Opportunity: Hopes for the See of St. Mark

It happened in the 5th century.

Loss of support, loss of community—severed ties—and now, with centuries between us, but not time, a chance for unity.

Chalcedon was a momentous event in history for many reasons, one of which has implications that affect lives around the world today—the split of the Orthodox Church. Though many think of the Orthodox church as the Eastern church—those that lay claim to the austerity of faith on Mount Athos—the Orthodox faith was molded and rooted very deeply, and primordially, in what is now classified as the “Oriental Tradition”—more specifically in and around Egypt. Holding it’s own significance traditionally as a place of refuge the Lord Himself sought after, Egypt’s longstanding deep religious traditions and fidelity to Orthodoxy—whether it be in faith or practice—has made it a place of religious significance and importance.

With the election of the new successor to the See of St. Mark, there are high expectations and real questions for the Papal-elect. Outside of having a growing Orthodox diaspora and the task of succeeding a leader that most of the living world today only ever knew as Pope of Alexandria, His Holiness Tawadros will have to deal with the issues of political turmoil, civil unrest, and economic turbulence in a country that is politically—not to mention economically or socially—structured to defeat the people he shepherds.

In a generous statement Monday November 5th, 2012, a mere 24 hours after his official election, His Holiness spoke words that struck the hearts of many and raised the bar for the role of religious leaders around the world. He offered himself as “servant” and “resource” for all the people of Egypt.

While one might not initially see the gravity of this position, it needs some serious insight to understand the dichotomy here. His Holiness Tawadros has expressed his opposition to an Egyptian constitution (one being drafted over the coming weeks) that is overtly religious. He is obviously combating the desire of the Egyptian higher-ups to write a constitution that is based totally and fundamentally in Sharia Law. And to then, with all that has been formerly said taken into account—the civil, political, economic, and social unrest and violent persecution of his people—offer himself as a “servant” to all the people in Egypt?

I believe it was with this move that His Holiness established the attitude with which he hopes to shepherd His people—and attitude that has love and the gospel of Christ at it’s core, and one, that is fundamentally rooted in the long-standing tradition of peace and unity that Egypt has always tried to support.

One might wonder why it is that I initially wrote about Chalcedon. It is because I believe that as Pope, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II will need to make it an absolute priority to unite the churches.

 “A Kingdom against itself cannot stand” Mark 3

In my opinion it is crucial that we find support in our Orthodox brethren around the world. It is with this support that our voice will resound—echo—around the world. Christ Himself preached to us this message and it has never been more true. I feel that it is especially important that His Holiness makes unity a priority because we have been divided against ourselves

Chalcedon happened thousands of years ago, and has severed ties between the rest of our family in Christ. Dialogues have taken place; bible studies between distant orthodox family members have convened; communion has been shared—but this is not enough. We need to rekindle the fire that has been kept suppressed for far too long.

I believe it is with His Holiness Pope Tawadros II that these severed ties can be mended and that unity can be restored. Orthodox Family can finally stand together, in fidelity for causes, supporting each other around the world, and I believe that it needs to be His Holiness’ priority to put unity in Christ under the agenda of his Papacy.

Jesus’ words strike a distant chord with some, but an all too real one with me: In John 12, Jesus says “I will draw all men unto me.” As his disciples, he has charged us—commanded us—to work towards this unity. I believe that this is what Christ lived, and died for—to draw Jew and Gentile, man and woman, free and slave—all men—“unto Him” with no division.

Garnering support, love, and prayers must be our collective goal, and, as I would posit, a priority for His Holiness’ reign. That we might glory in Him together, separated by centuries, but not by time.

The time is now.

Christopher Awad
Fordham College Rose Hill
Theology Major

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