Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Orthodox Easter in Alexandria 2008; an exercise in Ecumenism.

Above is a photograph of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria distributing traditional Easter eggs at a celebration at the Greek Consulate after the Easter morning Liturgy. I was there.
I went to Alexandria with around 160 other Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican and others). We had been invited by Vassula Ryden who is Greek Orthodox and was going back to her home town (she was born in Egypt) to celebrate Easter.
When Vassula came to England last year I saw on at least one blog the statement that she is not in good standing with her own Orthodox Church. I wrote to correct this. The Orthodox Communion is constantly suffering internal disagreements. As I said then, when I first became interested in Orthodoxy I began reading an Orthodox journal in which it was quite common to read of one bishop excommunicating another! In recent times the late Patriarch of Moscow threatened schism with the Greek Orthodox Church over a celebration organised by the Ukranian Orthodox Church to which the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Archbishop of Athens had been invited - but not the Russian Patriarch! It was actually the Patriarch of Constantinople who helped to mend this apparent breach by calling ALL the Patriarchs together and inviting them to pledge unity with each other.
Vassula was born in Egypt and spent her childhood there. Although she spends much of her time in Rhodos where she has a family home (when not travelling to some part of the world), she regards the Patriarch of Alexandria as her Patriarch. Whatever the clergy may say about her in Athens - or in Rhodos - you will see from the video below that she is certainly on good terms with the Patriarch of Alexandria, as are all those who accompany her on her journeys and pilgrimages.
This is not the only example of Orthodox openness. I was present at an Orthodox Liturgy (and with others invited to receive Holy Communion) at one of the strictest Greek Orthodox monasteries in the world - on Mt. Tabor. The Archimandrite who arranged it for us told us that we were making history! I was also able to take part (never as a concelebrant, please understand) in the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy in the Church of St. James in Jerusalem (next door to the Holy Sepulchre). Ecumenism doesn't get any better than this just now - but it will!
By the way, the camel was not one of the party!

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