Thursday, June 7, 2012

Getting ecumenical in Chicago

The last highlighted paragraph will probably be of immediate interest to most.

June 3, 2012 (Chicago Tribune) - About a dozen religious leaders gathered with Cardinal Francis George on the steps of St. Hedwig Catholic Church on Sunday evening to pose for a picture that could symbolize the goal they had come to promote: Christian unity.

The clergy and about 150 congregants came to the Polish parish for Chicago's 12th annual ecumenical prayer service for Christian unity. It was organized by Ecumenism Metro Chicago, a coalition of Christian communities, in an effort to deepen relationships among members of varying Christian traditions.

"Jesus said if we are not one, the world will not believe," said George, who has previously talked about the need for the Roman Catholic Church to work with other denominations. "We have an obligation to be a united witness."

The challenges to unity among Christian faith traditions are their differing perspectives on religious doctrine and discipleship, George said. Questions of sexual morality and social justice also continue to divide Christians, he said.

Sunday's service was a continuation of the worldwide Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that usually takes place in January.

At St. Hedwig, about 100 people from Roman Catholic, Orthodox and mainline Protestant denominations gathered for a mixer in which they talked in small groups about what made their religious experiences different, their relationship with other Christian traditions and the necessity for of interfaith dialogue.

Denise Renken, 59, who is Catholic, said divisions among Christian denominations are fading.

"I have found the parishes are a little more welcoming now. Before, if someone new walked in, it was like you don't belong here," Renken said. "To me, the Roman Catholic faith is what I believe in, (but) I have no problem with someone believing in something else."

John Sandors, 73, who is Greek Orthodox, said Christian unity doesn't have to come at the expense of pride in individual Christian traditions. "If you don't praise your own house, it will fall down," he said. "You should be proud of who you are."

Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, who also is Greek Orthodox, gave the homily at the service. He said that while diversity is healthy for the Christian faith, Christians are called to love one another regardless of their differences.

"This love for one another is often difficult," he said "(But) it's possible because God first loved us."

The bishop added that churches should allow God's "transformative" power to heal divisions among various Christian factions.

"If we are open to being moved by the spirit ... our lives with one another will change and change for the better."

The Rev. Amos Oladipo, who is Methodist, said the fact that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated the same week asMartin Luther King Jr. Dayis fitting. "It reminds us to promote reconciliation among races as well as churches," he said.

Toward the end of the service, the attendees exchanged edible wafers as a symbolic gesture of unity. Then, the clergy in robes as colorful and as different as their religious traditions led the congregants out of the church.

"This is a start. It's all of us working together toward unity," said Michael Terrien, who works for the Archdiocese of Chicago and helped organize the event. "That's what's happening now, and we can continue that."


  1. As opposed to inedible wafers?

  2. What the hell? A 'symbolic gesture of unity'? What unity? Apparently differences in theology are no more important than differences of robe colour. These wafers sound like no more than a lame attempt to have their intercommunion and eat it too.

  3. I wonder who that long haired dude is next to the Cardinal with the yellow, green and red stole.

  4. I wonder who that long haired dude is next to the Cardinal with the red, yellow, green, and blue stole.

  5. While this isn't much different, if at all, than clergy coming to a divine liturgy and receiving prosphora at the end, I am still uncomfortable that our bishops like to tread the line so close. How about discussing our differences by education? Or is that not the point anymore?

  6. The wafer is what is given for Holy Communion in the Western Churches. Orthodox Hierarchs really have no business to be taking part in rituals in a church which are dressed up to look like a distribution of Holy Communion. We do not share the Eucharist with Protestants and Catholics and must not pretend that we do. Because this is a pretence - I'm sorry, I think there is something fundamentally dishonest about it.

  7. I am interested in why Bishop Richard Seminack of the UGCC appears not to be in attendance. And while the wafer bit is pretty dopey, it really seems harmless. Especially since it wasn't blessed or consecrated. As for the unity bit that can easily be explained as a desire for us to all be one, which in a sense is something that unifies us.

  8. What part of not praying with heterodox does the Greek Bishop not understand? By participating he is acknowledging to some degree their claims to valid ministry. It is a terrible sadness that Roman Catholics and Protestants are outside the Church but it is a fact. Their journey to Orthodoxy may well be slowed by the mixed messages sent by these ecumenical errors of the Greek Orthodox Church.

  9. Isn't it time that fictitious episcopal sees like Mokissos were replaced by a real city name like Chicago?

  10. Mokissos isn't a fictitious see. It is now technically an inactive diocese in western Cappadocia. Bishop Demetrios is an auxiliary bishop. He's not the bishop of Chicago. Metropolitan Iakovos is. He is given an ancient see as his see (making him a titular bishop), but he is, in reality, an auxiliary to the metropolitan.

    As for the bishop and that last paragraph: faceplam.

  11. Given that this is at St. Hedwig's, a very polish church, I would guess that the wafer in qunetion is probably Opaltek not unconsecrated communion. Opaltek is usually passed out amongst family members at Christmas time. It is a large wafer with some kind of scene embossed on it. It is broken up by hand and passed out. It looks nothing like a RC communion wafer and nobody would mistake the one for the other. As a 'religious' object, it falls somewhere between candy canes and mangers.