Friday, December 01, 2006

In conclusion

The Holy Father has flown home after presiding over Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul. Tomorrow evening is Vespers and the start of Advent, so Benedict won't get much of a break right away.

Vatican watchers, church commentators and everyone else though will have time to sit down and ponder what it all means as far as the trip to Turkey and its effect on Christian-Muslim and Catholic-Orthodox relations.

1. Christians and Muslims
When discussing the brief 'recollection' in the Blue Mosque and the cordial relations between the Pope and the Mufti, it's easy to forget that the Mufti was one of the sigers of the open leader to Benedict addressing the (in)famous lecture. The Mufti is one of the men who took the time to assess what the Pope was driving at and engage him on his own tersm. When looking at their meeting in the Blue Mosque, that kind of respect is something to keep in mind.

It's what they who don't especially like Benedict are going to do next that is important. Will Turkey get the message and allow more freedom of religion? Only time will tell. As Benedict in his writings has noted over and over again, dialogue is only worthwhile if there are concrete results. Otherwise it's just a lot of empty gestures.

2. Catholics and Orthodox
There are a lot more opportunities here for actual progress, but the stakes are also higher. If Christians and Muslims misstep, well... Sad, but not unexpected. On the other hand, the efforts of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches mean so much to the internal unity of the Body of Christ on Earth. Missteps here last for centuries and remain engraved in the collective memory of both churches.

Reading the outline at, it's clear that the meetings and discussions have reached the critical point: the primacy of the Pope. Bolding is mine.

1990 -- Work began by the Joint Coordinating Committee on the next common document in Moscow, Russia, “Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church”, but at the request of the Orthodox Church the discussions were stopped in order to address the question of “Uniatism”.

1993 – The Joint Commission issued the common document on “Uniatism: Method of Union of the Past, and Present. Search for Full Communion” (Balamand, Lebanon)

2000 – The Joint Commission met in Baltimore, U.S.A., and discussed a text on “ The Ecclesiological and Canonical Implications of Uniatism”.

2005 - The Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church agree to resume the theological dialogue.

2006 – The Joint Commission met in Belgrade, Serbia and discussed a text entitled: ”The Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Conciliarity and Authority in the Church”, at three levels of the Church’s life: local, regional and universal.

Only time will tell what the next entry to such an outline will look like. Let us pray it is a positive one.

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