Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In his essay "On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, Coming to Her from Other Christian Churches," Archimandrite Ambrosius (Pogodin) makes some interesting observations regarding at least the view of the Moscow Patriarchate that bear on the relationship between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Fr Ambrosius writes that

Following the Second Vatican Council an agreement was worked out between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Church that, in the case of extreme need and in the complete absence of their clergy, members of the Roman Church could receive the Holy Mysteries in Russian Churches and likewise, the Orthodox in Roman Catholic Churches. We have no knowledge whether this agreement was realized in practice or whether it only remains on paper. Not a single Orthodox Church, with the exception of the Russian Church Abroad, reproached the Patriarch of Moscow for this decision which was called forth by the terrible times and persecutions of Christians under godless regimes. Nonetheless this decision has not been rescinded even now, and the recently printed catechism of the Roman Church published with the blessing of Pope John Paul II speaks of the full recognition of the sacraments of the Orthodox Church. However, there is no doubt that as the result of the proselytism among the traditionally Orthodox population — by Roman Catholics and by Protestants — to which the Orthodox Church reacts with great distress, as well as on the repression against the Orthodox in Western Ukraine and even in Poland — there is no longer that warmth and cordiality towards the Orthodox as there was during the Second Vatican Council and for some time afterwards. However, the incisive question today is this: Has there been any change in the practice of the Roman Catholic or Lutheran Churches with respect to their sacrament of baptism? And the answer is this: Nothing has changed. Thus, our Churches (with the exception of the Russian Church Abroad), recognize the sacrament of baptism performed by Roman Catholics and Lutherans as valid.
(A side note, Fr Ambrosius attended the Vatican II as an official observer from the Russian Church Abroad.)

Contrary to what we some times imagine the divisions between East and West--at least as it pertains to the Orthodox and Catholic Churches--are not as wide as some would imagine.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory
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