Eastern Christianity

International Eucharistic Congress Features Russian Orthodox Speaker (9/6/21)

A Russian Orthodox leader said on Monday that belief in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist unites Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believers despite their divisions. Click Here to learn more Follow on Facebook

Virus and Sharing the Eucharist with the Eastern Orthodox (5/25/20)

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis March 27 characterized the worldwide trauma as: “God’s call on people to judge what is most important to them and resolve to act accordingly from now on.” Can this occasion also be a time of deeper communion among us? Click here to learn more

For the Life of the World Document

Introduction to the Eastern Orthodox Statement ‘For the life of the World’ (5/16/20)

Editor’s Note: Aristotle Papanikolaou is professor of theology, the Archbishop Demetrios Chair of Orthodox Theology and Culture, and the Co-Director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University. He is also Senior Fellow at the Emory University Center for the Study of Law and Religion. Click Here to learn more

For the life of the World Document

The Orthodox Church understands the human person as having been created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). To be made in God’s image is to be made for free and conscious communion and union with God in Jesus Christ, inasmuch as we are formed in, through, and for him (Colossians 1:16). Click Here to learn more

For the Ecumenical Trends October issue explaining the Life of the World document (2020)

It is just our personal calling, but our corporate destiny, through our participation in the community of Christ’s body, to enter into union with God. Therefore, our spiritual lives cannot fail also to be social lives. Click Here to learn more

Eastern Christians and the Laity (2019)

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation has released a new agreed statement entitled, The Vocation and Mission of the People of God: “A Chosen Race, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation”. The document was finalized at the most recent meeting of the Consultation which took place in late May of this year at the Saint Methodios Faith and Heritage Center in Contoocook, New Hampshire. Click Here to learn more

For Pope Francis to the Ecumenical Delegation of the Patriarch of Constantinople, (June 28, 2019)

I offer a cordial greeting and a warm welcome to you, the distinguished members of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate whom my beloved brother Bartholomew and the Holy Synod have sent on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Your presence manifests the solid bonds existing between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople, and our common effort to journey towards the fullness of communion for which we long, in obedience to the clear will of Jesus (cf. Jn 17:21). The feast of Saints Peter and Paul, which falls on the same day in the liturgical calendars of East and West, invites us to renew the charity that generates unity. Click Here to learn more

Also see June 28th, 2021

I greet you with joy and I welcome you with affection to Rome for the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. I thank Metropolitan Emmanuel for his kind and brotherly words. This annual exchange of delegations between the Church of Rome and that of Constantinople for the feasts of our respective Patrons is a sign of the communion – real, albeit not yet full – which we already share. Click Here to learn more

Fundamentalism and Eastern Christianity: The following item contains some good data about current developments withing the Eastern Orthodox Church. however, the item is written by Protestant Fundamentalists, and they insert some very harmful interpretations of the data. Most of our readers will see the slanting; you are welcome to contact me if you have questions. Click Here to learn more

Christian Churches in the Ukraine; halfway down, see other items on a common date for Easter, joint meeting of Putin and Trump, etc: (2018)
(My thanks to Fr. Dan Nassaney, OMI, for providing this and the item below) Click Here to learn more

In this file photo taken May 25, 2010, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople left, and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill tour the Kremlin durig a meeting i Maoscow, Russia (Dmitry Astakhov, Sputnik, Government Pool Photo via AP, file)

For Story of June 27, 2918 attached to the photo on the right:

Within the span of a week, Pope Francis met with the spiritual head of Eastern Orthodoxy, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow. Click Here to learn more

The Sign of the Cross Unites Eastern Christians with US (2017)

At midday today, the Holy Father Francis received in audience the members of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. The following is the Pope’s address to those present: Click Here to learn more

Two recent developments

  • First, we have two interesting descriptions of the Great and Holy Council (see third paragraph below). Martin Marty, who maintains a blog at the University of Chicago, where he teaches, put it this way: “A Holy and Small Great Council” (July 5, 2016).
    But Archdeacon John Chryssavgis, theological advisor to Patriarch Bartholowmew, writing in the Melkite journal Sophia, noted: “The Holy and Great Council is entirely without precendant in the history of Christianity” (Summer, 2016, p.19).
  • Secondly, a very interesting article by Ms. Rosanna Rodriguez, a member of the Ecumenical Commission of the Archdiocese of Newark, NJ, “An Ecclesiology of Rapprochment: Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches as Sister Churches,” Ecumenical Trends 46, #5 (May 2017): 5/69, quotes Fr. Robert Taft, S.J.: “This new ‘Sister Churches’ designation represents a startling revolution in how the Catholic Church views itself. We Catholics are no longer the only one, whole, true Church of Christ, but one sister Church among others” emphasis in original in Worship, “In faith and Worship Can Orthodox and Catholics ever be One?” 89, #1 (Jan. 2015:5).

Chrysostom: Our Common Ground, as Greek Orthodox and Melkites Cooperate in the USA: (Please scroll down to page 30) (2017)

I am writing this message from our west coast Cathedral of St Anne in California, having arrived here on 3 January hoping to make pastoral visits to all the west coast communities and a few possible new outreaches in Las Vegas NV, Portland OR, Mission Viejo, CA, and Bakersfield, CA. Click Here to learn more (need to link)spring newsletter (large file)

November 30th message of Pope Francis to Patriarch Bartholomew. Especially for the Patriarch at Asisi. (2016)

At the end of his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis greeted the church of Constantinople, and the “beloved Patriarch Bartholomew” on the occasion of the Feast of the Apostle St Andrew, traditionally held to be the founder of the See of Byzantium, which later became the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Click Here to learn more

Bartholomew, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Ieronymos II, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, left the Great and Holy Synod of Orthodoxy, June 17-26, on Crete, and proceeded to Rome, where the Patriarch has either personally or through a high representative, attended the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul, June 29. (On November 30, the Feast of St. Andrew, Rome reciprocates with a delegation to Constantinople). Pope Francis’ moving address to the Orthodox delegation. Click Here to learn more

The presence of the Archbishop of Athens is especially noteworthy. St. John Paul II had wanted to visit the Greek Orthodox Church, but because of the ancient hostility towards Roman Catholicism, he received an invitation only from the President of Greece. The archbishop was notably absent during John Paul’s visit of May, 2001, but his attitude changed remarkably, when during that visit, John Paul asked God to pardon the sins of Roman Catholicism towards Orthodoxy during the last millennium.

The presence of Ieronymos, successor of the archbishop of 2001, is very noteworthy, and marks a great progress in Christian Unity

The absence of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia did hamper the Synod on Crete. But much was still accomplished. For the official English final document, called an Encyclical.

The offer by Pope Francis to give up our date for Easter and use the date of the Eastern Orthodox Churches (Click Here to learn more)

2015 Letters Orientale Conference, June 15-18 (for 2013 Conference, scroll to the bottom of this page)

It was my privilege last week June 15-18, 2015 to participate again this year in the Orientale Lumen Conference in Washington, DC. The theme was: The Bishop of Rome: Past, Present and Future. Click Here to learn more

Ron Roberson CPS, The Eastern Christian Churches, A Brief Survey (Washington, D.C. U.S.A. Catholic Conference 7th ed. 2008) is available in paperback for $19.95; For Roberson explains lucidly the complexity of Eastern Christianity.

To experience Holy Week in a Russian Orthodox setting is unforgettable. As we approach Easter this year, the following article may be helpful. Please Click Here to view the article

There are two tendencies to avoid as we witness to the love of Jesus. One tendency is described in the very short article below by Catholic missiologist/ecumenists Stephen Bevans, SVD, and Roger Schroeder, SVD, as they review Ralph Martin’s book Will Many Be Saved? Martin wants to restore to our witness the wrath of God and the narrowness of salvation which he thinks Vatican II neglected. Your reaction to Bevans and Schroeder’s rejection of this is welcome. Click Here to learn more

PopeFrancisHolylandLogoThe words on the picture to the right are Latin and Greek for “So that they may be one,” from St. John’s Gospel 17:21. The explanation given on the official website: “This is to commemorate and renew the commitment to unity expressed by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople 50 years ago in Jerusalem.”

Very importantly, for all Christians, the authors continue: “This gives expression to the desire of the Lord at the Last Supper: ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one (bold in original)….so that the world may believe that you sent me'” (20-21).

The authors then explain the symbolism: The two brothers, Peter and Andrew are “the first two disciples called by Jesus in Galilee. Saint Peter is the patron of the Church in Rome and Saint Andrew is the patron of the Church in Constantinople. In Jerusalem, in the Mother Church, they embrace. The two apostles are in a boat that represents the Church, whose mast is the Cross of the Lord. The sails of the boat are full of wind, the Holy Spirit, which directs the boat as it sails across the waters of this world.”


PopeandPatriach After both kissed the tomb where Jesus lay, they proceeded to the adjacent chapel. The Gospel account of the Resurrection of Jesus from John was chanted in Greek, and the Patriarch gave his address in English. He cited Jo. 17:21 in Latin (which the official translation doesn’t notice). His address deserves to be carefully studied, especially his rejection of religious fanaticism and fear of the other.

