Communiqué of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church (Belgrade, Serbia, 24 September 2006)

Belgrade, Serbia, 18-25 September 2006

The ninth meeting of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church met in Belgrade, Serbia, from 18-25 September 2006, continuing the work begun in 1980 to seek the restoration of full communion. The Orthodox Church of Serbia generously provided hospitality for the meeting. The official opening took place in the patriarchal chapel of the Serbian Patriarchate in the presence of His Holiness Patriarch Pavle who welcomed the members of the  Commission and offered his prayerful support, saying : “…Welcome all of you, to this house of God of our Church and of our people and my home! My humble prayer shall cover your Theological Dialogue of love and truth, for that is why you have gathered here. Of far greater significance, even of sole importance, is that all of you be strengthened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, which rectifies all of our shortcomings and heals all of our weaknesses”. The Commission invoked the Holy Spirit on its work. 

At the first working session in the Sava International Centre, the Co-Presidents H.E. Cardinal Walter Kasper and H.E. Metropolitan John of Pergamon introduced the work of the Commission, and H.E. Metropolitan Jovan of Zagreb welcomed all present on behalf of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Prime Minister of Serbia, Dr Vojislav Koštunica, addressed the Commission, affirming that: “...The Churches of the East and West are setting an extraordinary example by means of their dialogue, and this theological meeting in Belgrade represents a reference point on the way. The greatest gift to contemporary humanity would be – to convince people, perhaps first and foremost the political elites, that dialogue has no alternative and that every form of application of  force, dictate or imposition of one’s own models and solutions-in service of primarily personal interests-destroys the last remaining bridges between confronted peoples and communities, instead of building of peace, confidence, solidarity and cooperation…”. He also hosted a reception and dinner for all the participants.

The Joint Commission is composed of 30 Orthodox and 30 Roman Catholic members, and is chaired by two Co-Presidents, H.E. Cardinal Walter Kasper and H.E. Metropolitan John of Pergamon (Ecumenical Patriarchate). H.E. Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Monsignor Eleuterio Fortino from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, serve as the Joint Commission’s Secretaries. The entire Roman Catholic delegation was present in the Belgrade meeting except for two members who were unable to attend. Orthodox members represented the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Patriarchate of Serbia, the Patriarchate of Romania, the Patriarchate of Georgia, the Church of Cyprus, the Church of Greece, the Church of Poland, the Church of Albania, the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia and the Church of Finland.

The Joint Commission 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. That text prepared by the Joint Coordinating Committee in Moscow in 1990, which was to have been presented at the plenary meeting of the Joint Commission in Freising, Germany the same year, but was not discussed then or later because events taking place in Eastern Europe at that time obliged the Commission to address the issue of “uniatism” in relation to the ecumenical dialogue.  In the present meeting the document prepared in Moscow was carefully examined in a shared spirit of genuine  commitment to the search for unity.

A Joint Drafting Committee was appointed to revise the text in the light of the many observations and comments made during the discussion on the text. A revised text will be the object of discussion at the next meeting of the Joint Commission which will be hosted by the Roman Catholic Church, next year, 2007.

During the week-long meeting the Roman Catholic delegates were present at the Orthodox  Divine Liturgy in St. Mark’s Church on the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, the Theotokos, and the Orthodox members in a Mass at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Ascension of the Holy Virgin of Belgrade at the invitation of the  Archbishop Stanislav Hočevar. The members of the Commission also had the opportunity to visit the historic Ravanica Monastery. A dinner was offered in the Monastery by H.E. Bishop Ignatij of Branichevo. On Sunday evening the President of Serbia His Excellency Boris Tadić hosted  a dinner at his residence in honour of the Commission.   

The meeting of the Joint Committee was marked by a spirit of friendship and trustful collaboration. The members of the Committee greatly appreciated the generous hospitality of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and they strongly commend the ongoing work of the dialogue to the prayers of the faithful.

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Teachings of Christ

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35 ESV)

Exaltation of the Cross

Save Your people, O Lord, and bless Your inheritance; * grant victory to Your Church over her enemies * and protect Your commonwealth by Your Cross. (Troparion - Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Willingly lifted up on the Cross, O Christ God, * bestow Your compassions upon the new commonwealth that bears Your name. * By your power grant joy to Your Church, * granting her victory over her enemies. * May she have your Cross as the weapon of peace * and the invincible ensign of victory. (Kontakion - Tone 4)

The Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14th.

Random Proverb

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. (Proverbs 3:9,10 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

It was said about John the Little that one day he said to his older brother: "I want to be free from care and not to work but to worship God without interruption." And he took his robe off, and went into the desert. After staying there one week, he returned to his brother. And when he knocked at the door, his brother asked without opening it: "Who is it?" He replied: "It's John, your brother." The brother said: "John has become an angel and is not among people anymore." Then he begged and said: "It's me!" But his brother did not open the door and left him there in distress until the next morning. And he finally opened the door and said: "If you are a human being, you have to work again in order to live." Then John repented, saying: "Forgive me, brother, for I was wrong."

Sayings of the Desert Fathers