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Tuesday, September 19, 2006


VATICAN CITY, SEP 19, 2006 (VIS) - The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church is holding its ninth plenary session in Belgrade, Serbia, from September 18 to 25.

  A communique issued by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity explains how yesterday evening Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church welcomed Catholic and Orthodox members of the commission to the headquarters of his patriarchate.

  With its Belgrade meeting, the commission resumes its work following the plenary session held in Baltimore, U.S.A., in July 2000. "From December 13 to 15, 2005," the communique reads, "official theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, coordinated for the Orthodox by the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, inaugurated its current new phase with the meeting of the commission's 'joint coordinating committee,' which had the task of preparing the plenary session of Belgrade and of establishing the theme to be discussed.

  "The resumption of dialogue," the communique adds, "has been possible thanks to the constant activity of mediation and persuasion encouraged by Pope John Paul II, by Pope Benedict XVI, by the commitment of the ecumenical patriarchate, and by many forms of contact and collaboration between the Catholic Church and the individual Orthodox Churches. It is based upon a decision taken at the Church of St. George in Fanar in September 2005 during a pan-Orthodox meeting called by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I."

  The communique goes on to recall how in Rome last December, the coordinating committee established "that in accordance with the documents already agreed by the commission, the general context of its work is the theology of 'koinonia,' or communion, and that this context needs to be reinforced with further study in order to enable more profound debate on two interconnected questions central to relations between the two Churches: the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the theme of 'uniatism,' in addition to other questions that remain open."

  The Belgrade meeting, then, "will study the draft document prepared during the 1990 meeting of the joint coordinating committee in Moscow and not yet discussed by the plenary session of the commission: 'The ecclesiological and canonical consequences of the sacramental nature of the Church - authority and conciliarity in the Church'."

  On September 21, the 29 Catholic members participating in the plenary will attend an Orthodox liturgical celebration for the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God. On September 23, the Orthodox members will participate in a Mass at the Catholic cathedral of Belgrade, and on September 24, the Catholic members will attend a divine liturgy celebrated by the Orthodox.

  The commission is presided by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and by Ioannis, metropolitan of Pergamo. It has two secretaries: Gennadios, metropolitan of Sassima, and Msgr. Eleuterio F. Fortino, under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

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