Catholics, Orthodox have responsibility to work for unity
Catholics, Orthodox have responsibility to work for unity, pope says
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics and Orthodox have a responsibility to work toward full unity in accordance with the will of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI said.
Meeting Dec. 15 with a committee preparing for a full meeting of the international Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, the pope said he rejoiced at the desire to "take up again and pursue the dialogue which, over the past few years, had known serious internal and external difficulties."
The last meeting of the international Catholic-Orthodox dialogue was held in 2000 to discuss the role and theological implications of the agreements that led to the formation of the Eastern Catholic churches. That meeting ended without any conclusions or decisions agreeable to Orthodox and Catholics.
Fifteen autonomous Orthodox churches, meeting at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Turkey, agreed in September that the dialogue should be restarted.
The decision, the pope told Orthodox and Catholic members of the preparatory committee, "constitutes a great responsibility. It is indeed a question of achieving the will of the Lord who wants his disciples to form a harmonious community and to witness together to the brotherly love that comes from the Lord."
Pope Benedict said, "in this new phase of dialogue," Catholics and Orthodox must work to eliminate the differences remaining between them and resolve "to do everything to re-establish full communion, which is an essential good for the community of Christ's disciples, as is underlined in the preparatory document you are working on."
The committee was meeting in Rome Dec. 13-16; a statement providing a brief history of the dialogue was released by the Vatican Dec. 15, but it was not clear if further information would be published immediately.
Metropolitan John of Pergamon, the Orthodox co-chairman of the dialogue and the Ecumenical Patriarchate's officer for relations with the Catholic Church, said Dec. 16 that the group had decided to pick up where the theological dialogue left off in 1990.
The 1990 theme, which will be taken up again, was the "ecclesiological and canonical consequences of the sacramental nature of the church -- authority and conciliarity."
Metropolitan John said, "My position all along has been that we have exhausted the discussion" about the Eastern Catholic churches, but other Orthodox churches insisted on further investigation into the topic because the matter divided Catholics and Orthodox.
The formation and existence of the Eastern Catholic churches, he said, would be discussed in the theological framework of the organization of the church, the exercise of authority and the role of the bishop of Rome.
Metropolitan John said the majority of Orthodox churches had decided to relaunch the dialogue before Pope John Paul II died, but "the election of Pope Benedict has strengthened our resolve because he is very committed to dialogue."
Pope Benedict told the church officials and theologians that the full communion Catholics and Orthodox seek with one another is "a communion in truth and charity."
"We cannot be satisfied to remain at an intermediate stage," he said. Rather, "without ceasing, but with courage, clarity and humility, we must seek the will of Jesus Christ, even if it does not correspond to our simple human plans."
The reconciliation of the Christian community, he said, will come only "at the price of submitting our wills to the will of the Lord."
Pope Benedict said human efforts alone would not be enough, which is why all Catholics and Orthodox must pray for the gift of unity.
The Vatican statement said the 21-member coordinating committee for the dialogue was led by the co-chairmen of the international dialogue commission: Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Metropolitan John.
In addition to choosing a theme, the coordinating committee decided that the full dialogue commission would meet in September 2006 in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and Montenegro. The Orthodox Church of Serbia has offered to host the meeting.
Explaining the 15 years of difficulty in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, the Vatican statement said the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the freedom it brought to Eastern-rite Catholics in territories with a majority Orthodox population "reopened wounds in Catholic-Orthodox relations that had never healed."
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