The 14th plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church has recently completed its work in Italian Chieti.
Head of the
Synodal Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion
of Volokolamsk tells in his interview with Interfax-Religion about its results.
- Your Eminence, what agreement have you managed to reach at the meeting in Chieti?
- The main result of the 14th plenary session of the Joint
International Commission for Orthodox-Catholic Theological Dialogue is
an adoption of the joint document dedicated to conciliarity and primacy
in the Church of the first millennium.
Nine years of the hard work preceded this result. The draft document on
the theme was prepared after the session of the Commission in Ravenna in
2006, but we had serious disagreements with its text. As the head of
the Russian Orthodox Church delegation I could not agree with the text
of the document which represented rather private theological opinions
than the teaching corresponding to the church tradition. First, I was
the main opponent of the document, then more and more participants in
the dialogue shared my opinion, and eventually at the 13th plenary
session of the Joint Commission held in September 2014 in Amman (Jordan)
that project was rejected and members of the Commission decided to
prepare a new document.
It is necessary to accept that adoption of the document by the absolute
majority of Orthodox and Catholic members of the Commission after long
and complicated work has become a success.
Both Orthodox and Catholics
agreed that history of the Church in the first millennium has a defining
character and to achieve agreement on the ecclesiological questions we
should be guided by the way the Church was arranged in the first
millennium. Such attitude fully corresponds to the teaching of the
Orthodox Church as in dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church it has
always turned to the authority of the Ecumenical Councils and holy
fathers of the first millennium.
- What question the Joint Commission will consider at the next stage?
- The participants discussed what theme should be chosen to continue the
dialogue during the final meeting of the plenary session. On the behalf
of the Russian Church I suggested dedicating the next stage of the
dialogue to the theme of conciliarity and primacy in Churches of East
and West in the second millennium with the condition that the discussion
of the Unia will be resumed in its frameworks as this phenomenon
appeared after the schism of 1054 and still remains a stumbling block in
It should become continuation of the work started in the 1990s when the
document condemning the Uniatism was adopted in Balamand (Lebanon) in
1993. This document should be followed by the next one, dedicated to
canonical and ecclesiological consequences of the Uniatism. However,
work over this document faced an insurmountable obstacle, which
suspended the work of the Joint Commission for six years from 2000 to
When the Joint Commission resumed its work after the six-year break, it
was suggested to discuss the question of primacy and conciliarity in the
Church. The Russian Orthodox Church agreed to this suggestion with the
condition that ecclesiological and canonical consequences of the Unia
will be discussed in the context of the theme of primacy and
However, during ten years, from 2006 to 2016, the
Commission did not return to the topic. The logic of our dialogue
demands that when the work over the document on primacy and conciliarity
of the Church in the first millennium is completed, we should consider
the question of primacy and conciliarity of the Church in the second
millennium. Here, we should pay attention to the problem of the
Uniatism, which is central for the second millennium and unfortunately
it is still actual.
Actions of Greek-Catholics in Ukraine raise the problem again and again.
Statements of UGCC supreme archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk with attacks
against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Moscow
Patriarchate sow distrust between Orthodox and Catholics. This February,
a historic meeting between Pope Francis and His Holiness Patriarch
Kirill took place in Havana, it opened a new page in our bilateral
relations. However, right after the meeting, it was subjected to insults
of the Greek Catholic Church leaders.
The next theme has not been chosen, it was decided to leave the question
for further consideration of the Coordination Committee of the Joint
Commission, its session will be held in 2017. But we insisted and will
insist on the necessity to discuss the theme of canonical and
ecclesiastic consequences of the Uniatism. We are not ready to discuss
other topics when aggressive anti-Orthodox campaign of Ukrainian
Greek-Catholic leaders is continued.