Friday, September 23, 2016

A Sacred Dream: The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom before the Holy Sudarium of Manoppello on September 18, 2016

photo by Daniel Ibañez (CNA)

originally published on September 22, 2016 at

By Paul Badde

It was a single word that brought about the decisive split between the Eastern and Western churches which appeared in May 581, at the Council of Toledo, when the bishops of the Visigoth kingdom added the Latin word "filioque" to the – then 200 year old – Catholic creed of the Council of Nicea-Constantinople. In English, the word means: "and the Son". Ever since that day, Christians of the West pray in their creed: "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son", whereas in the Eastern Churches to this day they pray: "We believe in the Holy spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father". This addition first attained the rank of dogma under Pope Benedict VIII, and then again in 1215, by which time alienation between East and West had substantially increased.

However, it was but this single word that became both a stumbling block and a milestone in the separation process between the Eastern and Western Church. Thousands upon thousands of highly erudite words only further deepened the rift and never could heal it.

And now, on Sept 18, under the radar of all news channels, a single image brought the Eastern and Western Church together in a way that arguably has never happened before. On this Sunday, in the small town of Manoppello in the Abruzzi mountains, 70 Orthodox bishops celebrated, together with two cardinals and many Roman Catholic bishops and clergymen, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom before the image of the "Holy Face". The holy veil had been hidden for more than 300 years in a side chapel of St Michael's Church, until, after the great earthquake of 1915, it was publicly displayed for thirst time again, in the year 1923, over the main altar of a newly constructed building, where it can be visited and adored every day. 

Now, ten years after the visit Pope Benedict XVI. on 1 September 2006, this visit of a mixed Orthodox synod, together with their Latin brothers, marked a most significant event in the process of re-discovery of this mysterious, original icon of Christ. It had long been worshiped in Constantinople as "Hagion Mandylion", and later in Rome as "Sanctissimum Sudarium", before it was also given the name of "Sancta Veronica Ierosolymitana".

Archbishop Forte, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri (photo by Daniel Ibañez - CNA)

Now, there were metropolitans and bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (from Finland, Estonia, Crete, Patmos, Malta, Great Britain, America, Australia, the Exarchate of the Philippines, from Europe and from Mount Athos) and patriarchs, metropolitans and archbishops of Alexandria, Antioch, Damascus, Jerusalem, the autonomous Church of Mount Sinai, and the Orthodox churches of Russia, Georgia, Serbia, Cyprus, Romania, Greece Poland, Albania, Czech Republic and Slovakia, which came before the Holy Face and celebrated the Eucharist. Only the Bulgarian Church had sent no representative. The antiphons of the wonderful liturgy were in Italian, Russian, Greek, English, Romanian and French.

 In his homily, given in English, Metropolitan Job Getcha of Telmessos, who headed the service as representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, praised the "image of Christ, not made by human hand" of Manoppello. He pointed out that – according to some scholars – the Image is identical with that of the Soudarion from the Gospel of the Resurrection according to John, while another tradition holds that a certain Veronica wiped the face of Jesus with this veil on his way to the Cross, though she is not mentioned in the canonical Gospels.

Metropolitan Job Getcha of Telmessos (photo by Daniel Ibañez -CNA)

Archbishop Bruno Forte from nearby Chieti knows that neither bloodstains nor any residue of  paint can be found in the veil. It had been his idea and initiative to bring the bishops before the face of Christ, which he likes to praise as the "North Star of Christendom". He invited the group to Manoppello and had given the visitors a scholarly introduction on the bus trip from his diocesan town of Chieti to Manoppello.

In Chieti, the pilgrims had all participated in the 14th General Assembly of a joint International Commission for Theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. They had discussed a document entitled "Towards a common understanding of synodality and primacy in the service of the unity of the Church". It was a debate that began in the previous plenary meeting in the Jordanian capital Amman in 2014 and was continued in 2015 in Rome. The Commission is the official organ of the theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, founded in 1979, which unites 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches, each represented by two theologians who are mostly bishops, together with Catholic representatives. And now the same group practically traced, as a synodal pilgrimage, that first spectacular step towards the face of Christ that Benedict XVI undertook ten years ago, against much resistance, the first pope to do so after more than 400 years.

