Cardinal Kasper Outlines Ecumenism's "Road Map"

Sees Possibility of Papal Meeting With Orthodox Patriarchs

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 12, 2005 ( Two upcoming events point the way toward a possible meeting of the Pope with all the patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches, says a Vatican official.

The imminent publication of a joint Lutheran-Catholic document and the relaunching of a Mixed Catholic-Orthodox Commission are two more stages in the ecumenical road that, according to Cardinal Walter Kasper, contemplates the possibility of the future meeting — as well as a meeting with Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow.

«All the leaders of the Christian Churches were very happy that the Pope declared that unity is the priority,» said Cardinal Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, in an interview published Saturday in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

«With the [Orthodox] Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople we are relaunching the Catholic-Orthodox Mixed Commission,» he said. «A preparatory meeting will be held in December and in the spring of 2006 the plenary commission will meet.»

Moreover, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, considered the «first among equals» of the Orthodox Churches, has invited Benedict XVI to visit Istanbul on Nov. 30, the feast of St. Andrew.

Maybe not in Moscow

As «an idea to witness the faith in a secularized society and to express the common intention to advance towards perfect unity,» Cardinal Kasper pointed out that «thought could be given to a meeting of the Pope with all the patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches,» an initiative that would require «a lengthy preparation.»

Regarding relations with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, Cardinal Kasper confirmed that «the atmosphere has improved» in connection with the possibility of a meeting between Benedict XVI and Patriarch Alexy II, «but perhaps not in Moscow, maybe in a third place.»

«Until now, Alexy II has said that we must resolve the problems of the so-called Catholic proselytism in the East and Uniatism. In our opinion, the meeting could take place, through an appropriately prepared joint declaration,» said the cardinal.

Uniatism is a term used, sometimes pejoratively, by Orthodox to refer to Christians of countries of Orthodox tradition in union with the Bishop of Rome.

«We have already told him [Alexy] clearly that proselytism is not the intention, it is not politics, it is not the strategy of the Catholic Church,» Cardinal Kasper said. «If errors are committed in Siberia on both sides, it is good to talk to the local bishops.»

Methodists’ wish

Regarding the Lutheran Federation, «relations are very good,» the cardinal said. «In October we will publish a new joint document on the apostolicity of the Church and the apostolic succession, … a very solid document.»

Moreover, «the Methodists wish to adhere next year to the important document that we signed with the Lutherans on justification,» he announced.

The Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation signed a historic declaration on the doctrine of justification in October 1999. That doctrine was one of the issues that triggered Martin Luther’s break with the Catholic Church in the 16th century.

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