Friday, March 18, 2016

Remembering Dennis Quinn and the Integrated Humanities Program

Today is the fifth anniversary of the funeral of Dennis Quinn, one of the founders of the legendary Integrated Humanities Program, a short-lived experiment in education which had wide-ranging ripples, influencing the University of Dallas in various ways and richly blessing the Church.  The funeral homily, by James Conley (then auxiliary bishop of Denver, now the bishop of Lincoln), is not only a spiritual exhortation but also a fitting tribute to the man and a moving evocation of the program's vision.  Thanks to A Draught of Vintage for providing the text.


My name is Bishop James Conley, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver and a former student of Professor Dennis Quinn and the Integrated Humanities Program here at the University of Kansas. On behalf of Father Abbot Philip Anderson, the Abbot of the Abbey of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek, the Prior, Father Francis Bethel, also former students of Dr. Quinn and the IHP, Father Steve Beseau, the current Director of the St. Lawrence Catholic Student Center, Msgr. Vince Krische, the long time former Director of the St. Lawrence Center and close friend of the IHP, I would like to extend our prayers and condolences to the Quinn family, especially to son Tim, daughters Monica and Alison, and to all the family on the death of your father, and grandfather, and our teacher and friend, Dennis B. Quinn.

In this penitential season of Lent, a season of prayer and penance, our thoughts and reflections are directed toward the Paschal Mystery of Christ, namely the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which we will celebrate as the culmination of our Lenten Season in Holy Week, particularly during the Sacred Triduum.

The Paschal Mystery of Christ is the mystery of God’s love for us, the love which redeemed us from our sins, the love that was nailed to the cross, the love that rose from the dead on the third day.

And we are all called by God to live this mysterious love in our lives; to imitate this love, to manifest this love, to radiate this love, in our thoughts, words and actions every single day. This necessarily means that we must die to ourselves daily. That we must die to the selfishness, to the pride, to the ingratitude, to the vanity, to the self-indulgence, to the sin which is “too much with us late and soon,” a part of our human nature. This is what Lent is all about.

Through our rededication to prayer in Lent, through our fasting, mortification and sacrifices, through our almsgiving and renewed generosity toward others, we shake off the “old self” and put on the new man once again, we put on Christ in a new way.

The readings chosen for today’s Mass of Christian Burial remind us of this. They remind us that we are but mere pilgrims in this world. That we are making our way through this world as fellow pilgrims who seek a kingdom that is real, but that is ever elusive and about which we only get glimpses along our way. Glimpses which inspire hope and remind us of our destiny. In spite of adversity and set backs we forge ahead as happy pilgrims, as our first reading from the Book of Wisdom just reminded us: “For if before men, indeed they be punished, yet their hope is full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed.” And, “Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love.”

And when that hope reveals itself as we pass from this life to the next it will happen, as St. Paul tells us, “in an instant, in a blink of an eye” and “that which is corruptible will clothe itself with incorruptibility and that which is mortal will clothe itself with immortality.”

And then we shall say: “Where, O Death is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” Or with the words of his beloved poet, John Donne: “Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so, for, those whom thou thinkest, thou dost overthrow, die not poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me!”

Dr. Quinn knew all of these truths and he taught them to his students. He taught us to see the world with the eyes of wonder. Nascantur in Admiratione: let them be born in wonder, the motto of IHP, that we might more easily see those glimpses, those manifestations of that kingdom, that invisible world, as Blessed John Henry Newman so often spoke about, so that this “invisible world becomes more real than the visible world which is constantly passing away before our eyes.”

In his forward to Dr. Quinn’s Magnus Opus, Iris Exiled: A Synoptic History of Wonder, the Jesuit, Father James Schall wrote these words: “To wonder about wonder is the vocation of Dennis Quinn.” This was his passion. Through the Integrated Humanities Program which he initiated and directed and fought to keep in existence, with the help of his two beloved colleagues, John Senior and Frank Nellick to be sure, but let it be known, the IHP would never have come into existence and would never have lasted as long as it did were it not for Professor Quinn who battled with the powers that be, to keep it going. Dr. Quinn taught us to have this same sense of wonder and love of learning, this same passion for truth, goodness and beauty, and this changed our lives forever! We were never the same! We were truly born again, as it were, in wonder. We saw the world in a different way.

