Dear Fr Jack
Greetings...this is to inform you that the Holy Synod of Antioch has elected Archimandrite Paul Saliba as the new Metropolitan-Archbishop for Australia and New Zealand..He was elevated to the Episcopate on Sunday 10 October at Damascus...Please pass the news to Fr Ilyan and all others....details of his coming and other details will be conveyed at a later date as they are available.
"Archmandrite Paul Saliba, the beloved pastor of St. George Antiochian
Orthodox Church of Washington, D.C. was elected the new Metropolitan Archbishop
of Australia and New Zealand. Metropolitan-elect Paul's consecration took
place in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Dormition in Damascus, Syria
on Sunday October 10th, 1999. Following his consecration he will return
to the United States for a brief period, before travelling to Australia
for his enthronement and to assume his responsibilities.
Metropolitan-elect Paul was the beloved pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Washington, D.C. for the last twenty years. May God grant him many, many, years!"
His e-mail: email@example.com
Web site: http://www.saintgeorge.org/
A brief letter has been sent to the above e-mail address, on behalf of our people in NZ. Fr Jack hopes to attend the enthronement if possible. More news will be passed on as it arrives.
Over the last year the Internet has carried a number of reports about christian unity which have been sent on to us. The most hopeful matter for us as Orthodox christians is the agreement which has been reached with the "Oriental Orthodox" (Coptics, Armenians, Jacobites, etc) to the effect that the differences which were thought to exist need no longer divide us, since we are now agreed on the union of the Divine and the human in our Lord Jesus Christ; a difference in terminology between "essence" and "nature" does not now reflect a difference in doctrine. No further official decisions have been reported in recent months, but as far as we can discover both the Orthodox authorities (as reported by our late Bishop) and the Coptic christians now setting up in New Zealand are satisfied that a state of communion already exists in practice between the families of Churches. We have just received notification from the N.Z. Conference of Churches that the Syrian Orthodox Church ("Jacobite") has applied for membership and of course this will be approved as was that of the Coptic Church. We can look forward to increasing contact with these Churches in New Zealand. The healing of a breach that has lasted since 450 AD has to be of great significance.
Unity discussions with the Roman Catholics proceed more gradually,
as there is somewhat further to go. The Antiochian Orthodox Patriarchate
has responded, as has the Papacy, to a proposal by the Melchite Patriarchite
of Antioch which would have seen the Melchites come back under the jurisdiction
of the Orthodox Patriarchate while still remaining in communion with Rome.
(August 15, 1996).
In October, 1996 the Holy Synod of the Antiochian Orthodox Patriarchate issued a statement which included these concerns on the Melchite proposal:
" In this regard, our Church questions the unity of faith which the Melchite catholics think has become possible. Our Church believes that the discussion of this unity with Rome is still in its primitive stage....
.. Regarding inter-communion now, our Synod believes that inter-communion cannot be separated from the unity of faith. Moreover, inter- communion is the last step in the quest for unity and not the first."
This was reflected in a letter from Metropolitan Philip to his Archdiocese of North America:
"Please be advised that, while we pray for unity among all christians,
we cannot and will not enter into communion with non-Orthodox until we
first achieve the unity of faith. As long as this unity of faith is not
realized, there cannot be intercommunion. We ask you to adhere to the instructions
which you receive from our office and hierarchs."
The reply from Rome also says that the Melchites cannot act ahead of the general relationship between the Catholics and the Orthodox.
