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THE RAVENNA DOCUMENT AND THE FUTURE OF ORTHODOX-CATHOLIC DIALOGUE1 Kallistos Ware* The principal obstacle The Second Vatican Council, in its decree on ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio (November 21, 1964), speaks with striking emphasis about what it terms “the special position of the Eastern Churches.” Significantly , the council finds it necessary to use contrasting terms to describe the attitude of Rome towards Orthodoxy. The Orthodox are “separated,” yet “still joined:” “Although these Churches are separated from us, they possess true sacraments, above all—by apostolic succession—the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined to us in a very close relationship.” The council refers in this context to “the authentic theological traditions” of Eastern Christians: “We must recognize that they are admirably rooted in Holy Scripture, fostered and given expression in liturgical life and nourished by the living tradition of the apostles and by the writings of the Fathers.”2 If all this is true, then it has to be asked why, more than four decades after Vatican II, there has been as yet no healing of the schism between Rome and the Orthodox East. If the two sides possess so much in common, what is it that still prevents us from sharing together in communion at the Table of the Lord? On the last occasion when Catholics and Orthodox met together in dialogue on the highest level—at the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438– 1439)—the chief difficulty was undoubtedly the Procession of the Holy Spirit and the addition of the Filioque to the Creed. Some ten months were devoted to this topic at Ferrara and Florence. About four months were taken up with the subject of purgatory and the blessedness of the saints. Only ten days were spent on the subject of papal primacy. Today our priorities are certainly different. While many Orthodox continue to regard the Filioque as a significant question that needs to be carefully examined, few would regard it as the primary impedimentum The Jurist 69 (2009) 766–789 766 * Metropolitan of Diokleia 1 This article was a lecture sponsored by the Tachmindji Foundation and given on 20 February 2008 at the Catholic University of America. 2 Vatican II, decree Unitatis redintegratio, 15 and 17. Eng. trans. The Documents of Vatican II, ed. Walter M. Abbott, S.J. (New York: Guild Press, 1966) 359–360. dirimens. On both sides the chief difficulty is now considered to be precisely the issue to which the Council of Florence devoted no more than a small fraction of its time: the papal claims. In the words of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I: “We have different ecclesiologies, and the place of the Bishop of Rome in the Universal Church of Christ constitutes the principal obstacle.”3 From the Catholic side, Cardinal Walter Kasper is in full agreement: “The papal ministry is the main hindrance on the path towards unity.”4 Perhaps, however, the statement of the Ecumenical Patriarch needs to be slightly modified. While it is indeed true that, from one point of view, Orthodox and Catholics have “different ecclesiologies,” yet at the same time many theologians on both sides are today agreed in taking, as the basis for their understanding of the Church, the notion of koinonia, and more particularly of eucharistic communion.5 Difficulties arise, not because our ecclesiologies are totally incompatible, but because in East and West we interpret this shared notion of koinonia in divergent ways. If it is primarily the question of the papal claims that prevents Orthodox and Catholics from sharing together in eucharistic communion,6 what progress has been made in overcoming this fundamental problem by the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, inaugurated at Patmos and Rhodes in 1980? At the Council of Ferrara-Florence in the fifteenth century, the participants began by scrutinizing points of disagreement. In the current international dialogue, a different policy has been adopted. To commence as at Florence with points of disagreement, so it was feared, would result in each side repeating familiar arguments developed over the centuries in past polemics. A fresh approach was the ravenna document 767 3 Quoted in Adriano Garuti, The Primacy...


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