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A Book Review… A Culmination Of James Likoudis’ Pilgrimage

January 19, 2017 Featured Today No Comments


A signed copy of Heralds of a Catholic Russia: Twelve Spiritual Pilgrims From Byzantium to Rome ($19.95) can be obtained by ordering directly from the author: James Likoudis, P.O. Box 852, Montour Falls, NY 14865.

I first met James Likoudis during a visit to Rome in 1996 — though I had corresponded with him for several years before our initial meeting.
Over the last 18 years, I have been blessed by his friendship and his scholarship. I have learned a great deal from him, and, in particular, from his writings concerned with Catholic and Eastern Orthodox relations.
In many ways, this present volume is the culmination of Likoudis’ own spiritual and intellectual pilgrimage, a pilgrimage that started when as a son of Greek Orthodox immigrants in Lackawanna, N.Y., he began a serious inquiry into where the visible center of the Church Christ established could be found. This search led James Likoudis to enter into the Catholic Church in 1952.
Both he and his wife, Ruth, upset their respective families when they became Catholic. In spite of this initial opposition, they felt that the Catholic faith is “the pearl of great price.”
The stories told in the present volume make for inspirational and fascinating reading. They reveal how an honest search for the true Church of Christ led twelve different Byzantine Orthodox pilgrims to embrace the See of Rome as “the pearl of great price.”
While several books in recent years have traced the road to Rome on the part of Protestant and Evangelical Christians, this is the first book that I know of that shows how prayer and study — along with the guidance of the Holy Spirit — have led some outstanding Orthodox intellectuals to enter into full Catholic communion.
The present collection includes some better-known figures, such as the Russian philosopher Vladimir Soloviev (1853-1900), as well as some lesser-known but equally compelling figures, such as Madame Swetchine (1782-1857), the Jesuit Ivan Gagarin (1814-1887), Princess Elizabeth Volkonskaia (1838-1897), and Blessed Leonid Feodorov (1879-1935).
Like the last, the Rumanian Blessed Vladimir Ghika (1873-1954) also died a martyr in a Communist gulag. Dr. Irene Posnov (1914-1997) and the Greek teacher Helle Elpiniki Georgiadis (“Ellie)” (1916-1996) were pioneers in a genuine ecumenism as editors of publications.
In reading through these stories, several common themes emerge. One is the recognition of a type of Caesaropapism present in the Russian Orthodox Church of the 19th century. The combination of Russian nationalism and secular power over the Church was perceived as a persistent problem by souls wishing to belong to the Universal Church of Christ on Earth.
Another is a reaction to the unbalanced and sometimes vitriolic anti-papal polemics set forth by all too many Orthodox writers in Russia and Greece. When Russian intellectuals such as Soloviev undertook a serious study of Church history, they realized that this anti-papal attitude does not harmonize with the view of the Bishop of Rome held by the Eastern Fathers.
Finally, there is a persistent appeal to logic. If Christ established one Church on Earth, does not the universal authority claimed historically by the Bishop of Rome make sense? Does not the Universal Church need a central doctrinal authority to teach and govern effectively? Does not the deep religious soul of Russia need a center beyond the limits of Russian nationalism and anti-papal polemics?
Along with these common themes, there is an overriding one: the maternal love of the ever-virgin Theotokos for Byzantine Christians separated from full Catholic unity. In chapter XIII of the present book, Likoudis ties the 1917 apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima to the conversion of Russia. He sees that this conversion can mean nothing other than full unity with the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
The fact that the Blessed Mother appeared in 1917, the year of the Communist Revolution in Russia, is significant. It’s also significant that Our Lady of Fatima showed a special concern for Russia, a country where Orthodox Christians for centuries have honored her as the ever-virgin, all-holy, immaculate, most blessed and glorified Mother of God.
In addition to the mention of Russia to the three Portuguese children in 1917 — who did not even know where or what Russia was — our Lady in 1929 revealed to the visionary Lucia her desire for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart by the Holy Father, the Pope of Rome.
This request, as Likoudis shows, was fulfilled by Pope John Paul II’s March 25, 1984, entrustment of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in union with the Catholic bishops of the world. Five years after this consecration, the Iron Curtain collapsed and greater freedom for Catholics in Russia was made possible.
The fact that Our Lady of Fatima called upon the Roman Pontiff, the visible head of the Catholic Church, to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart shows how the Mother of God, so beloved by the Russian Orthodox, also wishes them to come into full communion with the Catholic Church under the Successor of Peter.
The connection of Fatima to the conversion of Russia to Catholicism might not sit well with certain Catholic ecumenists who do not believe that Catholics should be seeking “converts” among the Eastern Orthodox. If, though, the Blessed Mother wishes Russia to convert to full Catholic unity, who are these ecumenists to protest?
The 12 stories in this book are stories of “heralds of Catholic Russia.” They reveal how the Holy Spirit was moving in the hearts and minds of Byzantine Orthodox Christians during 19th and 20th centuries to show how full communion with the See of Rome is the will of Christ and His all-holy Mother. These heralds point to a Catholic Russia, a Russia which will be a great blessing for the universal mission of the Catholic Church.
On August 6, 2000, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued its declaration, Dominus Iesus, on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church. In n. 17 of this declaration, there is a succinct summary of the Catholic understanding of the importance of the Primacy of the Successor of Peter for the single Church of Christ on Earth:
“Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.”
As can be seen, Churches such as the Russian Orthodox — because they reject the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy of the Successor of Peter — are deprived of full communion with the Catholic Church. This is a tragedy because the rejection of papal primacy sets them against a divinely instituted primacy which, “according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.”
The stories in this volume are inspirational narratives of how 12 Byzantine Orthodox Christians recognized “the will of God” in the Catholic doctrine of papal primacy and infallibility. James Likoudis, author of three works and many articles dealing with Eastern Orthodoxy, has provided a great service in making these accounts better known (including the story of his own entrance into the Catholic Church).
It’s been over 30 years since St. John Paul II entrusted Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us pray that this act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary will awaken more souls to be heralds of a Catholic Russia — which is the will of God and His all-Holy Mother.
(Robert L. Fastiggi, Ph.D., is a professor of systematic theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, Mich.)

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