Professor Quinn called this kind of learning “education by the muses” or the “poetic mode” of education. He introduced us to reality through delight. This opened a whole new world to us. A world that was filled with mystery and beauty, but also a world that was very real and tangible. This was not mere fantasy or dreamy idealism, as he once wrote in an essay: “Mistake me not: wonder is no sugary sentimentality but, rather a mighty passion, a species of fear, an awful confrontation of the mystery of things.”

This kind of education, education by the muses or poetic education was a participatory kind of learning whether it was through the poetry we memorized and then recited, the songs we would sing before class, the stargazing at night west of Lawrence, the Yankee trade fairs, the magic of the spring waltzes, the banquets and parties at the Castle Tea Room, the trips to Italy and Greece and Ireland — we participated in the thing itself, we experienced the reality of what we were learning. Again, to refer to Newman, we moved from the mere notional assent to the truth, where we understand things in a notional way primarily through the intellect, we moved to a real assent, to real understanding which engages our whole being. “The muses present life fresh, as if seen and experienced for the first time.”

Dr. Quinn put it this way in that same essay: “Education by the Muses is participatory. To sing a love song is not identical to being in love, but it is to participate somehow in that experience. When a child sees the twinkle of the star he knows it directly; when he chants the rhyme he knows the twinkling indirectly by participating in it. Poetry and music and even astronomy at this level are not to be studied but to be done!”

For many of us this kind of education disposed us to the gift of faith for the first time in our lives, and many of us converted to the Catholic Church. And this got Dr. Quinn and his colleagues into a lot of trouble with the university! They were accused of being conspirators in corrupting the minds of unsuspecting youth much like Socrates was. But this is what happens when you open yourself to the mysteries; grace may take hold of you and never let you go.

Yesterday, Monica was telling me a story about her dad that took place at a Belloc Society meeting at the Castle Tea Room. He was relating the fact that he had very serious back surgery in high school and nearly died from the procedure, a kind of meningitis type illness. He had to wear a brace for years. He mused that night at the Castle Tea that if he had died then, he would never have met Eva, his beloved and devoted wife. You children would never have been born and the IHP would never have existed. None of us would probably be Catholics. Clear Creek would never have come into existence. I would not be a bishop, and on and on and on. And he said this in a very humble and grateful way. He, too, stood in awe in what had happened in and through the IHP – what he would often call “an experiment in tradition.”

And this humility and this gratitude for what God had done in his life was always very present to him even to the end.

I remember our last IHP reunion very well in 2006. It took place east of the city Lawrence in the country and it was blazing hot Kansas summer day. Dr. Quinn had his traditional black leather Irish cap on and his trademark dapper tweed coat. Scott Bloch was serving as the emcee and he asked if Dr. Quinn would like to say a few words. Professor Quinn never missed an opportunity to speak! I remember this very well because he took the microphone without hesitation. We all know he always liked to take the center stage and was never at a loss for words! But this time he struggled mightily to form a sentence. We were all very quiet and nervous for him because we knew that his dementia was beginning to take its toll. But all of a sudden he spoke two very clear and coherent sentences: “Thank you all for coming. I am so grateful to have had such good students to teach.”

Even in those last years at the nursing home in Eudora, where his dear Alison took such good care of him, visiting him nearly every day, as did many others, he was always so grateful to the staff for every thing they did for him.

Gratitude and thanksgiving to God: in the end, this must be our prayer to God for his goodness and his grace to us through the life of Dennis Quinn.

And it is through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered for the peaceful and eternal repose of this faithful servant and extraordinary teacher that we can best express our gratitude. The gospel from St. John reminds us: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” Professor Quinn believed these words of Jesus and lived them in his life.

Dr. Quinn is no longer a pilgrim. His romantic quest for wonder has been completed. What were once mere glimpses and occasional insights are now seen clearly. He is face to face with the mysteries he taught.

And for those of us who are still on our pilgrim way we thank God for this great man and we pray for his soul. And we long for the day when we too might be reunited with those who have gone before us.

