From a Special Correspondent ABRIGHT new era in relations between Catholics and Orthodox is a distinct possibility, said Archbishop Takovos, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America, last week. The Primate was one of those present at the historic meeting between Pope Paul and Patriach Athenagoras I of Constantinople in Jerusalem last year.
The bearded churchman, scholar and diplomat was outlining his views on the ecumenical scene for a Catholic news serviee in New York. He discussed various differences between the two religions and some possible approaches to unity.
Uniformity 'not necessary'
The Orthodox concept of unity, he said, does not mean uniformity. The aim should be a true sense of brotherhood in Christ, but at the same time preserving all that is good in the various traditions which have developed with the various communities.
"I don't believe we should become regimented," he added. "I think Orthodox. Protestant and Catholic Christians can remain in their own culture, but should unite in Faith, Baptism and Communion."
The existence of the various Eastern rites within the Church of Rome is not an affront to their corresponding separated churches, he said_ In fact, this serves to demonstrate to Catholics that Catholicity tines not require uniformity, and the Catholic Eastern rites might help to close the gap between Fast and West.
When Greek Orthodox representatives and the Catholic Bishops' Commission for Ecumenical Affairs hold their first official meeting next month it will he a coming together of the Churches which have the fewest differences in the fields of faith and morals.
Both cling to Scripture and tradition, and to the teachings of the first seven ecumenical Councils and of the Fathers of the Church. They celebrate the seven Sacraments and believe the celebration of the Eucharist is the focal point of the life of (he Christian cornmunity.
The liturgies of both Churches also promote devotion to the Virgin Mary.
But Orthodox do not accept the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary as defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854. And they have reservations about the dogma
— proclaimed by Pius XII in 1950 — of Our Lady's Assumption into Heaven.
On the first point. the general Orthodox teaching is that Christ alone was conceived without being subject to sin, corruption and death, and that only through her fiat—her acceptance of the Archangel's invitation at the Annunciation—was Mary sinless, or completely at one with God.
As for the dogma of the Assumption, the Orthodox see in it a possible implication that Mary, because of her Immaculate Conception, did not die.
Orthodox Christians, said Archbishop lakovos, sometimes feel that the Latin Church "goes too far" in its Marian theology. But the inclusion of the Virgin Mary in the doctrine on the nature of the Church is a "definite advance" which is "much appreciated by the Orthodox".
The differences in Marian theology between the Orthodox and the Latin Church are regarded by the Orthodox as different interpretations of the nature of original sin.
But, even more, they reflect a difference of views on the nature of the Church, especially regarding what the Orthodox reel is an erroneous claim to papal infallibility.
The Orthodox recognise .the Pope as the first and foremost of the bishops of the world, but having a primacy of honour alone, and equal in jurisdiction to the other bishops—or rather to the other patriarchs. Infallibility, they claim. is a gift of the Holy Spirit residing in the whole Church, not in the first of the bishops alone.
Archbishop Iakovos stated that the doctrine of collegiality contained in the council's Constitution .on the Church represents some forward movement from an Orthodox viewpoint.
But he added that collegiality, as defined by the Council, does not recognise the "principles of selfgovernment and autonomy guaranteed by the early Councils of the Church".
The archbishop expressed hope that Patriarch Athenagoras' call for a dialogue with Rome on equal terms would be successful.
Unity, he said, must not he seen as "a return to the Church", but as "a going forward to meet Him Who was crucified for us".