Francis’s Radical Realism: Performance v. Ideology

Sam Rocha writing at Ethika Politika makes an interesting point about Pope Francis as the first “American” pope. While Rocha’s argument is not above criticism, I think his central point–that as

…since the pragmatism of William James (and the pragmaticism of C.S. Pierce), there has been a distinct sense of concreteness to the original philosophical ideas produced on this continent. Yet, in a more direct way, the geopolitical situation in Latin America over the past hundred years has produced a sense of the concrete that is more than purely philosophical in nature. The comparative political history of modernity in Europe and the Americas makes this very clear. Whereas the European story is driven by an intellectual progression of ideas (e.g., rationalism, empiricism, idealism, and so on), the Latin American version is a postcolonial response to political situations.

He goes on to argue, as he says in the concluding paragraphs, that the real importance of Pope Francis for the Catholic Church (and indeed the Christian community in general and the wider culture is his “radical realism. What Rocha means by this is the tendency of Francis

…to treat the Word as an incarnate thing, as a reality to be shown more than it is said, to let its proclamation live in the performance of its witness, to be captured in pictures of tenderness, embrace, ordinary living. A kiss. Acts such as these are immune to the ideological trap of Western ideas that has turned so much of the reality of the Gospel into intellectual history, moral theology, and dogmatic ideals. A real Gospel cannot be a philosophy or even a philosophical theology. A philosophical Catholicism is what Francis seems to be avoiding, and for good reason.

This kind of “radical realism,” incarnated especially in ascetical struggle and liturgical worship, is the reason for the surprising success of Eastern Orthodox among not only American Evangelical Protestants but also the unchurched. What Pope Francis brings to the conversation about–or maybe better, the practice of– radical Christian realism is a spontaneous and warm openness to, well, everybody. While this hospitality (xenophilia) is not uncommon among Orthodox Christians, it is too often obscured by the heaviness with which we approach our theological tradition and our ethical cultures (including American). Continue reading

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The Universal Governance of the Church

Some priests are very good at music, others at Church history or theology. Me? I’m good at paperwork. It’s not glamorous to be sure but as St Paul reminds us administration too is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (see (1 Corinthians 12:27-28).

And it is as someone who–much to my surprise–is good at church administration, that I was delighted by a suggestion made His Beatitude Daniel the Patriarch of Romania. Speaking at last week’s preparatory meeting for the upcoming Synaxis of Orthodox Churches (scheduled for 2016), His Beatitude observes that

…in a pan-Orthodox Synaxis, as in a family, specific issues which negatively affect relations between sister Orthodox Churches and Orthodox witness in the world of today can also be discussed. Although the pan-Orthodox Synaxis is not a Pan-Orthodox Synod, nevertheless it may greatly help in understanding the importance of synodality at universal or pan-Orthodox level.

English: Romanian patriarch Daniel

English: Romanian patriarch Daniel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He goes on to say that

Since the Holy Canons require that the bishops should gather in Synod at least twice a year (37 Apostolic canon, canon 5 of the First Ecumenical Council, canon 19 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council and canon 20 of the local Synod of Antioch), the pan-Orthodox Synaxes should be organised at least once every two years, in order to intensify today the pan-Orthodox communion, cooperation and solidarity (See more here).

The suggestion that the heads of the various autocephalous Churches meet bi-annual is I think a good one and one that should be implemented. Continue reading

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Speech of His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of Romania, at the Opening Session of the Synaxis of the Primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches – A Russian Orthodox Church Website : A Russian Orthodox Church Website


Source: A Russian Orthodox Church Website.

The Synaxis or meeting of the Primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches is not a permanent institution, but a spiritual representative event. The pan-Orthodox Synaxis of Primates has neither formal status, nor competences expressed in canonical juridical terms. It is not a Pan-Orthodox Synod, but a pan-Orthodox representation of the autocephalous synods, presided over by the Primates present in the Synaxis.

The pan-Orthodox Synaxis has at present a consultative and orientating role in order to strengthen the sacramental communion through Eucharistic concelebration, pastoral co-responsibility through dialogue and missionary cooperation through action, among the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches and in the relations of Orthodoxy with the world of today. The spiritual authority of the Synaxis increases mostly by promoting co-responsibility for the unity of Orthodoxy.

The pan-Orthodox Synaxis offers the image of Orthodoxy as being more a spiritual family of Orthodox Churches from different regions, countries and ethnicities than an international religious institution.

The Synaxis foster primarily the fraternal communion and afterwards joint programs of action. Therefore, the pan-Orthodox Synaxes issued so far mainly messages and recommendations for the Church and society.

