top level talks Fr. Herbert Keldany
PERHAPS the most important single feature of' Unity Week 1976 will he seen by future historians in the news of the tong-awaited agreement between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches to begin toplevel theological talks, on a par with the international dialogues in process with the Anglicans, Methodists and Lutherans.
It was the news of this agreement just before Christmas, on the tenth anniversary of the lifting of the anathemas, that caused Pope Paul to make the unprecedented gesture of kissing the feet of the representative of the Patriarch Dimitrios of Constantinople in the Sistine Chapel.
Clarification has come with the details, pictures and commentaries which have eddied round the world in the past month. It is now clear that Pope Paul's act was as significant as it was unpremeditated. What had been planned as a twin commemoration in Rome and Constantinople of a past event became a memorable step towards full communion between East and West. •
The Metropolitan Meliton of Chalcedon brought the good news that the Pan Orthodox Commission, representing all the Orthodox Churches, had formed a panel for talks with Rome, and another within the Synod of Constantinople. was to be headed by Metropolitan Metiton himself.
No mention of these. two long hoped-for decisions wa.sancluded in the letter taken to Constantinople by Cardinal Ursi, Archbishop of Naples, who led the Roman delegation. They do not appear in the Pope's main address, but only in his opening words and the concluding expression of rejoicing:
"We have listened with deep emotion to the message addressed to us. The words arouse in us much joy and hope. We beg you to express to our beloved Brother, the Patriarch of Constantinople, all our gratitude and special affection in the Lord. May today's meeting mark a new stage on the way to unity." Despite the confusion which followed on the "Moment of Charity" on the part of the Servant of the Servants of God. the Metropolitan managed to kiss the Pope's hands. Later he added to an aide: "Only a saint could have done this."
By any reckoning it was one of the more significant moments in the pontificate of Pope Paul. Soon afterwards he announced steps to form preparatory commission for talks to begin in Constantinople. and at world level.
One of the key figures on the Catholic side. the indefatigable White Father, Pere Pierre Duprey, who has long laboured alongside Metropolitan Meliton in the cause of East/West reconciliation commented:
"This event is a sign for every member of the Church, and especially for those called to serve and minister. It will have enormous consequences, because it expresses the ministry of unity within the Church, notably that the Pope and the bishops. Thus it fittingly crowns a year dedicated to reconciliation."