By Jesús Colina
PAPHOS, Cyprus, OCT. 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church has progressed in its reflection on the role of the bishop of Rome.
The commission issued a joint communiqué reporting on its progress at the end of its 11th plenary session, ended today in Paphos. The document in question is titled "The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium."
The document is based on a draft prepared by an Orthodox-Catholic committee, which met in Crete last year. At present, the commission is reflecting on the role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church in the first millennium -- before the Great Schism of 1054.
The current work of the commission responds to the appeal made by Pope John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical "Ut Unum Sint" on the "ecumenical commitment," in which he proposed "finding a way to exercise the primacy that, without giving up in any way what is essential to its mission, opens to a new situation."
This is possible, he added, as "for a millennium Christians were united by the fraternal communion of faith and sacramental life, the See of Rome being, by common consent, the moderator when disagreements arose among them on matters of faith or discipline."
John Paul II himself invited both sides to seek "naturally together, the ways with which this ministry can carry out a service of faith and love recognized by one another."
"During this plenary meeting, the Commission analyzed with great care and amended the draft of the Mixed Coordination Committee, and decided to complete its work on the text next year, calling a new meeting of the Mixed Commission," the communiqué reported.
The meeting was attended by 20 Catholic members; all Orthodox Churches were represented, with the exception of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria.
The commission worked under the guidance of two co-presidents: the Catholic representative was Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; and the Orthodox representative was Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas of Pergamum.
On Saturday, the co-presidents and other participants, among whom was Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, were received in the presidential palace by Demitris Christofias, president of Cyprus, who placed his hope "in this important dialogue for a world still divided."
The president "expressed his best wishes for progress in communion between the two Churches in the future," the communiqué reported.
Protests of radical Orthodox opposed to dialogue with the Catholic Church interrupted the work of the weeklong meeting. The country's police arrested four citizens and two monks of the monastery of Stavrovunio, confirmed Amen.gr.
The Orthodox representatives called the protests "totally unjustifiable and unacceptable, as they present false information which creates confusion," the communiqué stated. "All the Orthodox members of the commission re-affirmed that the dialogue continues with the decision of all the Orthodox Churches and advances with fidelity to the truth and to the Tradition of the Church."
The mixed commission was established by John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I in Istanbul on Nov. 30, 1979, on the feast of St. Andrew (Patron of the Church of Constantinople).
By Jesús Colina