Addressing False Ecumenism 1.2: False Ecumenism in the East: a betrayal to the martyrs


In the Catholic East, it is not uncommon to hear that we are the “Eastern Orthodox Church in communion with Rome” or “we are the voice of the Orthodox Church in communion with Rome.”

While it is true that we are the bridge between the Catholic Church and the many divided churches of the East in whom sadly happen to be in schism with Rome; and while it is also true that we are Orthodox (because of our profession of the Catholic Faith); it must be brought to our attention that there is a Catholic identity problem within the East just as there is within the West.

This is because there is a misconception of who we as Eastern Catholics are; whether we be Byzantine, Maronite, Coptic, Syro Malabar etc.

Among many beloved Eastern Catholics of good will, there happens to be an emotional attachment to the Eastern Orthodox Church because of its similarities in regards to theology and liturgical rites.

Having encountered many Eastern Catholics, it is not uncommon to hear that the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox Churches are equivalent to the Catholic Church because of the validity of the 7 sacraments, the veneration of saints etc.
Even though these separated churches have valid sacraments and many similarities with the Church, it must be remembered that they are separated for a reason – that is – because of their bitter rejection of the deposit of faith in regards to submission to Peter, the Pope.

“You cannot deny that you are aware that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head—that is why he is also called Cephas [‘Rock’]—of all the apostles; the one chair in which unity is maintained by all” (Optatus, The Schism of the Donatists 2:2 [A.D. 367]).

With that in mind, we here at HolySynergy must note that many Eastern Catholics have died at the hands of schismatics and communists because of this very key doctrine. Being that they are our ancestors as martyrs and saints of the church; insisting that the Orthodox are the same Church as the Catholic Church, or at least equivalent, is a slap in the face to these very saints.

Not only is it a slap in the face to these saints, it is also a heresy to insist that the true Church of Christ can be found in any other communion besides the Catholic Church.Let’s take a look at these very brave, pious, reverent, and holy martyrs of the Catholic East.

1. The Pratulin Martyrs.


“The Pratulin Martyrs were a group of 13 Greek Catholic believers killed by the Imperial Russian Army on January 24, 1874, in the village of Pratulin, near Biała Podlaska. Following the secularization and de-legalization of the Eparchy of Chełm, the Russian authorities forcibly subdued all Belorussian Catholics and their churches to the Russian Orthodox Church.
In a protest against the Russification and confiscation of the church, the Greek Catholic community gathered in front of the church, but were fired upon by the Russian forces, killing 13 of the protesters. The Ruthenian Catholic Church has erected a shrine to their memory there.” (Wikipedia, The Pratulin Martyrs.)

These very soldiers of Christ were recognized by Pope John Paul II and beatified on October 6, 1996.

2. Bishop Hopko

Bishop Hopko was an eparch of the Greek Catholic Church. Since Czechoslovakia was taken over by the Communists, the Greek Catholic Church was persecuted and abolished.

As a result, the Russian Orthodox Church was granted permission to remain in existence within Czechoslovakia because of its previous affiliation with the Communist state.

Bishop Hopko was arrested on 28 April 1950 and kept on starvation rations and tortured for weeks. Eventually he was tried and sentenced to 15 years for the “subversive activity” of staying loyal to Rome.

He was repeatedly transferred from prison to prison. His health, both physical and emotional later failed.

In 1964, he was transferred to an old age home. Unfortunately, he never recovered his health. Hopko died in Presov at age 72 on 23 July 1976. On 14 September 2003 Pope John Paul II beatified him at a ceremony in Bratislava, Slovakia.

