Russian Church withdraws from Orthodox-Catholic dialogue

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Ecumenical expert says implications of decision are yet to be seen.

The implications for Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, following the Russian Orthodox Church’s decision to withdraw from it, remain to be seen, said a Catholic member of the dialogue commission.

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Monsignor Paul McPartlan, the Carl J. Peter Professor of Systematic Theology and Ecumenism at the School of Theology and Religious Studies of the Catholic University of America, confirmed Wednesday that the Russian Orthodox have decided to suspend their participation in the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

Monsignor McPartlan said a meeting of the joint coordinating committee for the international dialogue scheduled for next week at the Monastery of Bose in Italy is still on, and that he will be taking part.

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The Russians’ decision not to participate stems from the decision by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to grant autocephaly to a local, unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Currently, the only Orthodox Church in Ukraine that is recognized by the rest of the Orthodox world is the Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. After Bartholomew announced that he was sending two exarchs to Ukraine as part of his decision to grant autocephaly, Moscow announced certain measures in protest. Among other things, it said it would “interrupt the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Episcopal Assemblies, in theological dialogues, multilateral commissions and all other structures in which the representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople are co-chairs.”

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That statement was issued September 14, but it was amplified in a statement released after an October 19 meeting between Pope Francis and Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department for the External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.

“The full implications of that decision are not yet clear,” Monsignor McPartlan said.

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But Ukrainian Orthodox Fr. Cyril Hovorun, Acting Director of the Huffington Ecumenical...
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