Inter Church Relations and Ecumenism

Presently, the existence of Eastern Catholic Churches - particularly in the former USSR - and continued Vatican support for them, is considered by some Orthodox, especially in Greece and Russia, to be the greatest impediment to East-West rapprochement. They are accused of having 'betrayed Orthodoxy' in part in order to benefit from privileges available to Catholics.

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Officially, the Church has been very committed to ecumenism. Its primate, Myroslav Lubachivsky (d. 2000) wholeheartedly endorsed the Balamand Statement, and his successor, Lubomyr Husar, is a specialist in East-West relations. From 1992 to 1998, the Kievan Church Study Group energetically explored the possibility of 'double communion': restoring communion with the Ukrainian Catholic Church's mother church, Constantinople, without breaking communion with Rome. Though never disbanded, since 1997 the group has been moribund. Within Ukraine, believers generally divide between those committed to reunion primarily out of ethno-national motives, and those still wary of relations with a church that they have come to identify with the USSR. These two approaches are generally mirrored in the West. Consequently, almost all encounters are with those Ukrainian Orthodox Churches not within Moscow's jurisdiction. Of course, the fact that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) is viewed by many Orthodox as the greatest stumbling block to East-West rapprochement has not benefited its attempts to find dialogue partners.

Syro-Malabar Church Most Syro-Malabars are very committed to restoring the unity of Indian Christianity, a unity that reigned until the reaction against Portuguese religious oppression in 1653 at Mattancherry (the 'Coonan Cross Oath') where Saint Thomas Christians vowed to reject Jesuit directives, and thus created the Mar Thoma Church. The 'quest for an Indian Church' as it is called, is fervently supported by most Syro-Malabars.

Maronite Catholic Church Among the Syriac Churches of the Middle East, Maronites are frequently considered 'honest brokers' because of the lack of a direct Orthodox counterpart. Bishops Matar of Beirut and Sayyah of Palestine have been particularly active in the Middle Eastern Conference of Churches.

Melkite Greek Catholic Church Melkites and Orthodox have come to develop extremely good relations, in part because of shared difficulties with Islam and the absence of ethno-national issues dividing them. In the Middle East, priests of the two churches occasionally con-celebrate the Eucharist, in spite of canonical prohibitions, and even in the West, the laity regularly receive at each others' altars. Baptisms and weddings are often con-celebrated. In 1975, the Melkite Synod requested permission from the Vatican to inaugurate 'double communion' (with Rome and the Orthodox), but it was denied. An official bilateral dialogue with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch was inaugurated in 1995, and that same year saw the most pioneering event of contemporary East-West ecumenism in the 'Zoghby-Khodr' initiative: Bishop Zoghby signed a declaration stating: 'I believe in everything taught by the Eastern Orthodox Church, and I am in communion with the Bishop of Rome within the limits recognized by the Holy Fathers of the East during the first millennium and before the separation.' Georges Khodr, the influential Orthodox Metropolitan of Byblos and Batroun officially declared: 'I consider this profession of faith by Bishop Elias Zoghby to create the necessary and sufficient conditions to establish the unity of the Orthodox Churches with Rome.' Rome has refused to sanction this initiative.

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