The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church has decided to “forgive” two Orthodox bishops for their participation in religious rites with Eastern Catholics. However, it warned that no Orthodox cleric may celebrate sacraments or blessings with ministers of other religions on pain of excommunication.
Nicolae Corneanu, the Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop of Banat, had provoked controversy after receiving Holy Communion during a Greek Catholic Mass in Timisoara on May 25. The synod’s forgiveness has reportedly settled the controversy, according to the SIR News Agency.
“The Holy Eucharist is not a means and a stage towards the unity of the Christian Church, but the deepest manifestation of the unity of the Church, its highlight,” stated Patriarch Daniel of the Romanian Orthodox Church in a speech to the synod.
Patriarch Daniel reportedly intended to reassert the fundamental principle of Orthodox ecclesiology and ecumenism. He said that such gestures of “so-called inter-communion” in fact “reduce the dogmatic differences between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church and undermine the unity of faith as the foundation of the reconstruction of the communion between the two Churches.”
The Patriarch reiterated that it is forbidden for Orthodox believers to receive the Eucharist in a different Church.
He also said the decision does not intend to treat other Christians “with arrogance or contempt” or to interrupt theological dialogue.
“Through a sincere, deep theological dialogue, the dogmas that separate the Catholic Church from the Orthodox Church can be redefined,” he concluded.
Father Francisc Dobos, spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Bucharest, responded to the decision, saying in a press release, “We believe it is right for every Church to solve its own problems according to its own principles and regulations. We are convinced that the dialogue between the two Churches will move on, towards a communion from the same chalice.”
The Romanian synod also “forgave” Bishop Sofronie of Oradea, another Orthodox prelate, who had celebrated the blessing of holy water with the Greek Catholic Bishop of Oradea, Virgil Bercea, on “Twelfth Night,” the evening of Epiphany.
“The Holy Synod disapproved of the non-canonical gestures made by the two leaders and accepted their change of mind and repentance as a first sign of their correction,” read a press release from the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate.