22 October 2007, 17:35
Russian Church: Constantinople ruins talks with Catholics
Moscow, October 22, Interfax - The Russian Orthodox Church representative to European institutions accused the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on Monday of seeking to establish itself as the top authority in the world's Orthodox communion and of ruining Orthodox-Roman Catholic dialogue.
The representative, Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria, was referring to the 10th meeting of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
The delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate withdrew from the meeting, held in Ravenna, Italy, in protest against the participation in the event of the Estonian Apostolic Church, a church set up by the Constantinople Patriarchate in 1996 in Estonia, which the Moscow Church considers part of its territory.
The Ravenna meeting resulted in a final document that did not bear the signature of the Moscow Patriarchate.
"Metropolitan John of Pergamon [of the Constantinople Patriarchate] as co-president of the joint commission for Orthodox-Catholic dialogue is responsible for derailing the dialogue," Hilarion said.
"His comments and the final text of the document work on which has finished in Ravenna without the participation of the Moscow Patriarchate may produce the impression that the Constantinople Patriarchate deliberately pushed the Moscow Patriarchate to withdraw from the dialogue so that decisions should be passed that would have been impossible with the participation of the Moscow Patriarchate," the bishop said.
In a statement after the signature of the final document, Hilarion said the fact that the dialogue excluded "the largest Orthodox Church, one whose number of members exceeds the total number of members of all other Orthodox Churches put together, calls into question the legitimacy of the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue."
Metropolitan John responded by accusing the Moscow Church of seeking to demonstrate its influence and of resorting to authoritarian methods to do so.
"Constantinople," said Hilarion, "wants to force on us a model of church organization that has never existed in Orthodox tradition and that is closer to the centralized model existing in the Roman-Catholic Church. In that model, the patriarch of Constantinople would have the role of the 'eastern pope.'"
The next round of talks, to start in 2009, would show whether other Orthodox churches would accept the alleged model, Hilarion said.
"However, it is already clear that the absence of the Moscow Patriarchate will make the work to develop such a model much easier," he said.
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