The continuous whining among some EO about Catholic "proselytizing" is tiresome.
Yup. I've actually never experienced Catholic proselytizing. I wonder if it actually exists outside of virtual reality.
Extract from: Prospects of Orthodox-Catholic Relations
by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Vienna, Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church
to the European Union
Paper delivered on 7 October 2002 at the University of St Thomas (St Paul, Minessota, USA),
and repeated on 9 October 2002 at the Catholic University of America (Washington D.C).http://orthodoxeurope.org/page/7/1/2.aspx
".....The most comprehensive response, however, came not from Metropolitan Kirill himself, but from the Department for External Church Relations, headed by him, in an official statement dated by June 2002 . For the first time, the position of the Russian Orthodox Church on the questions of proselytism, of 'canonical territory', of the missionary and charitable activities of the Catholic monastic orders was presented in a detailed and systematic way.
The statement begins with the definition of proselytism and an explanation of why the Catholic Church is accused of it:
"Proselytism carried out by the Catholics among the traditionally Orthodox population in Russia and other countries of the Commonwealth of the Independent States devalues the Roman Catholic Church's attitude to the Orthodox Church as her 'sister Church' declared by Vatican II...
"The problem of proselytism is aggravated by the fact that the Catholic side denies flatly its very existence, referring to its own interpretation of the term 'proselytism' as enticement of people from one Christian community to another through 'dishonest' means (for instance, bribery). At the same time, it alludes to the preaching of the gospel to 'non-believers and non-baptized' people who come to Catholic churches exercising their freedom to choose a religion that suits them. The Catholic side would often voice this question: 'Would it be better if these people remained atheists rather than become Catholics?'
"Carrying out precisely preaching and mission in Russia, not at all caring only for their traditional flock (Poles, Lithuanians, Germans), the Catholic side often refers to the 'missionary nature of the Church' and to the Lord's commandment to preach the gospel...
"This view, very popular among the Russian Catholic clergy, can raise a great deal of serious objections.
"Firstly, Catholic clergy, who come mostly from abroad as we will see below, do not have to preach in some obscure 'missionary territory', nor to a heathen or non-religious population. They come to a country with a millennium-old Christian culture imbued with the Orthodox tradition. Therefore, the very fact of conducting Catholic mission here, among the local population who do not have any historical or cultural relation to the Catholic Church, and the presence of Catholic missionaries in the Russian land provokes the perfectly legitimate question: Do the Catholics believe the Orthodox Church to be a Church?..
"Secondly, it is has been evident for a long time that the object of the Catholic mission in Russia and other CIS countries is the traditionally Orthodox population. These people were forcibly torn from their Orthodox roots in the decades of atheist regime, but they cannot be called non-believers or atheists. Many of them have found themselves at a crossroads, in a spiritual search, but as we can see from practice, most of them return to the faith of their fathers and find their spiritual path in Orthodoxy. It is unthinkable to deny the profound spiritual, cultural and historical bonds of our people with Orthodoxy. It is bewildering that the Catholics, who themselves belong to a Church in which the notion of tradition is one of the fundamental ones, should doubt the traditional nature of Orthodoxy for Russia. For many of them, Russia is a missionary field for 'evangelization' of the local population. In other words, the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church to Russia differs little from that of various sectarians who seek to 'Christianize' the post-Soviet space and to build up here a 'religious market' in which religious organizations act as competitors struggling for the 'customer'. The ensuing logic is clear: those who are larger and more powerful, who were the first to seize a particular 'market sector,' are in the right.
"The statement by the Department for External Church relations points to the revival of faith in Russia, which has taken place owing to the efforts of the Russian Orthodox Church. 'Unfortunately, no such thing is happening in the West, the territory of the historical pastoral responsibility of the Roman Catholic Church. Neither effectiveness, nor aggiornamento, helps here. The West is growing ever more secular and atheistic'. While recognizing that the West is the 'canonical territory' of the Roman Catholic Church, the statement explains what it means by 'canonical territory':....."
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