This session is the second to be held since the reactivation of dialogue during the 2006 plenary in Belgrade. The commission was established in 1979 by Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I, and held its first assembly in Patmos-Rhodes in 1980.
The document to be analyzed by the commission at its current gathering is entitled "the ecclesiological and canonical consequences of the sacramental nature of the Church - conciliarity and sinodality in the Church." The study of this document, the communique reads, "was part of the program agreed at Patmos-Rhodes in 1980" but was "suspended to make way for questions concerning the relationship of Orthodoxy with the Oriental Catholic Churches following the collapse of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe. With the plenary of Belgrade, the commission reactivated its normal theological agenda."
The commission is made up of 60 members, 30 Catholics and 30 Orthodox, and is jointly presided by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and His Excellency Ioannis (Zizioulas), metropolitan of Pergamo. The Catholic members are cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests and lay experts in various fields. The orthodox members represent - in the order indicated by Fanar - the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Serbia, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Romania, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Bulgaria, the Orthodox Church of Georgia, the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, the Orthodox Church of Greece, the Orthodox Church of Poland, the Orthodox Church of Albania, the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and of Slovakia, the Orthodox Church of Finland, and the Orthodox Church of Estonia.
UPDATE: Russians leave ecumenical talks in rift with Constantinople
Ravenna, Oct. 10, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Russian Orthodox delegates have walked out of a joint session of Catholic and Orthodox theologians, highlighting the sharp disagreements among the world's Orthodox leaders.For the full update from Catholic World News, click here.
A delegation from Moscow left the meeting, being held in Ravenna, Italy, after learning that a delegate from the Estonian Apostolic Church would be included in the ecumenical talks. The Estonian Apostolic Church has gained canonical recognition from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, but the Russian Orthodox Church, which still claims authority over the Orthodox community in Estonia, disputes that status.
The dispute calls attention to enduring conflicts over authority in the Orthodox world, with the Moscow patriarchate resisting the power of Constantinople. Although the Russian Orthodox Church is by far the largest of the Orthodox churches, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has traditionally been recognized as the "first among equals" of the world's Orthodox leaders.
One might add that this trouble, which nearly led to a world-wide schism in the Orthodox Church in the 1990's, is indicative of the authority vacuum at the center of Orthodoxy, unless one takes into account the Successor of St Peter.