3. Blessed Nicholas Charnetsky

Born in the year 1884 of Western Ukraine, Blessed Nicholas was the eldest of 9 children. Ever since he was very young, he had a desire to be ordained to the priesthood. At 18, he was sent to study by his bishop to study at the Ukrainian college of Rome. Four years after ordination, he had a desire to live as a monastic after the Latin Rite Redemptorists established a mission in Ukraine . Being attracted to the life of the Redemptorists, he entered the religious order in 1919.
In 1934 the Soviet army began to invade western Ukraine, causing the Redemptorists to flee to Lviv. In 1944, the Soviets invaded a second time. The following year all the Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops were placed under arrest as part of the Soviet plan to suppress the Church and transfer its property to the state-sanctioned Orthodox Church.
During his time in prison Bishop Mykolay endured frequent violent interrogations. He was charged with collaborating with being an agent of a foreign power i.e. the Vatican; as a result he was sentenced to hard labour.
Even though he was released in 1956, his health was very poor. The prison authorities released him in order that he die elsewhere. While he later recovered, he has entered heaven in 1959. On his pastoral visit to Ukraine, Pope John Paul II beatified him on October 27, 2001.

4. Bishop Nykyta Budka

Bishop Budka was appointed appointed bishop for Ukrainian Catholics in Canada and titular bishop of Patara on July 15, 1912 by Pope Pius XI, and was consecrated (ordained a bishop) on October 14 of that year.

Bishop Budka was the first Eastern Catholic bishop with full jurisdiction within the New World, considering that he was born in Ukraine. After returning to the now Polish controlled Galicia (which was then Soviet territory), he bravely opposed the communist government because of its requirement that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church must separate from communion with the Pope.
On April 11 1945, he was sentenced to prison with many other bishops of the Church. He was charged with teaching in an underground seminary, conducting a memorial service for the victims of the Soviet occupation of Galicia in 1939, and campaigning for the secession of Ukraine for the Soviet Union.

Sentenced to 8 years imprisonment, he was sent to Kazakhstan to serve his sentence. He died in the Gulag on September 28, 1949 form what Soviet officials said was a heart attack. martyr on June 27, 2001, in a Byzatine rite ceremony by Pope John Paul II in Lviv.

5. Eparch Theodore Romzha


Bishop Romzha was a bishop of the Ruthentian Greek Catholic Church. Because of his opposition to convert to the Orthodox Church and refuse schism with the Pope of Rome, the Soviet Red Army has martyred him after beating him, which later caused him to be hospitalized, and poisoning him after hiring a nurse to inject him with curare because of his quick recovery. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on July 27, 2001.

6. His Eminent Beatitude Josyf Slipyj


Patriarch Slipyj was the Patriarch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and a cardinal. Even though he was not a martyr, he along with the UGCC rejected to loose communion with the Pope regardless of what the communist party of Ukraine insisted. As a result, he was imprisoned with hard labour for eight years. The Soviets have later taken control of the UGCC within Lviv and later revoked the union breast with Rome and was forcibly “rejoined” to the schismatic Russian Orthodox Church.

7. Leonid Feodorov

Leonid Feodorov, a Catholic convert, was a Exarch (Patriarch) of the Russian Greek Catholic Church.

Although Leonid had originally promised to adopt the Latin Rite, while studying in the Jesuit seminary at Anagni, Leonid came to believe that it was his duty to remain faithful to the liturgy and customs of the Christian East. With the full permission and encouragement of Pope St. Pius X, Leonid transferred to the Russian Catholic Church.

Because of his pious submit to the Pope, the communist government has imprisoned him. On March 7, 1935, he died due to the rigorous of his imprisonment.

8. Pavel Peter Gojdič

Blessed Gohdič was a Basilian Monk and Bishop of the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Prešov, Slovakia. Because of his rejection to submit Greek Catholics to the Russian Orthodox Church, as insisted by the Communist party, he was tortured. Later, the Communists have given him the infamous offer that if he were to leave the church, they would appoint him the patriarch of the a Orthodox Church of Slovakia.

He piously rejected to loose communion with the Pope and to convert to the schismatic church, causing him to suffer even more persecution. He died of terminal cancer in the prison hospital of Leopoldov Prison in 1960, on his 72nd birthday. He was beatified on 4 November 2001 by Pope John Paul II.

Let us close this post with a few quotes from the Popes.

