25 September 2006, 16:03
Russian Orthodox Church representative voices his protest to Cardinal Kasper against procedure at the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue
Belgrade, September 25, Interfax - Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European International Institutions Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria lodged official protest to the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity Cardinal Walter Kasper against procedure at the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.
Bishop Hilarion believed it inadmissible to seek solutions to dogmatic and ecclesiological issues by voting. He thinks that these issues can be resolved only by consensus, Bishop Hilarion’s press service told Interfax on Monday.
The protest was lodged at the 9th session of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church that concluded its work in Belgrade on Sunday. Through a week, the participants discussed the document ‘Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church.’ The document was compiled in 1990 but not discussed due to serious exacerbation of interconfessional relations in some countries of Eastern Europe.
‘On the whole, the 9th session of the Joint Commission was held in an atmosphere of constructive dialogue,’ the interviewee said. At the final session, however, a heated argument developed of a document’s section on the authority of the Ecumenical Councils, which says inter alia that after the severance of communion between East and West in the ninth century, a convocation of an ‘Ecumenical Council’ in the strong sense of the world became impossible, but ‘both Churches continued to hold ‘general’ councils gathering together the bishops of local Churches in communion with the See of Rome or the See of Constantinople.’
Bishop Hilarion raised some principal objections on this issue. He said that in the Orthodox tradition ‘communion with the See of Constantinople’ has been never perceived as a binding term of conciliarity like ‘communion with the See of Rome’ was perceived by the Western Churches. The model of the Orthodox Church structuring differs in principle from that of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Patriarch of Constantinople has never played the role that the Bishop of Rome plays in the Catholic Church, Bishop Hilarion remarked.
He underscored that after the 7th Ecumenical Council and up to the present time no ‘general’, or pan-Orthodox council was held in the Orthodox Church. Preparations for such a council was under way from 1960s, but has been suspended. Therefore, an assertion contained in the document that the Churches in communion with Constantinople continued to hold ‘general’ (i.e. pan-Orthodox Councils) during the second millennium is not in accordance with the facts.
‘Finally, an idea that under conditions of the continuing division between East and West a convocation of an Ecumenical Council is impossible, provokes objection of some Orthodox theologians who base their opinion on that the Orthodox Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church which was founded by Christ and has not lost conciliarity after the ‘great schism’ (between Orthodoxy and Catholicism - IF) of the eleventh century, the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate noted.
Bishop Hilarion’s remarks were strongly opposed by Metropolitan John of Pergamon (Patriarchate of Constantinople), who insisted on the necessity of mentioning the See of Constantinople alongside with the See of Rome in the document. As a compromise Metropolitan John proposed the following amendment: ‘those in communion with the See of Rome or, though it was understood differently, those in communion with the See of Constantinople.’ From the viewpoint of the Moscow Patriarchate’s representative the amendment does not affect the core of the subject. Yet the Joint Commission’s co-president Cardinal Walter Kasper put a motion to the vote. The majority of the Orthodox participants voted in the affirmative, while the Moscow Patriarchate’s delegates voted in the negative.
In the course of discussion Bishop Hilarion noted that no voting could force the participants of the bilateral Orthodox-Catholic dialogue to a theological compromise or to adopting a viewpoint contrary to their ecclesiological self-understanding. The Orthodox participants are not authorized to ‘invent’ an ecclesiological model for the Orthodox Church similar to the one existing in the Roman Catholic Church in order that the Patriarch of Constantinople could occupy a place in like the one the Pope’s occupies in the Church of Rome.
Cardinal Kasper took the Russian Orthodox representative’s protest into consideration and promised to bring the issue back during the Joint Commission’s next meeting in October 2007.
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