Moscow, October 4, Interfax - The controversy over Constantinople as ‘an Orthodox Vatican’ surfaced at the Orthodox-Catholic meeting in Belgrade does not infringe unity of the Orthodox world on major theological problems.
The secretary for interchristian relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for external church relations Rev. Igor Vyzhanov gave an interview to NG-Religii newspaper published on Wednesday. He was a member of the delegation of the Russian Church at the 9th meeting of the Joint Commission on Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church held in Belgrade recently.
‘I must tell you that unity between the Orthodox Churches on the major dogmatic and theological problems exists in principle. An issue of ‘primacy and honour’ which Constantinople has recently interpreted in a peculiar way, stands by itself,’ the priest said.
According to him, this is an ecclesial-political matter that is often examined from ‘dogmatic angle.’
He explained that participants in the Orthodox-Catholic meeting differed on par. 45 of the document on the authority of the Ecumenical Councils, and in particular on ‘parallels’ between ‘communion with Rome’ for the local Churches in the West and ‘communion with Constantinople’ for the Orthodox Churches.
‘Actually, it was a question of the two centres, as we do not regard the Patriarchate of Constantinople as a centre of the Orthodox world! It enjoys primacy by honour, and nothing more. It is neither ‘Orthodox Rome,’ nor ‘Orthodox Vatican,’ Rev. Igor underscored.
He noted that the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity cardinal Walter Kasper served as moderator at the session at which par. 45 was discussed. Seeing differences between the Orthodox, he suggested that the Orthodox should ‘sort it out among themselves’ and that the paragraph be crossed out as a compromise. The co-chairman of the meeting Metropolitan John of Pergamon (Patriarchate of Constantinople) insisted on keeping the paragraph and moved that a vote be taken. Kasper as moderator seconded his motion.
The representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria lodged a protest.
‘Bishop Hilarion objected against Kasper’s being under Constantinople’s thumb, as it is simply impossible to put ecclesiological problems to the vote. These problems should be resolved among the Orthodox at the top level rather than at the Orthodox-Catholic theological commission,’ the priest added.
According to him, the document discussed in Belgrade was presented as a ‘convergent statement,’ i.e. a declaration on that what unites us.
‘All paragraphs in the document that provoked differences between the sides were amicable deleted. All controversial points can be removed from a document, yet they will not escape from our life,’ the Russian Church’s representative said in conclusion.