“…for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it.”
-Pope Pius XI, Encyclical “Mortalium Animos”

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Married clergy in the East

If you belong to the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, you may find the idea of married priests strange. This is because the majority of priests within the Catholic Church belong to the Latin/Roman Catholic Church. 
 In the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church, it is commonly misunderstood that priests can get married. 

Just like in the Latin Church, priests are not allowed to become married. However, married men are allowed to be ordained to the priesthood. 

Therefore, it is typical to see married men in the seminary of the Eastern Rites piously preparing to become successors of the apostles and presbyters of God’s Holy Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict XIV piously stated in his encyclical ‘Allatae Sunt’ in 1755 the following:  

“Another example is the freedom enjoyed by priests of the Oriental and Greek church to remain married to their wives after their ordination (see can. Aliter, dist. 31 and chap. Cum olim, de Clericis Conjugatis). 

Considering that this practice was at variance neither with divine nor natural law, but only with Church discipline, the popes judged it right to tolerate this custom, which flourished among Greeks and Orientals, rather than to forbid it by their apostolic authority, to avoid giving them a pretext to abandon unity. So does Arcudius assess the matter.” (Concordia bk. 7, chap. 33)

Apologetics 1.3 : Latinization and the Eastern Catholic Churches 


What is Latinization, and why is it bad for Eastern Catholics?

Latinization is the practice of making Eastern Rite Catholic Churches more like the Roman Catholic Church by replacing Eastern Catholic customs and practices with Latin practices. A good example of this would be the replacement of Eastern Chants with Gregorian Chant, the replacement of Eastern Catholic vestments with Roman Catholic vestments, the replacement of icons with statues, the unfair banning of Eastern Catholic priests from public ministry because of their giving into marriage prior to their ordination (common in the early 1900’s within the USA), the replacement of Hyssop with the Latin Rite sprinkler for the Holy Water rites, etc.

 

Latinized Coptic Catholic Liturgy

While it is still very common, the abuse has died down within many Eastern Catholic Churches. The abuse of Latinization has come from Catholics ignorant of the Eastern Catholic Churches and their dignity. It was believed that they  were less Catholic because of their differences in practices from the Roman Church. This was especially present among missionaries of the Roman Church that went to evangelize North Africa, The Middle East, and East Europe.

“We gather from many other indications that Latin missionaries devote thought and care to destroying or at least weakening the Oriental rite in the course of converting Orientals from the error of schism to the unity of the Holy Catholic Religion; they induce Oriental Catholics to embrace the Latin rite…” (Pope Benedict XIV, Allatae Sunt, July 26, 1755.)

The missionaries have even come to the point where they demanded that those within the Eastern Rites must become Latin Rite in order to be completely Catholic. Therefore, Pope Leo XIII condemned this practice in his encyclical ‘Orientalium Dignitas’ by stating the following:

” Any Latin rite missionary, whether of the secular or religious clergy, who induces with his advice or assistance any Eastern rite faithful to transfer to the Latin rite, will be deposed and excluded from his benefice in addition to the ipso facto suspension a divinis and other punishments that he will incur as imposed in the aforesaid Constitution Demandatam. That this decree stand fixed and lasting We order a copy of it be posted openly in the churches of the Latin rite.”

However, the Popes have made it know that the Eastern rites aren’t less Catholic.

Pope Benedict XV asserted in the encyclical, Dei providentis, May 11, 1917: “The Church of Jesus Christ is neither Latin nor Greek nor Slav, but Catholic; accordingly she makes no difference between her children and Greeks, Latins, Slavs and members of all other nations are equal in the eyes of the Apostolic See.”

Pope Leo XIII in his Apostolic letter, Orientalium dignitas, published on November 30, 1894, declared:

“The maintenance in being of the Eastern rites is of more importance than might be imagined. The august antiquity, which lends dignity to these various rites is an adornment of the whole church and a witness to the divine unity of the Catholic faith. Perhaps nothing, in fact, better proves the note of Catholicity in the Church of God than the singular homage paid by these ceremonies which vary in form, which are celebrated in languages venerable by their antiquity, and which are still further hallowed by the use that has been made of them by the Apostles and Fathers of the Church.”


