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The Orthodox-Roman Catholic Dialogue Staggers On

A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, the Oxford-educated Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, has commented on the recent failure of the Mixed Commission for Orthodox-Catholic Theological Dialogue to reach agreement. Describing the stormy October session in Cyprus, he said today, 2 November, that only half of the discussion document had been debated and that a great many criticisms had been levelled at it. He felt that the text so far arrived at would almost certainly not satisfy all the Local Orthodox Churches. This, he added, would become clear at the next session of the Dialogue to be held in Vienna in September 2010.

It is to be recalled that the Cyprus session upset many Orthodox in Cyprus, Greece and Romania in particular. This was because it was linked to the 2007 session of the Dialogue in Ravenna, when a curious document was signed by certain representatives. Archbishop Hilarion reassured Russian Orthodox that they need not worry about this, since this previous politically-motivated agreement, promoted by the Vatican and the Phanar, did not apply to them.

He recalled how in 2007 representatives of the Russian Church had accused the Vatican of trying to impose the Roman Catholic model of papal Church governance on the Orthodox world. The Archbishop said: ‘The Russian Orthodox Church did not take part in putting together the Ravenna Document, it did not approve of it and our signature is not and will not be found on it.

Although the compromises of the Ravenna Document have disturbed many Orthodox in the Balkans, it is difficult to see what relevance it has. Since the Russian Church, 75% of all Orthodox worldwide, refused to have anything to do with it, it is in fact a dead duck. It is to be hoped that the Vienna session will take into account the practical views of the Orthodox majority, monastics, parish clergy and people, rather than the speculative theories of a few academics and intellectuals.

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