that some Eastern Christians stripped themselves of their own traditions, in a self-imposed Latinization process. All of these are to be lamented, if we truly uphold our mutual unique dignity as Apostolic Christians with unique traditions. Now, to those articles…

We require prior guarantees of these articles from the Romans before we enter into union with the Roman Church.

1.—Since there is a quarrel between the Romans and Greeks about the procession of the Holy Spirit, which greatly impede unity really for no other reason than that we do not wish to understand one another—we ask that we should not be compelled to any other creed but that we should remain with that which was handed down to us in the Holy Scriptures, in the Gospel, and in the writings of the holy Greek Doctors, that is, that the Holy Spirit proceeds, not from two sources and not by a double procession, but from one origin, from the Father through the Son.

2.—That the divine worship and all prayers and services of Orthros, Vespers, and the night services shall remain intact (without any change at all) for us according to the ancient custom of the Eastern Church, namely: the Holy Liturgies of which there are three, that of Saint Basil, that of Saint Chrysostom, and that of Epiphanius which is served during the Great Lent with Presanctified Gifts, and all other ceremonies and services of our Church, as we have had them until now, for in Rome these same services are kept within the obedience of the Supreme Pontiff, and that these services should be in our own language.

3.—That the Mysteries of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ should be retained entirely as we have been accustomed until now, under the species of bread and wine; that this should remain among us eternally the same and unchangeable.

4.—That the Mystery of Holy Baptism and its form should remain among us unchanged as we have served it until now, without any addition.

5.—We shall not debate about purgatory, but we entrust ourselves to the teaching of the Holy Church.

6.—We will accept the new calendar, if the old one cannot be, but without any violation of the Paschalia [the Easter cycle] and our other feasts as they were in the time of unity, because we have some special feasts which the Romans do not have; on the sixth of January we celebrate the memory of the Baptism of the Lord Christ and the first revelation of the One God in Trinity. We call this feast Theophany, and on this day we have a special service of the Blessing of Waters.

7.—That we should not be compelled to take part in processions on the day of Corpus Christi—that we should not have to make such processions with our Mysteries inasmuch as our use of the Mysteries is different.

8.—Likewise that we should not be compelled to have the blessing of fire, the use of wooden clappers, and similar ceremonies before Easter, for we have not had such ceremonies in our Church until now, but that we should maintain our ceremonies according to the rubrics and the Typicon of our Church.

9.—That the marriages of priests remain intact, except for bigamists.

10.—That the metropolitanate, the episcopate, and other ecclesiastical dignities shall be conferred on no one except the Rus’ people or Greeks, who must be of our religion. And since our Canons require that the Metropolitain, the Bishops, and so on, first elected by the clergy, must be worthy people, we ask the King’s Grace that the election be free, leaving intact the authority of the King’s Grace to appoint the one whom he pleases. This means that as soon as someone has died we should elect four candidates, and the King’s Grace will freely chose whom he wishes from among the four. This is necessary, especially so that the persons named to such positions will be worthy and educated, for the King’s Grace, who is not of the same religion, cannot know who is worthy of this, and thus it has happened that such uninstructed people were appointed that they were scarcely literate. If the King’s Grace should wish to appoint a layman to these spiritual posts, the appointee must receive Holy Orders within no more than three months under pain of losing appointment, according to the Constitution of the Parliament of Grondo and the Articles of King Sigmund Augustus of blessed memory, approved by the present King’s Grace, for at the moment there are some who hold certain spiritual appointments in their hands but do not receive Holy Orders even for years, justifying themselves with some sort of royal “exemptions”. We ask that in future this should not be.

11.—That our Bishops should not send to Rome for the sacrae (permission to consecrate), but, if the King’s Grace names someone to a bishopric, that according to the old custom the Archbishop—Metropolitain should have the duty and the right to ordain him. The Metropolitain himself, before entering upon the office of metropolitain, should send the sacrae to the Pope. Then, after he has received the sacrae from Rome, let the bishops ordain him, at least two of them, according to their custom. If a bishop is elected Metropolitain, let him not send for the sacrae, because he already has the episcopal cheirotonia; he may take an oath of obedience to the Supreme Pontiff in the presence of the Archbishop of Gniezno (who on that occasion will not be functioning as Archbishop, but as Primate of Poland).

