Monday, March 13, 2023

A look back on the first twelve years of the pontificate of BishopRutherford I

By A. DiNardo

FIRENZE-NUOVA ROMA 13 March 2023 (NRom)

The last twelve years of the pontificate of Bishop Rutherford I of Rome-Ruthenia witnessed a substantial restoration of the traditions of the Orthodox and Old Catholic faith, of the promotion of Christian civil society, and a wealth of production of liturgical, ethno-cultural, and historical works. The autocephalous Orthodox Old Catholic Apostolic See of Saints Stephen and Mark provided and continues to provide a beacon of stability, reflecting the light of Christ, through some of the most challenging times in modern history.

The various branches, affiliates, and missions of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church are found on every continent except (currently) Antarctica. Its clergy and people have provided humanitarian support, medical care, spiritual comfort, education, and advocacy for many people across the socio-economic spectrum on a global scale. During the 2020-2022 global pandemic, the church was active in a wide array of service, not the least of which was oriented towards the most vulnerable people around the world and the impact the pandemic had on them.

The Apostolic See also revived its seminary, Pontifical Georgian College (formerly St. George Theological Seminary); established the Pontifical Apostolic Library to archive historical books, documents, artifacts, and other works; built the modern Pontifical Walsingham Guard on the long military heritage of the Church's temporal heritage, serving as a modern ceremonial and humanitarian organization; the development and expansion of the Noble Company of the Court of St. Mary of Walsingham as a cultural and charitable nobiliary association within the Pontifical Court; formalized and perpetuated an important part of the legacy of King Peter II of Yugoslavia; revived and established orders of Christian chivalry; and, most importantly, building on its history and heritage, re-built a spiritual and temporal nation without borders that unifies the Church's heritage, religious expression, and culture of both eastern and western Christianity, serving as an example of brotherhood to all. 

The United Roman-Ruthenian Church, as a sovereign entity, also provides both local and high-level government policy advice and engages in diplomatic activity around the world. The temporal patrimony of the Church was also restored, under the unified name of the Pontifical Imperial State of Rome-Ruthenia. This integrated state is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic nation today without borders that is heir to the Roman Empire and the Pontifical Kingdom of Ruthenia (Russia/Rus’). Its goal as an ethno-religious minority is the perpetuation of faith and culture. In 2019, the United Roman-Ruthenian Church, under the name of its non-profit foundation (United Roman-Ruthenian Church, Inc.) was admitted as an organization in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

The Pontiff said, “The accomplishments of Our See are due to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the faith and good works of Our team. We seek to build the Kingdom of God on earth for the greater glory of God. And, we preserve the ethnic and religious heritage of our culture, not as antiquarians, but to carry it into the future. Those who are here for their own mercenary interests or to promote the interests of some other group never last, while those who are here to serve God find a lasting home.”

The United Roman-Ruthenian Church is among those few churches in the world that are privileged to branch in Apostolic succession from the Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Old Catholic, Melkite Catholic, Syrian Antiochian Orthodox, Syrian Malankara, Armenian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Uniate, Melkite (Greek) Catholic, and Chaldean (Babylonian/Iraqi) Catholic Churches. The most recent Patriarchs of ancient geographical Churches from which the Apostolic See of Sts. Stephen and Mark descends are both from the 20th century: Sergei, Patriarch of Moscow (Russian Orthodox) and Yousef VI, Patriarch of Babylon (Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq). Part of the Church’s Roman succession is held in common with 95% the modern Vatican Church (Roman Communion) today, but the United Roman-Ruthenian Church also has much older lines as well, including the famous lines of Medici, Barberini, and Borghese. As a Church of united Apostolic heritage spanning East and West, it evokes memories of the Church before the Great Schism one thousand years ago and points to a Christian unity that often seems today like an elusive goal. On this, Bishop Rutherford said, “Satan tries to destroy the Church from within, making Christians fight amongst themselves, often over silly trifles.”

Among its most significant spiritual, cultural, and historical successes, the Apostolic See reestablished the Gallican Rite of the Catholic Church, in collaboration with the Merovingian Dynasty, and, drawing on its joint Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Apostolic heritage and authority, established approved the Gallo-Russo-Byzantine Rite and the Anglican-Byzantine Rite, all under the Catholicate of Rome-Ruthenia.

The accomplishments of the Apostolic See over the last twelve plus years also include compiling and publishing numerous liturgical books, with the See now publishing all of the books used in the liturgy throughout the entire United Roman-Ruthenian Church through its publishing house, St. George Seminary Press. That includes the entirety of the liturgical books and instructional material for the Gallo-Russo-Byzantine and Anglican-Byzantine Rites, as well as the earlier Anglo-Roman and Gallo-Roman (Gallican) Rites. 

Celebrating its 15th modern anniversary, with two millennia of history, the United Roman-Ruthenian Church is poised to carry the unified eastern and western Christian heritage and the model of traditional Christian society into the future.