His successor Pope Francis later - on Nov 30, 2014 flying from Istanbul back to Rome - told journalists travelling with him:  "Be careful: the Church does not have a light of its own. She needs to gaze upon Jesus Christ! On that path, we must move forward courageously." And following on this path, the Divine Liturgy before the Divine Face this Sunday became a milestone of reconciliation on the way to unity. Heavy rainfall had been announced. But only a few drops ended up falling.

photo by Paul Badde

"Pray for the Christians in the Middle East as you pray before the Holy Face. They are suffering unspeakably", an Oriental bishop said right after the final blessing to the German sister Petra-Maria Steiner, who introduces countless pilgrims to  the mystery of the light of this image in Manoppello. Earlier, at the conclusion of the celebration, Anatoliy Grytskiv, Protopresbyter of Chieti, had hailed the "miracle" of the encounter in a passionate summary in Italian.

Whereto from here? "We continue approaching the face of Christ," Cardinal Kurt Koch told CNA outside the main entrance of the Basilica after the celebration. "Probably only in view of the face of the Redeemer may unity come about. But surely it will be difficult. After all this is like a divorce, after you have grown apart – it is hard to get back together. In this case, however, a thousand years of separation are standing between us."

"Yes, but fortunately it is said in the Scriptures: A thousand years are like a day with the Lord", Sister Petra-Maria responded, with a smile, to the sober skepticism of the Cardinal. "Perhaps now the new day of unity arises. With God, nothing is impossible. Perhaps today we have seen the dawn of this new day. This new beginning is as thin and delicate as the Veil of the Volto Santo."

Were it so, the image of Christ would indeed have briefly bridged that abyss on this Sunday, an abyss carved out, like a primeval river, by the countless words between East and West, a Grand Canyon into the very foundation of Christianity.

At those very depths, the holy "sudarium" might yet intervene, in a healing fashion, in the ancient  Filioque controversy about that first word of separation. For if the veil, as John writes, was indeed lying in the grave of Christ, on the face of the Lord, it must also have absorbed the first breath of the Risen One - when the Spirit of God woke Jesus Christ from the dead - as that Spirit that is the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Rome, September 19, 2016

(Translation from German into English: Anian Christoph Wimmer)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Homily by Archbishop Job of Telmessos at the Orthodox Divine Liturgy Celebrated at the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello

Homily at the Orthodox Divine Liturgy
During the 14th Plenary Session of the Joint International Commission of Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches
Manoppello Sanctuary, September 18, 2016.

Eminences, Excellences, Reverend Fathers, Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

On this Sunday after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we heard the words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ addressed to each one of us: “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mk 8:34). By His sacrifice on the Cross, our Lord and Saviour has offered himself once for all for the salvation of all, as we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews: “having been offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hb 9:28).

The mystery of our salvation has been accomplished by the sacrifice of Christ on the Golgotha and through His Resurrection. This event became the foundation of our faith as well as the central event of our ecclesial life. Through baptism, which is our incorporation to Christ and our entrance into this ecclesial life, we have participated in mystery in the death of Christ and in His Resurrection, and we have “put on Christ” (Ga 3:27). Therefore, we can appropriate to ourselves the words of Saint Paul in today’s epistle: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Ga 2:20).

As Saint John Chrysostom has noted, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ does not oblige us, neither constrain us to be saved, but invites us, through our free-will, to participate in His heritage. “If anyone wishes to come after me…” He says! In order to follow Him, we need to renounce to three things: first to deny ourselves, secondly to take our cross, and thirdly to follow Him.

To deny ourselves means to leave out our individualism, our egoism, and our egocentrism, which according to His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Albania is the greatest problem and danger in the ecclesial life. To take our cross means to be ready to die for Christ, to be a martyr, that is to be a witness for Christ and for His Gospel. We must therefore be courageous in the testimony we bring about Christ in our contemporary society. To follow Christ means to practice and to incarnate in our life all the Christian virtues, so that we might say that is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Ga 2:20).

Thus, by choosing freely to follow Christ, putting aside our egoism and egocentrism, being ready to witness Christ by every little deed in our daily life and reflecting thus the image of Christ around us, we will progress with Him on the path towards His Kingdom.

