21 July 2017

‘Repentance is current and radical’

Archbishop Anastas (Janullatos) of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania

There is an article on Pemptousia providing some excerpts from Archbishop Anastas of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania’s address to the World Council of Churches. His Holiness Anastas does not pull any punches at all when it comes to diagnosing the ills of the modern œconomy: as you can see, he makes the case with great conviction, moral force and prophetic power. Here are some quotes from his address:
Respect for the human person has been replaced by the high-handedness of impersonal institutions and forces. Stress on the freedom of the individual has given way to emphasis on the freedom of the market. So, from being a society of free persons, we have reached the point where entire peoples are candidates for enslavement to impersonal groups, anonymous money traders, who are basically regulating the œconomies of entire peoples, who are known as ‘markets’. These give money an independent existence as an abstract ‘accounting’ value and trade it. Among the complex mazes of globalisation, new structures of the financial system of a ‘virtual œconomy’ have been created, which are beyond the control of any state or other political institution. On the other contrary, decisions by these nameless dealers, whose identity is carefully hidden, can devastate states and nations, condemning millions of people to unemployment, and society to squalor. So the whole global œconomy is now living through a dreadful structural crisis of the financial system, which is the most cogent proof of the crisis of values in society.
On the responsibilities of the Church in the European œconomic crisis and the immiseration of southern Europe at the hands of the north, and the attitudes of the north toward the south, Archbishop Anastas also has a few strong words to say:
In this painful financial crisis, the Church cannot remain a mere spectator. It has to be outspoken in giving prophetic utterance directed at three issues:
  1. Bold criticism of the members of our Churches for an attitude which is inconsistent with the Gospel principles, for their participation, to a great or lesser extent, in injustice and social corruption. Mobilisation, with creative initiatives, of the parishes, the various ecclesiastical groups and organizations, for the immediate relief and assistance of the weakest members of our society. Thank God, in this area there is already serious Church activity.

  2. The expression of resolute criticism of the materialistic ideals and systems that are producing injustice generally and the financial crisis in particular. An effort to influence the political leadership. An invitation to eminent scholars and œconomists to work out solutions which would include respect for persons and the identity of peoples, and solidarity with them. The general concept of the human being and creation has been radically subjected to notions of self-indulgence. The Church is being called upon to defend the dignity of the human person as an image of the personal God, and also the sanctity of creation as God’s handiwork. The way of thinking that has people as masters of creation who therefore have the right to abuse the natural environment is not simply mistake, but, from an Orthodox standpoint, sinful. According to the Christian faith, people are an organic part of creation and ought to treat it with respect.

  3. Local Churches have the opportunity to demonstrate mutual support, with a greater impact on the societies in which they live. For example, influencing the peoples of Northern Europe towards understanding and solidarity with the struggling societies in the South of the continent. And, vice versa, restraining the feelings of bitterness and frustration of the œconomically weaker peoples of the South at the arrogant behaviour of some of the œconomically more robust European states. Examples could multiply, clearly, because of the disparities which exist all over the globe between the œconomically powerful and weak states. The Churches in the rich societies have no right to keep silent – sometimes, indeed, to concur – and leave room for the chorus of dismissive voices insulting the peoples who are in trouble.
Archbishop Anastas on why it is simply not enough to engage in vague moralising:
If all we do is repeat the phrase ‘crisis of values’, we risk becoming lost in vagueness. The Church, ‘again and again’, is called upon to name, emphasize and point out these enduring values which have global validity: justice, in the clear sense of ‘So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them’ (S. Matthew 7, 12); also truth, self-determination, the importance of moderation; efforts towards reconciliation; love in all its expressions and dimensions.
And what is the greatest source of danger to environment and œconomy, apart from corruption, greed and mendacity?
The greatest danger is self-love, egocentricity, enslavement to our ego, worship of our individual interests, those of the family, the locality, the nation. The antidote to this is justice, together with mutual support and self sacrifice. The secret of finding one’s self is to offer it. Emphasis on and the experience of this value remains the Church’s greatest contribution: support for the grieving, even if they are themselves responsible for mistakes and omissions. No other institution can offer love and self-sacrifice. To the classic ‘cogito ergo sum’ (I think therefore I am), the Church, drawing on the best pages of its history, adds: ‘I love therefore I am’, based on the model of the existence of the Holy Trinity in love and interpenetration.
And finally, some historical perspective:
This is not the first time the Church as been faced with crises. The tragic conflicts and experiences of the world wars in the twentieth century awakened consciences and led to the abolition of colonialism, of the fascist systems and of racist ideologies. In the course of great trials, when societies reach the end of their tether, rare virtues arise in people’s hearts, such as love of the truth, bravery, tolerance, forgiveness, self-denial, justice and altruism.
I have no doubt that the usual sourpusses in the usual jurisdictions will dismiss everything His Holiness has to say on the basis that he is (supposedly) a dirty rotten œcumenist who has dared to have anything at all to do with the ritually-unclean World Council. But he has made reference only to ‘enduring’, traditional Orthodox principles: the Golden Rule, the call to askesis, the Church’s role as moral guide of the state, rejection of materialism and, most of all, the praxis of true metanoia; in short, he has given voice to the Gospel and the Way of Our Lord Christ. The Church as a whole would do very well to listen to Archbishop Anastas.

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