Bishop Andrew Preaches on Church Unity at "Orientale Lumen II"
[Editor's Note: From June 8th through 12th, 1998, over 120 bishops, clergy, and faithful (including two Roman Catholic cardinals) of the Eastern Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Churches gathered in Washington, DC, for an ecumenical conference entitled Orientale Lumen II. On Friday, June 12th, Bishop Andrew was the celebrant and homilist at the Divine Liturgy held in the Crypt Church of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The following is the text of Bishop Andrew's homily. Bishop Andrew J. Pataki is the eparch of Passaic, NJ.]
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Your Eminence, Cardinal Cassidy and my brother bishops, reverend priests and co-workers with the bishops, deacons and religious, beloved faithful in Christ:
I welcome this opportunity to offer the Divine Liturgy at the close of the second Orientale Lumen Conference at The Catholic University of America. Last year, at the first conference, I had the wonderful experiences of celebrating the opening prayer service with my brother bishops of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and, later that week, of serving the Divine Liturgy for the participants of that first and unique conference. I am pleased to see present here today some familiar faces from a year ago and to see new faces, too.
In the apostolic letter, Orientale Lumen, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, issued a call for the Latin Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Churches to pursue Church unity through mutual understanding, deepening their knowledge of one another and meeting together for dialogue. The Holy Father expressed his hope that Pontifical Universities will serve as hosts for these meetings and opportunities will serve as hosts for these meetings and opportunities for scholarly exchange. I commend the School of Religious Studies of the Catholic University of America and the Dean, Father Raymond Collins, for heeding the prophetic call of Pope John Paul II and providing such gracious hospitality. I also commend the Eastern Churches Journal and the Society of Saint John Chrysostom for co-sponsoring this ecumenical gathering. I thank you, the participants in this conference, for your enthusiastic interest and deep, sincere desire to support the road that leads to reconciliation Ut Unum Sint, "that they may all be one...that the world may believe..." (John 17:21).
Beloved faithful, let us attend prayerfully to the Word of God proclaimed among us today, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the words of Sacred Scripture.
Our first reading is taken from the Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Church at Rome. Observing the world around him, Saint Paul sees the devastating effects of sin and death from Adam until his own time. The Apostle sees God's beautiful creation in turmoil. He reminds us, however, not to lose heart. If the effects of sin and death are so obvious and great, we must remember how much greater are the gifts of salvation unto eternal life, given by our Lord Jesus Christ, and his instrument of overwhelming power, the Cross, which the Apostles preached and which we now likewise proclaim to all men and women living in a world of technological and scientific wonders but afflicted with violence, fear, despair and emptiness.
The words of the Lord Himself in today's Gospel reading also remind us that God's work of salvation, like new wine that cannot be contained in old skins, has such overwhelming power it overcomes the forces of evil, so that "through the Cross, joy has come to all the world."
To those who search for meaning in life, for hope and deliverance from the bondage of sin and death, we proclaim the Mystery of Redemption: the Cross! You, our brothers and sisters, also share in the Lord's command to evangelize. In his encyclical, Ut Unum Sint, which you have studied this week, Pope John Paul II declares the urgent need for Christian unity as an effective means for evangelization and I quote:
"[Believers] in Christ ... cannot remain divided if they wish truly and effectively to oppose the world's tendency to reduce to powerlessness the Mystery of the Redemption, they must profess together the same truth about the Cross [...] An anti-Christian outlook seeks to minimize the Cross, to empty it of its meaning, and to deny that in it man has the source of his new life. It claims that the Cross is unable to provide either vision or hope. Man, it says, is nothing but an earthly being, who must live as if God did not exist" (Ut Unum Sint, #1).
To meet the challenge of unbelief, there must be a "dialogue of conversion" among Christians. We must set aside long-standing misgivings, misunderstandings and prejudices, complacency, indifference and insufficient knowledge of one another. We must acquire a calm, clear-sighted and truthful vision of things. We must be willing to re-examine the painful past and the hurt which that past regrettably continues to provoke even today. This conversion or change of heart is like the "fresh wineskin" of today's Gospel reading into which is poured the New Wine: the one Way, the one Truth, the one Life -- the one Lord, Jesus Christ.
The old wineskins of intolerance and unedifying quarrels must be set aside because, as the Holy Father writes in Un Unum Sint, to which His Eminence, Cardinal Cassidy, referred in his talk, and I quote:
"How indeed can we proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without at the same time being committed to working for reconciliation between Christians? However true it is that the Church, by the promptings of the Holy Spirit and with the promise of indefectibility, has preached and still preaches the Gospel to all nations, it is also true that she must face the difficulties which derive from lack of unity. When non-believers meet missionaries who do not agree among themselves, even though they all appeal to Christ, will they be in a position to receive the true message? Will they not think that the Gospel is a cause of division, despite the fact that it is presented as the fundamental law of love?" (Ut Unum Sint, #98).
Union with God is mandated by God as a good in itself, but the mandate is given by God with a promise: do this... so that the world will believe. As a bishop, a pastor, I see the need of people living in today's world and know that they need to hear and accept the Good News of God's salvation. This can only be fully effective when the Churches speak as one.
Beloved faithful, I encourage your interest in the word of the union of the Holy Churches of God so that the unsurpassed Good News of Salvation may be preached and accepted by all people. In the words of Patriarch Athenagoros I: "Let us continue then the journey that lies ahead of us. And [the Lord], on His part, will draw near and go forward with us, as He did once with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, showing us the way on which we are to walk, and quickening our steps toward the goal for which we long."