Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ravenna: Dialogue Between Catholics and Orthodox

VATICAN CITY, OCT 8, 2007 (VIS) - From October 8 to 15, the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox is holding its 10th plenary assembly in Ravenna, Italy, according to a communique issued by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

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.

VIS 071008

UPDATE: Russians leave ecumenical talks in rift with Constantinople

Ravenna, Oct. 10, 2007 ( - 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.

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.
For the full update from Catholic World News, click here.

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.


Joe said...

What good is the authority of St. Peter when he can't keep his own bishops from committing sacriledge on a regular basis? (witness the Archbishop of San Francisco communing a pair of blasphemous active homosexuals in drag). How would being in communion with Rome stop the bickering? Bickering and in-fighting is as old as the New Testament and it goes on in the Church of Rome and those Churches in communion with her as well. I see no evidence that simply being in communion with Rome will solve anything. And notice that this is not a doctrinal or moral issue. Even if this is petty squabling, we don't have the rank apostasy that you see in the western Church. Why should we want to be in communion with a Church that doesn't use its authority to squelch heresy and apostasy?

Byzantine, TX said...

To respond to Joe. It happened how long ago? Do we count in hours the response time for resolving these issues? With 1 billion Catholics would it not be natural to assume that some hierarchs will go astray? We could go back and forth on the people on the fringe of both Catholicism and Orthodoxy, but I tend to fall back on the statements of Vladimir Solovyov and his discussions of the need for Rome in church unity.

Joe said...

I certainly think that the Bishop of Rome can play a positive role in the service of Church unity and this is the true Petrine vocation of the Roman Bishop. I just don't think that it is fair to pick out a non-doctrinal, non-liturgical squabble among particular Orthodox Churches as somehow showing that the Orthodox are ecclesiologically deficient in a way that the Catholic Church is not. To be honest, I think there is a sense in which one can say that everyone is ecclesiologically deficient right now. Roman Catholic criticisms of Orthodox squabbling would carry more weight though if the western Catholic Church would get its act together and clean up the discipline and the liturgy.

The Byzantine Rambler said...

To Joe:

I respect your sentiment of "a sense in which one can say that everyone is ecclesiologically deficient right now" as being of like mind with Sayidna Elias Zoghby in his book "We Are All Schismatics".

That said, your criticism attempts to compare apples and oranges. The issue is ecclesiology, not discipline. The Unity of the Faith for which we pray immediately before the Lord's Prayer at every Divine Liturgy is, despite all protests to the contrary, betrayed by the multi-jurisdictional reality of Orthodoxy without the See of Peter.

The precise issue between Moscow and Constantinople is primacy. Constantinople claims it, and Moscow rejects it. What's more, despite Sayidna Hilarion's posturing, Moscow has always expressed the desire for a tacit primacy due to its size. There is much in Russian Orthodoxy that is decidedly more Russian than purely Orthodox, which is fine unless this becomes the sine qua non of being truly Orthodox. Josephus is correct that Soloviev succinctly perceived and exposed the ecclesial deficiencies of the broken communion in Orthodoxy.

As to the discipline issues: on the one hand, Orthodoxy has more than its share of priests who are pro-choice, practice open communion, are pedophiles or philanderers, etc.; and on the other hand, truly both Churches would benefit from reunion on numerous levels including clergy discipline - Rome in regaining a more spiritual sense of obedience, Orthodoxy in a more incarnated spirituality that is reflected in moral and social consistency, and raises one above ethnocentricity.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and read "The Russian Church and the Papacy" by Vladimir Soloviev.