Towards the Future Dialogue of the Churches
Ukrainian Orthodox-Catholic Bilateral Dialogue
Fr. Dr. Jaroslaw Buciora
Fr. Dr. Jaroslaw Buciora
Fr. Dr. Jaroslaw Buciora
There is a consensus among many theologians of the Christian Churches to consider the present situation of Christianity to be abnormal. The splintering of the Body of Christ into denominations is being characterized as a contradiction of the fundamental principles of Church nature. The situation will become even more peculiar in the future when pluralism of beliefs and cultures will challenge the beliefs of the Christian faith. The fragmentation of Churches will also have an effect on the Orthodox Church and her approach to religious pluralism in the global context and its effect on contemporary society. In order to respond to the cultural and religious pluralism of globalization from a Christian perspective, we have to be prepared to not only respond from particular Christian traditions, but also articulate our faith in the context of the common value of humanity represented by the united Christian Church. The universal quest for answers does not allow a particular Christian Church to stand alone where the unified voice of the Christian Church could profess the choice between being part of this process or being indifferent to the life of humanity.
It is with a sense of particular importance and renewed optimism that the Orthodox and Catholic Churches entered the 21st century in bilateral dialogue. To a certain degree, the Second Vatican Council and Pan-Orthodox Conferences acted as catalysts, giving the dialogue a new impetus in response to the call of Patriarch Athenagoras’ to “look into each other’s eyes”. Because of the affirmation of the same fundamental doctrinal teachings, the Churches were able to renew their interest in entering into bilateral dialogue. The international theological bilateral discussions turned the historical polemics into progressive dialogue and self-understanding. It is our hope that theologians of both Churches will not consider the dialogue as an academic luxury or a mental theological scientism that will have a negative impact on any future discussion. We also have to be careful not to consider the contemporary renewal of the dialogue as simplistic triumphalism, which would be even worse than scholastic stagnation. The political and philosophical developments in the contemporary world are too important for both Churches to delay in answering Christ’s call for one unified Church.
After the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the bilateral dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches entered into an impasse, as the new political developments in Eastern Europe changed in character. It was the emergence of the Eastern Catholic Churches, mainly in Western Ukraine, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Serbia, and Rumania, that redirected the attention of the theologians towards situation from a new perspective. As the situation became more volatile, the Orthodox Churches requested the International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church to address and give immediate attention to the question of “uniatism”. The Orthodox Church was mainly concerned with a pragmatic solution that could be used as a tool to resolve the thorny issue of Church divisiveness. As a result, the International Commission, after the 7th Plenary Session in Balamand School of Theology (Lebanon) on 17-24 of June 1993, following the agreement in Freising-Munich (June 1990) and Ariccia ( June 1991), issued a very interesting statement called: “Uniatism: Method of Union of the Past, and the Present Search for Full Communion”.
The importance of the document to the dialogue of the Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox Churches is immense. In its content, the statement addressed various theological, pastoral, and practical issues that could be used as a platform for a peaceful resolution of the problem. As our attention is not directed to pastoral issues, the theological content of the statement is aberrant, as it addresses certain aspects of ecclesiology of the Eastern Catholic Churches, of which the Ukrainian Catholic Church is the most significant. We have to be quite clear that it was one of the first ecclesiological documents after Vienna, Freising, and Ariccia on the international ecumenical arena that specifically addressed the issue of the Eastern Churches in union with Rome. The presence of various Orthodox Church representatives and eventual signatures of the delegations validating the statement, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow, could also be understood as an acknowledgement of the fact that the Eastern Catholic Churches, including the Ukrainian Catholic Church, exist and have the right to peaceful coexistence. According to this document, the Eastern Catholic Churches have to be regarded as ecclesiastical entities within the Catholic Communion. Following the publication of the Statement, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presented the subject more forcefully with Pope John Paul II, when he addressed the tolerance of the situation by Rome based on the ecclesiastical economy.