12.—So that our authority would be greater and we should govern our faithful with greater respect, we ask seats in the Senate of the King’s Grace for the Metropolitain and the bishops. We ask this for many reasons for we have the same office and hierarchical dignity as the Roman Bishops.

13.—And if in time the Lord shall grant that the rest of the brethren of our people and of the Greek Religion shall come to this same holy unity, it shall not be held against us or begrudged to us that we have preceded them in this unity, for we have to do this for definite, serious reasons for harmony in the Christian republic [Poland] to avoid further confusion and discord.

14.—Most important of all, it is necessary that if in our dioceses presbyters—Archimandrates, Hegumenoi, presbyters, and other clergy, but especially foreigners, even bishops and monks who might come from Greece—of our Religion should not wish to be under our obedience they should never dare to perform any divine service. For if that were allowed then there would never be any order.

15.—If in the future someone of our Religion should want to join the Roman Church, denying his own Religion and Ceremonies, let him not be accepted, since he is degrading the Ceremonies of the one Church of God, since, being already in one Church, we shall have one Pope.

16.—That marriages may freely take place between the Roman faithful and the Rus’ faithful, without any compulsion as to Religion, for both are already one Church.

17.—Inasmuch as we have lost the possession of many ecclesiastical properties, some of which our predecessors alienated by rights other than the free administration of these goods during their personal lives, so that we find ourselves in such want and poverty that we cannot provide satisfactorily for the needs of the churches, and indeed we ourselves scarcely have the means of subsistence, we require that these properties be returned to our churches. If anyone has legitimately acquired the lifetime usufruct of any ecclesiastical benefice, let him be obliged to pay an annual rent to the Church, and upon his death let the benefice revert to the Church. Such a benefice shall not be granted to anyone without the consent of the bishop and his chapter. Every benefice to which the Church presently has title is to be recorded in the Gospel Books, even if the Church does not exercise any control over some benefices. In that way they will at least belong indisputably to the Church. With this accomplished, the Church can then undertake to regain those benefices which have been alienated at an earlier time.

18.—Upon the death of the Metropolitain or of a bishop, the wardens and state treasurer shall not interfere in the ecclesiastical properties. As is the custom and tradition of the Roman Church, these properties shall be administered by the chapter until a new Metropolitain or bishop is elected. While this is already guaranteed to us by our privilege, we ask that it be incorporated into the constitution of the kingdom.

19.—That Archimandrates, Hegumenoi, monks and their monasteries, according to the old custom shall be under the obedience of the bishops of their dioceses, for among us there is only one monastic Rule, which even the bishops use, and we do not have “Provincials”.

20.—That at the tribunal among the Roman Clergy we also should have two of our [clergy] to look after the affairs of our Church.

21.—That the archimandrates, hegumenoi, priests, archdeacons, and our other clergy be held in the same esteem as the Roman clergy, and should enjoy and make use of the same liberties and privileges which were granted by King Ladislaus; they should be exempt from all taxation, both personal and concerning ecclesiastical property, in contrast to the unjust practice which has hitherto obtained—if they possess some private properties then they should pay taxes on them, whatever is just, as other proprietors do. Any priest and other clergy who possesses ecclesiastical properties within the territories of the senators and nobility are subject to them and must obey them: they should not appeal to the courts or enter into quarrels with the landlords, but must acknowledge the right of patronage. But accusations regarding the person of the clergy and their spiritual functions, are subject only to the bishop, and the misdemeanors of the clergy shall be punished exclusively by the bishop on the complaints of the landlord. Thus everyone, clergy and laity, will have their rights preserved whole and inviolate.

22.—That the Romans should not forbid us to ring bells in our churches on Good Friday, both in the cities and everywhere else.

23.—That we should not be forbidden to visit the sick with the Most Holy Mysteries, publicly, with lights and vestments, according to our rubrics.

24.—That without any interference we might be free to hold processions, as many as are required, on holy days, according to our custom.

25.—That our Rus’ monasteries and churches should not be changed into Roman Catholic churches. And if any Roman Catholic has damaged or destroyed one of our churches or monasteries, in his territory, he shall be obliged to repair it or build a new one for the exclusive use of the Rus’ people.

