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Bishop Kallistos Ware – Unity between Orthodox and Catholic Christians

April 12, 2012

Bishop Kallistos Ware

Efforts towards Christian unity are ongoing and, in some cases, quite successful. For example, the main issue causing the bloody split in the 1500’s between Protestants and Catholics, i.e., “justification by faith,” was resolved after thirty years of discussion.[1] In 1999 unity regarding that doctrine was finally reached in agreement with the Protestant interpretation of salvation. This resulted in the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the leaders of the Catholic Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church.[2] Former condemnations (excommunications) of one group against the other were retracted on this issue.[3] Methodists also signed the document in 2006.[3]

Brief History of Two Other Major Splits

The Universal Christian Church suffered its first split in 451 with churches in the orient (now Oriental Orthodox) over the two natures of Christ (i.e., Christology) that arose at the Council of Chalcedon.[4] Pope John Paul and the Syriac patriarch issued a statement in 1984 declaring this issue resolved.[5] Again, retracting the excommunications of one another.

1,000 years ago there was a major split between Christians within the Universal Church from the East (now Eastern Orthodox). It was this particular split that is being discussed in this article on Christian unity along with the videos posted of a speech by Metropolitan (Bishop) Ware. I have quoted a few highlights; the parts that I enjoyed hearing the most. The videos say much more. I have also included my own commentary on the issue of the Eucharist (i.e., Lord’s Supper) with regard to Christian unity. Here are the words of wisdom that flowed from the Orthodox Christian stream at a gathering promoting unity between Catholic and Orthodox Christians…

The Most Reverend Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of the Orthodox Christian Faith (18 minutes long each) 

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of the Diocese of Diokleia was in the Atlanta metro area on April 3, 2011 discussing the primary obstacle for unity between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholics today.[6] He said Cardinal Walter Kasper, President on the Vatican’s council promoting unity stated that the major  hindrance to unity, or koinonia, for non-Catholic Christians was the Papal Claims to Authority. This was discussed by the Joint Catholic-Orthodox Commission in 2007 at Ravenna, Italy. Ware’s comments are about the statement that came from that gathering; i.e., the Ravenna Statement (see http://www.zenit.org/article-21012?l=english).

Ware said the last time Catholics and Orthodox came together to discuss this issue was in 1438-39 (Florence, Italy). He highlighted the fact that they debated for an inordinate amount of time on certain issues but spent very little time on the issue of papal authority which, unfortunately, is still dividing Christians today. For example they spent “ten months to discuss the procession of holy spirit (and the addition of the Filioque to the creed) and four month were dedicated to purgatory and the blessedness of saints. But to the question of the Papal Claims they spent no more than ten days. This happened towards the very end of the council when everyone wanted to go home!  Such was the order of priority for the people of the Fifteenth Century” (Ware, 2011).[7]

Here are the videos:

Part 1 – Kallistos Ware: Orthodox & Catholic Union

Part 2 – Kallistos Ware: Orthodox & Catholic Union

Best statement from Part I from the Bishop was his quote of the late Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I (It is much better to hear it spoken by this man of God in His British accent. He shares this nearly right away.):

We seek unity because it is Christ’s prayer, His desire, His hope. Unity will be a miracle; a miracle from the Holy Spirit. The unity of the churches, said Carl Bart, is not a manufactured article, not a human product but a gift from God. It is our task to remove the human obstacles that hinder this miracle. It is our task to allow the Spirit full freedom of action. And we shall not remove these obstacles without love. And mutual love in the full and true sense will only be possible if there is mutual knowledge, mutual fellowship. Love for unknown persons is not true love. Now the unavoidable conclusion from all of this is that union is not an optional extra. It is fundamental. And it is the responsibility of all of us; not just of theological experts and church leaders, but of the people of God, the royal priesthood, as St. Peter calls it, in its totality…

Now there is an evident consequence from all of this. As divided Christians, Catholics and Orthodox, we should, so far as possible, do everything together in full cooperation. We should only do apart what we have to do apart. Alas, one of the things that to our deep sorrow we still have to do apart is the celebration of the Eucharist [Communion Supper]. On both sides we recognize that the time for inter-communion has not come.