Based on the facts presented in the Balamand Statement, and the discussions that followed in Orthodox theological circles, it is imperative at the present time for the theologians of the Ukrainian Catholic Church to elaborate on the subject of their own ecclesiology. For the progression of future dialogue, the clarification of the ecclesiological foundations of the Ukrainian Catholic Church is practically unavoidable. We must emphasize the fact that the Commission, in its statement, rejected “uniatism” as a method of achieving unity between the Churches. It is significant to underline that the Commission rejected “uniatism” as the “method” while the existence of the Eastern Catholic Churches is “tolerated”. The document distinctly recognizes and emphasizes the existence of these Churches as a “part of the Catholic Communion”. In order to safeguard this emphasis, the statement defines the right of those Churches to exist and to “act in response to the spiritual needs of their faithful”. We may presume that the Orthodox theologians agreed to respect and ratify the statement, although there are still some ecclesiological questions that need be resolved between the Churches.
As we continue the analysis of the document, we have to emphasize the fact that based on the recognition of the presence of the Eastern Catholic Churches with their ecclesiological particularities, these ecclesiastical entities are called to take an active part in the dialogue towards the re-establishment of full communion between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Despite a sensitivity of the Orthodox Church to the subject, the statement calls for mutual respect and reciprocal trust between the Churches:
“passing beyond the outdated ecclesiology of return to the Catholic Church”
. As we look carefully at this particular phrase, we can only be amazed by the great need for definition of new ecclesiological parameters for the dialogue between the Churches. The words of Pope John Paul II echo the quest for unity between the Churches:
“…the search for new routes again, which lead to the target we are hoping for”.
This particular phrase poses a series of questions that could be vital for ecclesial self-understanding of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and her role in future dialogue. One of the major ecclesiological questions for the Ukrainian Catholic Church is the significance of her ecclesiastical entity within the Roman Catholic universal ecclesiology. Can we assume, according to the document, that by defining the universal ecclesiology of the Roman Catholic Church as outdated, there is a “seismic” shift within the Roman Catholic Church towards the recognition of the locality of a particular Church within the Eucharistic ecclesiology or is it a stylistic ecclesiological ambiguity? This question is not without significance when we recall the words of Roman Catholic Cardinal Yves Congar who called the existence of the Eastern Catholic Churches a “caricature and ecclesiological contradiction”. On the other hand, is there anything left of the Eucharistic ecclesiology of the Local Church in the present ecclesiology of the Ukrainian Catholic Church? If the locality of the Ukrainian Catholic Church is indeed presupposed by the statement within the context of the Eucharistic ecclesiology, how much ecclesial independence exists in the life of the Church from the Roman Pontiff? The struggle of Cardinal Lubachivsky in the seventies of the last century for the creation of the Ukrainian Catholic Patriarchate, based on the Kyiv-Halych Metropolis, is the most expressive of the presence of the Eucharistic ecclesiology within the self-understanding of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Is it possible to consider this statement as a serious divergence of Roman Catholic ecclesiology towards the Eastern Churches? If the Ukrainian Catholic Church defines herself in communion with the Roman Church, how do we understand the rejection on March 22, 1990 by the episcopacy of the Ukrainian Catholics of the document of the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church known as: “Recommendations for the Normalization of Relations between Orthodox and Catholics of the Eastern Rite in the Western Ukraine”? This last question is extremely important in the light of the Ariccia draft mentioned earlier, wherein the Oriental Catholic Churches have rights and obligations to comply with decisions of Rome. Lastly, how should we understand the present meeting of this Assembly of Bishops in light of both ecclesiologies? Would your respectable body of Ukrainian Catholic Bishops recognize itself as a separate entity from the universal ecclesiology and continue the discussion in the context of the Local Eucharistic ecclesiology, or would it consider itself as speaking on behalf of the universal ecclesiology of Rome? This last question is fundamental in the context of a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Bishops of the Catholic Church entitled: “On Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion” signed by then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. These questions are fundamental for the ecclesiological foundation of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and for further discussion between our Churches at the present time.
It is almost twenty years after the Balamand Statement that the Assembly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops beyond the borders of Ukraine and Ukrainian Catholic Bishops are addressing those timely questions. The fact that the Balamand Statement of June 1993 established the parameters of dialogue is without precedence in the history of official contacts between the East and West of Christianity, even though the dialogue was based only on ecclesiastical economy. It is also fundamental to state that, according to the Balamand Statement, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, as “part of the Catholic Communion”, is also called the “Sister Church”. Despite the years of oppression and persecution, the document calls for a progression in the relationship between the Churches in order to meet each other in love. It is not without significance that Cardinal Lubachivsky, in support of the progression of dialogue, recognized the validity of the sacraments of the Moscow Patriarchate, even though there were some strong allegations of collaboration of the Patriarchate with the Communists.
