Addresses and Statements

Address to His Eminence (Most Rev.) Makarios Griniezakis, Archbishop and Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of Australia

13 Nov 2021

on the occasion of the award of the Order of ΦΙΛΟΧΡΙΣΤΩΝ (“Christ Loving”) to (Most Rev.) Anthony Fisher O.P.,

Metropolitan Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney,Cathedral of Our Lady of the Annunciation Sydney

Your Eminence Archbishop Makarios Griniezakis, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of Australia, Your Graces Bishop Iakovos of Miletoupolis, Bishop Emilianos of Meloe, Bishop Elpidios of Kyanea, and Bishop Silouan of Sinope, auxiliary bishops of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese;

Your Graces Archbishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay of the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, Archbishop Amel Nona of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand, Bishop Robert Rabat of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand, and Bishop Richard Umbers, Auxiliary Bishop of the Latin Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney;

My reverend brother priests in Christ Jesus our beloved Lord and Master; Mr Nicholas Arhondonis, brother of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome, and Mrs Arhondonis; and Friends all:

First, on behalf of all the Catholic bishops, clergy and faithful of Australia, congratulations to His Eminence on the birth of his episcopal quadruplets! To Your Grace Bishop Kyriakos of Sozopolis, consecrated this very day, and Your Graces Bishops-elect Christodoulos of Magnesia, Evmenios of Kerasounta and Bishop-elect Prochoros of Charioupolis; and a promise of our prayers as you prepare for your consecration as bishops and for your new ministry as shepherds of Christ’s flock.

Secondly, on behalf of your guests, my thanks to all those hosting this very generous celebration and for providing such delicious hospitality to us. It is a tribute to the love and respect between the Churches of Constantinople and Rome, to the long-standing friendship between the Orthodox and Catholic people in Australia for two centuries now, including during the tenure of Your Eminence’s illustrious and long-reigning predecessor, Archbishop Stylianos, of happy memory. Another signal of this closeness is the presence tonight of relatives of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who is a true champion of ecumenical and inter-religious relations, of human rights and ecology, above all of our Christian faith. All this is a promise of further exchange of gifts and even closer collaboration on those many issues where our joint voice counts for much.

Thirdly, my heartfelt thanks to Your Eminence and the Greek Church in Australia for the very great honour that you have bestowed on me tonight in naming me to the Order of φιλόχριστον, the Christ-Loving. It is a tribute not only to the relationship between our two Churches but also to the personal friendship that I have already come to enjoy with you, my brother Makarios, to your big mind and heart and soul. Being a voice for faith and morals can be a lonely task in a civilisation that has lost its way in many respects—but it is so much easier and more effective when our two Churches are comrades in the joint mission of bringing Christ to this land.

One of the principal marker events in the history of Orthodox Christianity in Australia took place in March 1820, when the famous Russian explorer, Baron Thaddeus von Bellinghausen and his Antarctic research ships Vostok and Mirnyi, put into the Port of Sydney. It was a Russian naturalist attached to that expedition who first discovered gold in Australia! But even more importantly, on 27 March 1820, Sydney residents were intrigued to see the Vostok at Kirribilli Point lit and festooned, the crew in full parade uniform, as the ship’s chaplain, Fr Dionysius, commenced the Paschal services of the Byzantine Rite.[1] As divine providence would have it, that same year the first two official Catholic chaplains to the colony of New South Wales, Fathers Phillip Conolly and John Joseph Therry, arrived and immediately set about building a chapel of St Mary at Hyde Park to celebrate the Holy Mass in the Roman Rite, which chapel evolved into my cathedral and the mother church of Australia.

NSW was still a very Protestant colony in 1820. The Governor, law officers and other major officials had to swear at oath before assuming office that the substance of bread and wine do not change into Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Apart from occasional celebrations by convict priests or passing ships’ chaplains, the lack of priests and Mass was a particular hardship for the growing number of Catholics after 1788 and the scattering of Orthodox Christians from 1809. Whatever divided Catholics and Orthodox in Australia in 1820—or before or since—they were and are united in their hunger for the Divine Liturgy.  

The fathers of the First Ecumenical Council of 325 and the Second of 381 proclaimed the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed as the symbol of faith for Christians. Still to this day, that Creed is an authoritative summary of our beliefs for use in theology, catechesis and the Divine Liturgy. In the Byzantine Rite churches, it is sung or recited immediately before the anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer) at Mass and also at Compline; in the Latin Rite churches, it is sung or recited immediately after the homily—perhaps to correct any heresy the priest has preached! It is also professed before assuming an office such as Bishop. Not that the creed mentions bishops, but when the 318 bishops at Nicea and 150 at Constantinople confessed our faith εἰς μίαν, ἁγίαν, καθολικὴν καὶ ἀποστολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν they were, among other things, telling us what it means for ours to be episcopal Church.

