By FATHER PAUL A. BURKE, Special To The Bulletin | Published June 6, 2013
ATLANTA—Holy Spirit Church hosted the eighth Catholic-Orthodox Ecumenical Gathering on May 14, with Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Metropolitan Alexios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta officiating. In celebration of the Year of Faith and the Marian year in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the theme of the gathering was the Most Blessed Theotokos, the Mother of God.
Clergy from both churches, members of the Order of Malta and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, as well as Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople attended the gathering. Msgr. Edward J. Dillon, pastor of Holy Spirit Church, welcomed the congregation and noted the significance of the event in the quest for Christian unity.
In his introductory remarks, Metropolitan Alexios congratulated the Catholic Church on the election of Pope Francis. He also prayed that Orthodox and Catholic Christians “may find a way to fulfill our common tradition of faith together.”
In reflecting on the theme of the evening, he recognized that both Churches have a special reverence and devotion to the Mother of God as Panagia (All-Holy), that is, above all of the saints. Through her affirmative response to the Angel Gabriel to be the Mother of God, the work of salvation began. He said, “Quite simply, she said ‘yes’ to God and accepted his will for her life. Thus we see the Virgin Mary as an example of obedience for us.”
Demetrios Katos, Ph.D., dean and professor of the Hellenic College, Brookline, Mass., the keynote speaker for the gathering, offered a talk entitled, “Scriptural Meditations on Mary.” He said, “Mary’s story is replete with wonder, tension, surprise and redemption.” While touching upon Scriptural themes such as Mary’s obedience to the will of God and her role in the Incarnation, Katos emphasized the importance of praying the Scriptures both in private and in common worship to fully appreciate the depth of their meaning.
At the service concluded, Archbishop Gregory expressed his condolences to the Greek Orthodox community of Atlanta on the death of Bishop John of Amorion, Metropolitan Alexios’ predecessor.
Archbishop Gregory also noted that 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I. While this meeting was historic and served as a prelude to the joint lifting of excommunications that had been issued in 1054 and the warming of relations between the sister Churches, he stated that there were many on both sides that were opposed to such actions. “Too much, too soon” was the common criticism.
Archbishop Gregory said that this meeting, however, served as a turning point in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox relations, which have strengthened throughout the years. For the first time in history, the Patriarch of Constantinople attended the Mass inaugurating the ministry of Bishop of Rome when His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I traveled to Rome for the installation of Pope Francis. This fraternal gesture is an indication of the progress that has been made in ecumenical relations.
Metropolitan Alexios challenged those attending to share the joy and enthusiasm with others and to bring more people so that we may continue and make progress in our quest for Christian unity.
For more information on Catholic-Orthodox initiatives in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, contact Father Paul Burke at Holy Spirit College, firstname.lastname@example.org or (404) 252-4513, ext. 229.