'visions grow as Protestants miss papal unity mass
by Viviane Hewitt in Rome UNITY WEEK in Rome brought a major snub to Pope John Paul H from Lutherans and Baptists, but renewed hope of progress in the current dispute with the Orthodox.
A pontifical mass at the weekend at the Basilica of St Paul's-Outside-The-Walls to mark the end of the international week of events celebrating Christian togetherness was boycotted by the Protestant church leaders. Lutheran and Baptist leaders in Catholicism's capital city told the Abbot of St Paul's, Mgr Luca Collin°, that there was no point in them participating in the papal mass because of the current circumstances of non-communion between the churches.
In his homily at the event, John Paul II recognised the empty pews and said " we are divided". "But Christians should not be discouraged.. by human failures", he added.
Hans Gersch Philippi. dean of Italy's Lutheran Church, said that the eucharistic celebration at St Paul's was not the most suitable way of expressing and seeking Christian unity" since non
Catholics couldn't take communion. There was "regret and sadness" in being forced to forego the Lord's Supper, the dean said. In 1983 he had played
host to Pope John Paul when the latter attended an historic ecumenical service in Rome to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's birth.
The Vatican's close relations with the Lutherans were reinforced last autumn when for the first time since the Reformation Sweden's Lutheran primate and his Finnish counterpart prayed at the tomb of St Peter in Rome, alongside the Pope. On that occasion John Paul had stressed the "vast patrimony of faith uniting us" and had appealed for "concrete" actions to give expression to the bond between the two churches.
Leading article, page 4 A second major event in Rome's Christian Unity Week programme caused raised eyebrows at the Vatican. A Catholic sponsored ecumenical celebration at Grottoferrata, near the Pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, featured the local bishop and Ai'Ica Kaartinen, a woman pastor in the Finnish Lutheran Church, However, the disappointment of the Baptist and Lutheran boycott lifted when it was announced that Catholics and Orthodox were to resume their talks. These broke down 18 months ago after Orthodox accusations that the Catholics
were proselytising among their faithful, and counter charges that the Orthodox would not return to the Catholics property confiscated by Stalin in 1946 when he suppressed the Roman church. Relations sank to a new low in November when Orthodox delegates refused to attend the Vatican synod on the new Europe and in recent weeks Orthodox Serbs have accused Catholic Croats of religious intolerance as Yugoslavia fragments.
The dialogue between the Moscow Orthodox Patriarchate and Catholic leaders will recommence next month. The clashes over Yugoslavia were also addressed this week when Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alessi II jointly sponsored a meeting in Switzerland of four Croatian Catholic and four Serbian Orthodox bishops. The gathering ended with a statement that the war in Yugoslavia was not a religious conflict and that the two churches were not in opposition.
Hopes of improved relations with the Orthodox also received a boost when the titular head of the worldwide Orthodox church, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople announced plans to visit Pope John Paul in 1993. The Orthodox leader is also planning to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury.