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« on: September 22, 2004, 11:40:58 AM »

Issue Date:  September 17, 2004
The perils of accommodation: Russia and John Paul II

By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
  Moscow

Russia has haunted Pope John Paul II, from the confrontation
with  Communism during his first decade to his push for reconciliation with
the Russian Orthodox in the last. This first Slavic pope has long dreamed,
so far  fruitlessly, of a Russian voyage that would be the emotional
capstone of his  pontificate.

Russia may haunt his legacy as well.

The great irony of John Paul's "Russia policy," according  to observers
here, is that the pope who began by rejecting John XXIII's  and Paul VI's
Ostpolitik -- a policy of softening tensions with the  Soviets, which a
young Karol Wojtyla saw as lacking nerve -- is today recycling  that
Ostpolitik in an ecumenical key. The Soviets are gone, but the  "don't rock
the boat" mentality survives. Replace  "socialism" with "Russian
Orthodoxy," and the picture is  the same: a strategy of de-escalation
through soft policies and softer  speech.

There is a consensus that John Paul has gone to extraordinary lengths
to  advance relations with the Russian Orthodox, whose doctrinal and
liturgical  traditions he obviously reveres -- so much so, in fact, that
some Catholics  fear the local church is being sacrificed in the bargain.
Protestantism in  Russia is growing by leaps and bounds, they say, while
the Catholic church sits  on the sidelines for the sake of a murky
ecumenical moment that never seems to  arrive.

Make no mistake: Russian Catholics are fiercely loyal to the papacy,
and  they feel a special bond with John Paul. At the same time, however,
some wonder  if the approach to Catholic/Orthodox relations in John Paul's
Vatican  doesn't end in the same stance Wojtyla himself once
abhorred:  accommodation.
* * *

The peril and promise was thrown into relief Aug. 27-30 by a
Vatican  delegation to Moscow whose ostensible mission was to return to the
Russian  Orthodox a copy of the Icon of Kazan, a famous 16th-century image
believed to  have miracle-working powers. The delegation's other assignment
was to get  relations with the Orthodox back on track.

The icon was presented to Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow Aug. 27, at the  end
of the Orthodox celebration of Mary's Dormition (Assumption) in a Kremlin
cathedral named for the feast.

Someone unschooled in ecumenical politics would have been puzzled,
since  normally one would expect the Orthodox to make a big deal out of an
icon and  the Roman Catholics to not quite understand the fuss. The
Orthodox, after all,  base their sense of ecclesial tradition on the first
seven councils, the last  of which was devoted to anathematizing people who
went around smashing icons.  Orthodox churches are dominated by icons; they
are a quintessential _expression  of Orthodox spirituality. Roman
Catholicism does not have the same  tradition.

Yet on this occasion, it was the Catholics who played up the  significance
of the icon, and the Orthodox who minimized it. Alexy said the  icon was
simply "one of many copies" of the famous Kazan image, while  the
eight-member Catholic delegation treated the object as a priceless
treasure. (Debate over this icon's provenance is a subject in itself;
one  Russian magazine, New Eyewitness, recently carried a long piece
suggesting it may once have belonged to the Czarist Romanov family.)

The two sides also had different evaluations of the impact of the  pope's
gesture.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the 10-member Vatican delegation
that  presented the icon to Alexy, told NCR Aug. 28 that sessions with
their Orthodox counterparts had been "very friendly, very positive,"
and  that the climate was much improved over the last time he was in Moscow
in February.

Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Moscow agreed.

"I see a new climate now," Kondrusiewicz told NCR Aug.  31. "There's a new
sensitivity from all people, and everyone's  speaking to one another."

Orthodox officials, on the other hand, expressed much less
enthusiasm,  always adding that they're looking for more.

"We would like this gift to symbolize the beginning of a new policy  from
the Vatican in Russia," Fr. John Lapidus, the official in charge of
relations with Catholics for the Moscow patriarchate, told NCR Aug.  30.

"With this step, we hope that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic  church
will take more concrete, real steps for resolving all the problems that
exist among us."

Such ambivalence ran through all the public statements from the  Orthodox,
including a written message from Alexy II to John Paul Aug. 30. The  tone
was positive, with Alexy thanking the pope for a gesture of "good  will,"
but twice Alexy referred to "problems" in  Catholic/Orthodox relations. He
pointedly called for "sensitivity in  carrying out any actions in
territories where another Christian tradition has  existed for centuries."

These were not just official attitudes. One finds them among
Orthodox  believers.

Veta Uspenskaya, who teaches English at a Moscow-area school, said she  was
"sort of suspicious" of the pope's motives. "Good  relations are better
than bad," she said, "but without a hidden  agenda."
* * *

When Russian Orthodox spokespersons refer to "problems," they  generally
mean "proselytism," the accusation that Catholics in Russia  are soliciting
converts from the Orthodox despite officially regarding them as  a "sister
church."

It's a charge that Catholics emphatically reject.

"Let me put it this way," Kondrusiewicz told NCR.  "If we have this policy
of proselytism, if it's the policy of the  Vatican, the Holy Father should
remove me immediately from Moscow because  I've not done anything!"

Lapidus, however, ticked off example after example: a church
in  Novosibirsk that advertised lectures about God and Christianity without
identifying the lecturer as a Catholic priest; Spanish nuns who
catechized  while teaching Spanish; Catholic orphanages where Orthodox
children are raised  as Catholics.

Trying to establish the truth is an exercise in frustration, given
the  lack of reliable statistical data on religious adherence. (The Russian
census does not ask the question.) Even as basic a piece of information as
the number  of Russian Catholics is almost anyone's guess. Official Vatican
numbers  say there are 600,000, but Kondrusiewicz told NCR it could be as
much as  1.5 million, based on polls that say Catholics are 1 percent of
the national  population.

Yet local Russian Catholics, who conducted a study two years ago
by  calling all 250 parish priests in Russia and asking them to take a
count on Sunday, say the real number is more like 200,000. Even that may be
too high,  according to sociologist Nikolai Mitrokhin, who directs the
Institute of the  Study of Religion in the Commonwealth of Independent
States and Baltic  Countries.

