VATICAN CITY—Pope John Paul II urged closer cooperation and exchange between Eastern- and Latin-rite Catholics in North and South America and Australia.
A better relationship would not only further the search for unity with Orthodox churches, but would also enrich the Latin-rite churches, he said.
The Pope's remarks came in a message to Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches. The cardinal took part in a Nov. 7–12 meeting in Boston of some 100 bishops and priests from the Armenian, Chaldean, Maronite, Melkite, Ruthenian, Syrian, Ukrainian and Roman Catholic churches.
The Orthodox churches were also represented at the gathering.
“The Eastern churches have the right and duty to govern themselves according to their own particular discipline, given the mission they have of bearing witness to an ancient doctrinal, liturgical and monastic tradition,” the Pope said.
The Holy Father said a deeper fraternal communion among all the rites of the Catholic Church “will certainly also enrich the particular churches of the Latin rite with the spiritual heritage of the Eastern Christian tradition.”
The Eastern churches, with regard to their countries of origin, have a particular responsibility to bring about “that unity which is born of the richness and harmony of variety.”
He asked that the meeting identify practical ways of experiencing communion.
Discussion topics for the meeting included the communities’ relationship with the Roman Catholic majority, their commitment to ecumenism and their relationship to their sister Orthodox churches.
ZENIT, the Rome-based news service, reported that the meeting — the first of its kind — served to remind participants that there has been a weakening of the sense of “diaspora” among the oriental-rite communities of America and Oceania along with the emotional ties with their ancestral countries in the Middle East and Europe.
This result is due, in part, to normal social integration and to marriages with Christians from the western traditions.
At an unrelated event, Orthodox and Catholic theologians gathered Oct. 28–30 in Washington for the 57th meeting of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation.
The major topic at the meeting was a review of the Vatican's 1995 statement on The Greek and Latin Traditions Regarding the Procession of the Holy Spirit, which seeks to lay the groundwork for resolving centuries of controversy over the Filioque clause in the Latin version of the Nicene Creed.
The original Greek version of the creed, which goes back to fourth-century ecumenical councils, said the Holy Spirit takes his origin from the Father.
Churches in the West gradually began to insert Filioque — proceeds from the Father “and the Son” — into the creed.
The Orthodox objected to the addition, and to the fact that the change came about wtihout the authorization of a universal Church council.
The 1995 Vatican document reaf-firmed the “normative and irrevocable value” of the more ancient faith statement that the Holy Spirit “takes his origin from the Father.”
It said that when the Latin Church declares in the Mass that the Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son,” it does not intend to — and in fact cannot — contradict the earlier “expression of the faith taught and professed by the undivided Church.” (From combined wire services)