“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Some of my favorite lines are from The Princess Bride.  This one, in particular is one I often hear in my head when I speak to people about Ecumenism and Ecumenical Dialogue.

There are several Orthodox Christians who think that we as Orthodox should be represented to defend Orthodoxy in the various committees and interfaith organizations.  There are other Orthodox who believe we should stay far from these types of situations and conversations, that to have even a dialogue with non-Orthodox is against the teachings of the Holy Fathers.

My personal understanding of ecumenism comes from His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos, a retired metropolitan of the Holy Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh.  His Eminence, a brilliant theologian, found it necessary to participate and engage in ecumenical dialogue.  I asked him about it once, because so many of his flock were against it.  To me, it seemed that ecumenism was dividing the church.  I didn’t understand why he was determined to devote his life to it.

He told me that we must participate in these dialogues, not only to defend the faith but to witness the faith as missionaries and evangelists.  We have a responsibility to teach Orthodoxy not only to those who haven’t heard or seen God, but to those who need to understand Him through Orthodoxy.

In reading his articles for The Illuminator, the metropolis newspaper, I learned how his intention was not to dilute or abandon the faith but to strengthen and teach the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith that is Orthodoxy.

I remembered this today as we reached the Fiftieth Anniversary of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI’s common declaration to remove the excommunications mutually leveled in 1054 at the beginning of the Great Schism.

You can click here to read the full text.

From the declaration, we learn that today is a glorious day that honors the prayer and humility of two great spiritual leaders who agreed that “Through the action of the Holy Spirit (those) differences will be overcome through cleansing of hearts, through regret for historical wrongs, and through an efficacious determination to arrive at a common understanding and expression of the faith of the Apostles and its demands.”

And again, with humility, “They hope, nevertheless, that this act will be pleasing to God…”

Whether we stand for or against ecumenical dialogue, I pray that God will always guide us to do His will, and that we will do it with humility.


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About author

Presvytera Vassi Haros

Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.