And, alas, for those who may still wonder what the IHP was all about, I leave you with the words of the man himself:

“Perhaps the mythology about the IHP is true after all. Perhaps we are conspirators. And our conspiracy may extend beyond the international to the celestial sphere; we are conspiring with the stars; we are conspiring with those spirits who inhabit the air not only in their books but in the living truths they caught less as doctrine and dogma than as a gleam of light. One could have far worse company. O co-conspirators of all the ages: Odysseus, great-improviser! Socrates, fellow corrupter of youth! Caesar and Aeneas, you Latin-lovers! Moses and St. Paul, God-struck! Roland, you chevalier! Chaucer, debonaire, and all our fellow pilgrims! Knight of woeful countenance! O sweet Prince! May all of you be with us yet!”
Requiescat in pace!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

This year, to supply you with Irish music on the one day of the year when it is on demand, I will show you a few videos that illustrate the influence America has played on traditional Irish music today.

Most of the earliest commercial recordings were actually made in America by Irish immigrants. Perhaps the most famous of these musicians was Michael Coleman, a fiddler born in Killavil, Co. Sligo who came to New York City in 1914. He soon found work as a professional player in vaudeville shows, and picked up many tunes that he recorded in a traditional style but to our ears today sound unmistakably like rag-time. Many of Coleman's records were sent back to Ireland, where young musicians were so enthralled that they copied his music note for note. Even today, musicians throughout the Irish diaspora will play sets that were first popularized  by Coleman.

One of those sets is of two reels: Bonnie Kate & Jenny's Chickens:



But, he could also play more graceful waltzes popular with the American crowds he played for:




Coleman's influence on the world of Irish music was so strong, not just because of his records, but also because of the fiddlers he taught. One of the most prominent of those students was Andy McGann, who recorded a number of albums in the 1970's, and who has a remarkably similar style as Coleman:



And that New York-Sligo fiddle style is still alive today, particularly in the playing of Brian Conway, who is shown here doing his own rendition of Bonnie Kate & Jenny's Chickens (with a third reel added to the set):



Another well-known musician who emigrated to New York around the same time was the Leitrim-born flute player John McKenna, who also recorded in the 1920's and 1930's. Here he is playing a polka with a distinct American flavor, "Tripping to the Well."




Finally, this old-time, rag-time-influenced style of Irish music has been making a comeback in recent years, after being going underground for a while in the folk revival of the 1970's. One of the positive aspects of this comeback (in my opinion) is that musicians are starting to dust off a lot of the old polkas and barndances that were nearly forgotten in the 1970's when a lot of bands pumped out only reels and jigs. A little rhythmic variety never hurt anybody!

Here is one new band, Morga, who can put on a great show (as I saw in Chicago last summer), playing a polka from the Roaring Twenties called "Fitzmaurice's Flight":



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

J.S. Bach's St. John Passion

In honor of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, one of the early exponents of historically informed performance who passed away on March 5, I am posting the following video of his performance of J.S. Bach's St. John Passion from 1985. Bach's St. John Passion is not as well known as his St. Matthew Passion. Nevertheless, the opening chorus is as powerful and moving as any other piece he wrote. The heavy emphasis on the lordship and glorification of Jesus Christ is a fitting meditation on his person and mission, especially since the Gospel readings at Mass for this time in the liturgical year (after Laetare Sunday and Passion Sunday) were traditionally drawn heavily from the Gospel of St. John. It may be a bit of a surprise, but some of the ideas to be found in the Lutheran Bach's work mesh very well with Catholic theology.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

If I Die a Horrific, Untimely Death...

There have been various reports and comments on claims that the FBI is unable to vet refugees coming from Syria, leaving us vulnerable to infiltration by ISIS. These are part of a larger debate about what we must do to stop terrorism, a debate that often begins with the assertion that if we do not implement a certain policy, we will be powerless to avert another ghastly terrorist attack. Let us lay aside our analytic doubts, and assume this assertion is true. Let us further assume that I would be among the casualties of such an attack.

