WASHINGTON (April 3, 1998) -- The fifteenth meeting of the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops took place at St. Paul's College here, March 31 to April 2.
During their deliberations, the bishops considered the present state of family life in American culture, and explored and discussed factors in society that diminish the stability and sacredness of marriage. They also continued their discussion of the pastoral care of Catholic-Orthodox marriages.
Responding to the invitation of Pope John Paul II in the encyclical Ut Unum Sint, the bishops also discussed the ecclesiastical institution of primacy from the perspective of their Churches, and the concrete ways in which primacy is exercised in each. They realized that there will need to be an ongoing exploration of this theme which has long divided their two Churches.
The Joint Committee also examined reactions to the most recent agreed statement produced by the international Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue, "Uniatism, Method of Union of the Past, and the Present Search for Full Communion," often referred to as the Balamand Document. The bishops also exchanged points of view about the visit of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to the United States in October and November, 1997.
On April 1 the member bishops visited the offices of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops where they attended a luncheon in their honor. They were welcomed by Msgr. Dennis Schnurr, General Secretary of the NCCB, and the staff of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. Paul Henderson, Executive Director of the Secretariat for the Third Millennium and the Jubilee Year 2000, gave a presentation on the work of his office.
The Catholic and Orthodox bishops attended worship services of both traditions, including Catholic Mass at Saint Paul's College presided over by Archbishop Weakland, and a Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts at St. Nicholas Cathedral of the Orthodox Church in America that was presided over by Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa. They expressed their gratitude to the parish community of St. Nicholas Cathedral for their kind hospitality and the warmth of their reception.
The Orthodox members of the Joint Committee are Metropolitan Maximos of Aenos, Presiding Hierarch of Pittsburgh (Co-Chairman); Metropolitan Isaiah of Proikonisou, Presiding Hierarch of Denver; Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos (Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Diocese); Metropolitan Christopher of the Serbian Orthodox Church; Archbishop Peter of New York (Orthodox Church in America); Bishop Vsevolod of Scopelos (Ukrainian Orthodox Church--Ecumenical Patriarchate); and Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa (Orthodox Church in America). The Catholic members are Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee (Co-Chairman), William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore, Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett of Seattle, Bishop Dale Melczek of Gary, Bishop Robert E. Mulvee of Providence, Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile, Bishop Edward Kmiec of Nashville, and Bishop Nicholas Samra, auxiliary of Newton of the Melkites. Staff attending the meeting were Protopresbyter Dr. George Dragas, Ecumenical Officer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and Rev. Dr. Ronald G. Roberson, CSP, Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
The Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops was created in 1981 as a joint initiative of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of America (SCOBA). It works in tandem with the North American Catholic-Orthodox Theological Consultation, which has been meeting regularly since 1965. The 16th meeting of the Joint Committee is scheduled to take place in March, 1999.