Archdiocesan delegation joins Greek Orthodox celebration of patron saint

BROOKLINE -- The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston continued a shared ecumenical tradition by hosting representatives from the Archdiocese of Boston, Nov. 29, to celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral Center Chapel in Brookline.

Since 1996, it has become a tradition for the Orthodox Metropolis to invite Catholics to their celebration of the patron of Constantinople, and the archdiocese to invite Orthodox to celebrate the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, patron saints of the Church of Rome.

Auxiliary Bishop Arthur Kennedy led the delegation from the Archdiocese of Boston. The Greek Orthodox Metropolis and the Archdiocese of Boston's Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs also invited ecumenical pilgrims who took part in a 2007 pilgrimage to Rome, Constantinople and St. Petersburg to participate in the vespers service.

In his homily at the service, Father Dean Panagos spoke of the current successors to the apostles Peter and Andrew.

"I can imagine St. Peter looking upon his successor Francis, striking a note when he said; 'I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,'" he said.

"I can imagine St. Andrew looking upon his successor Bartholomew, listening to the cords of the Archdiocese Byzantine Choir chanting hymns in honor of Andrew in the Church of Saint Irene while hearing the voice of Turkish government officials calling for Saint Sophia, located adjacent to Saint Irene, to become a mosque again."

Associate director of the archdiocesan ecumenical and interreligious office Vito Nicastro said the traditional exchange of delegations rings of the family connection between St. Peter and his brother St. Andrew.

"If the patron of the See of Constantinople -- first in primacy and honor among all of the Eastern Orthodox Churches -- if the patron of that see is the brother, as he was, to Peter, the patron of the first see of the Roman Catholic Church, then shouldn't the Orthodox and Catholics also be brothers?" Nicastro said.

The exchange mirrors a tradition established between the two Christian communities in Rome and Constantinople.

Following an improvement in relations between Orthodox and Catholics after the Second Vatican Council, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople began sending a delegation to Rome for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, patron saints of the Church of Rome. In return, the Vatican sends a delegation to Constantinople for the Feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Greek Orthodox Mother Church of Constantinople.

"The significance of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, led by His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios, inviting a delegation from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, led this time by His Excellency Bishop Arthur Kennedy, is a gesture of fidelity to the Lord's will that we be one and the pursuit of Christian unity," Nicastro said.

As the custom continues next June, a representative from the Greek Orthodox Church is to attend a Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on the feast of St. Peter.

"It's a celebration of how much we have in common in our faith, which we received from the apostles, and it's also a very special heritage of the Churches of Boston, built by Metropolitan Methodios along with Cardinal Seán and his predecessors, the previous cardinals of Boston," Nicastro said.