It is of great significance on the part of the Eastern Catholic Churches to be recognized as ecclesiological entities, although from the perspective of the Orthodox Church, the Eastern Catholic Churches present certain “difficulties” that need to be resolved. The ecclesiological, historical, social, and other complexities of the problem indicate the scale of the multifaceted difficulties that lie ahead. It is hoped that this analysis will be one of many in the future during the process of overcoming those challenges. Let us look first at the difficulties we face and then let us build an ecclesiological foundation for the progression of our dialogue. We will present very briefly only two of the difficulties in the hope that they will eventually lead to a deeper level of discussion and understanding.
The first problem we face is that of prejudice among Orthodox theologians towards the Eastern Catholic Churches. This prejudice has many human faces and is based on various historical, political, and ideological perspectives. There exists a tendency among the theologians to regard the existence of the Eastern Catholic Churches as an ecclesiological anomaly that has no value in the future of bilateral dialogue. The existence of the Eastern Catholic Churches is considered to be an unacceptable ecclesiological “difficulty” and a major obstacle to the progress of the dialogue. From one side, we seriously approach the dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, but on the other side, we disregard the presence and even the existence of all those ecclesiastical communities of the Eastern Catholic Churches in Communion with Rome. From another perspective, we insist on the abolishment and absorption of the Uniate Churches without giving enough thought to the motives of the establishment of those Churches in history. We have to be encouraged by the shift of attention by some contemporary Orthodox theologians towards the holistic approach to the analysis. Perhaps it would be beneficial and constructive to address these issues with the Roman See and, if we could, to discuss the official documents of the Second Vatican Council from the perspective of embodiment of the missionary activity of the Roman Catholic Church. The reluctance on behalf of Rome to admit to the ambiguity of the official policy might be a main problem for the progression of the dialogue.
The Orthodox Church is not exempt from this observation. We can’t forget the historical and ideological tendencies of the Moscow Empire to use all possible means to enslave and subjugate the entire territory of Ukraine. It was this Moscow ecclesiastical entity, disregarding the canonical territory of the Ecumenical Patriarchate that absorbed and crucified the Orthodox Church in Ukraine for three centuries. The progressive annexation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by the Moscow entity and the forceful oppression of the Ukrainian Orthodox population by Muscovy created an atmosphere of intense hatred towards any ideology or thought of the Northern neighbour until now. We can’t forget that the freedom of every human being to express his or her will, as is addressed in Orthodox anthropology, is integral to for the identity of every individual who is created in the image and likeness of God. Without free will, we cease to be authentic creations of God. Ukrainians of that time, robbed of their freedom, turned to those who would defend them and allow them to worship God in their own unique way. The consequences of the process, with additional complexities of that time, are being felt even now, where the families are divided by the borders of faith. It is appropriate to recall the prophetic words of Patriarch Athenagoras, who declared:
“The Christian world has lived in the dark night of separation. The Christian’s eyes are tired of having their vision plunged in darkness”.
The simplification of the complexity of the process by some contemporary Orthodox theologians doesn’t do justice to all those who are struggling to find their own ecclesiastical identity. This dialogue could become not only monumental in international ecumenical discussions, but could change the theological perception among theologians regarding the contemporary developments in Ukraine. The difficulties are not only immediate, but are also far-reaching into the future.
A second issue is the lack of participation of Ukrainian theologians in the international official bilateral dialogue. Because of the complexity of the religious life of the Ukrainian nation, we created among ourselves a tendency towards unworthiness or “isolating provincialism” on all levels of human life. We are used to the fact that there are others who would talk on behalf of our own Churches. This assembly of Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic Bishops has the potential to become a catalyst for the resurgence of our own religious identity, imperative at the present time. The issue of Uniatism is basically our own theological challenge. It affects our own identity, it splits small villages apart, and it does not allow us to “own our own”. The conflict within our Churches has created a division within the nation, which can be healed through open and honest discussions. This assembly of Bishops may provide the voice for the millions who are not able to express their views openly or who are forced to believe that the present situation is normal. The will of the representatives of both Churches suggests looking towards the possibility of dialogue and discussion.
