Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is NOT an excommunication
On March 16th, 2011, a statement concerning Vassula was released by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. There was no discussion between any representatives of the Patriarchate with Vassula or any supporters of TLIG immediately prior to this statement. For most of us it came as a complete surprise, and has caused some anxiety. Readers of the TLIG messages who belong to the Orthodox Church have, no doubt, been asking themselves what this announcement means in practical terms.
Critics of Vassula and the TLIG messages see this announcement as a condemnation or a rejection of Vassula and her writings. There is some disagreement about the correct English translation of the announcement and, no doubt, there will be similar disagreements about its translation into other languages. It is important to know exactly what is being said. When the first Notification regarding Vassula and TLIG was issued from an office of the CDF at the Vatican, many Catholics were deeply disturbed and confused. They wanted to know what it really meant.
As we all know, Cardinal Ratzinger gave an interview to the journal “30 Days” in which he said that the Notification is not a condemnation but a “warning”. Since then there have been repeated attempts by Vassula’s critics in the Catholic Church to make the Notification into something else. A similar attempt was made with regard to a letter from Cardinal Levada. It has become necessary for some amongst us to enquire into the status of such things. Catholics need to be reminded, perhaps, that the most authoritative teaching document in the Catholic Church, leaving aside dogmatic definitions either from the Pope “ex cathedra” or from ecumenical councils, is the encyclical. With regard to disciplinary measures and statements, there are clear procedures to be followed, and in the case of judgements regarding a person’s writings or teachings, a formal hearing and discussions with the person concerned are a normal part of such procedures.
As we know, Vassula was allowed to reply to the questions posed by the Notification, and the official response to her answers is that they are “useful clarifications”. Since Cardinal Ratzinger then insisted that Vassula’s response should be printed in the books containing the messages it seemed obvious to many of us that both the messages and the Notification need to be read in the light of those answers.
How should we interpret the statement from the Patriarchate? Some knowledge of Orthodox Canonical procedures would be helpful. There are already some people trying to make this announcement into something else. No doubt we will have to face the angry comments and criticisms of people who do not understand the messages and know very little about Vassula. As we are told in the messages, we must not retaliate with anger although it is necessary to be strong in the face of such criticism. If the messages are authentic, we have the promise of Christ that such persecution will not last and so we can recommit ourselves to read and meditate on the messages each day, trying to put them into practice, praying for reconciliation and showing those around us that we really believe that humility and love are the keys to unity. Perhaps these problems can be seen in a positive light in that they test our resolve and our mettle. It is through such things that we can gain strength as we trust in the power and guidance of The Holy Spirit. As always, we must pray for Vassula and for those who are closely supporting her in this present trial.