The Gospel account of the Resurrection from Matthew was read in Latin next, and the Pope gave his address in Italian, including in Greek the Easter greeting “Christos anesti!” (Christ is risen).

It seemed that each went out of his way to praise the Church of the other. When Bartholomew finished his address and returned to his chair next to Francis, Francis reached for his hand, kissed it and then Bartholomew bent over and warmly embraced him. When Francis finished his address, Bartholomew stood and embraced him warmly.

It was evident that the 77 year old Francis was having difficulty rising and going down steps; the 74 year old Bartholomew assisted him. As I watched the live broadcast, the example of these two leaders was even more expressive than their startling addresses.

Their two addresses and their Common Declaration are being thoroughly examined by Christians, Jews, Moslems, People of Other Faiths, and All People of Good Will. As the authors of the Motto and Logo express it: “the unity of Christians is a message of unity for all humanity, called to overcome the divisions of the past and march forward together towards a future of justice, peace, reconciliation and fraternal love.”

So the Common Declaration of May 25 states that in a time “marked by violence, indifference and egoism, many men and women today feel that they have lost their bearings. It is precisely through our common witness to the good news of the Gospel that we may be able to help the people of our time to rediscover the way that leads to truth, justice and peace” (#9). Click here for the Common Declaration.

As committed Christians, we know that Christ is the only way. True to the New Evangelization, we do not hit people over the heads with that truth.

Oblates of Mary note how the Common Declaration and the Address of Pope Francis conclude by commending us to Mary.

The Pope and Patriarch met four times during the weekend visit. The scheduled one from 6:15-7 on May 25 went 45 minutes longer. So we will continue in future items to examine this most crucial development for New Evangelization, Ecumenism and Dialogue.

No one knows how long the official website with all the addresses, with photos, and with so much material on the background of the trip, will stay posted.

Polish Oblate Bishop helps Ukrainians and Russians live together

STATEMENT OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP IN CRIMEA Since many weeks now the Roman Catholic Church with her prayers accompany whole of Ukraine praying for the peaceful solution of the problems, which the country is struggling with. In our prayers we ask God for his mercy for all Ukrainian people and we also offer voluntary fasting on bread and water in the same intention. Today when the unrest has encompassed the Crimean territory we want to pray especially for our peninsula. With our prayer we reach out to all the people without concern for their religion, political views or ethnic background. We pray that the people, who for tens of years live in peace – do not start fighting today and that the bloodshed of the kind we have seen in Kiev Maidan may be avoided here. I am calling on all the people both faithful and the others that in the name of the solidarity with the heritage of our Fathers, who cared for the development of our Autonomous Republic of Crimea, to stay away from extremisms and in this hard time do not let the brotherhood among Crimean people to be broken. In ARoC we have Ukrainians, Russians, Crimean Tartars, Armenians, Poles, Germans, Czechs and many others living peacefully together. For many centuries we had the Orthodox, Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Caraims, people of other denominations together with atheists living in Crimea. We cannot let our ethnical background nor our religion to divide us now. We are children of the same God; the only God, who is our common Father. The motto of the Republic of Crimea which is inscribed into our coat of arms is „Процветание в единстве” (Blooming in unity) and may this words be our motto for the difficult time now. I would like to reach out with my words to the faithful of all denominations that they keep praying for peace, and those who has decided so keep voluntarily fasting. May the Good God free our hearts from all evil temptations and may he bless our good intentions.

+ Jacek Pyl, OMI Auxiliary Bishop of Odessa-Simferopol Diocese

Historic Statement of Aug. 17 between the Christians of Poland and Russia

Patriarch Kirill I (Cyril) of the Russian Orthodox Church (the largest of all the Eastern Orthodox Churches) and Archbishop Jozef Michalik, Chairman of the Bishops’ Conference of Poland, signed this emotional and historic statement of reconciliation, in Warsaw, Poland, on Aug. 17, 2012. Zenit has furnished the actual text, from the Vatican Radio translation. . Waclaw Hryniewicz OMI, an Oblate theologian who spent many years as a member of the Catholic-Orthodox International Dialogue, made the following reflection:

Personally I have devoted to the dialogue with the Orthodox more than forty years of my life. I am very glad and grateful that Polish and Russian hierarchs, Catholic and Orthodox, have taken this significant and concrete step towards reconciliation among our Churches and nations. But this is only the beginning. One has to work hard on it, to change the mentality of both clergy and lay people towards more openness, benevolence and mutual trust. It is not an easy task. Already there are opponents who reject this historic initiative. May God give us the courage to change what should be changed—our own minds and hearts.

(Father Hryniewicz made a marvelous presentation at the former Oblate Center for Mission Studies, Washington, DC, on March 20, 1995: “Contemporary Issues in the Dialogue between The Orthodox Church and The Roman Catholic Church.” George McLean OMI was the promoter of this meeting).

A short explanation form Ecumenical News International, with Pope Benedict’s praise of the Russian-Polish statement, follows here.

Russian, Polish churches sign reconciliation agreement
By Sophia Kishkovsky, 20 August 2012

(ENInews). Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Archbishop Jozef Michalik of Przemysl signed in Warsaw on 17 August a statement of reconciliation meant to overcome historical and religious differences and focus on the churches’ common stance on traditional values.

Kirill’s 16-19 August visit was the first to Poland by a head of the Russian church.

The document referred to a shared experience of totalitarianism, saying it is something that can bring the nations together.

Although not referred to specifically, relations between the two countries were strained over the 1940 Katyn massacre in southwest Russia in which Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s secret police killed thousands of Polish army officers and intelligentsia. At the time, the Soviet government ascribed it to Nazi Germany. In the post-Soviet era, Russia refused to call the Katyn massacre a crime or acknowledge its scale.

The text of the churches’ memorandum called on Russians and Poles to forgive, but not to forget, saying that historians and specialists must continue to search for “un-falsified historic truth.”

“We call on our faithful to ask forgiveness for the hurt they have caused one another, for the injustice and all evil. We believe that this is the first and most important step to the restoration of mutual trust without which there can be neither a strong human community nor true reconciliation,” said the document.

The memorandum has been compared to a 1965 letter sent by Polish bishops to their German counterparts that paved the way for improved relations after the atrocities of the Second World War.

“To forgive means to reject revenge and hatred,” states the memorandum, which adds that Russian and Polish Christians can created a united front against the moral challenges of the secular.

In a greeting to Polish pilgrims at his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo near Rome on 19 August, Pope Benedict XVI described the reconciliation statement as “an important event, which gives us hope for the future” and expresses “the desire to cultivate the fraternal union and to collaborate in spreading Gospel values in the world today,” the Vatican website reported.
Source: ENI (which has been taken down)

Melkites and Oblates of Mary: Help

The Eastern Church which descends from Antioch with Byzantine/Greek heritage, including an Arabic dimension, and is in union with Rome, is the Melkite Church. The current Patriarch, Gregory III Laham, is known to many Oblates from his days as a student priest in our International (Roman) Scholasticate, when he was Lufti Laham (1959-61). Part of his responsibility then was to provide Divine Liturgy for the 7 seminarians of his order, the Basilians of the Holy Savior, who lived with the Oblates and studied at the Gregorian University.

The editor is attempting to find out what happened to these seminarians and three more who arrived in 1961. His classmate, Fr. Said Abboud, was tragically killed in the bombing of his church (Lebanon or Syria) in the 1980’s, but what has happened to the following is very difficult to learn, despite several attempts: Arsene (Sami Bechara) Dagher, Euthyme (Emile Rizcallah) Moussa, Elie Assaf, Nakle Makoul, Saba Fakouri, Georges Nachef, Georges Abou-Zeid, Adil Fakouri, and Jean Frejatte. Any information may be directed to the editor of this website.

Most people who view this website are Western Christians, i.e. belonging to a Church with its main roots in Western Europe or North America such as Protestant Churches and Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. By Latin Rite, we mean those Catholics who used Latin at Mass until the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) encouraged the use of the vernacular. Although fewer in number than Latin Rite Catholics, Eastern Catholics (who do acknowledge the pope’s authority), and the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Christians (who do not acknowledge the pope’s authority), have a rich and precious heritage which we Western Christians desperately need.

Pope John Paul II expressed it this way: “The church must breath with her two lungs” (That All May Believe, #54). We cannot be effective missionaries or witnesses to Jesus’ love, unless we have both the Eastern and Western lungs healthy and working together.

If you have a friend who belongs to one of the Eastern Churches ask them to take you to their worship. You will find a vital expression of Christianity which goes back to the earliest days of our faith.

Peter and Andrew
The icon of the brother apostles Peter and Andrew embracing, given to Pope Paul VI by Patriarch Athenagoras when they met in the Holy land in 1964. On display in the Vatican.

