THE CONFERENCE IN ROME AND CONSTANTINOPLE

by Archbishop Peter (L'Huiller) of New York and New Jersey

 

For about fifteen years regular annual meetings have taken place between Orthodox and Roman-Catholic hierarchs from North America. This is organized by "The Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops." The Orthodox members are appointed by the SCOBA. Presently the Orthodox chairman is Metropolitan Silas of the Greek Archdiocese and the Roman-Catholic chairman is Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee. Normally those meetings are held in a city of the United States and alternatively the Roman-Catholics and the Orthodox are hosts. But, for the last year, the Catholic members suggested that the meeting take place in Rome and Istanbul and the Orthodox accepted this idea. The dates were fixed: 26 November to 7 December 1995. Thus, it would be possible to be in Istanbul for the feast of St. Andrew and in Myra for that of St. Nicholas, but the trip to Myra had to be canceled because of the opposition of the Turkish Authorities.

The working sessions took place in Istanbul; the stage in Rome was nevertheless interesting. It gave not only the opportunity to visit archeological sites, but to have a significant meeting with Archbishop Tauron of the Secretariat of State of the Vatican. Orthodox and Roman-Catholics candidly expressed their respective views on various subjects and above all about the Involvement of the Roman See in the former Yugoslavia. We also visited the "Oriental Institute" where we were received by the staff and addressed by Fr. Robert Taft, the best contemporary specialist of the Byzantine liturgy. The library of this Institute is probably the most complete with regard to the Christian East. On Monday, November 27, the delegation had a special audience with His Holiness Pope John Paul II; the afternoon of the same day with Cardinal Cassidy and other prominent personalities of the "Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity" where subjects regarding relations between Roman-Catholics and Orthodox in Eastern Europe were addressed. Tuesday evening the US Ambassador to the Roman See gave a reception at his residence in honor of our delegation.

In Constantinople, where we arrived on Wednesday, November 29, we were received by His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and immediately after we were present at the Patriarchal Cathedral for the Vespers of St. Andrew. The following day we were also present at the liturgy celebrated by the Patriarch and other members of the Holy Synod. The Chancellor of the OCA, Protopresbyter Rodion Kondratick, who was in Istanbul on a personal invitation of His All-Holiness, took part in the celebration. In. the evening of the feast, there was at the Fanar a reception hosted by His All-Holiness in honor of the Patronal feast of the Ecumenical Throne. It would take too long to describe the other visits and receptions during our sojourn in Istanbul and in its neighborhood but we should mention our visit to the Theological School of Khalki, which until recently trained generations of Patriarchs, bishops, clerics and scholars in the East; the list includes the present Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria. The closing down of this school is a part of an agenda of the Turkish Authorities to slowly quell the life of Orthodox Christianity in the country.

To be sure, in this short report we must mention the purpose of the dialogue. There was first the presentation of the synopsis of U.S. Orthodox-Catholic dialogues made by Professor John Erickson for the Orthodox and Dr. John Borelli for the Roman-Catholics. This author presented a paper about mixed marriages between Orthodox and Roman-Catholics. This subject has been examined for a long time and hitherto, in America, a solution completely satisfying for both parties has not been reached and such a full agreement is not easy. I proposed an approach based on historical perspective indicating the limits of the implementation of the principle of flexibility (oikonomia) acceptable by the Orthodox, taking into account the agreement reached in Europe. Expounding even briefly on this question would lie far beyond the scope of this article because it would be impossible to avoid oversimplification and moreover, this topic is on the agenda of the next meeting which will take place at Washington, D.C. in October of this year. Hopefully the Episcopal Consultation will be able to propose a definitive draft for a mutual agreement to be submitted to the Orthodox and Roman-Catholic Authorities.

From Jacob's Well
Newspaper of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey
Orthodox Church in America
Winter 1996

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