"If you want to talk about really practicing Catholics, meaning  going to
church at least once a week, it could be as low as 20,000 or  30,000,"
Mitrokhin told NCR Aug. 30. "You couldn't find a  single Catholic parish in
Russia that draws more than 500 people."

Perhaps more relevant for the question of proselytism is the number
of  converts to Catholicism from Russian Orthodoxy. Here, too, the numbers
are up  for grabs.

Local Catholics say that the same 2002 study found that the number of  such
converts for the entire decade of the 1990s was a mere 800.
Kondrusiewicz  agreed: "I'd say in these 13 years [there have been] maybe
several  hundred," he said.

Lapidus sees a much bigger phenomenon.

"In Moscow, there are big numbers of converted people from  Orthodoxy to
Catholicism," he said. "If we take the data from all  Russia, there's a big
number."

More than 800?

"Yes, of course, more. GǪ In the beginning of the 1990s, they  said there
were about 300,000 Roman Catholics in the Soviet Union and neighboring
countries. Currently, they say now we have over 600,000 Roman  Catholics.
You should also remember that during the last 20 years many
Roman  Catholics went back to Germany."

The growth, Lapidus said, is being driven by converts from
Orthodoxy.  Mitrokhin, however, said conversions to Catholicism are
extremely rare.

Earlier in the year, a special mixed commission was established,  composed
of three Orthodox priests and three Roman Catholic priests, to look
at  each allegation of proselytism. It met for the first time in May and
will meet  again in September.

The second issue that looms large in Orthodox complaints is the
Western  Ukraine, where following the collapse of Communism many parishes
that had been  under the aegis of Moscow were claimed by the Greek Catholic
church, a 5.5  million strong body that follows Eastern traditions but is
loyal to Rome.

The Greek Catholics were suppressed under Stalin, so they
went  underground, with many members appearing to be regular Orthodox
faithful. When  they resurfaced in the early 1990s, they took huge chunks
of the Orthodox  church in Ukraine with them. Since the Western Ukraine
supplied one-third to  one-half of the vocations and income of the entire
Russian Orthodox church, its  loss was an enormous blow, from which
Catholic/Orthodox relations in some ways  have never recovered.

Lapidus was fiercely critical of the Greek Catholics, especially
their  current push to declare their leader, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, a
patriarch.

"The Ukrainian situation may in any moment slip out of  control," Lapidus
said. "The Greek Catholic conviction that they  should establish a
patriarchate at any cost witnesses to a separatist tendency.  If they
achieve patriarchal status, they may declare their complete  independence
of any outward authority."

Lapidus warned that the Greek Catholics are conspiring with two  breakaway
factions of the Orthodox church to create a pan-Ukrainian national church
that will answer to no one, either in Rome or Moscow.

Vatican officials told NCR Sept. 1 that while the project of a  Ukrainian
patriarchate has been put on hold out of deference to Orthodox
sensibilities, they regard the idea of a split from Rome as  "fantasy."
* * *

Russia has always been a rather dreamy place, where reality is  perennially
subject to reinterpretation. Hence it is perhaps no surprise to  learn that
the Russian Orthodox, by making the Roman Catholics the object of  their
complaints about proselytism, seem to be ignoring that the real proselytism
on Russian soil these days is coming from the Protestants.

"The most important religious trend in Russia today is the growth  of
Protestantism," Mitrokhin said. "I expect that in 25 or 30 years,  Russia
could become a predominantly Protestant country."

Even if other analysts aren't prepared to go quite that far, all  agree
that the growth has been dramatic. Downtown Moscow is dotted with
Protestant churches, and there are small villages in rural Russia where
among  150 residents, 50 are Seventh Day Adventists, 50 are Jehovah's
Witnesses,  and perhaps 50 are nominally Orthodox.

The top three new religious movements in Russia, according to  conventional
estimates, are the Pentecostals, the Baptists and the  Jehovah's Witnesses.
By one count, Protestantism grew throughout the 1990s  at a rate of 20 to
25 percent per year. Even if that rate has slowed, growth continues. (It's
not just Russia. According to official statistics issued  by the
Belorussian government, Pentecostals are now the second largest religious
group in the country, surpassing Catholicism, based on the number
of  registered communities.)

Though reliable figures in Russia are once again difficult to find,
by  consensus there are some 1 million Protestants in Russia, the vast
majority active. Since only about 3 percent of Russians baptized as
Orthodox attend  church once a year, and only about one-third of that
number goes once a week,  Mitrokhin says the number of practicing
Protestants in Russia may actually be  more or less the same as the number
of practicing Orthodox.

Protestants are especially present in Siberia, the Far East and the  Urals
as well as in the major cities. Their congregations tend be unusually young.

The result has been a changed religious landscape.

"In general, the Protestants are more dynamic, they're  moveable, they have
new tactics of preaching and communicating with  people," said Alexei
Yudin, assistant professor at St. Andrew's  Biblical Theological College
and an observer of the religious scene in Russia.  Yudin, a Catholic, spoke
to NCR Aug. 30.

"They have drive. Catholics and Orthodox prefer to speak to people  from
the churchyard, because they have a ritualistic mentality. The
Protestants  meet with people face to face," Yudin said.

Moreover, Mitrokhin said, they're good at meat-and-potatoes  pastoral care,
helping Russian men get off vodka and hold down a job. Often they promote a
dress-for-success approach to life that fits well with the
new  entrepreneurial spirit of Russia.

"If we want to talk about proselytism in Russia, we have to talk  about the
Protestants," Mitrokhin said.
* * *

For the most part, however, the Orthodox don't talk about the  Protestants
when they complain about proselytism. Why not?

Lapidus provided the official answer.

"From our side, there is no objection to the proselytism by  Protestants,"
he told NCR. "But we perceive the Catholic  church as a sister church, a
term which has become common in theological  conversation since the Second
Vatican Council. The Catholic church started to  treat the Orthodox church
as a sister church, and that's how we see them.  GǪ. So we have a higher
expectation of the Catholics."

