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Die Ökumene muss

Franz König

Pro Oriente

From May 9 to 13, 2005, the PRO ORIENTE-Foundation held a conference in DURAU, Romania

The Topic: "Christ in our Midst - The Meaning of the Liturgy for daily Life in today's Society"

After the “Illumination and Hesychasm“ conference, which also took place there in 2001, this was the second meeting to be conducted by invitation of and in cooperation with the community of Iasi. Before the start of the conference Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Apostolic Nuncio Jean-Claude Perisset, the Austrian ambassador in Bucharest, Christian Zeileissen, and the Pro Oriente delegation paid the Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist a formal visit, which resulted in creating a cordial atmosphere.
The conference was opened by Cardinal Schönborn and Metropolitan Daniel of Iasi, who also took part in the discussions. The Austrian ambassador, Christian Zeileissen, and a representative of the Ministry of Culture, which sponsored the conference, also took part in the opening session.
There were lectures by Austrian and Romanian scholars. On the Austrian side were liturgy scholars known internationally and especially in Romania, Dr. Philipp Harnoncourt of Graz, Professor Erich Renhart (also from Graz) and Professor Franz Mali (from Fribourg). On the Romanian side were Bishop Laurentiu Streza of Caransebes, Professor Nicolae Necula from Sibiu und Professor Viorel Sava of the Orthodox Faculty in Iasi.

The target audience consisted of specialists in the areas of liturgy and the study of liturgical theology, including the Romanian Orthodox Bishops Laurentiu Streza of Caransebes and Casian from Galati, the Roman Catholic Bishops Petru Gerghel from Iasi and Anton Cosa of Chisinau, the Greek-Catholic Bishop Virgil Bercea of Oradea, liturgy specialists, abbots and abbesses from the Moldavia area, monks, nuns, and lay people, totaling around 60.
The topic of the conference was recommended by Metropolitan Daniel, who is at this time one of the most distinguished, if not the most distinguished theologian of contemporary Romanian Orthodoxy. Cardinal Schönborn has been friends with Metropolitan Daniel since his days as a professor of Eastern Church Studies at the University of Fribourg. In the year 2000 Cardinal Schönborn was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Orthodox faculty of the University of Bucharest.

The Romanian Orthodox church today is still feeling the effects of the period of communism and sees itself as confronted with new challenges, which it wishes to meet with a renewal of church liturgy. The Church finds it especially important to accomplish this responsible fulfillment of the liturgy through the celebrants and faithful. Therefore, the liturgy should only be changed, if at all, with greatest caution, because it was, after all, this liturgy that safely brought the Romanian Orthodox church through the era of communism. Metropolitan Daniel sees, however, the danger of a break between liturgy and daily life. For him it’s a question specifically of how the liturgy can be integrated into daily life.

From all of this comes the Romanian Orthodox church’s great interest in the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council and what the Catholic Church has experienced as a result. The exchange of experiences within study groups and in personal discussions are seen as valuable by both sides. The Catholic side also pointed out the great lack of knowledge about the eastern liturgy. Cardinal Schönborn emphasized the complementary nature of the spiritual experience of the two great churches and also took the opportunity to mention the book by the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: The Spirit of the Liturgy - An Introduction. “ The principle of the participation in salvation through the thoughtful and thankful realization of the mystery of Christ is common to the east and the west“ (Professor Harnoncourt). Certainly there are persistent tendencies within Romanian Orthodoxy, but there are also new, surprising and noteworthy directions in the catechism that respond to the new situation in the country. The modern media are also very skillfully made use of.

During the conference the publication containing the contributions from the first study-meeting about illumination and hesychasm was presented. The articles from the second conference will also be published very soon in Romanian and in German. The meetings were conducted in a constructive and friendly atmosphere. Many relationships were strengthened and new ones developed. Both sides desire a continuation of the exchange of ideas and experiences, especially regarding issues in pastoral liturgy.