The Balamand Pact
A Thieves' Munich

Document On Eastern Rite, Notes & Comments, the Examiner, Bombay, 17th. July, 1993.

John Thavis, CNS, Vatican City: In an important step forward in Catholic - Orthodox relations, theologians from both churches approved a document aimed at defusing a major area of pastoral tension, the issue of proselytizing, during a June meeting in Lebanon. The document, which sets principles and guidelines regarding the status and pastoral activity of Eastern rite Catholic churches, was worked out "in a frank and brotherly spirit," said a joint communique by participants. Specifically, the churches agreed that it was unacceptable to seek conversions from among each others' faithful, the communique said.

The Vatican's top ecumenical official hailed the meeting as productive and encouraging for Catholic-Orthodox relations overall. "I think what we've done is a very positive contribution to getting our dialogue back on track," Cardinal Edward I. Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said June 25.

But he said the absence of delegates from several Orthodox churches showed that "tensions and difficulties in our relations" still exist.

The text of the document, which was not made public, was adopted during the seventh plenary session of the International Commission for Theological Dialogue, held in Balamand, Lebanon, June 17 - 24.

It was to be submitted to authorities of the two sects for final approval and application. According to the communique, the document sets forth principles regarding the existence and pastoral activity of the disagreeements between Eastern rite Catholics and the Orthodox over property and evangelization activities. These questions have become "the touchstone of the quality of the relaions between the Catholic and the Orthodox churches," the communique said. Recalling that "the history of divisions has deeply wounded" both churches, it pledged a "common search for a full agreement in faith" through cooperative methods.

"It is not a question of seeking the conversion of persons from one church to the other. This latter type of missionary actiivty, whcih has been called Uniatism cannot be acceptable either as a model to follow or as a model for the unity which is being sought by our churches," the communique said.

Uniatism refers to the process by which groups of Orthodox united with Rome while preserving their Orthodox heritage. The new document makes clear that while this is "no longer the method" of pursuing Catholic - Orthodox relations, the Eastern rite churches that came into existence in this way have a clear riht to exist and operate, said Cardinal Cassidy, co-president of the dialogue.

Participants at the meeting included twentyfour Catholics and representatives of nine Orthodox churches. Catholic sources said Orthodox churches from Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Georgia and Jerusalem did not send representatives. The communique said that the meeting, held in an Orthodox seminary, included visits with local Orthodox leaders and was marked by cordial hospitality shown by the local Greek Orthodox Church.
Document On Eastern Rite, Notes & Comments, the Examiner, Bombay, 17th. July, 1993.
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