Catholic Free Press Coverage of Orthodox-Catholic Pilgrimage

Pilgrims ‘breathe with two lungs’



                                                                     PHOTO COURTESY OF BISHOP MCMANUS

Bishop McManus introduces Metropolitan Methodios to Pope Benedict XVI after an audience at the Vatican during the Catholic Greek Orthodox pilgrimage in September.

Greek Orthodox and Catholics travel, meet holy leaders

By Tanya Connor

Patriarch Bartholomew told local Catholic and Orthodox pilgrims traveling in Turkey and Italy last week that their presence at the Ecumenical Patriarchate was critical for Christian unity.

He and Pope Benedict XVI both told the pilgrimage leaders – Bishop McManus and Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston – that their trip coincided with an important Catholic-Orthodox dialogue taking place in Vienna.

While Patriarch Bartholomew is not exactly the equivalent of the pope, as Ecumenical Patriarch he is given special honor by the Orthodox churches. The Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople is Greek Orthodox and is presiding hierarch of all the Orthodox churches in the world, but doesn’t have ultimate jurisdiction over other Orthodox churches, Metropolitan Methodios explained.

Given the patriarch’s position, pilgrims were awed that he joined them for dinner and personally gave them gifts. And while only the bishop and metropolitan talked with the pope, the pilgrims got to see him up close too.

The Sept. 15-26 Catholic-Greek Orthodox pilgrimage to the spiritual centers of the two churches was a first for the Worcester Diocese, although Metropolitan Methodios led such pilgrimages with Boston archbishops in 1996 and 2007. This pilgrimage to Turkey and Italy sprung from joint vespers at St. Spyridon Cathedral in Worcester in 2009, said organizer Msgr. Peter R. Beaulieu, director of mission integration and pastoral care at St. Vincent Hospital.

Bishop McManus said after the Orthodox Divine Liturgy Sept. 19 at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul, Turkey) he, the metropolitan and the patriarch gave brief speeches at the Church of St. George and at the patriarch’s residence. He and the metropolitan joined the patriarch and Greek priests for lunch.

The bishop gave Patriarch Bartholomew an icon of the Blessed Mother and Child called “Loving Kindness,” said Msgr. Beaulieu and Dean Stamoulis, past president of St. Spyridon’s parish council, another pilgrimage organizer.

“He was very pleased,” Bishop McManus said. He said it was a “very, very moving experience,” one of the pilgrimage’s highlights, for him to speak to and exchange the sign of peace with the patriarch. He showed The Catholic Free Press a silver and blue pectoral cross the patriarch gave him.

Cynthia Monahan, a member of Christ the King Parish in Worcester and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, said the patriarch personally gave each pilgrim a cross and a book.

“He was like one of the regular guys,” said her husband, John Monahan, Northeastern United States lieutenant for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and president of the First Friday Club of Worcester.

He said the patriarch came to their dinner that night and sat with pilgrims.

“We sat with the bishop and the metropolitan like that,” Mrs. Monahan said.

“They’ll be talking about that for many years to come,” Mr. Monahan said of the pilgrims who sat at the table with the patriarch.

“We all will,” added his wife.

“It was quite a time,” Metropolitan Methodios said, adding that the patriarch posed for individual photos, which pilgrims will treasure. He said he had invited the patriarch ahead of time to join them for dinner and that it is not unusual for him to do such things, despite his busy schedule.

While such ordinary actions impressed pilgrims, his speech to them was loaded with meaning.

Metropolitan Methodios first briefed him on their pilgrimage, a first with the Worcester Diocese, where official Greek Orthodox-Catholic dialogue in America is thought to have begun on Sept. 9, 1965 at St. Spyridon.

“Many of the pilgrims visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the first time,” the metropolitan told the patriarch, according to an e-mail sent to The Catholic Free Press. “Today, as we celebrate the Sunday after the great feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, we heard the hymns so beautifully chanted by the choirs referring to the meaning of the cross. We all prayed that Your All Holiness continue to be inspired as you hold high the cross of the Savior in a world wounded by pain, violence and terrorism. As you bear the heavy cross of the Great Church of Christ upon your shoulders, we will pray that you be strengthened by Him who preached love and forgiveness.”