Now an example of the kind of cooperation of which I am speaking is exactly this common declaration that we are to affirm tonight of the sanctity of human life to be read to us shortly. This declaration is full of powerful and moving words. May these words be followed by action. This joint declaration is the indication of the degree to which Orthodox and Catholics share a common heritage; an indication of our closeness to each other. (Ware, 2011)[7]

Bishop Kallistos Ware

No Compromise

The bishop also made a comment about the anger of the demonstrators outside of these events that is so often aimed against those clergy who engage in dialogues of unity. This anger arises from their fears of compromise. Speaking of one event where Orthodox demonstrators were standing outside with placards and signs with the following words: “Orthodoxy or Death!” or “We shall never Submit!” or “The Pope is Antichrist!” Ware said:

I mention that because certainly within the Orthodox Church our dialogue is not always well understood. Many people think on the Orthodox side that we who engage in dialogue are going to betray the Orthodox faith [and] are going to compromise. And that is not at all our intentions. I sometimes wish that these objectors would read the actual proceedings and they would change their views. (Ware, 2011)[7]

The Lord’s Supper of Communion or Eucharist

My most revelatory moment upon hearing this speech by Metropolitan Ware was when I realized the prayer Jesus prayed for unity prior to His death was actually prayed during the Passover Supper. This is from whence the Communion meal was derived (i.e., the “Eucharist” as celebrated by Orthodox and Catholics). I will try to demonstrate why the timing for this prayer for unity was so significant.

One of the main themes for partaking in this meal, besides celebrating the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice, to reestablish communion or unity between God and humanity, is to bring about communion between all Christian brothers and sisters. We are each a different part of His Body.[8] This meal has always been connected to bringing about healing to our individual bodies and wholeness to our souls because the sin which brings on death and disease is cleansed by His Blood[9] and healed by His Stripes.[10] Ever wonder why we are told in the Bible that those who partake of His Body and Blood get sick and die if they partake unworthily? There is an interesting correlation here that bespeaks of the reason Christian unity is so important. Being members of His Body we make the whole body sick when we are not united because every member (body part) is important to the functioning of a whole and healthy body.[11] This is why, to partake of this meal worthily, we must seek the forgiveness of those we have offended lest we get sick and die.[12] For example, scientists now know that between 87 to 95% of disease is associated with toxic thoughts.[13] Those thoughts most often arise from self-doubt and fear that comes from wounds of rejection, abandonment, abuse, and other sins against us by others… or the guilt that plagues us from our own sins against others.

It was greatly encouraging to know that these discussions towards unity are being held. I believe everyone needs to be made aware of these efforts. However, the fact that the bishop said that they do not go to these events willing to compromise seems to indicate that when these groups get together, they are simply interested in showing solidarity and trying to learn from one another, or convince others of their own point of view. Nevertheless, I suspect from the strides made by the Catholic Church regarding the doctrine of justification that the Catholic Church, at least, is willing to arrive at a consensus of the truth regarding the scriptural meaning on points of doctrine. I hope that is true for all of the churches involved in ecumenical discussions. The blessing of unity is this, we don’t necessarily have to agree on every point of doctrine to partake with one another in the Great Commission and give the appropriate familial recognition, honor, and validation of one another as brothers and sisters. Though full communion, as they say, cannot be reached until certain major truths are agreed upon.

1. Lutheran World Federation. (2010). Justification. http://www.lutheranworld.org/Special_Events/LWF-Special_Events-Justification.html

2. Holy See. (1999). Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. Retrieved on February 1, 2012 from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_31101999_cath-luth-joint-declaration_en.html

3. Wooden, C. (2006). Methodists adopt Catholic-Lutheran declaration on justification. Catholic News Service. Retrieved April 12, 2012 fromhttp://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0604186.htm

4. Patheos.com (2012). Religion library: Oriental Orthodoxy. Retrieved on April 12, 2012 from http://www.patheos.com/Library/Oriental-Orthodoxy.html

5. From the Common Declaration of Pope John Paul II and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Antioch HH Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, June 23, 1984 Retrieved on February 1, 2012 from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/1984/june/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_19840623_jp-ii-zakka-i_en.html

6. Cross, B. (2011). Kallistos Ware: Orthodox & Catholic union. Retrieved on April 12, 2012 from http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/06/kallistos-ware-orthodox-catholic-union/

7. Ware, K. (2011). From the meeting between Catholic and Orthodox Christians held in Atlanta April 3, 2011. Video retrieved on April 12, 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_6utrkUjMc

8. See, most importantly, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, and also, for example, Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 6:15, 1 Corinthians 10:17Ephesians 4:12, Ephesians 5:30, Colossians 1:18, Colossians 1:24, & Colossians 2:19

9. See, for example, Hebrews 9:13-17, & 1 John 1:6-8

10. For example, Isaiah 53:4-6 & 1 Peter 2:23-25

11. For example, 1 Corinthains 12:20-27

12. For example, 1 Corinthians 11:23-30

13. Leaf, C. (2007). Who switched off my brain? South Africa: Switch Off Your Brain, Inc

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Many thanks to OEfstratios for posting these videos on YouTube!

© Tracey Nelson

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute my words in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by The Spotless Bride Ministries. Not everything in this article is owned by the author, so please give credit where credit is due to those quoted or other elements shared and seek proper permission from those authors, artists, and composers when necessary. Thank you.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Tracey Nelson, M.Ed., author Accelerated Transformation , © April 12, 2012 Website: The Spotless Bride Blog; (Some images, songs, & videos not owned by author).

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One Comment leave one →
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