Not only does Orthodoxy in Dialogue consider the following a newsworthy report to be shared widely, but it raises important questions of ecclesiology, ecumenical relations, and what exactly is envisioned by “Christian unity” generally and “reunion” between the Orthodox and Roman Churches specifically. What is the implicit message of one Church to another when it glorifies a saint for leading people out of communion with the latter into communion with the former? What does this say about the claim by some Eastern Catholics that they are already Orthodox? As usual, Orthodoxy in Dialogue poses difficult questions not to give offense but to promote heartfelt and honest discussion among brothers, sisters, and friends in Christ.
The possibility of canonizing Metropolitan Joseph (Semashko) of Vilnius and Lithuania, the initiator of the reunification of Belarusian Uniates with the Orthodox Church, was discussed at a press conference dedicated to the 220th anniversary of his birth and the 150th anniversary of his death on Tuesday. 2018 has been declared the year of Met. Joseph in the Belarusian Exarchate.
The primate of the Belarusian Church His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk stated that if Met. Joseph will be glorified, most likely he will be canonized as a Church-wide saint, rather than locally-venerated. Met. Joseph was a special person, his ministry being associated with many countries, reports the site of the Belarusian Orthodox Church.
Met. Pavel did note that he believes it is too early to speak of the canonization of Met. Joseph, although the nature of his missionary work testifies to his extraordinary abilities and considerable service to the Church and the people of God.
“At this stage, a collection and study of materials about the life and activities of Met. Joseph (Semashko) is underway. We are preparing materials, and when everything is done, the Synodal Commission for Canonizations of the Belarusian Exarchate will make a definite conclusion,” stated the archpastor.
Met. Joseph was born in Kievan lands, managed a diocese located in present-day Belarus and Lithuania, and was known in Russia. He initiated the reunion of the Uniates of modern-day Western Belarus and Eastern Poland as well as Lithuania with the Orthodox Church, and thus he would most likely become known as a Church-wide saint.
The Russian Council of Bishops, which met in Moscow in late November-early December, approved two great Belarusian ascetics for Church-wide veneration—St. George (Konissky), the Archbishop of Mogilev (†1795), and Righteous John of Korma (Archpriest John Ivanovich Gashkevich, †1917).
This brief report appeared on March 23, 2018 on Orthodox Christianity.
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