Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Catholic and Orthodox Churches Discuss Union

Many of us who believe there will be a coming One World Religion will find this very interesting.
The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox church have apparently laid the foundation for an eventual reunification, after having split almost a century ago .

I'm expecting that its only a matter of time before the Protestant denominations end up going "back to Rome" to unite with the "mother Church". Moves toward uniting the world's religions have been taking place for some time now.

NOTE: The reader might also want to keep in mind a related topic posted here: "Churches Back Plan To Unite Under Pope"which dealt with apostate Anglican (Episcopalian) Church leaders who are also looking to reunite with the Roman Catholic Church. First the Anglicans... now the Orthodox churches... there's definitely a trend here, folks. Only question is, "who's next"?


Catholic and Orthodox churches have laid the corner stone of a bridge unifying the two churches separated for almost an entire millennium.

The pope is 'first amongst the patriarchs', Rome is the 'first seat', the Roman Catholic Church 'lies within love'. A document signed both by the Catholic and the Orthodox churches, established unmistakably and definitely the primate of the Roman bishop, opening the way to the union between Catholic and Orthodox believers, who have been divided since the 1054 split.

The undisclosed document is the result of a summit held in October in Ravenna, where a Catholic delegation, led by Cardinal Kasper and an Pan-orthodox delegation led by Bishop Zizioulas from the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople, set the basis for a discussion over matters to solve in order to reestablish the union.

The 46 articles, a real road map, underline the path to follow in discussing topics in order to overcome the divisions of the past. Thus, the recognition of the Roman primacy is achieved, but it was immediately said that ‘the first seat’s role’ in the ecclesiastic community context has to be discussed. In other words, the prerogatives of the bishop of Rome have to be settled, considering that there are very differing opinions about the issues.

The document traces three basic concepts: ecclesiastic communion, authority and concilliarity. Both sides agree that bishops are the head of local churches and that nobody can substitute them. They both agree in recognizing that an ‘only and holy Church’ is achieved in every local church that holds Eucharist service, and in the communion of all churches.

An agreement has been reached also about the structure of a universal Church. The bishop represents the authority of local communities. The regional communities recognize a head among them (protos, in Greek). The global structure is still unsettled: experts will have a lot of work to do because the document states that at the universal level ‘those who lead different regions, along with all the bishops, cooperate in what concerns the entirety of the Church’. In this context it is underlined that ‘the heads have to recognize who is first among them’.

But to ensure an agreement - the ecumenical road map – there must be cooperation among everyone. All the bishops of Christianity, it is said, must not only be united with each other in faith, but “they also have the same responsibility and the same duty towards the Church”. The councils are “the main instrument” by with the Church’s community is expressed.

In other words, the Orthodox world marks that the bishop of Rome can not think to be a totalitarian sovereign who makes decisions alone or interferes with local administrations.
After all, Ratzinger himself stressed many times in the past that the bishop of Rome can not behave as an “absolute monarch”. A passage from the text (referring to regional authorities) sounds like a precise warning “The first can not do anything without the approval of the others”.

The Pope, however, is always mentioned in the text as bishop of Rome, or as one the five historical patriarchs.

Now it is up to Ratzinger. Only he can give a boost to the procedures. The Pope summoned all the cardinals of the world to a summit which will take place on November 23, and on that occasion the agenda will be exactly the ecumenism. The Catholic-Orthodox document will be the base of the debate, the Italian daily Repubblica reported on Wednesday.

Meanwhile Benedict XVI is reforming the bishops’ Synod, that is the world episcopate parliament that is held every three years: more delegates will be given to oriental Catholic churches – a link between the two churches – which will also have over 25 bishops, more space will be given to the discussion and working groups will be established. Benedict XVI has expressed the will to take “concrete steps” towards bringing the Christian churches closer since his election. But there are also some problems within the Orthodox side.

Patriarch of Moscow Alexei II is reluctant to recognize the supremacy of Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I and at the same time he does not forgive the Vatican the activity of Catholic dioceses in the former Soviet Union. His representatives in Ravenna walked out of the summit because the Estonian Orthodox Church joined the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople.

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