Slight progress reported in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue

.- A week-long, closed-door meeting between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches was “marked by a spirit of friendship and trustful collaboration” and showed signs of progress in the churches’ relationship, reported church representatives in a joint statement.

About 60 bishops, metropolitans, and cardinals from various countries gathered in Belgrade for the ninth meeting of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the two churches, reported AKI.

The commission worked on a document, drafted at a Moscow meeting in 1990, titled “The Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Conciliarity and Authority in the Church”.

The document “was carefully examined in a shared spirit of genuine commitment to the search for unity,” said a joint statement issued Monday.

The meeting was an important step in restarting talks in which there has been little progress in the past 15 years. At the commission’s last meeting in Baltimore in July 2000, participants could not agree on the text of a joint statement.

Participants assessed that the document is a solid basis for the next meeting to be hosted by the Roman Catholic Church next year.

The Belgrade meeting was co-chaired by the Vatican chief ecumenist Cardinal Walter Kasper and Metropolitan John of Pergamon.

According to a report filed by AKI, the main obstacles in bringing the two Churches closer included the issue of papal primacy, the Orthodox Church’s organization on national grounds, the view that the Vatican wants to establish Catholic parishes in traditionally Orthodox territory, and the crimes committed by members of both churches during the recent Balkan wars in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.

“The Churches of the East and West are setting an extraordinary example by means of their dialogue,” noted Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica in greeting the clerics.

“The greatest gift to contemporary humanity would be to convince people, perhaps first and foremost the political elites, that dialogue has no alternative,” he said.

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