12/04/2006, 00.00
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Benedict and Bartholomew to meet next year in Ravenna

The possibility that Pope and Patriarch may preside over the opening of the next meeting of the Joint Theological Commission studying ways to solve Catholic-Orthodox divisions is under examination.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI and  Bartholomew I are examining the possibility of opening together the next round of the Joint Theological Commission to show their shared desire to pursue the path of full communion. According to sources from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the meeting should take place in Ravenna (Italy) in the early months of next year.

The same sources indicate that the sensational proposal was made by Bartholomew I during the Pope’s visit to Istanbul. Card Walter Kasper, head of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, is said to have liked the idea and Benedict XVI approved it in principle, conditional on his future agenda. The Joint Commission began to meet again after six years. It was suspended because of the impossibility to find common ground on issues like the place of the Uniate Churches, i.e. Catholic Churches, especially in Ukraine and Romania, which reached full communion with Rome in the 16th century whilst at the same time preserving the Eastern rituals and liturgies. Suppressed under Stalinist rule, their property and congregations were “passed onto” the Orthodox Church. But with the fall of the Berlin Wall, Uniate Churches rose again and began demanding restitution, sometime tactlessly, of their churches and other properties. In turn, this started a row that continues to this day over the alleged aggressiveness of Catholics now accused of proselytising among Orthodox. With the Joint Commission back on—first meeting in September in Belgrade (Serbia)—, Catholics and Orthodox have began looking at another key issue in ecumenical relations, namely the powers of the bishop of Rome, i.e. the Pope. During the three meetings between the Pope and the Patriarch in Istanbul a joint statement was signed that, whilst it added nothing new in terms of Catholic-Orthodox relations, it expressed “joy” over the renewed dialogue and reasserted the two parties shared commitment to the process. Bartholomew I and Benedict XVI also stressed separately their desire to pursue the ecumenical path. Bartholomew expressed “our common desire to pursue without wavering our path in the spirit of love and fidelity towards the truth of the Gospel in the shared tradition of the Holy Fathers to re-establish the full communion of our Churches.” Benedict XVI did likewise and confirmed his readiness to finding an acceptable way to exercise the Petrine primacy. (FP)
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