The Icon of Peter and Andrew embracing symbolizes the growing unity of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Andrew, brother of Peter, is the patron of Constantinople; Peter of Rome. On the feast of St. Andrew (Nov. 30), each year a high papal representative travels to Constantinople to take part in the observance. On the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 30), each year a high patriarchal representative travels to Rome to take part in the observance.

Let us join in prayer and action that all Christian Churches may converge without compromise for the sake of better witness to the message and person of Jesus Christ.


The Catholic Near East Welfare Association produces a remarkable magazine six times a year, ONE. The issue for September, 2010 (36, 5) is a marvelous summary of the religious and economic situation in each of the 11 countries of the Middle East and Jerusalem.

Annual Orientale Lumen Conference (XVII), Vision of a United Church, June 17-20, 2013, Washington, DC Retreat House

(I’m indebted to Dan Nassaney, a bi-ritual USA Oblate [Latin-Melkite] for his insightful summary).

The conference was excellent; the theme centered on steps toward a Reunited Church. Melkite Patriarch Gregory III (ed. Note: an old friend of the Oblates; he lived as a student priest in our International Scholasticate) sent an address, in which he described the efforts of Middle East Churches in Iraq, Egypt and Syria to work together and create Councils of Churches. The Patriarch quoted the newly chosen Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, John X, to a press conference: “We are very concerned with relations with the other Christian churches and we will work on this with our Muslim brothers in this county …I ask for the prayers and love of all, just as I ask for us to be as one hand in this country.“

Most of the presentations were excellent. The talks are available from Lumen Orientale in both CD and DVD form. I recommend especially those of Father Thomas FitzGerald, from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox College, Brookline, MA, (to better understand the real history of Catholic-Orthodox division) and Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ, (for a candid and knowledgeable look at the state of Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical efforts).

If some conclusions can be drawn: our theological differences need not separate us. Modern theological and historical studies show that we are misunderstood more than divided. The theological differences no longer justify division.

Basic problems center on how Roman primacy may be of service to the Church and the use of authority and power in the various Churches. Catholic Church structures facilitate ecumenical decisions. The synodal character of the Orthodox union of Churches makes it more difficult to come to common decisions.

Ecumenical realities in the Middle East, where catholic and orthodox peoples and Churches have suffered under local governments, have progressed to common actions and recognitions. The home of the first Christian Churches is again leading the way and giving examples of mutual love.

This Conference is an excellent yearly meeting to not only learn what is happening and has occurred but also to grow personally, witness to the importance of Catholic-Orthodox ecumenism, and encourage our own local communities to commit to a reunited Church of East and West.

(When we had our national Oblate Convocation at Belleville, IL, April 15-19, 2013, Dan took a major part in the Interest Session on Christian Unity, which was held twice. At the end of the second session, Dan turned to Ron Rolheiser, who had also taken a major part, and urged Ron to look at the offerings of Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio, where Ron is the president, and see if Eastern Christianity has the part in all the courses which it should have. He also recommended that there be a chapel on the grounds for Eastern Christians.) Click Here to learn more


Surge in Muslim and Chinese Conversion: Click here for More information

Interpersonal Reciprocity As the Foundation for Harmonous Living: Buddhists Perspective

Daniel LeBlanc and I took advantage of a JPIC session in India to visit Aanmodaya, the Oblate Ashram in Kancheepuram, India. On this occasion, Swami Samarakone omi, received us and initiated us to Christian mysticism, borrowing from the Hindu culture and spirituality to present the Gospel. Afterwards. Daniel then returned to work in the United States, as I returned to the General House in Rome to continue my work at the General JPIC office. There I regularly met the scholastics and young student fathers who were continuing their studies. One of them, Chinnappan Mariasusai was from India and was keenly interested in inter-religious dialogue. On leaving the international scholasticate he was assigned doc to the Oblate Ashram and after the death of Swami Amarakone, was appointed in charge of the ashram, where he is today. It is therefore he, Chinnappan Mariesusaie, who gathered the historical pages and testimonies to present this booklet of SOUVENIRS on the 25th anniversary of the death of Swami Amalraj Jesudoss, one of the first three Oblates from India received by the Oblates. Amalraj. became the founder and 1st Guru of the Oblate Ashram, and a formator of Father Chinnappan Mariesusai. Following contacts with him and with India, we have continued to communicate and he was kind enough to send me this souvenir for which I am grateful. Note that the founder, Amalraj studied at the U of St. Paul in Ottawa, and that the the Souvenir quotes a page from Fr Alexandre Taché omi as well as a few words from Fr. Denis Dancause omi. There are a good number of pages written in the ‘Tamil’ language as the ashram is in the Tamil sector of South India, but a good half of the texts are in English and give a good summary of the history of this Oblate Ashram. Interesting reading.

Archbishop Hurleys legacy with Islam Continues

A report from the Denis Hurley Centre, Durban, South Africa – July 5, 2017

We had two opportunities this month to show solidarity with our neighbors, especially important since Refugees and Muslims are often groups who are kept at a distance and treated with suspicion. Click Here for more information

Mining Industry influenced by Oblate.

The May 18, 2017 meeting in Barcelona, Spain, has Father Seamus Finn, OMI, as chairing the MFRI steering committee. The Vatican, the Church of England and the United Kingdom Methodist Church represent Faith Based Communities in the ongoing dialogue. Please Click Here

OMI’s and Islam

The 36th General Chapter of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (the highest authority within the Oblates), meeting in Rome, Italy from Sept. 14-Oct.12, 2016, made four “Points of Attention,” regarding Islam:

1. Renew our awareness that evangelization is not only the explicit proclamation of the faith and the Gospel.

2. Make an inventory of our missionary settlements in the Muslim world in the Congregation: gather in a document their experiences, expertise, visions and needs.

Click here for # 3 and 4 and the entire document.

Assisi continued September 18-20, 2016 with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, OMI participating.

At the height of the Cold War, on Oct. 27, 1986, Pope John Paul II invited the leaders of the world’s main religions to Assisi for “a day of prayer and fasting for peace.” Thirty years later, there is an even greater need to pray for peace because, as Pope Francis says, “a third world war is being fought piecemeal,” and blind violence and hatred are spreading across the globe. Click here for rest of the story.

Fr. George McLean, OMI, Evangelizer and Dialoguer

We are grateful to Fr. Charles Hurkes, OMI, for forwarding the 64 Letters of Condolences from Dr. Hu Yeping. Click here for a slightly edited version, where the many cc e-mails have been deleted. A personal remembrance of Fr. McLean: after his year of study in Cairo, Egypt, concerning Islamic Religious Thought (1991), he wrangled an invitation to address the Mullahs (scholars of Islamic Religion) in the holy city of Qom, Iran. He was the first non-Islamic scholar, and the first Christian, to do so. He entered the lecture hall with some fear, and immediately sensed the hostility of the Mullahs.

He related to a group of us when the Oblate Center for Mission Studies, Washington, DC (1994-1999) and his Center for Research in Values and Philosophy (see 8th item below) were working closely together, that all of a sudden, an expression from our Oblate spirituality came to mind: to be an Oblate of Mary Immaculate is to have “a passport to heaven.” He remembered that this is also a revered Islamic expression.

So he introduced himself as an “Oblate of Mary, with a passport to heaven,” and the Mullahs expressions all changed from one of hostility to welcome. This was one of Fr. McLean’s many gifts, to take an expression from one religion and adapt it to another, showing the unity of values.

Dialogue, Part of the New Evangelization:

For Nineteen minute inspiring video, click here (add video here) ,” and “Different five minute document, open here.

Fr. Michael Rodrigo, OMILectio Brevis on Fr. Michael Rodrigo, OMI please click here

Father Michael Rodrigo, OMI, was a pioneer in Buddhist-Christian Dialogue in Sri. Lanka. On Nov. 10, 1987, he was martyred for his ministry. Previously, he was written up by Fr. Philip Singarayar, OMI in the booklet Oblate Missiologists, pp. 24-25: click here. In Nov. 2012, the Sri Lankan Oblates produced the first of three annual issues of Samvada, Sri Lankan Catholic Journal on Interreligious Dialogue. Each issue contains articles about Fr. Mike.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Religion and Dialogue click here

Witnessing to Muslims: December 14th Update

Witnessing to Muslims: Aug. 25th update. Dr. Brenneman spent a month recently in Turkey, Kuwait and at the Syrian Border. I met with him on Aug. 6 and he is more convinced than ever, that prayer and friendship with Moslems makes the person and message of Jesus welcome. Click here to learn more

Is it Possible? (12/11/17)

Please pardon the delay in describing what Dr. Bob Brenneman did at Woodbury Presbyterian Church, (an evangelical mega church), Eden Prairie, MN, Good Friday, 11 am-1 pm, April 14, 2017. Because of my transfer from St. Paul, MN, to Tewksbury, MA, I was unable to post this until now. Click here to learn more

Louis Lougen

Orlando Quevedo

Marcello Zago

With the naming of Oblate Archbishop Orlando Quevedo as our second current cardinal, we have acquired a deeper and urgent need to be dialoguers. With the naming of Oblate Archbishop Orlando Quevedo as our second cardinal of this decade (Jan. 12, 2014), we briefly had two cardinals skilled in dialogue. (The first, Cardinal Francis George, died on April 17, 2015). We hope soon to look at Cardinal George’s legacy in dialogue. Now let us briefly present why Cardinal Quevedo is important for dialogue.

