AsiaNews | Nina Achmatova
Posted by Alex Murphy
Moscow (AsiaNews) – Relations between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Church in recent years are experiencing a ” positive trend,” due to the “clear recognition of the need to join forces in defence of traditional Christian values and counter some threats of modernity, such as the ‘aggressive secularism which threatens the moral basis of social and private life, the crisis of family values and the persecution and discrimination of Christians in the world”. This overview of inter-Christian dialogue, and in particular with the Catholic Church, was given by the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, as he opened the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church on February 2nd.
In his speech, published on the Patriarchate website, Kirill recalled some of the events in ecumenical dialogue with Catholics. Among these, the work of the the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, that aims to outline “a common position on a number of topical issues including family, church and state relations, the moral and spiritual reasons for the economic crisis. ”
Kirill highlighted his visit to Poland in August, the first as head of the Russian Orthodox Church and the ‘historical’ signature together with the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Msgr. Jozef Michalik, of a joint statement. The document is defined by the Patriarch as “the reflection of a mutual desire to forgive offenses and heal past wounds that have obscured relations between the Russian and Polish peoples.” The two churches have thus traced a common path with respect to issues such as secularism, abortion, euthanasia and the family.
In his message, the Patriarch hopes for continued good relations with the ancient Churches of the East, “especially at a time like this where countries once considered Christian are turning in a hostile manner on Christians themselves.” The reference is to the situation of the community in the Middle East and Africa, victim of targeted attacks by Islamic fundamentalism. Kirill has thus called for “solidarity between Christians in protecting the dignity of believers and to condemn hatred and vandalism against places of worship.”
Finally, in his message to the Council, the Patriarch criticized the Protestant communities, which “continue on the path of liberalization, especially in ecclesiology and moral teaching.” His criticisms are directed at the “blessing of homosexual unions and ordination of people who have openly admitted a non-traditional sexual orientation” that is becoming “the norm for several Protestant communities in the West”. For this reason, he said, trying to achieve a common doctrinal position with these churches “has lost its meaning.”
In the final resolution of the Council of Bishops, which ended on Feb. 5, the orthodox bishops subscribed to these positions, however, they also raised “concerns” regarding the theological Orthodox-Catholic dialogue. The Council notes “differences of approach” in the dialogue itself and expresses “doubts” regarding documents produced on the theme of Primacy in the universal Church, conciliarity (sobornost), orthodox doctrine and canonical tradition. The bishops stressed the need to make the process “more transparent.” They propose the inclusion of all bishops in the discussion of documents prepared by the committees responsible for the theological dialogue with Catholics. This consultation is justified, by “the primary importance of these decisions and the responsibility of bishops to preserve the purity of the Orthodox faith and the peace and unity of the Church.”