VATICAN CITY, DEC. 15, 2008 (Zenit.org).- There have been significant steps forward in dialogue with the Orthodox regarding the relationship between papal primacy and the synodality of the Church, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope recalled these advances when he addressed Friday the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The council reflected last week on the “Reception and Future of Ecumenical Dialogue.”
In his address, the Holy Father mentioned progress, both at the level of theological dialogue and at the level of ecclesial fraternity, with the Orthodox Churches and the ancient Churches of the east.
In this regard, he particularly pointed to the joint Catholic-Orthodox statement from the end of 1997 on “Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority.” That advance, known as the “Ravenna Document” (because the Church representatives met in Ravenna, Italy) “certainly opens a positive perspective of reflection on the relationship that exists between primacy and synodality in the Church, a discussion of crucial importance in relations with our Orthodox brothers, and which will be the object of deepening and discussion in upcoming meetings,” the Pontiff said.
Benedict XVI recalled that Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I made explicit reference to this issue when he addressed the synod of bishops in Rome in October.
In addition to this positive dialogue, the Holy Father noted, “A sincere spirit of friendship between Catholics and Orthodox has been growing over these years.”
This is shown, he said, in the “many contacts established between leaders of the Roman Curia and bishops of the Catholic Church with leaders from the various Orthodox Churches, as well as visits to Rome and particular Catholic Churches by leading figures from the Orthodox.”
Referring to the pontifical council’s analysis of the Harvest Project, which deals with the first four international bilateral dialogues in which the Church has participated since Vatican II, the Pope looked at advances with four Protestant confessions: Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
Regarding progress in these dialogues, the Holy Father considered that “we find ourselves on the road, in an intermediate situation, in which it seems very useful and opportune to make an objective analysis of the results obtained.”
The Bishop of Rome encouraged both reflection on the progress made, and “the discovery of new paths […] seeking together to overcome the divergences that unfortunately still remain in the relationships between the disciples of Christ.”
In his brief address to the Pope, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the pontifical council, had explained that during their days of work, the council members had particularly pointed out “problems of hermeneutics, that is, of interpreting the Word of God expressed in sacred Scripture and in the living Tradition of the Church; and also urgent problems in this situation regarding anthropology and ecclesiology.”
Faced with challenges that ecumenical dialogue is facing with the establishment of more new communities and groups, and with certain unprecedented tendencies and tension, the Holy Father continued emphasizing the importance of dialogue.
“Charity,” he said, “will help Christians to cultivate this ‘thirst’ for full communion in the truth, and docilely following the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, we can hope to arrive soon to the desired unity, on the day that the Lord wants.”
“Ecumenism invites us to a fraternal and generous interchange of gifts,” the Pope added, “aware that full communion in the faith, in the sacraments and in ministry remains the goal and end of the entire ecumenical movement.”