Death is no longer the ruler of life

Beloved Concelebrants and pious and God-loving children of the Church,

CHRIST HAS RISEN!

Once again we hear this joyful Christian greeting within our Christian Communities. But many of these prosperous Communities disregard the question and very real issue of death, and live as though death did not exist and the resurrection was without meaning. However, â??Fearful is the mystery of deathâ??, as the hymnographer says and our daily reality reiterates. The fear of death, which is most acute in those who confront problems of health or old age, even when it is alleviated in a variety of ways, consumes our peace of mind, fills the soul with irrational anxiety and often leads to suicide, for the relentless insecurity becomes unbearable.

The Resurrection of Christ put an end to this insecurity. Death is no longer the ruler of life; it is not the unavoidable end of our existence. Our tomb stones do not overshadow our existence for ever with an everlasting silence. The stone which shut the tomb of Christ was rolled away, and Christ came forth triumphant, master over death, unscathed by its sting, the firstborn of the dead. From that moment, the door of the tomb remained open behind Him for all.

The fear of death has vanished for all who wish to follow in the footsteps of Christ. All things have been filled with joy and hope. â??Where, Death, is your sting? Where, Hell, is your victory?, asked my predecessor Saint John Chrysostom in triumph.

However, brethren and beloved children in the Lord, we live the ever-present death and continuous Resurrection of the Lord, not only in the sacrifice of Golgotha that we see portrayed in our churches, but also in the lives of the saints, ancient and contemporary. The Lord rose and granted life. But He also continues to grant resurrection and life. Death is now a gate of passage to a new state of life. It has ceased to be a prison for souls, a dead end, a state without hope. The boundaries of deathâ??s stronghold were broken down, its gates shattered, and everyone who follows Christ is able to return to life with Christ.

Believe, brethren and children, and have hope! Be free from the fear of death and lifeâ??s anxieties, because for the Faithful, like yourselves, death is no more. Only, cleanse your souls and bodies and enrol as followers of Christ, Who is also your own Resurrection. Christ has risen and you are all potentially risen. The glad and joyful message of the Resurrection is a message for you. It is not something foreign or irrelevant to you. Your mouths should be filled with joy when you say, â??Christ has risen!â?? For â??Truly He has risen!â?? and we are raised with Him.

May His life-giving Grace, â??which heals what is infirm and makes up what is lackingâ??, be with you all. Amen.

Holy Pascha 2007
+ Archbishop of Constantinople Bartholomew
Fervent Intercessor to The Risen Christ for you all

The assertion of truth is not an obstacle to freedom but its precondition

If modern Britain faces a challenge today, it is to recover the language and the spirit of the age of democracy, to forge a meeting place for all citizens where firmly-held beliefs are not disqualified because they are seen as â??outmodedâ?? or â??dogmaticâ??. The public sphere is the forum of collective reasoning, and it cannot be a space empty of tradition and particular belief. A tolerant society is not one without constitutive beliefs, since its tolerance flows from a very constitutive belief.

Pope Benedict rightly emphasises the use of reason. Reason informs discussion and reasonable decisions. The public sphere is the locus of a discussion in which society seeks a common mind about important matters. The importance of religion to that discussion is vital, because religion is, fundamentally, concerned with truth. Truth is not something we construct, but something we seek together. The right to religious freedom and to respect for the exercise of conscience on its journey towards the truth has been increasingly recognised as the foundation of the cumulative rights of the person. There can only be a democratic discussion when truth is a matter of universal concern. That is why freedom of religion cannot be a relative value. Freedom of religion is not unconditional, of course; but it cannot be made relative to other rights on the grounds that truth is not the concern of the state. A state which denies the freedom of religion is not a religiously neutral state, but a state which upholds relativism. Relativism takes its stand on a desire for equal treatment of different beliefs in the conviction that these beliefs are relative. Yet, in contradictory fashion, it does so because of a belief in human equality and dignity, which are not relative values. Relativism is no friend of true democracy. By banishing religion from the public sphere in the name of equality, it discounts religious perspectives from debate, banishes truth to a private sphere, labels it â??religiousâ?? and infers it to be irrational, and solidifies disagreements into divergent strands of belief. Debate is thereby impoverished, and democracy weakened.

The assertion of truth is not an obstacle to freedom but its precondition. If we allow religious perspectives in debate, we can discuss issues about truth on the basis of reason. We can search for the truth together, using reason in freedom.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-Oâ??Connor RELIGION AND THE PUBLIC FORUM â?? the Corbishley Lecture, 28 March 2007, Westminster Cathedral Hall. (The full lecture is a Word document at the bottom of the page).

The King of Glory

The procession of the Palms is the procession of Christ the King: we profess the Kingship of Jesus Christ, we recognize Jesus as the Son of David, the true Solomon, the King of peace and justice. Recognizing him as King means accepting him as the One who shows us the way, in whom we trust and whom we follow. It means accepting his Word day after day as a valid criterion for our life. It means seeing in him the authority to which we submit. We submit to him because his authority is the authority of the truth.

