One of the emerging Orthodox theologians in the world today is a Frenchman who lives in Ukraine. His vision of ecumenism.
Antoine Arjakovsky is Orthodox, but he has become a professor of theology at a Catholic institution, the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine. His cultural background and formation — he grew up in the Russian emigre community in Paris, Fiance — have made him one of the leading young Christian theologians in the world. After serving for a number of years as a French diplomat in Moscow and Kiev, his life is now directed toward ecumenism: healing the divisions in the Church. He is married and has two children.
Why does Antoine Arjakovsky, an Orthodox Frenchman, work at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv?
ARJAKOVSKY: It seems to me that there is a similarity between the Orthodox living in the West, in France, and Greek Catholics living here. We Orthodox are a minority in France and live in a Roman Catholic land, and here Greek Catholics live in Slavic territories which are mainly Orthodox. In France, the intellectuals who came from Russia after the Communist Revolution in 1917, Sergei Bulgakov. Nikolai Berdiaev, Lev Shestov, had contacts with Emmanuel Mounier and the French intelligentsia. In tsarist Russia, there was censorship, but in France, they were free, wrote what they wanted, and that is why what we call the “Eucharistic revival” in the Church appeared, and this changed the life of Orthodoxy a great deal. When I first visited the Ukrainian Catholic University, which was then the Lviv Theological Academy. I saw and felt the same spirit of freedom – acting in a real society, in real life. 1 saw that living spirit here.
I had worked in the field of higher education in Moscow, in the French embassy in Kiev. I had seen various universities, but the best Christian university is here. I can confirm this one hundred percent and give the reasons.
What Orthodox Church do YOU belong to?
ARJAKOVSKY: I am an Orthodox of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. When Stalin demanded that Russian emigres accept the declaration of 1927 [Editor's note: In July 1927, Metropolitan Sergius, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, issued a declaration that the Church would support the Bolshevik government; in turn, the state allowed the Church to hold liturgical services], my grandfather and grandmother agreed to the position of Bishop Evlogius, who asked Constantinople for protection. About 95% of Russian Orthodox parishes passed then from the jurisdiction of Moscow to the jurisdiction of Constantinople.
You have lived in Ukraine for quite some time. Ukraine is a country with a very peaceful Christianity, the Kievan tradition, a very tolerant Church. What can you say about modern Kievan Christianity in Ukraine?
ARJAKOVSKY: It is strange, of course, that they say constantly in the West that there is war here. On the contrary, the process of the revival of Christianity is underway here. When journalists came here during the papal visit, one of them, a friend of mine, an American working for American television, wanted to show areas where conflicts exist between the Orthodox of the Moscow Patriarchate and Greek Catholics. And he could see that, in reality, perhaps there were problems in six or seven places in Western Ukraine. Many then could see the great disinformation about the events in Ukraine and the existence of political reasons behind it.
On the other hand, it is true that Christians both in Ukraine and all over the world are in great tension now. We live in a time when ecumenism has entered a very deep crisis. There are many reasons. The period of theological dialogues, where questions of ecumenism are considered only by the specialists, is coming to an end. There exists also the ecumenism of life. There are many problems, many expressions of ecumenism, which have not been integrated into the notion of ecumenism so far. What we call the “golden chain of saints’” is ecumenism. We all know that saints are together. It is impossible to think that little Theresa does not communicate with Seraphim of Sarov. There is ecumenism in marriages between Catholics and Orthodox. It is life. But this is not discussed by theological committees. It becomes obvious that the new ecumenism is the ecumenism that replaces the ecumenism of symbolic signs of the 1960s and the ecumenism of theological dialogues of the 1960s to 1990s. The time has come for ecumenism of life.
Source: INSIDE THE VATICAN. – Jan, 2006. – P. 36-37.