Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Nationalism in the Contemporary Orthodox World

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, when visiting London in 1994, he spoke about the thorny question of nationalism in the contemporary Orthodox World. He described the way in which Orthodoxy, since the 19th century, favoured the individual ethnic histories in respect to the ecumenicity of Orthodoxy. His All –holiness stated that:

“We must recover our Orthodox faith and heritage and proclaim its virtues. […] The genesis of nationalism involves selective memory; and in the case of the Orthodox countries nationalism has favoured past periods of ethnic glory over the combined splendour of Orthodox civilisation. We lament this imbalance. Without the Church, we of the Orthodox tradition can never have more than a lop-sided, skewed, and incomplete view of who we are. The emphasis on national or ethnic heritage has had the effect of fragmenting the family of our ecumenical civilisations – from Russians and Georgians to Albanians and Romanians. This is particularly disturbing because nationalism is a phenomenon with disastrous consequences. The holy Orthodox Church searched long for a language with which to address nationalism, amid the strife and havoc this new ideology created in the Orthodox lands of Eastern Europe and for much of the nineteenth century. In 1872 the Holy Synod issued a definitive condemnation of the sin of phyletism, saying, ‘We renounce, censure and condemn racism, that is, racial discrimination, ethnic feuds, hatreds and dissensions within the Church of Christ’. Today, more than a century later, nationalism remains the bane of our ecumenical Church. It is time for us to begin to reconcile nationalism and ecumenism. […] And in this the Orthodox diaspora can lead the way – for the diaspora lives constantly on the borderline of civilisations, and is forced to reconsider questions of identity all the time”[1].  

[1] Kendal, Gordon, “Fellowship Affairs”, Sobornost, Volume 16: Number 1, 1994, p. 98

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