WASHINGTON, D.C. — Borrowing a phrase used by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during his September visit to the United States, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros said he hopes for the continuance of a “dialogue of love” between Catholic and Orthodox bishops.
The dialogue, started in the United States at the Orthodox Church’s suggestion in 1965, has produced at least 30 documents and statements.
“This dialogue of love, initiated by (St.) Pope Paul VI in 1964 in Jerusalem, continues with a blessed intensity in this country,” said Archbishop Elpidophoros, chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States. He spoke to his Roman Catholic counterparts Nov. 16 during the public portion of the bishops’ Nov. 15-18 general meeting in Baltimore.
It marked the first time an Orthodox bishop had addressed the Catholic bishops during one of their meetings.
Archbishop Elpidophoros recalled what Patriarch Bartholomew said in September during an address to the National Council of Churches in New York: “The future of the ecumenical movement resides in a dialogue of love, through the creation of new symbols and common actions. We need to open our hearts to the language of dialogue, as this is the ultimate condition for the restoration of unity of Christians.”
The 20th century, Patriarch Bartholomew said at the time, was “a time for growing restoration of relationships,” according to Archbishop Elpidophoros. “The 21st century should become the century of the restoration of unity.”
“This dialogue of love between our sister churches is a clear manifestation of our desire for unity, of our desire for communion,” Archbishop Elpidophoros said.
He noted the Orthodox had worked with their Catholic and Christian counterparts in other endeavors. “The fruits of this dialogue are not restricted to theological debate,” he said.
Two examples Archbishop Elpidophoros cited were an Orthodox cleric offering the opening prayer at the March for Life and the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States signed onto an amicus brief “supporting the sanctity of life.”
“We are also interested in the work and the progress of the next Synod of Bishops” in 2023, he said. “During this two-year period (prior to the synod), I believe that there is room for ecumenical partners to provide input into the preparation process.”
He said, “International dialogue is already exploring this issue … between synodality and primacy,” adding, “I sincerely hope that there will be many more opportunities to come together as brothers.”
Archbishop Elpidophoros noted that in 2013, Patriarch Bartholomew became the first ecumenical patriarch to attend a papal installation. In September, the patriarch, Pope Francis and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury issued a joint statement pointing to “the urgency of environmental stability and its impact on poverty.”
“These are real fruits of our collaboration, which nourish both of our communities,” Archbishop Elpidophoros said.
At the conclusion of his address, Archbishop Elpidophoros gave Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a Hagia Sophia cross made in Istanbul, as a sign of unity. The cross was in the shape of Hagia Sophia, which at the time of its construction in Istanbul in 537 was the largest Christian church; about 1,000 years later it was converted into a mosque.