OΝΕ LORD AND OΝΕ CHURCH
WISHFUL THINKING AND HARD REALITIES
Επιστημονική Επετηρίδα Θεολογικής Σχολής (Τμήμα Ποιμαντικής), Αριστοτέλειο Πανεπιστήμιο, Θεσσαλονίκη 1992. (Τιμητικό Αφιέρωμα στον καθηγητή Ιωάννη Ορ. Καλογήρου).
1. A Movement toward Reconciliation
c. Easing the East-West tension
The Orthodox communion has special difficulties which the ecumenical movement, since it regards itself as the church which has never separated itself from the true faith and which has preserved the unbroken tradition. Nevertheless it perceives a divided Christendom as a bleeding wound on Christ's body which must be healed. Thus it has been important for the Orthodox communion to be active in the WCC and to contribute to the various documents gathered by the CFO on the road towards unity.
Ιn this process some difficult questions remain to be addressed to the Orthodox. It is inconceivable for them to attempt intercommunion with heretics or schismatics, since one cannot have communion with those who are separated. Ιn pursuing the ecumenical road they must not only ask, "Can we commune others?" but also, "Can we refuse to commune others?"(10). Only if the essence of faith or church order are in jeopardy can they refuse communion to others. Thus the important question is whether the separation they speak of is a separation from the one true tradition of the faith, or rather a separation in terms of different forms of the same tradition? Damaskinos Papandreou rightly said: "We live in a time of detoxification of the poisoned climate between the churches, which resulted from a century long process of fanaticism and thorough misunderstandings. We live in a time of free mutual encounters and true dialogue, which consists in everyone fully and wholly stating one's opinion, but also being ready to listen, and, if necessary to re-appropriate the inadequate elements of one's own exposition"(11).
With conciliatory seriousness and without fanaticism the Orthodox church has entered into many different dialogues. Most important has been the dialogue with Rome, considering the fact that in 1054 the two communions had excommunicated each other. Though there were serious internal difficulties caused by those who smelled the danger of heresy behind every move toward reconciliation, the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople has, since 1958, carefully pursued a dialogue of love which led Rome to prepare a mutual lifting on the 1054 excommunication. On December 7, 1965 at a festive session of Vatican ΙΙ and at the cathedral of the Greek quarters in Constantinople a joint declaration was read simultaneously in which the mutual excommunication was lifted. The hope was also expressed that the dialogue of love may lead once again to a full communion of faith, brotherly harmony, and sacramental life as once existed during the first millennium. On November 30, 1979, John Pau1 ΙΙ and Dimitrios Ι could announce in Constantinople that a joint Orthodox-Roman Catholic Commission had been formed to start a dialogue between the two communions. The Commission has had several sessions since that time.
There have also been contacts between Rome and those Orthodox churches which do not accept the decision of Chalcedon, such as with the Armenians in 1967 and with the Syriacs in 1971. So far a regional theological commission has started its work only in Egypt between the Copts and the Roman Catholics. Other contacts have been unofficial. But these contacts are less tarnished by the polemics of history since these churches had removed themselves from the fold long before the occurrence of the mutual excommunications in 1054. Ιn addition to these contacts there have also been official contacts between the Orthodox and the Lutherans, the Anglicans, the Old-Catholics, and others. All these dialogues show a readiness to step forward and to move through reconciliation to something new. But what should this new constellation be?
10 Cf. Damaskinos Papandreou, «Die bilateralen Dialoge der Orthodoxen Kirche. Überlegungen und Perspektiven», Kerygma und Dogma 29 (1983): 109.
11. Ibid., 112.