VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2005 (Zenit.org).- To advance on the path toward unity between Catholics and Orthodox, both John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople are trying to relaunch theological dialogue.
Monsignor Eleuterio Fortino, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, mentioned this intention in today’s Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano when assessing relations between the ecumenical patriarchate and the Holy See.
Over the past year, these relations have undergone an “intense change,” thanks to two visits of Bartholomew I to Rome — on June 29, and again on Nov. 27, when he received the relics of Sts. John Chrysostom and Gregory Nazianzen from the Pope.
This last event, Bartholomew I told Vatican Radio, was the most important in his ministry as patriarch.
Also fostering the climate of good understanding was the Nov. 30 visit to the patriarchate, on behalf of the Holy Father, of a Vatican delegation headed by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
These contacts have served to calm the tensions that arose with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow and later that of Constantinople, after the Greek-Catholic Church of Ukraine requested recognition by the Holy See as a new patriarchate. For the time being, the Pope has not acquiesced to this request, said Monsignor Fortino.
To overcome the millennium-long schism between Catholics and Orthodox, Monsignor Fortino believes that one of the necessary steps is the re-establishment of theological dialogue between the two sides.
This dialogue is carried out through a mixed commission made up of representatives of the Catholic Church and various Orthodox Churches. The commission’s work has been blocked since the meeting held in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2000, when clear divisions arose over the topic under consideration: “Theological and Canonical Implications of Uniatism.”
The question of “Uniatism” — the Orthodox derisively call “Uniates” those Christians of the Eastern rite who keep their spirituality and liturgy but are united to the Pope — has become especially acute with the Moscow Patriarchate, which views with mistrust the resurgence of Greek-Catholic communities that had suffered under the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe.
During Bartholomew I’s visit to John Paul II last June 29, both signed a joint declaration committing themselves to reactivate the commission’s work.
In this connection, the patriarch, who has the right of initiative and coordination for pan-Orthodox issues, now needs to obtain the support of the other Orthodox Churches that have representatives in the commission.