Thursday 28 March 2013

My brother Andrew - Fr Mark Woodruff's article in The Tablet - The new Pope Francis and the Churches of the East

When Benedict XVI resigned, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople expressed more than surprise. There was clearly dismay that their “excellent cooperation”, which had overseen the re-engagement of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in dialogue in 2007, after an impasse lasting seven years, might not fulfil its promise because of a “brief papacy”. The Roman pontiff is still regarded as the first of the patriarchs by Orthodoxy, even if Pope Benedict dropped his title “Patriarch of the West” in 2006 as defunct, standing in the way of realistic ecumenism. So why should a pope retire when urgent labours are in hand and their fruits within reach? “With his wisdom and experience he could have provided much more to the Church and the world”.

The Ecumenical Patriarch is regarded as primus inter pares by many, but not all, of the world’s Orthodox Churches. He is second only in the Universal Church to the Bishop of Rome, but he is not an opposite number, having no immediate jurisdiction beyond his small community in Turkey and parts of north-east Greece, although his general responsibility for Orthodox in diaspora affords him considerable influence. For wider leadership he relies as much on persuasion, prestige and moral authority as canon law. With painstaking plans for a Pan-Orthodox Council making progress, and an abiding sense of affinity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches as both are dispersed alongside each other in every corner of the globe, Bartholomew invested much hope in Benedict’s papacy for mutual support and cooperation in the contemporary setting. Concerned for all Orthodox in diaspora, the continued growth of Christianity in Europe and the very survival of the Churches in their Eastern lands of origin, their joint efforts at solidarity and even communion appeared at risk with the prospect of a new leader.

Thus a statement from the Patriarchate explained Bartholomew’s decision to attend Pope Francis’ inauguration personally: the need for “a profoundly bold step ... that could have lasting significance”. It is the first time the Bishop of Constantinople has attended the inauguration of the Bishop of Rome ever, let alone since the great schism of 1054. Yet the Patriarch has already visited Rome a number of times since Pope Benedict’s visit to Istanbul in 2006. He was the only ecumenical leader invited to make a speech at the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II and there have been annual visits between Rome and Constantinople on the feasts of their apostles for decades. But this latest visit was different: “after such a long division … authentic reunion will require courage, leadership and humility. Given Pope Francis' well-documented work for social justice and his insistence that globalization is detrimental to the poor … the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic traditions have a renewed opportunity to work collectively on issues of mutual concern… But such work requires a first step and it would appear as though Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is willing to take such a step.” In one of those seemingly informal but resonant gestures that we are beginning to expect from Francis, the response was immediate and commensurate. The successor of Peter greeted the successor of the other Galilean fisherman as “my brother Andrew”.

Another dimension was revealed in a press interview within hours of Francis’ election by Patriarch Sviatoslav, Major-Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, by far the largest of the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome, which shares the same origins in Kiev as the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as the same Byzantine Rite and tradition as the Church of Constantinople itself. He revealed that the young Jorge Maria Borgoglio frequently attended the Ukrainian Divine Liturgy served by Fr Stepan Chmil, a great mentor to him: “The Holy Father knows not only of our Church, but also our liturgy, our rites, and our spirituality.” Furthermore, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis was Ordinary for Eastern Catholics. In 2009 Sviatoslav arrived as the auxiliary bishop for the Ukrainian Catholic eparchy in Argentina and tells how his first steps in episcopal ministry were under the Cardinal’s watchful care. They have an even closer bond now, because a year later Sviatoslav was called upon to succeed his revered mentor Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, who retired like Pope Benedict has done. At the age of 41, his election boldly charts a new course for the Ukrainian Catholic Church in service of society and the unity of Churches at home and abroad for decades to come. Pope Francis will be looking East to a dynamic former protégé for inspiration as he charts his own new course.