Pope Pius XII took a keen and abiding interest in the Ruthenian people. On May 21, 1939, at his direction, a solemn Triduum begun in Rome was concluded in the Vatican Basilica with services according to their own rite. This was in celebration of the 950th anniversary of the baptism of St. Vladimir, the great Ruthenian ruler.

“Each and every nation of Oriental rite must have its own rightful freedom in all that is bound up with its own history and its own genius and character, saving always the truth and integrity of the doctrine of Jesus Christ. … They will never be forced to abandon their own legitimate rites or to exchange their own venerable or traditional customs for Latin rites and customs. All these are to be held in equal esteem and honour, for they adorn the common Mother Church with a royal garment of many colors. Indeed this variety of rites and customs, preserving inviolate what is most ancient and most valuable in each, presents no obstacle to a true and genuine unity.” Orientalis ecclesiae— April 9,1944.

So what does the Church teach in regards to Latinization? Are there any consequences? Absolutely. As a matter of fact, the Church has condemned the mixing of rites as a whole.

Pope Benedict XIV: “Canon Law decrees that the Oriental and Greek rite should not be mixed with the Latin rite. See the entire Decretal of Celestine III in Gonzales, chap. Cum secundum: de temporibus Ordinationum; in the decretal of Innocent III, see chap. Quanto: de consuetudine; chap. Quoniam: de Officio Judic. Ordinar.; and the Decretal of Honorius III, chap. Literas: de celebrat. Missar.” – ALLATAE SUNT, July 26, 1755.


Therefore, regardless of what Sui Juris Church we belong to, we are all equally Catholic because of our unity of faith in Jesus Christ, His Church, and the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church.

Apologetics 1.2: ‘Vicar of Christ’ a blasphemous title? 


It has been argued by both Orthodox and Protestants that the title ‘Vicar of Christ’ for the Pope is blasphemy and heresy. Because of the ignorance of Catholic teaching, it is misunderstood that this title means to literally “replace Christ” or to literally be “Jesus on Earth.”

The Catholic Church agrees that it would be blasphemy for one to claim to be Jesus Christ on earth or claim to take His place since there is only One Lord, Jesus Christ, and not many.
However, it must be noted that the phrases such as “The bishops are in the place of God” are pastoral metaphors that simply explain the responsibility of the Bishops for God’s ministry on Earth until He comes again in Glory on the last day!
Let’s first address what ‘Vicar of Christ’ means. “… the title Vicar of Christ is more expressive of his supreme headship of the Church on earth, which he bears in virtue of commission of Christ and with vicarial power derived from Him.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vicar of Christ.)
In other words, the Pope is the Vice President of the Church; since Christ is the literal head in where all power comes from, and the Pope carries out the duties given to him by Christ because of his earthly ministry to govern the Church. Because of the fact that the title “vicar of Christ” is argued to be an ‘innovative blasphemous Latin doctrine’, as many in the schism of the Eastern churches claim, let’s examine what the Early Church fathers have to say in this regard.
St Ignatius of Antioch’s epistle to the Magnesians, 6:1 : “your bishop presides in the place of God.”
According to Sacred Tradition, Saint Ignatius of Antioch is the same little boy that Jesus called over as an example for the disciples imitate. (Matt 8:2)
As a disciple of Jesus Christ and the apostles, can we say that this doctor of the Church is openly blaspheming God by saying that a bishop is in place of God?

Absolutely not, for these are metaphors to explain their ministry. The Pope is simply the head bishop of the Church; therefore, he himself would be the Vicar of the vicars of Christ since all bishops are vicars of Christ. (CCC: 1560)

The Chotki 


 While many people are familiar with the Roman Catholic Rosary, not as many are aware of the Eastern Christian Chotki. It is a very ancient form of prayer that predates the rosary dating back to at least the 5th century. Monks of old said the prayer all day long in this manner… 

“Lord, make haste to help me. Lord make speed to save me.”

