One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church
Should the Orthodox church be in dialogue with the Roman Catholic one? Yes. Will we reunite? It would take a miracle
Were I to list the thousand reasons why Rome is my favorite place inall the world, most of them would have to do the Eternal City's longassociation with Christian history. On those all too rare occasions when Iam able to get back to Rome, most of my time is spent visiting thecatacombs, the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul, the Circus Maximus, theColosseum, and other sites precious to Christian memory. My personalsentiments about Rome were well summarized by St. Abercius, thesecond-century Bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, who had made a pilgrimageto theEternal City. Later, in the inscription that he crafted for his own tomb, hereferred to the church at Rome as "the queen with the golden robe and goldenshoes." Starting with the blood of the Neronic martyrs, there is no cityon earth, I think, more deeply saturated in Christian memory.
Surely, then,any Orthodox heart must be saddened when remembering the long anddeep estrangement between ourselves and that venerable institution describedby St. Irenaeus of Lyons as "the very great, the very ancient, anduniversally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two mostglorious apostles, Peter and Paul."
Should the Orthodox Church be dialoguing with the ancient See of Romewith a view to our eventual reconciliation and reunion? Yes, mostemphatically. Such a dialogue, for such apurpose, constitutes a most strict moral imperative, imposed by the will andmandate of Christ for the unity of His church and, for that reason,neglected at the absolute peril of our souls. The reunion of believers inChrist is not a concern that the Orthodox conscience can simply "write off."
I suggest that the proper model for such an Orthodox dialogue withRomewas provided by St. Mark of Ephesus, the most unforgettableof the Eastern delegates to the Council of Florence back in the 15thcentury. St. Mark is best remembered because of his casting the soledissenting vote against the reunion of the Church of Rome and the OrthodoxChurch. At the end, he became convinced that the effort for reunion atFlorence would be successful only by an infidelity to the ancient tradition,so he conscientiously voted against it.
Still, St. Mark did not refuse todialogue and discuss the matter. His fidelity to the true faith did notprevent his taking part in serious theological dialogue with those with whomhe disagreed. Even though the Roman Catholic Church was at that time incircumstances indicating great spiritual and moral decline, a decline thatwould soon lead to its massive dismembering during the ProtestantReformation, St.Mark did not despise Rome or refuse to join his voice to a dialogue summonedto make real that prayer of Christ that we all might be one. Those Orthodoxwho, like myself, believe that continued dialogue with Rome is a moralimperative, would do well to take St. Mark of Ephesus as their model.