09/22/2016, 10.45
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The Catholic-Orthodox Joint Commission reaches agreement on synodality and primacy

by Nina Achmatova

The announcement on website of Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, on the eve of the closing of the Plenary Session in Chieti. Orthodox Russians hope that focus of dialogue will now turn to Uniate question.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The plenary of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches (the fourteenth plenary session ends today, September 22, in Chieti) has reached agreement on the adoption of the document entitled "Synodality and Primacy During the First Millennium: Towards a Common Understanding in Service to the Unity of the Church".

This was announced by the Synodal Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, which in a statement on its website also pointed out to future challenges. According to Moscow, "it will be difficult to move forward in the dialogue, if the question of the ecclesiological and canonical consequences of Uniatism" (derogatory term which indicates the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian church of Eastern rite but loyal to the Pope)  remains unresolved.

Opposition of Georgian Orthodox Church fails to hinder approval

The preparation of the document began during the Commission’s previous plenary session, held in Amman, in 2014, and was completed by the Commission’s Coordination Committee during the 2015 meeting in Rome. "In Chieti, - explained a note from the Vatican press office - Members of the Commission will be required to evaluate whether the draft adequately reflects the currently existing consensus on the delicate question of the theological and ecclesiological relationship between primacy and synodality in the Church's life or if further investigation of the issue is required".

According to the Moscow Patriarchate, the consensus has been reached, even if the Georgian Orthodox Church "disagreed with the individual paragraphs" of the document. The Georgian objection is contained in a note in the final communiqué adopted by the plenary session. A side note, in this regard, will also be inserted in the joint document, which will be published soon by the Commission. It is an encouraging decision, some commentators have pointed out, as the Orthodox have not allowed the objections of the Georgian Church to prevent the adoption of the document. Georgian Orthodox are indicating their willingness to go their own way on other issues. In previous sessions, the pan-Orthodox council of Crete, for example, they were only ones to oppose marriages between Orthodox and non-Orthodox.

The Uniates and the theme of the next plenary

No agreement was reached in Chieti regarding  the next plenary session, which the Moscow Patriarchate hopes will address the issue of Uniatism. It was decided that the Joint Commission Coordinating Committee will decide the theme at their next gathering which will be held in the course of 2017. At the Chieti Plenary, the head of the Russian Orthodox delegation, the 'foreign minister' of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion, however, warned that the action of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine is "unacceptable from the point of view of Christian ethics".  Here blame was laid squarely on the shoulders of the Major Archbishop of Kiev, Sviatoslav Shevchuk.  According to Moscow his anti-Russian statements, "are contrary to our dialogue and sow distrust between Orthodox and Catholics". "We must be aware that within our Churches, there are people who hinder our path and we must bear this in mind when we think about the future of our dialogue." The other member of the Russian Orthodox delegation, Archimandrite Irenaeus, pointed out that "it will be difficult to move forward in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, if the question of the ecclesiological and canonical consequences of Uniatism remains unresolved ". "The goal of our dialogue is not to reach an agreement on issues that already see us in agreement, but we also need to discuss the issues that divide us. And the theme of Uniatism is a highly topical issue, one of the central ones in the second millennium".

Proceedings of the Joint Commission - chaired by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the Archbishop of Telmessos Iob (Getcha), the Ecumenical Patriarchate - was attended by two representatives from each of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches and as many Catholic representatives.

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