Whether it concerns a renewed partnership with the historic Eastern Catholic Churches, or forging new bonds hopefully leading to communion with the Orthodox, the model for Pope Francis’s understanding of the Christian East, unlike his predecessors, is not European. They envisaged the re-composition of the old Christendom around the reference points of the Mediterranean. But in world Christianity, Borgoglio has seen that the East is now right across the West, just as the West has suffused the lands of the East and is likewise worldwide. To talk of our respective territories is, as Benedict realised, increasingly beside the point. Anthony O’Mahony, director of the Centre for Eastern Christianity at Heythrop College, estimates that there are now over 4 million Eastern Christians, Catholic and Orthodox across Western Europe.  But the weight of the diaspora seems to be shifting from Europe and North America to the emerging powers in the global south, notably Australia and Latin America. Here these old Churches are young and confident, able both to sustain their tradition as they also become indigenous and move beyond being simply ethnic chaplaincies. They can thus play strong roles alongside others in the work of evangelisation, spiritual renewal, ecumenical engagement and wider social development. This is what Pope Francis is used to and how he will approach the inheritors of Byzantium across Europe too, Catholic and Orthodox alike.

So, what of the Russian Orthodox Church, the largest of all? Moscow regards itself as Third Rome and the decisive player in the future of the Orthodox Church as a whole. It believes an alliance with the Catholic Church in “the struggle for the soul of Europe” is critical, but finds the universal primacy of the Roman see difficult to contemplate. It sent its Head of External Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who did his doctorate in the West at Oxford and is regarded as a likely successor to Patriarch Kirill. The message from Moscow present and future was clear: Pope Francis was firmly addressed as “primate of the Roman Catholic Church” and as Kirill’s peer. Despite progress in Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, which is seeking an agreed view on the Roman primacy in the first millennium as a basis for recovering communion, it feels out of place to the Russian Church, whose consciousness largely relates to the second, during which it has grown considerably, with little awareness of the need for a universal primacy. Its present size, resources and world diaspora mean that it is no longer local but a fact of life to come to terms with, not just for the Catholic Church but other Orthodox jurisdictions too. Importantly, Russia’s activity in the Middle East reanimates an Imperial role as protector of all Orthodox. Given that peace and stability for that region and its Christians will loom as large for Francis as for Benedict, because they directly affect the wellbeing of Europe, the significance of the Moscow patriarchate has to be faced.

Pope Francis’ intention to trust and work with the “local Church” resonates with many Orthodox. They have long been looking for signs that the collegiality set forth at Vatican II will turn into reality. They have noted how he has called himself not supreme pontiff or pope, but Bishop of Rome. They will be looking to see how the primate of the Church “presiding in love” at Rome, will treat the Eastern Catholic Churches: as subsets of the global Roman Catholic organisation, or as honoured Churches, firmly rooted in their local homeland, yet now living side by side with Latin Catholicism’s own diaspora in the emerging societies of the south and throughout the world. It will reveal how the new Pope envisages the restoration of communion between Catholics and Orthodox, since West and East must rely on each other for the future. The Orthodox will be hoping that indeed Pope Francis, Brother Peter to Brother Andrew, “knows our Church”.

Fr Mark Woodruff is a Westminster priest and Vice-Chairman of the Society of St John Chrysostom, which promotes Catholic-Orthodox relations and the unity of the Churches of East and West.

Friday 22 March 2013

Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict greet Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury at the time of his election and enthronement

Vatican City, 21 March 2013 (VIS) – Pope Francis has sent a message to the Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, on the occasion of his enthronement at Canterbury Cathedral in London, UK, this past Thursday. Archbishop Welby is the 105 Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
“The pastoral ministry,” writes Francis, “is a call to walk in fidelity to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Please be assured of my prayers as you take up your new responsibilities, and I ask you to pray for me as I respond to the new call that the Lord has addressed to me.”
“I look forward to meeting you in the near future, and to continuing the warm fraternal relations that our predecessors enjoyed.”
Vatican City, 21 March 2013 (VIS) – Today was made public the message that Benedict XVI wrote this past 4 February to the Most Reverend Justin Welby on the occasion of his election as Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Pope wrote that the archbishop was taking up his office “at a time when the Christian faith is being called into question in many parts of the Western world by those who claim that religion is a private matter, with no contribution to offer to public debate. Ministers of the Gospel today have to respond to a widespread deafness to the music of faith, and a general weariness that shuns the demands of discipleship. Yet the hunger for God, even if unrecognised, is ever-present in our society, and the preacher's task, as a messenger of hope, is to speak the truth with love, shedding the light of Christ into the darkness of people's lives. May your apostolate yield a rich harvest and may it open the eyes and ears of many to the life-giving message of the Gospel.”
Benedict XVI concluded with the prayer that “the Lord grant you strength and wisdom” in whatever challenges the new archbishop may encounter and asking that “the Holy Spirit guide you in all that you undertake in his name.”

