VATICAN CITY, JUNE 29, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II requested the renewal of Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue through the “Mixed Commission,” calling the panel an important instrument on the path toward full unity between the two Churches.
The Pope made this request today in the Apostolic Palace when receiving Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the “first among equals” in the Orthodox Church.
Bartholomew I was leading the delegation of the patriarchate visiting Rome on the occasion of the solemnity of its patrons, the Apostles Peter and Paul.
The patriarch’s visit also commemorated the 1964 meeting and embrace between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I, a historic moment in the history of the 900-year-old Catholic-Orthodox schism.
John Paul II expressed that the memory of the 1964 embrace “foster a leap forward in the dialogue and consolidation of mutual fraternal relations.”
“The theological dialogue, through the Mixed Commission, remains, to this end, as an important instrument. Because of this, I desire that it be reactivated as soon as possible,” the Pope said.
“I am convinced, in fact, of this urgency, and it is my will and that of my collaborators to make use of every means to foster the spirit of reciprocal acceptance and understanding, in fidelity to the Gospel and to the common apostolic Tradition,” he continued.
“May we be stimulated on this path by the old and always new commandment of love, which the Apostle Paul echoed in the famous words: ‘love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor,'” John Paul II said.
After the Second Vatican Council, the dialogue in search of full unity between Orthodox and Catholics helped lead to the establishment in 1979 of a Mixed Commission between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. The commission’s key objective is theological dialogue.
To restart theological dialogue, “which has been more or less interrupted since 2001,” is one of the means to intensify the path toward unity, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, told Vatican Radio.
In the cardinal’s opinion, such unity in the future will respond to “a unity without fusion or absorption. This is the formula.”
“It is unity in the same faith, with the same sacraments, with the same episcopate, in the apostolic succession,” he said. “But a plurality of liturgical, theological, spiritual and canonical forms will be possible.”
“So the Orthodox Churches will keep their forms of daily life,” Cardinal Kasper said. “The problem, rather, will be the exercise of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. A symposium was held to this end in Rome last year. We must continue to study this problem.”