In order to prepare the foundations for present and future dialogue, a common ground needs to be found. If we look carefully at the ecclesiological foundation of possible future dialogue, we may be quite amazed by the ecclesiological commonalities between our Churches, as revealed by the bilateral dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. We shouldn’t forget that some of the ecclesiological elements and their expressions are already based on our history and the present identity of the Ukrainian nation. We also share the same ethos and tradition. It is not an ecclesiological fascination, but a reality that can give us strength in the future. It is enough for us to recall the ecumenical rapprochement of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and the Syriac Orthodox Church (so-called Oriental Orthodox or pre-Chalcedonian Churches). In order to build a solid ecclesiological foundation for future dialogue, it is imperative for us to analyse what we have at the present in order to build for the future. We have to realize that Orthodoxy “possesses a charisma of openness” that leads to a new field of theological discovery. Because of this openness, we are brought to a new ecclesiological reality that has to be addressed. It will be our humble task to find those commonalities and bring them to the table for discussion.
We cannot consider the next chapter as a full presentation of the Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology, as this has to be done in a separate analysis. We will bring forth those ecclesiological elements of Church nature that are shared by both traditions. We have to be assured that the short ecclesiological foundation as presented is identical for the East and the West as it is based on the Dogma of the Holy Trinity, essential for the existence of our Churches. The expressions of these ecclesiological foundations will lead us to the common roots that we share in our daily life as the Church.
The Nature of the Church
According to contemporary Orthodox ecclesiology, there is no official definition of the nature of the Church. The Church is a mystery of Christ. The reality of the Church is the experience of the people of God in the Holy Eucharist. Because of this specific characteristic, the Church, in her foundation, is Eucharistic and indefinite. This is one reason why the authentic ecclesiology of the Church is the ecclesiology experienced by the community (koinonia) in the body of Christ as “life context of all theology”.
The foundation of the entire theology is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which includes the fields of both Eastern and Western ecclesiologies. Orthodox ecclesiology is exclusively Trinitarian and continually oriented towards the Triune God. As a consequence, the Church has a Trinitarian character and expression. In essence, the Church becomes the living icon of the Holy Trinity.
Orthodox ecclesiology has Christological, pneumatological, eschatological, and cosmic dimensions. It is also sacramental and mystical. Church is being actualized sacramentally in the mystical presence of the “Body of Christ”. The same foundation is characteristic of Roman Catholic ecclesiology. According to contemporary Orthodox thought, the only ecclesiology that fully expresses the mystical presence in the “Body of Christ” is the Eucharistic ecclesiology. According to St. Ignatius of Antioch, the Church is Eucharistic and the Eucharist creates the Church. At this point, there are various understandings of the importance of the Eucharistic ecclesiology in the life of the Eastern and Western Churches. The debate will continue to exist as long as we continue to approach this subject from two different ecclesiological perspectives. For Orthodox ecclesiology, the importance of the Eucharistic ecclesiology is primary as it is based on the concept of the Local Church and includes the essential presence of the local Bishop.
The main purpose of the Church is to provide the vision of the Kingdom of God. Because of this eschatological presupposition, in her existence the Church strives to model herself on the pattern of the Kingdom of God and should never cease to do so. Any compromise with the powers of the fallen world would be detrimental to her identity. To put this in a different context, the main purpose of the Orthodox Church is the nourishment and cultivation of the Orthodox Christian “life style” for all people at any time under any conditions or difficulties. The Church is not an idea or a philosophical, political, or ideological thought that can be put under discussion and classification as any other human concept. The Church is life in God and “…not of this world” (John 18:36). If the Church is the “living icon of the Holy Trinity” in the world then the entire world, with all its complexity, is the domain of the Church. According to St. Maximos the Confessor:
“the Church is the print and image of the whole world, which consists of visible and invisible substances”.
