Catholic-Orthodox talks restart after six years

In a bid to end a split that has lasted for nearly a thousand years, Orthodox and Catholic bishops are meeting in the Serbian capital of Belgrade this week in an attempt to restart theological dialogue that has stalled over the last six years.

Fox News reports that representatives of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics and more than 250 million Christian Orthodox - 30 from each side - have convened in Belgrade for a renewed "theological" dialogue while acknowledging that much wider issues are involved.

"East and West have been estranged from each other since the 11th century," said Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas, referring to the historic schism in 1054 when the spiritual leaders in the Vatican and in Constantinople - now Istanbul, Turkey - severed ties over the rising influence of the papacy.

That split was sealed then with an exchange of anathemas - spiritual repudiations, which were lifted in the 20th century but only with halting progress toward restoring bonds.

"We experience in our time that European nations unite and create one family," he said. "It is time to recover the ancient unity. ... East and West meet now not only on the theological level, but also on the political level."

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican's most senior figure on Christian unity, said the long-separated branches should turn to their "unity in God, one faith, one baptism."

"We look to the future to build unity for Europe," he added.

The week-long gathering in Belgrade is intended to re-start the top-level dialogue after formal talks broke off six years ago.

"As Christians, we ask our Lord to give us strength to put behind the past," Zizioulas said.

Cardinal Kasper responded praising "forgiveness, purification of our memory of bad things, from both sides."

The last such dialogue in Emmitsburg, Maryland, US, in 2000, failed to agree on or even to formally debate a draft document on the issues dividing the Churches.

The venue of the present talks, the participants said, has symbolic importance. Belgrade was the capital of the former Yugoslavia, which broke up violently in the 1990s, including battles between Roman Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs. But its ethnic groups now strive for reconciliation.

Roman Catholic, Orthodox Church Dignitaries Seek Unity (Fox News, 19/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
Cardinal Walter Kasper (Catholic-Hierarchy)

Cardinal Kasper sees ecumenical progress with Orthodox churches (CathNews, 21/2/03)

20 Sep 2006