By Robin Gomes
The work of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches, which brings together experts from the Eastern Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental Churches, is of fundamental assistance to ecumenical dialogue, Pope Francis said on Thursday.
Speaking to some 80 participants in the 24th International Congress of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches, taking place in Rome, September 16-20, he said that they can learn from one another in all areas of ecclesial life, such as theology, the experience of spirituality and liturgy, pastoral activity and canon law.
The Society that aims at promoting better international and inter-confessional scholarly collaboration among specialists of the Law of the Eastern Churches and of the Civil Law on Eastern Churches is marking its 50 years this year.
According to the Pope, “Canon law is essential for ecumenical dialogue.” Many of the theological dialogues pursued by the Catholic Church, especially with the Orthodox Church and the Oriental Churches, he said, are of an ecclesiological nature.
Since ecclesiology finds expression in the institutions and the law of the Churches, theological dialogues, he said, also have a canonical dimension. Ecumenical dialogue also enriches canon law.
The Holy Father particularly focussed on synodality, explaining that, when translated into established institutions and procedures of the Church, it expresses the ecumenical dimension of canon law. The Catholic Church can learn from the synodal experience of other traditions, especially the Eastern Churches, and its own experience of synodality is important for its relations with other Christians.
Synodality, he said, is a challenge for ecumenism. The commitment to build a synodal Church, to which all are called, he said, has significant ecumenical implications.
In this regard, the Pope said that the current theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church seeks precisely a common understanding of primacy and synodality and their relationship in the service of the unity of the Church.
That they may be one
The work of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches also has a synodal dimension as they walk together and, in mutual listening, evaluate their traditions and experiences to find ways to full unity as wished by the Lord in His prayer: “that they may all be one; [...] so that the world may believe”.