Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Inter-Orthodox Disagreements Impede Dialogue

Moscow Patriarchate Quits Orthodox-Catholic Talks
Churches Issue Document After Meeting Concludes

RAVENNA, Italy, OCT. 15, 2007 ( The Catholic-Orthodox panel that met to discuss the sacramental nature of the Church approved a joint document, but their meeting was marked by the withdrawal of the Moscow patriarchate from the discussions.

The week long 10th plenary assembly of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox ended Sunday. The group studied the "ecclesiological and canonical consequences of the sacramental nature of the Church -- conciliarity and synodality in the Church" and agreed upon a joint document, the Vatican reported today.

A communiqué from the panel affirmed that "the document offers a solid basis for the future work of the commission," noting that the work on the statement had already begun in September 2006.

However, a communiqué from the commission, made public at the end of the conference, explained that the head of the delegation from the Patriarchate of Moscow, Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Vienna and Austria, presented his Church's decision to withdraw from the discussions.

He said his Church was withdrawing because "of the presence thereon of delegates from the Church of Estonia, which has been declared 'autonomous' by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a status not recognized by the Patriarchate of Moscow," the Vatican press office reported.

This happened, the report continued, "despite the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with the agreement of all the Orthodox members present, had offered a compromise solution, that of recording the non-recognition by the Patriarchate of Moscow of the autonomous Church of Estonia."


A statement from the Russian Orthodox delegation said: "Before leaving the meeting, Bishop Hilarion addressed members of the Mixed Commission. In his address he emphasized that the delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate is unable to continue its participation in the meeting because it does not recognize 'the Estonian Apostolic Church,' which was invited by the Patriarchate of Constantinople […] Bishop Hilarion also underlined that the Moscow Patriarchate attaches great importance to the dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, and expressed his regret" at the impossibility of the Moscow delegation's participation in the meeting.

The Interfax news service reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke today of the relationship between Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants at the Petersburg Dialogue forum in Wiesbaden, Germany.

"The Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Churches have certain differences, yet, as far as I understood from meetings with the Pontiff and our patriarch, they think alike on fundamental issues and values," he said. "I did not see any difference in their attitudes to Christian and moral values. That is the foundation for debates."

The Vatican announced that the theme of the next meeting of the Joint International Commission will be the role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church in the first millennium. The date and location are to be announced soon.

The commission statement said its members "strongly commend the continuing work of the dialogue to the prayers of the faithful."

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