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The reaction to Balamand has been the most hopeful in Ukraine. On the Orthodox side, the Moscow Patriarchate has not officially reacted to the document, but it has agreed in discussions with officials of the Holy See that Balamand should constitute the working basis for better relations. The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Myroslav Ivan Cardinal Lubachivsky, has welcomed the text. In a letter written to the Catholic members of the international dialogue in August 1993, the Cardinal stated that Balamand had proven that the fears of some of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic faithful about the work of the dialogue with the Orthodox Were unfounded. While he expressed some reservations about certain aspects of the text, the Cardinal pledged to apply the practical rules of the document in Ukraine. In addition, the Cardinal issued an encyclical entitled “On Christian Unity” on A aril 1994, in which the Cardinal reviewed the progress made in Catholic-Orthodox relations since the 1960s and again offered a positive assessment of the Balamand text. He also stated unequivocally that his church recognizes the validity of Orthodox sacraments.

In the United States, the Orthodox-Roman Catholic Consultation released a response to Balamand in October 1994. The American Catholic and Orthodox theologians rejoiced that the international commission could complete its work on this difficult question. Although they pointed out some shortcomings in text, in general they regarded it as “a strong and positive contribution to the theological dialogue between our churches.”

Now that two years have passed since the Balamand Document was produced, Catholic-Orthodox dialogue has entered a crucial phase. While the commission considers that it has dealt with the question of uniatism adequately, and plans to return to its original theological agenda at its next meeting in late 1995, there are still some Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches that have not accepted its conclusions.

Whether Balamand gains general acceptance over time will depend in part on the leadership of the two churches. But it will be just as important for Greek Catholics and Orthodox in their historic homelands in Central and Eastern Europe to learn not only to trust one another, but also to forgive and love one another. Much of what needs to happen is already recommended in the Balamand Document. But more than anything else, the situation calls for a profound conversion, a real change of heart.

With the passing of time there is reason to hope that eventually charity will prevail in their relationship. This is not an empty hope. There are some places, especially in the Middle East, where such a relationship already exists between the two groups. When this happens in Europe, a major obstacle to the reestablishment of full communion between Catholic and Orthodox will have been removed. It will hasten the day when we will find ourselves once again standing around the same table, sharing in the same body and blood of the Lord.

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Father Roberson served on the staff of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from 1988 to 1992.

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Tags: Ecumenism Catholic Eastern Christianity Orthodox Church Catholic-Orthodox relations