While that response undoubtedly has merit, few observers find it
wholly  convincing.

Many say that historical resentments in Russia against Poles
and  Lithuanians is an important factor, especially given that Pope John
Paul is Polish and Kondrusiewicz is from a Polish family. More broadly,
Rome has been  the principal "enemy" of Orthodoxy for so long that, as the
saying  goes, old habits die hard.

Politically, this view elevates the patriarch of Moscow, who heads
a  church that at best can claim no more than 200 million followers, to be
seen as  the main sparring partner of the pope, whose official following is
over a  billion. Some Orthodox leaders also believe that the growth in
Protestantism in  Russia is ephemeral, while if the Catholics are allowed
to gain a toehold they  will be around for the long term.

Orthodox journalist Andrei Zolotov told NCR Aug. 26 that in some  ways
criticism of the Catholic church is a compliment.

"If tomorrow someone were appointed supreme bishop for the  Pentecostals in
Russia, few Orthodox would care, because they don't  understand who these
people are," Zolotov said. "With the Catholic  church, on the other hand,
they understand that this is a real  bishop."

Finally, some observers believe that the recent difficulties in
the  Western Ukraine, because of their impact on the income and vocations
of the Moscow patriarchate, have poisoned the relationship in a way that
colors  everything else.

Whatever the explanation, the bottom line is that the Russian
Orthodox  response to the Catholic church seems at times to be influenced
by factors  beyond rational analysis of the threat it actually poses.
* * *

In turn, this raises the question: To what extent should the mission
of  Catholicism in Russia be put on hold in an effort to accommodate
potentially  exaggerated or irrational Orthodox sensibilities? Local
Catholics point to ways  large and small in which they fear too much ground
is being given away.

For one thing, these Catholics note, the Russian Orthodox like to
deal  directly with the Vatican, almost pretending that the local Catholic
community  does not exist.

For example, when previous Vatican delegations have come to
Russia,  Kondrusiewicz has not been invited to take part. This time, he was
added to the  delegation at midday on Aug. 25, some 36 hours before the
flight from Rome  arrived. Similarly, when the moment came to present the
icon to Alexy, four  members of the delegation from the outside ascended
the sanctuary: Kasper;  Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington;
Archbishop Renato Boccardo of the  Pontifical Council for Social
Communications; and Bishop Brian Farrell from  Kasper's office.
Kondrusiewicz remained off to the side.

To add insult to injury, a group of local Catholics had asked to be
able  to pray in front of the icon in the Cathedral of the Immaculate
Conception  Friday night, before it was handed over on Saturday. They were
told, however,  that out of respect for Patriarch Alexy, his should be the
first eyes to see  the icon. (As things turned out, the first eyes to see
the icon in Russia  belonged to a young female customs officer who insisted
on inspecting it.)

Sensitivity to the Orthodox is pushed to an extreme, local
Catholics  complain. They say their church is "on hold," locked into a
ghetto  made up mostly of Poles, Germans and Lithuanians, because it's
official  Vatican policy not to grow.

"We do not take much care of catechism, proper catechism," one  local
Catholic leader told NCR. "Worse still, we do not have  evangelization at
all. Can you imagine a church without  evangelization?"

In fairness, there is a Catholic radio program in Russian and a
wide  variety of Catholic publications, some published by the dioceses and
many by  religious orders. Still, local observers say these offerings are
directed  largely to existing Catholics rather than to introducing the
church to the  broader Russian culture.

Kondrusiewicz denied that sensitivity to the Orthodox is preventing
the  Catholic church from living its normal life.

"We are preaching the Gospel, we are catechizing children and
young  people, our commissions are working as they worked before," he said.

Still, the slow-growth policy seems real. One sign: If a Russian
of  Orthodox background shows up at a Catholic parish to express interest
in joining the Catholic church, nine times out of 10 the priest's
first  response, according to local observers, will be: "Why don't
you  return to the Orthodox church?"

Similarly, Kondrusiewicz told NCR he is currently concerned that  a number
of Orthodox young people have expressed an interest in attending
the  Catholic church's next World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, in
2005.  He's trying to invite Orthodox clergy to attend, lest this seem like
"proselytism."

Another wrinkle is financial. Because of John Paul's abiding  interest in
improving relations with the Orthodox, local Catholics sometimes  find
themselves in the surreal position of watching funds from
international  Catholic donors flow to Orthodox causes rather than their
own. For example, in  the coming weeks a delegation from the mammoth German
Catholic foundation  Renovabis will arrive in Moscow to discuss supporting
Orthodox seminaries. The  lone Catholic seminary in Russia, meanwhile,
struggles to pay the bills.

"The rest of the world must not forget that there are Catholics in  this
country who need resources," said Vladimir Merkulov, a Catholic  layman who
works for the state gas company. "We should not be set aside  for the sake
of ecumenism."

All this, of course, raises the question about John Paul's policy  of
ecumenical d+Ätente: Is it worth it?
* * *

The aims are undeniably lofty.

Defenders say it is the will of Christ that the church be one,
hence  ecumenism is an indispensable commitment for Christians. Divided
Christianity  offers a compromised witness to the world, which badly needs
its moral and  religious message. In Europe, the pressures of secularism
and the privatization  of religion will only grow, and together Catholics
and Orthodox will be better  positioned to resist them. The challenges to
European cultural identity posed  by growing religious pluralism,
especially Islam, also might benefit from joint  Catholic/Orthodox reflection.

Certainly the architects of the policy understand its cost. Kasper
spoke  to the local Catholic press before he left, making it explicit.

"I ask the Catholic believers in Russia to sacrifice, to understand  that
there is no forgiveness, no reconciliation without sacrifice,"
Kasper  said. "This is the life of the church."

In its own time, of course, strikingly similar arguments were made
in  favor of the Ostpolitik of John XXIII and Paul VI with regard to
socialism, and  that historical debate is far from settled. Defenders
believe it lowered  international tensions. Among other things, it may have
helped avert a nuclear  war over Cuba during the missile crisis. Critics,
however, say it gave the  Soviet system legitimacy at a time religious
believers were being brutally  oppressed.

