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Orthodox bishop says nothing can destroy God's desire to forgive

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0801828.htm MERCY-ORTHODOX Apr-4-2008 (600 words) xxxi Orthodox bishop says nothing can destroy God s desire to
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      MERCY-ORTHODOX Apr-4-2008 (600 words) xxxi

      Orthodox bishop says nothing can destroy God's desire to forgive

      By Cindy Wooden
      Catholic News Service

      ROME (CNS) -- God loves every human being, and there is nothing
      anyone can do that would destroy God's merciful desire to forgive,
      said Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria.

      Speaking April 4 at the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Rome,
      Bishop Hilarion explored the teaching on divine mercy contained in
      the writings of the seventh-century hermit, St. Isaac the Syrian.

      The saint, he said, taught that "divine loves lies at the foundation
      of the universe, it governs the world, and it will lead the world to
      that glorious outcome when the latter will be entirely 'consumed' by
      the godhead."

      Bishop Hilarion said St. Isaac was opposed to the teaching, spread
      during his lifetime, that held that the majority of people would be
      punished in hell and only a few would make it to heaven.

      The saint was "convinced that, quite the contrary, the majority of
      people will find themselves in the kingdom of heaven and that only a
      few sinners will go to Gehenna, and even then only for the period of
      time which is necessary for their repentance and remission of sins,"
      the bishop said.

      "Every created being is precious in God's eyes," Bishop Hilarion
      said. "If we turn away from God, he does not turn away from us."

      St. Isaac emphasized that God loves all people -- righteous and
      sinners -- equally. And the fact that a person may change -- may go
      from being cleansed in baptism to being a sinner -- will not change
      God, who is always merciful and loving, the bishop said.

      "Even when God chastises one, he does this out of love and for the
      sake of one's salvation, rather than for the sake of retribution,"
      the Orthodox bishop told the conference.

      He said St. Isaac was not convinced to change his teaching by those
      who believed people would sin more frequently and more easily if
      church teaching emphasized God's readiness to forgive more than the
      possibility of eternal punishment.

      "The notion of God as a careful father gives birth in a person to a
      filial love for and adherence to him, whereas the notion of God as a
      chastiser can only cause a slavish fear and dread before him," the bishop said.

      In St. Isaac's view, he said, a place in heaven is given to a person
      not on the basis of his or her worthiness, "but rather on the basis
      of God's mercy and love toward humankind."

      Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine
      Worship and the Sacraments, also spoke April 4 at the congress, which
      was designed to explore and promote the divine mercy devotions of St.
      Faustina Kowalska.

      While God reaches out with mercy to all people in many ways, it is in
      the liturgy and the sacraments that Catholics can experience it most
      directly, the cardinal said.

      "Jesus Christ, the manifestation of God's saving and merciful love
      for all humanity," established the church and gave it the gift of the
      sacraments so that divine mercy would be made present and available
      throughout history, Cardinal Arinze said.

      "It is in the liturgy that God feeds us with his word, his
      forgiveness, his mercy and his life," he said.

      Cardinal Arinze said the fact that the death and resurrection of
      Jesus is the clearest, most concrete sign of God's loving mercy is
      what made it so appropriate for Pope John Paul II to declare the
      Sunday after Easter Divine Mercy Sunday.

      END
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