Re: [orthodox-rocor] The Unorthodox Patriarch: A review of a new book written by Patr. Bartholomew
- This is such a great article. The only problem is that the author talks about how Orthodoxy continues to thrive and doesn't even mention Russia, where there are by far the most Orthodox Christians in the world and where the revival is most obvious.
Ð¥ÑÐ¸ÑÑÐ¾ÑÐ¾ÑÐª | Hristofor Shashkin <hristofor01@...> wrote:WEEKEND JOURNAL; Taste -- Houses of Worship: The Unorthodox Patriarch
Charlotte Allen. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York,
N.Y.: Jan 25, 2008.
Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, can be regarded
as the "pope," or at least the symbol of unity, of Orthodox
Christianity. The denomination' s 300 million or so adherents make it
the second-largest body of Christians in the world, after Roman
Catholicism. The 67-year-old Bartholomew also represents one of
Christianity' s most ancient branches as the latest in a line of 270
archbishops of his city -- modern Istanbul -- that traces itself back
to the apostle St. Andrew, brother of St. Peter, in a part of the
world where the Christian faith has existed since New Testament times.
In December 2006, Bartholomew, patriarch since 1991, was thrust under
the world-wide media spotlight when he celebrated the Orthodox Divine
Liturgy with Pope Benedict XVI. The two met in the tiny Church of St.
George in the equally tiny patriarchal compound in Istanbul, all that
remains of an Eastern Christian civilization on the Bosporus so
glistening and powerful that for more than 1,500 years Constantinople
called itself the "new Rome."
Now Bartholomew has a forthcoming book, in English, "Encountering the
Mystery: Perennial Values of the Orthodox Church" (Random House). It
purports to be a primer to Orthodoxy, with short chapters on ritual,
theology, icons and so forth. What it really is, perhaps
inadvertently, is a telling glimpse into the mindset of a church that,
venerable and spiritually appealing though it may be, is in a state of
crisis. And the book reveals the jarringly secular-sounding
ideological positions its leader seemingly feels compelled to take in
order to cultivate the sympathy of a Western European political order
that is at best indifferent to Christianity.
The Orthodox community, rooted mostly in Russia and Eastern Europe, is
in "apparently irreversible demographic decline," as religious
historian Philip Jenkins wrote in 2006, thanks to falling birthrates,
cultural secularization, turf battles between the various ethnically
focused Orthodox churches, and past communist ravages. The historic
Christian communities in the Islamic-dominated world -- some Orthodox
-- have fared even worse, their numbers reduced as members frantically
immigrate to the West under pressure from terrorism, persecution and
religious discrimination. The historic fate of Christianity in
Islamic-majority lands has been cultural annihilation, whether gradual
over the centuries or, as in recent decades, swift.
Nowhere does the plight of Christians look so pitiful as in Turkey,
nominally secular but 99% Muslim. At the turn of the 20th century,
some 500,000 Orthodox Christians, mostly ethnic Greeks, lived in
Constantinople, where they constituted half the city's residents, and
millions more resided elsewhere in what is now Turkey. Today,
Bartholomew has only about 4,000 mostly elderly fellow believers
(2,000 in Istanbul) left in Turkey's 71 million-plus population. The
quasi-militaristic regime of Kemal Ataturk that supplanted the Ottoman
Empire during the 1920s forcibly Westernized the country's
institutions but also made Islam an essential component of the Turkish
national identity that it relentlessly promoted.
"Kemalist ideology regarded Christianity as Greek and thus foreign,"
says Greek Orthodox writer Joshua Trevino. The result was a series of
official and unofficial ethnic cleansings, population transfers,
massacres and pogroms in Turkey, such as the wholesale destruction of
Orthodox churches in 1955. The murders of a Catholic priest in 2006
and of an Armenian Christian journalist and three evangelicals, two of
whom were Turkish converts, in 2007, together with threats and
assaults against other Christian clergy by ultra-nationalists and
Islamic militants, indicate that such anti-Christian animus is far
from dead. Furthermore, the current government refuses to allow the
reopening of Turkey's sole Greek Orthodox seminary, closed in 1971,
which means that there have been no replacements for Turkey's aging
Orthodox priests and -- since Turkish law requires the patriarch to be
a Turkish citizen -- no likely replacement for Bartholomew himself,
whose death may well mean the extinction of his 2,000-year-old see.
