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Future is in God's hands

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://sunday.niedziela.pl/artykul.php?nr=200409&dz=ekumenizm&id_art=00003 Future is in God s hands Wlodzimierz Redzioch talks to Bishop Agathangelos, the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 3, 2006
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      http://sunday.niedziela.pl/artykul.php?nr=200409&dz=ekumenizm&id_art=00003

      Future is in God's hands

      Wlodzimierz Redzioch talks to Bishop Agathangelos, the Orthodox Church of
      Greece.

      In spite of theological problems that have aroused throughout ages one can
      see a considerable progress in the Catholic-Orthodox relationships. The
      dialogue with the Patriarchate of Moscow is still difficult but much has
      been done to relate with particular Orthodox Churches of Romania, Bulgaria,
      Serbia and Greece. Especially the closer co-operation between the Catholic
      Church and the Greek Orthodox Church is very significant because of its
      role in the Orthodox world. After John Paul II's visit to Greece in 2001
      numerous initiatives were taken, their aim being mutual relationships and
      formation of young generations. Staff exchange, scientific scholarships and
      collaboration in publishing turned out to be beneficial to development of
      dialogue and deepening of love between both Churches. On 24-29 February a
      group of 31 Orthodox priests and seminarians who studied at the university
      of Athens, visited Rome. The delegation was headed by Bishop Agathangelos,
      director general of the 'Apostoliki Diakonia'. Pope Benedict XVI received
      the delegation. And on the first days of June 2006 Cardinal Angelo Scola of
      Venice visited Greece, with a group of 50 pilgrims. The aim of the
      pilgrimage was to return John Paul II's visit of 2001 and the meeting with
      Benedict XVI.

      WLODZIMIERZ REDZIOCH: - Your Excellence, how should I introduce you to our
      readers?

      BISHOP AGATHANGELOS: - As an Orthodox bishop it is hard to speak about
      myself. I can say what the Holy Council of my Church entrusted me with. The
      Archbishop of Athens and all Greece His Beatitude Christodoulos offered me
      the post of director general of the organization 'Apostoliki Diakonia'
      (www.apostoliki-diakonia.gr), which cares for missions, catechisation,
      education of seminarians and publications in the Church of Greece.
      'Apostoliki Diakonia' originated 90 years ago but for 50 years it has dealt
      with missionary activities in countries in need. It helps other Churches,
      especially in Africa and Asia. It tries to cover the costs of seminarians'
      activities in poor countries, where it builds churches, hospitals and
      publishes books in local languages and dialects. Recently we have published
      books on health apart from books on theological and catechetical problems.
      This is very important in tropical countries. The physicians who work there
      have convinced us to publish materials about the prevention of tropical
      diseases. As one can see the Church does not only deal with problems of the
      soul but also of the body.

      - What was the aim of the visit of the Orthodox Church of Greece in Rome,
      the delegation you headed at the end of February 2006?

      - The members of our organisation wanted to get to know the tradition and
      culture of the Roman Catholic Church. First of all, we came here to
      discover everything what we experienced in the first millennium of
      Christianity when our Churches were not divided. That's why we visited the
      catacombs. It is very important that we get to know one another better,
      listen to one another and discuss without any fears and prejudices. It was
      made possible thanks to prayer and mutual love since love destroys barriers
      of fear. It concerns individual believers as well as whole churches.

      - What is your opinion about the relationships between the Catholic Church
      and the Orthodox Church of Greece?

