From the February 13, 2011 National Catholic Register come an interesting,
and thoughtful interview with Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Moscow
Patriarchate's Department of External Church Relations.
How important is Christian unity to the Orthodox Church?
The notion of Christian unity is essentially linked to the last words of
Jesus Christ, which he pronounced at the Last Supper and, notably, those
which were addressed to his father, when he preached about the unity of his
disciples. It is a tragedy that Christ's disciples throughout the world were
unable to preserve this unity and that many schisms and divisions arose in
the Church, and the call to Christian unity is the ultimate goal of our
exposure to inter-Christian activities and to various dialogues which we
lead with the Roman Catholic Church and with other Christian traditions.
So I think for an Orthodox Christian, it is essential to participate in
inter-Christian exchanges in order to bring different Christian traditions
closer to mutual understanding in order to overcome centuries of prejudices
with the ultimate goal of the restoration of the full Eucharistic communion
between various Christian denominations.
Of course, the Orthodox and the Catholic are the closest ones. We have
certain differences in dogma, certain differences in ecclesiology, but we
have the same teaching on the apostolic succession of the hierarchy, on the
sacraments and on the Church in general.
Therefore, though there are obstacles to unity, they are, I believe, in no
What in the Orthodox view constitutes full Christian unity? What does it
Full Christian unity is the Eucharistic communion. We do not need to reshape
our Church administration, our local traditions. We can live with our
differences within one Church, participating from one bread and one cup. We
need, however, to rediscover what united us and what brought us to disunity,
particularly in the 11th century.
So the basis for the restoration of the full communion would be, I believe,
the faith of the Church east and west in the first millennium.