Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Notes from this year's Orientale Lumen Conference

( - Is Pope Francis’ preference to refer to himself as “bishop of Rome” more than other traditional titles for the papacy a hopeful sign for Catholic-Orthodox relations?

That question was on the minds of those taking part in the recent Orientale Lumen Conference in Washington, D.C. The informal Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, which has been meeting since 1997, held discussions about steps toward full communion between Eastern and Western Christianity.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s first greeting from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica upon his election as Pope Francis struck not a few observers as downplaying his role of universal head of the Church with unlimited jurisdiction worldwide.

“The diocesan community of Rome now has its bishop,” Pope Francis told the crowds in St. Peter’s Square March 13. “And now, we take up this journey: bishop and people. This journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches. A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us.”

The greeting impressed people like Father Thomas FitzGerald, dean and professor of Church history and historical theology at Hellenic College-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass. “I think for Orthodox ears, that’s good to hear,” he said during discussions at the Washington Retreat House June 17-20. “Everything else is kind of based on that understanding of him being bishop of Rome. I hope that might be a sign of some things to come in terms of the understanding of his role as the bishop of Rome, the pope, by the Catholic Church.”

Father FitzGerald is a member of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, whose 2010 document “Steps Toward a Reunited Church: A Sketch of an Orthodox-Catholic Vision for the Future,” was the subject of discussions by the Orientale Lumen gathering. Other members of the Consultation spoke at the conference, including Paulist Father Ronald G. Roberson, associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Father Sidney Griffith, professor in the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at the Institute of Christian Oriental Research of The Catholic University of America...
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