Category Archives: Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations

Saint Francis of Assisi: Icon of God’s Love for Our Troubled Times

by Alfred D. Turnipseed | Ελληνικά | ქართული | Русский | Српски

The Stigmatisation of St. Francis

Ah, life’s ironies! As it turns out, many of those who are against abortion (quite a few of whom are President Trump’s supporters) are making excuses for Trump’s decision to accept therapies derived from aborted fetal tissue as a (so-called) “cure” for COVID-19; and yet, many of those in favor of abortion (who, more often than not, are the president’s opponents) are upset that Trump owes his (apparent) “rapid recovery” from COVID-19 to therapies they would otherwise welcome, or even celebrate, if used to help others.

In the meantime, God, who “is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34), and for whom all events manifest the sovereignty of his providence, judges all hearts, using the events of the history we have made to teach us how far we have fallen short of his love. If only we would listen to his teachings within us.

This, I think, may be why the Lord (through Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and so many others) seems to be calling special attention to the teaching of St. Francis today. Il Poverello (“the little poor one,” as St. Francis is known in Franciscan tradition) is not only a master teacher when it comes to issues related to racism, violence, interreligious rivalry, and intolerance, as well as poverty and economic injustice; he is also, as the Catholic patron saint of animals and ecology, a guide for all believers during our worldwide environmental collapse, and the COVID-19 pandemic that is its most recent manifestation.

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Discerning Yoga in Orthodoxy

by Kerry San Chirico | Ελληνικά | Română | Српски

person doing yoga

It was with academic and existential interest that I read two summer yoga essays by Aristotle Papanikolaou and Metropolitan Konstantinos. As a scholar of South Asian religions engaged in interreligious work, and as a proponent of the comparative theological project among Orthodox, I found much that resonated, not only in terms of accurately reflecting the benefits of yoga practice, but the constructive Orthodox hermeneutic by which we should encounter the religious Other.

The reader should know that much ink has been spilt on the origins of yoga, its development into the modern period, and even what is meant by the word “yoga.” The Sanskrit root yuj means “to unite, join, or connect.” (The word yoke is an Indo-European cognate.) Generically, then, yoga simply means “union”—and it is possible to unite the mind/body organism, or oneself to Śiva or to non-dual Hindu understandings of the divine Self or to the Trinitarian God. Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain schools and lineages use the term yoga differently, tracing practices to different ancient texts and teachers. Practices will vary. The encounter of East and West in the colonial period has had as much to do with what yoga is today than many would care to admit. By the way, not every Hindu does yoga. Hindus might be surprised to hear that yoga is “integral” to Hinduism, the word used by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece—at least if that means everyone practices yoga or is an absolutely necessary soteriological practice, though Hindus would almost universally agree that it is beneficial and salutary in the pursuit of liberation (mokṣa), variously conceived. While we are at it, most English-speaking Hindus don’t refer to their tradition as a religion at all. Rather, “Hinduism is a way of life.” Sound familiar?

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Orthodox and Anglicans in Dialogue

by Rev. Dr. Christos Christakis | Ελληνικά

Patriarch Meletios and Archbishop Cosmo Lang

In the fall of 2015, a small and unassuming publication was introduced in London, England with the title The Buffalo Statement: In the Image and likeness of God – A Hope-Filled Anthropology. It was a text that was agreed in Buffalo, NY earlier that year by a group of official representatives of the Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion who make up the International Commission for Anglican–Orthodox Theological Dialogue (ICAOTD). This was  the fourth such document  by the ICAOTD. 

Anglicans held in the past a unique place in the eyes of Orthodox Christians. They stood between Roman Catholics and Protestants as a more sympathetic counterpart. For the Orthodox, Anglicans did not carry with them the bitter memories of the Crusades, the Great Schism, the Papacy, and the rest. On the other hand, they also had not rejected the entire Tradition of the first millennium like the rest of the Protestants. Many Orthodox in the United States still remember the advice of their bishops earlier on the 20th century allowing them to attend an Episcopalian Church when there was not an  Orthodox Church nearby. 

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Some of My Best Friends Are Heretics
What Do Orthodox Really Believe?

by Paul Ladouceur | Ελληνικά | српски

The evil eye

Orthodox pride themselves on belonging to the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” founded by Jesus Christ—and with good reason. Orthodox point to the loftiness of Orthodox theology, the beauty and solemnity of its liturgy, its mystical spirituality, the holiness of its saints, and the transcendentalism of its icons, liturgical music, and religious architecture. For many Orthodox, the Orthodox Church is the sole Church of Christ, and other Christian ecclesial bodies are decidedly “lesser,” perhaps not truly Christian, or at best “incomplete.”

But Orthodoxy on the ground, the actual beliefs and practices of Orthodox faithful, Orthodoxy as “lived religion,” yields a different picture. Lived religion focuses the beliefs, practices and everyday experiences of religious persons. Most lived religion studies of Orthodoxy concentrate on measurable practices such as attendance at church services, personal prayer, and fasting, with little attention to religious beliefs. There are a few exceptions. The Pew Research Center report on Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe (2017) examines contemporary Orthodoxy in major countries of Eastern Orthodox tradition. Results of this report were incorporated into the broader study Orthodox Christianity in the 21st Century (also 2017), which focuses mainly on geographic and demographic aspects of Orthodoxy, with attention to religious practices and to opinions concerning the church’s positions on issues such as divorce, married priests, women priests, and same-sex marriage. Questions concerning religious beliefs cover basic beliefs in God, heaven, hell, miracles, the soul, and the Bible. But an astonishingly high percent of Orthodox hold non-Christian beliefs such as fate (70%), the evil eye (53%), magic, sorcery or witchcraft (40%), and reincarnation (25%). More Orthodox Christians than Catholics in the region believe in the evil eye and magic and sorcery, and differences between Catholics and Orthodox concerning reincarnation are minimal. And considerably more people (59% to 75%) in countries of Orthodox tradition believe in fate than in the secularized Czech Republic (32%).

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