26.—The spiritual Church Brotherhoods which have recently been erected by the Patriarchs and confirmed by the King’s Grace—for example, those in L’viv, in Brest, in Vilnius, and elsewhere—in which we see great benefit for the Church of God and the cultivation of divine worship if they wish to abide in this unity, shall be maintained in all their integrity under the obedience of their Metropolitain and of the bishops in whose dioceses they function and to whom each of them is properly ascribed.

27.—That we shall be free to have schools and seminaries in the Greek and Church—Slavonic languages in the localities where it is most convenient, and that our printing-presses shall be free (of course under the supervision of the Metropolitain and bishops, so that no heresies be propagated and nothing be printed without the knowledge and consent of the Metropolitain and bishops).

28.—Since there have been great abuses and disobedience on the part of some priests in the dominions of the King’s Grace as well as in the lands of the lords and magnates, so that these priests have obtained the protection of the landlords and magnates for their abuses, dissolving marriages, so that the wardens and other officials profit to some extent by the fees from these divorces and therefore shield these priests, not permitting the bishops and the synod to summon such wayward clerics, abusing and even beating our visitators, we request that such abuses should cease, and that we would be free to correct the wayward and keep order, and if someone should be excommunicated because of his disobedience or for an abuse, let the government and the lords, once they have been informed by the bishops or the visitator, not permit such excommunicated clergy to perform clerical functions or serve in the churches until they have been absolved by their pastors from their faults. This shall also be understood for archimandrates and hegumenoi and other ecclesiastics who are subject to the bishops and to their authority.

29.—Than the Cathedrals in the main cities and all the parish churches everywhere in the dominions of the King’s Grace, of every place and jurisdiction, whether founded by the King, or by the city, or by a local lord, shall be subject to the bishop and under his authority, and that lay people shall not administer them under any pretext, for there are those who meddle against the obedience of the bishop, arranging matters as they wish and who do not want to obey their bishops. Let this not occur in the future.

30.—And if someone has been excommunicated by his bishops for any offense, let him not be received into the Roman Church but, on the contrary, let his excommunication be proclaimed there also. And we shall do the same with regard to those excommunicated from the Roman Church, for this is a joint concern.

31.—And when the Lord God by His will and holy grace shall permit the rest of our brothers of the Eastern Church of the Greek tradition to come to the holy unity with the Western Church, and later in this common union and by the permission of the Universal Church there should be any change in the ceremonies and Typicon of the Greek Church, we shall share all this as people of the same religion.

32.—We have heard that some have departed for Greece to procure ecclesiastical powers and return here to advise and influence the clergy and extend their jurisdiction over us. We, therefore, request the King’s Grace to order precautions to be taken on the state borders so that anyone bearing such jurisdictions and excommunications be barred from entering the kingdom. Otherwise, grave misunderstandings could arise between the pastors and the flocks of the Church.

33.—All these things we the undersigned, desiring holy concord for the praise of God’s Name and for the peace of the Holy Church of Christ, we have given these articles which we consider necessary for our Church and for which we require agreement in advance and guarantees from the Holy Father the Pope and from the King’s Grace, our merciful lord, for greater security, we have committed our Instructions to our Reverend brothers in God, father Hypatius Potij, the Protothrone, Bishop Volodymyr of Brest, and Father Cyril Terletsky, Exarch and Bishop of Lutsk and Ostrih, so that in our name and in their own name they should ask the Most Holy Father the Pope, and also the King’s Grace, our merciful lord, to confirm and guarantee beforehand all the articles which we have here given in writing, so that assured as to the faith, the Mysteries, and our ceremonies, we might come to this holy accord with the Roman Church without any violation of our conscience and the flock of Christ committed unto us and likewise that others who are still hesitating, seeing that we retain everything inviolate, might more quickly come after us to this holy union.

Given in the Year of God 1595, the month of June, the first day according to the Old Calendar.