In this context, the problems of humanity are the Church’s problems. This belief is one of the main reasons why contextual theology has such an important role to play in Orthodox theology. All the daily dilemmas of human beings, including the political, economic, cultural, and social problems, are being transferred to the Church, where they are being sanctified and overcome in the Holy Eucharist. The Orthodox Church is the life of the world and by participating in the struggle of humanity for man’s theosis, the Church transforms the world. Although the Church has a distinctive identity with a specific mission in the world, actions for justice, peace, and stability in the world are constitutive dimensions of the Church’s mission. The Church should never be associated with the indifference or excessive detachments that are integral parts of the horror of the world. Indifference and apathy lead life to death, while participation and action change and transform the world. If the Local Church associates herself with indifference, she is not a Church. One of the reasons there is such a strong call for unity of the Christian Churches is to counter indifference and transform the world. Unified Christianity would be not only faithful to the nature of the Church, but also a powerful stabilizer of peace among people. From another perspective, although the problems of the world are brought to the Church, they are never identified with the Church. The Church, because of her ontological nature expressed in an apophatic theology, cannot identify herself with either national or social ideologies of society. It has to be emphasized that the Church incarnates people while refusing to accept any ideas or beliefs. Although the Church is not identified with any of those concepts, she is incarnated into various cultures in order to anticipate the Kingdom of God.
The Church is in the image and likeness of the Holy Trinity and as such the Holy Trinity constitutes her being in the world. The Church reflects God’s unity in Trinity. In other words, the Church mirrors the communion and otherness that exists in the Holy Trinity. The Three Persons of the Holy Trinity are one in nature, but the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are absolutely different. Because the Church is the mirror of the Triune God, the Church, in parallel, also represents a multiplicity of persons in unity of life and being. There is an absolute interdependence among the members of the Church, which also testifies that together with unity there is diversity. Each member of the Church is different and because of this difference, Church members need each other. The unity of the Church is identified in the diversity of its members which involves the natural, social, and spiritual differences. In other words, the differences of the members of the Church are being transfigured as the characteristics and make-up of life and thought of all those who create the Church. All differences are transfigured and existentially transcended to the upper and only idea of unity of Church:
“Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, Slave nor free: but Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11, Gal. 3:28, Eph. 2:14).
The unity of the Church, which is being actualized in Eucharist, overcomes any division of any time and any aspect:
“Jesus Christ yesterday and today the same, and through the centuries” (Hebr. 13:8).
The implications of this Eucharistic ecclesiology for the social consciousness of the Church are far-reaching and, because of its content, it should be constantly emphasized. The Eucharist not only unifies diversity but also sanctifies otherness.
According to Orthodox theological tradition, the unity of the Church, in its proper context, was never harmed by a variety of national identities, languages, and cultures. The development of personal identities of people, which is being presented through nation, language, culture, and philosophy, is in fact part of Orthodox mentality. All these factors, including ethnic, national, and cultural identity, are given a high priority in the missionary field of the Orthodox Church. These cultural identities might be carriers of very valuable social, religious, and ethical values. A member of the ecclesial community is born as a member of a particular religion, people, culture, or nation which creates his identity. The personal identity of every member of the Church is shaped by those factors. From this perspective, it must also be said that because the national identity and culture belong to the personal identity of specific people, the cosmopolitan idea of culture or “universal Christian culture” is not acceptable. No culture is final and definitive. If the Orthodox Church embraces otherness, it is also respectful of the tremendous riches of human diversity of culture. Christianity does not suppress cultures of national identities, but assumes them into the unified diversity of catholic tradition. There is no “pure Orthodoxy” that is untainted by culture. From the Orthodox perspective, the development of personal identity and integrity is a constant process that can be preserved and continued only by constant spiritual effort. The culture of human beings together with national identity is constantly being transfigured by the mystical life in the Church. Orthodoxy sees a particular culture as a source of redemptive revelation of God.
As we continue our analysis we also have to state that Christianity, and especially Orthodoxy, is by its nature incarnational. This belief is based on the fact that the second person of the Holy Trinity – Jesus Christ came into the world in a specific time, culture, and nation (Jn. 1.14). Because of the incarnational aspect, the Orthodox Church recognizes that the theological context of the Church is inevitably culturally conditioned. It must be recognized that a “core of Christian truth” is to be identified in the shell of a culture of various national identities. Because of the incarnational factor of the Gospel, there should be room for expression of faith in a variety of cultural forms and identities. Our Ukrainian identity, which is foundational for the cultural tradition of our two Churches, might be a unifying link that can bring us together in the other dimensions for our further discussions. Because theology is contextual, it incarnates all the discussed elements into our dialogue. It is one of the greatest achievements of Orthodoxy to emphasize the sanctification of cultures of national identities and the readiness to respond to the authentic needs of people. Orthodoxy is, at the same time, a human culture and a divine manifestation which transfigures the human into the heavenly.