Thursday 21 March 2013

Homily by the Priest Director, Fr Mark Woodruff, at a Mass in Westminster to pray for Pope Francis

If I were to seek my own glory that would be no glory at all
21 March 2013 – Thursday of the Fifth Week in Lent

Fr Mark Woodruff writes:

Our new Holy Father has tagged himself with some luminous markers in his first week in office. His baptismal patron is St George, the soldier-saint chosen as the patron of the Crusades against Islam’s occupancy of the Holy Places; yet for his pontifical name he chose St Francis, who went to speak of the love of Christ to Sultan Malik al-Kamil in Egypt, so as to bring the Crusades to a peaceful end.

Quite apparently chosen by the Conclave to lead the Church in both institutional and spiritual renewal (and to those who were expecting a Vatican placeman this is reminiscent of the emergence of John XXIII from the midst of the Pian Church), the Jesuit might have been expected to look to the patronage of Ignatius of Loyola for reform or Aloysius Gonzaga for purity of life and purpose – and we have known neither a Pope Ignatius nor a Pope Louis before. Instead he lighted upon Francis, “the richest of poor men”, inspired by a fellow Cardinal, we are told, not to forget the poor who are the Church in his native Latin America.

Immediately, however, clever commentators thought he must have more in mind the great Jesuit missionary of Japan, St Francis Xavier, on whose evangelical sanctity and evangelistic labours the Catholic Church in the Far East was built, just at the time a Church apprehensive of true renewal was losing its northern flocks to the Reformation in the West. There could also have been the less than worthy Pope Alexander VI’s grandson, St Francis Borgia, who gave up his dukedom to enter the Society of Jesus, starting out as a cook and waiter at table, until he became a second founder of the Jesuits, consolidating its novitiates and setting up what was to become the Gregorian University. Another remarkable Francis was not a Jesuit, but an Oratorian, the beloved Francis de Sales, the beauty of whose preaching of the love of God, simplicity of life and purity of discipleship won many who had been excited into the ferment of Calvin’s Reform back to the unity of the Church. Although the city of Geneva of which he was bishop was lost to him, his proclamation and living of the gospel was truly the new evangelisation of its day. But all of these saints are named after St Francis of Assisi and modelled themselves on him. Likewise it is to the humble, innocent Poverello whom the Lord commanded to rebuild his Church - the person in whom perhaps more than anyone else Jesus Christ has come again - that our new Holy Father has turned for a pattern in living, inspiration in endeavour and protection in prayer. We have already heard from him that the greatest power in the Church is service; that the Church is a Church of the poor; and that its duty is to protect those whom worldly society rejects and resents, along with the creation God has given to sustain us all alike.

Another one of those luminous markers was the acceptance of a ring once belonging to Pope Paul VI as his own Fisherman’s Ring. After many years, in which the painstaking faithfulness and leadership during an ear of the greatest social changes of such a beautiful and holy soul as Pope Paul have been questioned and even despised, it is a blessing to the Church that Pope Francis has signified the hermeneutic of continuity between his new pontificate and that of the wise, bold popes of the great Second Vatican Council. So the great tradition goes on and the Church brings riches from its treasury both old and new.