The reality is that both arguments may have merit.

John L. Allen Jr. is NCR Rome correspondent. His e-mail address  is
jallen@natcath.org.
National Catholic Reporter, September 17, 2004

========

Orthodoc
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« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2004, 02:11:36 PM »

So why are many converting to Protestantism (in its various forms) in Russia?

And why do some in the Orthodox leadership not seem to be too worried about it? (ie, why to they think the Protestant growth is merely "ephemeral"?)
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« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2004, 02:19:52 PM »

[And why do some in the Orthodox leadership not seem to be too worried about it? (ie, why to they think the Protestant growth is merely "ephemeral"?)]

Don't forget this was written by a Roman Catholic and therefore a RC spin on things.  Orthodox leadership is just as concerned about the Protestant proseltyzing as it is the Roman Catholic.  The calim is not factual.

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« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2004, 02:34:11 PM »

Somewhat of a tangent, but from all these stats thrown around it looks like EOxy is pretty grim in Russian from what it used to be (membership/attendance/faithful-wise).  But around Orthodox circles, I keep hearing that EOxy is undergoing a great "renessaince" (so to speak) and there are every increasingly tons of faithful.  Meanwhile, the evil prots are growing at an alarming rate.  So, what is the reality?
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« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2004, 02:44:24 PM »

I know this is kind of off the main topic somewhat, but I have never understood why so many russians in america are protestant. I'm in the sacramento area & it seems like the majority of the russians I meet are protestant when I ask them. Come to think of it, I don't think I have met a russian person here that has told me they are Orthodox. What is going on here??? This is kind of shocking that they are choosing to be protestant.
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« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2004, 02:49:06 PM »

The reality is that the mission field in Russia is huge and that the MP still suffers under the foolish belief that it has some sort of "right" to the religious allegiance of every Russian.
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« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2004, 03:24:57 PM »

So, what is the reality?]

Minus the western christian (both Roman Catholic & Protestant) propaganda to justify their reason for being there this is the reality -

Statistics from the Moscow Patriarchate -

THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH TODAY

The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest religious association in our country. At present it has 128 dioceses in various regions of Russia and in far and near abroad. Since 1990 the Russian Church has been led by His holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia,. the 15th patriarch in its history, who governs together with the Holy Synod. In the Russian Orthodox Church today there are 128 dioceses (for comparison, there were 67 diocese in 1989), 19000 parishes (6893 in 1988), and nearly 480 monasteries (18 in 1980). These figures point vividly to an all-round revival of church life taking place under the primatial leadership of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia. The pastoral service is carried out by 150 bishops, 17500 priests and 2300 deacons. The network of educational Orthodox institutions is directed by the Education Committee. At present there are 5 theological academies (there were 2 in 1991), 26 seminaries (there were 3 in 1988), and 29 pre-seminaries, which did not exist at all till the 90s. There are two Orthodox universities, a Theological Institute, a women's pre-seminary, and 28 icon-painting schools. The total number of theological students including those of the correspondence departments is about 6000 people. Educational institutions have been established to develop religious education among the laity. This important work is coordinated by the Department for Religious Education and Catechism. There is a variety of forms in which religious education and catechization of lay people are carried out, including Sunday schools at churches, circles for adults, groups for preparing adults for baptism, Orthodox kindergartens, Orthodox groups in state-run kindergartens, Orthodox gymnasia, schools, lyceums, and Orthodox courses for teachers of catechism. Sunday school has been the most popular form of catechism. In the field of charity the work is carried out on all-church level through the Department for Church Charity and Social Service. It is necessary to mention in the first place a number of successfully functioning medical programs. A special mention should be made of the Moscow Patriarchate's Central Hospital of St. Alexis the Metropolitan of Moscow. In the situation where healthcare is becoming commercial, this medical institution is one of the few clinics in Moscow which provide free medical check-up and treatment. A psychiatric service has been set up at the Mental Health Center of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. It gives free help to persons sent by parishes in the Moscow diocese. These are only a few examples of concrete work carried out by the above-mentioned Department. In December 1990 the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church decided to establish a church youth organization. This decision led to the First Congress of Orthodox Youth which set up an All-Church Orthodox Youth Movement as an official youth organization established by the Russian Orthodox Church. The tasks which the Movement set itself at that time were to attract children, adolescents and young people who sought their way to church in the fold of the Russian Orthodox Church and to unite groups of young Orthodox Christians under programs of social service, restoration of monasteries and churches, pilgrimages and contacts with young Christians in other countries. The external contacts of the Russian Orthodox Church are supervised by the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. It tasks include the following: - to provide hierarchical and financial administration over dioceses, monasteries, parishes and other institutions of our Church in far abroad; - to prepare decisions for the church authorities concerning church-state and church-society relations; - to maintain relations of the Russian Orthodox Church with Local Orthodox Churches, non-Orthodox Churches and religious associations, non-Christian religions, religious and secular international organizations, public, political, social, cultural, academic, economic, financial and other institutions, as well as mass media. Since 1989 the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate has been chaired by Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad Kirill. After gaining true freedom the Russian Orthodox Church has set itself the task to revive its mission. Faithful to the commandments of the Early Church and continuing the apostolic cause, the Russian Church used to bear witness to Christ "even to the end of the earth" (Acts 18), spreading the Good News of the Word of Life. The missionary achievements of our Church and the very scale of its educational work - from Poland and the Baltic in the west to Alaska and California in the east, from Murmansk and Kamchatka in the north and the Black Sea, the Caucasus, the Middle East and China in the south - demanded all its spiritual, material and human resources. The names of Russian missionaries are ranked by right among the greatest missionaries of Christendom. Suffice it to mention St. Stephen of Perm, St. Triphon of Pechenga and monks of what is known as the Russian Thebaid - the Valamo and Solovki Monasteries, as well as St. Nikolay Equal to the Apostles, the Archbishop of Japan, St. Innocent, the Apostle of America, Archimandrite Makary Glukharev the Apostle of the Altai. In the later 19th century, an Orthodox Missionary Society was established to help the Russian Church in its missionary work. The missionary and educational work of the Russian Church was interrupted by the 1917 Revolution, when we, according to the Prophet, "received of the Lord's hand double for our sins" (Is. 40:2). Now when the time of repression and restrictions is past and the Church can again freely bear witness to Christ, the need to revive mission has become the most urgent task for us as the Church and an acute need for society. In recent years the Russian Orthodox Church has developed close contacts with the Russian Armed Forces. To maintain these contacts the Patriarch and the Holy Synod have established a Synodal Department for Cooperation with the Armed Forces and Law-enforcement Agencies.
==========

While the Russian Orthodox Church is reviving and growing at an alarming rate in Russia, the western churches, who never  suffered religious  perecution, and are so hell bent on bring Jesus to Russia, are declining and closing churches, monasteries, seminaries at an alarming rate in their own back yards.  That's why they look to Russia to sheep steal.

