Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI has invited ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew to take part in the upcoming synod of bishops, scheduled for October, and to give an address to the assembly, together with the pope himself.
The news of the invitation, not yet released by Vatican sources, comes at the conclusion of Bartholomew's visit to Rome for the 90th anniversary of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, during which he met with the pope. The invitation to attend the synod came during lunch yesterday. In itself, the presence of representatives of other Christian Churches and confessions is a normal practice for synod assemblies, ever since Vatican Council II invited the "fraternal delegations". What makes this event significant is the personal invitation extended to Bartholomew, the solemnity reserved for this, and the atmosphere in which it took place.
In regard to the meeting between Benedict XVI in Bartholomew, there has in fact been talk of the "spirit of Ravenna", meaning the meeting of the "Mixed international commission for theological dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church" held in Ravenna from October 8-14, 2007. The final document of the meeting - although it was released by a commission, and is therefore not binding - was described as "an important step forward" by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the pontifical council for Christian unity, although "the road to full unity is still a very long one".
The document, Cardinal Kasper explains to Vatican Radio, "speaks of the tension between authority and conciliarity, or collegiality, at the local level, meaning that of the diocese, and at the regional and universal level. The important step is that for the first time the Orthodox Churches have told us yes, there exists this universal level of the Church, and there is also conciliarity, collegiality, and authority at the universal level; this means that there is also a Primacy: according to the practice of the ancient Church, the first bishop is the bishop of Rome, there is no doubt of this. But we did not speak of what the privileges of the bishop of Rome are, we only indicated the praxis for the sake of future discussions".
But the ecumenical patriarch will not only be present at the 12th general ordinary assembly of the synod of bishops that will be held at the Vatican from October 5-26, 2008, on the theme of "The word of God in life and mission of the Church". It seems, in fact, that Bartholomew could personally lead the delegation that the patriarchate sends to Rome every June 29th to take part in the celebration of the feast of Saint Peter and Paul.