Today, with the blessing and on the invitation of His Eminence Archbishop Bruno Forte, the local archpastor of the local Roman Catholic diocese, we, the Orthodox members of the Joint International Commission of Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches have the great blessing to celebrate this Divine Liturgy here, in this sanctuary of Manoppello, where the holy relic of the image of Christ not made by human hands is kept since the beginning of the XVIth century.

According to some scholars, this veil corresponds to the soudarion, the cloth mentioned in the Gospel of John, that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head and that was lying separate from the linen in the empty tomb, after His Resurrection (Jn 20:7). According to another tradition, recorded in the Acta Pilati, this would be the holy face of Christ printed on a veil, the veil of Veronica. On the way to the Golgotha, Veronica encountered Christ and gave him a veil to wipe off the blood and sweat, and the image of His face was then imprinted on the cloth.

Venerating this holy relic of the Passion and of the Resurrection of Christ, which unites East and West, Jerusalem and Manopello, we are invited to encounter Christ by being His true disciples, by denying ourselves, taking our cross and following Him. We are called to receive Him in the Eucharist, and therefore, the sad situation that we, divided Christians, cannot share the same Chalice, as it is the case today at this Divine Liturgy, is a scandal and a wound in the Body of Christ that must be healed.

A very important and significant event in that perspective was the lifting up of the anathemas of 1054 between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople at the end of the Second Vatican Council on December 7, 1965. Since that significant event, our Churches are now standing in the situation they were before the imposition of the anathemas, that is a state of rupture of communion (akoinonesia), due to historical events and theological disputes. This state of rupture of communion has to be resolved through the theological dialogue our Churches have engaged into since 1980, which has precisely as a goal the restauration of the full communion between our sister Churches, through the resolution of theological disagreements.

As the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church has declared last June, “the Orthodox Church, which prays unceasingly for the union of all, has always cultivated dialogue with those estranged from her, (…) she has played a leading role in the contemporary search for ways and means to restore the unity of those who believe in Christ. (…) The contemporary bilateral theological dialogues of the Orthodox Church and her participation in the Ecumenical Movement rest on this self-consciousness of Orthodoxy and her ecumenical spirit, with the aim of seeking the unity of all Christians on the basis of the truth of faith and Tradition of the ancient Church of the seven Ecumenical Councils” (Relations, 4-5). This is why the Holy and Great Council has also underlined that “the Orthodox Church considers all efforts to break the unity of the Church, undertaken by individuals or groups under the pretext of maintaining or allegedly defending true Orthodoxy, as being worthy of condemnation” (Ibid., 22).

Eminences, Excellences, Reverend Fathers, Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

It is in this spirit that we, the Orthodox members of the Joint International Commission of Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church have come together with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters to Chieti, and are now working together towards a common understanding of synodality and primacy, one of the most delicate questions in the relationship between our two sister Churches.

May the Lord, whose image not made by human hands we venerate and who invites all of us to deny ourselves, take our cross and follow him, inspire our work for the unity and the glory of His Church, and for the salvation of His people. To Him, glory and adoration to the ages of ages. Amen.

Archbishop Job of Telmessos

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Orthodox Bishops Celebrate Divine Liturgy at Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello in Conjunction with the 14th Plenary Session of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches

text and photos provided by Antonio Bini

Today Sunday September 18 over 70 Orthodox and Catholic Bishops traveled to the Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello in conjunction with the 14th Plenary Session of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches.

 An Orthodox Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Basilica of the Holy Face by the Orthodox Bishops with Catholic Bishops in attendance.   During the liturgy prayers were offered in over ten languages, each representative of the 14 Orthodox churches expressed in their own language. The Our Father was recited in Italian.  At the side of the altar were Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, and Archbishop Bruno Forte, ordinary of the Archdiocese of Chieti-Vasto.

The altar of the basilica of the Holy Face was adapted to the Orthodox liturgical traditions.   The significance of the rite is implicit in the central icon of Christ at the base of the altar in close continuity with the Holy Face, the reference model for Russian-Byzantine iconography, confirming Christ at the head of  the one Church founded by Him.

