Cardinal Kasper Sees Progress in Dialogue with Orthodox

After a Cruise, and a Historic Signing

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VENICE, Italy, JUNE 12, 2002 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- Cardinal Walter Kasper smiles at the thought of the quip entitled “From the Crusades to the Cruisers.”

From June 5-10, leaders of Christian Churches and communities (including Cardinal Kasper) and scientific experts cruised on the Adriatic Sea to reflect on the challenges confronting the environment. The cruiser´s passengers were guests of Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

“This experience has finally shown that there is more that unites us than that separates us,” said Cardinal Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

“Much has been written on the difficulties of the ecumenical dialogue,” he said. “Instead, for once the news is positive: Two sister Churches wish to arrive at full unity.”

Q: In the course of the cruise, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople celebrated the liturgy in Sant´Apollinare in Classe [in Ravenna], an event that had not taken place for 12 centuries. What is the significance of this event?

Cardinal Kasper: We can see it as an emblem of the road traveled to date. It tells us that we have made good progress although, obviously, there is still much to be done. However, we are already in a new situation.

This can also be seen in the joint signing of the “Venice Charter” with the Holy Father. In sum, in matters such as the protection of the Creation, where there are no dogmatic problems to be resolved, there already is collaboration.

Q: However, in this spring, winter winds continue to blow in Moscow.

Cardinal Kasper: Sadly, this is true. The situation has worsened since February. Frankly, we are still unable to understand this posture.

We are told that all problems must be solved before a meeting between the Holy Father and Patriarch Alexy II. All right; we are willing, but how is it possible if there is no dialogue? A critical dialogue might even be necessary at the beginning, but difficulties cannot be surmounted without talking.

It is a disgrace that two religious leaders cannot meet to show the world that there is a willingness to reconcile. In any event, I am confident. For our part, we are totally available for dialogue and I am convinced that the problems will be resolved.

Q: From your point of view, what fruits have resulted from the Pope´s recent trip to Bulgaria?

Cardinal Kasper: It was a very positive visit. Surely, relations with Orthodoxy cannot be reduced to the difficult situation with the patriarch of Moscow. In recent years, we have been witnessing a series of important steps forward.

In Greece, for example, the Pope´s visit and then that of an Athens delegation to the Vatican have given great impetus to relations. The same may be said of Romania, and of the patriarchates of Serbia, Alexandria and Antioch, of many other Orthodox Churches.

Q: And with the Patriarchate of Constantinople?

Cardinal Kasper: Recent events are a further demonstration of the good climate that has been created. As usual, for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul at the end of June, a delegation sent by Patriarch Bartholomew will come to Rome. Moreover, we are hoping to renew the works of the International Commission of Theological Dialogue on the problems that still divide us from the doctrinal point of view.

Q: What are the obstacles to renewing this endeavor?

Cardinal Kasper: We are prepared to begin again based on any reasonable proposal. For example, I am convinced that to begin by focusing solely on the question of the Eastern Churches in full communion with Rome would lead us to a dead end. How can one speak of this topic without addressing the question of primacy? Primacy is the real [one] that must be surmounted.

Q: The “filioque” question, at least in principle, seems to have been surmounted.

Cardinal Kasper: Not for all. In this area also the dialogue must be renewed. However, I know that a local theological commission in the United States and Canada is doing interesting work.

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