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Orthodox bishop shares Communion with Catholics May 27, 2008

A Romanian Orthodox bishop has shared Communion with Catholics, causing a sensation in a country where Byzantine Catholics and Orthodox have a history of tense relations.

At the consecration of the Queen of Peace parish church in Timisoara on May 25, Orthodox Metropolitan Nicolae Corneanu of Banat asked to share Communion. The Orthodox metropolitan approached the altar and received the Eucharist from his own hand.

Romanian Catholic Bishop Alexandru Mesian of Lugoj was the celebrant of the Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Catholic church; Archbishop Francisco-Javier Lozano, the apostolic nuncio to Romania, was also present.

Although Orthodox and Catholic bishops often join in ecumenical services, and occasionally participate in each other's liturgical ceremonies, they do not share Communion-- an indication of the breach in ecclesial communion between the Orthodox churches and the Holy See. In Romania, tensions between the Orthodox Church and the Eastern-rite Romanian Catholic Church have been pronounced, adding to the surprise created by Metropolitan Corneanu's action.

With some Orthodox believers outraged by the metropolitan's sharing Communion with Catholic bishops, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Romania issued a statement saying that at the next meeting of the Orthodox synod, in July, Metropolitan Corneanu "may be asked to give an appropriate explanation" for his action.

The statement from the Orthodox patriarchate went on to say that ecumenical relations with the Catholic Church, "already quite fragile, cannot be helped, but are rather complicated," by sharing in Communion.

Metropolitan Corneanu-- who was one of the first Orthodox bishops to admit that he had cooperated with the secret police under the Communist regime-- has a record of friendship with Romanian Catholics. He was among the few Orthodox leaders prepared to return church properties that had been seized by the Communist government from Catholic ownership in 1948 and handed over to Orthodox control.

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