Sunday, September 18, 2016

Orthodox Bishops Celebrate Divine Liturgy at Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello in Conjunction with the 14th Plenary Session of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches

text and photos provided by Antonio Bini

Today Sunday September 18 over 70 Orthodox and Catholic Bishops traveled to the Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello in conjunction with the 14th Plenary Session of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches.

 An Orthodox Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Basilica of the Holy Face by the Orthodox Bishops with Catholic Bishops in attendance.   During the liturgy prayers were offered in over ten languages, each representative of the 14 Orthodox churches expressed in their own language. The Our Father was recited in Italian.  At the side of the altar were Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, and Archbishop Bruno Forte, ordinary of the Archdiocese of Chieti-Vasto.

The altar of the basilica of the Holy Face was adapted to the Orthodox liturgical traditions.   The significance of the rite is implicit in the central icon of Christ at the base of the altar in close continuity with the Holy Face, the reference model for Russian-Byzantine iconography, confirming Christ at the head of  the one Church founded by Him.

It can be said that this day is the most important day for the Shrine of the Holy Face since the visit of Benedict XVI took place ten years ago. Father Anatoly Grytskiv, representative of the Orthodox Church in Abruzzo and Molise (of the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople) not surprisingly spoke of a "miracle" to describe the day at the conclusion of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.

The fraternity and the dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox continued outside the basilica. In the photo below the exit of Catholic and Orthodox bishops from the basilica is mixed with the entrance of a group of pilgrims from Poland (with handkerchiefs around their necks).  

We will follow with interest the conclusion of the XIV Plenary Session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue planned in Rome this coming September 22.

Archbishop Bruno Forte, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri at the Divine Liturgy today

Before the gathering in Manoppello Archbishop Bruno Forte of the Diocese of Chieti-Vasto, declared: "We are discussing during these days the way we conceive of the future union of our churches that is not a way of uniformity that eliminates differences but one of synodality, that is, a unity that values the differences in the communion which recognizes the unique role of the bishop of Rome at the service of all the churches. "

It is hoped that the encounter with the Holy Face, described by Cardinal Koch as "guiding light of Christianity", is a help in this process.

Photo by Paul Badde

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