George Alexander – Dept. of Church Research and Studies – Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE – OCP News Service
Great gesture of ecumenism in Egypt between Pope Tawadros II and Pope Francis. Both Prelates signed documents to mutually recognize baptism i.e., Roman Catholics and Coptic Orthodox Churches will recognize each other’s baptism. I have other thoughts. What is the meaning of it, if there is no unity or at least an effort of unity between Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox? Even the Oriental Orthodox Church prelates could not come together on a common platform since the Addis Ababa Conference in 1965. Most of the agreed statements in Addis Ababa Conference remains unimplemented.
Even though Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Pope Tawadros II were seated nearby during the ecumenical prayer meeting, I felt that they were like strangers, I felt a huge gap and silence between them. The focus was fully on Pope Francis and the Baptism document signed. Why don’t we have a historic brotherly encounter between the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Coptic Pope? Are we just making declarations between Orthodox Churches and the Roman Church?
The mains stream Christian world is behind ecumenical unity. ‘Orthodox Ecumenists’ always emphasizes the need for unity with Rome. Most welcome. In this mad rush, we totally forget inter-orthodox and intra-orthodox unity. Yes, am talking unity among Oriental Orthodox, among Eastern Orthodox and between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches. It seems no one care for this. Unity and reconciliation between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches are not a priority at all, neither for the Prelates nor for the faithful. We are ‘beating around’ the bush and we do that very well.
I am happy to see Rome reuniting with the Orthodox world just like it was during the first centuries after Christ. The Old Orthodox Bishop of Rome or Pope, yes we do respect him, he is the primate of Rome, and he is our elder brother. Great efforts for ecumenical unity with Rome doesn’t mean that we need to act completely blind towards global Orthodox Christian unity.
The Vatican is smart and always will be. With their powerful global media dominance and popularity, they continue to achieve attention from the masses. Alexandria was more powerful and important than Rome in the early centuries, but where is Alexandria now? The Orthodox Bishop of Alexandria was first called ‘Pope. Primates of Alexandria used the title ‘pope’ for the first time in Christian history. We tend to forget this reality. Modern society and modern media groups forget and ignore a lot of things attributed to Orthodox Christianity. We all know that the Vatican smart in making declarations and agreements with Orthodox Churches and other Christian denominations. Orthodox Churches keep on sinning declarations with the Roman church.
The Impossible task
Coptic Orthodox Church made a historic move to recognize the baptism of Roman Church (even though there is a long way to go with regard to unity). Why such historic moves are not practiced between Oriental Orthodox Churches. The only time Oriental Orthodox prelates have a get-together is during the annual theological dialogue with Rome. There is no particular institution of unity for Oriental Orthodox Churches to discuss their common issues.
There are lots of unsettled matters between Oriental Orthodox and as well as between Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox. Even the agreed statements between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches are not properly or widely circulated among faithful. We see that all efforts are invested in ecumenical unity. Good and promising. Not to forget that there has been a lot of effort for Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox unity, but it remains futile to this day. Who will take care of inter-orthodox unity?
Orthodox Churches should not revolve around the pomp and glory of the Vatican, its high time they come out of this magnetic box. A conciliar global platform for Orthodoxy is the need of the hour. If we do not work on it, then it will be our mistake.
Christian unity is very important. We need to fight Christian persecution and defend our common rights. Sadly most of our efforts to defend Christian and minority persecutions are limited to conferences, ecumenical prayer meetings, and signing common declarations.
One of my FB friends made the below comment. This is one of the sad realities of Orthodox unity today.
“Reuniting the Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox should be the priority, as this is the most natural relationship. However, there are obstacles on both sides. 1) We in the Oriental Orthodox need to better reflect and articulate our Theology, Tradition, and history in order to present this in a way which the Eastern Orthodox can understand. Please note, I am not saying a change in any of these, but rather a deeper reflection and a more coherent articulation. 2) For the bulk of the Eastern Orthodox, they don’t really see anything to gain from this union, as the hang-up in the Eastern Orthodox is the Roman Church. In modern times, the Oriental Orthodox dialog has just become a plaything between the various Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions.”
At least there should be a genuine effort to overcome theological misunderstandings and reconcile between various families of Orthodox Churches. Let us not forget Orthodox unity at least.
May God strengthen and guide us on the right path of Orthodox Christian Conciliar unity.
OCP News Service