Michael, Metropolitain of Kiev and Halych and all Rus’

Hypatius, Bishop of Volodymyr and Brest

Cyril Terletsky, by the grace of God Exarch and Bishop of Lutsk and

Ostrih Leontius Pelchytsky, by the grace of God Bishop of Pinsk and Turov


This declaration of unity between Orthodox and Catholics sounds nothing like Orthodox feeling a need to “convert”. This sounds nothing like Orthodox feeling like second class citizens for their differences between themselves and Western Christians. This sounds nothing like the proselytization of Eastern Christians by Western Christians, which has clearly happened throughout the centuries (despite, and not because of the primacy of Rome!).

Instead, this sounds like two peers entering into communion with each other.

And yet, despite such a clear entrance into communion that echoes ~400 years into the future through the recognition of the sacramental life of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches so clearly attested to by the documents of Vatican 2, some would deem it false ecumenism to respect the Orthodox by not calling for their “conversion”? Really? One would rather call the entrance into communion between Eastern and Western Christians a “conversion” experience for the Orthodox who comes into communion with Rome?

Surely, there are false ecumenisms. There is the plague of religious indifferentism. But that this manifests itself in the acceptance of Vatican 2’s clear teachings that the Orthodox have all of the sacramental mysteries, this is worse than pointing out the speck in one’s brother’s eye when there is a plank in one’s own eye. This is to make a speck out of something that is not a sin, but is instead a life-giving mystery of the Church.

This is, in effect, to accuse one party of one sin (indifferentism) while holding to a false ‘traditionalism’, wherein one’s fidelity to Rome is used as a badge to disparage the sacramental life of the Orthodox Church.

As the Muse song states, there is a powerful party line that wants to force, degrade, and control the weaker party line. How many ways has this manifested itself on the Eastern Catholics in communion with Rome?

How many ways has this been a self-imposed inferiority complex, whereby our own identity is weakened by our own sense of weakness?

As we enter into this Philip’s Fast and seek repentance and the Birth of God who is with us, may we enter it with a sense of self-identity, love for one another, and for our Holy Tradition.

Most Holy Theotokos, Save Us!

Praying Towards the East



This view of my home parish’s temple spoke to me this morning, it was one of those times where I’m thankful for modern camera/cell phone technology. While not perfectly facing the East, the temple has the general orientation of facing the East, which has been traditionally the model for Church architecture. The quote below from the writings of St. John of Damascus explains why this is the case.

Chapter XII.—Concerning Worship towards the East.

It is not without reason or by chance that we worship towards the East. But seeing that we are composed of a visible and an invisible nature, that is to say, of a nature partly of spirit and partly of sense, we render also a twofold worship to the Creator; just as we sing both with our spirit and our bodily lips, and are baptized with both water and Spirit, and are united with the Lord in a twofold manner, being sharers in the mysteries and in the grace of the Spirit.

Since, therefore, God is spiritual light, and Christ is called in the Scriptures Sun of Righteousness and Dayspring, the East is the direction that must be assigned to His worship. For everything good must be assigned to Him from Whom every good thing arises. Indeed the divine David also says, Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth: O sing praises unto the Lord: to Him that rideth upon the Heavens of heavens towards the East. Moreover the Scripture also says, And God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed: and when he had transgressed His command He expelled him and made him to dwell over against the delights of Paradise, which clearly is the West. So, then, we worship God seeking and striving after our old fatherland. Moreover the tent of Moses had its veil and mercy seat towards the East. Also the tribe of Judah as the most precious pitched their camp on the East. Also in the celebrated temple of Solomon the Gate of the Lord was placed eastward. Moreover Christ, when He hung on the Cross, had His face turned towards the West, and so we worship, striving after Him. And when He was received again into Heaven He was borne towards the East, and thus His apostles worship Him, and thus He will come again in the way in which they beheld Him going towards Heaven; as the Lord Himself said,As the lightning cometh out of the East and shineth even unto the West, so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

So, then, in expectation of His coming we worship towards the East. But this tradition of the apostles is unwritten. For much that has been handed down to us by tradition is unwritten.

Holy Father John of Damascus, pray to God for us!

Eastern Catholics and Saints Cyril and Methodius

Here is a recent article from the Catholic News Service, Zenit:

Eastern Rite Bishops to Discuss Evangelizing Culture
Annual Meeting Scheduled for This Week in Slovakia

ROME, October 15, 2013 ( – The annual meeting of Eastern Rite Catholic Bishops is to take place Oct. 17-20 in Košice (Slovakia), European Capital of Culture 2013, on the occasion of the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Slavic territory (Great Moravia – Slovakia, the Czech Republic, South-east Poland, and North-west Hungary).

