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The latest in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue:

WASHINGTON – Although the 1995 encyclical “Ut Unum Sint” by Pope John Paul II helped with Catholic-Orthodox relations, more progress could be made with a nudge from the man currently occupying the chair of Peter, according to an Orthodox bishop who has been part of Catholic-Orthodox dialogues for more than a decade.

“Ut Unum Sint” “was certainly helpful,” said Metropolitan Kallistos. “As an Orthodox, I was surprised and moved at Pope John Paul II when he openly asked for the help of others to understand his role and his primacy as bishop of Rome to the universal church.”

The retired British-born Greek Orthodox metropolitan, raised an Anglican, spent much of his ministry teaching at Oxford University.

In the encyclical, titled in English “That All May Be One,” the pope acknowledged that while Catholics view the bishop of Rome as “visible sign and guarantor of unity,” the notion of that papal role for the universal church “constitutes a difficulty for most other Christians.” He asked theologians and leaders of other churches to help him “find a way of exercising the primacy” that could make it a ministry of unity to all Christians.

But the document was silent on what Metropolitan Kallistos called “regional primacy” – a significant issue to Orthodox, who are generally organized along national or ethnic lines, such as the Greek, Russian, Romanian and Serbian Orthodox.

“In the 1960s, Professor (Joseph) Ratzinger – that’s what he was then – talked about the need to build up ‘patriarchal spaces,’“ Metropolitan Kallistos told CNS in a Feb. 15 interview. That priest-professor is now Pope Benedict XVI.

“I would like to see the pope repeating today what he said 40 years ago, if he’s of the same opinion,” Metropolitan Kallistos said.

Frankly, I’m not sure much comes out of talk like this any time soon, but every little bit helps.

I have a friend at work who recently was received into the Orthodox Church.  When we’re out of earshot of our more, ah, secular-minded colleagues, I like to put on my best Godfather voice and say, “We’re gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse.”  To which he replies, “Yo, Peter! Nice chair! Be a real shame if something happened to it!”

I also, on occasion, will follow up with, “Filioque – boogie-boogie-boo!”

We both think this is highly amusing.

Whole Earth Catalog Über-environmentalist Stewart Brand: Masses of close-packed, miserably poor people are a good thing!

The magic of squatter cities is that they are improved steadily and gradually by their residents. To a planner’s eye, these cities look chaotic. I trained as a biologist and to my eye, they look organic. Squatter cities are also unexpectedly green. They have maximum density—1m people per square mile in some areas of Mumbai—and have minimum energy and material use. People get around by foot, bicycle, rickshaw, or the universal shared taxi.

Not everything is efficient in the slums, though. In the Brazilian favelas where electricity is stolen and therefore free, people leave their lights on all day. But in most slums recycling is literally a way of life. The Dharavi slum in Mumbai has 400 recycling units and 30,000 ragpickers. Six thousand tons of rubbish are sorted every day. In 2007, the Economist reported that in Vietnam and Mozambique, “Waves of gleaners sift the sweepings of Hanoi’s streets, just as Mozambiquan children pick over the rubbish of Maputo’s main tip. Every city in Asia and Latin America has an industry based on gathering up old cardboard boxes.” There’s even a book on the subject: The World’s Scavengers (2007) by Martin Medina. Lagos, Nigeria, widely considered the world’s most chaotic city, has an environment day on the last Saturday of every month. From 7am to 10am nobody drives, and the city tidies itself up.

I love the euphemism “chaotic”, used here I suppose because “packed like sardines and desperately clawing to keep within visiting distance of the subsistence line” is too wordy.  And “minimum energy and material use”, indeed.  Look, Action, these people don’t wake up in the morning and ask themselves how they can better contribute to the greening of their world by pawing through filth and rubbish for whatever scraps they can lay their hands on.  No, they do these things because they don’t have any choice in the matter!! Recycling is “literally a way of life” for them only in the sense that if they didn’t do it, they’d die.  Slowly and painfully at that.

I know it’s Lent and all and I should be concentrating on being more charitable, but nonetheless I just can’t help saying it: Goddam hippies!


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February 2010