By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published April 11, 2011
As part of the ongoing ecumenical dialogue between the local Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches, Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Metropolitan Alexios, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of the Metropolis of Atlanta, recently signed a joint declaration on the sanctity of human life.
On Sunday, April 3, Archbishop Gregory participated in an ecumenical service at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, along with Metropolitan Alexios and Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of the Diocese of Diokleia, to collectively defend human life through a written statement.
“The declaration is an expression of common witness of the right to life and a concern for the many attacks that continue to take place against life from the moment of conception to natural death,” wrote Father Paul Burke, parochial vicar at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, who helped author the declaration with Father George Tsahakis, chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta.
Father Burke said the declaration took about nine months to draft together with Father Tsahakis, and the document was then reviewed and approved by the Pro-Life and Ecumenism secretariats of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
A renewed dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church began locally in 2009 when Archbishop Gregory and Metropolitan Alexios met at the Cathedral of Christ the King for an ecumenical gathering to commemorate the “Year of St. Paul.”
“Together with clergy and faithful from their respective Churches, the hierarchs led an ecumenical gathering of prayer and hymnody reflecting the traditions of both East and West,” said Father Burke. “Since then, there have been many such encounters rotating between our sister Churches. These encounters have been opportunities not only to pray together but also to strengthen the bonds of friendship and peace.”
Metropolitan Kallistos, a convert to Orthodoxy, gave the keynote address at the April 3 gathering in Atlanta, commenting on the progress being made in the dialogue between the two churches. Metropolitan Kallistos said papal primacy is the key issue being discussed on an international level, but he asserted that dialogue between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism should continue on the local level as well. The joint declaration on the sanctity of life was proof that this dialogue is taking place, he said.
The declaration itself follows the recent history of this dialogue, from its beginnings in the mid-1960s through the current gatherings, before addressing specifically the common stance the churches take on the sanctity of human life.
“Inspired and encouraged by the common witness of our venerable hierarchs, we, Alexios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta and Wilton of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, commit ourselves anew to prayer, dialogue and mutual collaboration especially in areas of common concern. Given that the right to life is the foundation and most fundamental of all human rights, we voice our concern over the many attacks that continue to take place against human life from the moment of conception to natural death,” the declaration states.
“Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition emphasize the sacred dignity of the human person and God’s purpose in creating, to confer his blessings upon him. In today’s society, we have witnessed many attacks on human life, especially in its most vulnerable stages,” the declaration continues.
“We urge all those in public office to stand firm in their commitment to life. We exhort our people to pray and sacrifice for life. We cannot be indifferent to the cries of those whose voices have been silenced. Life is God’s to give and it is only He who can take it away. We entrust our efforts to the intercession of the Most Blessed Theotokos, the Mother of God. In the Magnificat, her song of praise, she marveled at the great things that God has done in the lives of His people. May she intercede for us with the Creator and Author of Life so that a culture of death will be replaced by a civilization of life and love in which human life is accepted and protected as God’s greatest and most precious gift.”
To read the Declaration on the Sanctity of Life in its entirety, follow this link. To read about a recent presentation given by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware on the current issues and progress being discussed in the ecumenical dialogue between the Roman and Orthodox Churches, visit www.themichigancatholic.com/2011/02/orthodox-prelate-sees-agreement-on-pope-coming-soon.