In Košice, the bishops representing 14 Eastern Rite Catholic Churches in Europe will tackle the theme of evangelisation of culture, with re-reading, too, of the evangelising mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius from an historiographic point of view and the challenges which the Church faces today. Speakers include Cardinal Jozef Tomko, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples; Mgr Cyril Vasil’, Archbishop Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches; the Apostolic Exarch for Byzantine Rite Catholics in Greece, Mgr Dimitrios Salachas; and Fr Juraj Dufka SJ from Košice’s East-West Centre for Spirituality, who will speak about Art as a tool for evangelisation.

“The aim of the meeting is for Eastern Rite Catholic Bishops to discuss the challenges which our Churches must face at the local level”, said Mgr Milan Chautur C.SS.R., Eparch (Eparchial Bishop) of Košice, adding: “The 1150th anniversary of the evangelising mission of the brother Saints Cyril and Methodius to the Slav peoples and to Great Moravia, enables us, in the course of Year of Faith, to question ourselves about the theme of evangelisation of modern cultures and the inculturation of the Gospel, starting from our ecclesial, liturgical and cultural reality, so that the message of love and the truth about humanity which Christ brings, while remaining always the same, may be welcomed by the men and women of today”.

Participants at the meeting, supported by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), will include Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and CCEE President, and His Beatitude Svjatislav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of the Greek-Catholic Church in the Ukraine.

get_thumbs_on_fly.phpThis photo was taken at the meeting described above.

I think that this recent story emphasizes that it is just as simplistic to make the West ‘Evangelical’ and the East ‘Insular’, as it is to say that the West is ‘Rational’ and the East is ‘Mystical’ (for more reflections along those lines, see here.)

Instead, our vision of evangelization is something is both relevant and at the center of our Eastern Christian Faith. We are not a museum piece for observation-instead, we can breathe with vitality as we embrace our call to evangelize the world. May the Holy Spirit profit our labors to be more like Saints Cyril and Methodius! Then we will see that our Byzantine Christian faith is something that the whole world needs to receive.


Update: A Greek Catholic brother from Slovakia sent this link to the meeting, which is to be held October 17-20:

There are English and Italian versions of the site, in addition to the original Slovak. May God prosper His people who meet to commemorate Saints Cyril and Methodius, and may it reinvigorate our work!

On 1% and Memes

Memes can be powerful tools to convey messages. Their succinct nature combined with striking images can have a profound impact. However, with all brief communications they can also be misunderstood. To that end, I wanted to clarify on some of my own paltry contributions to the internet meme world.


This picture was put together back when there were protests against the richest 1%. Using the verbal meme of the 99% vs. the 1%, there is a basic sociological fact that the richest 1% continue to get richer while the rest of us are either getting poorer/less wealthy. But I feel that there is something about this meme that could be missing if we focus too much on numbers as numbers, versus numbers as memes.

When I wanted to compare Eastern Catholics to this meme of the 1%, the goal was in some senses to encourage the smallness of our numbers so that we might one day become the 2%, etc. It may have been perceived as a “we’re small but this is where we are”. But really my deepest intent would be to ask us to realize our own wealth as Apostolic Christians, as opposed to a meditation on our numerical smallness.

His Grace, Bishop John of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma was interviewed last year (along with many other great servants of the Church) on our Churches and vocations, and I find his comments here to convey this message in a deeper manner than any meme could. Please watch his comments, in addition to the priests who also answered this question on the hopes for Byzantine Catholics (and all Eastern Catholics/Christians, by extension):

So going back to the meme of Eastern Catholics as the 1%, the deep questions I would like to ask are:

1) Where do we see our deepest spiritual wealth?

2) How do we share this spiritual wealth?

3) Are we sharing our spiritual blessings, or holding them in?

4) What more can we do to share this treasure?

I think that as long as we are asking these questions versus raising our hands in despair or blame, we are on the right path.

Most Holy Theotokos, Save Us!