      - The relationships have improved to a considerable extent. The visit of
      John Paul II to Greece in 2001 was crucial. He followed the footsteps of St
      Paul who had visited the Areopag in Athens where the Apostle had taught the
      people of Athens about the crucified and resurrected Christ. The Pope met
      Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and all Greece. Then the Archbishop
      received John Paul II in his bishops' palace. During the next years after
      the visit, i.e. when I directed 'Apostoliki Diakonia', we made contacts
      with the Catholic Church, especially with the Pontifical Council for
      Promoting Christian Unity. The fruit of our collaboration was to publish a
      facsimile of the manuscript of the 'Menologue of Basil II', which has
      conserved in the Vatican Library. It is a richly decorated manuscript
      devoted to saints' lives. It has a special meaning since it was written
      just after the period of iconoclasm (iconoclasm was a religious movement
      against the cult of saints and religious statues, which developed in the
      8th and 9th centuries, mainly in the eastern part of Byzantium, its origin
      being influenced by Jewish and Islamic traditions). This codex constituted
      a kind of turning point in the history of the Eastern Church that began to
      worship icons and rediscovered the meaning of beauty. When we published the
      facsimile of the 'Menologue' we invited Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran,
      representative of the Vatican, librarian of the Holy Church, to pay a visit
      to Athens. He passed Benedict XVI's greetings. On this occasion he invited
      Archbishop Christodoulos to visit the Vatican.
      Last year, through the Apostolic Nunciature, we offered the Catholic Church
      30 grants for her members so that they were able to visit Greece in summer,
      learn our language, get to know our Orthodox culture and tradition. In one
      word, they could come closer to 'the other part' of the Church with which
      they were 'one' for a thousand years.

      - Can the Orthodox Church of Greece become an example of ecumenical
      co-operation with the Catholic Church for other Orthodox Churches?

      - I believe that every man of good will can discover the sense of this
      collaboration and learn to collaborate. The co-operation between the
      Churches cannot be compared with the relationships between countries. It
      has many aspects and one of them is the possibility of mutual visits that
      can overcome prejudices. This is very important since we are beginning a
      new stage of the dialogue between the Churches. It is significant that many
      Orthodox Churches and Patriarchates ( the Ecumenical Patriarchate of
      Constantinople, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Patriarchate of
      Jerusalem, the Churches of Cyprus and of Albania ( co-operate in the
      ecumenical sphere and appoint Greeks, who are professors at theological
      schools, as their representatives for ecumenical contacts.

      - The Catholic Church is worried about some aspects of the EU politics,
      especially the promotion of visions of man and marriage that are contrary
      to Christian anthropology. What is the attitude of the Orthodox Church of
      Greece towards all that happens in the EU?

      - Our Church feels anxious for these matters, too. We are sad to see that
      Europe, mainly Western Europe, departs from Christianity. Politicians do
      not want to acknowledge the identity of our continent, which comes from its
      history. This is a difficult matter and we can have many problems in the
      future. In order to face this situation the Churches must co-operate.
      However, a question arises: how can we convince the EU politicians not to
      take decisions against family since some Protestant Churches acknowledge
      relationships of the same sex, the so-called homosexual marriages? That's
      why the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church is
      very important. We have much in common: tradition, theology, apostolic
      succession, we have also the same views concerning bioethical issues, human
      rights or peace in the world. For a thousand years we were one, and for
      another thousand years we were divided. There were many unpleasant
      situations in the history, we felt hurt many times but this does not mean
      that today, when we are entering the third millennium, we cannot live
      together as brothers.

      - How can our Churches co-operate to oppose anti-Christian politics and
      stop the process of secularisation of Western civilizations?

      - First of all, I would like to stress the fact that our theological
      dialogue gives testimony about Christ. Today people seek the truth and ask
      us why we are divided. How can you, in the Catholic Church, and we, in the
      Orthodox Church, convince our faithful of Christ's love?

      - The delegation that you led met the Holy Father Benedict XVI...

      - For each of us it was very important that we could meet Benedict XVI and
      personally hear his words about theology, words that flowed from his heart.
      After our meeting with the Pope we all are leaving with uplifted spirits to
      work for unity between our Churches. We will keep praying for this. These
      are our human plans and God will see them and bless us if we have good
      intentions and open hearts. The future of the world and of the Church is
      'open' since it is in God's hands.

      "Niedziel" 26/2006
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