Our superior general Louis Lougen OMI put it this way in July, 2011: “Our Oblate spirituality also brings us into dialogue with people of other religious traditions. Grounded in our Catholic faith, we seek to understand how others believe in God. Oblate spirituality enables us to respect other religions and to work with them so that our world will reflect the heart of God” (Catholic Digest, July/August 20ll, pp. 28-29; click here for the article.

Lougen recently visited one of our missions in a Moslem majority country, and asked the Oblates there: what are you doing with Moslems? Interestingly enough, Cardinal Quevedo has spent most of his life furthering dialogue with Moslems in the Philippines, and as archbishop of Cotabato on the island of Mindanao has been influential in that area being named Autonomous Region for Moslem Mindanao.

Quevedo also was very influential in the forming of the bishops of Asia into a conference which deals creatively with dialogue with the major religions of all of Asia. Lougen commented on Quevedo’s appointment:

By naming Archbishop Quevedo cardinal, Pope Francis is giving a signal to all of us: it is the recognition of a very committed missionary, a priest and bishop who leads by serving others, whose main concern is the Gospel and the poor and who has worked tirelessly to promote friendship between Christians and Muslims, to support their struggle to live together in respect and peace,” stated Fr. Louis Lougen, OMI, Superior General of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate , the religious congregation to which Msgr. Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato, on the island of Mindanao, belongs.

Fr. Lougen explains: “Archbishop Quevedo is a man of the Church with many gifts and who has always chosen to live simply and whose option as a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate has always been to be very close to the poor. He is a man of compassion, joy and generosity. Pope Francis is showing what kind of Church we are called to be by naming Archbishop Quevedo as cardinal”. The Superior says he is convinced that for Quevedo, this honor at being designated a cardinal is not to be “a prince of the Church” but is a confirmation that the Church, and Archbishop Quevedo’s own life, are “to be like Jesus, a servant who washed the disciples feet”.

“As Oblates of Mary Immaculate we are happy and proud,” he continues, “and rejoice in his being recognized for his prophetic ministry as religious, missionary, priest and archbishop”.

Fr. Lougen concludes with a hope for peace in Southern Philippines: “The process of peace depends on the efforts of everyone. It is my hope that this honor may bring attention to the importance of dialogue, respect and peace-building and may reinforce the commitment of all of us to this process.”

For Zago’s role at Assisi, see the Dialogue Page, fourth box, Pilgrims of Peace.

The Aug. 2011 Newsletter analyzing the Assisi event 50th’s anniversary is very relevant today, as Dialogue becomes richer, more complex and more controversial. (10/27/11)

The invitation to the leaders of the world’s religions, and indeed to all those involved in promoting peace, to come to Assisi, Italy, on October 27, 2011, can be a great opportunity for Christians to witness to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. Or, it can be a setback to the true proclamation and Christian unity. For Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the precious heritage we have from our late superior general, Archbishop Marcello Zago (1932-2001), can either be promoted, or neglected. He was Pope John Paul II’s right hand person in arranging the original meeting of Oct. 27, 1986, and writing about it thoroughly and clearly. Click Here to learn more

(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, called for the “‘intelligence of the heart’, which inspires us to respect what God is accomplishing in every human being” during the opening session of an interreligious forum in Vienna, Austria, on Monday morning.

The cardinal spoke at the opening general assembly of the two-day Global Forum of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and intercultural Dialogue.
Below is the Cardinal’s complete text:

“We are living in a changing world. We are living more and more in a ‘provisional’ world. But many people rediscover that we cannot live without reference to history and especially without relation to our contemporaries, their joys and hopes, their griefs and anxieties. In such a context religions are called to propose – not to impose – reasons for living.
What is at the centre of our concern is the human person, man and woman. The human person is the object of the attention of political and religious leaders. Each one of us is a citizen and a believer. All of us belong to the same human family. It means that we share the same dignity, we are confronted by the same problems, we enjoy the same rights and we are called to accomplish the same duties.

But unfortunately, we have to recognize that too often: we judge people on their appearance or on their ‘production’, even though every human person is much more than how he or she appears or is able to produce; we reduce the human person to an object (I am thinking of all the problems raised by bio-technology), while the human person transcends his/her material dimension;

Interreligious dialogue teaches us: to be careful not to present the religion of the other in a bad light in schools, universities, the mass media and, in particular, in the religious discourse; not to demean the religious convictions of the others, especially when they are not present; to consider diversity – ethnical, cultural, vision of the world – as richness, not as a threat.

Interreligious dialogue impels us: to listen and to better know each other; to think before judging; to present the content of our faith and our reasons for living with kindness and respect”.
Therefore, interreligious dialogue can contribute to: give to God again the place which He deserves; to inspire fraternity; to give the wisdom and courage to act.

To look at the theme “The Image of the Other” is also to look within ourselves in order to purify all that makes us closed to what is new and true; to look at the other means also to accept being questioned by him about our faith and to be ready to give an account of it; to look at the other is to be available to work with all persons of good will for the common good.

One of the tasks of KAICIID could be the promotion of what I dare to call, “the intelligence of the heart”, which inspires us to respect what God is accomplishing in every human being and at the same time to respect the mystery that every human person represents. What we have to avoid absolutely is that religions engender fear, attitudes of exclusion or of superiority in people.
In concluding, I express my heartfelt wishes for the success of this meeting. It will send a very significant message if KAICIID can become a place where we can take time to look at each other, to better know each other and to share all our abilities in order to make this world more secure and enlightened, with all its inhabitants living in the spirit of respect and friendship that Pope Francis has repeatedly said, “To encounter all because we all have in common our having been

Two members of our religious community have contributed significantly to the reality of Dialogue. Archbishop Marcello Zago OMI (1932-2001)’s work at the 1986 Assisi event is described in the box below. Father George McLean OMI’s work in developing the Council on Research in Values and Philosophy recently won the Global Dialogue Prize for 2013. See www.crvp.org website for McLean’s unprecedented work.

Highly recommended for the challenge of praying with people of other faiths: Thomas Ryan CSP, Interreligious Prayer: A Christian Guide (NY: Paulist, 2008). Only 85 pages, this booklet first gives the Biblical reasons for deciding when and what kind of interreligious prayer is necessary. A Canadian who lives in Washington, DC, Father Ryan is our best expert in North America on interreligious dialogue.

For Hispanic readers: Pope Benedict specifically invited leaders to Assisi, who belong to no faith but who are influential in the areas of culture and science as they work for Justice and Peace. One of these, Guillermo Hurtado, is a Mexican philosopher. He edits a journal of philosophy Dianoia.

Pilgrims of Peace, Assisi, Oct. 27, 2011

The 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s World Day of Prayer for Peace at Assisi, Oct. 27, 1986 was a marvelous deepening of the Proclamation of Jesus, Christian Unity, and Dialogue with World Religions, for Peace. But it also reminded us that some people concluded all religions are the same.

Oblates of Mary have a magnificent heritage from Marcello Zago OMI, who was the pope’s right hand man at the 1986 meeting. Click here for Marcello’s moving description of what happened and how we can avoid syncretism and relativism. For more on Marcello’s life, bring up Oblate Missiologists from the home page. On Feb. 26, 2011, Father Fabio Ciardi OMI, Director of Oblate Studies and Research, gave a conference in Villorba, Italy to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Marcello’s death (March 1, 2001). Fabio stated that Marcello’s “teaching over the years was always serene, simple and secure.” The entire conference is being translated from Italian and should be available shortly.

Marcello was assisted by another Oblate, Al Kedl OMI, who wrote two articles in Vie Oblate Life 65 (2006, #’s 1 & 2) about the experience. His first article “Fr. Marcello’s Role,” pp. 28-38 describes the long and intense preparations. His second article, with the same title, begins with this description of the day itself: “Father Zago and myself left the General House at 9.00 a.m., with our minibus driven by Bro. Jakob Wagner, O.M.I. Fr. Fausto Pelis, O.M.I., from the Italian Province, was also coming with us to Assisi in order to be in charge of the Ba’Hai prayer group. I was to be in charge of the Amerindian traditional native religion group. From the General House, we drove to the Secretariate for Non-Christians near the Vatican, where we picked up five other passengers: the President, Cardinal Francis Arinze, and four other priests who work at the Secretariate. Each of these four would be in charge of a religion group at Assisi. So now we had a full minibus load” (p. 27). Both articles are available on our international website www.omiworld.org, click on Vie Oblate Life.

Reading both Marcello’s article above, and considering Kedl’s description, one can see that Oblates had a very important role in developing the spirituality of the event, and the actual carrying out of the event.

