The 14th Plenary Session of the Mixed Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox church and the Catholic Church, which ended last week, represents a further step on the path of reconciliation. Convinced of this is Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Bruno Forte, whose diocese hosted the ecumenical meeting.
In particular, the agreement on the primacy and synodality represents an encouraging acceleration, after almost a decade of stalling in the ambit of these meetings: not since 2007 had a final document been produced. This year’s success was likely influenced by the epochal meeting between Pope Francis and the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, which took place in Cuba last February 12.
The only “shade” in the recent plenary, was the abstention of the Georgian Orthodox on the final document, while the controversy continues on the Uniates, although it is not “emphasized,” according to Monsignor Forte.
In a conversation with ZENIT, the Archbishop of Chieti-Vast, one of the representatives of the Italian Episcopate most committed to ecumenism, expressed his satisfaction for the results obtained.
ZENIT: Excellency, what are the most significant aspects of the Catholic-Orthodox agreement of Chieti on the primacy and synodality?
Archbishop Forte: In the first place, it is very important that we arrived at a common document on the subject of the primacy and on synodality. It was since 2007 at Ravenna, that there were no common results: the meetings of Cyprus, Vienna and Amman held in these years did not succeed in coming to a consensus. Now this has happened with the sole abstention of the Orthodox Church of Georgia on some aspect. And it is an important result.
ZENIT: More in general, what were the points of agreement between the various Churches?
Archbishop Forte: The necessity was affirmed of a first and a head (to use the language of Canon 34 of the Apostles, which is very important for the Orthodox) not only in the local Church (the Bishop) and at the regional level (the Patriarch), but also at the universal level and it was recognized that in the universal communion of the Churches, this role corresponds to the Bishop of Rome, the first of the Patriarchal Churches of the first millennium, when East and West were united.
ZENIT: Instead, where were the major disagreements found?
Archbishop Forte: The difficulty for the Orthodox is to admit the universal power of the Pope’s direct and immediate jurisdiction over the whole Church. Yet they accept that in the first millennium the synergy with Rome was decisive also in the East.
ZENIT: What is your opinion on the controversy of the Ukrainian “Uniates”?
Archbishop Forte: The question is delicate but is not emphasized: every Church, whether or not in communion with Rome, is respected.
ZENIT: The Chieti meeting took place seven months after the historic embrace between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill: in what measure was the historic event received by the reporters present in the past days?
Archbishop Forte: These meetings certainly had a great influence on the atmosphere of fraternity lived and on the will to reach a consensus.
ZENIT: Hence, after a millennium, can we say that the reconciliation between Catholics and Orthodox is closer?
Archbishop Forte: I really think so. There is still a long way but the model of conjugation between synodality and primacy certainly opens a fruitful way.