However, in a pan-Orthodox Synaxis, as in a family, specific issues which negatively affect relations between sister Orthodox Churches and Orthodox witness in the world of today can also be discussed. Although the pan-Orthodox Synaxis is not a Pan-Orthodox Synod, nevertheless it may greatly help in understanding the importance of synodality at universal or pan-Orthodox level.

Since the Holy Canons require that the bishops should gather in Synod at least twice a year (37 Apostolic canon, canon 5 of the First Ecumenical Council, canon 19 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council and canon 20 of the local Synod of Antioch), the pan-Orthodox Synaxes should be organised at least once every two years, in order to intensify today the pan-Orthodox communion, cooperation and solidarity.

Paradoxically, the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches cultivate today more the international official dialogues with other Churches than the dialogue and cooperation among them.

At present, more consultation and cooperation among the sister Orthodox Churches is needed, in front of three major challenges facing the world today:

1.secularism or religious indifferentism, which negatively affects the traditional Orthodox family, the Orthodox parish, the Orthodox monastery and the Orthodox mission in society;

2.migration phenomenon, which generates new social and pastoral problems, especially when migration is caused by war or persecutions, as it can be seen today in Syria and in other parts of the world;

3.economic and financial crisis, which calls us to greater solidarity with the poor, the sick and the lonely ones.

The spiritual, pastoral and social mission of Orthodoxy calls us today to unite more territorial canonical jurisdiction with pastoral responsibility for concrete persons and local Autocephaly with universal or ecumenical Orthodoxy.

In this sense, we thank His Holiness Bartholomew of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarch, for inviting us to participate in this Synaxis, with the hope that fraternal dialogue and cooperation help us to love and serve even more the Orthodoxy and her mission in contemporary society.

We appreciate the spiritual and material efforts which the Ecumenical Patriarchate has undertaken in the preparation of the Holy and Great Pan-Orthodox Synod, through the Pan-Orthodox Commissions and Conferences and the Pan-Orthodox Synaxes, for the well being of the whole of Orthodoxy.


Patriarch of Romania

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Antioch Withdraws from Synaxis after Jerusalem Refuses Mediation


Source: Notes on Arab Orthodoxy.

This is the official translation released by the Patriarchate, posted originally here. Please disregard my earlier translation. Arabic original here.

The delegation of the Antiochian Patriarchate has participated in the Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches and its preparatory meetings held at the Headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople from March 6 to 9, 2014. The delegation, consisted of Their Eminences Metropolitan Saba (Esber) and Metropolitan Silouan (Moussi), and Father Porphyrios (Georgi),has worked with great joy and clear dedication to make this Synaxis succeed. His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X was absent from the Synaxisdue to health reasons.The Antiochian delegation raised the conflict between the Antiochian and the Jerusalemite Patriarchates.The delegation endeavored,under the direct guidance of His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X, and in collaboration with His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, to find a solution for this conflict according to the agreement which was drafted at the meeting held in Athens– June 2013 – and attended by the representatives from the Churches of Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem.

WHEREAS, all the efforts made by HisAll-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Antiochian Delegation to find a solution with His Beatitude the Patriarch of Jerusalem were met with failure;

AND WHEREAS, the Church of Jerusalem still insists on creating an archdiocese and setting up an archbishop within the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Antioch;  

AND WHEREAS, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem is refusing any solution for this conflict which does not present the current situation as a fait accompli, and not recognizing that the majority of the Orthodox Churches acknowledge the rightness of the Antiochian position;

AND WHEREAS, the Patriarchate of Antioch has exhausted all peaceful solutions, and withheld the decision of her Holy Synod to severecommunion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with the aim of opening the wayto make everything possible for the success of the Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, and with the hope that this conflict be resolved with the spirit of brotherhood and peace during this Synaxis; 

AND WHEREAS, upon the Patriarch of Jerusalem’s rejection of the mediation of His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch to resolve the conflict according to the terms of the Holy Tradition and ecclesiastical Canon Law;

THEREFORE, the Patriarchate of Antioch resolved to:

1- Withdraw herdelegation from the Synaxis of the Primates of Churches, held in Constantinople between the 6th and the 9th of March, 2014, and suspend putting her signatureon its closing statement until a resolution for the crisis is reached;

2- Not participate in the closing Divine Liturgy service which will be held on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, as an expression that Orthodox unity cannot be realized under the violation of one Church the canonical boundaries of a Sister Church, and herrefusal to acknowledge the agreement which took place through the good and loving care of the Ecumenical Patriarch;

3- Raise the issue again in the meeting of the Antiochian Holy Synod meeting which will be held on 27th of March, 2014, in order to take the measures which the Synoddeem appropriate,taking into consideration the recent situation. 