While unity with Rome makes gradual progress, both Rome and the Orthodox Churches are experiencing, if anything, backward progression with the protestant majorities in the World Council of Churches and the Conference of Churches in Aotearoa-New Zealand. A number of Orthodox Churches have withdrawn from the World Council over the last year and an Orthodox conference in Thessaloniki discussed how to address the problems the Orthodox find with the increasing gap between Orthodox and other member Churches. These were raised at the World Council Assembly and promises were made to address them. Meanwhile, the Roman Catholics have been having difficulties with the NZ Conference of Churches. The "Heads of Churches" were kept briefed by the Catholic Bishops throughout their negotiations with the CCANZ, and so their concerns were clear:
The CCANZ is supposed to be a Conference of Churches, but was effectively functioning as a collection of programmes run by enthusiasts recruited from the membership of the Churches or even beyond. A thorough renegotiation of the Constitution was meant to meet this concern, but the Catholics found that afterwards it was "business as before". (I hope I have not misrepresented their detailed reports by this summary). They felt they had no choice but to withdraw, and this took effect at the Forum in September. There were Orthodox representatives there, and I managed to attend for 20 minutes, during which time I heard it said by several that they did not understand what the Catholic concern was. The Catholic Bishops made a brief visit to the Forum, and repeated their continuing interest in Christian unity.
It is just thirty years (July 1969, I think) since the Anglican
General Synod in this country decided to permit its members to take Holy
Communion in any church holding the "apostolic faith" - by which they meant
mainline protestants. This did not attract much attention at the time (though
it was the occasion of my deciding I must move to the Orthodox Church).
However, in the 60's the air was full of "church union" schemes which aimed
at patching the rift between those churches which had retained the "Apostolic
Succession" of bishops, and those which had lost or abandoned it. After
that decision, the question of the Apostolic Succession was just ignored,
opening the way to further moves such as the ordination of women, and now,
I am told, a decision by the Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney to permit "lay
presidency of the eucharist". From one point of view this can be regarded
as progress in unity, but for those with any historical sense of proportion
it can only be seen as reinforcing the divisions of the reformation.
It seems to me that we should seek opportunites for contact with the Roman Catholics (as they have asked) but in settings where the fixed "ecumenical" mindset is not setting the agenda. So much "ecumenism" has consisted of trying to assimilate everyone into a common worship- culture which is in danger of driving out all others. Unity is not actually achieved by imposing uniform tunes and words. At a recent Coptic soiree we were given a copy in English of their "Liturgy of S. Basil" and it was suggested there should be a common Orthodox-Oriental Liturgy monthly. I know our S. Basil Liturgy quite well, but I was baffled by their book; but I have no doubt that we could share a Liturgy, because we find that we share the same faith.
Imposing a common culture, whether it be slogans set to sentimental pop music, or any other, is a blind alley as a path to unity. Patient seeking of truth will deliver results eventually, if it is sincere. This point is, incidentally, well made in the following address by Bishop Basil, an Auxiliary of Metrololitan Philip. Bp. Basil is well known for his excellent Litourgikon for the Priest and Deacon which combines a deep learning in the Byzantine Liturgy with a clear exposition of what each participant has to do. His speech appears to have been made at a Western Rite conference at which some sympathetic non-Orthodox were also present. His comments on the western rite are striking, as also his emphasis on finding unity not in the form of service, but in a common faith.
Comments by His Grace, Bishop Basil, Antiochian Orthodox
Archdiocese of America.
My observations begin with my own experience with Western Rite. Some of you who have known me since I've been consecrated have heard this confession before. Before I was thoroughly exposed to the Western Rite by attending services, I was very leery. I knew that philosophically and historically it was legitimate. But I couldn't believe that it could be authentic. And that was because I hadn't experienced it. So the confession is that you have a convert here.
The second observation is that among the clergy of our Diocese in general --there's always going to be one or two who can't be included in the generalization -- there does not seem to be an identification process going on. When the clergy are meeting each other I don't see any separation by rite, i.e., that you're Western Rite and we're Eastern Rite.
I saw this clearly at a clergy retreat in the Southwest region.
A priest and deacon were ordained at that retreat for a new Western Orthodox
parish. That region had been expanding, so many of the clergy had not met
each other before. Some had just joined us from another region of the Archdiocese.