The prayer rope, (Chotki/ Komboskini), consists of 25, 33, 50, 100 or 103 beads or knots and is used to focus one’s thoughts on the “Jesus Prayer” or “Prayer of the Heart”. When not in use the chotki can be wrapped around the left wrist like a bracelet but never as a decoration, as a reminder to pray without ceasing.

In addition to private recitation, the Jesus Prayer may be said standing, with bows, or prostrations. The main focus is to pray without ceasing. When using the Chotki, it is customary to begin with making the sign of the cross.
The prayer ropes of 100 and 103 knots are carried with you. The idea of the Jesus Prayer comes from St. Paul’s admonition to … “pray always” or “pray without ceasing”. Many people who pray this prayer synchronize the phrases with their breathing and with practice; it becomes a constant prayer while awake.

The traditional prayer of the prayer beads is an adaptation of the prayer of the publican who cried out, “O God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (LK 18: 9-14) The Lord said that this man went home from the Temple justified.

Early Christians made several variations of this prayer, which became known as the Jesus Prayer. It has come down to us in three forms:
Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Lord Jesus Christ, by the prayers of Our Lady, have mercy on me.

The Jesus Prayer is said on each bead.

For special intentions, you substitute the name of another who is ill or in need of special prayers. 
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on … (the intention) 

It is appropriate to add a prayer to the Mother of God while praying. (i.e., Through the Prayers of the Mother of God, O Saviour, save us; Mother of God, intercede for us.)

When this prayer becomes somewhat automatic, the next step is to move the prayer from the head to the heart. One does this by trying to focus the prayer on the heart. The prayer itself is an act of humility calling out for God’s merciful help.
The tassel at the end is to dry one’s tears.

 Source: http://www.prayerfulrosary.com/Jesusprayer.html

Apologetics 1.1: The Council of Chalcedon and Canon 28

It was in the year 451 A.D. that Emperor Marcian has convoked the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in order to battle against the heresy of Eutyches and the Monophysites. Contrary to Catholic doctrine and dogma, Eutyches and the monophysites have taught a disordered understanding of Christ in which professed that Jesus Christ is only one nature, that being wholly Divine, rather than both 100% God and 100% Man as the Catholic Church has always taught. With the approval of Pope Saint Leo the First, the council began on October 8, 451 A.D. and ended on November 1, 451 A.D.

While this Holy and Divinely Inspired Ecumenical Council was called to defeat heresy, “ecclesiastical discipline and jurisdiction also occupied the council’s attention.” (Catholic Encyclopedia: Council of Chalcedon, Paragraph 1.) With that in mind, the Council Fathers of Constantinople has passed a canon stating the following: “… We do also enact and decree the same things concerning the privileges of the most holy Church of Constantinople, which is New Rome. For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of the old Rome, because it was the royal city. And the one hundred fifty most religious Bishops gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging the city is honored with Sovereignty and Senate and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome…”

Considering the fact that this canon was included within the ecumenical council, it has been argued by orthodox Christians we have encountered that this is an infallible canon in which cannot be rejected. With that in mind, it is also supposed evidence that the Catholic Church has departed from the ancient faith of the early church fathers in regards to ecclesiology because of the universal jurisdiction of the Pope. To understand the position of both the Eastern and Oriental orthodox churches, all of the Patriarchs of the church have equal authority; hence the belief in collegiality.

Even though this canon is within the Council, we must question if this has any authoritative and theological weight. The reason for this is because of the very fact that: (1) it contradicts Church teaching and is foreign to the doctrines of the early church, (2.) It was dismissed and refused to be accepted by Pope Saint Leo the Great, a recognized early church father to the schismatic East; and last but not least (3), the apology of Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople to Pope Saint Leo the Great.