“It is indeed a delight for us to welcome you once again to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to the courtyard of the Church of Constantinople, New Rome,” Patriarch Bartholomew responded. “We are deeply touched by your extensive spiritual journey… And from here, the Church established by St. Andrew, you are leaving for Rome, the Church founded by Andrew’s brother Peter.”

Here St. John and St. Paul “left their indelible mark,” and “early Councils formulated the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed,” and “Christendom spread to the north…and the far east,” he said.

“In our age…the Church of Constantinople and the Church of Rome have initiated a dialogue of love (with the exchanges of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and Popes John XXIII and Paul VI) and the dialogue of truth (with the theological dialogue established under Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios and Pope John Paul II). This conversation constitutes a treasure that, along with Pope Benedict XVI, we value highly, protect lovingly, and pursue diligently.

“Nonetheless, we have learned over time that centuries of unfortunate division and theological disagreement cannot be reconciled simply through intellectual debate. On the contrary, they must be healed through genuine repentance and prayer. More especially, they must be resolved by education and illumination on what people frequently refer to as the ‘grass roots,’ but which we prefer to call the pastoral or parish level.

“This is precisely why your presence here today is critical for Christian unity. For not only have you undertaken a pilgrimage of personal and spiritual learning by visiting historical cities…your trip also comprises an invaluable step in the process of reunification, a priceless gem in the mosaic of the Church as the Body of Christ, as you span the geographical and cultural distance between east and west.”
Bishop McManus said his own remarks for the occasion included Pope John Paul II’s saying that the Church needs to breathe with both lungs – the Church of the East and the Church of the West.

After visiting the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Ephesus and other sites in Turkey, the pilgrims headed to Rome for the pope’s Wednesday audience and visits to holy places there and in Assisi.

After the audience, the pope traditionally greets Catholic bishops individually and sometimes the leaders of other Churches, Bishop McManus said. He said that on Sept. 22 he was told to present Metropolitan Methodios.

The metropolitan said he greeted the pope on behalf of the patriarch. Pope Benedict said he was pleased to meet the metropolitan and pleased that this pilgrimage was happening, and mentioned the dialog Catholic and Greek Orthodox theologians were having in Vienna, Bishop McManus said. He said the dialog was about the role of the bishop of Rome in Christianity’s first thousand years, before the Catholic and Orthodox Churches split in 1054.

“The pilgrimage afforded all of us the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of SS. Peter, Paul, and Andrew and be inspired to pattern our lives after these pillars of our Christian faith,” Metropolitan Methodios said in comments about the pilgrimage e-mailed to The Catholic Free Press. “It was most inspiring to see how all the pilgrims bonded together and recommitted themselves to work for the progress of our two Churches. We had many opportunities to discuss the various issues that keep us divided while we prayed for the international dialogue participants who were meeting in Vienna. It was indeed a blessing to attend the Divine Liturgy at the Phanar and to sit at dinner with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The Papal audience in Rome left a great impression on the pilgrims. May the Lord hasten the day that we share the cup of Communion.”

Msgr. Beaulieu suggested that pilgrims would hesitate to attend alone unfamiliar worship in others’ churches in Worcester. But on pilgrimage they joined those who knew what to do at their own liturgies.

Mr. Stamoulis said a pilgrimage highlight for him was praying at relics of Christ’s crib in St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome.

“There was no difference in our prayer at that moment, no difference in what we were acknowledging,” he said.

Metropolitan Methodios and Bishop McManus participate in the Divine Liturgy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople Sept. 19, over which Patrirarch Bartholomew presided.

The pilgrims gather at the library in Ephesus.

Bishop McManus listens as Msgr. Peter R. Beaulieu reads during Mass in the Clementine Chapel, near St. Peter's bones, in St. Peter's Basilica.  Pilgrims also prayed at the tombs of Popes John Paul II and Paul VI.  Concelebrating the Mass was Msgr. Francis D. Kelly, a Worcester Diocesan priest who is superior of Casa Santa Maria, the Pontifical North American College's graduate House of Studies in Rome.

                                                                                      PHOTOS BY CYNTHIA MONHAHAN

Bishop McManus celebrates Mass outside the house of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus, near modern day Izmir, Turkey, during last month's pilgrimage.  Visiting Ephesus was "very important for me," he said, noting that St. Paul's letters and the Acts of the Apostles really came alive there.

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