Nonetheless, Bartholomew devotes the bulk of his book to anything but
the mortal threat to his own religion in his own country. High on his
list of favorite topics, most with only a tangential relationship to
Orthodoxy, is the environment. He has won the nickname "the Green
Patriarch" for the decade or so he has preached the ecological gospel,
largely to liberal secular audiences in the West. "Encountering the
Mystery" is in large part a collection of eco-friendly platitudes
about global warming ("At stake is not just our ability to live in a
sustainable way but our very survival") and globalization, adorned
with a bit of theological window-dressing, that today's secular
progressives love to read.
Regarding globalization, Bartholomew cannot decide whether global
capitalism is bad ("there are losers as well as winners") or good ("We
must learn, therefore, both to think and to act in a global manner").
Plus, we must "transcend all racial competition and national rivalry,"
"promote a peaceful resolution of disagreements about how to live in
this world," and yadda, yadda, yadda. Islam comes into play in the
book only in terms of another bromide: a call for "interfaith
On first reading, this exercise in fiddling while the new Rome burns
seems pathetic, presenting a picture of a church leader so intimidated
by his country's Islamic majority that he cannot speak up for his
dwindling flock even as its members are murdered at his doorstep.
Bartholomew' s book presents an eerie mirror image of the concerns of
aging, culturally exhausted, post-Christian Western Europe, happy to
blather on at conferences about carbon emissions and diversity but
unwilling to confront its own demographic crisis in the face of
youthful, rapidly growing and culturally antagonistic Muslim
populations. The suicide of the West meets the homicide of the East.
On the other hand, Bartholomew' s "green" crusade across Western Europe
may actually represent a shrewd last-ditch effort to secure a visible
profile and powerful protectors for his beleaguered church. The
patriarch has been an incessant lobbyist for Turkey's admission to the
European Union, and his hope has been that the EU will condition
Turkey's entry on greater religious freedoms for all faiths.
"The EU are secularists, " says the Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, an
administrator for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, based in
New York. "They won't do anything out of religious reasons, but they
will do it out of secular reasons if they can be persuaded that what's
best for Europe is to have a Muslim state that's pro-Western in
values, such as freedom of religion." The bureaucrats of Brussels may
care little about Christianity, but they care deeply about global
warming and multiculturalism, and on those issues Bartholomew has
carved out common ground.
Orthodox Christianity is not dead yet. Its famous monastery on Mount
Athos in Greece has enjoyed new growth recently, and in America some
Orthodox churches are drawing converts attracted by the glorious
liturgy and ancient traditions. It is unfortunate that Orthodoxy's
spiritual leader feels compelled to position the Orthodox with a
Western Europe that is, in fact, spiritually dead.
Ms. Allen is the author of "The Human Christ: The Search for the
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>In December 2006, Bartholomew, patriarch since 1991, was thrust underIsn't concelebration with the heterodox still forbidden?
>the world-wide media spotlight when he celebrated the Orthodox Divine
>Liturgy with Pope Benedict XVI.
- And if so, doesn't that incur a deposition?
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, George <kharaku@...> wrote:
> >In December 2006, Bartholomew, patriarch since 1991, was thrust under
> >the world-wide media spotlight when he celebrated the Orthodox Divine
> >Liturgy with Pope Benedict XVI.
> Isn't concelebration with the heterodox still forbidden?
> George Green
> Albany NY
- Yes, he should be deposed for such action but EP Bartholomew and
Pope Benedict did not concelebrate the Divine Liturgy at the Phanar.
The Pope attended the EP's Liturgy they echanged the kiss of peace
after the Creed but from what I saw and heard he did not participate
in the Orthodox Eucharistic canon nor did he receive Holy Communion
at the altar or by Bartholomew's hands. I believe they gave a mutual
blessing at the end of the liturgy.
It said in one article Pope Bendict had on the Great Omophor like
an Orthodox bishop but I did not see that in any pictures. He has the
Roman style omophore which is larger than previous pontiffs but
really can't be said it was in an Orthodox Style. Maybe he was given
an ornate Orthodox style Omophor as a gift by the EP and this is what
everyone is talking about?
As much as I hate this ecumenism lets get our facts straight and
not "judge falsely"!
--- In email@example.com, "tomamallett"
> And if so, doesn't that incur a deposition?
> Toma Mallett
> Lafayette, IN
> --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, George <kharaku@> wrote:
> > >In December 2006, Bartholomew, patriarch since 1991, was thrust
> > >the world-wide media spotlight when he celebrated the OrthodoxDivine
> > >Liturgy with Pope Benedict XVI.
> > Isn't concelebration with the heterodox still forbidden?
> > George Green
> > Albany NY