Page 4, 5th August 1949

5th August 1949
Page 4
Page 4, 5th August 1949 — EAST AND WEST G IVEN the circumstances of this most critical

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Locations: Jerusalem, Moscow, Rome, Peekskill


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EAST AND WEST G IVEN the circumstances of this most critical

age, it is not surprising that there should be a revival of interest in Christian unity and that we should witness various attempts to bring this about. An English edition of Unitas, the organ of the Unitas Association of Rome, marks fittingly the Catholic response to this movement. The quarterly review bearing this title, issued from the Graymoor Press, Peekskill, New York, the first number of which has now appeared, is symptomatic of this trend in Christendom. That it will be read not only by Catholics throughout the English-speaking world but also by that large number of earnest-minded nonCatholics who, as various ecumenical conferences testify, are exploring this field, we may be sure. As the present situation, bringing us face to face along the entire Christian front with the increasing menace of a godless materialism, develops, the need of such an organ to he a standard and rallying-point for all becomes obvious.

For those who desire to be kept informed on this subject and to be given judicial counsel concerning it no better means could be found. Not only will it instruct those already interested; it is calculated to awaken concern in those who hitherto have given the problems involved little heed.

* * IT is natural for those in the English-speaking parts of the world to assume that the first object to be attained in creating a united Christendom is the return to the Church of our Protestant neighbours. If controversy has sharpened our differences it has also familiarised us with their outlook and history. It is therefore this aspect of the ecumenical movement which, for understandable reasons, appeals to us most strongly. But there are good reasons for regarding this view, when taken in the larger context of world affairs, as mistaken.

A more detached attitude, we suggest, would result in giving preference to the healing of the schism between East and West.

As is made clear in an article

devoted to the subject in the first issue of Unitas' English edition, Greek Orthodoxy is, of all the Christian confessions, that which most closely approximates to Catholicism. Eccicslastically speaking, it is this which is our nearest neighbour and the most promising field for ecumenical effort, and it is the achievement of reconciliation at this point which would have the strongest repercussion on international affairs. The domestic issue must be subordinated to that which is of greater public importance.

In the article referred to, entitled " Will Union Be Easy for the Orientals 7", the writer reaches the conclusion that, apart from the inherited prejudices that have for so long created antipathy between Greeks and Latins and the political circumstances that lend additional force to those prejudices, the Schism has today no raison d'eire. His careful examination of the evidence shows that the theological obstacles to reunion which once operated have ceased to carry weight. In every one of the points formerly regarded as offering a formidable difficulty, some Greek theologian has, without official challenge, conceded the truth to Rome.

Basing his statement on documented facts. and cogent reasoning, Unitas' contributor declares that between the Greco-Russian Communion and the Catholic Church, " union would be very easy to realise."

* * NEVER was the need for such union greater. There can be no doubt that throughout the world Moscow is employing the hierarchy of the Russian Church

to further Soviet aims. As far back as 1945 evidence was published of propagandist activities under cover of ecclesiastical agen des operating in South America. The same subordination of the

Russian Church to political in fluences was shown when. last year, the Moscow Synod refused to participate in the Amsterdam Conference of Churches on the ground that this strictly religious assembly was seeking ends which were " essentially political, antidemocratic and non-ecclesiastical."

But still more damning evidence is afforded by an article from the

Times Tel Aviv Correspondent published last week which begins with the statement regarding the

Holy Places that " there are no signs that the leaders of the three great religions arc likely to arrive at any agreement in the near future, or even make an attempt to do so."

The gravity of the position indicated is greatly increased by what the writer has to say as to Soviet activities, using the Russian Church as a catspaw and through it wooing the Greek Orthodox Church in Palestine.

How strongly this emphasises the need to bring about a practical understanding between

Orthodox and Catholic, not only in Jerusalem but throughout the

world ! As we have seen, there never was a time when union was more needful or—which is much to the point—the prospect of it, granted faith and a wise approach to the problem, more hopeful.

It must be surely the case that, while the West holds out open

arms to Eastern Christians, many on the other side of the Iron Curtain are turning from what may well seem a desperate situation to

the, strength which would be gained by following the example of Vladimir Soloviev, sometimes

called "the Russian Newman," who, in the preface to his work, Russia and (lie Universe, published in 1889, explicitly accepted the primacy of St. Peter and his successors.

Since there have been revolts against the Marxian ideology on the part of Russian scientists and artists, it is not too much to hope that here also there may he secretly maturing h movement which, given opportunity and encouragement from the West, would lead to reconciliation with Rome.

A FACTOR in the whole prob lem which should surely not be without its influence to this most desirable end is the multiplication of Catholic and Orthodox communities in countries of the West owing to the vast displacement of populations from Eastern Europe, and the wholesale immigration into Britain, France and the U.S.A. of these displaced persons.

As soon as they feel themselves a community, Catholics of the Eastern rites make contact for national and even political reasons with parallel groups of the Ortho dox Church. These contacts are incalculably valuable in that they spread the practical and personal experience among the orthodox of the wise generosity of Rome in the provision of non-territorial ecclesiastical jurisdictions which enable these displaced communities to preserve not only their rites but their national and local customs and ways.

In this way anti-Western prejudices and feelings are being broken down and the reality of the fact that the Pope in Rome is the Father of Eastern rites equally with the Roman rite, made obvious in truth and deed.

Both in rousing Catholics to a realisation of the unity of the Church and in eliciting their prayers for the healing of the ageold schism as it were bit by bit, in destroying the prejudices in the minds of exiled Orthodox communities, and on presenting a means whereby submission to Rome can be made with the minimum difficulty these new Eastern rite Catholic communities are of the utmost practical importance in a question where, as has been said above, the original doctrinal differences have been largely obliterated.

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