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US Orthodox-Catholic dialogue outlines vision of unity

Catholic World News - October 08, 2010

The Pope would no longer select most bishops in a vision of restored Christian unity outlined by the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation.

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation is the official Orthodox-Catholic dialogue in the US and Canada. Last year, participants in this dialogue criticized the work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, which is the official Orthodox-Catholic dialogue at the international level.

“Steps Towards a Reunited Church: A Sketch of an Orthodox-Catholic Vision for the Future” was issued by the North American dialogue following a September 30-October 2 meeting in Washington. The dialogue also issued a second document, “Celebrating Easter/Pascha Together.”

The vision of restored unity in “Steps Towards a Reunited Church” includes the mutual adoption of the original version of the Nicene-Constantinopalitan Creed, which did not include the word Filioque (the original version said that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father,” rather than “from the Father and the Son”).

A “renewed Roman primacy” would be essential to Christian unity, according to the document:

The bishop of Rome would be, by ancient custom, the “first” of the world’s bishops and of the regional patriarchs. His “primacy of honor” would mean, as it meant in the early Church, not simply honorific precedence but the authority to make real decisions, appropriate to the contexts in which he is acting. His relationship to the Eastern Churches and their bishops, however, would have to be substantially different from the relationship now accepted in the Latin Church. The present Eastern Catholic Churches would relate to the bishop of Rome in the same way as the present Orthodox Churches would. The leadership of the pope would always be realized by way of a serious and practical commitment to synodality and collegiality.

The document also called for a significant change in the relationship of the Pope and the Roman Curia to the rest of the Church in the West. Most significantly, the Pope would no longer select bishops in the West.

His universal role would also be expressed in convoking and presiding over regular synods of patriarchs of all the Churches, and over ecumenical councils, when they should occur. In the Western Church, this same presiding function would include convoking and leading regular episcopal synods. In harmony with the Pope’s universal ecumenical ministry, the Roman curia’s relationship to local bishops and episcopal conferences in the Latin Church would become less centralized: bishops, for instance, would have more control over the agenda and the final documents of synods, and the selection of bishops would again normally become a local process.

The new documents from the North American Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, chaired by Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans and Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh, come less than a year after the North American dialogue criticized the Ravenna document, a modest consensus document on the papacy developed by the international Orthodox-Catholic dialogue. “Steps Towards a Reunited Church” appears to backtrack from this criticism by citing the Ravenna document in a positive manner.

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Obregon - Oct. 10, 2010 12:58 AM ET USA

    Well, "Most significantly, the Pope would no longer select bishops in the West." This is not ecumenism, it is irenicism and liberal Catholics and others of the same persuasion have been trying to destroy Papal authority for a long time now, and all in the name of progressive Christianity.

  • Posted by: eustachius234 - Oct. 09, 2010 5:09 AM ET USA

    Just more of the same nonsense that is trying to localize the Church, destroy true unity, and eventually neuter the Pope's authority. If the Orthodox don't accept Catholic dogma, then evangelize them. Enough compromise, it's time to take a hard line stance, and speak truth to error.

  • Posted by: jsbrewer7212 - Oct. 09, 2010 2:38 AM ET USA

    Sounds to me like some US Catholic Bishops want to get out from under the control of the Vatican, reminiscent of Europe in the 15th century!

  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Oct. 08, 2010 6:53 PM ET USA

    Asking the Western church to select bishops locally, instead of being appointed or approved by Rome, seems to me to be going too far. Perhaps a compromise would be a bishop selected locally but approved by Rome. Come to think of it, isn't this what's being done now? It's certainly the way things are done in China.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Oct. 08, 2010 5:50 PM ET USA

    This sounds like re-packaged ecclesiology of the orthodox churches rather than a recognition of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff as it existed in the first milennium.

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