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Pope Francis: Ecumenical Dialogue Leads to Growth in Faith

28 Jun 2013 – By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis, who recently spoke of a need to increase the common responsibility all bishops hold for the universal church, told a delegation of Orthodox leaders that the Catholic Church can learn from the synod structure of the Eastern Christian churches.

Dialogue for Christian unity is not a theoretical exercise for theologians, but an essential, practical tool for growing in faith and for evangelization, Pope Francis told a delegation from the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople.

“This is not merely a theoretical exercise, but one of getting to know each other’s traditions in order to understand and even learn from them,” the pope said during the 28 June meeting.

Pope Francis said he was referring particularly “to the reflection of the Catholic Church on the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality, so typical of the Orthodox churches,” in which the synods function as a symbol of the unity of the local churches and as a governing body united to the patriarch or spiritual leader of the church.

During a 13 June meeting with members of the Catholic Church’s council for the world Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis had said he and others were studying how the synod could develop “to further promote dialogue and collaboration among the bishops and between the bishops and the bishop of Rome.”

In his address to the Orthodox, Pope Francis said that while ecumenical dialogue can and should contribute to the internal lives and faith of the churches, the goal of full unity is a response to Jesus’ desire that his disciples would be one so that the world would believe.

“In our world, which is hungering and thirsting for truth, love, hope, peace and unity,” the pope said, “it is important for our witness that we finally are able to proclaim the good news of the Gospel with one voice and celebrate together the divine mysteries of new life in Christ.”

Metropolitan John of Pergamon, the Orthodox cochairman of the international Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue, led the delegation from the Patriarchate of Constantinople to Rome for the 29 June feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Since 1969, the patriarchs have sent delegations to the Vatican each year on the feast of the Vatican’s patron saints, and the popes have sent a delegation to Turkey each year for the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the patriarchate.

The annual meetings and prayerful participation in each other’s feast day liturgies are “an essential part of the journey toward unity,” said the pope, who also hosted a luncheon for the delegation.

Metropolitan John said the exchange of delegations is a sign of the Catholic and Orthodox churches’ “strong commitment to the sacred cause of the restoration of the full communion that existed between them in the first Christian millennium.”

“This communion was broken on account of disagreements on matters of faith, but also because of the freezing of love,” the Orthodox leader said. “It is only through a dialogue of love and faith that this communion can be restored.

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Tags: Pope Francis Ecumenism Catholic Orthodox Eastern Catholic Churches