Thursday, May 21, 2009

Roman Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue in Thessaloniki

A significant event took place at the University of Thessaloniki yesterday. The Theology School hosted the latest in a series of dialogues between the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Church. The single-day program featured a slew of heavy hitters, including the joint chairmen of the commission for dialogue: Walter Cardinal Kasper and Metropolitan John (Zizioulas).

I wasn't able to attend the whole day, but I was there in the morning for Kasper and the Ecumencial Patriachate's Archdeacon Maximos Vgenopoulos, and again in the evening for Professor Petros Vassiliadis and Metropolitan John Zizioulas.

A fairly wide range of opinions were expressed, which promised to make it a true dialogue. Professor Dimitris Tsellingidis (who attends our parish here in Panorama) was the most skeptical of the ecumenical process, which drew criticism from several fellow professors and speakers. Professor Vassiliadis was probably the most in favor of the process, saying that the East and West needed each other.

The photo at top is of Vassiliadis, and the photo immediately above is of Kasper.

The evening concluded with what promised to be the highlight, Metropolitan John (Zizioulas)--see photo at bottom. I find him to be an extremely lucid thinker and an excellent speaker, who is able to get right to the heart of issues. His talk was on the "Past, Present, and Future" of the dialogue with the Roman Catholics, but after about 10 or 15 minutes of his talk (when he reached the point of discussing the controversial topic of the Ravenna document from 2007), protesters in the back began shouting comments.

Protesters had been manned outside the building all day in the hot sun, holding signs and handing out literature. In the photo immediately below, you can see some of their signs. The one in the middle reads "Ecumenism=Betrayal" and the one on the right is a partial quote from Saint Kosmas Aitolos which says "You should curse the pope [because he will be the cause of harm]."

Metropolitan John tried to continue, and the chairman of the session pleaded with the protesters, but to no avail. They couldn't contain themselves and the situation soon spun out of control. The chairman finally ended up trading insults with the protesters, and Metropolitan John simply went and sat down.

They then moved to the question and answer period, and most of the questions were from the fellow panelists and directed at Professor Tsellingidis. There were lots of interruptions, but Professor Tsellingidis was finally able to answer the questions. It was late, so I went home before the concluding speech by Professor Stamoulis. I don't know what happened next.

1 comment:

aaronandbrighid said...

Wow! Exciting goings-on, huh? I never saw anti-ecumenism protesters in Thessaloniki, but one time I saw a bunch of neo-pagan protesters try to shout down some speakers at a conference on neo-paganism chaired by Fr George Metallinos! If I remember correctly, it seems like the university managed to expel the neo-pagans.