Thursday, September 15, 2016

Orthodox, Catholics meet in Chieti to discuss primacy

(Vatican Radio) - Catholic and Orthodox theologians are meeting in the Italian town of Chieti for the 14th plenary session of their international dialogue commission. The meeting from September 15th to 22nd brings together two representatives from each of the fourteen Orthodox Churches, alongside 28 Catholic participants, under the shared presidency of Cardinal Kurt Koch from the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and Archbishop Job of Telmessos from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The meeting will focus on discussion of a draft document, drawn up at the previous two sessions, entitled “Towards a common understanding of Synodality and Primacy in service to the Unity of the Church”. Participants will also share moments of prayer together with local Christian communities, including a Mass in the cathedral of San Giustino in Chieti on Saturday and a Divine Liturgy at the shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello on Sunday.

To find out more about the meeting, Philippa Hitchen spoke to Mgr Andrea Palmieri, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. He noted that the issue of synodality and primacy is “one of the most delicate questions” in the relationship between Catholics and Orthodox. He says participants hope to arrive at a consensus that will enable them to publish a new document since the last publication was the Ravenna document which followed the plenary session of 2007.

Commenting on the recent pan-Orthodox Council which took place in Crete, Mgr Palmieri noted that the ten Churches taking part in that encounter approved a document on Orthodox relations with other Christians. The consensus among those Orthodox Churches, he said, opens up new horizons and “demonstrates the will of Orthodox Church to continue the theological dialogue, not just with the Catholic Church but also with other Churches and Christian communities”.

Speaking of the encounter in Cuba last February between Pope Francis and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, Mgr Palmieri said all such meetings and exchanges between Church leaders provide a positive context within which theologians can advance their dialogue. He also pointed to the historic encounter last April between Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew and the Archbishop of Athens Hieronymus on the Greek island of Lesbos.

The theological dialogues, he stressed, are not simply academic discussions, separated from the life of the Church but rather they are concerned with the very heart of the Church’s life. The themes of synodality and primacy, he said, are at the centre of attention right now for both Catholics and Orthodox, as they explore what it means to exercise one in relation to the other. Discussing these themes, he said, means thinking together about ways in which a reconciled Church can better serve the mission of the Church to bring the Gospel to all people.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the news item. I was struck by the last line, which quotes the Vatican representative, Mgr Palmieri, for it points to an ecclesiological outlook which seems to be increasingly acceptable to many Orthodox ecumenists: "Discussing these themes, he said, means thinking together about ways in which a reconciled Church can better serve the mission of the Church to bring the Gospel to all people." The key phrase here is "thinking together about ways in which a reconciled Church...", by which it seems he means contemplating what the new, post-unity reality would be like. Two aspects of this sentence made me pause: 1) it seems that they are seeking something new, a new view of the Church which previously did not exist and they are seeking to "create" this through reflection and pondering upon it. If that is the methodology they are following, then they are doomed to failure, from an Orthodox perspective, for the simple reason is that the result will not be the Church of Christ, which is a revelational reality and not man's creation, but a given which one enters and cannot be shaped anew. 2) The phrase " a reconciled Church" is striking. What could this mean? Is there now a Church which is at odds with itself? Do we now have a divided Church? Are we in search of a Church which is not now but will or may be reunited/reconciled to itself(??) in the future? . . . Immediately the words of the Apostle Paul come to mind: "Is Christ divided"? Frankly, I can't imagine an Orthodox Christian saying this phrase and thinking in this manner (yet, apparently, there are quite a few, even some at this meeting in Italy, according to the Greek headlines I read which quote Met. JOB, the new co-chair, as speaking of Rome and Orthodoxy as "two lungs" of the Church). . . If the Orthodox reps in Italy share this basic ecclesiological position - of there now existing a "divided Church" (as Patriarch Bartholomew himself said in Jerusalem two years ago) - not only is there no hope for the theological dialogue bearing real fruit, there are grounds to fear a severe undermining of the unity of the Church (the Orthodox Church), or, rather, the loss of many from Her to the new ecclesiological heresy presented here.