Yet another marker is his insistence that he is from the first successor to Peter not with grand titles such as Supreme Pontiff or Universal Pastor but as bishop of the local Church of Rome. Thus he has honoured the remarkable Petrine ministry and teaching office of his predecessor not by reference to him as “the Pope Emeritus”, but as “our retired bishop”. In this he echoes Pope Benedict’s call as successor of the apostle Peter, that Britain heard in Westminster Abbey, to give a convincing account of the hope that lies within us, not by a facile accommodation to the spirit of the age but an ever deeper unity in the apostolic faith in Jesus Christ truly risen from the dead. It is worth noting here that it was the witness to Jesus’ resurrection and the purity of teaching conserved by the Church at Rome, in direct continuity from the apostles Peter and Paul, that caused it to be seen by all, in the words of St Ignatius of Antioch, as “the church that presides in love”. Its prime role in speaking for the whole Church and resolving the authenticity of its teaching was thus respected for a millennium in both East and West. In our own day, Pope Francis is well aware that the Eastern Churches’ diaspora is now everywhere in the West; just as the Latin West is diffused throughout the world of the Christian East too. His apparent expectation that the local Church of Rome will be trusting the Churches locally to respond to the needs of humanity for the gospel by the lights of where and who they are, whether that is Rome or Istanbul, Buenos Aires or Lusaka, Kiev or Beijing, seems to take into account the realities of how the People of God belong in the communion of the Body of Christ, the need for the Churches to act and live in collegial concert, and the urgency of mutual union among Christians for the sake of realising the blessings in the Sermon on the Mount, “on earth as it is in heaven”. Thanks to the openness of his immediate predecessor to the Orthodox Church, which enabled some notable progress in the joint Orthodox-Catholic theological dialogue, the ground has been prepared for a Patriarch of Constantinople to witness for the first time the inauguration of the local bishop of the Church which presides in love. And the real power-wielder in Orthodoxy, the confident and globally expanding but also “local” Russian Orthodox Church, was significantly represented in Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, a likely successor to Patriarch Kirill someday, who studied for his doctorate here in the West in England. The Moscow Patriarchate has long advocated an alliance from Latin West and Russian East in concert across Europe, for recalling it to the faith that once civilised it by bringing it to Christ. In rooting the Roman bishop’s wider ministry, authority and witness in the faith, needs and experience of the City and culture where he is set – serving as its own apostle of the gospel, rather than primarily ruler of the global church - Pope Francis strikes a chord with Orthodox Churches that have a strong sense of their local purpose, and challenges those which are tempted to rival the Roman curia for binding communion to central control, rather than a presidency in love. Perhaps Pope Francis will prove to be as radical for Christian Unity as his predecessor was in ending the existential papacy, so that the primacy of episcopal office might succeed him.

Perhaps the Pope’s most luminous marker is to share the concerns of the poor. Of course it is true to say that the poor are not necessarily poor because of the rich and the rich are not necessarily rich because of their abuse of the poor. The causes are as complex as the solutions are unpalatable to those with the power to deliver them. But poverty is not just economic and social. It is spiritual too. The Holy Father seems to be referring to another great saint of his Church of Rome, the 3rd century deacon, St Lawrence. When commanded by the prefect of Rome to hand over the wealth of the Church, Lawrence distributed it to the poor and told him that the poor, the disabled, the blind and the suffering were the true treasures of the Church. Sealing his own death sentence, he said that in them “the Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor”.

All these markers point to a new course to the Church’s life for sure. In every image that Pope Francis has conjured up, and every holy person whose name he seems to have invoked, he puts us in mind of the Lord’s words in today’s Gospel: “If I were to seek my own glory that would be no glory at all.” Instead, the Jesuit like the Master seeks “the greater glory of God”; and, according to his own motto, is deeply aware that the Master has chosen him not because he has some gifts or characteristics that the Lord could now find useful, but miserando atque eligendo purely out of having mercy upon him.

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Habemus Papam

May God bless and keep Pope Francis ad multos annos

May he also bless and keep Archbishop Justin of Canterbury.

"May they all be one" !