Orthodox Ready to Resume Dialogue

The Orthodox churches are set to revive what has been a stalled theological dialogue with the Catholic Church, said the head of an Orthodox delegation on a visit to the Vatican.

"All the Orthodox churches have now responded positively to the request of the Ecumenical Patriarchate" to appoint delegates to a mixed commission on theological dialogue, said Metropolitan John of Pergamum in a June 30 address to Pope Benedict XVI.

Metropolitan John was in Rome to represent Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople at the June 29 celebration of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

In a June 30 audience with Pope Benedict, Metropolitan John said the Ecumenical Patriarchate had asked the Orthodox churches to appoint two delegates each to the mixed international Catholic-Orthodox commission that had been established in 1980.

Talks stalled, however, after a meeting in July 2000 when Catholic and Orthodox officials and theologians failed to reach agreement over questions about the place of the Eastern Catholic churches, which the Orthodox refer to as the "uniates."

Metropolitan John said once the Orthodox churches appoint their delegates "this will allow us to resume our theological dialogue in the near future."

Meanwhile, in his address to the Orthodox delegation, Pope Benedict gave his full support for a resumption of talks and reaffirmed his "firm determination" to seek "full unity among all Christians."

"We want to continue together on the road of communion," and make "new steps and gestures" toward overcoming "the remaining misunderstandings and divisions," he said.

The pope said the unity they seek does not involve one body overriding or "absorbing" the other, but rather respects "the multiform fullness of the church" that must always be "one, holy, catholic and apostolic."

Pope Benedict expressed his joy in the continued tradition in which the Catholic Church and Ecumenical Patriarchate exchange high-level delegations for their reciprocal feast days. The Ecumenical Patriarchate sends a delegation to Rome for the June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul and a delegation from Rome attends the Nov. 30 celebrations in Istanbul for the feast of St. Andrew, patron saint of the patriarchal see.

The pope called this exchange a visible sign of their reciprocal desire to overcome division and conflict and promote "an increase in charity among us."

At the end of the June 29 Mass celebration of the patron saints of Rome, Pope Benedict and Metropolitan John prayed together at the tomb of St. Peter. Afterward, the pope hosted a luncheon in the Vatican for the Orthodox delegation.

In his June 30 address, Metropolitan John told the pope that his election as bishop of Rome "filled the hearts of all Christians with great satisfaction and eager expectations."

He said the pope's "theological knowledge and wisdom" were "vital for the life and ministry of the church."

He also said that Pope Benedict's "profound knowledge of the Orthodox tradition" and "deep respect for it" were especially important for Orthodox Christians.