A History Of The Progress Toward Orthodox-Roman Catholic Reconciliation -- By: John A. Jelinek

Journal: Michigan Theological Journal
Volume: MTJ 01:1 (Spring 1990)
Article: A History Of The Progress Toward Orthodox-Roman Catholic Reconciliation
Author: John A. Jelinek

A History Of The Progress Toward Orthodox-Roman Catholic Reconciliation

John A. Jelinek

There is more to the ongoing dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics than has met with the eyes of the public. Real theological and cultural differences still separate the two groups and will hinder the ecumenical spirit which has brought them together in dialogue. The lack of a Pan-Orthodox consensus as to nationality, culture and leadership provides a stumbling block to reconciliation. In spite of the new openness brought about by changes in Europe, reconciliation is unlikely apart from substantial compromise on the part of one or both parties in matters of doctrine. Evangelicals need to become aware of the implications of this dialogue in relation to evangelism of both Roman Catholics and Orthodox, especially in view of the sweeping political changes in Eastern Europe which are presently and rapidly opening doors of opportunity.


There are approximately 150 million Orthodox Christians in the world today.1 Figures vary as to the number of Roman Catholics, from some 700 million to as many as 850 million, depending on the source of the information. Taken together these two groups could represent nearly one billion people. Any attempt to reconcile these two groups constitutes a major ecumenical movement worthy of further inquiry.

Some further definition may aid the reader and help to set some limitations for this study. It should be recognized that the Orthodox Christians may be divided into two general “families.” The larger Eastern Orthodox Church family consists of some twenty churches in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey).2 The smaller family, the

Oriental Orthodox Church, is represented in five churches, the largest of which are the Ethiopic and Coptic Orthodox Churches.3 These two “families” separated from each other in the sixth century over doctrinal and cultural disputes.4

Further, it should be observed that only the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has fully entered into dialogue with Rome as a representative of Orthodoxy. Hence, the dialogue under study does not involve the largest of the eastern church families, i.e., the Russian Orthodox Church (approximately 73 million people) or many of the other groups within what is called “Orthodox,” but what is accomplished under the Ecumenical Patriarchy in its dialogues with Rome could have far reaching significance as will...

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