Hagia Sofia – A Lesson for the ‘Urgent Need’ for Orthodox Christian ‘Unity’

G A – Opinion, OCP Articles – OCP News Service – 12/7/2020

Hagia Sofia will eternally remain as one of the greatest Pride of Orthodox Christianity. The Ottoman Turks have succeeded in physically altering the status. The Byzantine Orthodox architectural masterpiece will constantly remain in the hearts of all Orthodox Christians (Eastern and Oriental Orthodox) irrespective of their jurisdictional affiliations.

The unfortunate schisms in the Eastern Orthodox family and between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox families are something that demands urgent attention in the light of the conversion of Hagia Sofia. Many of you may feel this awkward. However, the continued disunity in the Orthodox world exerts its effects on the total image of Orthodox Christianity. When I speak about unity, I mean Pan-Orthodox unity and for me, it comprises both Eastern and Oriental Orthodox unity.

Rome to Absorb Orthodox Churches? Who Cares?

Most of the Chalcedonian Orthodox do not agree or embrace my idea of Pan-Orthodox Unity. Pan-Orthodox unity or building a common platform for Orthodox Churches do not aim at ‘immediate communion’ between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches rather it is a gradual and steady process of cooperation between the two families of Churches as well as unity and cooperation within respective families. Why do we require unity? It is for nothing but to build a universal united ethical voice to defend Orthodox rights, to lobby with the State and political entities, to work for freedom of worship and to work again persecution and human rights abuse, to aid the poor and needy and to pave the way for extensive spiritual and theological cooperation. If a united Orthodox world platform is not possible then at least a social unity should remain in cards.

The ‘Night’ Before the Dialogue with the Vatican

It is indeed intriguing to note that the Vatican and Pope Francis who share intense relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople did not dare to issue even a courtesy statement on the status of Hagia Sofia. The so-called statement from the Turkish Catholic Bishops conference was pale and less unusual. According to Turkish Catholic Bishops, Hagia Sofia remains an issue concerning Turkey and they cannot intervene as they are in a deprived juridical status. Deplorably they also stated that Hagia Sofia ‘a Church in communion’ with Rome became Orthodox after 1054 schism. They purposefully neglected the fact that the Roman Church was the Western Orthodox Church before the great schism and there is nothing called ‘in communion with Rome (a term applicable only to Uniate Eastern Catholic Rites). Before the schism, the Byzantine Orthodox world and the Roman Catholic Church were in communion with each other. The Armenian Orthodox Patriarch of Constinatiple also made a statement which was criticised by many.

Pope Wants to ‘Trick’ Orthodox Churches Through ‘Urgent’ Intercommunion

The Vatican remains an undeniable religious, political, and business force. But why is it silent while its most beloved friend is in trouble? The Vatican under no circumstances a trusted friend of the Orthodox world. They are, of course, good to cooperate in terms of ecumenism and to develop a strategic partnership for social development.

Roman Catholic media Novena news has come out with justification for the silence of Roman Papacy over the Hagia Sofia incident. But such silence is not in cards for the Pope or the Vatican when it comes to ratifying agreements with Orthodox Churches over theological discourses. Pope Francis indeed wants to surpass all theological dialogue to achieve unity with the Orthodox world. What hypocrisy! It is high time that the orthodox hierarchy perceives Roman hypocrisy. Pope Francis ‘the Lion’ of Bari Ecumenical encounter is silent over Hagia Sofia. Let him break his silence!

Yes, He broke his silence on 12/7/2020, Sunday, several hours after publishing this article.  Thank You, Pope Francis, for that brief, improvised remark!

Three Popes & a Patriarch & the Impossible task of Orthodox Christian Unity

Incidentally, there is no meaning in doing postpartum over the Roman tactics. It is rather relatively significant to focus on overcoming schisms and conflicts within the Orthodox world as well as to discover common grounds for unified action.

The Russian Orthodox Church amid tensions with Constantinople at least made it a point to respond to the situation.

It is high time for Orthodox Churches to enhance their cooperation, and work beyond differences. If needed, Eastern and Orientals can work together despite the disagreement on Chalcedon. Rome is given a vast space to cooperate with the Eastern and Orientals Churches, then why we establish extensive Eastern and Oriental Churches?

It is significant to remember that only Orthodox Christian can achieve solutions to the problems concerning their ecclesiastical matters. Roman Church or the Pope cannot act as problem solvers of Orthodox Churches. The solution must come within the Orthodox world. Let us keep in mind that ecumenical unity will be worthless without achieving Orthodox unity.

The Orthodox hierarchy should carefully consider investing more time, energy and resources to build faith and mutual confidence between their Churches. It is high time that they strategically place conciliar unity as an utmost priority on their tables irrespective of the racial, ethnic and political concerns. The call over here is not to neglect ecumenical responsibilities, rather approach the same with a more constructive outlook as well as to understand Orthodox priorities.

We received several warnings in the past in the form of invasion, terrorism, murder and killings. We did not care much about Orthodox unity. Rather our ultimate idea was to enhance cooperation with the Vatican and rest of the ecumenical world and we are still on the move. Did we succeed? No. We stand divided on ecumenical cooperation.  Did we succeed with Orthodox unity? No, we did not.

The kidnapping and murder of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Bishops were a great warning for both families of Churches.

Hagia Sofia is the second warning, and the damage now is severe.

What will be the third warning? Are we in a mood and in our sufficient capacity to take it?

Whenever I compose and publish a piece on Pan orthodox unity, I am frequently criticised for the same. I expect the same with this piece as well. But remember this is not a matter of Chalcedon, race or ethnicity, rather a matter of survival and more than that it is a significant matter of ‘pride and honour’ for the entire Orthodox Christian world. To be frank, I was a bit hesitant to draft and publish this article. Am thankful to my dear friend Deacon Job Sam Mathews who prompted me to do the same.  

To get a free copy of the book ‘The Orthodox Dilemma, please email – theorthodoxchurch.info@gmail.com. This book discusses a lot about the problems, issues, and hopes with regard to the Global Pan-Orthodox Christian unity.

Pics Source: http://orthochristian.com/

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