Moscow: Ecumenize us Right

( – The Russian Orthodox Church has officially rejected a doctrinal statement approved by a joint Catholic-Orthodox theological commission at a meeting in Ravenna, Italy last October.

The Ravenna meeting reached agreement that the Bishop of Rome traditionally enjoyed primacy among all the world’s bishops, of both the Eastern and Western churches. While Vatican officials hailed the agreement as an important ecumenical landmark, they cautioned that the Catholic and Orthodox churches have a different understanding of primacy. Indeed the Ravenna document noted “differences of understanding with regard to the manner in which it is to be exercised, and also with regard to its scriptural and theological foundations.”

The Russian Orthodox rejection of the Ravenna statement is not a surprise, since representatives of the Moscow patriarchate were critical of the document when it first appeared. Russian prelates said that the Ravenna agreement implied that the Patriarch of Constantinople was the leader of the Orthodox world, just as the Pope is the leader of the Catholic Church. The Moscow patriarchate, which has often contested Constantinople’s leadership, rejected that idea.

In January, Patriarch Alexei of Moscow charged that the Ravenna meeting had been “deliberately orchestrated to exclude the Moscow patriarchate.” In fact, Russian Orthodox representatives walked out of the meeting before discussions began, protesting the seating of a delegation from the Estonian Orthodox Church, which Moscow does not recognize.