Eastern Catholics and the New Evangelization

It appears that some of my recent prayers have been answered with either a “Not yet” or a “No”. I recently learned that the second series in Fr. Robert Barron’s series entitled ‘Catholicism’, which focuses on the New Evangelization (see here for one review) will be coming from an exclusively Roman Catholic background. This was the case in the first general overview DVD series on Catholicism, which led me to write this post.

In brief, I argued that it is incomplete to speak of Catholicism if one does not speak to its diversity amidst unity. This was true before the schisms of the Apostolic Churches, and can be highlighted again today as Eastern Christians in communion with Rome (and Roman Catholics!) live together in harmony despite having their own particular genius expressing their faith and devotion to God. This motivated holy fathers such as Blessed Pope John Paul II to write of the importance of the Eastern Churches, such that he stated this in Orientale Lumen:

“Since, in fact, we believe that the venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches is an integral part of the heritage of Christ’s Church, the first need for Catholics is to be familiar with that tradition, so as to be nourished by it and to encourage the process of unity in the best way possible for each.

Our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters are very conscious of being the living bearers of this tradition, together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters. The members of the Catholic Church of the Latin tradition must also be fully acquainted with this treasure and thus feel, with the Pope, a passionate longing that the full manifestation of the Church’s catholicity be restored to the Church and to the world, expressed not by a single tradition, and still less by one community in opposition to the other; and that we too may be granted a full taste of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church(2) which is preserved and grows in the life of the Churches of the East as in those of the West.”

Two points stand out: one cannot be fully acquainted with something if one does not know that it exists, and it’s unfortunate that this series has not helped Roman Catholics (and the world) know about these treasures from the East.

Second, I am so thankful that the Holy Father mentions the sensitivity of Eastern Catholics towards this issue. It sometimes seems like it is of little importance to most Catholics, but it clearly was not the case for this Polish Pope who had a Ukrainian Greek Catholic grandmother. Coincidence? You can judge. :)

In summary, I’ve tried to emphasize that the Church is not very Catholic if she does not include these authentic Traditions of both East and West. A series like the ‘Catholicism’ DVD series is more aptly title ‘Roman Catholicism’-the problem with such an appellation is it doesn’t sound very Catholic. But that returns to my point mentioned above, and leads me to ask God for mercy on all of us.

With all of these criticisms borne in mind, I wasn’t intending to write this to complain. Nor was I only hoping to call others (and myself!) to prayer that East and West appreciate each other more. That’s all well and good, and worthy of a lifetime of prayers.

What comes to mind as I reflect further on the absence of Eastern Catholics in a ‘Catholicism’ series today is to ask why this is the case. There are doubtless multiple answers to this that are possible, and likely some of them are true in actuality. The Prayer of Saint Ephrem states, “let me see my own sins and not judge my brothers…”, and to that end these meditations and questions come to mind, as to the why of our absence.

Have we reached out to the world to evangelize with the Light of the East, or are we content to live in a small world of like-minded Eastern Christians?

How often do we reach out to those who are already our Brethren? Do we invite Roman Catholics to our liturgies so that they can understand us better?

Do we accept invitations (or just show up!) to Western Catholic services to visibly exemplify the fact that we are in communion with each other, despite belonging to distinct particular Churches?

Can we identify ways where the faith is growing due to our prayers and evangelization as Eastern Catholics, that might inspire others to look more into what it means to be an Eastern Christian?

Are we living the depth and fullness of our Tradition, or does our Eastern Christianity appear to simply be “a different Mass”?

These and other questions come to mind, but at the end of the day I think it’s safe to say that we can consider ourselves to blame. It didn’t seem like a big omission to not talk about Eastern Catholics in this series  (at least at this point in the series) because our presence does not seem like a critical part to telling a complete story.        

We are either too insignificant or our differences which highlight the beauty of the Church are not clearly seen. Perhaps that’s our fault because we live in such a way. May God grant more fervor and zeal to the Eastern Catholic Churches and their Faithful, that such a perception goes away through our living out the New Evangelization! It reminds me of this old ‘meme’ that I made awhile back. We may be small in numbers, but if we love our faith we can have a lasting impact on the world, as did the Apostles.

Through the prayers of our holy fathers O Lord Jesus Christ Our God, have mercy on us!