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 Churches."
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.]