This will be a crucial year for ecumenism, particularly concerning Catholic-Orthodox relations, the head of the Vatican’s Christian Unity council has said.
In an interview with charity Aid to the Church in Need published Jan. 30, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said the meeting planned for May between Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew in Jerusalem was of “great importance”.
He recalled the first meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in January 1964, which he described as a “great step forward”.
A fruit of that meeting was the solemn lifting of the mutual anathema between the eastern and western Churches. Declared in 1054, the ban was lifted on the penultimate day of the Second Vatican Council, 7 December 1965, both in the Vatican and the Phanar, the official seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople.
The anathema, the declaration said, was consigned “to oblivion”. Koch stressed that this was “the start of the dialogue of love and truth”.
Cardinal Koch explained: “When I read the texts from that time today I am astonished by the passion for unity which they express. This passion must be maintained and re-enter our awareness this year.”
The President of the Pontifical Council for Unity also praised the dedication of Aid to the Church in Need to the dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church which the pastoral charity has been conducting since 1992 at the wish of Pope John Paul II. The Swiss cardinal encouraged ACN to continue to cultivate the dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church.