Those are the facts.

===========

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« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2004, 03:34:45 PM »

Somewhat of a tangent, but from all these stats thrown around it looks like EOxy is pretty grim in Russian from what it used to be (membership/attendance/faithful-wise).  But around Orthodox circles, I keep hearing that EOxy is undergoing a great "renessaince" (so to speak) and there are every increasingly tons of faithful.  Meanwhile, the evil prots are growing at an alarming rate.  So, what is the reality?

You need to first take into account the sources that offer statistics showing a dire picture of Orthodoxy in Russia, as many of these "objective" reports are taken by groups (usually Protestant) with an agenda.  I've lived in western Russia in the mid-90's and travelled there again a couple of years ago.  From my own anecdotal observations, Orthodoxy has undergone a major revival - churches and monasteries have been restored, new churches are being built at a rapid clip, and the services I've attended were full.  All the Russian Christians I knew identified themselves as Orthodox.  True, most don't attend regular services, but most do observe the major religious holidays, maintain icon corners, and profess to be true believers, facts that are conveniently ignored by the naysayers.  I never met anyone who had converted to Protestantism, though some may have known a friend who dabbled in some Protestant or Mormon sect.  Most that I spoke to viewed the missionary activities of Evangelical foreigners with much of the same comedy as we do in the West.

Also note that these sources don't report their success rate in converting Orthodox to Protestantism.  From my experiences, the word "Baptist" has negative connotations and the overwhelming majority aren't suckered.
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« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2004, 03:54:06 PM »

[What is going on here??? This is kind of shocking that they are choosing to be protestant. ]

Much of it is due to down right bribery.  Examples:

Four doors down from me are a family of Ukrainian immigrants.  They were brought over here by the Baptist Church.  The husband has a job within a company that is run by Pentecostals.  They are required to go to church services on Fridays and must remain Protestant to keep their jobs and stay in America.

I have a very good friend (more like my surragate son) who is from Bulgaria.  When he was in High School he got a job as a translator for some Pentecostals in Bulgaria.  Through these ties he was able to get a partial scholarship to ORU.  He worked three jobs and paid his way through school AND GRADUATED WITH HONORS.  This same company did a job search at ORU and offered him a job.  They took for granted that he was one of them since he had graduated from ORU (he never gave up his Orthodox faith and was devout in it).  He brought a small Icon with him given by his grandmother which he kept on his desk.  They demanded it be removed and he refused.  he also refused to go to their Friday services.  After three months where he stood up for hisOrthodox faith they brought him in and told him he didn't fit into their culture and were laying him off!  They gave him six weeks pay!  I wanted him to sue but he couldn't because at that tme he had applied for his green card but was still under a student visa.  He was afraid if he fought it he would have to go back to Bulgaria.  And they knew it.  So he used the advance they gave him to go for his CPA and got his Green Card in the meantime.

Many of these eastern europeans are here in the same way.  They are aware the Protestants will try and buy souls and take advantage of it.  Do they really become Protestant?  Hard to say.  There are supposed to be 60,000 Russian immigrants here in NE Philly.  Many of them are in my church every Sunday lighting candles, praying, and asking for memorial services. Those they are here and classified as Jews or Protestants.  Seems some of them know they are being used and are willing to take advantage of it.

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« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2004, 04:06:58 PM »

[Also note that these sources don't report their success rate in converting Orthodox to Protestantism.  From my experiences, the word "Baptist" has negative connotations and the overwhelming majority aren't suckered.]

True.  Many of these Protestants go into an area and set up their revival tents.  Usually they offer freebies in return to a specified number of attendance at these so called revivals.  Be it a Bible, clothes, or food.  They are given a ticket which is stamped every time they go.  When they get the required number of stamps they are given their freebie and go home.  Next week they are back in their local Orthodox church lighting their candles.  Many of these Protestants have 'Altar Calls' and do a count.  However, after they leave the area no one does any followup.

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« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2004, 06:54:10 PM »

I pray for a pre-schism reunion and the strengthening of faith & traditions for both sides.

I can understand the reluctance of the Orthodox to commit quickly and respect it.

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« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2004, 04:47:00 PM »

