Addressing the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, meeting at the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, Antelias, Lebanon, His Holiness Aram I emphasized the crucial importance of bilateral dialogues for the future course of the ecumenical movement. He said that multilateralism and bilateralism need to be taken in their inter-connectedness, complementing and strengthening each other on the way towards the visible unity of the church.

Referring to the theological dialogue between the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Churches, the Catholicos reminded that in the course of history several initiatives have been made in the form of ecumenical encounter, theological talks and joint actions between the Catholic Church and the churches of the Oriental Orthodox family. In 2003 these churches formally embarked on theological dialogue. Catholicos Aram I drew the attention of the Joint Commission to the following points:

1.- After so many years of christocentric ecumenism, he said that the last decade has witnessed an increasing move towards ecclesiocentric ecumenism. According to His Holiness, ecclesiology must remain a priority on the ecumenical agenda. The churches have different concepts of unity because they have different ecclesiological teachings; the churches are divided in respect to ethical issues, because they have different ecclesiological self-understanding. Catholicos Aram also emphasized the need to develop a holistic perspective which will enable the churches to have interactive approach to ecclesiology, ethics and missiology.

2.- His Holiness reminded that the churches are existentially exposed to the moral-ethical repercussions of secularism, syncretism and of so many "ism"s, and are more divided in their response to these issues than in doctrinal matters. Therefore, he strongly suggested that bilateral dialogues seriously tackle these issues and their theological and pastoral implications.

3.- According to His Holiness, who has a long experience in bilateral dialogues, these dialogues must shift their emphasis from consensus-oriented agreement to convergence-oriented processes. In his opinion, consensus implies negotiation within a given time-frame; it is a static reality while convergence is a dynamic process which is not confined to any time-line and agenda and provides open space for greater and creative interaction.

4.- His Holiness also proposed to develop a new perception of reception that involves the whole people of God. He said that the findings of bilateral dialogues must be appropriated by the people; otherwise they become sheer academic exercise. He said that people-oriented reception process implies awareness-building and collaboration on the local level. Reaching out to the people must become an ecumenical priority, otherwise ecumenism will lose its relevance and credibility.

5.- Aram I underscored the need to affirm the commonalties that exist among the churches. Bilateral theological dialogues deal with controversial issues and project the divided image of Christianity. We must affirm our God-given unity, at the same time articulating our commitment to heal the brokenness of the church. This must become our ecumenical strategy, stated His Holiness Aram I.


PHOTOS: www.armenianorthodoxchurch.org


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