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Letter #3: A New Foundation

[2013-01-18]
[Engleză]
January 17, 2013, Thursday

Out of a conviction that the "signs of the times" call for greater unity among Christians, and greater collaboration among all men and women of good will to build a more free and just society than the one that seems to be emerging in the "post-Christian" West, we have decided to launch a new Foundation, called the Urbi et Orbi Foundation. We are seeking 100 founding members to join with us

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In Defense of the West: Announcing a New Foundation to Help Create a Strategic Alliance

Benedict on the role of the Pope

“Peter’s responsibility thus consists of guaranteeing the communion with Christ. Let us pray so that the primacy of Peter, entrusted to poor human beings, may always be exercised in this original sense desired by the Lord, so that it will be increasingly recognized in its true meaning by brothers who are still not in communion with us.” —Pope Benedict XVI, speaking in St. Peter’s Square on June 7, 2006

Metropolitan Hilarion on the Origin of the Idea of a Strategic Alliance

“The idea of a strategic alliance with the Catholics is an old idea of mine. It came to me when the Catholics were electing the new Pope.” —Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, March 24, 2011

(Pope Benedict XVI meeting in 2012 with Metropolitan Hilarion at the Pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, just outside Rome; in the background, Jesuit Father Milan Zust, a Slovenian priest who works in the Vatican office which seeks better ecumenical relations among Christians)

January 17, 2013

Dear friend,

Greetings and best wishes in this season following Christmas and the beginning of the new year.

I am writing to invite you to become a founding member of a new Foundation dedicated to working to create a “strategic alliance” between Catholics and other Christians around the world, especially with the Orthodox, in an effort to “defend the West” by defending traditional Christian faith and values.

On Christmas Eve, we sent this same invitation by traditional mail to a select group of 1,000 prominent Catholics around the world, including a number of bishops and cardinals. We have received 30 responses and have raised nearly $50,000. But we are still far from our goal, and we need your help to reach it.

This invitation is the end result of years of work and reflection.

Our western culture, sadly, has, in so many ways, turned from the “path of life” indicated to us by the Hebrew prophets, and by all the saints down through the ages, and, above all, by Christ himself. And where are we today?

Our Church seems often hesitant, and sadly divided. And the greatest, oldest division is that between Catholics and Orthodox, West and East, Latin and Greek.

In the East, in the “heartland” of the Orthodox, in 1917, an atheist movement overthrew Orthodox Christian Russia, then spread until it conquered half of once-Christian Europe. For many of us, the images of Lenin gesticulating, Czar Nicholas and his five lovely children slumping under gunfire in a basement in Ekaterinburg, gaunt political prisoners freezing in the gulags of Siberia, are in our minds and memories... in our hearts.

And the ideas of that regime (among them, abortion, legalized in Russia, for the first time in the history of the world, in 1920) have spread everywhere.

This spectacle, this suffering of so many in Russia and Eastern Europe and also in the West over the past century, has moved us to act... in this letter, through this invitation.

In travels and conversations...

In travels and conversations with many in Rome and Russia — including with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, on several occasions — the idea of this invitation was planted, and is now germinating.

In order to build a movement, in order to help the Christians of the East and to strengthen them — and by strengthening them, to help ourselves — we need to have an agile structure, a small foundation which can act as a catalyst for progress between larger and less agile institutions.

In agreement with Dr. Daniel Schmidt, Vice President of the Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Dr. Declan Murphy, Director for Aid
to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe for the US Bishops’ Conference (we have traveled to Russia many times over the past 15 years, from St. Petersburg to Moscow to Kazan to Siberia, in snow and in sun, as well as throughout Eastern Europe), I am launching, in this letter, a new foundation to be called the “Urbi et Orbi Foundation” (“To the City and to the World” Foundation).

We hope that, after reading this letter, you will choose to be a founding member, and perhaps a founding sponsor, of our new Foundation. (See the invitation at the end of this email.)

Our Mission: To Create a Strategic Alliance

(Roman Catholic Basilica of St. Peter in Rome by night)

(Russian Orthodox Church of Christ the Savior in Moscow by day; the church was dynamited by Stalin, then rebuilt in the 1990s following the fall of the Soviet Union)

The overarching mission of this new “Urbi et Orbi Foundation” will be to promote the “new evangelization” called for so urgently, first by Pope John Paul II and now by Pope Benedict XVI.

The specific mission, however, will be to fashion a “strategic alliance” among Christians, too often divided, and especially between Catholic and Orthodox Christians, in the face of increasing pressure on Christians in the West, and around the world.