I am going out on a limb here and risking criticism from my fellow Orthodox.  The presence of Protestant missionaries in Russia does not bother me in the slightest.  Why?  Several reasons.  Number one, Russia is the largest country on earth.  It is ethnically, linguistically, and religious diverse, and has been for centuries.  Secondly, Protestants have been in Russia for HUNDREDS of years.  The first Lutheran church in Moscow was organized in the 1540s, for example.  Secondly, there are millions of Protestants in Russia.  According to statistics from pre-1917 Russia, the Lutherans were the largest Protestant group and had several MILLION members.  The Lutheran community in St. Petersburg was very large, with impressive cathedral-like churches and huge congregations. And, believe it or not, the Lutherans enjoyed a good deal of freedom under Czar Nicholas II, whose wife had been raised Lutheran before she converted to Orthodoxy.  I've seen pictures of Lutheran churches in Russia, nice big buildings, from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok and everywhere in between.  And that's just the Lutherans.  There are also millions of Russian Baptists who in most cases, like the Lutherans, have roots going back to Germany and the Pietist movement.  I know nothing about the Penetcostals in Russia except that they have been there for at least a hundred years as well.  Looking at this from a tolerant and fair perspective, it seems to me that the Protestants in Russia should have the right to do whatever they want. Russia is not a theocracy, and the Protestants DO have flocks there, not all of who were "stolen" from the Orthodox.  
     I want to mention one other point.  Sometimes a little religious competition is a good thing.  Any time one Church is the only show in town, it begins to take on a feel of lukewarmness. After all if everyone in your town is Orthodox, what need is there for decent catechesis to teach the people to distinguish truth from error? If the only churches are Orthodox churches, where else will they go if they get dissatisfied?  Nowhere.  Think about, for example, how the OCA has flourished here in America.  We are in small minority in a predominently secular/Protestant nation, and what has happened to us?  We get Protestant converts, we tend to have some experience knowing HOW to explain the Orthodox faith since we are so small here, and we've learned we have to put our best foot forward in order to attract people.  
    Rather than bemoaning the fact that Protestants are doing mission work in Russia, I would prefer to focus on the positive aspects of it. It just might make the Russian Orthodox Church there do a better job of evangelizing its own people.
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« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2004, 05:29:40 PM »

Tikhon,

I agree with a competition factor, it does keep one sharp,focused and aware. We tend to get lazy and complacent without it.

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« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2004, 06:12:35 PM »

[Looking at this from a tolerant and fair perspective, it seems to me that the Protestants in Russia should have the right to do whatever they want. Russia is not a theocracy, and the Protestants DO have flocks there, not all of who were "stolen" from the Orthodox.]

Would be interested in your take on those Lutheran and Baptist who are building churches in Eastern Europe with Cupolas and three bar crosses on top, puting Icons inside, and even the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine that serves the Orthodox Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom?

http://www.angelfire.com/ca4/saintsophiaseminary/liturgy.html


http://www.angelfire.com/ca4/saintsophiaseminary/ulc.html

Now the Russian Orthodox Church doesn't not only  have to contend with a Roman Catholic Unia but various aspects of a Protestant Unia as well.

A friend of mine tells me a story of a man he met who had a three bar cross hanging from his car front mirror.  My friend asked him if he was Russian Orthodox  and pointed to the cross.  Apparently the man was an Evangelical Protestant and had done some missionary work in Ukraine and Russia and was insulted that someone would call it an 'Orthodox Cross'!  He was very indignant about the whole thing and said it wasn't an Orthodox Cross it was a Russian Cross!

And the Russians as well as other Orthodox aren't supposed to react to such deception and ignorance?

Reminds of the time I put on TBN to see an Evangelical minister standing in Red Square with St Basil's in the background asking for money so he could bring Jesus to Russia and teach them how to say "Slava Boho'.  And we Orthodox aren't supposed to react to such ignorance and disrespect for our faith?

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« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2004, 07:08:59 PM »

Actually, I am fully aware of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, and I don't find its presence threatening at all.  I know they use a Lutheranized version of Chrysostom's Liturgy, but what's wrong with that?  The traditional Lutheran liturgy is simply a modified version of the Roman Mass.  So if Lutherans do mission work in an area that has historically expressed its Christianity in the Byzantine Rite, what is so evil about them creating a Lutheran Liturgy based on a Byzantine Liturgy than a Roman one?  
     If you will read the text of the Divine Liturgy of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, you will find that everything that makes it specifically Orthodox has been edited out.  All references to the Theotokos and intercessions of the saints have been removed.  All prayers for the departed have been removed.  The entire Eucharistic Prayer has been deleted and replaced by the bare Words of Institution. And, of course, there is no Epiclesis either.  In addition to that, the Ukrainian Lutheran churches do NOT have any iconostasis at all, and they never will because its not part of the Lutheran heritage. Nor will the Lutherans ever venerate icons.  When Lutherans use icons, they use them as ART only.  And the Ukrainian Lutherans I've seen only use TWO icons at best, Christ and the Theotokos.  Icons are becoming quite popular amongst the Lutherans right now, even here in the USA.  A Lutheran Church in my city has some on its walls now. And its no big deal.  People think they are "pretty" and having "teaching value." Lutherans wouldn't even know HOW to venerate them. LOL  As to using onion domes and three bar crosses, the Lutherans prefer those in the Ukrainian because they are trying to DISTANCE themselves from the American fundamentalists who talk about "getting the Gospel into Russia while there is still time." The Lutherans, apparently, respect the Christian roots of Russia and feel that they can build on that.  By the way, the Lutherans accept Orthodox baptism and if an Orthodox converts to Lutheranism, he is NOT re-baptized.  And unlike the Baptist fundies, the Lutherans do believe that Orthodox are Christians.  Again, I feel no need to be threatened by the presence of Eastern Rite Lutherans.
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« Reply #15 on: September 24, 2004, 08:34:11 PM »

[ So if Lutherans do mission work in an area that has historically expressed its Christianity in the Byzantine Rite, what is so evil about them creating a Lutheran Liturgy based on a Byzantine Liturgy than a Roman one?]

Reread what you just wrote.  It's not called mission work when they are in an area that is recognized as being Christian it's called PROSELTYZING and DECEPTION!   Mission work is when you go to an area that has not known Christ.  As St Paul writes -

[Caps are mine for emphasis]

Romans 15:20 -  And so I have made it my aim to preach the Gospel, NOT WHERE CHRIST WAS NAMED, LEST I SHOULD BUILD ON ANOTHER MANS FOUNDATION,

Where outside of Orthodox areas do Lutherans serve a modified version of the Orthodox Liturgy, use three bar crosses, and serve 40 day Memorials for the dead?

[Nor will the Lutherans ever venerate icons. When Lutherans use icons, they use them as ART only.]

Come here to Philly and I'll take you to a Lutheran Church that has set itself up in the midst of the Russian & Ukrainian immigrant population.  Outside it has a sign in Russian which states it is a 'Slavic Christian Church' (no mention of it being Lutheran).  Inside you can light a candle & pray in front of an Icon.  And that's isn't veneration?  You can also have a 40th day Pannikhida.  How many Lutheran Churches have such practices?

