Ian Falconer reports on the recent RC-Orthodox agreement
'A modest first step'. So Cardinal Walter Kasper, leader of the l Roman Catholic delegation, described the Ravenna Statement.
In October, the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue
between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church addressed ecclesial
communion, conciliarity and authority'. These issues feature also in the
Anglican-Orthodox Cyprus Statement, which I surveyed in the September New
The largest Orthodox Church was missing from Ravenna. Moscow Patriarchate
delegates walked out because of the presence of the Church of Estonia, declared
autonomous by Constantinople but not recognized by Moscow. The Bulgarians were
also absent. The Orthodox Church in America and The Orthodox Church in Japan
weren't invited, not being recognized by Constantinople. Ravenna includes
wording concerning ecumenical councils that Moscow had previously criticised.
The Moscow Patriarchate will comment in due course.
But divisions within Orthodoxy are ethnic, historical and political rather than
doctrinal. Anglicans note: RCs and Orthodox agree that no local church can
'modify the Creed' or 'change a fundamental point regarding the form of ministry
by a unilateral decision.
Like Cyprus, the Ravenna Statement begins with the Trinity, from whom koinonia
(communion) derives. Conciliarity is an expression of the communion of the whole
people of God. But it is normally the bishops, successors of the apostles
appointed by Jesus, who exercise responsibility and authority by meeting in
council (Latin concilium, Greek synodos).
Authority derives from the Word of God. The revealed Word in Scripture is
interpreted, through the Holy Spirit, by the Church in the apostolic Tradition,
alive in the community, with the Eucharist at its heart. Authority is 'a service
of love', to be obeyed on the principle that 'for Christians, to rule is to
serve'. Its goal is 'the gathering of the whole of humankind into Jesus Christ'.
There are three levels of authority and conciliarity - the local community of
bishop, presbyters and laity with their different gifts; regional (province,
patriarchate, etc.), where bishops meet in synod, with one first among equals;
and universal, where the catholicity of the Church embraces not only the
diversity of human communities but also their fundamental unity', one bishop
again first among equals.
How are authority and conciliarity practised at this level? The Ecumenical
Councils of the undivided Church made decisions that 'remain normative'. After
the division, some councils in East and West 'contributed to mutual
Both sides agree that from early times Rome was the Church that 'presides in
love' (Ignatius of Antioch, c.107). But even in the first millennium differences
arose as to the nature of the bishop of Rome as first among the patriarchs.
Differences concern the manner of exercising this primacy and its scriptural and
Anglo-Catholics should follow the Commission's next task with interest: 'What is the specific function of the bishop of the 'first see' in an ecclesiology oikoinonia and in view of what we have said on conciliarity and authority?
The full text appears on several websites, including wwwpontificalori-entalinstitute.com
Return to Home Page of This Issue
Return to Trushare Home Page