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What Will It Take to Admit the Failure of Ecumenism?

by Christopher A. Ferrara

As the Pope’s visit to Greece fast approaches, it is fair to ask: What is the purpose of the visit? There is certainly no prospect of an “ecumenical breakthrough” with the Greek Orthodox, who actively despise the Pope.

Today the Associated Press reported that “Byzantine chants echoed over the misty slopes of the mythical home of ancient Greek gods, as hundreds of Orthodox monks and nuns prayed through the night, appealing to God to stop Pope John Paul II from visiting Athens. Inside a small chapel at the 16th Century monastery of St. Dionysius, about 400 monks, nuns and faithful prayed from sunset Friday to dawn Saturday.”

A local Greek Orthodox theologian claimed that “The vast majority of the clergy is against the visit. We must not honor heretics. And the Pope is that all-heretic . . . To say it plainly, the Pope acts like a dictator, claiming jurisdiction over the churches of the world. And now it appears as if we accept this.” And so the monks prayed for the Pope’s non-arrival. The AP quoted the Most Rev. Theofilos of the monastery, who explained it this way: “The worst enemy of Orthodoxy is coming, the arch-heretic of Rome . . . This is a great evil. We pray for God to prevent this.”

Nearly 1,000 years have passed since the Great Schism and the Greek Orthodox hate the Church of Rome more than ever. The Pope’s gesture of giving away to the Greek Orthodox a Catholic church on the Palatine Hill in Rome last November has accomplished exactly nothing. And the same is true for the rest of the ecumenical movement: it represents 40 years of wasted time and lost opportunities for the conversion of heretics and schismatics to the one true religion and their return to Rome. The more the ecumenical chimera is pursued, the more exhausted the Church becomes in the proclamation of her true message, proclaimed so fearlessly by Pius IX in his encyclical Mortalium animos, which forbade Catholic participation in “ecumenism”: “The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of Faith, this the temple of God: if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation. Let none delude himself with obstinate wrangling.”

The AP notes that “when John Paul visits on Friday and Saturday, hundreds of churches and monasteries will shut their doors to worshipers, raise black flags and ring their bells in mourning.” This is the great fruit of ecumenism: doors slammed in the Pope’s face, and mourning at his very presence. Enough is enough. We, too, should pray that the Holy Father does not make his visit to Greece. More than enough pearls have been cast before more than enough swine over the past forty years. It is time to admit the truth: ecumenism is a total, unmitigated failure which is only harming the Church. Pius IX could see that 74 years ago when he denounced the “ecumenical movement” as a threat to the very foundations of the Catholic Faith.