Wednesday, June 01, 2005

the Church breathes with both her lungs--East and West; and a possible papal trip to Russia

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter writes about an interesting meeting he had with Fr. Antonio Magnocavallo pastor since 1975 of the Byzantine Rite parish, called St. John Chrysostom in Bari, Italy. The occasion was the 24th National Italian Eucharistic Congress in Bari, attended by Orthodox and Catholic clerics. It concluded with Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict on May 29th. The participants heard Benedict give a stirring appeal for Christian unity, especially between the Catholic and the Orthodox churches.

"Precisely here, in Bari -- happy Bari -- the city that is custodian of the bones of St. Nicholas, a land of encounter and dialogue with our brother Christians from the East, I would like to reconfirm my desire to take up as a fundamental duty working with all my energy for the reconstruction of full and visible unity among all the followers of Christ," Benedict said.

His predecessor, John Paul, has said that the Church breathes with both her lungs, the East and the West, pointing to the importance of unity between the two churches.

With regards to unity, according to Magnocavallo, "The real issue between Rome and Moscow, as between Rome and Athens, has always been the preeminence of the pope," he said. "Solve that and all the other problems will go away."

This is the topic of a book I am currently reading by the former archbishop of San Francisco, John R. Quinn, (Levada's immediate predecessor) entitled "The Reform of the Papacy," published six years ago. Ironically, it is the office of pope--for us Catholics the visible sign of unity--which inhibits greater unity between the Latin and Orthodox Churches, as well as the Latin and the Reformed ecclesial communities. I am currently half way through the book, which is quite interesting and a tad controversial. I might make this the topic of a future post. We'll see.

Anyway, another interesting information Allen offers is the very real possibility of a papal trip to Russia. Here is Allen's reporting of it:

Magnocavallo said he thought the Orthodox would react "very well" to the pope's words on Sunday. "I believe Benedict will go to Moscow," he predicted. "They are working now to organize the trip." Magnocavallo, who maintains close contacts with the Greek Orthodox world, said he perceives the Greeks as "a bit more closed" than the Russians in terms of relations with Rome, but said that relationship too is improving. I asked when he thought a papal trip to Russia might happen. "Boh," he responded, invoking a classic Italian expression for, "Who knows?" "It's a very long historical process," he said. "We need patience."

Read John Allen's article here.

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