Elpidophoros calls for “restoration of unity” at the Conference of Catholic Bishops

Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Americas addressed the fall assembly of the United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference last week, calling for a “dialogue of love” between the two churches. Credit: GOARCH

Archbishop Elpidophoros, the leader of all Greek Orthodox in the Americas, called for a “restoration of unity” and a “dialogue of love” among all Christians at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference last week.

His speech marked the first time in history that an Orthodox Archbishop had attended and made remarks at an assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese sent an official delegation to the November General Assembly of the Bishops’ Conference, held in Baltimore, Maryland, at the invitation of His Excellency Archbishop José H. Gomez, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The words of Elpidophoros were received very warmly by the Catholic bishops.

In his speech on the first day of the Conference, Elpidophoros referred to Patriarch Bartholomew’s speech at the ecumenical reception at the National Council of Churches, in which the head of all Greek Orthodox said that a “dialogue of love” between religions was the future of the two denominations, and that this “would become the century of the restoration of unity.”

“Today, I am convinced, by presenting myself before my brother hierarchs, that this dialogue of love, initiated by Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964 in Jerusalem, continues with particular density in this blessed country. “said Elphidoros. declared.

This dialogue should be inspired by the relationship between Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew, he said. Bartholomew became the first Archbishop of Constantinople to attend a papal enthronement in 2013, and the two have worked together on a range of societal issues since then.

The Catholic News Agency reports that Elpidophoros then presented Archbishop Gomez with a silver pectoral cross from Hagia Sophia, the great Orthodox church which he called “the universal cathedral of Christianity”, as a symbol of his “love and appreciation” .

Archbishop Elpidophoros’ full remarks to the Conference are below:

“Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Dear Fathers, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

“I greet you with a greeting of hope and peace in our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. I would like to share my sincere joy to be with you today, my brother bishops of the USCCB, for the first time in the history of the relationship of our sister Churches in this country; I am very grateful to His Excellency Bishop José H. Gomez Archbishop of Los Angeles, President of the USCCB, for his fraternal invitation to offer my humble remarks at the end of this session, but also to His Excellency Bishop David Talley Bishop of Memphis , President of the Episcopal Committee for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs, for facilitating our presence this evening.

Elpidophoros calls for “dialogue of love”

“As you well know, a few weeks ago we had the honor and blessing of welcoming His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for a historic visit to this country during which he met some of you either in Washington DC or New York. City. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you again for your warm and ecumenical presence.

“Allow me to share with you today a quote from the words of His All Holiness during the ecumenical reception at the National Council of Churches which finds a particular echo in today’s meeting:” the future of the movement ecumenical lies in ‘the dialogue of love’ through the creation of new symbols and common actions. We must open our hearts to the language of dialogue.

“This is the ultimate condition for the restoration of unity among Christians. The 20th century was a time of increasing relationship restoration. The twenty-first century must become the century of the restoration of unity.

“Today, I am convinced, in presenting myself before my brother hierarchs, that this dialogue of love, initiated by Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964 in Jerusalem, continues with particular density in this blessed country. .

“Our dialogue of love must be shaped by the dialogue and the inspiring relationship between our primates: His Holiness Pope Francis and His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was the first Archbishop of Constantinople to attend the enthronement of a pope in 2013.

“They both share the same concern for the protection of the natural environment, as was expressed recently last September in the joint statement issued with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, warning the world of the urgency of the environmental sustainability and its impact on poverty.

“This dialogue of love between our sister churches is a clear manifestation of our common desire for unity and communion both globally and locally. Thus, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation should not be shy about its accomplishments. Since 1965 – to the happy coincidence of the reestablishment of Catholic-Orthodox relations and of the Second Vatican Council – this Consultation has produced thirty-two documents, reports and declarations. Some of them have become real references for theologians, and for our Churches to walk together towards unity.

“Real fruits of collaboration” between orthodoxy, Catholicism

“These are the real fruits of our collaboration that nourish our two communities. During all these decades, whether it was the Committee for Ecumenical Relations of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America – or before 2010, the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the Americas, the Conference of The Committee of bishops for ecumenical and interfaith affairs and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops were mutual stays.

“And here, allow me here to congratulate the two Co-Chairs of the Consultation, His Eminence Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark and His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, for their inspiring leadership.

“It should also be noted that the Consultation works hand in hand with the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops, which has met annually since 1981. I am pleased to announce that both bodies are expected to continue their work in May the next year at the St. Methodios Faith and Heritage Center in New Hampshire. Let me also note that the fruits of this dialogue are not limited to theological debate.

“Each year, the Assembly of Bishops and the USCCB offer the opening prayer for the March for Life. Just a few months ago, the Assembly of Bishops also signed an amicus memorandum supporting the sanctity of life.

“Dear Brothers in the Lord, as Orthodox Christians we are also very interested in the work and process of the next Catholic Synod of Bishops, which is scheduled for October 2023 and which will deal with“ For a Synodal Ecclesial Community: Communion , Participation and missions. During this two-year period, I believe there is room for your ecumenical partners to contribute to the preparation process. This idea was recently shared by His Eminence Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

“I am convinced that the future and the mission of Catholic-Orthodox relations in the USA are to continue to bear witness to the presence of God in the world, faithful to the Spirit of Jerusalem that we have inherited.

“Ecumenical dialogue carries within itself a synodal dimension that explores the meaning and practice of the very nature of the structure and mission of the Church. We know that international dialogue is already addressing this question through the study of the interdependence between synodality and primacy. But maybe, in our American context, as we devote our energy and time to sharing this important issue and thinking together, it will pay off in due course.

“I want to thank each of you for allowing me to address this honorable body with the sincere hope that there will be many more opportunities to come together as brothers. As David says in the Psalms: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is to live in unity among brothers. “(Psalms 133: 1)

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