SIXTH PLENARY MEETING OF THE JOINT INTERNATIONAL
FOR THEOLOGICAL DIALOGUE BETWEEN
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
Freising - June 15, 1990
At the end of its sixth plenary session the
Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between
the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church (Freising, June
6-15,1990) approved the text which we publish below. This document
is a first step of the Commission in the study of a complex problem
of which all aspects must be considered. Along with the Report of
the special sub-commission which met in Vienna, January 26-30,1990,
the present document constitutes the point of departure for the
study which the three joint sub-commissions must continue, with
the aim of presenting before May 1,1991, a comprehensive report
to the Joint Coordinating Committee.
1. The Commission held its plenary session
under the co-presidency of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Australia,
His Eminence Stylianos and the President of the Pontifical Council
for Promoting Christian Unity, His Excellency Monsignor Edward
Idris Cassidy from 6th to 15th June, 1990 in Freising, at the
"Kardinal-Döpfner House." where it enjoyed the
generous hospitality of the Archbishop of Munich and Freising,
His Eminence Cardinal Friedrich Wetter.
2. During this year 1990, the International
Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic
Church and the Orthodox Church finishes ten years of systematic
and fruitful work accomplished in a spirit of understanding and
3. Already two years ago, the Commission thought
the time had come to pass on to the study of the theological and
canonical consequences of the sacramental structure of the Church,
and particularly to take up the question of the reciprocal relationship
between authority and conciliarity in the Church. At the same
time, the Commission thought it also necessary to take up directly
the theological and practical questions facing the Orthodox Church
as a consequence of the origin and present existence of the Catholic
Churches of byzantine rite. This intention was announced at the
fourth session in Bari (1987) and began to be put into effect
during the meeting of Valamo (1988). A sub-commission was formed
with the mandate to study the subject and report on it to the
Commission. This sub-commission met in Vienna in January 1990.
4. When this sub-commission was formed, no
one could foresee the developments which would take place in Eastern
Europe and the flowering of religious liberty these have allowed.
The return of vast regions to religious liberty is for Orthodox
and Catholics alike, who have both suffered persecutions during
decades, a reason for deep thanksgiving to God, who has shown
once more that it is He who is the Lord of history.
5. The problem of the origin and existence
of the Catholic Churches of byzantine Rite has accompanied the
Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches since well before the commencement
of their dialogue and has been constantly present from the beginning
of this dialogue. The way in which they will be able to search
out a solution of it together will be a test of the solidity of
the theological foundation which has already been laid and which
it will be necessary to develop. Because of recent events, the
whole meeting has been dedicated to the study of the questions
posed by the origin, the existence and the development of the
Catholic Churches of byzantine Rite which are also called "Uniate
6. As a result of the discussions, which have
taken place in a very sincere and fraternal atmosphere, the Commission
wishes to express the following reflections.
a) Because of the conflictual situation existing
in some regions between the Catholic Churches of byzantine Rite
and the Orthodox Church, "Uniatism" is an urgent problem
to be treated with priority over all other subjects to be discussed
in the dialogue.
b) The term "Uniatism" indicates
here the effort which aims to bring about the unity of the Church
by separating from the Orthodox Church communities or Orthodox
faithful without taking into account that, according to ecclesiology,
the Orthodox Church is a sister-Church which itself offers the
means of grace and salvation. In this sense and with reference
to the document issued by the Vienna sub-commission, we reject
"Uniatism" as a method of unity opposed to the common
Tradition of our Churches.
c) Where "Uniatism" has been employed
as a method, it failed to achieve its goal of bringing the Churches
closer together; rather it provoked new divisions. The situation
thus created has been a source of conflict and suffering, and
these have deeply marked the memory and the collective consciousness
of the two Churches. On the other hand, for ecclesiological reasons,
the conviction has grown that other ways must be sought out.
d) Today, when our Churches meet on the basis
of the ecclesiology of Communion between sister-Churches, it would
be regretful to destroy the important work for the unite of the
Churches accomplished through the dialogue, by going back to the
method of "Uniatism."
7. However, beyond historical and theological
ways of approaching the subject, practical initiatives should
be taken in order to avoid in good time the consequences of dangerous
tensions which exist in various Orthodox countries. In this regard,
the following may be of help.
a) Religious liberty for persons and communities
is not only a right which must be totally respected. For Christians
living with the same divine life, it is also a gift of the Spirit
in view of the building up of the Body of Christ to its full stature
(cf. Eph. 4,16). This liberty excludes absolutely all violence,
direct or indirect, physical or moral. It requires, as do all
the gifts of the Spirit, which are always granted for the good
of all (1 Cor. 12,7), fraternal collaboration among pastors with
a view to healing the wounds of the past and arriving at guiding
the faithful towards a deep and lasting reconciliation, which
permits them to recite together, in all truth, the prayer which
the Lord has taught to his own.
b) Consequently, it is necessary that the
responsible ecclesial authorities, in the spirit of dialogue and
taking into account the wishes of the local communities, strive
to solve the concrete points of friction.
c) Every effort aimed at having the faithful
of one Church pass to another, which is commonly called "proselytism,"
should be excluded as a misuse of pastoral energy. In addition,
it would be a counter-witness to those who observe critically
the way the Churches use their new liberty and who are ready to
detect and utilize every sign of rivalry. This means that the
pastor of a community should not interfere in a community entrusted
to another pastor, but rather should work in agreement with this
other pastor and with all others, in order that all their communities
progress towards the same goal, that of a common witness given
to the world in which they live.
d) When a bilateral agreement has been reached
and approved by the respective authorities, it is absolutely necessary
that it be implemented.
8. It is our conviction that dialogue, which
is the most suitable way to work for unity, is also the most appropriate
forum for confronting problems, particularly that of "Uniatism."
For this reason the dialogue must continue. For the present our
attention will focus on the study of this particular question.
9. We think that the presence of the Orthodox
Churches which could not attend this meeting would be useful for
the successful result of this study.
10. Following the path opened by the Vienna
meeting, the study of this question will be carried forward, since
this obstacle has in fact to be overcome if we wish to continue
our progress towards unite.
Freising, June 15th, 1990
Service 73 (1990/II) 52-53.]