Theologian Father Paul Haffner suggested the Orthodox clergy, in unity with the Catholic Church March 25, pray the ‘Akathist to Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos,’ a devotional hymn that sings the praises of the Holy Mother of God.
VATICAN CITY — As Pope Francis prepares to consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Friday, a Rome-based theologian has proposed the invitation be extended to all the Orthodox patriarchs and bishops.
Father Paul Haffner, a mariologist and scholar of Eastern Orthodoxy, has suggested the participation of the Orthodox on the basis that they “are already in a close bond of communion with Rome but, as we know, they lack unity among themselves in this situation, so this might help heal their rifts, too.”
He noted a March 3 article by CNA’s Andrea Gagliarducci, who observed an apparent “shift in the Orthodox world towards Kyiv and away from Moscow” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and that “previous tensions are being canceled by the common belonging to a people and by the idea of sharing a common destiny.”
In comments to the Register, Father Haffner stressed that the Orthodox Churches are also “sisters with the Catholic local Churches” and so “a high degree of communion exists.”
To underline his point, he cited a “Note on the Expression of ‘Sister Churches’” issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2000 and the Second Vatican Council’s decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio (“Restoration of Unity”). The document refers to “the Eastern Orthodox Churches, which, though separated from the See of Peter, remain united to the Catholic Church by means of very close bonds, such as the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, and therefore merit the title of particular Churches.”
Although they have a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin, Father Haffner acknowledged that the Orthodox “might not be very sure about consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary” as they do not have such a devotion, just as they are without a specific devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But he said “they could still pray all the same using the Akathist to Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos — a devotional hymn that sings the praises of the Holy Mother of God.”
St. Romanos the Melodist composed the poem, one of the most beloved services in the Orthodox Church, in the imperial city of Constantinople — “the city of the Virgin” — in 556. The words of the hymn recall all of the events of Our Lord’s Incarnation and conclude with a prayer to the Virgin Mary to accept the act of praise as an offering and to intercede for the salvation of souls.
Pope Francis will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, at a celebration of Penance service at 5pm in St. Peter’s Basilica.
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