To go into another Christian area and present yourself as something you are not by adapting the practices of the established church is both deceptive, contradictory, and against what St Paul preaches.

[ By the way, the Lutherans accept Orthodox baptism and if an Orthodox converts to Lutheranism, he is NOT re-baptized.  And unlike the Baptist fundies, the Lutherans do believe that Orthodox are Christians.]


How kind of them.  If they really accepted Orthodox baptism and considered Orthodox as equal Christians they wouldn't be their in the first place 'BUILDING ON ANOTHER MAN'S FOUNDATION'.

Instead, they should be helping the established Church that has been present for 1000+ years and has suffered more than any other church in the last century instead of taking advantage of its weakened condition to sheep steal.

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« Reply #16 on: September 24, 2004, 09:18:39 PM »

Actually, from what I have read about the Finland, the Orthodox Church there and the Lutheran Church both respect one another and hardly demonize each other at all.
    In short, I believe that if Orthodoxy is the truth (and I think it is) we have nothing to fear from the Lutherans, the Baptists or anyone else. It strikes me as pure paranoia to think the Slavic peoples as a majority are ever going to embrace a religion like Lutheranism that orginated in Germany.
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« Reply #17 on: September 24, 2004, 11:44:15 PM »

I am going out on a limb here and risking criticism from my fellow Orthodox.  The presence of Protestant missionaries in Russia does not bother me in the slightest...

I can appreciate this line of thinking only if we are consistent and include Catholics in the mix.
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« Reply #18 on: September 25, 2004, 02:48:44 AM »

If only we could all be like Finland, where they all follow the same calendar regardless of anathemas, where it has been demonstrated that the Lutherans and Orthodox have the same views of salvation, and where people can just go into services and partake  of communion regardless of religion. :-";"xx
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« Reply #19 on: September 25, 2004, 11:20:39 AM »

I am going out on a limb here and risking criticism from my fellow Orthodox.  The presence of Protestant missionaries in Russia does not bother me in the slightest...
 

I can appreciate this line of thinking only if we are consistent and include Catholics in the mix.  

=======

Perhaps those of you who think this way can explain why priority should be given to proseltyzing in a predominately christian country amongst fellow christians who have suffered so much for their faith over areas of the world that are predominately Moslem, Hindu, Buddist, or Jewish?

The Moselm faith is said to be the fastest growing in the world.  Shouldn't this be a priority over sheep stealing amongst christians?  Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant churches in both the U.S. and western europe is losing ground.  Shouldn't this be a priority over sheep stealing from other christians?

If it is so important to make all of eastern europe either Roman Catholic or Protestant where were all these proseltyzers during communism when the Orthodox Catholics were dying, being exiled, imprisoned, and sent to mental hospitals for their Orthodox faith?

There is something wrong when a group of christians deems it more important to proseltyze other christians than to evangelize the non christian.

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« Reply #20 on: September 25, 2004, 11:24:38 AM »

[If only we could all be like Finland, where they all follow the same calendar regardless of anathemas, where it has been demonstrated that the Lutherans and Orthodox have the same views of salvation, and where people can just go into services and partake  of communion regardless of religion. ]

Finland follows the same calendar because the government requires them to do so.  If the Orthodox didn't follow the western calendar their taxes would increase and government assistance would cease.

Can you please provide proof of your claim that  their is inter communion between Lutherans and Orthodox in Finland?  I've been there and saw no such practice.

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« Reply #21 on: September 25, 2004, 01:00:31 PM »

If only we could all be like Finland, ... where people can just go into services and partake  of communion regardless of religion. :-

Are you really a Traditionalist Orthodox?
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« Reply #22 on: September 25, 2004, 01:37:54 PM »

Are you really a Traditionalist Orthodox?

I think he was being facetious.
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« Reply #23 on: September 25, 2004, 01:39:16 PM »

If only we could all be like Finland, where they all follow the same calendar regardless of anathemas, where it has been demonstrated that the Lutherans and Orthodox have the same views of salvation, and where people can just go into services and partake  of communion regardless of religion. :-

I understand their calendar issue, but the rest of your statements sound like gross exaggeration.  Please give some examples or stop baiting.
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« Reply #24 on: September 25, 2004, 02:34:16 PM »

My bad.  There needs to be a facetious emoticon for the nuance-challenged like myself.
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« Reply #25 on: September 25, 2004, 03:17:55 PM »

On second thought, it'd probably just be better if I withdrew what I said... Lips Sealed
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« Reply #26 on: September 25, 2004, 03:25:29 PM »

[But, if you're asking me to go dig up all sorts of these theological reports and news reports proving my points, no deal.]

Then, with all due respect, please don't make accusations that there is intercommunion between Lutherans and Orthodox in Finland without the references to back it up.  Especially on the world wide internet.

Lutherans are Protestants.  We share more in common with our Roman Catholic neighbors than with Lutherans and there is no intercommunion.

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« Reply #27 on: September 25, 2004, 06:12:59 PM »

Lutherans are Protestants.  We share more in common with our Roman Catholic neighbors than with Lutherans and there is no intercommunion.

Orthodoc

 

Right you are, Orthodoc.  With that recognition we need to quit making excuses for lack of intercommunion among the true, apostolic churches.  Once that happens, there won't be any "unia" in Russia, the Ukraine, or anywhere.  Protestants are gaining ground while we fight amongst ourselves.  Islam takes similar advantage of our schismatical sins.  We just have to stop it.  We just have to stop it now.
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« Reply #28 on: September 25, 2004, 07:24:21 PM »

I've been a believer in the OC pulling out of the World Council of Churches and then forming a World Council of Apostolic Churches with the RCC and the Orientals to combat the ravages of modern day problems confronting our Faith - secularism, Protestant heresies, Islam, etc.  How feasible is this?  Why are we able to form grand organizations with Christians who deny the real presence, Apostolic succession, all the sacraments, and the visible oneness of the Church, but we can't form the same with Christians who do believe in these things?
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« Reply #29 on: September 25, 2004, 07:44:56 PM »

[Right you are, Orthodoc.  With that recognition we need to quit making excuses for lack of intercommunion among the true, apostolic churches.  Once that happens, there won't be any "unia" in Russia, the Ukraine, or anywhere. ]

If the Roman Catholic Church was sincere in its claims and practiced what it preaches there would already be no need for an 'unia' in Russia, Ukraine, or elsewhere.