Franciscan Planning for Oct. 27, 2011: The city of Assisi is built around the various Franciscan communities. Click here to see how Franciscans all over the world are preparing.

Vatican Announcement of April 6, 2011 (L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, pp. 3-4), “Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace in Assisi,” click here.

Catholic News Service commentary by Cindy Wooden and John Thavis, April 8, 2011, click here.

Example of “Together to Pray, But Not Praying Together,” Columban Magazine, Nov. 2007, p. 11, click here.

What Assisi Has Lost
A report from the meeting of religious leaders
Austen Ivereigh | NOVEMBER 14, 2011

Of all the challenges faced by the Vatican in organizing the 25th anniversary of the historic interreligious gathering in Assisi in 1986, the hardest was how to make it newsworthy. The 176 delegates—representing, said the Vatican, ”not only the world’s religions, but all people of good will, everyone seeking the truth”—whom Pope Benedict XVI led by train from Rome to the town of St Francis were comprehensive in their diversity. But if the Christian delegations on October 27 included the top men—Pope Benedict himself, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I—the delegates from Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and others included no obvious celebrities, or even organizations whose presence might have raised an eyebrow. Even the inclusion of four non-believers failed to create a stir, for it was not Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens standing with the pope but little-known academic philosophers.

In purely news terms, of course, 2011 couldn’t compare with the pure gold of the original 1986 gathering. The sight of Christian leaders standing in a semi-circle in the basilica dedicated to St Francis together with the Dalai Lama and a rainbow of sashes, robes and elaborate headgear was unprecedented. The 160 leaders of the great world religions called by Pope John Paul I did not “pray together,” exactly, but “came together in public to pray at the same time.” That distinction was lost on most observers, who still remember the ritual fires, the drums and the feathers, and the invocations of spirits. The scenes confirmed the fears of the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who famously boycotted the gathering.

But that first Assisi gathering caught the imagination of the world. Alarmed at the deep freeze in superpower relations, Pope John Paul II had summoned—as no one but a pope could—the spiritual energy of the world’s faiths, and put in train a movement among religions at the service of peace in the world. The theology was simple: the Catholic Church, whose task is to communicate the Gospel, seeks to further the global common good, and encourage the message of peace which is at the heart of every faith. And where better than in the town of il poverello, who had tamed the ferocious wolf of Gubbio, leap-frogged the walls of war and spoken to the Sultan?

If the 2011 gathering seemed less dramatic, it was partly because of the obscurity of the non-Christian delegates, and partly because the centerpiece of the 1986 action—the public act of prayer—was now missing. At the first Assisi réprise in 2002—when John Paul II, by now frail, again gathered the religious leaders to chase away the dark clouds of 9/11—the delegates prayed in their faith groups in different locations in Assisi, rather than in public. But prayer was still the point.

This time it was different. Rather than a day of prayer it was a “pilgrimage,” a time of “reflection and dialogue,” with each participant being assigned a room in a retreat house for “a time of silence for reflection and/or personal prayer.” The only public acts were speeches that were short and lacking in content.

Yet that did not stop a number of deities being invoked. “O infinite-bodied Lord! I see YOU in each hand and feet, in each eye and head, in each name and being,” prayed one Hindu delegate, while the Ifu and Yoruba representative began with an untranslated invocatory chant. Recalling his concern after 1986 to make clear that “there is no such thing . . . as a common concept of God or belief in God,” it must have been difficult for Pope Benedict to hear a swami announce that “truth is one” even though “professed in different ways.”

The other absentee at this year’s gathering was the Spirit of Assisi. The term was first used by Pope John Paul II when he received the 1986 delegates at an audience in Rome two days after the event. “Let us continue to spread the message of peace,” he told them; “let us continue to live the Spirit of Assisi.” The term, popularized by the Franciscans, has been used by Sant’Egidio at the interfaith gatherings—held “in the Spirit of Assisi” —they have organized every year since then. It was used by the founder of the Bose monastic movement, Enzo Bianchi, who wrote in La Stampa that the gathering of October 27 showed that Benedict XVI had “made his own the Spirit of Assisi,” which he described as the church’s “truly universal mission”, one demanding respect for all faiths and the religious path of each person. And the phrase is the title of an article in the Messenger of St Anthony by the Custodian of the Basilica of St Francis, Giuseppe Piemontese OFM Conv. And it was invoked, on 27 October, in the speech by Patriarch Bartholomew I, who described it as “the capacity of faiths in dialogue to infuse society with peace.”

Yet in the Pope’s addresses in Assisi and in the many documents and speeches in the run-up to the event by curial officials, including a long series of articles in Osservatore Romano, the term is carefully avoided. This reflects the view that, like “the Spirit of Vatican II,” it has been tainted by errors—in this case the “syncretistic interpretations” of 1986.

It wasn’t just Rome’s theological squeamishness that left Assisi III feeling flat but another absence, the spirit of community. Key to the organization of Assisi I and II were both Sant’Egidio and Focolare, movements of young Italians deeply committed to reconciliation across boundaries; it was their relationships which Cardinal Etchegaray drew upon in 1986 and 2002 in extending invitations to religious leaders. But while the movements were present on October 27—Focolare arranged the music and dance at the afternoon ceremony at the Basilica of St Francis; the founder and president of Sant’Egidio were both on the delegates’ train—the organization was this time firmly in the hands of the Curia. It meant that, despite warm embraces at the end, the atmosphere this time, and unlike 1986 and 2002, was mostly that of a conference or summit, rather than what Italians call un incontro.

This was reinforced by the presence of the “nonbelievers” among the delegates, included for the first time at the Assisi gatherings at the Pope’s request. The four academic humanists had been invited by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi’s Council for the New Evangelization, whose Courtyard of the Gentiles project aims to build bridges with atheists and secularists in post-Christian Europe. The speeches by the French-Bulgarian academic Julia Kristeva and by Guillermo Hurtado of Mexico made clear that these were “humanists in dialogue with believers” and therefore much more like searching agnostics than committed secularists.

And although there were only four of them, they seemed to be accorded a special place. After criticising both the distortion and the denial of God as lying behind modern violence, Pope Benedict’s main address—delivered at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli below Assisi—suddenly praised agnostics as “pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace,” which was the title of the gathering. Agnostics, he said, suffered from God’s absence yet “are inwardly making their way towards him, in as much as they are seeking truth and goodness.” Just as he did recently in Germany, when he described agnostics as “closer to the Kingdom of God than believers whose life of faith is ‘routine,’” Benedict XVI in Assisi suggested that the challenges of agnostics helped to purify the faith of believers. Their inability to find faith, he suggested, “is partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God,” while the struggling and questioning of agnostics “is in part an appeal to believers to purify their faith, so that God, the true God, becomes accessible.”

It soon became clear that the 25th anniversary of Assisi had been framed to support Pope Benedict’s “New Evangelization” strategy of connecting with post-Christian Europe. It is an ambition that is little by little coming to dominate his papacy, so that almost everything he does links to this goal. Pope Benedict wants to make an alliance with “open” secularists, to stand together against both religious and secularist fundamentalists.

In terms of the objectives of Assisi I, the inclusion of nonbelievers represents, on the hand, a broadening of the original coalition conceived by Pope John Paul II. It is an alliance of peace that now extends to people of goodwill, whether atheist, theist or polytheist.

But there is a risk that this new frame dilutes Pope John Paul II’s original intuition: that at a time when religion was taking a more public role, both as builder of justice and legitimator of violence, it was necessary to reaffirm the peace at the core of all true religion. That is why, whether it was the joint prayer of 1986 or the timetabled but separately located prayer of 2002, the point of the exercise was an essentially spiritual one—the opening of the heart of the world to the saving and healing power of God, however understood. This time the “witness of prayerful reflection,” suggests Michael Barnes, S.J., in Thinking Faith, “has given way to a more theological debate about the meaning of religion itself,” abandoning powerful symbolism in favour of “yet more routine speechifying.”

Can Assisi now be successfully recast as an alliance of goodwill and mutual interests? Can this new frame capture minds and hearts as did a spiritual humanism of peace?

Judging by the uplifting yet oddly uninspiring experience on October 27, the answer would have to be no; and that may be reflected in the muted media impact it made. It is always easier to say why an event made the news than why it failed to; and the fact that it was a commemoration, rather than a response to a global emergency, may partially account for the indifference. Or maybe the world’s religious leaders gathering for peace is no longer news because religions are no longer considered to be at war. Perhaps the Spirit of Assisi , in all its theological ambiguity, has become a commonplace, and no longer captures the imagination.

But many of those at the heart of the previous Assisi meetings fear that the vision behind them has been eclipsed. The 1986 event was an audacious, prophetic gesture, the intuition of a pope who saw what needed doing and acted. It was never intended to be other than a single event. But it set in train a movement, a distinctively religious contribution to peace in the world, that was never intended to bear too much theological scrutiny, but which people recognized as of God: expressed in symbols, a matter of the heart rather than the head. Twenty-five years later, Pope Benedict has reaffirmed that movement, both in the church and in the world, and set it on a new path. But too much effort to avoid theological ambiguity and subtract the spiritual may well have dampened the flame that has kept it burning all these years.

