The plenary of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches (the fourteenth plenary session ended September 22, in Chieti) has reached agreement on the adoption of the document entitled "Synodality and Primacy During the First Millennium: Towards a Common Understanding in Service to the Unity of the Church".
This was announced by the Synodal Department for External Church
Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, which in a statement on its
website also pointed out to future challenges.
According to Moscow, "it
will be difficult to move forward in the dialogue, if the question of
the ecclesiological and canonical consequences of Uniatism" (derogatory
term which indicates the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian church of Eastern rite
but loyal to the Pope) remains unresolved.
Opposition of Georgian Orthodox Church fails to hinder approval
The preparation of the document began during the Commission’s previous
plenary session, held in Amman, in 2014, and was completed by the
Commission’s Coordination Committee during the 2015 meeting in Rome.
Chieti, - explained a note from the Vatican press office - Members of
the Commission will be required to evaluate whether the draft adequately
reflects the currently existing consensus on the delicate question of
the theological and ecclesiological relationship between primacy and
synodality in the Church's life or if further investigation of the issue
According to the Moscow Patriarchate, the consensus has been reached,
even if the Georgian Orthodox Church "disagreed with the individual
paragraphs" of the document. The Georgian objection is contained in a
note in the final communiqué adopted by the plenary session.
note, in this regard, will also be inserted in the joint document, which
will be published soon by the Commission. It is an encouraging
decision, some commentators have pointed out, as the Orthodox have not
allowed the objections of the Georgian Church to prevent the adoption of
Georgian Orthodox are indicating their willingness to go
their own way on other issues. In previous sessions, the pan-Orthodox
council of Crete, for example, they were only ones to oppose marriages
between Orthodox and non-Orthodox.
The Uniates and the theme of the next plenary
No agreement was reached in Chieti regarding the next plenary session,
which the Moscow Patriarchate hopes will address the issue of Uniatism.
It was decided that the Joint Commission Coordinating Committee will
decide the theme at their next gathering which will be held in the
course of 2017.
At the Chieti Plenary, the head of the Russian Orthodox
delegation, the 'foreign minister' of the Moscow Patriarchate,
Metropolitan Hilarion, however, warned that the action of the
Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine is "unacceptable from the point of view
of Christian ethics".
Here blame was laid squarely on the shoulders of
the Major Archbishop of Kiev, Sviatoslav Shevchuk.
According to Moscow
his anti-Russian statements, "are contrary to our dialogue and sow
distrust between Orthodox and Catholics".
"We must be aware that within
our Churches, there are people who hinder our path and we must bear this
in mind when we think about the future of our dialogue."
member of the Russian Orthodox delegation, Archimandrite Irenaeus,
pointed out that "it will be difficult to move forward in the
Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, if the question of the ecclesiological and
canonical consequences of Uniatism remains unresolved ".
"The goal of
our dialogue is not to reach an agreement on issues that already see us
in agreement, but we also need to discuss the issues that divide us. And
the theme of Uniatism is a highly topical issue, one of the central
ones in the second millennium".
Proceedings of the Joint Commission - chaired by Cardinal Kurt Koch,
president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and
the Archbishop of Telmessos Iob (Getcha), the Ecumenical Patriarchate -
was attended by two representatives from each of the 14 autocephalous
Orthodox Churches and as many Catholic representatives.