Sister Churches: Communion between Orthodox and Catholic Draws Near
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Participants in the 12th Session of the "Joint Theological Commission for Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches" prayed together and discussed the relationship between the two Churches. They did so with humility and a desire to heal the division which has existed in the Body of Christ for over a millennium.This meeting points us in the direction of where this dialogue is headed, a restored communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
Orthodox and Catholic participants at the historic meeting in Vienna.
P>VIENNA, Austria (Catholic Online) - From September 22, 2010 through September 26, 2010, participants in the 12th Session of the "Joint Theological Commission for Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches" prayed together and discussed the relationship between the two Churches. They did so with humility and a desire to heal the division which has existed in the Body of Christ for over a millennium. Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, Patriarchate of Constantinople, and Archbishop Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, co-chaired this historic gathering.
The reports from the meetings given by both Orthodox and the Catholic participants were promising and prophetic. Reuters, in a Friday article entitled "Catholics and Orthodox report promising progress in latest round of unity talks" led with this assessment, "Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologians reported promising progress on Friday in talks on overcoming their Great Schism of 1054 and bringing the two largest denominations in Christianity back to full communion. Experts meeting in Vienna this week agreed the two could eventually become "sister churches" that recognize the Roman pope as their titular head but retain many church structures, liturgy and customs that developed over the past millennium."
Positive reports increased over the weekend. Some contained lengthy excerpts from the statements given by Metropolitan John and Archbishop Koch at a Press conference. They are stunning! Here is a quote from Metropolitan John of Pergamon: "There are no clouds of mistrust between our two churches. Our predecessors and especially the leaders of our churches both on the Catholic and the Orthodox side have prepared a way for a friendly and brotherly discussion. I must assure you that this spirit prevailed in our discussions. And therefore I wish to assure that if we continue like that, God will find a way to overcome all the difficulties that remain, and bring our two churches - the most ancient churches, the churches that share the same ecumenical past, the same traditions, the same sense of the church - to bring us to full community."
Archbishop Karl Koch used Venerable John Paul's image of the two Churches as the two lungs of Christianity and called them to breathe together again. The participants discussed the role of the Successor of Peter and the Archbishop noted, "This is a difficult but necessary theme because we lived together in diversity but also in unity in the first millennium, but a second millennium in which we grew apart lies between us. Pope Benedict XVI already said in his famous lecture in Graz in 1976 that we cannot expect more from the Orthodox than what was practiced in the first millennium.
"So the basic discussion is about how these churches lived in the first millennium and how we can find a new (common) path today. This discussion needs the necessary free space ('Freiraum') and it needs patience. .. I know some people can be impatient but patience is an expression of love. People know from personal experience what it means when two people in a marriage drift apart - we have 1,000 years to work through. We must and we want to take new paths because Jesus gave us the mission to live together."
In a Question and Answer session the Archbishop went further, "I think there is certainly a recognition that in the early days of the church, there was a practice or an order of things in which Rome had a special role, a primary role. We still have to speak about what that meant and implied. Ravenna was the great recognition that there must be a protos, a first one, at all levels - at the level of the local church, of the region and on the universal level. Now we are at the universal level and we're looking more closely what this protos at this level looked like at that time. This is something new."
Metropolitan John commented, "We are still studying the first millennium, we have not reached a conclusion yet. But the main and most important thing we have discovered in the discussions is that what we decided in Ravenna seems to be confirmed by the history of the first millennium. In other words there in the first millennium there was a recognition of the special role that the Bishop of Rome played in the church. There was also the fact that the Bishop of Rome did not operate without consultation with other bishops in his own area as well as universal. So we are discovering that in history and this is an important aspect."
These few quotes reveal a glimpse of a very significant meeting in Christian Church history. I believe that full communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is being prompted by the Holy Spirit and will occur. It will be the most important development of the Third Christian Millennium. The coming communion between the "sister churches" will aid in the re-Christianizing of the West.
The model of "Sister Churches" was used by the Venerable John Paul II. It was clarified by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in a letter to Bishops on June 30, 2,000. The Congregation was led by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger who now occupies the Chair of Peter ( Go Here)The Letter concluded with these words, " it must also be borne in mind that the expression sister Churches in the proper sense, as attested by the common Tradition of East and West, may only be used for those ecclesial communities that have preserved a valid Episcopate and Eucharist."
Clearly, the use of this term by the representative of Pope Benedict XVI at this meeting in Vienna points us in the direction of where this dialogue is headed, a restored communion between the "sister churches". The implications of such a restored communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches are immense.
I pray daily for the full communion of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. I do so because I believe it is the will of God that, in the Words of Jesus, the Living Word Incarnate, "All May be One" (John 17: 21). I do so because I believe it is the hope for the recovery of western civilization. We are struggling under a new barbarism which purports to be "progressive" while it leads our culture into the barrenness of the old paganism just pretending to be new.
The healing of the division between these "sister churches" will unleash a new missionary age. The gifts found in the healed, restored Church will enrich both East and West. Our recovered fraternity will assist us in the mission which we face together in our One Lord.
As the West staggers under what Pope Benedict XVI called a "Dictatorship of Relativism, it is the fullness of truth revealed in Jesus Christ as found within His Church which can save it from rushing over a cliff to its own demise. The world needs the Church, breathing with both lungs, to once again become its soul in this age which has lost its moral compass.
Sister Churches: restored communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches draws near.
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