Austen Ivereigh is European correspondent for America. Ivereigh had a less critical article in the print edition of America, Nov. 14, 2011, pp. 6-7

This article is being used with permission from www.americamagazine.org


Synodality and Oblates in the USA, Part Three

I.  Sacred Heart, Oakland, CA, by Jack Lau and Bill Mason, June 3, 2022

Fr. Jack Lau, OMI
Fr. Jack Lau, OMI

In October, the Diocese entered into the process of discernment regarding ministry. The entire diocese was given 75 questions for parishioners to respond to.  So we sent them out and had an above average number of folks fill it out.  We also come out as environmentally green and are in the upper 80% in that category in the city and diocese.  (Yes, numbers can be used in many ways). But it looks real good for us.  And we got information about our parish – that is important.

Fr. Bill Mason, OMI

Then we had the synod process. We responded to the questions that were in the bulletin for three weeks and then two sessions.  Here too we heard about the needs of the community.

From there we sent out the forms to the diocese and also had the same report in the bulletin for all to see.

We are now (this Pentecost) again putting up the sign this is what we asked for:  “Who will sign up”!!!  This is timely after the pandemic also and a way to reboot the parish. 

As you note in your article (Synodality and Oblates in the USA, Part One), the presence of clericalism.  Even though we would like to say it doesn’t exist in the Oblates, it does.  And then connected to that is “entitlement,” which is part of the next generation.

Thanks so very much.  FYI:  in our bulletin every week is a Inter-religious Calendar and “Oblate Days of Memory.”

2:  St. Mary’s, Georgetown and Rowley, MA, by Harry Winter, June 27, 2022

About 35 parishioners from both towns met from 12:10 to 1:30 pm at the Georgetown Church on May 15. Two issues stand out for me. First, one of the older women who has three young adult daughters in the choir told of how one of her daughters volunteered when she was a young teen attending Faith Formation, that she is lesbian.  The teacher immediately told her to leave the class and parish.  Several other women joined in to relate stories of discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender persons (LGBT).

Since the material handed out by the parish council included “Who are the marginalized people in our communities, and how can they be better heard” (1b), the group, with one exception, desired that St. Mary’s Church be more open to people seeking gender clarification.

After the meeting, I handed two of the most outspoken women, the US. Catholic Bishops Conference pamphlets “Always Our Children” (1997) and “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination” (2006).  I hope to meet with these women soon.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, S.L.

Of course all this brought back to me the ministry of Sr. Jeannine Gramick, S.L., and Fr. John Harvey, O.S.F.S. (1918-2010).  Gramick’s association with New Ways Ministry and Dignity and Harvey’s with Courage and Encourage represent difference approaches.  But the two worked together and agreed that Catholics who are gay need our welcome and love.

It was most valuable to have both of them speak with our scholastics at Oblate College, Washington, DC, from 1970-95.

In 2021, Pope Francis sent four letters to New Ways Ministry, commending their work and calling Gramick “a valiant woman,” who has suffered much for her concern.  And the American bishops at first rejected Harvey’s efforts to help gay priests.

Oblates remember Tom Hayes, OMI’s ministry to gays on the west coast.  May we also support our Oblate parishes and residences which furnish places for Catholic LGBT persons to meet as they seek to become stronger Catholics.

John Harvey, O.S.F.S.

The second issue is the presence of one young adult.  Young adults have been missing from St. Mary’s since before covid.  This young adult had graduated from evangelical Protestant  Gordon-Conwell College, South Hamilton, MA, where she rediscovered her Catholic faith. She urged us to contact our drop-out young adults.  After the meeting, I was able to learn her name and encourage her to seek out groups like FOCUS that might come to our parish and help us do this.

It is interesting that the sixth question given to us to consider included “Is there a dialogue with other faith communities who are not Catholic?” As we hope to explore in a future article, there are more Eastern Christians in this section of MA than Protestants.  Evangelical Protestants probably outnumber main line Protestants.

Among the individual comments was a woman who said that this is the first time in a church setting that she was ever asked her viewpoint.  Many agreed with her.

Fr. Mike O’Hara, OMI, the pastor, came in at the end of the session and thanked all who attended.  He then asked if I had anything to say.  Partly to lighten up the meeting, I told of the parish where after parish councils were urged by the Second Vatican Council, one parish put this on their telephone recording: “We’re sorry, but the pastor is unavailable.  He is at our parish council meeting.”  In the back ground, the message had people shouting, glass breaking, and all kinds of noise.

I complimented the parish leaders for a session which was the opposite. With laughter, we adjourned.

Synodality and Oblates in the USA, Part Two

In our first installment, we mentioned how much St. Eugene lived synodality, even though he may not have used the word (Synodality and the Oblates: Part 1). Since the core of synodality is mission, St. Eugene looks over our shoulders as we invest in synodality. Click here to see Synodality and the Oblates Part 3

Michael Hughes, OMI, of the Anglo-Irish Province documented this when he described St. Eugene’s 1850 visit to England. “Today, we would say that he had set the Oblate mission well and truly on the synodal pathway” (p. 14, Oblate Connections, May 2022, #54). Hughes explains how St. Eugene “rallied his men and made a striking impression of gracious nobility on the various dignitaries he has met” (p. 15).This “gracious nobility” helped him overcome clericalism, and work equally with the laity and clergy.

Washington, DC, Oblate Residence, Jim Brobst, OMI

Fr. Jim Brobst, OMI Picture
Fr. Jim Brobst, OMI

On May 12, 8 of the 12 Oblates residing in Washington, DC, met to discuss synodality… and I guided our discussion. Although our community discussion was often rather intellectual and historical in its approach, we also had some strong moments of personal disclosure. The fact of having something other-than-business to discuss was itself the best part about the meeting! We’re often good on the administrative/necessary business side of mission, but less so on the depth of community that is a part of mission. This discussion gave us the opportunity to go deeper than we normally do.

On May 14 I took our summary to the meeting on the Archdiocesan level, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. About sixty-five people attended, including Cardinal Gregory, laity, religious and pastors. Reporters ranged from Sr. Jeannine Gramick, long-time defender of LGBTQ within the church, to proponents of Latin Mass. There was quite a diversity in ages, ethnicity, culture and education among those present.

Here are the impressions I would like to share from both meetings.

One of the most interesting insights, seconded by a number of folks, was that we seem to be starting from predetermined questions. Are these the actual needs? There also seems to be a rather high level of education presumed. What about the people on the margins? Are they really part of the process?

The procedure seems to be weighted from and to the diocese.

Religious orders, both men and women, have a different approach. The very nature of our existence is to exercise ministry that is not within the sacramental scope of basic parish life. By blending all the response of vowed religious into a diocesan reporting structure, are the unique perspectives of communities of consecrated men and women being taken into consideration?

Synod events are only occasional; synodality must be ongoing. Our ministry sites cannot simply be charging stations for our personal energy and faith. They must be mission-oriented by nature. True evangelization depends on faithful, thriving, communities of faith – whether in parishes or religious communities.

Brownsville, TX, St. Eugene de Mazenod Parish, Paul Hughes, OMI

Picture Fr. Paul Hughes, OMI
Fr. Paul Hughes, OMI

Our final synod report was submitted last week, May 9. I sensed that many Tex/Mex people who grew up on the other side of the border have a different sense of church and feel very uncomfortable in presenting their faith experiences, especially in their popular religiosity which is not part of the American Church experience. We have winter Texans from up north that participated in the small groups and it is quite clear that there are two distinct models of church operating in the country.

Another concern: should Pope Francis and his team clearly present what can be discussed and those issues that are considered off the table. Are we leading people down a path of issues that will never be talked about, e.g. women priest, married clergy, Eucharist to divorced Catholics, blessings of LGBTQ’s, etc.!!!

There is a good article in the recent America magazine, Spring 2022, “The Conciliar Church/Past and Present,” an interview with Joseph Komonchak on the legacy of Vatican II.

Conclusion, Harry Winter, OMI

Sr. Jeannine Gramick’s role in the Washington, DC process is noteworthy. Her association with Fr. John Harvey, O.S.F.S. and their teaching at Oblate College, Washington, DC, from 1970-1995,will explored in the next number of Synodality and Oblates. Part 3 will include Sacred Heart, Oakland, CA, and St. Mary’s, Georgetown/Rowley, MA. The issue of LGBTQ was prominent at St. Mary’s.

Responses from more Oblate places of ministry in the USA, regarding synodality, are most welcome.

Part One of this series is now the first item on the home page of the Mission-Unity-Dialogue website. This item will be placed there soon: www.harrywinter.org.

Christian Joy

For Previous Christian Joy Entries, Please Click Here:

Catholics Can Laugh at Themselves? Click here

How Many Christians Does It Take to Change A Light Bulb?

Charismatic: Only one. Hands are already in the air.

Pentecostal: Ten. One to change the bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

Presbyterians: None. Lights will go on and off at predestined times.

