by George Demacopoulos
In June of 594, Pope Gregory the Great received a letter from Constantina, the empress, asking him to send the head of St. Paul to Constantinople so that she and others might benefit from venerating the bodily remains of such a great saint. St. Gregory denied the request, noting that it was not the custom of the Roman Church to dismember the bones of the saints.
A great deal has happened between Rome and Constantinople since the sixth century, but Pope Francis’s decision last week to send the Ecumenical Patriarch an actual portion of the body of St. Peter should be understood as nothing short of remarkable. More than anything else, it is a clear indication of the pontiff’s desire to advance the cause of Christian unity.
A point of clarification might help to demonstrate why Francis’s gift is both so unprecedented and significant. Continue reading
by George Demacopoulos
Several months ago, a recent convert to Orthodox Christianity with the online handle “BigSexy” launched a Reddit thread decrying Public Orthodoxy because, he claimed, it is an affront to Christian teaching. My first impulse was to mock the absurdity—are we supposed to believe that “BigSexy” has a monopoly on theological insight!?!
I realized, of course, that I should not be surprised that people say silly things on the Internet—especially about religion. Nor should I be surprised that some converts come from traditions that encourage certitude rather than faith. An academic forum, like Public Orthodoxy, is threatening to this kind of Christian (and others) because it complicates simplistic understandings of the Church and its history. At the time, I told myself that no one encounters a faith tradition without the hermeneutical baggage of their past. Indeed, if a Christian as remarkable as St. Augustine was unable to move fully beyond his Manichean experience, could I really expect a convert with Fundamentalist tendencies to eschew the entirety of his former world view?
But the more I’ve thought about this episode over the past few months, the more I have realized that the problem isn’t the converts, their past, or their zeal. The problem is us—those of us raised in the Church. Continue reading
by George Demacopoulos | ру́сский
Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev)
The three-way dispute between Ukrainians, Russians, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the possibility of Ukrainian ecclesiastical independence is shaping up to be the greatest challenge to Orthodox Christian unity of our generation. From a purely political perspective, Ukrainian autocephaly would represent an unmitigated disaster for the Russian Orthodox Church. Not only would it deprive the Russian Church of one third of its parishes and undermine its Russkiy Mir project, but it would dramatically belie the claim of the Moscow Patriarchate that it is the leader of the Orthodox Christian world.
In a desperate effort to thwart the independence movement, the Moscow Patriarchate and its surrogates are pushing a host of rhetorical and historical arguments but none is more belligerent or ridiculous than the accusation that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has succumbed to the “heresy of papism.” While this is not the first time that the charge of “papism” has been leveled in an inner-Orthodox dispute, the uncritical consumption of this charge reveals both a broad theological illiteracy and the potency of anti-Catholic rhetorical smears within inner-Orthodox polemic. Continue Reading…
by George Demacopoulos and Vera Shevzov
The Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University is pleased to announce the launch of the Journal of Orthodox Christian Studies, the first double-blind peer-reviewed academic journal covering all aspects of Orthodox Christianity and the Orthodox Christian world. The first issue is now available digitally and in print. Subscription information and more details about the journal are available from Johns Hopkins University Press.
The following introductory note by journal editors George Demacopoulos and Vera Shevzov briefly explains the vision and significance of the journal and of the field of Orthodox Christian studies.
Often associated with the qualifier “Eastern” and perceived as the Christian “other” in the context of contemporary world Christianity, Orthodox Christianity has historically remained largely off the curricular and scholarly radars of American academics. Yet, from late antiquity to modern times, as persecuted minorities, subjects of state-supported imperial regimes, or immigrants to “foreign lands,” Orthodox Christians have made some of the most significant and lasting contributions to the visual arts, literature, music, philosophy and theology, among other fields. Equally significant, yet politically more contentious, is the fact that Orthodoxy, in all its distinctive permutations, has historically offered a host of alternatives to the more familiar Western European narratives of the history of Christianity, as well as histories of traditionally Orthodox countries and cultures.
As a field, Orthodox Christian Studies connects an archipelago of cultural and religious traditions that for centuries were the dominant forms of Christianity throughout Asia Minor, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Russia. And while there is creative scholarly work devoted to the study of Orthodox Christianity in these regions and elsewhere, most of that work is conducted in relative isolation. Continue Reading…