Finding true unity

Finding true unity

Didymus Astle

As a Protestant convert to the Coptic Orthodox Church who has had the blessing of meeting HE Metropolitan Hilarion, the Canadian First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, I feel as though the bishop was misrepresented ("Church Around the World," May AD2000).

In the discussion I had with Metropolitan Hilarion, I found him to be most supportive of movements aimed at reuniting the Church. However it seemed to me as though he sought a genuine unity which would have a lasting effect. He seemed to think that Eastern Catholics were 'jumping the gun,' so to speak – resulting in ordinary villagers being divided between those ready to unite and those who are not.

So when the bishop said, "If the pope will support the union ... it will bring no good", my impression is that he means the possibility of Pope Francis encouraging individual Christians to transfer from an Orthodox jurisdiction to a Catholic jurisdiction (or what many lay Orthodox refer to as 'poaching'). Such a process would have the effect of entrenching in the minds of lay Orthodox that Rome is not interested in a genuine unity of Christian witness, but simply wants to 'steal the sheep to their own fold'.

The Orthodox find dialogue about unity a painful topic because of the division of families within villages and the resulting tension it creates. From an Orthodox perspective, genuine unity would be more easily achieved were the clergy of both Catholic and Orthodox Churches to co-operate on a local level in programs designed to benefit the community, e.g., feeding the poor, supporting widows, building orphanages, supplying adoption services so as to decrease the horrifying abortion rates in Eastern Europe, etc.

Regarding suspicion towards Jesuits, common among many Orthodox Christians, this has resulted from a prolonged process of cultural misunderstandings.

The circumstances are like twisted knots in a large ball of string. They take time to unravel because the people who created them didn't mean to make them in the first place. A long string of accidents over many years requires caution to correct lest the situation not be improved as we all hope it will be. Yours peacefully in the faith and love of Christ our Lord and Saviour.

DIDYMUS ASTLE
Brisbane, Qld

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