LEADERS of major religions active in the ecumenical dialogue, led by the region’s top Orthodox cleric, have been invited to meet Pope Francis during his apostolic visit to the Philippines.

Fr. Carlos Reyes, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue (CBCP-ECID), said at least 10 leaders of other religions will meet the Holy Father at the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas (UST) at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015.

“[It will be an] encounter between religious persons of goodwill, a dialogue of life where we revel in our common humanity,” Fr. Reyes said.

The CBCP-ECID has invited a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, whom Pope Francis met in Turkey last November. The Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch prayed together and signed a joint declaration reaffirming efforts to overcome more than a millennia of division between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches.

Metropolitan Nektarios (Tsilis), metropolitan of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, will represent the Ecumenical Patriarch. Representatives of Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and other Christian denominations will also meet the Pope.

“The fact that we are in Asia necessitates the inclusion of representatives from Hinduism and Buddhism, [and] we cannot exclude our Muslim friends and Christian brethren. Most of them are our (Catholic Church’s) partners in interreligious dialogue,” Fr. Reyes said.

In a previous report by CBCP News, Fr. Reyes said that among the qualifications to be selected for the interreligious meeting at UST was the religious groups’ active promotion of the ecumenical movement. Through the brief interreligious meeting, the Catholic Church seeks to work with “moderate elements for peace, justice and harmony,” Fr. Reyes said.

While the Church is “Catholic” or “Universal,” and the Church of Christ subsists in the Roman Catholic Church, the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium) teaches that elements of sanctification can be found “outside of the visible and juridical borders of the Roman Catholic Church,” Fr. Reyes explained.

Vatican II made possible a new pastoral approach to other religions, he said. “The actions of [the] Holy Spirit cannot be contained or limited by our distinctions,” he added.

Young Orthodox bishop

Metropolitan Nektarios is a young Orthodox bishop, having participated in youth conferences and serving as an official of an Orthodox youth organization. Born in 1969 in Greece, Metropolitan Nektarios was ordained to the diaconate in 1990 and to the priesthood in 1995. He became the metropolitan of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia in 2008.

Over doctrinal, theological, political, and other differences, Roman Catholics and the Orthodox became estranged and eventually split in 1054 with the exchange of excommunications between pope and patriarch. The excommunications were mutually lifted in 1965 by Pope (now Blessed) Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I. Angeli Mae S. Cantillana


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