From our man in the Vatican – Catholic and Orthodox representatives have ended the bilateral meeting of the Catholic/Orthodox International Dialogue Comission citing a “spirit of friendship” and promising another meeting in the next year.
In a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting in Belgrade, held over five days, said the 60-some participants had discussed in depth a draft document that touched on papal supremacy and the role of Eastern-rite Catholic churches.
Unsurprisingly, a joint committee has been established to redraft the text in accordance with revisions imposed from both sides. The revised document is expected to be adopted by both sides during the next meeting.
In truth, it will probably contain as much substance as an unblessed communion wafer. What is important is that representatives of the Eastern Patriarchs and the Pontiff formerly known as the Patriarch of the West have sat down together without anyone being lamped with a crosier.
It was the first time the Commission had met since 2000, when talks were broken off following an outbreak of ecumenical happy-slapping concerning the Eastern Catholic churches in the former USSR.
It said the draft document, titled “The Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Conciliarity and Authority in the Church,” was discussed at three levels of the church’s life: local, regional and universal. Esschewing details, Catholic participants said before the meeting that papal primacy was thought to be the most important and problematic issue on the table and that the Belgrade meeting would be part of a long process towards an “agreement” and presumably eventual re-unification.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s head of delegation, told Vatican Radio Sept. 22 that the most important result of the meeting would be “the friendship we established in these days”.
Characterizing the atmosphere as “very serious but also very calm and friendly” he said that while the dialogue had been frank, all sides had steered clear of polemics, calling the progress “certainly a starting point”.
Cardinal Kasper, who famously said Cardinal Ratzinger would be elected pope “over my dead body” before the conclave, has been extremely well behaved since surviving Benedict’s election.
The Pope has said he hoped the Belgrade meeting would lead to “real ecumenical progress” between Catholics and the Orthodox.