If the Orthodox Catholic Church is really a 'sister church' with valid Sacraments & with equal roads to salvation there is no longer a reason for the 'unia' to existence separate from its mother churches.  

To claim those within the 'unia' will be returned to their mother churches once unity with Rome is achieved is still basing everything on union of some kind with Rome.  And, therefore still indicates that the Orthodox Catholic Church lacks something.  And, are therefore, not quite as 'equal' as Rome claims we are.  Its nothing more than Roman Catholic double talk.

That's like me telling my sister I no longer consider her 'wayward'  but still part of the family.  But will not return the children I stole from her until she follows my rules and returns to me.

Either we are entirely 'equal' are we are not.
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« Reply #30 on: September 25, 2004, 07:55:18 PM »

[I've been a believer in the OC pulling out of the World Council of Churches and then forming a World Council of Apostolic Churches with the RCC and the Orientals to combat the ravages of modern day problems confronting our Faith ]

Great ideal but look at it all from an Orthodox Catholic viewpoint.  When the ROC joined the WCC it was told  constantly that the organization was formed to strive for unity and love amongst christians.  It believed this, and because of it, was convinced that their fellow christians in the west would be there to help them  rebuild their church once communism was overthrown and the church once again free to grow and prosper.  But what happened instead?  These same so called western christians who also preached unity, equality, and love came in to their country in droves to sheep steal and take advantage of their weakened status to compete with them for the souls of their people.

As long as you have western christians continuing the same tactics amongst Orthodox  there will remain the suspicion there now is and for good reason.

"By their deeds they shall be known"

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« Reply #31 on: September 26, 2004, 11:20:51 PM »

The Catholic Church has never been a member of the WCC. They reject everything but Catholicism and everyone else is a member. Pope Pius XI condemned this movement. Ecclesiam Catholicam contra mundum.
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« Reply #32 on: September 26, 2004, 11:21:50 PM »

The RCC is not a member of the WCC but it is a member of the Faith and Order commission.

Anastasios
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« Reply #33 on: September 26, 2004, 11:25:16 PM »

The RCC is not a member of the WCC but it is a member of the Faith and Order commission.

Anastasios

Dang it!!! what is the Faith and Order commision? Huh Man, remember I am a Catholic Traditionalist. I believe many bishops in the Church should be excommunicated for their acts against the Faith. This one of them. I would love another Pius IX or X or XI or XII to be Pope.
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« Reply #34 on: September 27, 2004, 08:32:58 PM »

Yo..Orthodoc!
Just read your posts. your Cool!
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« Reply #35 on: September 28, 2004, 08:18:41 PM »

I am going out on a limb here and risking criticism from my fellow Orthodox.  The presence of Protestant missionaries in Russia does not bother me in the slightest...
 

I can appreciate this line of thinking only if we are consistent and include Catholics in the mix.  

=======

If it is so important to make all of eastern europe either Roman Catholic or Protestant where were all these proseltyzers during communism when the Orthodox Catholics were dying, being exiled, imprisoned, and sent to mental hospitals for their Orthodox faith?


Well...Catholics were persecuted in the Soviet Union too.  In fact, in the Ukraine, Eastern Catholic churches were taken by the government and given to the Orthodox.

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« Reply #36 on: September 28, 2004, 08:34:52 PM »

[Right you are, Orthodoc.  With that recognition we need to quit making excuses for lack of intercommunion among the true, apostolic churches.  Once that happens, there won't be any "unia" in Russia, the Ukraine, or anywhere. ]

If the Roman Catholic Church was sincere in its claims and practiced what it preaches there would already be no need for an 'unia' in Russia, Ukraine, or elsewhere.

If the Orthodox Catholic Church is really a 'sister church' with valid Sacraments & with equal roads to salvation there is no longer a reason for the 'unia' to existence separate from its mother churches.  

To claim those within the 'unia' will be returned to their mother churches once unity with Rome is achieved is still basing everything on union of some kind with Rome.  And, therefore still indicates that the Orthodox Catholic Church lacks something.  And, are therefore, not quite as 'equal' as Rome claims we are.  Its nothing more than Roman Catholic double talk.

That's like me telling my sister I no longer consider her 'wayward'  but still part of the family.  But will not return the children I stole from her until she follows my rules and returns to me.

Either we are entirely 'equal' are we are not.

To date, no one at this site has told me that the Catholic Church should unilaterally throw the eastern Catholics out and tell them to become Orthodox.  But if you want us to give up the Unia without a corresponding union with Rome on your part, then that is what would have to happen.  But we can't do that, because under present circumstances those who were once in communion with us would be told that they may no longer be so.  And this would be against their will!  There is only one reason for the continued existence of the "Unia": the continueing disunity between us.

Now I realize that for some on the Catholic side unity would mean submission in some jurisdictional sense to the Bishop of Rome.  But at the end of the day, that shouldn't be necessary.  I don't think it should be necessary, even though the Pope does have a very unique ministry that no one else can fulfill.  As I've said elsewhere, the answer to how we become reunited is to just do it in the words of the commercial, without preconditions on either side.
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« Reply #37 on: September 28, 2004, 08:35:08 PM »

Pathetic Lies

Well...Catholics were persecuted in the Soviet Union too.  In fact, in the Ukraine, Eastern Catholic churches were taken by the government and given to the Orthodox.


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« Reply #38 on: September 28, 2004, 11:08:24 PM »

Pathetic Lies

What?!?!?!?! Huh
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« Reply #39 on: September 28, 2004, 11:11:31 PM »

Dear sdcheung,

Actually, that is a fact, not pathetic lies.  Read any scholarly journal or the many books published on the subject.

Anastasios
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