Orthodox Christianity from the very beginning followed a policy of embracing the culture and traditions of those who were evangelized. It was one of the main tasks of the Orthodox missionaries to look for the possibility to facilitate the integration of Orthodox faith with the cultural and ethnic values of the specific evangelized territory and people. The Orthodox East always encouraged the assumption by the Church of the elements of national culture and identity that could contribute to the well-being of the Orthodox Church and to our bilateral discussion.
Another very important element in our discussion is the subject of “healthy patriotism”. While the Orthodox Church condemns excessive nationalism, she does not reject well-intended and healthy nationalism, which can be defined and embraced by the concept of catholicity. Within the concept of Eucharistic ecclesiology, there is room for love and respect for the nation-state expressed as patriotism. Patriotism for the well-being of the state should be distinguished from fanatical patriotism, known as chauvinism. If the concept of true patriotism should be guided by the principle of relationship with God, the fanatical principles of patriotism place nation and state at the top of the hierarchy of values. The concept of positive nationalism, which is embraced and limited to the catholicity of the Church, becomes a positive force that can unite people for the transformation of the world in the light of the Holy Spirit. On anthropological grounds, there is no doubt that positive (healthy) nationalism has an important role to play in religion, and possesses a certain inherited authority.
As we enter into a dialogue with one another we have to be ready to open ourselves in order to love one another. We have to be ready to respond to the words of St. Maximos the Confessor who claimed:
“Believe me, my children, nothing else has caused schism and heresies in the Church but the fact that we do not love God and our neighbour”.
Our Churches require openness, honesty, and genuineness. They also require forgiveness and vision, which are fundamental to responding to the call for unity. In order to achieve those requirements we have to be able to know each other on social and ideological levels, and be ready to respond to the question of ecclesiological identities. This is one of the reasons why we posed some of the ecclesiological questions for further analysis. We also have presented, in a much abbreviated form, the essential foundations of the Church as they are being understood in contemporary theological thought. As we have observed in our discussions, the essential doctrinal elements of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Churches are almost identical, although their expressions in the life of the Churches are different. The discussed Eucharistic ecclesiology might be the best example here. But we cannot forget that if the fundamental doctrine of the Churches is the same and is essential in our discussion, then the expressions of the foundations have to be understood as secondary. Even though we might understand these differences as secondary they cannot be viewed as unrelated to the doctrinal foundations.
Forthcoming dialogue will only show the direction we have to take in our deliberations. We have to be ready to assist each other in order to find the right ecclesiological tools necessary for the progression of further discussion. We must also recognize that honest and sincere discussion cannot be based on sentimental stimulus or cheap foundations. In our theological dialogue we have to avoid complacency and compromises of any sort at any cost as such complacency leads to certain ecclesiological death or progressive stagnation. In order to be authentic to our call for unity, we must meet each other on grounds of trust, open honest communication, and mutual respect. The path toward future dialogue and unity might be “costly and painful” but it is the only way to look and step into the future. We have to be quite frank: there may be many obstacles along the way, which are deeply rooted in our prejudice and thinking, established in the history of the last three hundred years. The difficulties may also be compounded by the internal obstacles in our Churches, as well as by those who see these discussions as treason.
We must avoid any form of exclusiveness that may diverge from the true foundations of theological dialogue. These challenges should not deter us from our goal of finding each other in our quest for unity. There may also be other issues or ideologies that will be invoked by those who will do everything possible to cut off this process at its roots. The history of the Ukrainian nation is too fresh for us in order to forget about this immediate danger.
From another perspective, if we want to be truthful to ourselves and progressive in our deliberations, we must be consistent and theologically mature in our quest for unity. In order to be authentic to our witness and successful in our quest we must not only speak and argue, but also listen to each other in order to make our dialogue real and tangible. As we listen to each other, we may learn from our shared experiences, thereby giving us authenticity and helping us realize where we stand and what we represent. We may also experience moments of silence permeated by the presence of the other. This otherness may lead us into dimensions never before discussed. With patience we will be able to bring to the table our ecclesiastical experiences of the past, even those that may have been overwhelmed by pain, sorrow, and suffering. In order to be faithful to ourselves and to God, we must not be afraid to look with love into each other’s eyes, where we will once again see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.