Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Across the sea

In his meetings with the Greek bishops on their
ad limina
visits to Rome, Benedict XVI had a few things to discuss with them. Zenit.org has the stories.

1. Relations with the Greek Orthodox:

"The desire is great in all to take part together in the one altar on which is offered under the veil of the Sacrament the one Sacrifice of Christ," the Pope said today when addressing relations with the Orthodox.

"We want to intensify prayer so that the day will come as soon as possible in which we will be able to break together the Bread and drink from the same Chalice in which the price of our salvation is deposited," he added.

In this context, Benedict XVI hoped "that ever greater perspectives will be opened for a constructive dialogue between the Orthodox Church of Greece and the Catholic Church, and that common initiatives will multiply in a spiritual, cultural and practical order."

Relations between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Holy See have progressed since Pope John Paul II visited Greece in May 2001 and was received by Archbishop Christodoulos, according to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

2. Legal status of the Church in Greece:

Benedict XVI took up the request of Catholic bishops of Greece to be able to have an "appropriate" juridical status in that country.

The Pope formulated the request today in the wake of meetings with the prelates of that overwhelmingly Orthodox nation, in which Catholics comprise 0.55% of the population.

"In the conversations I have had with you I have gathered your desire to have defined, on the part of the state, the right to have an appropriate and recognized juridical status," the Holy Father told an audience of Catholic bishops of Greece. [...]

Taking into account the Orthodox majority, the Greek Constitution establishes a state license to build "places of prayer" and prohibits proselytism.

Jewish and Islamic worship are recognized by the law as "semi-public," whereas the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations are recognized as private entities. The opening of a Catholic church requires permission from the local Orthodox bishop.

Benedict XVI recalled that "a dialogue is taking place on the issue that does not see the Apostolic See as the first protagonist. It is, in fact, an internal matter to which, however, the Holy See pays much attention, as it desires an appropriate solution of the problems at stake."

"In this field, in addition to dialogue, perseverance is necessary," he asserted.

The Pontiff told the visiting bishops: "The Catholic Church does not seek any privilege, but only recognition of its own identity and mission, so that an effective contribution can be made to the well-being of the noble Greek people, of which you are a part.

"With patience and in respect of legitimate procedures, and thanks to the commitment of all, the desired understanding will be attained."

Juxtaposing these two stories, it's interesting to see how they fit together. In the first one, Benedict is all about reconciliation and dialogue. He praises the archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church and bids his own bishops to work towards greater unity. In the second story, the Pope's tone remains the same, one of dialogue, but the message is different: the Catholic Church wants 'recognition of its own identity and mission' for the 'well-being of the noble Greek people'.

In short the message is, 'Unity is good, guys, but don't allow yourselves to be subsumed into the larger Orthodox culture.'

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