International Orthodox Christian News

Jul 12 2007, 18:22

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - The leader of Romania's dominant Orthodox Church condemned July 12 a Vatican document in which Pope Benedict XVI reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, describing it as "brutal" and saying it made inter-church dialogue difficult.

Patriarch Teoctist said the document, which claims that other Christian communities were either defective or not true churches and Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation, was pitting Christian churches against one other.

"We were stunned by such a statement, which troubles the entire Christian world. Such things do not make God happy," said Teoctist. "With such a brutal statement, it is hard to find a way to continue the dialogue with the Catholic Church, as long as it does not even recognize us as a church."

The document, which was published on July 10, also brought swift criticism from Protestant leaders. "It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity," said the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, a fellowship of 75 million Protestants in more than 100 countries.

On July 11, the cardinal in charge of relations with other Christians reacted to criticism by the Protestant churches saying the document contained nothing new and that there was no "objective reason for indignation or motive to feel themselves harshly treated."

Teoctist said the Romanian Orthodox Church had expected Pope Benedict XVI to continue his predecessor's efforts to reconcile the Christian churches to find "holy unity." He said the Romanian Orthodox Church was hoping for "rays of reason," including from the other churches, so that "we don't fall into chaos and to avoid crushing so brutally a (reconciliation) activity which has been carried out in recent decades."

Pope John Paul II was the first pope to visit predominantly Orthodox Romania in 1999, when he met with Teoctist and the two leaders called for the healing of divisions within Christianity. John Paul's visit was the first by a Roman pontiff to a mainly Orthodox country in nearly 1,000 years.

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