If I die a horrific, untimely death at the hands of terrorists, let me go on record as having made a few requests. Do not use my death as a justification to expel refugees from our country or turn back those "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" who have not yet reached our shores.  (I rather doubt the Mother of Exiles would approve.)  Although highway accidents are far more deadly than terrorists, no one has yet called for the abolition of highways. Let us treat the afflicted of this world at least as well as our roads.

Although hypothetical, I do not take this position lightly. I have a wife and children to care for; I would not want to see them widowed and orphaned, even in a thought experiment. But I do not think I could look them in the eye and tell them, "I am here, able to love and serve you each day, because we have denied the demands of solidarity on the basis of fear (and a fear which is probably much overstated at that)." My children need a father, but they do not need a cowardly one. If I am willing to take up arms in defense of my country - and I am, should it truly come to that - I should also be willing to lay down my life while doing more prosaic things.

So if I die a horrific, untimely death, please pray for my immortal soul, bring to justice my killers, and leave the refugees alone.

Photo credit: The UNODC website.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Church on War and Peace

Like the previous post, this column originally appeared on the Truth & Charity Forum as part of their series on electoral issues.


The Catholic Church’s teachings regarding war and peace are challenging. While we happily affirm the general superiority of peace over war, violence has become so commonplace–abroad, on our streets, and in our entertainment–that it seems inevitable. We have accepted it as a problem to be managed and not an evil to abhor. But the Church calls us to a sharper moral awareness, one which actively strives for the good of peace, while permitting, in very limited circumstances, defensive warfare. Leaders and everyday citizens alike need to rediscover the mind of the Church in this matter.

The Good of Peace and the Evil of War

The Bible lavishly praises peace, which produces prosperity (Is 48:19, 54:13), takes away fear (Lev 26:6), and brings about joy (Pr. 12:20). The prophet Isaiah described Jesus as the Prince of Peace (9:5), a vision echoed by St. Paul (Eph 2:14-16). St. John Paul II explained that Christianity ushers in “a new model of the unity of the human race,… [a] supreme model of unity, which is a reflection of the intimate life of God, one God in three Persons.” Inspired by the peace of Christ and the unity of the Trinity, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church teaches that “working for peace can never be separated from announcing the Gospel.”

Vatican II reminded us that “peace is not merely the absence of war,” as contemporary society often understands it, frequently maintained by nothing more than a balance of power. Rather, peace is the order of tranquility. Recent popes have made clear that peace is predicated on respect for human rights, pursuit of justice, and the fostering of “a true culture of peace.” But even justice is not sufficient. In our fallen world of sin and injury, “true and lasting peace is more a matter of love than of justice,” as Pope Pius XI reminded us in 1922.

Just as the Bible praises peace, it clearly teaches that violence is the fruit of sin, a rupturing of the harmony that God created (cf. Gen 1:4-31, 4:1-16). The Church forcefully teaches that “violence is evil…, that violence is unworthy of man.  Violence is a lie,” as John Paul II put it. “Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings.”  Thus, any recourse to violence–and the Church does permit such recourse, in limited circumstances–must be understood as part of a larger failure of morality and of statecraft.

Waging Just War

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that states which have been attacked by foreign aggressors have the right–indeed the duty–to defend their people, even to the point of waging war. Likewise, the Compendium, following the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, explains that “it is legitimate [for those being oppressed] to resist authority should it violate in a serious or repeated manner the essential principles of natural law.” Nevertheless, it goes on to explain, “There can be many different concrete ways this right [of resistance] may be exercised; there are also many different ends that may be pursued,” ranging from legal changes to revolution or revolt.

In order for war to be legitimate, the Catechism identifies several conditions which must be met:

The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain. Paul VI noted that recourse should only be made to arms when there is a “manifest, longstanding tyranny which would do great damage to fundamental personal rights and dangerous harm to the common good.” Thus the Compendium specifically notes that “engaging in a preventive war without clear proof that an attack is imminent cannot fail to raise serious moral and juridical questions.”

All other means of putting an end to [the damage] must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective. The Church encourages “general, balanced and controlled disarmament.” While this may, in the long term, reduce conflict, arms control negotiations are apt to prove fruitless in the face of imminent hostilities. But merely because this tool cannot solve all problems does not mean that it is useless or that Catholics can simply lay it aside. In the short term, states have other tools to be tried or considered before war; among these the Compendium makes particular mention of sanctions. States can also employ both traditional and public diplomacy, while individuals and groups can engage in passive resistance in the economic, cultural, and political realms.

