The Catholic Archbishop of Moscow has given a remarkably upbeat assessment of relations with the Orthodox church, saying unity between Catholics and Orthodox could be achieved “within a few months.”
According to an interview in today’s Corriere della Sera newspaper, Mons. Paolo Pezzi said the "miracle" of reunification “is possible, indeed it has never been so close.” He added that Catholic-Orthodox reunification and spiritual communion “could happen soon, also within a few months.”
The Orthodox church, which with 225 million to 300 million members is the world's second largest Christian communion after the Catholic Church, broke from the Catholic Church in the Great Schism of 1054.
“Basically we were united for a thousand years,” Pezzi said. “Then for another thousand we were divided. Now the path of rapprochement is at its peak, and the third millennium of the Church could begin as a sign of unity.” He said there were “no formal obstacles” but that “everything depends on a real desire for communion.” On the part of the Catholic Church, he added, “the desire is very much alive.”
Pezzi, 49, whose official title is Metropolitan Archbishop of the Mother of God Archdiocese in Moscow, said that on issues of modernity, Catholics and Orthodox Christians feel the same way. "Nothing separates us on bioethics, the family, and the protection of life." Also on matters of doctrine, the two are essentially agreed. He said there remains the question of how much authority the Pope has, otherwise known as 'papal primacy', but he stressed this will be a concern at the next meeting of the Catholic-Orthodox Commission. "To me, it doesn’t seem impossible to reach an agreement," he said.
Prospects for union with the Orthodox have increased markedly since the election of Pope Benedict XVI, whose work as a theologian is greatly admired in Orthodox circles. Benedict XVI is also without the checkered political history between Poland and Russia that prevented Pope John Paul II from making as much progress as he would have liked.
Relations have also been greatly helped by the election of Patriarch Kirill I earlier this year who, as former head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external relations, met the Pope when he was cardinal on several occasions, and is well acquainted with the Roman Curia and Catholicism.
Benedict XVI appointed Pezzi to head the Moscow archdiocese in October 2007.
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