In conclusion, the Antiochian Patriarchate cannot but entreat the Primates of the Sister Orthodox Churches to work on resolving this conflict, as 
soon as possible, according to the precepts of the Ecclesiastical Canon Law, in order to avoid any impediment toward Orthodox unity that this matter leads to.

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Message of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches


Source: Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

(Phanar, March 6-9, 2014)

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Through the grace of God, the Primates of the Most Holy Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, to the Orthodox faithful throughout the world, all of our Christian brothers and sisters as well as every person of goodwill: we extend God’s blessing and our greeting of love and peace.

“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 1.2-3)

1. Having convened by the grace of our compassionate God, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, at the Phanar, from March 6-9, 2014; having deliberated in fraternal love on matters concerning our Holy Church today; and concelebrating in the Patriarchal Church of St. George on the glorious occasion of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, we address you with these words of love, peace and consolation.

Inasmuch as our One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Orthodox Church dwells in the world, it also experiences the challenges of every age. Faithful to Holy Tradition, the Church of Christ is in constant dialogue with every period of time, suffering with human beings and sharing their anguish. For “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and to the ages” (Heb. 13.8).

The trials and challenges of history are especially acute in our days, and Orthodox Christians cannot remain uninvolved or indifferent to them. This is why we have assembled “together in one place” (Acts 2.1) in order to reflect on the problems and temptations facing humanity today. “There is fighting without and fear within.” (2 Cor. 7.5) These Apostolic words are also valid for the Church today.

2. In reflecting upon people’s suffering throughout the world, we express our support for the martyrdom and our admiration for the witness of Christians in the Middle East, Africa, and other parts of the world. We call to mind their dual martyrdom: for their faith as well as for the safeguarding of their historical relationship with people of other religious conviction. We denounce the lack of peace and stability, which is prompting Christians to abandon the land where our Lord Jesus Christ was born and whence the Good News spread to the entire world.

Our sympathy extends to all victims of the tragedy in Syria. We condemn every form of terrorism and defamation of religion. The kidnapping of Metropolitans Paul and Youhanna, other clergymen as well as the nuns of St. Thecla Convent in Maaloula remains an open wound, and we demand their immediate liberation.

We appeal to all involved for the immediate cessation of military action, liberation of captives, and establishment of peace in the region through dialogue. Christians in the Middle East are a leaven of peace. Peace for all people also means peace for Christians. We support the Patriarchate of Antioch in its spiritual and humanitarian ministry, as well as its efforts for reconstruction and the resettlement of all refugees.

3. We fervently pray for peaceful negotiation and prayerful reconciliation in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. We denounce the threats of violent occupation of sacred monasteries and churches, and pray for the return of our brothers presently outside of ecclesiastical communion into the Holy Church.

4. A fundamental threat to justice and peace – both locally and globally – is the global economic crisis. The ramifications of this are evident on all layers in society, where such values as personal integrity, fraternal solidarity and justice are often wanting. The origins of this crisis are not merely financial. They are moral and spiritual in character. Instead of conforming to the worldly idols of power, greed and hedonism, we emphasize our vocation to transform the world by embracing the principles of justice, peace, and love.

As a result of self-centeredness and abuse of power, many people undermine the sacredness of the human person, neglecting to see the face of God in the least of our brothers and sisters (cf. Matt. 25.40,45). Many remain indifferent to the poverty, suffering and violence that plague humanity.

5. The Church is called to articulate its prophetic word. We express our genuine concern about local and global trends that undermine and erode the principles of faith, the dignity of the human person, the institution of marriage, and the gift of creation.

We stress the undisputed sanctity of human life from inception until natural death. We recognize marriage as the union of man and woman that reflects the union between Christ and His Church. Our vocation is to preserve the natural environment as stewards and not proprietors of creation. In this period of Great Lent, we exhort our clergy and laity to observe a spirit of repentance, to experience purity of heart, humility and forgiveness, bearing witness to the timeless teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ in society.

6. This Synaxis of Primates is a blessed occasion for us to reinforce our unity through communion and cooperation. We affirm our commitment to the paramount importance of synodality for the unity of the Church. We affirm the words of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, that “the name of the Church signifies unity and concord, not division.” Our heart is set on the long-awaited Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church in order to witness to its unity as well as to its responsibility and care for the contemporary world.

The Synaxis agreed that the preparatory work to the Synod should be intensified. A special Inter-Orthodox Committee will work from September 2014 until Holy Easter of 2015, followed by a Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox Conference to be convened in the first half of 2015. All decisions at the Synod and in the preparatory stages are made by consensus. The Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church will be convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople in 2016, unless something unexpected occurs. The Synod will be presided by the Ecumenical Patriarch. His brother Primates of the other Orthodox Autocephalous Churches will be seated at his right and at his left.

