St. Justin’s Notes on Ecumenism

The above photo is from yesterday’s canonization of the two newly canonized Saints of the Serbian Church – the Venerable Justin of Celije and Symeon of Dajbabe. You can view more photos here. Today is actually the feast day of St. Nikolai of Zica and Ohrid, another new Serbian Saint, canonized only a few years ago.

And below is an interesting commentary by John over at Ad Orientem (here). I’ve been away from the computer over the weekend and didn’t realize St. Justin’s views on Catholicism was such a hot topic. Personally, I’m not really sure whether the glorification of St. Justin will have any affect on the current ecumenical trends in the Serbian Orthodox Church. In fact, just weeks before the Assembly of Bishops began a book was released and promoted on the patriarchate website entitled “Notes on Ecumenism” by Fr. Justin Popovic (see here). The following  quote was given from Avva Justin:

“Ecumenism is a movement that in itself swarms with many questions. And all those questions, in fact, spring from one wish and recede into one wish. And that wish wants one thing: the True Church of Christ. And the true Church of Christ provides, and should provide, answers to all the questions and sub questions posed by Ecumenism. For if the Church of Christ does not resolve the eternal questions of the human spirit, then it is wholly unnecessary.

That doesn’t sound too anti ecumenism. Anyway, here is John’s commentary:

Breaking News: The Orthodox Church is not Catholic

…At least in the sense generally understood by Christians in communion with the Pope of Rome.

Apparently a large number of (big ‘C’) Catholics and ecumenically minded Orthodox have been disconcerted by the glorification (canonization) of St. Justin Popovic of Celije by the Serbian Orthodox Church, whose ceremony of glorification was held today. It would appear that St. Justin’s principal shortcoming was that he lacked the ecumenical spirit. He was hostile (polemically so) to the non-Orthodox in general and Roman Catholicism in particular. One of his better known quotes was…

“In the history of the human race there have been three principal falls: that of Adam, that of Judas, and that of the pope.”

Such is unlikely to go over well in the modern age when the answer to all differences is tolerance and endless dialogue.

Now in fairness, I am not a huge fan of polemics. I have never seen anyone converted by insulting them. Still, all of the hubbub now spreading in the blogosphere (I count no less than five blogs that I regularly look at addressing this subject within the last 24hrs) raises an important question. How does St. Justin’s position fit in with the opinions of the other Orthodox saints? How does it fit with the historic teachings of the Orthodox Church?

The answer, unfortunately for the kumbaya crowd, is quite well.

I might have chosen other ways to express the point, but the fact remains without exception that no Orthodox saint of the post-schism era has ever even hinted that the Christian West was/is anything other than heretical. We can try and dance around this all we want, but there it is.

None of this of course means that Roman Catholics are evil people. Nor does it mean that we can have nothing at all to do with them. Many members of my family are Catholic. And I still have a great deal of respect for some aspects of the Roman Church including their many charitable works and their heroic witness for life and and against the encroachments of radical secularism. Further, I remain convinced that +Benedict XVI is the best thing to hit Rome in a very long time.

What it does mean is that they are not Orthodox, and we are not simply misguided Catholics who don’t realize that we really don’t disagree on the important issues. And it is time for people on both sides to stop pretending otherwise. I am a strong supporter of strategic cooperation with the RCC where such is possible and without compromising the Faith. However as far as ecumenism is concerned, I rather support the view of the Bulgarian Church, whose Holy Synod recently concluded that more than four decades of ecumenical dialogue with Rome have proven utterly fruitless and thus have suspended their participation in the every year or two photo-ops over champagne and expensive food in very picturesque locals.

In the end, St. Justin’s offense was to rather undiplomatically point out that we don’t in fact belong to the same church in large part because we don’t believe the same things. Those who try to get around that are going to have to overcome the unanimous concurrence of at least the last five centuries worth of Orthodox saints.

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7 thoughts on “St. Justin’s Notes on Ecumenism

  1. I think it is silly to not accept that the Schism of 1054 is not a huge set back for Christianity. In addition, it is un-Orthodox to not accept that we Orthodox have the full depository of Faith. However, I was guided here by someone who claimed that the Ecumenical Patriarch is a heretic and all that nonsense and it is my duty to take a stand against that view. Just because St. Justin Popovic was against Ecumenism does not damn Ecumenism. It is quite clear that the language of Sister Churches endured past the Schism. We can see it in the 1100’s with the exchange between the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope, we can see it in the 1600’s and again today. I would advice, humbly, the people who speak against Ecumenism to realize that we have had no less than three Patriarchs of Constantinople in a row speak for it. If we had one (say, like Nestorius) and he was not deposed (unlike Nestorius), if we are the true Church, then the next Patriarch would have declared the first one’s teachings Anathema, if his choosing was guided by the Holy Spirit. If the choosing of both Patriarch Dimitrius and Patriarch Bartholomew were not guided by the Holy Spirit, then the Orthodox Church has a bigger problem than it has had for quite some time, even while the Ottomans and the Communists persecuted Her. If, however, the Holy Spirit chose these men to lead the Church as First Among Equals, then we better pay attention and stop the bickering.

  2. Germanus > First I should note that I’m not familiar with any recent Papal comments about a world currency. I vaguely remember something from a few years back. But even that I didn’t really pay attention to. Granted, I don’t pay attention to much coming out of the Vatican. I’m not particularly anti-ecumenical as the ecumenical movement stands today. They’re meeting, talking, discussing, holding lectures, conferences…..in short, not much is being done at realizing an actual union.

    Just my opinion.

  3. Father, bless. My conversion story is steeped in the question of what “canonical” means. Currently OCA but relocating much has afforded me the experience of membership in the Western SerbOC in two parishes. My question is this, with the recent Papal comments about a world currency, how do you feel now about the EP and major Patriarchates supporting the movement towards Rome? As I said, I converted in an odd way coming first through learning about orthodoxy from Ethiopia and then French Rite, then OCA (baptised). So this question is difficult for me. If you would rather converse through email, I’m fine with that.

  4. I didn’t realize all the discussion about this. I think your post is fine. I tend to be fairly “ecumenical,” personally, but not at the expense of denying the real issues that divide us. I think your first quote from St. Justin, where he discusses “ecumenism” is spot on.

  5. Be careful, Fr Seraphim! To say that St Justin and the EP disagree over ecumenism is an ‘Extremist’, ‘egotistical’ opinion which ‘divides the Church’. Or so I was told when I dared to suggest such a thing…

  6. “…we don’t in fact belong to the same church in large part because we don’t believe the same things.”

    I, of course, agree. The EP, of course, does not. What does this tell us about him, and his attempt to have hegemony over Orthodoxy in the diaspora?

  7. “…we don’t in fact belong to the same church in large part because we don’t believe the same things. Those who try to get around that are going to have to overcome the unanimous concurrence of at least the last five centuries worth of Orthodox saints.”

    “Amen,” says Romanos.

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