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.
It was chaired jointly by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and by Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette.
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. The papers considered the historical, theological, and ecclesiological aspects of the Holy Eucharist as celebrated in the various Churches. There was also discussion of modern pastoral issues, touching upon communities in diaspora, the challenges of secularism, reaching the younger generation, and the possibility of pastoral adaptation of traditional liturgies.
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.