“Enhet blant de ortodokse er nødvendig hvis katolikker og ortodokse skal komme videre på veien mot full enhet.” Dette sa kardinal Walter Kasper, president for Vatikanets Enhetskommisjon, da han kommenterte møtet i den internasjonale kommisjonen for dialog mellom Den katolske og Den ortodokse kirke som helhet. Møtet varte fra 18. til 25. september, og ble holdt i Beorgrad i Serbia.
Det var et viktig og etterlengtet møte, der dialogen mellom kirkene ble gjenopptatt. Det hadde ikke vært noe møte i kommisjonen siden juli 2000, i Baltimore, USA.
Men etter møtet protesterte den russiske delegasjonen på at patriarken av Konstantinopel så tydelig hadde blitt gitt førsteplassen blant de ortodokse. Kardinal Kasper presiserte at katolikkene ikke ønkset å blande seg i slike interne ortodokse spørsmål, og håpet at denne uenigheten ville løses og ikke legge hindringer i veien for de katolsk-ortodokse samtalene framover.
Cardinal Kasper explained on Vatican Radio that the meeting implied a “step forward.”
“All the Orthodox Churches were present,” he said, and “the working sessions unfolded in a friendly, positive and constructive atmosphere.”
The cardinal said that “many points of contact” were identified on the topic discussed, “the Church as communion,” namely, the relationship between councils and authority at the local, regional and universal level.
On this occasion it was decided not to address the topic of the Churches of Eastern tradition that are united with the Pope, as it has blocked the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue over the past 10 years.
“Obviously there are difficulties that are well known, but given that we have talked in a serene and positive atmosphere, we have the hope of being able to advance,” Cardinal Kasper said.
The 73-year-old Vatican official noted the “unexpected and very surprising hospitality” offered by the Orthodox Church of Serbia and particularly by Patriarch Pavle of Belgrade.
Catholics attended the Orthodox liturgy and Orthodox the Catholic liturgy. “Everything unfolded truly in a very good atmosphere,” the cardinal said.
After the meeting, on Monday, Bishop Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church in Vienna and Austria criticized Cardinal Kasper, through the Interfax press agency, for procedural questions adopted at the meeting.
In particular, he criticized the methodology adopted, as differences arose over the application of the traditional principle according to which the See of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople enjoys a primacy of honor among the Orthodox Churches.
“The question is inter-Orthodox and is not an argument of discussion between Catholics and Orthodox,” clarified Cardinal Kasper. “The Catholic side declared explicitly that it did not wish to intervene in this internal controversy.
“The question was addressed only from the point of view of procedure and only to see how it could possibly be surmounted. This position was expressly explained to the Russian Orthodox delegation, which makes its public protest hard to understand.”
For this reason, given next year’s meeting of the Orthodox-Catholic Commission, the cardinal hopes that in the meantime “a solution will be reached on the differences that exist at the Orthodox level.”
“If the question were to remain open,” the Vatican official said, “it would in fact cause a permanent difficulty for the international Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.”