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"Ecumenical Follies" Update

Alexei II Rebuffs the Pope’s Overtures  —  Again

by Christopher A. Ferrara

In his latest bid to obtain permission for a trip to Moscow, Pope John Paul II will deliver an image of Our Lady of Kazan Moscow to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II at the end of this month. Like all the other "ecumenical" gestures the Pope has made, this one will be rejected. In fact, it already has been.

On August 13, 2004 CWNews.com reported that "The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church has minimized an ecumenical gesture by Pope John Paul II, claiming that an image of Our Lady of Kazan, which the Pontiff will return to the Russian Church later his month, is actually a copy, rather than a revered historic icon." According to CWNews, "Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow told the Itar-Tass news agency that the Vatican will be giving the Orthodox Church ‘one of many copies’ of the famous icon of Kazan … Alexei argued that the icon now being held at the Vatican was a duplicate of the original, painted sometime in the 18th century." The Vatican, on the other hand, insists that the icon "is the original image of Our Lady of Kazan."

CWNews reports that "The icon will be handed over to the Moscow Patriarchate on August 28, the date when the Orthodox world celebrates the feast of the Assumption. One or more top Vatican officials are expected to travel to Russia for a ceremony on that date." But as CWNews notes, "Last year, Vatican officials had proposed that the Pope might meet with Patriarch Alexei to hand over the icon. The Russian prelate told Itar-Tass that there was no reason for the Pope to be involved in the transfer, since the icon is not the original."

So the trip by Vatican officials to hand over the icon is all for nothing. Another ecumenical gesture, another ecumenical ceremony, another ecumenical slap in the Pope’s face. When will the Pope realize what has been obvious from the beginning: that ecumenism is a one-way street in which only the Catholic party to the "dialogue" is expected to make concessions. When will he realize that the "ecumenical venture," as he calls it, has accomplished exactly nothing for the cause of Christian unity, but rather has only hardened the Orthodox (and the Protestants) in their errors?

As Our Lord Himself admonished His disciples: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you" (Matthew 7:6). First the Pope gave parish churches in Rome to the Orthodox, even over the protests of the Catholics who worshipped in them. Now he wants to give the Orthodox the icon of Our Lady of Kazan, even though they have disparaged the gift in advance. How many pearls will the Pope cast before swine, whose insulting behavior toward the Vicar of Christ only worsens with each pearl they receive?

As John Paul II’s pontificate enters its final days, the utter failure of the "ecumenical venture" threatens to become his historic legacy. What a tragedy for him, for the Church and for the Orthodox separated from Rome. And yet this tragedy can still be avoided by one simple measure: the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary  —  a truly ecumenical gesture which, incredibly, remains undone by the very Pope who attributes his escape from death to the intervention of Our Lady of Fatima.