NEW YORK – His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America delivered a lecture on September 21 at Fordham University in New York titled The Future of Orthodox-Catholic Relations in the U.S.A. as part of the Christ and Anastasia Economos lecture series.
The lecture took place in the church at Fordham’s which is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church and its president is Fr. Joseph M. McShane of the Society of Jesus. The lecturer was also broadcast online.
The Archbishop started its lecture by saying that “when I think of Orthodox-Catholic relations, I see the word: ‘Solidarity’. Let me tell you why.
Two months ago, in the middle of this sweltering summer, I picked up my phone and called His Eminence, Cardinal Dolan. I told him: “Your Eminence, I need your help. As you know, Aghia Sophia in Constantinople has been re-converted into a mosque by the Turkish authorities. Would you be willing to sign a joint statement with me to denounce it?” It took the Cardinal less than a second to agree and by the end of the day we had issued a common statement on Aghia Sophia that ended with these powerful words: “We stand together as brothers in faith, and in solidarity with all people of good will and good faith, so that Aghia Sophia may remain what She is – a symbol of encounter, history, spiritual aspiration, and human achievement of the highest order, glorifying the One God Who has made us all to be sisters and brothers of one human family.”
The Archbishop added that “the ecumenical solidarity of the last few months has been incredible. We have heard words of support from our brothers and sisters in Christ from many denominations. The ecumenical movement is not dead, but we have to recognize that its role and reality is evolving. As you all know, at the time of its inception, the ecumenical movement emerged during one of the bloodiest periods in the history of humanity, but also at a time that has seen the greatest deployment of means of communication, connecting people, circulating ideas, and building relationships across the planet. The 20th century was the century of two World Wars and the century of globalization. At the center of this tension between fragmentation and unification is an intersection, where dialogue stands as the most significant marker of today’s culture and civilization. Dialogue is now social, interreligious, and inter-Christian, or ecumenical.”
In another instance the Archbishop emphasized that “dialogue is both negotiation and mediation. It is the overcoming of controversy and it transcends arguments. However, it must also be critical and rigorous, at least when it is a tool in the service of truth and unity.”
He continued: “We should recognize, with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, that: ‘true dialogue is a gift from God.’ Dialogue is above all examining the relationship which, in Christianity, finds its pinnacle in communion, in a union where the dissimilar resonates harmoniously, where differences complement each other, and where what is experienced as a division is transformed into a possibility of reconciliation.”
The Archbishop reminded that “we should acknowledge that, behind the scenes, the bridge on which Catholics and Orthodox are walking on their ecumenical journey was first established by my predecessor, His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory. At the direction of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, Archbishop Iakovos, newly elected as Archbishop of North and South America in 1959, traveled the same year to Rome and was able to meet with His Holiness Pope John XIII. When Archbishop Iakovos visited the Pope on March 17, 1959, it was the first encounter between a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope of Rome since the mid-16th century; only one month later, a representative from the Vatican would visit the Phanar to meet with Patriarch Athenagoras. Fifty years later, in 2014, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew recommitted themselves to continue the prophetic mission of their predecessors by meeting in Jerusalem. They declared together: ‘Our meeting, another encounter of the Bishops of the Churches of Rome and Constantinople founded respectively by the two Brothers the Apostles Peter and Andrew, is a source of profound spiritual joy for us. It presents a providential occasion to reflect on the depth and the authenticity of our existing bonds, themselves the fruit of a grace-filled journey on which the Lord has guided us since that blessed day of fifty years ago.’ Putting an end to centuries of silence, I think we all have in mind the picture of the embrace of the two Primates, emulating the embrace of the two brothers and Apostles, Peter and Andrew, based on the iconographic tradition. In 1965, in a deeply prophetic gesture, the same Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras decided in common, as a visible sign of their desire to restore the bond of Eucharistic communion that had been lost for centuries, to simultaneously lift the excommunications of 1054.”