Àποστολικὴν Ἐκκλησίαν: the Church is apostolic and our four new bishops are successors of the apostles. Unlike other Christians, the Orthodox and Catholics insist that Christ appointed the Twelve, the apostles ordained the first bishops by prayer and laying on of hands, those bishops ordained the next generation, and so on right down to the world’s newest bishop—Kyriakos. But to be Apostolic is about more than genealogy: it is about belonging to the Church Christ founded upon the Apostles, a Church still taught, sanctified and guided by them, a Church that knows the continuing relevance of her historical foundations and traditions. It is to proclaim the Apostolic tradition that our two Churches work side by side as sisters seeking to evangelise Australian culture so much in need of the Holy Gospel.

Καθολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν: the apostolic Church is also Catholic. Some think ‘Catholic’ is a brand name for one variety of Christians, as if Catholics were not Orthodox and the Orthodox not Catholic! Some Catholics probably have been more concerned about global reach than doctrinal fidelity; some Orthodox more concerned about theological purity than missionary outreach: but we must both care about faith and mission. The true meaning of ‘Catholic’ is being ‘universal’ both in the sense of ‘for all’ and in the sense of each part ‘in keeping with the whole’. If the communion between individuals, churches and traditions is bound to be imperfect, we are ashamed nonetheless that divisions between us prevent us from realizing the fullness of catholicity and undermine our proclamation. Dark spiritual forces, social forces, forces within us, seek to divide us. Yet it is only together that we will achieve all we should under grace—giving witness to Christ, proclaiming the icon of faith, converting people to both, and building a society with Christian wisdom on issues such as marriage, abortion, euthanasia, catechetics, gender ideology, and religious liberty even in times of pandemic. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church recognises, of all Christian churches the communion between the Catholic and Orthodox churches is closest; it is “so profound that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist.”[2]

Àγίαν ἐκκλησίαν: the Catholic and apostolic Church is also holy. After so many scandals in recent decades and such frequent infighting through the centuries, it seems a bold claim. Yet as St Thomas Aquinas explained, to profess faith in the holiness of the Church is not to praise the members but rather Christ the Head and His Spirit constantly at work in them.[3] By that action of God we see extraordinary fruits in the lives of some Christians, in the conversion of sinners and innumerable works of beauty and charity. The Church gathers sinners, already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to holiness: if they live her life, they are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall. Prompted by divine signs and popular piety, the Church canonises some as saints, models and intercessors: the most holy Theotokos, the God-bearer, Mother of Christ and of the Church, above all; the apostles also, and so many since. In them the Church has already reached the holiness to which she is called and by her action others are drawn into the communion of saints. My four new brothers must be holy men who make men holy.

Finally, μίαν ἐκκλησίαν: the holy, Catholic and apostolic Church is one. To profess the Creed is emphatically to declare that there is only one Church of Christ, not millions as there are of faithful in the world, not thousands as there are of dioceses, not hundreds as there are of ‘denominations’. The Church is one because there is one God of whom she is the sacrament, one Lord who is her master, one Spirit that inspires and sanctifies her. There will always be diversity of rites, cultures, personalities, gifts: unity is not uniformity. But as Origen of Alexandria pointed out: “Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies and disputes; where there is virtue, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.”[4] On the night He was betrayed, the Saviour prayed His priestly prayer for unity among Christians, “that they may all be one, Father, as you and I are one” (Jn 17:20-23). How He weeps at the divisions between us! As St Cyprian of Carthage taught us: as we receive one Body in the Eucharist to unite us, so the greatest gift we can give back to God is our unity in “peace and fraternal concord” as one family with the saints.[5] I pray that our four new bishops, led by my dearest brother Makarios, will join me in seeking ever greater unity between our communions.

To profess the Church as one, holy, Catholic and apostolic is to celebrate that past for which we give thanks, to articulate our present faith and mission as bishops, priests and faithful, and to declare our future hope that we may be ever more truly what Christ intended us to be. That is what Australia needs from us. So I thank you all once again for honouring me and your sister Church in the beautiful way you have tonight; in being for me examples of the kind of Christian, priest and bishop I must be; and in being my friends and support in the great mission of the Church today.  ἡ χάρις τοῦ Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ ἡ κοινωνία τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος μετὰ πάντων. ὑμῶν (2Cor 13:13: The Grace of your the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amēn.)

[1] 65054_downloaded_stream_279.pdf;;

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church #838.

[3] St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, 1, 9, 5.

[4] Origen, Hom. in Ezech. 9, 1.

[5] St Cyprian of Carthage, On the Lord’s Prayer 23.