7. Inseparably interconnected with unity is mission. The Church does not live for itself but is obliged to witness to and share God’s gifts with those near and afar. Participating in the Divine Eucharist and praying for the oikoumene, we are called to continue this liturgy after the liturgy, sharing the gifts of truth and love with all humankind, in accordance with the Lord’s last commandment and assurance: “Go ye, and make disciples of all nations . . . And lo, I shall be with you until the end of the ages” (Matt. 28.19-20).

8. We live in a world where multiculturalism and pluralism are inevitable realities, which are constantly changing. We are conscious of the fact that no issue in our time can be considered or resolved without reference to the global, that any polarization between the local and the ecumenical only leads to distortion of the Orthodox way of thinking.

Therefore, even in the face of voices of dissension, segregation, and division, we are determined to proclaim the message of Orthodoxy. We acknowledge that dialogue is always better than conflict. Withdrawal and isolationism are never options. We reaffirm our obligation at all times to be open in our contact with “the other”: with other people and other cultures, as well as with other Christians and people of other faiths.

9. Above and beyond all challenges, we proclaim the good news of a God, who “so loved the world” that He “dwelt among us.” Thus, we Orthodox remain full of hope. Despite all tensions, we nevertheless dare to hope in the “almighty God, who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev. 1.8) For we remember that the last word – the word of joy, love, and life – belongs to Him, to whom is due all glory, honor and worship to the ages of ages. Amen.

At the Phanar, the 9th of March, 2014

+ Bartholomew of Constantinople

+ Theodoros of Alexandria
+ Theophilos of Jerusalem
+ Kirill of Moscow
+ Irinej of Serbia
+ Daniel of Romania
+ Neophyte of Bulgaria
+ Ilia of Georgia
+ Chrysostomos of Cyprus
+ Ieronymos of Athens
+ Sawa of Warsaw
+ Anastasios of Tirana

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Metropolitan Tikhon on the Beginning of Great Lent 2014



Archpastoral Message of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon on the Beginning of Great Lent 2014


March 2, 2014

To the Very Reverend Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke’s account of the parable of Prodigal Son, we hear the following words of the son to the father:  “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.”  While all of us have received the spirit of sonship (Romans 8:15), like the Prodigal Son, we have squandered that gift and have rejected the pledge of future inheritance.

And yet today, we are given that opportunity to come before our Heavenly Father as repentant children, crying, “Abba, Father, turn not Thy face from Thy servant, for I am afflicted; hear me speedily, draw near unto my soul, and deliver it!” (Psalm 68/69:17-18).  The present season of repentance allows us to assess what we are doing with our lives, discerning what has caused us to turn away from sonship and striving to regain the spirit of sonship through the acquisition of love.

Through the examples of Moses’ forty days and nights without food or drink on Mount Sinai, and the forty days and forty nights that our Lord fasted in the desert, we are reminded of Saint Simeon of Thessalonica’s words: “Fasting is the work of God.”  And it is this work that takes place in the arena of repentance—Great Lent.

While our battle takes place within this world, we know from the words of the Apostle that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (2 Corinthians 10:4).  Rather, the weapon given to us by our Lord is His commandment to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).  This commandment is the basis on which we will be judged by the Son of Man at His awesome second coming.  When we saw the least one hungry, did we love him?  When we saw the least one imprisoned, did we love him? When we saw the least one homeless and a stranger, did we love him? If we do any of these tasks, if we give of all that we possess but do not do it in response to Christ’s commandment, we have gained nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3).

We are given this time of the Great Fast to grow closer to God and His Holy Church.  But, before we can even begin to take steps toward a closer relationship with our Lord and Savior, we must learn to love, for “whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).

Brothers and sisters: I too have sinned before heaven and before you, and thus I beg your forgiveness for my failings, and I ask for your prayers as I assure you of mine.

As we enter together into the season of Great Lent, let us “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light, that having sailed across the great sea of the Fast, we may reach the third-day Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls” (Apostikha at Vespers, Sunday of Forgiveness).

With love in Christ,

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Charlie Brown, Pope Francis and Political Economy

Remember the teacher’s voice in the Charlie Brown cartoons “Wah, wah, wah”?

That’s what I hear when I listen (most) clergy talk about economics and business.  You know it’s not uncommon for clergy to hold forth about these matters even while professing no particular expertise on the subject. As a result what they usually offer is a pretentious muddled folly that seeks to justify itself by falsely claiming to be a brave prophetic stance. Continue reading

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