An enlightening interview with Bishop Kallistos Ware on trending and popular issues involving Christian faith, like: Orthodoxy’s message for the West, the special gift of prayer of the Orthodoxy, divorce and remarriage, Pope Francis and divorce, same-sex marriage, order of women deacons, ordination of women to the priesthood.
„The impression that most people have is that Orthodoxy lives in the past… and we, indeed, often say that we are the Church of Holy Tradition… They say: ‘you live in a pre Enlightenment era, in the spirit of the Middle Ages and that is not relevant’.
My task was to try to show that we, Orthodox, have a message for the West: we do not merely say to our Western brothers and sisters: ‘we are your past’, we have also to say: ‘we are your future’.
In the postmodern world, the special of Orthodoxy is the gift of prayer. And that takes to basic forms: we have the Divine Liturgy and we have a rich tradition or inner mystical power, centered, particularly, upon the Jesus Prayer.
I believe, we, as Orthodox, in our tradition of liturgical and/or inner prayer (Jesus Prayer), have a vital contribution to make to the world at large as well as to the Christian community.
Our talks must firmly say: ‘marriage signifies a union of one man to one woman, a union that is for life, indeed, for eternity’.
But at the same time we recognize that we humans are fallible, that we make mistakes, and so when marriage breaks down, in the Orthodox Church, we do allow divorce and we do allow remarriage.
We allow people to have a second chance. We feel we must show towards them the compassion of Christ showed in the Gospels…
I’m interested that the new Pope Francis has even suggested that perhaps the Roman Catholic said something to learn from the Orthodox here…
We cannot, as Orthodox, accept the idea of same-sex marriage, but we recognize that there are people with homosexual orientation.
And though we cannot say that a union between two men or two women is the same as Christian marriage, we should treat such people with pastoral understanding and try to help them…
In the past, the role of woman was chiefly within the family, as wife and as mother… we live in a society where women also play a part in public life in a way that they did not do in earlier ages, and our church life should reflect this. Therefore, there is a full place for women to serve on parish councils, in the administration a parishes, in the teaching work of the Church.
Where we need to look more closely is: should we revive the order of women deacons, deaconess? That existed in the early Church, that was never abolished…
We have of course the further difficult question of the ordination of women to the priesthood. The overwhelming majority of Orthodox, today, say that is impossible, it could not even be considered… But, I myself feel that for the Orthodox this should be treated as a open question. That does not mean I am in favor of the ordination of women to the priesthood. I don’t find the arguments in favor convincing, but I am not really convinced by the arguments against either… And it is my belief that there is a mystery here that we have not fully explored, we have not fully explored as Orthodox what is the ministry of women in the Church and why can they not be ordained to the ministerial priesthood.
It would perhaps be better for us Orthodox not to say it is impossible, but to say let us reflect further on this. We have not gone deeply enough into it and there is much more to be said then so far has been said. This, I think could be a more humble and realistic attitude for us Orthodox to take.