By Deacon Keith Fournier
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Has the Patriarch of Constantinople proposed a path toward communion between Eastern Catholics and their Orthodox brethren? Could it be a breakthrough?
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) – Reports are circulating, in circles which are intensely attuned to the continued warming of relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, of a statement and proposal allegedly made by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.
If they are confirmed, it may signal a major move toward communion between Eastern Catholics and their Orthodox Brethren.It may also open the path to dialogue on communion between the Churches even wider.
The Religious Information Service of the Ukraine, associated with the Ukranian Catholic University, was cited as one source for the articles. Another was a German Ecumenical Journal named after the great Bishops Cyril and Methodius.
Both of these sources allege that the Orthodox Patriarch made an unusual gesture toward Eastern Catholic Churches which are in union with Rome, proposing that the members of those Churches somehow “return to Orthodoxy without breaking unity with Rome”.
Eastern Catholics actually believe, in some respects, that they have already done just what the Patriarch suggests. They are in full communion with Rome, and therefore with the Chair of Peter, while still remaining faithful to Orthodoxy, in their profession of faith, liturgical worship and practices.Some actually refer to themselves as "Orthodox in Union with Rome". Of course, the Orthodox have not seen it that way at all.Fortunatley, old animosity has often been replaced by a growing desire for restored communion.
Further, it is reported that the Patriarch spoke positively of a similar proposal for a form of “dual unity” made by the Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Archbishop Lubomyr Husar.Does that also suggest a warming in dialogue concerning concepts for a way toward communion?
These same sources indicate that the Patriarch may be proposing an approach to communion which would allow for some sort of “dual communion”, the details of which are not clear. Further, that he has suggested that the discussions between the two sister Churches look to the first millennium model of the relationship between Rome and Constantinople for pursuing this model of communion.
The Servant of God John Paul II, wrote regularly of the two Churches, Orthodox and Catholic, as being the “two lungs” of Christianity which must breathe together again in the Third Millennium. He dedicated much of his Pontificate to promoting communion between them.
His successor, Pope Benedict XVI has also dedicated his Pontificate to promoting this communion between East and Western Christianity in the Third Millennium. He has made regular overtures toward the Orthodox Church which have received warm and hopeful responses.
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