The Foundation aims to defend, though the hour is now late, the “Christian West.” We believe that traditional Christian beliefs and practices built western culture. As these beliefs and practices are discarded in our “post-Christian” world, the life of all of us is impoverished. Those beliefs and practices were at the root of a culture which respected the dignity of human beings, of family life, of marriage, of the individual soul and conscience. We want to try to defend what we can of that culture, before it vanishes.

How? By uniting the up until now divided forces of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, of the West and the East, of Rome and Byzantium. By creating a “strategic alliance.”

We cannot predict...

We cannot predict what results will come from this effort, but we would like to begin, and we hope much good will come from it. And we would like your help to do this.

The new Foundation will partner with other foundations and institutions, both Catholic and Orthodox, particularly in the area of the former Soviet Union, and especially, in Russia, that country where thousands of churches were dynamited under the Communists.

In Russia, a Russian Orthodox charitable foundation based in Moscow called the “St. Gregory the Theologian Foundation,” launched two years ago by Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev, head of the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate (the “foreign minister,” as it were, of the Russian Orthodox Church) and directed by Leonid Sevastianov, a Russian Orthodox layman whose father was a leader of the "Old Believer" community in Russia, has collaborated on several projects with me and would like to continue to do even more.

(Metropolitan Hilarion -- in the center -- and members of his entourage standing on the balcony of the Pope's summer palace, Castel Gandolfo, overlooking Lago Albano, just outside of the city of Rome, last year. The tall priest in the back in Father Igor Vyzhanov, who is now the pastor of St. Catherine's Russian Orthodox Church in Rome, just up the hill from St. Peter's (photos below, showing St. Catherine's from the Gianicolo Hill, and with St. Peter's in the background); the tall layman to his right is Leonid Sevastianov, the director of the St. Gregory Foundation, which will be one of our partners in this new strategic initiative; the priest of the far right is Father John, Metropolitan Hilarion's personal secretary)

The St. Gregory Foundation has in the past two years received major funding support from leading Orthodox Russians, amounting to some $50 million. (The funds are being used primarily to rebuild Russian Orthodox theological academies, but a certain amount will be available for specific common projects with our new Foundation.)

We have been in correspondence with Hilarion, as well as with his superior, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, about this effort, and we have been assured of a desire on the Russian side to work together, if we are able to launch the Foundation.

In America, in conversations with former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Frank Shakespeare and the late Paul Weyrich, the leading figure of the “New Right” 30 years ago and a co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, we have
been told in no uncertain terms that this project is of vital, critical importance, for our Church, for our country, for our culture. (Indeed, Weyrich, who became a deacon in the Greek Melkite rite of the Catholic Church toward the end of his life, told us there was no other foreign policy initiative more critical to the future of the United States than an effort to make contact, and build friendships, with the Orthodox of the East, and particularly with the Russian Orthodox.)

During the coming year, therefore, our first goal will be to co-sponsor with the Moscow-based St. Gregory Foundation projects in Russia and Eastern Europe. Our goal: to demonstrate that it is possible for Catholics and Orthodox to work together while not yet fully reconciled ecclesially.

Essentially, it will be an effort to build trust and friendship between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Our Ultimate Goal: Reunion, and a Time of Peace

The ultimate goal of the “Urbi et Orbi Foundation,” however, is the complete reunion of the Orthodox Churches with the Roman Catholic Church, that is, an
end to the greatest schism in Christianity, dating from 1054 A.D.

For nearly 1,000 years, Christianity has been divided into two halves, Eastern and Western, Greek and Latin, Orthodox and Catholic. My dissertation director in graduate school at Yale University, Prof. Jaroslav Pelikan, the brilliant historian of the development of Christian doctrine, now deceased, told me in 1982, 31 years ago, that if this millennial-old division were not healed, the West, which had been nourished by these two great traditions, would inevitably fall. He counseled me to work to end this division, in order to try to preserve the Christian roots of our culture.

Russia and Eastern Europe were once considered an integral part of western culture. That region of the world, largely Orthodox, suffered enormously under Communism, from 1917 to 1991, when the Soviet Union fell. Communism devastated the Orthodox world. In country after country, a state atheism sought to stamp out religious faith as “the opium of the people.” Thousands, tens of thousands, were deported, imprisoned in gulags, and executed.

But it was not Orthodox who governed these regimes. The Orthodox in each country suffered enormously.

Since 1991, religious faith has re-emerged from the catacombs in much of the East. In formerly atheist countries, the Christian faith can once again be preached openly. And this perspective opens up another possibility: that in the East, religious faith can return.

Sursa: www.InsideTheVatican.com


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