Catholic, Orthodox churches move a small step closer

By Patsy McGarry
Further progress towards closer communion between Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians were made this week as news emerged of an agreement reached between theologians of both denominations at Ravenna in Italy last month.

They concluded that the Pope held the highest rank in Christianity before the Great Schism of 1054, which saw Western and Eastern Christendom diverge.

This week the Vatican issued the joint declaration agreed last month. The document made clear however that neither side was clear on what power came with that rank.

At the time of the Great Schism, Orthodox Christians in the old Byzantine Empire rejected the universal authority of the Roman Pontiff and gradually developed autonomous national churches with no papacy.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican’s Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said last month’s document gave Catholics hope but cautioned there was still a long way to go before Catholic and Orthodox Christians could speak of any kind of unity.

“This document is a modest first step and as such one of hope, but we must not exaggerate its importance,” he said. “This will not be easy. The road is very long and difficult.”

Pope Benedict has made dialogue with Orthodox Christians a priority of his pontificate. Last November in Istanbul he met Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual head of Orthodox Christians worldwide. Organised under national churches, they number 220 million members. There are 1.1 billion Catholics.

The Russian Orthodox Church walked out of the theologians’ meeting at Ravenna in a row over the autonomy of the Orthodox Church in Estonia.
Source: Irish Times

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