October 18, 2010

Catholic and Orthodox Church representatives have offered their vision of what the unity of both churches might look like in two statements approved during a recent meeting at Georgetown University in Washington.

Developed by the 24 members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation during a three-day meeting in Washington that ended Oct. 2, the statements acknowledge common beliefs and history.

Released Oct. 7, the statements also identified areas where the churches diverge in leadership and other practices that must be reconciled before the nearly 1,000-year separation between the churches can end.

One statement addresses issues of disagreement such as the role of the pope and how leadership on behalf of the Church by the bishop of Rome can be carried out.

The second statement discusses the importance of developing a specific set of criteria for determining the date of Easter so that both churches can proclaim the resurrection of Christ to the world with a unified voice.

Paulist Father Ronald Roberson, associate director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and a consultation member, called the statements “unprecedented.”

No other such consultative bodies have offered suggestions on what unity will entail or how it might look in the future, he said.

“The whole point is we’re at a point in our dialogue that we can start to talk . . . about what we dimly perceive what a united Church would look like,” Roberson told Catholic News Service. “Obviously for that to happen, Catholics would have to adjust and Orthodox would have to adjust.”