Ecumenical Patriarchate, Lutherans

Ecumenical Patriarchate: the truth and the dialogueOrthodoxy “must be in constant dialogue with the world” and, above all, it does not have to “fear dialogue” with other Christian Churches because “truth is not afraid of dialogue”. In his long message released for the celebration of the “Sunday of Orthodoxy” on the first Sunday of Lent, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, called for cultural and ecumenical openness. The Patriarch strongly advocated dialogue because – he said – “if Orthodoxy is enclosed within itself” it runs the risk of becoming “an introverted and self-contained group, a ‘ghetto’ on the margins of history”. As the great Fathers of the Church have done in the past, Orthodoxy is now “called to continue this dialogue with the outside world in order to provide a witness and the life-giving breath of its faith. However, – continued Bartholomew – this dialogue cannot reach the outside world unless it first passes through all those that bear the Christian name. Thus, we must first converse as Christians among ourselves in order to resolve our differences, in order that our witness to the outside world may be credible. Our endeavors for the union of all Christians is the will and command of our Lord” and therefore we cannot “remain indifferent about the unity of all Christians. This would constitute criminal betrayal and transgression of His divine commandment”. For “these reasons”, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has for many decades conducted theological dialogues with Christians from other Churches and Confessions. “The aim of these dialogues is, in a spirit of love, to discuss whatever divides Christians both in terms of faith as well as in terms of the organization and life of the Church”. Unfortunately, observed the Patriarch, “these dialogues, together with every effort for peaceful and fraternal relations of the Orthodox Church with other Christians, are unfortunately challenged today in an unacceptably fanatical way by certain circles that exclusively claim for themselves the title of zealot and defender of Orthodoxy. As if all the Patriarchs and Sacred Synods of the Orthodox Churches throughout the world, who unanimously decided on and continue to support these dialogues, were not Orthodox”. What is particularly worrying is that in their “argumentations” these critics “do not even hesitate to distort reality in order to deceive and arouse the faithful”, said Bartholomew I referring to the dialogue with the Catholic Church on the primacy of the Pope conducted by the Joint International Commission and opposed especially by Greek circles. “They disseminate false rumors that union between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches is imminent, while they know well that the differences discussed in these theological dialogues remain numerous and require lengthy debate; moreover, union is not decided by theological commissions but by Church Synods”, wrote Bartholomew I. Furthermore, those who conduct these dialogues are condemned as “heretics” and “traitors”. “Orthodoxy – concluded the Patriarch – has no need of either fanaticism or bigotry to protect itself. Whoever believes that Orthodoxy has the truth does not fear dialogue, because truth has never been endangered by dialogue”.Lutherans: the Pope’s visit to Rome’s community “A great joy. The Pope’s visit to our community is a gift to us”. With these words the pastor of the Lutheran Evangelical Church of via Sicilia in Rome (Italy) Jens-Martin Kruse, described to SIR Europe the frame of mind of his congregation upon the forthcoming visit of Benedict XVI next March 14. The Church in via Sicilia counts 350 registered members, representing the Lutherans living in Rome and in the Lazio region. The pastor pointed out the ‘happy coincidence’ of March 14 with the “Laetare” Sunday, which according to the liturgical calendar “is a time for joy and feast for the Lenten period in view of Easter”. “I see it as a beautiful sign for the liturgy we will celebrate with the Pope, since during the Lenten period the light of Easter is increasingly perceived. This is the situation of Christians living in the world. We are not in heaven but we are aware of what awaits us. It is the situation of the Churches. We are not united but we jointly undertake the path of Communion. This is why we can say with all our hearts that it will be a day of joy”. Recalling Benedict XVI’s recent meeting with a delegation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church from the United States, pastor Kruse said: “We are close. The things we have in common exceed those which divide us”. “Indeed”, he added, “we are aware of the major questions that still require an answer: the Eucharist and the primacy of the Pope. But as a community for us it’s more important to do all that is possible together”, which “leaves space for much to be done”. To you, who is the Pope who will be visiting you on March 14? “For us – replied pastor Kruse – he’s the bishop of Rome. We have invited the Pope in his capacities as Bishop of Rome since we know that as the Bishop of Rome Pope Benedict XVI pays frequent visits to Roman parish churches. We fully acknowledge him as the Pope, the first of the Catholic Church in the world. But for us he is the bishop and we shall receive him as a community”.

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