It has always been a teaching of the Church that infallible declarations from councils are meant to be accepted by all the faithful. If there were any opposition, a threat of excommunication and anathema were taken into consideration if there was any continued refusal to a dogma, which would than consequently make one a heretic. In the light of Pope Leo the First later rejecting a supposed ‘infallible canon’ the question remains: why was he not anathematized? Pope Leo the 1st refused to agree to this very canon and ordered it to be struck from the Council documents.

As a result Bishop Anatolius, pleading the mercy of the Pope, stated the following:

“As for those things which the universal Council of Chalcedon recently ordained in favor of the church of Constantinople, let Your Holiness be sure that there was no fault in me, who from my youth have always loved peace and quiet, keeping myself in humility. It was the most revered clergy of the church of Constantinople who were eager about it, and they were equally supported by the most revered priests of those parts, who agreed about it. Even so, the whole force of confirmation of the acts was reserved for the authority of Your Blessedness. Therefore let Your Holiness know for certain that I did nothing to further the matter, knowing always that I held myself bound to avoid the lusts if pride and covetousness. (Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople to Pope Leo, Ep 132)

Some points to consider are the following:

  1. If all of the Patriarchs of the Church were equal in regards to authority, it would not be necessary for the Patriarch of Constantinople to both apologize for offending the Pope and even mention that the canon was reserved for his authority to confirm.
  2. If all of the patriarchs were equal, why would there be a necessity to be equal to Rome alone rather than Alexandria or Antioch? Is it because this is the very See in which Peter and Paul died for, with Peter being the earthly head?

 

 

Pentecost: The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Blessed and Holy Pentecost! The Feast of Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and the Theotokos. In the Byzantine rite of the Catholic Church, it is remembered through the lens of the final revelation of the dogma of the Trinity, to which most hymns of the holy office refer.

The Bible relates: “When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven… and something appeared to them like tongues of fire… They were filled with the Holy Spirit, and begun to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.” (Acts 2:1-4)

Pentecost is also known as the feast of the foundation of the Church, of the beginning of her mission to the world, and of Christian unity within the diversity of nations, languages, and cultures.

Todays Troparion (Tone 8) cries out to the Lord reciting:

Blessed are You, O Christ, our God, for you have given us wise fishermen, after sending them Your Holy Spirit, You caught all the world through them, O Loving Master, glory to You!

Todays Kondakion (Tone 8):

When once You confused the tongues, You divided the nations, O Mighty One. When You bestowed the tongues of fire, You called all to unity, therefore with one voice, we glorify the Holy Spirit!

1st Sidalen Hymn (Tone 4):

Come, O Faithful, let us celebrate the feast of the Fiftieth day; the day on which the pre-ordained promised is fulfilled! The day when the Comforter descends upon the earth in tongues of Fire; the day of the disciples’ enlightenment! They are revealed as initiated into the heavenly Mysteries, for truly the light of the Comforter has illumined the world.

–  In the Second Sidalen, i.e. the Hymns following the 2nd Reading from the Book of Psalms, the Spirit’s descent is likened to a fountain whose waters gush down to the earth rather than up from the ground. The flames are compared with the Divine Wind (literally Spirit) that saved the three youths Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace of Nebudchadmezaar’s Babylon (see Book of Daniel, chapter 3.) The youths were condemned to death for worshipping the One True God rather than to idols such as the golden statue. It is the same Divine Wind which accompanied the appearance of the Son of God, through Whom the Spirit preserved from burning but brought a cool dew of life.

2nd Sidalen Hymn (Tone 4):

The fountain of the Spirit rushes down to earth, mystically divided into flaming streams, both refreshing and enlightening the Apostles; the fire became for them a cloud of dew, raining enlightenment upon them. From them we have received grace by fire and water, for truly the light of the Comforter has illumined the world. Extol, O my soul, extol the One God in Trinity of Persons!

–  Fact: In Ukrainian, the feast is called “Zeleni Svyata” or “Green Holidays.” The Church and the homes of the faithful are decorated throughout with green branches and flowers, signifying the new life conferred upon us by the life-creating Spirit.