Others, like the ordinands who had just come in from the Episcopal church, were new to the diocese. By the end of the first day it was like a class reunion. This happened not just by the end of the retreat, but on the first day. Even for the two new men, at the moment they were ordained they were brothers right away. The sense of unity in the Diocese is for the faith, not the rite.
Orthodox who are of the Byzantine Rite know that the way one worships is not a proof of anything. We have been in churches, and some of us have relatives who attend these churches, that look like ours, and they smell like ours, and if you would go to communion it would probably taste like ours. When you eat the holy bread it tastes like ours. The music sounds like our music. The accents that the people have are the same accents that we have, but it's not the Church.
So for Orthodox people, the fact that something looks the same and smells the same is not a proof of anything. It is in this sense that our Eastern Rite people are coming to a greater appreciation for the Western Rite. It looks different, the vestments are different, the incense smells different, the words and music are different -- and it is the Church.
I remember well the first time I attended a Western Rite service. It was not at one of our churches, but at an Episcopal cathedral. On this first visit, I wept. This was not just because it was aesthetically pleasing; I don't cry at concerts. Rather, I wept because this beautiful and authentic tradition was in danger of dying out.
You are the inheritors of a precious treasure: the authentic and Orthodox rites that nourished thousands now in the Kingdom of heaven. The Orthodox Church thanks you for preserving this tradition all these years, so that it could be restored to her through Western Rite orthodox parishes.
These words truly come from my heart. We know what the men and their wives and children who pastor our Western Rite communities sacrifice. There are economic sacrifices, which can be large and major. We know that. And we appreciate it. But there are other sacrifices that I cannot even imagine having to make. Breaking ties with men that I went to seminary with, and people that I grew up with, with my godparents, aunts and uncles. Our Western Rite people really incarnate what it means to love Christ more than father and mother and brother and sister and lands. Your lives and your ministries in your parishes are homilies to all of us who, by God's grace, have not had to make those sacrifices.
We admire what you're doing. It has nothing to do with rite; it has to do with your witness to the truth and those things which you are not only willing to sacrifice, but are in actuality offering up in sacrifice for the truth.
Whenever I attend a Western Rite conference or a small Western Rite parish, someone raises the topic of growth. It may surprise you, but in one sense I don't care if Western Orthodoxy grows. Let me qualify that. This comment does not have to do just with the Western Rite, although I'm speaking in a Western Rite context now. I am not concerned about growth and numbers at all. Of course growth and numbers are good because they mean that more souls are being saved. In that sense I do hope that all come to the knowledge of the truth. And in that sense I am glad that so many people and parishes have become Western Orthodox.
But the worth and validity of the Western Rite do not depend on growth or numbers. What if only a single parish were to survive by God's grace? What if somehow all of the seeds that you have planted and have tended for so long shrivel up, like many churches do in many places -- Byzantine and Western Rite and Catholic and Lutheran and Methodist? If only one Western Orthodox parish flourishes someplace, then it is to the glory of God. It provides a home for someone of the Orthodox faith to worship God in a liturgical context in which they feel not only comfortable but authentic.
The faith that you hold, combined with the rite in which you practice that faith, is more important than anything else. You gentlemen know that. Indeed, that's a message that's been brought home to all Orthodox by you.
We want to thank all of the guests who have been with us this week. We know that it's been painful for some of you. We hope that there's been some blessing and some joy and some sense of fellowship among people of a different family. Know that you are in our prayers, that our hearts are open to you. As these men show so well by their lives, we have nothing to offer but the truth. That's it. There's no fame, there's no glory -- in this world -- that we have to offer. If it comes, it comes as a gift from God.
The Orthodox faith is there, it's for all. But we'll be picky, to make sure that that's all that you want, and that's all that you practice. That's all, thank you. And God be with you.
Bishop BASIL, an auxiliary bishop of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, is bishop of reference for the Western Rite. Resident at the Southwest Chancery in Wichita, Kansas, he oversees congregations in the Southwest Region and the Mississippi Valley Deanery of the Archdiocese.