ROME — The 14th meeting of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches took place in Rome from January 22 to 27, hosted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church.
It was chaired jointly by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and by Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette of the Oriental Orthodox Churches.
Joining delegates from the Catholic Church were representatives of the following Oriental Orthodox Churches: the Antiochian Syrian Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church (Catholicosate of All Armenians and Catholicosate of the Holy See of Cilicia), the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.
No representative of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church was able to attend.
The two delegations met separately on January 22 and 23.
During the first plenary session, recent developments in the relations between the two communions were discussed. These included: the visit of Abune Mathias I to Rome (26-29 February), when he was received by Pope Francis; the Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to Armenia (24-26 June); the meeting of the General Assembly of the Middle East Council of Churches in Amman (6-8 September).
The members also discussed the present situation of Christians in the Middle East. Building upon the previous meeting’s focus on the sacraments of Christian Initiation, the members turned in this meeting to the Holy Eucharist. Papers were presented by Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette; Rev. Father Columba Stewart, OSB; Metropolitan Youhanon Mar Demetrios; Metropolitan Theophilose Kuriakose; Metropolitan Theophilus George Saliba; Metropolitan Gabriel Mar Gregorios (sharing a paper prepared by Dr. B. Varghese); Bishop Paul Rouhana, OLM; Bishop Magar Ashkarian; Rev. Shahe Ananyan; Rev. Frans Bouwen, M.Afr.; Rev. Father Shenouda Maher Ishak; Rev. Father Daniel Seifemichael Feleke.
Papers were presented by the participants from the respective churches on the historical, theological, ecclesiological aspects of the Holy Eucharist as celebrated in the Catholic Church and The Oriental Orthodox Churches. There was also discussion of modern pastoral issues, touching upon communities in diaspora, the challenges of secularism, reaching the young generation, and the possibility of pastoral adaptation of traditional liturgies. The discussion affirmed a common understanding of the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist and agreed that differences on practice in celebration of the Holy Eucharist are not fundamental in matters of doctrine.
On the evening of Tuesday, January 24, many members were able to attend Vespers at the Benedictine Collegio di Sant’Anselmo at the kind invitation of the Right Reverend Gregory Polan, O.S.B., Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation, and to share supper with the community. On Wednesday, January 25, the members remembered at their morning prayer the late Archbishop Mesrob Krikorian of Vienna, a founding member of the Joint Commission, and sent a letter of condolence addressed to Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians. The members attended Vespers Service at the Basilica of St.Paul on the feast of the conversion of St. Paul the Apostle which was presided over by His Holiness Pope Franzis.
At the noon on Friday January 27, Pope Franzis received the Dialogue commission members in private audience at Vatican.
In his address to the commission, Pope Franzis said” I encourage you to persevere in your efforts and I trust that your work may point out helpful ways to advance on our journey. It will thus facilitate the path towards that greatly desired day when we will have the grace of celebrating the Lord’s Supper at the same altar, as a sign fully restored ecclesial communion”. Pope prayed for the Christians who are suffering in the Middle East and added that “.. in a particular way, my heart goes out to the bishops, priests, consecrated men and women and the lay faithful who have been cruelly abducted, taken hostage and enslaved”.
|Pope Francis greets representatives of the Oriental Orthodox Churches|
Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’s address to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches
Dear Brothers in Christ,
In offering you a joyful welcome, I thank you for your presence and for the kind words that Metropolitan Bishoy addressed to me on your behalf. Through you, I send cordial greetings to the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, my venerable brothers.
I am grateful for the work of your Commission, which began in 2003 and is now holding its fourteenth meeting. Last year you began an examination of the nature of the sacraments, especially baptism. It is precisely in baptism that we rediscovered the basis of communion between Christians. As Catholics and Oriental Orthodox, we can repeat the words of the Apostle Paul: “For in the one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13). In the course of this week, you have further reflected on historical, theological and ecclesiological aspects of the Holy Eucharist, “the source and summit of the whole Christian life”, which admirably expresses and brings about the unity of God’s people (Lumen Gentium, 11). I encourage you to persevere in your efforts and I trust that your work may point out helpful ways to advance on our journey. It will thus facilitate the path towards that greatly desired day when we will have the grace of celebrating the Lord’s Sacrifice at the same altar, as a sign of fully restored ecclesial communion.
Many of you belong to Churches that witness daily the spread of violence and acts of brutality perpetrated by fundamentalist extremism. We are aware that situations of such tragic suffering more easily take root in the context of great poverty, injustice and social exclusion, due to instability created by partisan interests, often from elsewhere, and by earlier conflicts that have led to situations of dire need, cultural and spiritual deserts where it becomes easy to manipulate and incite people to hatred. Each day your Churches, in drawing near to those who suffer, are called to sow concord and to work patiently to restore hope by offering the consoling peace that comes from the Lord, a peace we are obliged together to bring to a world wounded and in pain.
Saint Paul also writes: “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26). Your sufferings are our sufferings. I join you in praying for an end to the conflict and for God’s closeness to those who have endured so much, especially children, the sick and the elderly. In a particular way, my heart goes out to the bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful who have been cruelly abducted, taken hostage or enslaved.
May the Christian communities be sustained by the intercession and example of our many martyrs and saints who bore courageous witness to Christ. They show us the heart of our faith, which does not consist in a generic message of peace and reconciliation but in Jesus himself, crucified and risen. He is our peace and our reconciliation (cf. Eph 2:14; 2 Cor 5:18). As his disciples, we are called to testify everywhere, with Christian fortitude, to his humble love that reconciles men and women in every age. Wherever violence begets more violence and sows death, there our response must be the pure leaven of the Gospel, which, eschewing strategies of power, allows fruits of life to emerge from arid ground and hope to dawn after nights of terror.
The centre of the Christian life, the mystery of Jesus who died and rose out of love, is also the point of reference for our journey towards full unity. Once more the martyrs show us the way. How many times has the sacrifice of their lives led Christians, otherwise divided in so many things, to unity! The martyrs and saints of all ecclesial traditions are already one in Christ (cf. Jn 17:22); their names are written in the one common martyrology of God’s Church. Having sacrificed themselves on earth out of love, they dwell in the one heavenly Jerusalem, gathered around the Lamb who was slain (cf. Rev 7:13-17). Their lives, offered as a gift, call us to communion, to hasten along the path to full unity. Just as in the early Church the blood of the martyrs was the seed of new Christians, so in our own day may the blood of so many martyrs be a seed of unity between believers, a sign and instrument of a future of communion and peace.
Dear brothers, I am grateful for the efforts you make towards attaining this goal. In thanking you for your visit, I invoke upon you and your ministry the blessing of the Lord and the loving protection of the Holy Mother of God.
The Roman Catholic & Oriental Orthodox Churches – Conclusion of the 14th Session of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue
ROME, VATICAN - On January 28, the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox concluded their 14th Session.
During the session, the Joint Committee discussed issues relating the historical developments of the Sacrament of Holy Communion within the two church families; liturgical-theological specifications and expressions of church study.
On the 28 January session, after submitting their theological reports on the theme “The Sacrament of Holy Communion and the Church”, the Committee members discussed their next meeting.
With the blessings of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, the Committee will convene the next session in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, from January 29 to February 5, 2018.
Topics for the meeting will be on perceptions about the sacred mystery of Repentance, Ordination and anointing of the sick, with the liturgical-theological specifics of the two church families.
Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, Information Services