Psalm 24[23], which speaks of the ascent, ends with an entrance liturgy in front of the temple gate: “Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! That the King of glory may come in”. In the old liturgy for Palm Sunday, the priest, arriving in front of the church, would knock loudly with the shaft of the processional cross on the door that was still closed; thereupon, it would be opened. This was a beautiful image of the mystery of Jesus Christ himself who, with the wood of his Cross, with the power of his love that is given, knocked from the side of the world at God’s door; on the side of a world that was not able to find access to God. With his Cross, Jesus opened God’s door, the door between God and men. Now it is open. But the Lord also knocks with his Cross from the other side: he knocks at the door of the world, at the doors of our hearts, so many of which are so frequently closed to God. And he says to us something like this: if the proof that God gives you of his existence in creation does not succeed in opening you to him, if the words of Scripture and the Church’s message leave you indifferent, then look at me – the God who let himself suffer for you, who personally suffers with you – and open yourself to me, your Lord and your God.

Pope Benedict Palm Sunday homily

Renewal of an ecumenical and therefore truly catholic Church

In order to recover its Christian roots, Europe needs the re-emergence of Christian unity. In their present state of separation, the causes of which lie in the distant past, the Christian churches cannot call effectively upon the nations of Europe to remember and reappropriate the spiritual and cultural resources of their Christian past. The ruptures of Christian unity that have led to the separate existence of confessional churches and to their endless controversies have contributed so decisively to the calamities of European history and to the sufferings of the nations of Europe, that these separate churches continuously remind educated Europeans of the historical reasons why modern culture and political order have had to be cut loose from any religious foundation. But human life needs a religious foundation lest it becomes empty of meaning and self-destructive. The cultural history of humankind provides ample evidence that this function of religion is irreplaceable. This is also true of social life and public culture. The only question, in the long run, is what kind of religion comes to be of basic importance in the life of a culture. In this respect, if Europe is to preserve what has been distinctively European in its cultural tradition, it cannot easily dispose of Christianity, provided that Christianity does not present itself as sectarian, nor sells out to secularism, but continues to incorporate within itself the best heritage of classical antiquity and therefore openness to reason as well as the true achievements of modern culture. Might a reuniting Christianity also offer evidence of having learnt the lessons of history concerning toleration and the provisional nature of human knowledge even about the truth of revelation? Such a renewal of an ecumenical and therefore truly catholic Christian church could perhaps heal aching memories in European nations of past sufferings and bitter conflicts. It might inspire a new confidence both in the cultural unity of Europe and in the prospect and vigour of its renewal.

Wolfhart Pannenberg The Churches and the Emergence of European Unity

Secularist neutrality is ideology

The secular state, which we now risk adopting in Britain seeks a politics entirely independent of religion, in which religious principles have nothing to say in the â??realâ?? world of political action. The choice of the State to side with the secular is said to be neutrality; and it is usually justified by an appeal to equality. But this is in itself ideology, divorcing religion from the public realm on the pretext that religion is divisive. This sets up great tensions in society. The more determinedly secular a state becomes, the more pressure mounts for religious beliefs to assert themselves. We then no longer have a common search for truth on the basis of shared reason, but a series of monologues in which each side excludes the other. People talk past each other. There is little reasoned thinking. There is no adequate civil discourse. Society is then at risk of the fragmentation of its moral structure.

The Church claims only its legitimate part in the political process â?? to assist the very reasoning which is fundamental to the pursuit of justice. The Churchâ??s task is not to propose technical solutions to questions of governance or economic activity, but to help to form a social culture based on justice, solidarity and truth, for the common good. That is a culture that can form the kind of people who can develop those solutions against a transcendent moral horizon. The Churchâ??s task is of nurturing, to assist a public debate that is tolerant, reasoned and inclusive, but within a moral framework which seeks to defend and promote justice and human flourishing.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor The freedom to believe and the freedom to serve the common good – the Corbishley Lecture

Assyrian and Syriac Churches

Like so many other horrific accounts of Christian persecution in Iraq, this story went unnoticed in the West…

Since the invasion of Iraq, militants have bombed 28 churches and murdered hundreds of Christians.

The latest report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that two million Iraqis have fled since the invasion, and almost a third of these are Assyrian – who are down from 1.4 million in Saddam’s Iraq to fewer than 500,000 today.

Now, while one of the world’s oldest Christian nations faces extinction at the hands of Islamic extremists, the West does nothing.

Ed West We must not let this ancient Church slide into oblivion.

Christians of Iraq includes the Minority Right Group Report Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq’s minority communities since 2003

(PDF)

The communities covered in this report make up about 10 per cent of the Iraqi population. They include Armenians, Bahá’ís, Chaldo-Assyrians, Faili Kurds, Jews, Mandaeans, Palestinians, Shabaks, Turkomans and Yazidis. Many of these groups have lived in Iraq for two millennia or more. Though they have survived a long history of persecution that goes back far beyond Saddam Hussein’s rule, there is a real risk that they might not survive the current conflict. Because they are caught up in violence between the majority Sunni Arab, Shia Arab and Sunni Kurdish groups, and are also specifically targeted for atrocities, assimilation or mass displacement and exodus, some may now be facing total eradication from this ancient land. These communities are invisible in the eyes of the world.