Text of Reply to Cardinal Bea by Orthodox Observer to Council

Following is a translation of the reply to Cardinal Bea’s speech by Archpriest Vitaly Borovoy, observer-delegate at the ecumenical council for the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow and for the Orthodox Church of Georgia.

 

There is something deeply symbolic and providential in the fact, which might at first sight seem fortuitous and insignificant, that the reply to the subtle French speech, brilliant in content and distinguished in style, by a high representative, Augustin Cardinal Bea, S.J., of the Catholic Church, German in origin and president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, should be given by a Russian in the name of the observer-delegates and guests of the secretariat, who represent here, at this second session of the Second Vatican Council, the various Christian Churches, the denominational unions and the associations of Churches, a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, Belorussian by birth, occupying a modest place in the Church and very limited in his oratorical powers, owing to the simplicity and spontaneity of his Slavic soul and to the frank expansiveness of his Russian character.

There is, however, in this exterior pattern of fortuitous coincidences, if one looks more closely, a special interior significance, a historical logic and a spiritual harmony.

There is an admirable hymn, in the treasure which belongs to us all, Christians of the ancient Church, for Pentecost, which says: “When the Most High descended, the people were divided, but when the Most High descended with tongues of fire, He called them to unity. United we glorify the Most Holy Spirit.”

Two great phenomena in the history of mankind are here recalled, contraposed and contrasted.

One is the building of the Tower of Babel, that is to say the process of dispersal, of the individualization and division of mankind, when God, because of the pride which fought Him, descended and confused the people’s tongues and divided them.

And on the day of Pentecost, when God, having distributed the tongues of flame — the individual gifts of the Holy Ghost — to each of those present in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, by this profoundly individualizing act called them all back to unity, so that, as it is said in another liturgical prayer of antiquity: “From a single mouth and a single heart, in communion each with the others, together they glorify the Holy Ghost.”

Most Reverend Eminence, together we bear witness to this great fact: the whole history of Christianity in our era is the history of the action and of the working of the Holy Ghost on us and on our Churches, calling us to unity, helping us to understand the necessity and the urgency of this task and compelling us, at times even against our good intentions, to continue our march along this divine road, which is salutary for all of us.

All Christian Churches, all denominations of Christianity throughout the world are at present engaged in this great movement which has already passed into history under the conventional and not very precise name of ecumenism. This name does not completely render the whole depth of this process and does not encompass it completely, nevertheless this name has become a historic symbol of our contemporary pan-Christian reality.

Most Reverend Eminence, we are happy to be able to communicate to the Church which sent us, to the denominational unions and to the associations of Churches that, here in Rome, we are witnessing the way with which our Roman Catholic brothers, at the Second Vatican Council, are seeking, through prayers and great pastoral zeal, the best means for renewing their Church and for starting a brotherly dialogue on a footing of equality with the other Christians to “praise together the Most Holy Spirit.”

We fully realize and we gratefully appreciate the important role and the great responsibility, which, within the Catholic Church, falls on the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, on you personally, Eminence, and on your immediate collaborators in the fulfillment of this task which is dear to all of us.

In expressing our gratitude to you and your co1laborators for the hospitality and for the constant solicitude in working with us in all matters which concern us or which are of interest to us, we would like to say to you, Your Eminence, and through you to the whole of your secretariat, that we are always ready to help our Roman Catholic brothers in anything which may contribute to rapprochement and union among all Christians, so that we may “with a single mouth and a single heart” glorify together the Most Holy Spirit.

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