Roman Catholics: None. Candles only.

Baptists: At least 15. One to change the light bulb and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad.

Episcopalians: Three. One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks, and one to talk about how much better the old one was.

Mormons: Five. One man to change the bulb and four wives to tell him how to do it.

Unitarians: We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey, you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your light bulb for the next Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life, and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

Methodists: Undetermined. Whether your light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb, turnip bulb, or tulip bulb. A church-wide lighting service is planned for Sunday. Bring a bulb of your choice and a covered dish.

Nazarene: Six. One woman to replace the bulb while five men review church lighting policy.

Lutherans: None. Lutherans don’t believe in change.

Amish: What’s a light bulb?

Two Very Different Catholic Men and Christian Joy, updated in Parade Sunday Magazine, July 26, 2020)

Jim Gaffigan Two Very Different Catholic Men and Christian Joy. A Jesuit priest and a married Catholic comedian both offer us deeply Christian Joy. The priest, Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, is the founder of Homeboy Industries, which works with former gang members: www.homeboyindustries.org.

His two books, Tattoos on the Heart, and Barking at the Choir, have blended tragedy and joy in a marvelous way. The layman, Jim Gaffigan, and his wife Jeannie, have five young children. His book, Dad is Fat, and his videos,are available on his website: www.jimgaffigan.com.

His comedy (and his wife is very much his partner on it) is clean and joyful.

Two Very different Catholic Men and Christian Joy, View Article Here

Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, and Christian Joy

In a retreat for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX, always began each presentation with a joke. He explained why: “I came home from the seminary one summer, and was surprised to find my mother watching a soap opera on TV. I asked her why she watched such trash. She looked me right in the eye and said: ‘Because it makes me laugh, which you don’t.’ Ever since then, I begin my talks with a joke.”
Joyful Noiseletter, July-August, 2017, p. 2, submitted by Fr. Harry Winter, OMI.

Founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, St. Eugene de Mazenod (1782-1861), appears to the current USA provincial leader.

Kids Learn by Observing …or Not

A priest was invited to a house party. Naturally, he was properly dressed and wearing his priest’s collar. A little boy kept staring at him the entire evening. Finally, the priest asked the little boy what he was staring at.

The little boy pointed to the priest’s neck. When the priest finally realized what the boy was pointing at, he asked the boy: “Do you know why I am wearing this?”

The boy nodded his head yes, and replied “It kills fleas and ticks for up to three months.”
(given to me by Methodist Gerry Manwarren, magazine unknown).

2019 – Covid Memes   Click Here to view

St. Thomas More’s Prayer for Good Humor is recommended by Pope Francis, who prays it every day and says it helps him: ”  click here.

Episcopal Humor, from Jim Reynolds’ High Church Coyote:
One Sunday morning at a Small Southern church, the new pastor called on one of this older deacons to lead in the opening prayer. The deacon stood up, bowed his head and said, “Lord, I hate buttermilk.”  Click here for the full story.


2018 Christmas Humor:  click here for imageclick here for pdf
(Courtesy of Mission Enrichment Newsletter, Children’s X-Mas Carols, P.3)

The Year of the Two Popes, and Christian Joy

The movie “The Year of the Two Popes,” may not be accurate in its portrayal of Pope Benedict. But it certainly has some joyful moments for both popes’ sense of humor. The conclusion, with both of them watching the World Cup match between Argentina and Germany, probably never happened. But it could have.

When Christians of different denominations work together, we discover that we have similar problems. We exchange experiences and become more joyful. The Holy Spirit, who dwells in each Christian, is the spirit of joy. (Gal. 5:22-23)

Thanks to our Jewish Brothers and Sisters, click here.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned: click here for image.

2011 Pope Humor

Another humor item concerning Pope John Paul II  In a NY Times article by Rachel Donadio and Elisabetta Provoledo, May 2, 2011

Click Here fro More Humorous Signs

This explains why friends forward jokes:  Click here for full story 


Late Night Catechism with apologies to Methodists   Click Here for Video

Irish Humor — Click Here                            Funny Church Signs — Click Here
You Can Tell ‘Em in Church — Click Here   
More Church Humor 1 — Click Here 
More Church Humor 2 — Click Here             More Church Humor 3 – Click Here
Church Ladies with Typewriters — Click Here          Irish Boy and the Nuns Video — Click Here
Biblical CartoonsClick Here


In their highly acclaimed book The Book of Joy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and Douglas Abrams have stated:  “Joy is much bigger than happiness.”  Published in 2016 by Random House, I highly recommend this book, which explores how joy can become a lasting way of being (p. 5). Both leaders have suffered immensely, so this is not a nave book, but a book of experience and growth.


Martin Luther on Joyful Christianity

 Flee from sorrow, whose author is Satan.  God is the enemy of sorrow, and pursues it with all His words, the Holy Spirit, the sacraments, the Gospel.  God wants us to be happy and hates sadness.  God is not a God of sadness, but the devil is.  Christ is a God of joy.  It is pleasing to the dear God whenever thou rejoices and laughest from the bottom of thy heart.  A Christian should and must be a cheerful person (Table Talks, used in The Joyful Noiseletter, 30 (Sept.-Oct. 2015, 5) 1.

Highly Recommended: The Fellowship of Merry Christians, with their Joyful Noiseletter, and the Chicken Soup for the Soul group.

The Fellowship of Merry Christians has a website (www.JoyfulNoiseletter.com) and six times a year publication, The Joyful Noiseletter, especially recognized for its cartoons. Better than the cartoons of the New Yorker magazine, according to experts. Many, many great books on joyful Christianity are listed on the website.

The Chicken Soup for the Soul group is less religious and more spiritual. Its motto is “Changing lives one story at a time,” and its website www.chickensoup.com. This Christmas I was given their book Chicken Soup for the Soul, My Very Good, Very Bad Cat, and I found many of the stories to deeply resonate with a spirituality which comes to you from the side, rather than directly.

Martin Luther, the Christmas Tree and 95 Theses, according to Garrison Keillor

It is reliably reported that Martin Luther was the first person to have a Christmas tree inside his home, after he renounced his Catholic priesthood and married. However, Garrison Keillor is reported by one of our Oblates to have explained it this way. Luther was out in the woods for a little walk, and as he passed the pine tree, a branch hit him in the face. He was so angry he chopped the tree down. Only then did he decide it would look nice, decorated, inside the house.

A search on the internet has failed to find this story. But Keillor did write a spoof on Luther’s 95 theses: click here. (And see the first click below for Keillor’s “Singing with Lutherans”).

Pope Francis and the Jesuit Sense of Humor

In his remarkable book Between Heaven and Mirth, Jesuit Father James Martin, S.J., writes the following, about the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola, which may explain part of Pope Francis’ Jesuit sense of humor.

During my Jesuit novitiate, the New England provincial superior, the man in charge of the Jesuits of the region, visited our community. As he was an authority figure, many of us were rather nervous about his visit. To open his discussion he recounted a (true) story that came from the autobiography of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

One day, after Ignatius’ conversion, he was riding on a mule when he came upon another man on the road also riding on a mule. In the course of their brief conversation, the man insulted the Virgin Mary and then rode off. Ignatius, who was still very much of a hothead, waxed furious.

So he started to think about murder. But, try as he might, he was unable to decide whether he should kill the man or not. At that moment he reached a (literal) fork in the road. Ignatius decided to leave the fate of the blasphemer up to his mule As he wrote in his autobiography, “If the mule took the village road, I would seek him out and stab him; if the mule did not go toward the village, but took the highway, I would let him be.” Fortunately for all concerned, the donkey chose the highway.

After the provincial told us novices this story about Ignatius, he smiled and said: “Ever since then, asses have been making decisions in the Jesuits” (pp. 169-70).

Preparation for the 499th anniversary of Luther’s Theses, Oct. 31, 2016.

On this past Reformation Sunday, grandma was sitting in the pew with her 8-year-old grandson, Luke. After the children’s sermon about the Reformation, grandma pointed out to Luke, in the hymnal the song we were going to sing, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” At the bottom of the page, Luke read “Text by Martin Luther.”

Luke innocently exclaimed, “you mean I can text Martin Luther!” He was ready to do so with his cell phone in hand.
Joyful Noiseletter, March-April, 2016, p. 2, by Rev. Dr. Clifton J. Suehr, Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Irwin, PA.

The Lord’s Supper, a Bittersweet Experience?

Many Christians have heard the story that at the Passover Meal during which Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper, He looked around the room and realized that all, with the possible exception of John, would betray Him (Peter in a spectacular manner). He then raised His hand towards the waiter and said “Separate checks.”
For Christians, the Lord’s Supper or Mass is the source of both joy and sorrow. See especially the items on the Eucharistic Hospitality page, and the item regarding the Synod of Bishops on the home page, for ways to overcome the sorrow.
Nov.-Dec. 2015 Joyful Noiseletter, p. 3.

“Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And who ever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. ”

Johnny’s Mother looked out the window and noticed him “playing church” with their cat.  He had the cat sitting quietly and he was preaching to it. She smiled and went about her work. A while later she heard loud meowing and hissing and ran back To the open window to see Johnny baptizing the cat in a tub of water. She called out, “Johnny, stop that! The cat is afraid of water!”
Johnny looked up at her and said, “He should have thought about that before he joined my church.”

Send this to someone who needs a laugh today and remember: Knowing scripture can save your life – in more ways than one!Have a great day, Feed your faith and your doubts will starve to death…

Adlai Stevenson vs Norman Vincent Peale over JFK

As the campaign in 1959 and 1960 heated up, the famous Protestant leader Norman Vincent Peale came out with a very public statement that he did not believe a Catholic could be president, because of connections to the Pope. Adlai Stevenson, also a Protestant, who had been the Democratic Party’s candidate for president both in 1952 and 1956, quipped: I find St. Paul appealing, and St. Peale appalling

Synodality and Oblates in the USA, Part One

The province website Mission-Unity-Dialogue, www.harrywinter.org, has been updated to help with this. At the bottom of the home page, two pyramids have been constructed to reflect a vital change in our structure and attitude, to better promote mission. On the left is the Latin rite Roman Catholic Church as it has existed from the Council of Trent, 1563, to the beginning of the Second Vatican Council in 1962. At the top of the pyramid is the pope, alone, and at the bottom, the laity. On the right is our Church as it now exists, with the changes of the Second Vatican Council, the laity on top, and the pope with the bishops on the bottom. The schema of these two pyramids can easily be printed in Sunday bulletins, and other resources both for vowed Oblates, and lay Oblate discussion.

St. Eugene de Mazenod

Pope Francis is asking every parish, retreat center, house of formation, and Catholic center to discuss synodality. In the seven mandated questions, the fourth asks “How connected do you feel to the core mission of the Church–making disciples for Jesus?” St. Eugene de Mazenod must be agreeing with this on every Catholic being a missionary.

As the pope asks us to engage in “walking together,” the original meaning of the Greek word “synodality,” he is attacking clericalism, and promoting the laity to partnership with the clergy. Please note that the Roman Catholic Church includes 23 Eastern Rite Churches which are not as affected by clericalism as is the Latin Rite, to which approximately 98% of Roman Catholics belong. If your Sunday Mass includes only a modern language, and no Greek, Syriac or any of the Biblical languages, you are Latin rite. More in a future article about the stronger synodality and lesser clericalism in the Eastern Churches.

In this first article, I invite every Oblate in the USA to send me what they have experienced in their ecclesial situation about synodality. I have already heard a very interesting insight from our missiologist in Brownsville, Texas, Paul Hughes, concerning synodality there, and will share it in a future article. I hope to hear also from Oblate School of Theology what the faculty there is teaching about synodality.

Fr. Robert Graham, SJ
Fr. Robert Graham, SJ

One of the predecessors of synodality was Catholic Action, which began in the late 1800’s in Europe, led by Catholic laity predominantly, to bring Catholic teaching into the political and economic spheres. It has been whimsically defined as “The interference of the laity in the inactivity of the clergy.” Another version of this imbalance was described by Father Robert Graham, S.J., back in 1961: “the witty and far from inaccurate description of Catholic Action as ‘the interference of the clergy in the apostolic mission of the laity.’ The delicate balance between lay responsibility and episcopal control is yet to be created.” (“The Laity, the Council and the New Apostolate,” America, May 6, 1961).

As our Oblate Family expands with more laity, we are called to promote lay leadership, lessening our clericalism. The promotion of the role of Oblate Coadjutor Brothers has alerted us to forms of clericalism which grew within the Oblates since our founding.

Most of us find it difficult to attend more meetings. Yet the meetings at the local level, concerning synodality are crucial for our mission. May St. Eugene help us to devote some time and energy to developing the statements on synodality which every group is supposed to send to their bishops. It would help greatly to be able to gather these local efforts and place them on our Mission-Unity-Dialogue website.

The process of synodality includes another Synod on Synodality this October, and a third one in October 2023. Let us devote some quality time and effort to this initiative from Vatican II and especially Pope Francis to better our mission.

Five Ways – May 22

May 17, 2022

As we approach the Sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday-Easter Sunday, please pray for our brothers and
sisters in the Ukraine. The link below may interest you.

On Easter Monday through Easter Wednesday, all the Oblates of Mary in the USA will gather at four
places with our national administration on Zoom. We had hoped to meet in person at the Shrine of Our
Lady of the Snows, Belleville, IL, but covid is still a threat. Oblates from Buffalo, NY, and Washington, DC,
will be traveling to our retirement residence in Tewksbury, MA, one of the four places. We welcome your
prayers for safe travel and a successful outcome of this very important meeting.

You will probably see people in church on Easter Sunday who have not been since last Christmas. Gently welcome them to return. The beauty and inspiration of our worship during Easter can persuade people to see Christ again in our Church. And now is the time to invite those who have always been churchless.
The Fellowship of Merry Christians has constructed its “Good Noise Blog.” If you google “Good Noise
Blog,” you will see some of the Fellowship’s best articles over the years, with several concerning the joy
of Easter.

Many thanks to those who commented on the March 20 Five Ways e-letter.

May we all have a most Happy and Holy Easter.

In Jesus’ love,

Father Harry Winter, O.M.I.

Regarding the Ukraine: https://www.omiusa.org/index.php/2022/04/11/eastern-orthodox-declaration-commentary/

Five Ways – Apr 22

April 13, 2022

As we approach the Sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday-Easter Sunday, please pray for our brothers and
sisters in the Ukraine. The link below may interest you.

On Easter Monday through Easter Wednesday, all the Oblates of Mary in the USA will gather at four
places with our national administration on Zoom. We had hoped to meet in person at the Shrine of Our
Lady of the Snows, Belleville, IL, but covid is still a threat. Oblates from Buffalo, NY, and Washington, DC,
will be traveling to our retirement residence in Tewksbury, MA, one of the four places. We welcome your
prayers for safe travel and a successful outcome of this very important meeting.

You will probably see people in church on Easter Sunday who have not been since last Christmas. Gently welcome them to return. The beauty and inspiration of our worship during Easter can persuade people to see Christ again in our Church. And now is the time to invite those who have always been churchless.
The Fellowship of Merry Christians has constructed its “Good Noise Blog.” If you google “Good Noise
Blog,” you will see some of the Fellowship’s best articles over the years, with several concerning the joy
of Easter.

Many thanks to those who commented on the March 20 Five Ways e-letter.

May we all have a most Happy and Holy Easter.

In Jesus’ love,

Father Harry Winter, O.M.I.

Regarding the Ukraine: https://www.omiusa.org/index.php/2022/04/11/eastern-orthodox-declaration-commentary/

Five Ways – Mar 22

March 20, 2022

Fasting, Evangelization and Joy during Lent

Many thanks to those who responded to the Feb.19 Five Ways e-letter.

The Joyful Noiseletter, from the Fellowship of Merry Christians, has recently been insisting that fasting is
not only a religious practice, but absolutely necessary for good health. Its Jan-Feb and March-April
issues stress this in many ways. Short, occasional fasting does so much good for both our bodies and
souls. Well worth considering during Lent.

Stephanie Saldana, in her marvelous article “A Community of Song,” describing Taize, reminds us that
Lent is a time to invite people to join us in our churches. If you google her name, the entire America
magazine article comes up and is very readable and inspiring.

With the Holy Week messages so necessary for life in our turbulent world, consider inviting non-believers
and especially drop out Catholics to the Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and
Easter Sunday services.

Let us join Pope Francis, and all the bishops of the world, as they consecrate the Ukraine and Russia to
the Immaculate Heart of Mary, according to the Fatima message, this Friday, March 25, on the Solemnity
of the Annunciation of Mary.

My thanks to Margot Ferry Adams for sending me the item below: some joy and inspiration for Lent.

Gratefully in Christ,

Fr. Harry Winter, O.M.I.

Five Ways – Feb 22

February 19, 2022

As the Winter Olympics wind down, let us be aware of St. Paul’s attention to the preparations held at Corinth for the Olympics of his time: I Cor. 9:24-27. He writes about the gold medal of
his day, a wreath of laurel leaves. I am sure that many of the Five Ways Fellowship members have earned a laurel wreath/gold medal by your attention to evangelism, ecumenism and dialogue.

I hope you can open the link below, and the link of May 28, 2019, within that link. VenerableMadeleine Delbrel shows us the Holy Spirit working within Catholic laity to restore their
evangelization ministry, and using French Oblates of Mary Immaculate, especially Jean
Gueguen, OMI, to do so. Dr. Mann’s book is out of print, but inter-library loan probably has
copies available through your local library. More of Delbrel’s writings are available on Mission- Unity-Dialogue, Family/Laity page, www.harrywinter.org.

Many thanks to those who responded to the Jan. 7 Five Ways e-letter.
In His love,

Fr. Harry Winter, O.M.I.