Papal primacy still stumbling block in Orthodox talks

Participants in a week-long closed-door meeting between senior prelates of the Catholic and Orthodox churches have reported "slight progress" in their efforts to end their 1000-year-old rift but papal primacy remains a major hurdle.

Adnkronos International reports that the ninth meeting of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church, held in Belgrade, Serbia, worked on a document drafted at a Moscow meeting in 1990 entitled "The Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Conciliarity and Authority in the Church".

The joint statement issued after the Belgrade meeting signalled a small step forward. "In the present meeting the document prepared in Moscow was carefully examined in a shared spirit of genuine commitment to the search for unity," the statement said.

It was assessed as a solid basis for the next meeting to be hosted by the Catholic Church next year. "The meeting of the Joint Commission was marked by a spirit of friendship and trustful collaboration," the statement concluded.

The Belgrade meeting was co-chaired by the Vatican chief ecumenist Cardinal Walter Kasper on the Catholic, and Metropolitan John of Pergamon on the Orthodox side.

Since the press was excluded from the meetings, few details leaked out from the closed sessions and the sixty participants displayed a rare discipline in not commenting the proceedings, explaining only that "very delicate, scientific matters were discussed".

However, according to documents obtain by Adnkronos International, the main obstacle in bringing the two Churches closer was the issue of papal primacy, on which the Vatican continues to insist.

The national based organisation of the Orthodox Church the fact that it represents a fellowship of 15 separate Churches with their own bishops was another major obstacle.

The thorniest issue, according to the documents available, is the Vatican's attempt to establish Catholic parishes in traditionally Orthodox territory, such as Russia and Greece.

Another obstacle hampering the dialogue were the crimes committed by members of both Churches in last the decade during the Balkan wars in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.

Some participants of the Belgrade meeting noted that nationalism and xenophobia still prevailed in some transitional countries, hampering the dialogue.

"In Serbia, like in other transitional countries, there are still those who think that national values, the faith and culture can develop only in isolation," one participant said.

"Others think that to reach the family of democratic nations of Europe it is necessary to renounce its own identity and spiritual heritage," he added.

"Is it possible," he wondered, "that a south European people is indeed in danger of losing its identity within the European family?"

Slight progress in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue (Ad Kronos International, 25/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

Catholic-Orthodox talks restart after six years (CathNews 20/9/06)
Pope says Catholics, Orthodox must work for unity (CathNews 19/12/05)

Catholic , Orthodox cite friendship, plan for 2007 dialogue meeting (CNS 25/9/06)
Balkans: Catholic - Orthodox Dialogue Held Under Veil Of Secrecy (Adnkronos International 22/9/06)

26 Sep 2006