By Harry E. Winter, OMI
Father Waclaw Hryniewicz, OMI, has stated that the Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, issued at their meeting in Cuba, Feb. 11, 2016, “is an historical declaration, long and detailed” (click here for the 30 paragraphs, some of which are quite short). Father Hryniewicz, who served for many years (1980-2005) on the International Roman Catholic-Orthodox Commission for the Theological Dialogue, also helped us understand the startling significance of the Polish-Russian Reconciliation Statement of Aug. 17, 2012, which Kirill also signed (www.omiusa.org, Sept. 19, 2012;) www.harrywinter.org, Eastern Christianity page for beautiful photos).
Fr. Hryniewicz observed that the Declaration “emphasizes three times the Tradition and the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium (#’s 4,7, 24). This is an important reminder for the official theological dialogue. Reference to the Trinity as the model for the life of the Church is quite traditional, especially for the Orthodox side. But it should not lead to an anachronistic understanding of the historical development of such church doctrines as for example primacy and synodality.”
I join him in urging all to learn more about the historical context: “One has to read the declaration in its historical context. And this context is very complex: rivalry between Constantinople/Phanar and Moscow,…and the general bad situation in the world.”
He then was both positive and cautious: “The encounter on Cuba is indeed a sign of hope (#’s 6, 25, 27, 30). I very much appreciate the fact of recovering ‘a particular sense of urgency’ (#3). Now everything depends on the implementation of the declaration. Let it not remain only in the sphere of promising words.
Let us not abuse such (perhaps) exaggerated descriptions of the event as ‘ecumenical spring, …definite breakthrough.’ It may prove to be an ice breaking encounter between Rome and Moscow–significant for the rest of Christianity and the world.”
My gratitude to Fr. Hryniewicz for these insights. I conclude with three observations: first, the startling emphasis on the New World (#’s 2,3). Second, the way this short declaration includes Evangelization, Justice/Peace/Integrity of Creation, Ecumenism, Dialogue and Spirituality. Third, the litmus test for its implementation will be the readiness of Orthodox clergy especially in Russia and Greece to admit Latin rite Catholics or Easterners in Communion with Rome, to receive Communion at their Divine Liturgy.
We might ask ourselves: do our parishioners know that we are encouraged to welcome Orthodox who cannot find a parish of their own when they are traveling, to receive Communion at our Mass (see www.harrywinter.org, Eucharistic Hospitality page)
May our Oblate leadership encourage this Joint Declaration to be widely shared.