There must be serious prospects of success. The Church frequently warns of the propensity for violence to beget additional violence. The Compendium describes war as “an adventure without return” that “creates new and still more complicated conflicts.” Thus, any recourse to arms must be supported by robust diplomacy and intelligence, to adequately understand the situation, coupled with vigorous efforts to contain the conflict and ultimately bring about peace.

The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The Church has long taught that a just cause (jus ad bellum) is insufficient to make a war just; it must be accompanied by just conduct (jus in bello). As the Second Vatican Council put it, “the mere fact that war has unhappily begun” does not “mean that all is fair between the warring parties.” The Catechism teaches that “non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely” and that soldiers are obligated to disobey orders to commit genocide or other crimes against humanity. “The violation of human dignity can never be justified by military necessity or political strategy,” John Paul warned.

In addition to just wars waged by states, the Compendium also teaches that “the international community as a whole has the moral obligation to intervene on behalf of those groups whose very survival is threatened or whose basic human rights are seriously violated. As members of an international community, States cannot remain indifferent.”  Should all other methods prove fruitless, John Paul noted that it is “legitimate and even obligatory” in such circumstances, “to take concrete measures to disarm the aggressor.”  While such actions should be taken in accordance with international law, the Compendium clarifies that claims of national sovereignty alone do not suffice to prevent such international intervention.

Working for Peace

Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” (Mt 5:9).  As the Compendium reminds us, “peace is built up day after day” and is the duty of everyone.  In the spirit of subsidiarity, peace should be “a value rooted deep within the heart of every person. In this way it can spread to families and to the different associations within society until the whole of the political community is involved.” Authentic development–which includes not only economic concerns but also political, cultural, and spiritual–is one of the primary means by which peace is promoted, removing many of the underlying causes of war.

While admitting the occasional permissibility of war, the Compendium teaches that “the contemporary world too needs the witness of unarmed prophets, who are often the objects of ridicule.” Such individuals might be clergy or laity, missionaries or diplomats, journalists or aid workers. When thinking about both our everyday engagement with the international community and our prosecution of war, we must not only allow a place for such voices, but even encourage them and incorporate them into broader policies, lest we risk forgetting that just war is an exception and not the Christian norm.

Ultimately, the Christian search for peace is not simply a diplomatic or humanitarian effort, though it includes these. Jesus tell us, “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give” (Jn 14:27). We are reminded that “true peace is made possible only through forgiveness and reconciliation.”  This is something that requires supernatural grace. For man, it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible (cf. Mt 19:26). This is our hope and our calling amidst a broken world.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Church on Politics: Solidarity and Subsidiarity

With a fever pitch of political debate swirling about the various primary races, I thought it was worth reposting here a column that I wrote for the Truth & Charity Forum last month, as part of their larger series on election issues.

Solidarity and Subsidiarity

Much of contemporary political discourse consists of a debate between two camps: those who argue, “We need to do something about…” and those who contend that, “It’s not the government’s responsibility to…” The Catholic Church teaches that each approach, by itself, is inadequate. Ideologies derived from such sentiments should not be the yardstick of Catholic political activity. Rather, the Church presents to us two principles – solidarity and subsidiarity – which, together, provide a balanced and holistic means of thinking about political and social topics.

Solidarity is not a “feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 38). Nor is it simply interdependence, which is a circumstance in which we find ourselves, whether we like it or not (CSDC, 193). Rather, solidarity is an active concern for the good of society as a whole, as well as all of its individual members. Because all men are equal in “dignity and rights”, (CSDC, 192) all men have a legitimate claim on our concern.

In the life of Jesus, the Word Made Flesh, we have the ultimate model of solidarity: a God who stoops to become one of us, “like us in all things but sin” (Heb 4:15). He “takes on the infirmities of his people, walks with them, saves them and makes them one” (CSDC, 423). Jesus teaches us not to lord over our neighbors, but to love them, for when we love our neighbors we love Him (Mt. 20:25, 25:40). In the light of Jesus’ concern for all humanity, we discover that society itself, “despite all its contradictions and ambiguities, can be rediscovered as a place of life and hope” (CSDC, 196). As Christians, we are called to embrace society.

