Skip to comments.Catholic and Orthodox churches seek unity
Posted on 09/19/2006 6:45:40 AM PDT by montyspython
Catholic and Orthodox churches seek unity
September 18, 2006 3:54 PM
BELGRADE, Serbia-Top Roman Catholic and Orthodox dignitaries declared Monday that the time has come to close the ages-old rifts between the ancient branches of Christianity and bring East and West closer together.
Representing the world's 1.1 billion Catholics and more than 250 million Christian Orthodox, sixty bishops, metropolitans and cardinals, 30 from each side, convened in the Serbian capital Belgrade for a renewed "theological" dialogue while acknowledging that much wider issues are involved.
"East and West have been estranged from each other since the 11th century," said Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas, referring to the historic schism in 1054 when the spiritual leaders in the Vatican and in Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey, severed ties over the rising influence of the papacy.
That split was sealed then with an exchange of anathemas, spiritual repudiations, which were lifted in the 20th century but only with halting progress toward restoring bonds.
"We experience in our time that European nations unite and create one family," he said. "It is time to recover the ancient unity. ... East and West meet now not only on the theological level, but also on the political level."
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican's most senior figure on Christian unity, said the long-separated branches should turn to their "unity in God, one faith, one baptism."
"We look to the future to build unity for Europe," he added.
The week-long gathering in Belgrade is intended to re-start the top-level dialogue after formal talks broke off six years ago.
It is also a fresh start under Pope Benedict XVI, who has appealed to all Christians to unite against what he considers rampant secularism and declining faith in the West.
The Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox, however, have a long history of disputes and rivalry. Issues include the extent of papal authority and alleged attempts by Vatican to poach followers and encroach on historically Orthodox territory, particularly Ukraine and other areas of the former Soviet Union.
"As Christians, we ask our Lord to give us strength to put behind the past," Zizioulas said.
Cardinal Kasper responded praising "forgiveness, purification of our memory of bad things, from both sides."
The last such dialogue was in Emmitsburg, Maryland, in 2000, when the representatives put together a draft document examining the issues. That effort, however, fell apart and the text was never formally debated.
The venue of the present talks, the participants said, has symbolic importance. Belgrade was the capital of the former Yugoslavia, which broke up violently in the 1990s, including battles between Roman Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs. But its ethnic groups now strive for reconciliation.
"We have gathered in a country which is recovering from great difficulties, a country that is trying to resurrect itself," Zizioulas said after Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica greeted the guests at the opening ceremony.
Ako Bog da indeed.
Perhaps we should "unify" the threads... (pun definately intended)
Certainly, most Protestants agree with the Catholic Church more than they disagree.
However, the differences between the Catholic Church and Protestantism, generally, are too great to overcome to achieve intercommunion or any sort of organic unity. Heck, the differences between the various flavors of Protestantism prevent the same thing between all Protestants.
But they are predominantly issues of tradition and custom. The fundamental test for salvation is pretty much the same whether you're Catholic or Protestant.
"ELCA Lutherans and the Roman church came within a hairs breadth of coming into communion together a few years ago. As I understand it the last hurtle was on the point of the authority of the Pope."
I think that is an overly optimistic read of what actually happened. What happened is that theologians of the Catholic Church and of Lutheran groups agreed to a joint statement on justification. The joint statement more or less came to the conclusion that the differences between Catholic and Lutheran theology were principally differences of semantics and emphasis. Nonetheless, not even this document purported to fully resolve all differences.
When this document arrived at the Vatican, the pope accepted the existence of the document, but the Catholic Church added its own statement pointing out where the Catholic theologians had been perhaps a little too eager to finesse all differences. The statement applauded the progress in understanding between Catholics and Lutherans. It noted that the joint commission had significantly narrowed differences between Catholic and Lutheran theology on justification, but that some critical differences remained.
I suspect there are still major, likely unresolvable issues concerning sacraments, the Eucharist, Mary, the communion of saints, and ecclesiology, and that's even without throwing the papacy into the mix.
"But they are predominantly issues of tradition and custom."
That may be the view of some Protestants, but not of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church does not believe that crucial differences only relate to tradition (lower case "t") and custom. The Church believes many of the differences come down to different interpretations of Scriptures, and down to Sacred Tradition from the Apostolic era (which are part of Divine Revelation, along with Sacred Scripture).
Although many Protestants may not consider our Sacred Tradition to be part of Divine Revelation, the point is, we do. So do the Orthodox.
"The fundamental test for salvation is pretty much the same whether you're Catholic or Protestant."
I'm not sure you could get all Protestants to agree with that, no less the Catholic Church.
Tradition is so entrenched in certain circles that I believe many seem to confuse one for the other or don't differentiate the two at all. There are those who seem to follow tradition as more of a doctrine than really understanding the word.
The dichotomy of institutionalized religion can sometimes hamstring itself in providing a solid ground for teaching the word.
What is the key to salvation, though? The theologians in the Catholic Church (as well as the Pope) will tell you that the key to salvation is to acknowledge Christ as God, and accept Him as your savior.
And that's the same test for most Protestant denominations as well.
All the rest is dressing.
"The theologians in the Catholic Church (as well as the Pope) will tell you that the key to salvation is to acknowledge Christ as God, and accept Him as your savior."
Actually, the Catholic Church would say that one will go to Heaven if one dies in a state of grace.
And what does that mean?
To die in a state of grace is to die with no unforgiven mortal sins.
And, of course, to have received the sacrament of Baptism, which gives grace to the soul that was dead due to Original Sin.
But how do sins get forgiven?
I'll grant you that the packaging of the concept is different, and that is what separates the Catholic Church from Protestantism. On the other hand, it really boils down to pretty much the same thing if you follow the rabbit all the way to the end of the trail.
Who wants their religion boiled down?
Is faith about the absolute minimum amount of information that we must confess in order to be spared damnation?
Or did God want us to know more?
True, but it is at the dividing line that you define what a Christian is.
"On the other hand, it really boils down to pretty much the same thing if you follow the rabbit all the way to the end of the trail."
I guess I'm a bit reluctant to follow the rabbit, if you will. It's time-consuming, it's been done, and I'm not necessarily the best interlocutor with which to attempt it.
The question of justification was precisely that to which DManA referred. The supreme authority of the Catholic Church did not conclude that it all "...boil[ed] down to pretty much the same thing if you follow the rabbit all the way to the end of the trail."
I'm not really willing, inexpert that I am, to try to retrace all the steps taken by the Catholic theologians and the Lutheran theologians, and then retrace the steps of Pope John Paul II to get to this conclusion, especially in the hope that I might come to a different conclusion.
However, it would be wrong to think that there could be communion with the Catholic Church if there were complete agreement on the issue of justification. There are more essentials to Catholic Faith than just justification.
OK. Well, I'll agree with you that they are different. My point is that they are not as different as one might think, though obviously both Catholics and Protestants think otherwise.
"OK. Well, I'll agree with you that they are different."
"My point is that they are not as different as one might think, though obviously both Catholics and Protestants think otherwise."
Actually, what you said originally was:
"The primary difference is that the Catholic Church is steeped in tradition."
As I explained, this is false. The primary differenceS [capitalization intentional] are that we interpret Scripture differently from Protestants, in some fundamentally different ways, and that we understand Sacred Tradition to be a part of Divine Revelation, and thus, we understand the history of the Church in a significantly different way.
A shepherd must tend his flock and, at times, fight off the wolves.
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