Renewed Possibilities for the Apostolic Churches
RENEWED POSSIBILITIES FOR THE APOSTOLIC CHURCHES
Archpriest George Morelli, PhD
A number of historically momentous events among the Apostolic Churches have occurred since the last Light of the East President's message. First and foremost were the papal resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the first pontiff to resign since Pope Gregory XII during the Middle Ages (1415 AD, to put an end the Great Western Schism), and the election of his successor Pope Francis I. The words of Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, on the papal resignation echo the feelings of the many I have talked to about this event, that it is "another sign of his great care for the Church." The cardinal went on to say, "Pope Benedict often cited the significance of eternal truths and he warned of a dictatorship of relativism. Some values, such as human life, stand out above all others, he taught again and again. It is a message for eternity,"ii This bespeaks the rampant de-Christianization of society.
As I have previously pointed out (Morelli 2006),iii unfortunately, the moral and theological relativism, and thus false ecumenism, of some organizations purportedly having a 'Christian' focus, such as the National Council of Churches, adds to this modern crisis. Antiochian Orthodox priest and commentator Fr. Hans Jacobse writes: "Unity at the expense of truth is a collaboration of the confused where the only possible outcome is collapse."iv Thus we look to the hierarchs of the Apostolic Churches to provide moral and theological direction, with eventual unity of our Churches.
It is with hope in this matter that the election of Pope Francis I can be viewed. In his previous ministry as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, his humble, simple, Christian lifestyle and extensive contact with the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox was well-known. Even his choice of his pontifical name, Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi who renounced his inherited wealth to be among the poor, broadcasts the new pope’s pastoral focus.
Quite notable was that His Holiness Patriarch Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople was the first Orthodox Patriarch in history to attend a papal enthronement, "this is a profoundly bold step in ecumenical relations between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, one that could have lasting significance."v Also of great significance was an historic audience involving the leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Churches the next day.vi Among the Orthodox and Oriental Church leaders in attendance were Metropolitan Hilarion of the Patriarchate of Moscow, Archbishop Tikhon of Washington, Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America, and Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armeniansvii. Recently it was announced that in the near future Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, would soon visit Pope Francis I in Rome.[viii, ix] In all this, let us be enlivened by the words of St. Paul: "Rejoicing in hope. Patient in tribulation. Instant in prayer." (Rm 12: 12).
i The Society of Saint John Chrysostom
The Society of St. John Chrysostom is an ecumenical group of clergy and lay people which promotes Eastern Christianity and Ecumenical Dialogue between the Eastern and Western Churches toward the healing of the sin of disunity. It has sponsored the Eastern Churches Journal and the annual Orientale Lumen & Light of the East Conferences. It has been in existence since 1997 in the United States and for over 70 years in England. (http://lightoftheeast.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/ssjcnewsspring2013.acpcorr.finalreplates.pdf)
ix Since the initial writing of this President's Message a meeting between Pope Francis I and Pope Tawadros II did take place on 10 May 2013. As part of the news release the following were quoted as Pope Tawadros II remarks: “The most important aim for both the Catholic and Coptic Churches is the promotion of ecumenical dialogue in order to get to the most pursued goal, unity... [he called for] the excellent relationships between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic may become stronger and more prosperous.” (http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/coptic-pope-stresses-urgency-of-christian-unity-at-vatican/). May I add that this should be the aim of all the Apostolic Churches.