It can be said that this day is the most important day for the Shrine of the Holy Face since the visit of Benedict XVI took place ten years ago. Father Anatoly Grytskiv, representative of the Orthodox Church in Abruzzo and Molise (of the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople) not surprisingly spoke of a "miracle" to describe the day at the conclusion of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.

The fraternity and the dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox continued outside the basilica. In the photo below the exit of Catholic and Orthodox bishops from the basilica is mixed with the entrance of a group of pilgrims from Poland (with handkerchiefs around their necks).  

We will follow with interest the conclusion of the XIV Plenary Session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue planned in Rome this coming September 22.

Archbishop Bruno Forte, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri at the Divine Liturgy today

Before the gathering in Manoppello Archbishop Bruno Forte of the Diocese of Chieti-Vasto, declared: "We are discussing during these days the way we conceive of the future union of our churches that is not a way of uniformity that eliminates differences but one of synodality, that is, a unity that values the differences in the communion which recognizes the unique role of the bishop of Rome at the service of all the churches. "

It is hoped that the encounter with the Holy Face, described by Cardinal Koch as "guiding light of Christianity", is a help in this process.

Photo by Paul Badde

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Pilgrimage Sponsored by Inside the Vatican Magazine Visits the Shrine of the Holy Face

text and photos by Antonio Bini

A number of pilgrimages, especially from abroad,  who were present in Rome for the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta at St. Peter's  (Sunday, September 4) also took the opportunity to come to the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello. On the day following the canonization the pilgrimage sponsored by the American Catholic magazine INSIDE THE VATICAN, together with its editor Robert Moynihan, visited Manoppello. Also present was Deborah B Tomlinson, director of the Urbi et Orbi Foundation.

The large group of pilgrims, including several Americans of Philippine ancestry, devoted an entire afternoon to visit, participating in the Mass celebrated by Fr. James O'Neal, priest of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida.  

Fr. James O'Neal
The  editor of the magazine himself, who a number of times in the past has concerned himself with the Holy Face,  described the contents of the exhibit and the relationship of the Holy Face with the face of the Shroud arousing the interest of those present.

Robert Moynihan explaining the exhibit for the pilgrims

The group arrived in Manoppello in the early afternoon, just moments after another group of American pilgrims, led by Fr. Jamie O'Brien, from Lawton, Oklahoma had just left the shrine.  Many other pilgrimages from the United States and Toronto, Canada connected to the canonization of Mother Teresa are expected until September 8.   Always precious the collaboration of Sr. Petra Maria Steiner.

It was an opportunity to exchange views on the current relations  between the Catholic church and the Orthodox churches, including in regards to the event of September 18, 2016 which will see the presence in Manoppello of a number of Orthodox bishops along with members of the joint international committee. 
Robert Moynihan before leaving thanked 
Fr. Carmine Cucinelli for his availability and for the welcome  shown to him once again.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Celebration of the Life of the Servant of God Capuchin Father Domenico da Cese in Manoppello on September 17

Basilica of the Holy Face, Manoppello (PE)

Father Domenico da Cese
Servant of God
Apostle of the Holy Face

on the 38th Anniversary of his death

September 17, 2016
3:30pm  Reception and showing of the Italian language version of the film on the life of Father Domenico,
  produced by Paul Badde and EWTN
  (Eternal Word Television Network)

 5:30pm    Holy Mass presided by the Archbishop of the diocese of Lanciano-Ortona, His Excellency Most Reverend Emidio Cipollone

Thursday, September 1, 2016

All Praise and Thanks to the Most Blessed Trinity for the Gift of the Holy Face

Ten years ago on September 1, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI made the first papal visit to Manoppello to venerate the Holy Face.  Since that time millions around the world have come to know the Holy Face.  A new era of the knowledge of the Good News of Jesus Christ began on that day.   

Pope Benedict's visit, followed by his decision to raise the Shrine of the Holy Face to the status of a basilica,  made clear that the Holy Face is an important reality -- for the whole church -- that the highest levels of the Church as well as people from around the world are looking to.   In the past ten years so many blessings have been received through the Holy Face and we can confidently expect, in faith, even more in the years to come.