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Friday, November 16, 2007

A Small Step in the Process Toward Reunion ?

The Times today under the banner Vatican joins historic talks to end 950-year rift with Orthodox church has a story on the Ravenna Declaration.


"The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches took tentative steps towards healing their 950-year rift yesterday by drafting a joint document that acknowledges the primacy of the Pope.

The 46-paragraph “Ravenna Document”, written by a special commission of Catholic and Orthodox officials, envisages a reunified church in which the Pope could be the most senior patriarch among the various Orthodox churches.

Just as Pope John Paul II was driven by the desire to bring down Communism, so Pope Benedict XVI hopes passionately to see the restoration of a unified Church. Although he is understood to favour closer relations with traditional Anglicans, the Anglican Communion is unlikely to be party to the discussions because of its ordination of women and other liberal practices."

"Pope Benedict has called a meeting of cardinals from all over the world in Rome on November 23, when the document will be the main topic of discussion. The Ravenna “road map” concedes that “elements of the true Church are present outside the Catholic communion”.

It suggests that means “be sought out” to set up a new ecumenical council, similar to those of the early Church which drew up the Nicene and other creeds, and to which Catholic and Orthodox bishops would be invited. Such a council would attempt formally to end the schism of 1054 between East and West.

If the proposals move forward, the Pope would be acknowledged as the universal Primate, as he was before the schism. Although it is not stated outright, he would be expected by the Orthodox churches to relinquish the doctrine of infallibility. The proposals could also allow married priests in the Catholic Church, as already happens in the Orthodox.

However, continuing disputes within the Orthodox Church between Constantinople and Moscow mean that there is unlikely to be agreement among the entire Orthodox community about reconciliation with Rome.

The document, The Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church, has been produced by a commission of Orthodox and Catholic bishops and theologians that met in Ravenna in western Italy last month. The Russian delegate walked out of the meeting, an indication of the enduring disputes within the Orthodox Church. "

One wonders if the politics of the situation will be an insurmountable obstacle towards religious reunion ?