Catholics, Orthodox gather for solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

Emulating the traditional visits between the pope and the Greek Orthodox patriarch on the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Bishop Walter J. Edyvean was joined on the altar by Father John Maheras, the representative of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, and celebrated vespers June 29 at West Roxbury’s St. John Chrysostom Church.

Bishop Edyvean was representing Cardinal O’Malley who was unable to attend due to meetings at the Vatican.

In his remarks Bishop Edyvean said, “Pope Benedict XVI this morning, in greeting the delegation sent by the ecumenical patriarch, said of the annual reciprocal visits that they are a sign that the search for full communion is always present in the will of the ecumenical patriarch and the Bishop of Rome.”

To reciprocate this visit to the Roman Church, each year the pope sends his legate to the Greek Church on the feast of St. Andrew, Nov. 30, Bishop Edyvean noted. In 2006, the pope made the visit himself.

“Faith in Christ and the veneration and invocation of the saints unite Orthodox and Catholics even now as complete unity, which will be God’s gift, has not yet been given us,” he said. “In Boston we are especially fortunate to have the custom of mirroring here in our local setting the exchange of friendship.”

The location of the visit varies year to year. In September, the archdiocese is sponsoring another form of these visits with a pilgrimage to Rome, Istanbul and St. Petersburg, the bishop said.

The pilgrimage was originally slotted for 100 participants, but is now oversubscribed with an additional 25 on the waiting list, said Vito Nicastro of the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

In his welcoming of the congregants, Father David C. Michael, pastor of St. John’s announced that to commemorate the solemnity a parishioner painted an icon of Sts. Peter and Paul, which was displayed in front of the altar.

“I know the creator of an icon is supposed to be anonymous, but I did want to publicly thank Larry Perry,” Father Michael said.

After the service, Perry said over the years he has created dozens of icons, a craft he learned as a student at the Massachusetts College of Art.

The process took Perry roughly 60 hours, he said, most of which was dedicated to the preparation of the wood before painting.

It had been a while since his last icon, but as a member of the host parish, Perry wanted to make a special contribution to the visit, he said. Every Easter, Perry fashions and donates the Easter candle.

In his own remarks, Father Maheras said that although he carried Metropolitan Methodios’s regrets at not being able to attend the vespers service, he was grateful to have the opportunity to attend in his place with his Catholic cousins.

“Let the theologians figure out the differences and we will just get along,” he said. Father Maheras works in the Metropolitan’s Ecumenical Office.

Yet, before he left the pulpit, Father Maheras made one point a clarification.

Smiling, he turned to Father Michael and said, “I want to teach you a little Greek Orthodox theology: An icon is not painted--it is written. The artist creates it to tell a story.”

Father Michael smiled back.

It was another small example of how ecumenical understanding is built.