But human society is a broken place. Solidarity requires that we overcome the “structures of sin” which divide society and replace them with new structures that embody a “firm and persevering determination to [seek]… the common good” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 36, 38). St. John Paul II warned that the path toward overcoming structures of sin “is long and complex, and what is more it is constantly threatened because of the intrinsic frailty of human resolutions and achievements, and because of the mutability of very unpredictable and external circumstances. Nevertheless, one must have the courage to set out on this path, and, where some steps have been taken or a part of the journey made, the courage to go on to the end” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 38). The Church reminds us that we are “debtors of the society of which [we] have become part” (CSDC 195). Culture, scientific knowledge, and other goods – both material and immaterial – have been produced and shared with us by the rest of humanity, across generations and often across borders. Thus, solidarity is not an act of generosity on our part toward the less fortunate, but an act of justice.

Any Catholic thinking seriously about politics must bear in mind our fraternal concern for all mankind and the concrete ways in which it can be realized. The Church demands no less.

Complementing this teaching on solidarity is the doctrine of subsidiarity. Pius XI explained subsidiarity in this way: “It is an injustice,… a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do” (Quadragesimo Anno, 203). Or, as John Paul put it, “Needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbours to those in need” (Centesimus Annus, 48).

The Church’s long-standing affirmation of subsidiarity is rooted in her concern for families and the various local associations which naturally arise in human society (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1882). Such relationships among individuals promote creativity, strengthen society, and are the basis on which higher forms of social activity are built (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 15; Centesimus Annus, 49). Thus, the Church clearly teaches that the state should not impinge upon the legitimate freedom and responsibility of smaller bodies (CSDC, 186). While still affirming the importance of solidarity and of state support to local institutions, John Paul cautioned that overly centralized social programs can become dominated by bureaucracy, rather than fraternal concern, and, like big business monopolies, sap individuals and local organizations of their energy (Centesimus Annus, 48). Even when the state must carry out functions which it alone can provide, these “must not continue any longer than is absolutely necessary,” so that smaller associations are safeguarded (CSDC, 188).

Rather than simply offering a negative message – that the state should mind its own business – Christian subsidiarity should be understood as a call to strengthen and enliven local institutions, among them families, parishes, school boards, small business associations, artists guilds, charitable groups, and more. Such groups must be reminded that, though largely private in nature, they serve a broader function for the good of society (CSDC, 187). They are the primary means by which we fulfill our duties of solidarity. When parishes house the homeless, local businesses offer training to immigrants, or fraternal organizations raise money for their neighbors harmed by natural disasters, they are simultaneously living out both solidarity and subsidiarity.

This is the mindset of the Church. Though similar, at points, to some elements of contemporary political ideology, it is markedly different in its overall outlook, which is rooted in the dignity of individuals and our common good, which is ultimately found in God. Catholics voters, bombarded by increasingly shrill demands on their allegiances, would do well to take solidarity and subsidiarity to heart as they seek to provide faithful witness in the political and social sphere.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow

Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).

1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.

It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.

2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents.

It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way. The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, are the pledge of a great future for this region.

3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate. Among them are innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.

5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).

6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!

7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.

8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.

9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.

10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring lands.

We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.

11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Saviour of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, “the fruit of justice” (Is 32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocent to rest in peace.

We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:12–13).

13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, “since God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).

14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes. Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith. Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions. Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy.

Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side. Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.

15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom. It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.

16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.

17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.

18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27–29).

19. The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.

20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.

21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).

The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.

We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt 25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.

23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:14, 16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt 13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that “you have been purchased at a great price” (1 Cor 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man–God Jesus Christ.

24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.

We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another’s foundation” (Rm 15:20).

25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.

27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.

28. In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.

29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the Man–God Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32)!

Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10).

30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible Trinity!


Bishop of Rome, Pope of the Catholic Church

Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia

12 February 2016, Havana (Cuba)

Text courtesy of the Acton Institute's website.