Fr Georges Florovsky: Is Your Ecumenical Dialogue Patient and Honest and Deep?

Feast of St Timothy, the Apostle of the 70

Florovsky_Square.jpgPROFESSOR Karmiris spoke at the University of Athens in 1950 on the occasion of the celebration of the Three Saints [Orthodox Feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs on Jan 30: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom] on this very subject: the schism of the Roman Church. His speech was devoted to the history of the separation. He concluded by raising the question whether reunion was a possibility. Despite all the sad lessons of history, he emphasized, a peaceful resolution of the disagreements between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Church nevertheless remains possible—given the right conditions, “by means of oikonomia.” The separation should not be considered final and unsurmountable. On the contrary, it must be overcome and can be overcome. Only this will require, above all, a long and serious preparation of the hearts and minds of both Churches, of the clergy as well as the laity. Prof. Karmiris was convinced that the Orthodox Church must not shy away from collaboration with Rome in this enterprise, and that it must hope to resolve existing differences “by means of okonomia,” restoring harmony, love, and unity between the two churches.

This judgment of a theologian and historian as careful and discreet as Professor Karmiris calls for serious consideration. It is not entirely clear what he means by the phrase of “by way of okonomia.” But in any case it is clear that he does not think that “reunification” can take place without a substantial agreement, without resolving controversial issues. It was his belief that these issues could be resolved, given the goodwill of both parties. In effect, he invites both Churches to a responsible theological dialogue—based on the Word of God and the ancient Tradition of the Church, and conducted in a spirit of mutual respect and love. One must not expect such a dialogue to be easy and lead to quick resolution of all differences and doubts. On the contrary, one must anticipate that it will be lengthy and difficult, if only it can manage to be honest and deep. But this is not a sufficient reason to refrain from dialogue, or to avoid it. The main obstacle to ecumenical progress has always been ecumenical impatience and ecumenical hastiness. This always leads toward a simplification of problems. The past history of relations between Orthodoxy and Rome demonstrates the danger of such haste, and its futility. But it seems that under present conditions the dialogue may prove to be easier than even a few years ago. The Roman Church is now in the process of reviewing her theological traditions, and in many ways is returning to the Tradition of the Ancient Church. This creates conditions favorable for dialogue.

—Fr Georges Florovsky, A Sign of Contradiction

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