SSJC-WR President’s Message 2013 Summer
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 was the papal resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the first pontiff to resign since the resignation of 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, on the papal resignation, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 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,” [i]This bespeaks to the rampant de-Christianization of society. As Morelli 2006[ii] has previously pointed out unfortunately the moral and theological relativism and thus false ecumenism of some organizations purportedly with a ‘Christian’ focus such as the National Council of Churches add to this modern crises. 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.”[iii] 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 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 who renounced his inherited wealth to be among poor, broadcasts his pastoral focus. Quite notable was that His Holiness Patriarch Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople was the first Orthodox Patriarch to attend a papal enthronement since the Great Schism in 1054 AD. Also of great significance was an historic audience involving the leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Churches the next day.[iv] Among the Orthodox and Oriental Church leaders in attendance were Metropolitan Hilarion of the Patriarchate of Moscow, Archbishop Tikhon of Washington, Metropolitan of Orthodox Church in American and Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians[v]. Recently an announcement that in the near future Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church would soon visit Pope Francis I in Rome.[vi],[vii] 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).
[vii] 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.